I met my now-stepdaughter well before her father and I became romantically involved, and before I ever became pregnant. Having the chance to get to know her and become friends with her, before I became part of the family, turned out to be a huge advantage when I did, eventually, join the family. I think that is partially why I was so stunned and, honestly, so unprepared to deal with the barrage of ignorant, annoying, and often hurtful things people say to stepmoms. We have our challenges, just like any other family, and have to adjust and re-adjust when our living situations change. However, our stepfamily is quite fortunate to have been built on an amicable foundation, so I often feel blindsided by acquaintances, friends, and family members who subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) suggest we were or are anything less than a “real” family.
When things get hard, I often have to stop and remind myself that it’s inherently demanding to cultivate and maintain relationships with anyone. That’s especially true when we don’t have the hormonal and biological boost our bodies tend to provide us with when we meet romantic partners or biological children, and when we don’t get to spend as much time together as we’d like. It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that being in a stepfamily can be uniquely challenging.
However, and most importantly, many of the challenges of stepfamily life come from misunderstandings and a lack of support from people outside the family. It's not that being in a stepfamily is more or less inherently harder than being a part of any other family, it's that being a part of a stepfamily leaves you (arguably) more vulnerable to scrutiny and disregard than any other families. If you know and/or love anyone who’s part of a stepfamily (and we’re very common, so you probably do) please do us, and especially the kids, a favor by actively avoiding (or just refusing) to say the following. We're tired of it, you guys.