I became a stepmom first. It made me a better mom overall.

Mother and daughter laugh as they walk together through backyard garden in rural coastal home in Maine
Kevin R. Morris/Getty Images
  • I was 20 when I started dating my now-husband, and he had a 5 year old daughter.

  • I don't call her my stepdaughter after 20 years, she is my daughter.

  • She taught me how to be a mom, and I was ready when I had my biological children.

My oldest child is my stepdaughter. After being in a relationship with her dad for more than 20 years, I call her my daughter, no need for the extra "step" syllable. My daughter was 5 years old when I started dating her dad, and I was only 20. My husband and his former partner were young when they had her.

My daughter jokes that her parents tested their parenting skills on her since she is the oldest child. We joke, but it's actually true. I am thankful that I became a stepmom before becoming a biological mom because being a stepmom taught me valuable lessons.

I truly valued my time with my stepdaughter

I still remember my reaction when my husband told me he had a child. We had been on a few dates, but he waited to tell me about his daughter. He didn't want to scare me away. When he finally told me, I wasn't scared at all. I love kids, and I thought to myself, "This will be fun!"

As with many families, my daughter split her time between her mom's place and our place. We saw her every other weekend and extra times during holidays and summer vacation. My husband and I arranged our schedule to do fun, kid-friendly stuff when she was with us.

I reflected on this recently when a friend invited my sons and me to a parade. "Ugh," I thought, "it will be so much work to bring the kids to a parade."

Meanwhile, my husband and I brought our daughter to parades multiple times. I thought back to that younger version of myself who was eager to do activities with my daughter. I always tried to make fun memories, and when she returned to her mom's house, I missed her. I feel lucky that my sons always live with me, yet I don't always maximize my time with them.

So, I told my friend, "Yes, we will go to the parade!"

I never tried to make my stepdaughter be like me

Each time my daughter returned to our place, I loved hearing what she'd been up to. When we have biological children, there is a risk of thinking that our children need to be just like us.

With my daughter, a built-in routine stopped that type of thinking. My daughter had a whole life beyond our household, she had a whole other family, and I knew instinctively that it was not my place to judge or change any aspect of her life. In a way, it is humbling to parent a stepchild. You see that the child's world is much bigger than you or your influence.

This is actually true of all children. They are under our purview for only a little while until they venture into the adult world and follow the direction of their own hearts.

Being a stepmom gives me a valuable perspective

Ultimately, parenting my daughter gave me perspective on raising kids into adulthood. My youngest son is still in diapers but my daughter is an adult. She is a beautiful person, and all sides of her family are very proud of her. I look at her and am reminded of the goal of parenting: beyond the nitty-gritty of raising little kids, we are raising adults.

I look at her, and I am truly thankful for the lessons.

Read the original article on Insider