Congratulations on marrying the love of your life. I know it isn’t quite how you imagined. Somehow it’s a mix of joy, bewilderment, fear, frustration, and high expectations all lumped together. Allow me to tell you what I’ve learned so far.
Give yourself time to learn. No one expects you to already know what normal parents learned along the way. You’ll learn what to do when they have a nosebleed; that if you freak out, they will, too; and what they like and don’t like.
Give yourself time to feel what you feel. You’re not expected to love the children now. It’s not a requirement just because you love their father. You’ll come to care for them and eventually love them.
The children will also come to care for you, but accept they probably won’t feel the same about you as you do for them. Allow the children time, too, but don’t expect a certain time table. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a year or five. Not only are they trying to figure out who they are, they’re dealing with upsetting family dynamics.
Put aside your bashfulness and just tell the children how you feel about them sometimes. It’s great that you don’t want them to feel pressured to show you affection, but they’re children. They shouldn’t have to always make the first move. Be open with them as much as you can. It’ll mean a lot to them one day that they knew you cared for them when you didn’t have to.
Ignore any snide comments that come your way. It will feel like you’re not appreciated and worse, that some people think you’re the problem. Be yourself, and trust that God meant it when he said “vengeance is mine.” Nothing you say will fix other people’s opinion of you, but you can make it worse. Your godly actions will cause people to second-guess what they’ve heard about you.
Separate the kids and the ex in your mind. Sometimes the children will say and do things that are straight out of the ex’s mouth. Ignore it. Your stepchildren are not their mother; they deserve love even if what they say hurts. As they say, “time will tell.”
Don’t take things personally. It’s not really against you if the kids repeat what their mother says about you. They don’t not care for you when their mother gets remarried and they’re more carefree with their stepdad. Look outside yourself and know none of it is a competition.
Don’t second-guess everything you say because you might cause trouble with the ex. It’s great that you care about the ex’s feelings, and you don’t want the kids to suffer because of something you say. Tell the truth in love, and leave the consequences to God.
Allow your husband to make arrangements with the ex. He isn’t choosing her over you if you disagree with decisions made. Give your husband advice, but then step back. He’ll feel torn if you’re difficult to please while he’s trying to be amicable.
Accept that your role is more like an aunt. You’ll have no ultimate say about anything when it comes to the children, and there will be times you get discouraged. You can only do so much with 20 percent of their time, but you’ll be amazed at the positive impact you and your husband will have in the long term.
Just wait until they’re teenagers. You’ll have a time when it feels like you have it figured out. Everyone’s adjusted. You have a routine. Then they become teenagers and the whole world falls apart. You’ll cover old ground, but it won’t seem as easy as it did the first time. Step back and breathe. This too shall pass, and don’t forget everything you’ve learned along the way.
You’re not alone. You’re about to go through the biggest test of your life, and there will be times when you feel alone. It will feel like other’s advice to you doesn’t apply because they have a “normal” family. It’ll feel like your husband can’t really know how you feel because his vantage is different. These things are true to an extent, but you’re not alone. You have a husband who listens to you – who cares. A lot of what you’ll go through is normal for any family. It’s not because of the ex and the time you don’t get with the kids. Remember you have a great big God who loves you and understands. He won’t leave you alone. He’ll give you the strength, wisdom, and courage to face it.
Think about the kids when things seem hard. At the end of the day, you have it easier than they do. You aren’t torn between two households; you don’t have two sets of rules to remember; and you don’t miss your mom like crazy when you’re with dad and vice versa. Buck up. 🙂
Pray. Pray for the children. Pray for the ex. Pray that you’ll stay strong for them no matter what’s thrown at you. Pray for your husband. Pray, and don’t stop.
Nothing about the road you’re about to take will be easy. You’ll be hurt more than you ever have before, but you’ll also see precious times. You’ll see the reward when the children say “I love you” the first time; when they make a Mother’s Day card for you; or send you an email just because. Know that sometimes they feel a tremendous amount for you and they just can’t show it.