Today’s advice comes from a great article shared on The Spruce!

The hard reality comes early to a new stepmom: the instant family, tense drop offs, and emotional rollercoasters. My journey in this marriage package started seven years ago with my husband and my triplet stepsons, who are now 14. I have learned a lot over the years, cried a lot and laughed a great deal as well. These are a few things I have learned:

1. My marital relationship is the most important relationship in our household.

This is not easy, especially when we are part-time parents. Both my husband and I over extend ourselves when the boys are with us, just to make the most of our time together with them. I fire up into SuperStepmom mode, baking and planning outings, and my husband slips into relax and have fun mode. We sort of pass each other by, because our boys take our full attention. This leads to a disconnect in our marriage when we do have down time, and takes more work and effort to get the spark back again. I read it everywhere, and it is true – take time in your relationship to reconnect and rebuild. My stepkids need a solid marriage in their lives and we are a living example for them.

2. I will always come in second place for motherhood.

Even when I’m better at something. Even if I nailed the most amazing Pinterest Halloween party ever. Even if I memorized the school calendar in August. I am number 2.

It took me a while to realize that I was working so hard for a prize that was already claimed. I needed some time to readjust and still do things my way and not pull back in the shadows. Although I am “just a Stepmom or Smom”, the boys are being parented by me and I am going to do the best I can at it, and try to avoid the competition of motherhood.

3. Coparenting is a daily struggle.

Ok, so I haven’t always been the best at group parenting (refer to point 2). I thought I could do it better, tried to manipulate situations for my benefit, and made passive-aggressive remarks. Not only to my kids birth mom, but to my husband also. I suppose when a large chunk of your life is not in your control, you try desperately to grasp and steer whatever parts you can in your direction. I have come to the decision that we need to be a team. We may not always see eye to eye, but I am doing my best to think about their point of view before I open my mouth. And I now realize that I’m not always right.

4. My kids may never realize all the work and sacrifice I have given them.

I love my stepsons as if they were my own. They are amazing and I can’t imagine life without them. My husband and I decided early in our marriage, that due to some health issues and the age gap that it would make, we were not going to pursue having children of our own. We didn’t want to take away from the family that we had with the boys, and wanted to provide a loving, stable environment for them. I don’t regret this in the least, but my boys may never realize that it was a conscious decision to raise them and them alone.

I know that they may grow up and have children of their own and appreciate what their dad and their birth mom did for them, but I will be an afterthought, or perhaps grouped in with their gratitude for their Dad.

5. Quality time vs quantity of time.

This is a hard thing to juggle as a busy family. I know that running from school to soccer practice with algebra homework afterwards may be a large quantity of time, but limited on quality time. In our house we started carving out dinner around a table at least three times a week, with each of us taking a turn saying what we were thankful for that day. At night, I started doing prayer requests with each boy separately, asking them what they wanted my husband and I to lift up in prayer for them. As they grew older, they still like to do these quality time practices, and it has helped us engage in some learning and growing opportunities, and strengthen our relationship.

l have learned a lot and stumbled a bit though the years, and I’m sure my lessons are not over! But I have found it helpful to share my experiences with others Stepmoms and learn from them on their journeys, and hopefully make a difference in our kids’ lives.

* Let me know your thoughts on this advice!

-Sarah Paterson