63 Things No One Tells You About Being a Stepparent

lindsay wolff and stepkids
Image source: Lindsay Wolff

As any parent knows, loving a child is a heart-expanding experience. But becoming a stepparent? That’s a whole other ball game of vulnerable.

In nearly three years, I’ve learned how to uniquely love my 11-year-old stepdaughter. Our relationship is one I cherish and continue cultivating each and every day. She’s one of my favorite people in the whole world — but it definitely took time to craft and maintain a strong, loving bond between us.

Since the journey can be fraught with mistakes and surprises, it makes sense to come prepared. Here is everything I wish I had known three years ago.

  1. Your stepkid won’t love you at first.
  2. Honestly, they might not even like you.
  3. If you watch TV, Snapchat, or do Musical.ly with them, they will want to hang out with you more.
  4. They’ll find any free moment to remind you that they’ve got a mom and a dad, and you aren’t it.
  5. Stepkid hugs will spill your heart right open, and you’ll be forever spoiled for it.
  6. If you felt last on the list as a parent, you’ll feel even lower on it as a stepparent.
  7. There will be a struggle balancing your personal house rules with your spouse’s — and then their ex’s … this is confusing, right?
  8. BUT — the effort in learning how to complement each other’s house rules will allow for a wholehearted stepkid.
  9. So whenever possible, compromise peacefully.
  10. To keep your marriage strong, find common ground and stay united while you and your spouse parent your stepkid.
  11. Be prepared to love them more than you ever thought possible.
  12. Be prepared to give them all of the love you can, because they’ll need it more than they’ll ever admit.
  13. No matter how old they are, act like you’ve been there from the beginning of their life …
  14.  … despite the crazy feeling of needing to play catch-up if you meet them when they’re older.
  15. When they’re sick and throwing up, they may not want you to be the one to hold their hair back.
  16. They will undoubtedly say “ew” every single time you kiss their parent in front of them.
  17. But they are also secretly wanting you and your spouse to love each other the way their parents couldn’t.
  18. They will be heartbroken to see you fight with your spouse. It will remind them of their parents before the breakup.
  19. So if you choose to fight, fight lovingly and resolve each issue you can. Show them a better way to work through the tough times.

    lindsay wolf stepkids
    image source: lindsay wolf
  20. By loving and respecting your stepchild, you sign up for loving and respecting your spouse’s ex.
  21. Speaking negatively about either of their parents is NEVER your job.
  22. Your stepkid is taking a huge risk in opening their heart to you — honor their courage.
  23. Sometimes, they’ll just need their mom or dad, so have your stepchild call them.
  24. It can take a lot of time to earn their trust — and sometimes it only seems like you have.
  25. You’ll want to be the friend they confide in, but …
  26. You’ll also want to parent them with the ferocity of a mama/papa bear.
  27. Patience. Patience. Patience.
  28. If you have kids of your own, there will be a battle between everyone for parental attention and affection you won’t fully be prepared for.
  29. No matter how many ways you can think of, your stepkid will still require more ways to feel included.
  30. The full-time kid you birthed may even play second fiddle to the part-time stepkid you love.
  31. This juggle will ease up the more you ease up and go with the flow of this crazy ride.

    lindsay wolf stepmom
    image source: lindsay wolf
  32. Sharing your stepkid with another household will literally feel insane at first.
  33. You will have moments of resentment in the process of sharing them, and you may not even know why. That’s OK.
  34. Get used to the strange feeling of having them only 50% (or 30% or 5%) of the time.
  35. They are watching everything you do with laser vision.
  36. Be their safe space to cry, feel frustrated, and work through problems.
  37. Sometimes, the job requires just being human with them.
  38. Sometimes, the job requires a superhuman effort.
  39. You will often play the third wheel with them and your spouse — especially if your spouse was single for a while before you got together.
  40. Humor will get you through almost everything.
  41. And so will loving yourself.
  42. Ask them about their day with enough gentle persistence and they’ll eventually describe it as more than just “fine.”
  43. You will never fully feel like you know what you’re doing.
  44. More times than you can count, you will selfishly wish you were their mom or dad.
  45. Stepkids give better advice than most grownups.
  46. The car will be home to more emotional conversations than you can ever possibly imagine.
  47. If you are open to it, you will learn to love them so hard that your heart will feel like it’s walking outside of your body.
  48. You’ll want to be the fixer of anything that their mom and dad can’t.
  49. Date nights between you and your spouse will feel more mandatory than ever.
  50. You’ll think you want your spouse to be as attentive to your stepkid as possible, but deep down you’ll need your own precious time together, so make it a priority — no matter what.

    lindsay wolf stepparent
    image source: lindsay wolf
  51. Always remind your stepkid of the happy, loving memories you’ve made together.
  52. If someone isn’t already doing it, write your stepchild encouraging notes and stick them in their lunchbox.
  53. Let them read their favorite book out loud to you and they just might enjoy it.
  54. When they insult you, it will sting like crazy.
  55. When they compliment you, it will feel like the best thing ever.
  56. When they finally say “I love you” first, you may cry like a baby — and that’s OK.
  57. They just might end up becoming your favorite person to be around.
  58. When all else fails, scream sing with them in the car.
  59. It doesn’t feel nearly as “evil” to be a stepparent as you may have feared.
  60. Whenever possible, forgive yourself, your stepkid, your spouse, and their ex.
  61. The job requires more vulnerability than you may ever want to give — give it anyway.
  62. Learning to be the best stepparent you can be will carve you into the best person you can be.
  63. When all else fails, choose to love them.
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