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Creating a Stepfamily

And then there were five.

At the beginning of February, my husband and I had a baby. The reason that makes us a family of five is that he has two other sons, my stepsons, who are 7 and 9 years old. They are my bonus children, the ones who made me feel like a parent. We are lucky to have three boys now; we are a stepfamily full of love.

I have previously written about my experiences being part of a stepfamily, both as a stepdaughter and a stepmom, but things evolved further with the addition of Lucas on February 4, 2023. My stepsons now have a half-brother. The dynamic has changed, but my love for my stepsons has not. I worried they might think that I favor the new baby because he is “mine,” but actually, I only feel closer to my stepsons than I did before Lucas was born. We are now linked together by blood through Lucas and are more of a family than ever. And honestly, they will always be the first babies in my heart. They made me a “mom,” because I cared for them like a mother for years before Lucas, and they made me understand the love between a caregiver and a child. They will also hold a special place in my heart because we chose to love each other and have a close relationship. It wasn’t just something they were born into. It was important to me that they know that even though a new baby demands a lot of attention, it doesn’t mean they are less important to me. My oldest stepson, Zach, spends time researching baby milestones and development; he worries when his baby brother cries and tries to figure out why he’s upset; he likes picking out the outfit Lucas wears in the morning and plays him lullabies on YouTube to try to get him to sleep. My younger stepson, Kyle, wasn’t that interested in his new brother at first. It’s hard to suddenly become the middle child when you love attention and are used to being the baby. But over the past several months, he has started taking an interest, asking to push his stroller, and saying how cute the baby is. He smiles across the room at his baby brother when he comes with us to Kyle’s jiu-jitsu practice or swimming lessons. I can understand there are always some mixed feelings for kids when a new baby enters the picture, so I would understand if neither of them felt overly positive about having him around, but it’s incredible to see them be so excited to have him as part of the family.

That is what my stepfamily looks like. I am pretty involved in my stepsons’ lives; I care for them as a parent would. I have always been adamant with my husband about sharing parental responsibilities with him when they’re in our home (which is 50% of the time). I bring them to school, make lunches, put them to bed at night, and even discipline them when necessary – alongside my husband, who is an incredible father to all three boys and very involved in caring for all of them. It was important to me that we all be a family. That is the only way I could imagine being a stepmom. But I have learned there are a lot of different ways to be a stepmom and a stepfamily, and none of them are wrong. It’s all about what works for you in your journey, and it can be a difficult one to navigate. It takes time to find your role as a stepparent and in a stepfamily. A statistic I have heard is that it takes seven years to truly blend a family. I’m only in year three, going on four right now, but already things have gotten so much more comfortable, easy, and happy.

There are MANY different things to read about stepfamilies. When I first moved in with my now-husband and stepsons, I was still determining how to fit into the dynamic, and I read a lot of articles and blogs. I also joined a few Facebook groups for stepmoms where people shared issues they were going through and asked for advice. I discovered that there is a whole world of acronyms associated with stepfamilies. For example:

  • BM = biological mom (bio mom)
  • SK, SS, SD = stepkid, stepson, stepdaughter
  • DH = dear husband
  • EOWE = every other weekend custody agreement

Another big thing I saw referenced was NACHO, which means “nacho kids, nacho problem,” or “nacho circus, nacho monkeys.” Stepmoms online often talk about “NACHOing,” to mean staying out of the parental role with their stepkids. This can look like many things and there are many reasons why people choose this path, which is very different from the one I’ve chosen. For some, their stepkids are teenagers or older. For some, it’s because the biological mother does not want her children’s stepmother to “overstep.” For some, it’s because their stepchildren don’t accept them in a parental role. I was lucky because none of these applied to me, but it’s understandable that some stepmothers need to take a role in their stepkids’ lives that is more of a backseat role. And it works for them. Some are more like a best friend or cool aunt to their stepkids. They do things with them and love them but don’t try to parent them or discipline them at all, they leave that up to the biological parents.

While I accept that all ways of stepparenting are valid, I did find that not everyone is open-minded online. When I wrote on a forum describing a situation in my household and looking for advice, I received judgment towards my husband and me over my involvement with my stepsons! I was asked why I was doing things for my stepsons if my husband was around and why he was making me handle the kids and not taking over. I have no judgment for others who choose to be more hands-off if that works for their family and makes them more comfortable or happy. But, I hope and expect the same from others in my choice to be more hands-on.

My advice for anyone who is in the process of blending a family is to do what works best for you. There is no right and wrong way to be a stepfamily, as long as the children are loved and taken care of, and everyone is comfortable with the situation. Reading articles or threads online can sometimes be helpful, but also, take it with a grain of salt because so many things are conflicting, and those people don’t know your situation personally. I would also say it’s worth it! I can’t explain the joy of seeing my little baby boy getting a kiss from his older brothers or watching their faces light up when Lucas smiles at them.