I recently wrote a Facebook post, celebrating my son’s six-month milestone and thanking my ‘village of people’ for all their help. What I meant by this was the support I received from my village: my husband, stepsons, mum, sister, other family members, girlfriends, the child health nurse etc during our first few months. Although it took a lot of adjustment, tears, laughs, frustration, tiredness, hugs and exhaustion I felt supported throughout my journey of being a new mum. Once I had written the post I thought about who and what had helped me on my journey as a step mum.
The first person that came to mind is my Husband. We have definitely had our ups and downs and I have learnt a great deal about him and me, separately and together. I have learnt different ways to communicate, including when to walk away and return to the topic another time. I guess the biggest thing is, is that we do communicate. Talk, laugh, sometimes argue and basically being honest with each other, always. It has not and will never be perfect, but it’s us and I am confident that we love each other and our children collectively very much. He is an incredible source of support, and although our relationship is the reason I am a step mum, I still say I couldn’t do this without him.
As great as my husband he is not a step mum, and he has quite openly said ‘I couldn’t do what you do’. I have only ever met one other step mum in a person who is a lovely lady and really opened my eyes to how different step family situations can be. She is quite opinionated, maybe this is due to her incredibly challenging family situation, more challenging than my own. So while our friendship shone a light on the many varied dynamics of step families I didn’t find our relationship particularly helpful or positive when it came to my role as a step mum.
I thought about my girlfriends and how great support they are for me in general. In regards to my role as a step mum though, they either nod sympathetically and say ‘I couldn’t do what you do’ or aren’t that interested in talking about the role at all. It is maybe unfair to expect them to be anything but a sounding board for my journey as a step mum, that being an important role in itself.
What I think that’s helped me the most, and probably gave me the first idea for sharing my experiences online, is the many online support networks available. I am going to name specifically the pages/ blogs I follow as there are a variety of different types of forums out there. Just as there is with parenting and mum blogs, there are varied step mum blogs, though I believe not as many step mum blogs in comparison. I was initially hesitant to interact on any online platform, as I didn’t want to surround myself with negativity or hate and blaming content. I didn’t want to victimise my situation nor ask for sympathy and certainly didn’t want to be preached to about what I should do and feel. I thought because stepfamilies are so challenging, that this is all I would find but I was pleasantly surprised. What I discovered were a number of positive online communities, some researched, some written by professionals and others written by step parents themselves.
I have easily been able to skip past articles or blogs that hold no relevance to my situation nor pique my interest. I have been able to read up on similar experiences and laughed or cried along with other step mums. I think the two biggest gifts from this online village is firstly the feeling I am not alone in what I am experiencing and feeling. Secondly, it is the useful strategies I have learnt along the way. I strongly attribute being part of the following online communities has helped empower me as a step mum:
Stepping Through (AUS) Facebook and blog
Step Families Australia (AUS)
Step Parent Magazine (USA) Facebook and /or subscribe
Step Mom Magazine (USA) online subscription
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