When I first became a stepmom, the kids were 5 and 5.
Our girls had known each other, and DH and I had been friends since the first six months of SD’s life. Our girls are five months apart.
I’ll never forget when we first started dating. They were sweet, interested and excited about this new transition in life. Happy to go from best friends to sisters, and to share parents.
As I transitioned from dad’s girlfriend to stepmom and then parental figure in the home, there was never any backlash (BM was a completely different story).
I was lucky. Especially being that my husband and stepdaughter moved into the place that my daughter and I shared. I was already the “parent” of the house when they moved in. Regardless, SD embraced the new relationship and respected me right away. The relationship blossomed the more time went on. About a year later we had a little boy and the girls became “big sisters.”
Almost 8 years later, the two eldest are finally teenagers, and share a 6 year-old little brother. While many things have changed, I haven’t had to deal with any of the teenage drama that I’ve heard can come with the dreaded teenage years. Aside from the occasional attitude, and hormone driven mood swings.
Nonetheless, our two eldest embarked on these teenage years, and I’ve changed the way I step-parent.
In fact, I’m not sure you can even call it that, because truthfully, I don’t do a lot of the “parenting” at all with my stepdaughter.
When the kids were younger, I was the primary caregiver in the house. When my husband was at work, if they needed direction, I would provide it. I made all the meals, planned activities, transported to and from school, enforced rules, and doled out punishments if need be. We were on the same page, and there was an expectation that SD listen to me the same way she would listen to my husband.
Now, the girls are pretty self-sufficient. While I used to spend time making meals and snacks, they no longer want that. They’d rather make themselves some oatmeal after sleeping in until noon, then head off on their own to relax or spend time with their friends.
Up until last summer, I always had things planned out for the girls; activities and social events. This summer – they have waning interest in my itenary. 60% of the time they’d rather be doing their own thing, but the other 40% they’d love to be hanging out as a family. Out doing something.
I’m lucky that they still want to hang out with the parentals, but I’m sure in the upcoming years this will lessen and lessen.
In short, they are independent and need me less.
Now we’re dealing with curfews, snapchat, boys, fears of underage vaping, peer pressure from friends, and grades that can determine their future. Not to mention SD’s BM’s legal drama.
We’re dealing with real life issues with real life consequences for their adult lives.
All jokes aside, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on things and can deal with what comes our way. I’m prepared to tackle these new teenage parenting challenges with my stepdaughter…
But I’m not going to.
I’ve taken a MAJOR step back in the step-parenting department. And I’ve done it very consciously.
Although my husband still expects SD to respect me the same as she respects him, I’ve decided to take on more of a “babysitter” or “cool aunt” approach.
I know you’re probably squirming in your seat by now, but bare with me!
Here are the 3 reasons why I’ve made this decision…
- Teenagers are less forgiving of their step-parents than they are their “real” parents
If my husband gives SD crap about something, she may get irritated, yes. But she bounces back quickly.
The first time I tried to approach one of those teenage issues listed above, the rebound time was a lot longer. Walls were put up, and it took us a while to bounce back to regular programming. The truth is, SD doesn’t see me the same as she sees her parents.
I didn’t like living like that. I hated the tension. I know it is part of parenting, but I don’t want to be the bad guy in the house, especially when it’s not as effective coming from me as when it comes from my husband.
So I’ve made the conscious decision to let him have those tough conversations with SD – as he should!
When an issue arises and he isn’t present, I take a deep breath and fill him in on what went down when he is – then he can proceed as he sees fit.
We may have conversations about relationships and our differences in communication and coping styles, but we don’t talk about the “heavy” stuff.
“Real” parents can have conversations with their kids about certain things that are apparently not to be talked about with step-parents. I may not agree with it, but I’m not interested in semantics, I just want to have a happy healthy relationship with my stepdaughter. We should be able to enjoy our time together. And “heavy” discussions at teenager level game, means residual tension. We don’t need it.
2. Our relationship survives best out of the line of fire.
The relationship that I have with my stepdaughter flourishes as long as we aren’t in the spotlight. My taking a step back from the “parenting” has allowed me to spend time with her without all the “parenting” duties.
My “cool aunt” role has encouraged time spent being ourselves. No expectations, no negativity, we enjoy each other’s company – painting nails, doing hair, talking about relationships/friendships and new interesting things we’ve seen lately.
Time away from “parenting” my stepdaughter has allowed more time for one on one activities that don’t bring stress and unwanted drama from bio-mom.
3. She’s a good kid and I trust her judgement. I want her to be independent.
Look, I know I lucked out in the step-kid department. At the end of the day, my teenage step-daughter is a pretty stand up kid. She makes mistakes yes, but she knows the difference between right and wrong.
When the kids come to me and ask me something, my response is always “what do you think is fair?”. I think seeking their opinion is important when it comes to developing independence.
An area where my husband and I are on the same page is TRUST. We have told all of our children that we trust them and therefore are giving them the freedom that comes with trust, but if they break the trust, things will change very quickly…
Now when I do sense that they may be teetering on making a not so great decision, I’ll provide guidance and give my opinion. This is the same with all of our children.
They all know that I’m always here to talk, my door is always open, I’m here to help anytime day or night. That will never change.
But that’s where I draw the line with SD.
Discipline and the “heavy stuff” is 100% on my husband and SD’s mom.
It wasn’t an easy transition to make, but it was the best thing for our family. It’s called pulling the “just a stepmom card” – and for us, it’s resulted in a more harmonious home.
Do you have step-teenagers in your house? I’d love to hear about how you handle parenting! Remember, parenting isn’t a one-size-fits-all! Just because this worked for us, it may not work for you. Every stepfamily dynamic is unique!
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