In that moment, I knew I couldn’t say anything to make him understand. I could verbalize my emotions until I was blue in the face, but he just wasn’t going to make sense of my words. Exhausting myself trying to explain why I was struggling as a stepmom and needed my husband’s help was only hurting me. Of course he cared that I was upset, but he didn’t understand, and he certainly couldn’t empathize.

I love my husband. I love him more than I thought was possible. A quick glance in those gorgeous eyes or the slightest smile relieves me of stress and makes my heart skip a beat. He is my rock, my cheerleader, and my forever.

But some days he just doesn’t get it. He can’t comprehend what stepmom life is all about. He doesn’t understand what life looks like from my perspective or why sometimes I really struggle. And I’m not alone. I posed the question, “What do you wish your husband knew or understood from your perspective?” to a group of stepmoms, and the response was astounding, boasting 15 common themes. Though we all lead different lives in different places with different co-parenting dynamics, much of stepmom life carries the same notes. The themes are not mutually exclusive – nor are they all true for all stepmothers, but they are something husbands should be mindful of.

15 Things Stepmom wishes her husband knew

15 Things Stepmom Wishes Her Husband Knew

1. I had no idea what I was signing up for.

I knew I was marrying a man that had a child, but I had no idea that would come with the indescribable pain of custody battles, the complex relationship with your ex-wife, and the intensified scrutiny of your family. Honestly, it’s a really good thing I didn’t know then what I know now. It’s so much more than packing lunches, play dates, and family dinners.

2. The love I have for my birth children is different than the love I have for my stepchildren.

The love I have for all of my children (birth or step) is equal, but different. Though I’d take a bullet for any of my children, I find I’m more guarded with my stepchildren. They choose to love me and can choose to revoke that love at any time. With my own children, I don’t have to guard my heart. I can be completely vulnerable with them because I’m their mother, and no one can tell them otherwise.

3. Some days I need a break, and that’s okay.

Mom life is exhausting, and sometimes I need to step away. I need me time, pamper/relaxation time, and time with my girlfriends. My whole identity can’t be as a stepmom, so those days when I feel I’m really losing myself, I am going to have to step away for a little while, and I need that to be all right.

4. I can’t be the only parent. You have to enforce rules, too.

It’s really not fair when you expect me to be the only one to enforce rules, especially with my stepchildren. I need you to understand that I will always be fighting an uphill battle with your children since I’m not their mom, and they’re always going to respect you more than they respect me (even if just slightly more). There’s a natural allegiance to you, and your enforcement of rules is critical to maintaining order in our house.

5. Your prior life controls my current life.

Our pasts aren’t the same. Anyone I dated before you is no longer in the picture. Your ex is very much in the picture. In fact, I can’t choose to move away from here because we are required to stay close to your daughter’s mom. I can’t pack my family up and go on vacation this weekend since our schedule is dependent on your custody agreement. I’m not complaining; I’ve learned to adjust. But I do need you to see how your prior life is controlling my life today.

6. I need your help.

There are many things I do around the house to keep our home running smoothly, and honestly, you probably don’t even notice half of them. Understand that I may make it look easy, but I could always use your help. We both work really hard, and I understand when you’re home, you want to relax. But I enjoy relaxation too 🙂

7. Some days I need a little extra love.

This stepmom gig is a lot more difficult than I anticipated. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but that doesn’t change my reality. Some days are going to be more difficult than others. Occasionally I’m going to need a little more patience, understanding, and love.

8. Honestly, it is your fault.

I don’t mean to sound unfair or petty, but you are the sole reason these additional complexities exist in our relationship. I wasn’t married before you, I don’t have a connection to another person that can influence our lives the way your child’s mom can. You were married before me, and that relationship makes life for our family more complex (e.g., custody schedules, support payments). As a result, I do expect you to help me through some of my challenges since they were yours to begin with.

9. The entire world puts a ton of pressure on me.

You may not see it, but there’s a double standard put on stepmoms. We are held to an extremely high standard, and the second we screw up, someone is on our cases. The world looks for flaws in us more than they do biological parents.

10. Sometimes I think about what my life could have been like.

I love you, and I love your children. But if we’re being honest, sometimes I wonder what my life would have looked like if I hadn’t married a man with children from a previous marriage. Surely my life would be simpler, less stressful, perhaps easier…

11. When you don’t follow up or procrastinate communicating with your children’s mother, it makes it look like we don’t care.

The reason I nag you about following up with your children’s mother is because we need to look as invested and involved as we feel. However, when you procrastinate calling her or asking for details about events, it looks like an after thought instead of something we’re deeply interested in. You don’t want anyone to ever question how much we love your children, and more intentional communication could help alleviate those concerns.

12. It really hurts to not feel like part of your family.

Your family isn’t as easily accepting of me as they were of your first wife. They’re guarded of you and your children, and that’s understandable! I’m sure it’s not through any fault of yours or mine, and I don’t believe they’re intentionally mean. And yet, it hurts to not be accepted, to not feel part of the family.

