Well, not always. Definitely a myth that continues to be dispelled:
There are three solid camps, each with their own set of skills, frame of mind, and challenges for being a stepmom fit:
- Worked their education and career, waited for marriage and the truly right man- who just happened to have been married before. (Age, in comparison to husband, varies rather widely!)
- Married before, it really didn't work out, but now you've found your right match. (Usually similar age, and the coolest stories are those that were high school sweethearts originally, in my personal opinion...)
- Me. Young(ish?) bride, first marriage, to a man who is starting all over. (Age: Usually younger to much younger.)
The younger you are in comparison to your husband, the older your stepkids could be. If I had had my stepkids, I would have been in high school for the first. Us younger 2nd/3rd brides enjoy the experience of moms at school asking if we are our stepkids' sisters or nannies. (Which older women, usually way after the moment of insane embarrassment, point out is something we should frankly take complete glee in. True, especially now that I look back...)
The younger stepmom initially, or maybe all along, enjoys a feeling of a closer understanding to the kids. (Not always the case though, or is a sensation that can come and go.) You may not have had the kids, but you aren't all that far off from them. You may remember what it felt like a little easier than the parents seem to- maybe because you didn't watch them grow from infancy on. There's just something different. You just seem to recall what it is like to be their age a little easier or quicker than the parents do, especially if they are girls.
There is this truly interesting dynamic as a (young-ish) stepmom of teenaged girls. I feel continually perplexed by the things they do and want to know what is happening, asking my husband to step up the wise-parenting in the situation a little more- while simultaneously experiencing personal flashbacks to when I was their age (which sadly sometimes feels like it wasn't long ago at all) and realizing that I did the same damn thing to my parents that is currently driving me nuts about the kid that isn't really "mine"....
It's enough to make me simply walk away, get a drink, or give up in surrender watching some TV show addiction on Chromecast. At the same time, I'm totally worried about what is happening, where they are, and if their stupid boyfriend is there. Etc. Etc.
In all, you learn why parents go crazy. You also feel like you shouldn't feel this freaking old. Like it's totally more unfair for you to be dealing with this right now, because just yesterday (mmkay, 10 years ago, Miss Denial) you were in college... Admit it: You totally have moments of feeling much "cooler" than this situation warrants. It's one of our out-of-place moments.
Sometimes you totally feel validated as a stepmom, though. There are some perks. There are times where your stepkids, as teens, will seek you out with friends. It is possible, and does happen, that your teen may actually realize you're the one adult to go to for certain advice. I am now the person that one of my stepdaughters steers her friends to for dealing with particular problems she knows I've experienced. It's super cool, and also something I always wanted from being a stepmom. Yeah, I idiotically always hoped that I would be a source of knowledge, wisdom, and/or solace for these young people one day.... Finally that is paying off! (Ok, for now....May not last. This one is still a young teen.)
As a church youth leader for churches in my adult life and a camp counselor before, I have always seen myself as a mentor and completely envisioned myself that way for my stepdaughters "one day." I am fairly certain I even told my husband this "plan." Hahahaha. I realize how stupid I was to have such lofty goals, when in honesty, as a stepmom in a contentious, partial custody situation, you should just hope that your stepkids show you an ounce of respect.
I'm also struggling with the fact that our stepkids don't automatically or naturally invite their friends over. This is likely to sound nuts to many of you, as I know many of you feel like there are enough kids in your house as it is, but I also envisioned being the welcoming, fun parent with the house where people hung out. We have only achieved that on a very minor level, when they have official sleepovers. Sometimes they are fine with one friend pretty much living with us for 24-72 hours, but then we're a little confused when weekend after weekend, study groups and sleepovers are at other houses on a regular basis.
We know to not take it too personally, though. 1) We had a much smaller house before (though, that didn't bother them one bit for sleepover parties), 2) No pool. Pretty common to be the cool house if you have a pool. 3) I buy healthy food. But, we have purposely bought junk food in the past to show them that inviting friends over = unhealthy time! (yay!...?) 3) Houses closer to their schools seem to be easy winners. Most kids can walk there, etc. 4) They grew up and lived primarily with a family that does not invite people over. Social time was not encouraged by their mom. Inviting people over was a special exception, with very limited time frames. So, we feel they have been basically trained to not automatically invite people over.
But, we have encouraged clearly, and it is getting better. We've have accommodated. We have very busy weekends sometimes, and will keep encouraging. Amusingly, despite wanting our home to be welcoming to friend hangouts, I have a strange, tendency to turn semi-anti-social last minute and escape to my room with a glass (no, not bottle) of wine or errands around town. I don't know what to make of that exactly... But my husband handles it well, despite wondering why in the heck he's suddenly alone facilitating activities until midnight. (Ok, admittedly, kind of funny. Possibly subconscious payback? Stepmom indirect practical joke?)
Anyways, this territory is interesting. I'm waiting for the studies on it.