Calling all stepmoms…

Being a stepmom is not easy. Raising a blended family sometimes feels like putting a puzzle together with key pieces missing. It feels a bit like you have to “make up time” and create “magical family memories” in the few hours you actually have to spend with your step child between school, activities, time at biomom’s house, etc… Honestly, sometimes I think it just plain stinks. Routines are hard to keep, changes to the “schedule” are inevitable, and just as you get into a rhythm it’s time to “swap”.

As a stepmom, I probably have it as good as it gets (apart from maybe legally adopting my step daughter). We have a schedule with one week on and one week off.  My husband has wonderful boundaries and I came into step daughter’s life when she was about 2.5 years old – a great age for being a care giver and creating a bond.  My relationship with biomom was at first fraught with passive/aggressive behaviors interrupting time with my now husband and a lot of blame directed at me. But hey, when you are in pain and see your ex moving on, its human nature to try to ‘understand’ what went wrong. It’s easy to point the finger at someone else rather than taking responsibility for your role in your marriages’ demise. I get it, I really do but it was difficult and affected my professional position at the time. Once I stopped caring (and she found a new partner) my life became much easier.


As time has progressed and I have watched my step daughter grow into a beautiful girl. I also gave birth to a child of my own. Building a relationship with my own child has been my muse and I have LOVED every moment. However, I sometimes worry about the relationship I haven’t been building with my step daughter. I reach out to her, check in with her, include her every chance I get but something feels….off.

When her dad and I ask her about things she want to do or what would interest her apart from reading and playing on the iPad, we are met with indifference, a shoulder shrug, an “I don’t know…maybe”, or “yeah, I guess so”. When she was younger, I tended to think her lack of enthusiasm was just due to being an only child and a kid who wants for nothing (because she has 2 houses and 2 of everything, literally…).

This attitude has been there for a long time and her father and I are left to wonder, is this a pre-teen thing? Is this a result of swapping houses weekly? Or is it due to the significant differences in parenting styles between the two households? We tend to give her a lot of “down time”, time to be a kid and do a lot of family activities.  Her time with her mom is heavily scheduled for her and largely parent directed. Our main concern is that she has real difficulty being self-directed and it comes across as being a bit lazy.

Is this lack of excitement and lack of interests/passion normal for a newly minted 10 year old? Is there something as a stepmom that I could do to help spark her joy and help her discover her interests while fostering self-direction (apart from telling her she is capable of toasting her own bagel)?

Any advice from the collective stepMOM experience is warmly welcomed.




10 Replies to “Calling all stepmoms…”

  1. I am not a stepmom. I do have a bonus mom. Do you know who Cheryl Strayed is? author of Wild? She has an advice podcast called Dear Sugar, they did a couple of really good episodes on stepmothering. From listening to that I would say, try taking your stepdaughter out for tea, just you and her. If it seems like you are dragging her along, just keep it short. One personal five minute conversation between you and her, even just every two weeks, could make a big impact.

    I took me years to accept my bonus mom and build a loving relationship between us. We have gotten there now and I’m very grateful, she is a wonderful grandma to my kids as well.


    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comment and for sharing you personal experience. I am actually reading “Brave Enough” written by Cheryl Strayed right now. I will check out the podcast. I was thinking of having an outing for just her and I – maybe at the paint your own pottery place or even just grabbing a sweet treat at our co-op bakery. I feel like she and I used to be very close and affectionate. With having my own child she has had to jockey for a new position in the family and share the attention. She is a warm and affectionate big sister, but I think I need to take the initiative to rekindle my relationship with her.


  2. I don’t have any advice on this. I just wanted to acknowledge you for this task. I always wanted to be a step mom and have a huge family but then I witnessed the drama that can go with that job with my girlfriends. It’s not easy but it sounds like you are doing great. Girls start the “change” around 10 and I saw it recently in my friends daughter. They act uninterested and apathetic about breathing itself. Hormones. I’m not eager to see the baby years with my boys go.


    1. Thank you for the acknowledgment and support! I think dealing with situations in which you have to interact with the biomom’s friends or acquaintances are by far the most uncomfortable. I always go out of my way to be nice to other moms and caregivers because I know how cliquish it can feel. Good to know that 10 seems to be the new 13 😉


  3. I’m not a stepmom but I am a stepdaughter. I think one of the most powerful things you could do is to be friends with her mom. I know we live in the real world though and so friends might not be possible so if not then at very minimum make a point of speaking well about her mom in front of her, high-lighting the good things about her mom and never speaking badly about her (your husband should do the same). It makes things SO much simpler for your stepdaughter if she feels that her two moms (and dad!) respect and care for each other. This is especially important with adolescence looming and her increasing ability to understand and feel complex-conflicted emotions 🙂 And for the record, just for raising this I want to give you a MASSIVE high-five 🙂


    1. Thank you for the feedback and support. Over the past 7 years, things have gotten a lot better. Her mom remarried and now all 4 of us (both sets of parents) sit together at school concerts, etc… Sometime sjust her mom and I meet to swap her and we say hello and talk briefly. It’s hard for me at times, but I have to understand that it’s not about me and that I need to just suck it up. Her dad and I also make great effort to only say positive things about her plans and time with her mom. A friendship may form in the future. I am sure we will have many big life events to share and celebrate (graduations, wedding, etc…). I hope I can find it in my heart and comfort zone to get to that place. It would be very powerful. Thank you again for the feedback.


  4. Hi Erin, thought I’d pop over and return the favour as you kindly took the time to read my blog. This post is uncanny, as I am dealing with a VERY similar situation as you, and have done for the last 9 years. We have the same arrangement, and I have often wondered at the lack of stability having a two-home life brings a child. I still don’t have the answers and probably won’t until she is an adult and has worked her problems out for herself, but being a step-parent is VERY challenging. I myself had two step-parents, and respected and loved both of them, so expect nothing less in return. But I often wonder where I stand in my current situation. I try instead to focus on my own girls, and just be there for my step-daughter as and when I can/am needed. It’s hard, as it’s often one-sided. But keep doing what you’re doing, she’ll thank you for it when she’s older. X


  5. Something interesting I learned in my Child and Youth program in Family Dynamics class – girls tend to deal with divorce better than boys, however, boys tend to deal with blending families better than girls do.
    It’s half a preteen thing I’m sure, but the other half is just biology. Keep trying to make moments with her and do step-mother daughter dates to catch up :).


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