Founder of “The Secret behind the STEP” Sherelle Avery recently spoke with Blogger Tamara Johnson Creator of "StepMomGoals" and had a chance to get her perspective on how she feels about the “Blended Family lifestyle”. I would be foolish to think that I know everything that there is to know about step parenting or that I even have all the answers. So I decided to feature a few Moms and Stepmoms to share their stories and Advise on their blended family lifestyles.
Sherelle: Lets start with your introduction to motherhood, how was that experience for you being introduced to motherhood as a stepmom? What were your initial feelings?
Tamara: It felt so right because it was so much fun in the beginning.
Tamara: Yes!I was this girl who was in love with this remarkable, handsome man and he has this adorable baby boy. I met my stepson, RJ (I call him Kiddo), a few days after his 2nd birthday. My initial feeling was excitement because this was something new to me. I mean, let’s be honest. No little girl dreams about their prince having a baby when they meet them. But I didn’t really care. Not one bit. Kiddo was such a happy toddler and we bonded so well. While planning our wedding, I was obsessed with pinning crafts and projects on Pinterest and reading blogs about being a stepmother. From the moment that my husband and I started dating, it just felt like we were building our little family together. I was in a very happy place. Just bliss.
Sherelle: Wow that's amazing. So were you faced with any challenges to date in your blended family? If so, how did you make it through or overcome it?
Tamara: As I was learning how to be a wife to my husband, I started to notice the mask that my stepson was taking on and off as he got older. It was like that perfect little family that we were building was failing apart. Randomly, Kiddo started to act out and I started to lose my mind, slipping into hopelessness. Our marriage was splitting and one day, I told my husband that I was done. I wanted no more. I literally could feel the demon chilling in our living room, feasting our family. I was emotionally drained from continuous arguments.
Sherelle: Thats crazy how things can go from being great to being very emotional. How did you over come that?
Tamara: One day, I found the strength to call a therapist. It was the beginning of September and when I called the office, I couldn’t get an appointment until Mid-November. I just kept thinking, how am I going to stay in this marriage until November? Next thing I know, my phone was ringing and it was the therapist. I guess her assistant noted that I was in a family emergency and so she started to ask me questions. Before she ended our conversation, her words shook my soul. “Tammy, I am not trying to offend you, but your stepson does not see you as a stepmother. He is 7 years old. He doesn’t know what a stepmom is. Right now, to him, you are his daddy’s wife.” And at that moment, I realized that I was so caught up with being a super mommy. I didn’t care about Kiddo’s feelings (or my husband’s), but mine. Throughout this challenge, I went to therapy and so did Kiddo. I can honestly say that therapy saved our family.
Sherelle: I would advise therapy to most new blended families. Therapy really helped my family as well.
How did you began to build a healthy bond with your stepchild?
Tamara: It seems like we always had a healthy bond since Kiddo was 2 years old. From cooking, dancing to helping me to remember if Batman is a Marvel or DC Comic character, we find ways to have fun together. Even though, we went through a few storms with each other, we still managed to overcome the issues.
Sherelle: What advise would you give to other stepmother trying to create a healthy bond?
Tamara: The best advice I would give to stepmoms is to let go of those nagging expectations. Crush them. They are nothing, but stressors of unnecessary pressure and agonizing guilt. Let it go. Go with the flow and don’t force. And RELAX. At the end of the day, your stepchild is still a kid, trying to find his or her place in this broken world.
Sherelle: How do you feel about the term “StepMom”? Some stepmom’s change their title to “Bonusmom” or “Mom2” etc. Do you feel the term “Stepmom” is offensive.
Tamara: It’s funny that you ask this because a year ago, I hated the term, Stepmom. But no, I don’t mind it. Kiddo calls me Momma T and he introduces me as Momma T to everyone. My name was Momma Tam, but one day, he told me Momma T sounds cooler.
Sherelle: I like Momma T, lol. What is your relationship like with your stepsons, Mother?
Tamara: Our relationship is… non-existent. There is no other word to describe it. Just this year, she started talking to me a bit more. It wasn’t until Mother’s Day of this year that she acknowledged me as a motherly figure in her son’s life. We don’t have a relationship and I am okay with it. Before, it made me very frustrated. I felt like she didn’t respect me. Most of the time, I felt invisible. And it used to drive me crazy! Through her actions, she made it very clear that she wants nothing to do with me. So when she sent me that Mother’s Day message, I almost passed out. I couldn’t believe it. I always mail her a Mother’s Day card and she never told me thank you. Now, her Mother’s Day text message gave me some hope that we are okay. As long as she is healthy and happy, I am okay. I still don’t know if she respects me or not, but I am so thankful that I don’t have to deal with a toxic BM. Praise God! Nobody got time for that!
Sherelle: I believe that message was an olive branch. Sometimes blended families can effect your relationship. Do you think being in a blended family helped or harmed your marriage?
Tamara: Sometimes, it felt like being in a blended family hurt our marriage. It felt like a strain. For instance, in the beginning of our marriage, Kiddo’s mother and my husband’s arrangement was every other week (They have joint custody). It was just too much. Physically and emotionally draining. Eventually, it changed to every 2 weeks. Here we have this budding new marriage and the punches of stepfamily life seemed to crush our connection, but never had the ability to destroy it. The pressure of trying to make sure that he gets used to his new normal. But it gets so hard, when he fights feelings of not living in one house with mommy and daddy. There were times, he would ask if we all could live in one house together. Ultimately, I do believe that it is making us a much stronger family. And my husband and I both feel like we have to be strong for Kiddo. We will not let him down.
Sherelle: Is that what encouraged you to create “StepMomGoals”? What message are you sharing with the world through your platform?
Tamara: Stepmom Goals was birthed out of anger, sadness and tears. I was just tired of feeling broken. One day, while talking to my sorority sisters about how I felt, one of them said, “Tammy, you got this. You’re like stepmommy goals, girl!” And those words just kissed my heart. I felt some of my frustration melt away. I was like I AM stepmom goals! And it just stayed on my mind ever since then. With Stepmom Goals, I am committed to inspiring women all over the world, reminding them that they are chosen for this role. Stepmom Goals is about compassion, bravery and confidence, not judgement, perfection or drama. It’s like I want to create this movement for all stepmothers, just to remind them that they are warriors.
Sherelle: What advise would you give to a new stepmom entering into a blended family?
Tamara: I would advise her that confidence is her secret weapon as a stepmom. There is no Step parenting manual. So the moment that she says, I do, she may feel like an insta-parent, but in reality, she is a goddess who is about to reign because it absolutely takes strength, faith and PRAYER to help raise someone else’s child. I will also keep it real with her and tell her that she will have bad days. There will be days she will want to scream. There will be days she will feel betrayed or invisible. The stigma of being a stepmom will disguise itself as challenges with Bio Mom, Dear Husband, the stepchildren, even family members, and surprisingly, friends. She needs to find a stepmom bestie. I have one in New Jersey (I live outside of Detroit). We live miles apart, but we talk all the time. It helps. Lastly, I would tell her it is okay to not know. Because you won’t. And that is okay. Make mistakes. Learn. Breathe. Re-learn. And Re-adjust.
Sherelle: Thank you so much for your knowledge and honesty.
To stay connect with Tamara Check out "StepMomGoals" on Instagram.