Katie Katie Parsons is the creator of Mumbling Mommy and is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist. She works from her home office on the east coast of Florida. Most often she writes about life in a combined family of five children and what it's like being a full time work-from-home parent. Feel free to pitch guest post ideas or just drop her a line at katie@mumblingmommy.com.

The Three Amigos

I’ve been a stepmom for less than a year now. Technically my husband and I got married in March but I didn’t move in with him and his children until June. So while I would say that doesn’t exactly make me an expert yet, the learning curve has been a steep one and I’m a fast learner anyway.

I have a stepson who just turned five, a stepdaughter who will be three in June and my biological daughter will be four next month. My other biological daughter will arrive in May. There are a lot of little people running the halls of this house (and along the walls of my womb) and I realized early on that the only way to survive it is to just jump right in and ride the wave.

So while I’m not a perfect stepmom, I’m not a wicked one either. Here are few ways that I make the most of my role as stepmom.

My house, my rules. Luckily, communication between the two “houses” is good. My husband and his ex-wife talk about everything from discipline issues to potty training accidents and I’m kept in the loop. This helps give the kids a feeling of consistency and stability from one place to the next. But for those moments when there is no known rule, I just use my own judgment. I put my stepkids in a time-out if it is warranted. I take away toys if behavior is bad and I withhold dessert if a bite of each food at dinner is not at least attempted. I’d like to say that I was smarter than the phrase “but my mommy lets me do that” in those first few months, but yeah… let’s just say there was some cookie eating after 8 p.m. and questionable television shows that were watched. I wised up pretty quickly though.

They have to dislike you in order to love you. My goal was never to sweep in and suddenly become the “fun” parent. I don’t like to see the beautiful children of my husband cry though. Sometimes it’s tough to be a disciplinarian, especially if I know that they will be leaving in a few hours for a few days. I do my best to be a parent first and a friend second. I don’t always have to be scowling but brushing over unpleasantness in order to make small children “like” me is just silly.

Extend/accept the olive branch. It does me no good to criticize or even question the decisions of the “real” mom. She works full-time as a nurse, mommies full-time on her days off and also has a sixteen-year-old girl at home. Just like me, most days she is doing the best that she can — and she does a good job of it. The only reason I would have for snide “ex-wife” remarks would be pettiness or jealousy… not because she actually deserves them. We don’t interact too much but both pull it together when the situation calls for it.

We threw a joint-birthday party for my stepson earlier this month. We split the cost of the picnic pavilion rental, she took care of invitations, I took care of snack food, she ordered and paid for the cupcakes and I drove the donations brought by guests to the charity we all (three) decided on. She came back to our house and we all watched the birthday boy open his gifts from the family. It was a really nice day.

Are we besties? No. Will there be issues where we butt heads? Yes. Obviously. But at least at this point, there is an understanding that being territorial and catty benefits no one. Our kids are too young to understand the level of consciousness it takes to have a friendly relationship like this one. All they know is that neither of us have a problem with each other or the role the other plays in their lives. And if we don’t have a problem, why should they?

Love like a mother. I can’t pinpoint the precise moment that I stopped feeling like an awkward babysitter and started feeling like a parent instead. I just know that it happened. I miss them when they are gone. It makes me happy when my stepson asks me if we can make his favorite dinner — breakfast for dinner! My stepdaughter plays Plants Versus Zombies with me on my Kindle Fire and tries to help me with Words With Friends (she’s two… but probably better than I am). Just like my daughter and I have our own special things, I’m starting to form some with my stepkids. There is no “that’s not my place” because there is room enough for me in their lives and for them in my heart.

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Category: Combined Families

Tags: Katie