Being a stepparent is like parenting under a microscope, so leaning into your strengths as an introvert is key.
Being a stepparent can feel like parenting under a microscope. Your partner’s children, ex, and even those who you do not know, are watching — and judging — how you act (and react) in every situation. This kind of high-intensity living sounds like an introvert’s worst nightmare.
Almost three years ago, I moved in with my boyfriend and became a stepmother. However, before I met him, I never thought that I would have children. The demands of having a family seemed too overwhelming for me. I enjoyed spending time with children; however, I needed my space when it was over.
After babysitting for a couple of hours, or playing with my cousin’s children at family events, I would be grateful to get back to looking after myself. However, little did I know that the love of my life would come with the most unexpected situation.
Going From Being a Childless Introvert to a Stepparent
It was May of 2020. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I started dating a guy who not only was going through a divorce, but he also had two children.
At first, I questioned what I was doing getting involved with him, as to everyone else, this seemed like a person who had a lot of baggage. Furthermore, I especially questioned if my introverted personality would be suited for it. I was accustomed to having plenty of alone time when I needed it, and dreaded the thought of being needed by others constantly. How was I going to cope when I felt depleted? Was I going to have the space I needed to retreat inward and reset?
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Learning to Parent… the ‘Introvert Way’
When I first met my boyfriend’s children and was getting to know them, it was nerve-racking. Even though it was just our family and friends around, I did not like having an audience when I was trying to get to know the kids. As an introvert, I am not good at small talk, so outside ears listening to my awkwardness made things even more uncomfortable. It’s as though I was thrust into the open from a shelf life. This is where I felt the spotlight for the first time, and instinctively, it made me want to slide out from under the glass.
So this is when I started asking them to come play — away from the crowd. Whether it was giving me a tour of their rooms, showing me their favorite toys, walking around the yard, or playing on their swing set, it no longer felt forced. Conversations came naturally, as it felt more like one-on-one time.
This is when I realized that the key to survival, if I were to become a stepparent, was as simple as showcasing my strengths as an introvert. Furthermore, thinking of ways to make it work came easy, as that was my specialty.
So, are you an introverted stepparent (or even a parent)? Here’s my advice.
5 Ways to Survive as an Introverted Stepparent
1. Listen to your stepchildren.
First things first: Let your stepchildren do most of the talking! Do what you do best — and listen.
Swinging beside my now-stepdaughter and stepson on their swing set, I would ask them questions. I learned about their personalities. Forming a relationship with your stepchildren is necessary for a healthy blended family, and introverts can easily succeed in these one-on-one situations.
How? Just ask them what they would like to do and let them lead the way. This makes you less intimidating, and allows them to feel safe and open up to you. It also plays to your advantage as an introvert, as you let someone else take control of a social situation.
2. Form bonds through tasks and creativity, whether it’s homework or arts and crafts.
Don’t worry – connecting does not necessarily have to focus on conversation. Introverts may dislike small talk, but what we have to offer is displaying our knowledge through various activities. Whether it be teaching your stepchildren how to do household chores, helping them with their homework, or doing arts and crafts together, introverts have much to offer young minds.
In the past, I have made and decorated cookies with my stepchildren, quizzed my stepdaughter on her weekly spelling words, and listened to my stepson read me a book. Your time together does not need to be exciting or overly-stimulating to be meaningful to them.
My advice? Make a routine based on what you need to get done during the day/week and involve your stepchildren in helping out. And on that note…
3. Organize your life.
Need to keep track of custody schedules and how they coincide with practices and school events? There is no better person than an introvert to make a plan.
My partner often depends on me to keep track of our schedule with the kids, and I enjoy feeling useful in this way. I use my email calendar to track our days when we have the kids, as well as any special events. This puts the information at my fingertips, as I always have my phone nearby. (And, of course, I don’t forget to schedule in some alone time!)
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4. Carve out time with your partner to check in about how it’s going.
Bond with your stepchildren and plan your life around their schedule — but pay attention to how you feel.
Reflecting inward is how introverts process the world around them, so pay attention to how you feel about your role as the person in the background. A stepparent often needs to step back from their partner, because the custodial parents are making the primary decisions that involve the children.
However, although introverts are good at letting others act, this does not mean that we have nothing to say. It is not only important that you and your partner maintain an open dialogue with each other, but it is crucial in a blended family. Make sure you have a voice somewhere in your partner’s side of the decision-making. Also, you may want to wait to have these conversations until your stepchildren are at their other home.
5. Take time to reflect and just “do nothing.”
Do nothing. Relax. If you are an introvert, you need time to gather your thoughts and make sense of it all. Alone time can be hard to come by when you have a family, but since this time is what you need to recharge, it should be scheduled. (See Tip #3!)
So take this “me time” whenever you feel overwhelmed — not only when your stepchildren are away. Find time in the evening when they are in bed to read, watch your favorite show, and spend some quality time with your partner. Anything that recharges your batteries will make you a better stepparent, trust me.
Introverted stepparents, anything you’d add to the list? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
You might like:
- The Best Parts of Being an Introverted Parent
- Why It Can Be Hard for Introverts to Make Space for a Significant Other
- 5 Simple Ways for Introverts to Get More Healthy Alone Time
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