13. I gave up a lot to live this life with you.

Prior to our relationship, I was involved in so many activities for me. I was able to go to the gym everyday, dance classes, vacations, etc. Now, I’m attending softball practice, preparing dinner, and helping with homework. I willingly chose this life, and I don’t want you to feel guilty. But I am asking that you be aware of what I have given up and supportive of those times when I choose to pursue my passions.

14. Boundaries matter.

It’s really important to me that we set and stick to boundaries with both your ex-wife and your parents. Our life is really complex and complicated, and boundaries will help simplify that for us a little bit. We’re still trying to figure this blended family thing out in our own home. Once that’s figured out, we can better communicate beyond those boundaries.

15. I’m sorry, but you’re always going to be in the middle.

I know it doesn’t seem fair to you, but you’re always going to be in the middle. Your children’s mother is no longer married to you, and you are remarried. You will always be in the middle of your ex-wife and your wife. As mentioned earlier, your child will always respect you just a little bit more than me; you will always be in the middle of your child and me to some extent. Even if you weren’t married before me, you’d still be in the middle of your family and me, just as I’m in the middle of my family and you.

One more thing…

I had no idea how madly, deeply I would fall in love with you and your daughter. Being your wife and her stepmother is the most rewarding experience of my life. I wouldn’t change where I’m at for the world; there’s truly nowhere else I’d rather be.

But if I could be in this same place with a husband that understands my perspective a little better, my quality of life and peace of mind would be exponentially better.

Think about it, will ya?

Love,

PS: What if we each invested 7 days into the Thoughtful Partner Challenge? We can learn how to be more thoughtful and how to express our love and commitment in a way that resonates and makes each other feel special.

6 Responses

  1. Karina

    Interesting…I have partnered with a man who has a daughter. I met her at 14yrs & have nothing, nothing g that is similar. I’m a hippy & she gets her nails done. The mother dominated everything, schedules, spread-sheets, biliing ..blah blah. The mother told her lots of untruths. I could not accept her. We waited till she was 18 & she moved into the Mothers permanently..& I moved in with him.You don’t always have to accept the kids..just what is best for your circumstances.

    Reply
    • Kristen

      I’m glad you found what works for you and yours! That’s what this blended family life is all about ❤️

      Reply
  2. Nancy

    You’re so lucky to have a husband that will ALLOW you to parent his children! And one that will allow you to go to family gatherings, and actually celebrate holidays with YOU as his wife, his partner, in the same room! I’m not allowed any of those luxuries. My husband spends any holiday at his own mother’s home. Even his children’s birthdays are celebrated there, in secret. Our son isn’t even told that his brother and sister had two birthday celebrations! Wow, and you are upset because you think his family doesn’t accept you, or accepts the first wife more? My son and I celebrate every Christmas completely alone because we’re not ‘invited’ to my mother-in-law’s family Christmas celebration. No, my son’s dad leaves for two weeks, to stay in his mother’s house with his two teenagers, during Christmas. And when my husband goes out of town on business, his mother comes to get the teenagers and we see NO family at all until he returns. He calls us last, if at all. We are last on his list of anything. He is at the top of his list, his teenagers are second, if our son even makes the list, he’s next, and I’m last. And you want your husband to understand your struggles as a step-mom? You don’t ask for much. I’m allowed to do two things for my husband and step-kids: cook & clean. My husband rarely answers my phonecalls, and not at all when his mother is in town. But when he and I are together and one of the teens calls, he answers their call without even excusing himself from the conversation. If I text him while he’s driving, he ignores me and forgets to reply when he stops. If his teenager texts him while he’s driving, he texts them back…while he’s driving! Lest you think, “Wow, this lady is really dumb to have married such an abusive man!”, let me tell you his mother made me sign a prenup in order to marry him. It left me with NOTHING if we divirced. It gave me nothing during the marriage either. But we agreed I would be a SAHM. I said I didn’t want to sign the prenup. They said all my needs would be met, I would want for nothing. Then they got rid of all my assets. He gives me an allowance and treats me as an employee. I knew nothing of this before we married. I had no idea I would be alienated from the family after we married. I didn’t know any of these things, but when I hear women like you, complaining of your ‘normal’ situation…honestly, I get jealous that y’all can even complain. Do you know that NOT ONE MAN will step up to the plate and confront him? And he says that because nobody corrects him, it’s because he’s not doing anything wrong…

    Think about my son and I, alone on every holiday, when you want your husband to be more understanding. There are worse stories than mine, I’m sure, I’m just not sure what they are. I live in ‘the twilight zone’, with a big ‘surprise’ about every two weeks, an emotional or physical ‘tornado’ happens to him and he doesn’t stick around to clean up the mess he makes, because he simply doesn’t want to.

    Reply
    • Kristen

      Nancy, you’re very right that every situation varies and we could always have it worse. ❤️ Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help with your situation.

      Reply

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