I would like to say that Stepmoms have 9 months to prepare for what’s to come next; that we benefit from the excitement and anxiety of reading 'What to Expect' and every other Mom-prep book and magazine available, that we tune into every 'new mom' pod casts on every drive around town ALL BEFORE we earn our title of Stepmom, but alas, we do not.
Instead, we are catapulted right into the role! A role that comes with fine lines to walk, challenges that you had no idea existed and some tears along the way. I wish I had had someone to help me when I was thrown into (what can often be) a real-life quagmire with no warning. I have five Stepkids (from two mothers) and two young children with my husband. So new Stepmoms, knowing what I know now, here is what I would tell myself six years ago!
You are ONLY the Stepmom, not the mom. Even though you might do all the things the Mom does, you are still the Stepmom so don’t take it personally (truly) when they don’t show you any gratitude.
Be sure to take time for yourself. It is one of the most important things you can do; bi-weekly yoga?, a trip across the world (perhaps deposit your cell in the ocean for the duration of the journey :) ) or simply head to a quiet book/coffee store and getting lost reading for a couple of hours.
Don’t over extend. Sometimes you will go above and beyond in an effort to have your Stepkids like you or make them happy. While this is laudable, it doesn't always produce the results that one would expect. Do your best and stay authentic to yourself!
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Let it go sista – just let it go. Trust me when I say that it is not worth it.
Be their friend and, if possible, a mentoring figure. If you try to be their Mother they will resent you for just that - trying to be their Mother.
This too shall pass. Regardless of which family member is in a tough (even terrible) emotional place, I believe that HUGS (even forced!) can help make you and everyone around you feel (almost instantly) better. It took me a long time to get to where this approach became part of my worldview. It might not solve the issue at hand but it will help strengthen the bond of your family.
It is your family (though you will want to be sensitive to the needs/wants of other constituents). You will have a lot of outside influences on how your family should be run but remember it is your family and that most of the time you need to do what works best for you, your husband and your step (and natural) kids - not what's best for the ex, the mother-in-law of the ex, the friends of the ex, etc; you get the picture :)