Yasmen Hunter about the unique challenges stepmoms face when adding another child to the mix.
Yasmen Hunter is stepmama to six-year-old Jiaire and recently welcomed son Reign into her blended family. Raise co-founder Jessica Butler chats with Wass about the unique challenges stepmoms face when adding another child to the mix.
First things first: How did you tell your husband’s ex?
We didn’t. Not because it was a secret, but because we didn’t feel like it was any of her business, and we wanted to keep the moment between our little family. We also wanted to avoid any potential drama. We knew she would find out eventually. She called me a few weeks after we told my stepson and announced on social media to ask if I was pregnant.
How did you prepare your stepson for the baby’s arrival?
We bought him a lot of big brother books and talked about what to expect in his new role. We let him decide how involved he wanted to be, and he chose to be a big part of the process. He helped us decorate the nursery, pick clothes for his baby brother, and was a huge part of my baby shower. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, he was not allowed in the doctors’ offices during my sonograms, but he couldn’t wait to see pictures of his brother in my belly when we came home from appointments.
How did you answer the question, “Is this your first,” given that you’re already a mama to your stepson?
It can be awkward! It’s very situational for me. If it’s another mom or someone I am likely going to see again, I tend to say, “Yes, but I have a stepson also.” If it’s the cashier at the grocery store, I just give a simple “yes” and keep moving.
How is parenting your stepson different from parenting your biological son?
Obviously, I have more control over Reign’s life decisions and schedule. I discipline my stepson to a point, but my husband has a bigger hand it, which won’t be the case for Reign. I’m British, so our baby will be raised with a lot of British traditions and customs. We’ve already incorporated some into our home with my stepson, but it will be more prominent with Reign.
Our parenting style, values, and rules and routines will be the same for both boys.
Did having Reign change your feelings towards your stepson’s mother?
Without going too deep into it, yes. I do have a deeper understanding of how hard it is to trust people who are going to be around your child, though I had those feelings toward my stepson too — I’ve always been very protective of him. Having a baby also solidified that my stepson’s mother and I are very different, and so are our parenting styles, which is why we continue to parallel parent.
What did you find most surprising about welcoming a second child?
That everyone offers me parenting advice and support! I get advice overload with my baby and nada with my stepson. Whenever I express stepmom struggles, I’m met with “Well, why would you be with a man who has a child?” or “You knew what you signed up for.” But with Reign, everyone is so supportive and empathetic of my motherhood struggles. It’s as if they’re more valid than my stepmom struggles.
What’s your advice to stepparents preparing to add another child to the family?
First, don’t overthink it. As stepparents, our family dynamics are already complicated, so we tend to over analyze everything. Show your kids that you’re excited about growing your family. Include them in the process and remind them this is not going to be a “new” family, you’re just growing the family you already have! And if it takes your child take a while to warm up to the idea of a new baby, remember that happens to first families too!
Second, let go of the expectation that you will be able to achieve a balance between the time you spend with your stepchildren and your baby. The goal is to always make sure everyone is treated the same, but the reality is that your baby will be with you 100% of the time and your stepchildren won’t be. Don’t feel bad about it. Their life doesn’t stop when they are at their other home, and neither should yours.
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of Raise, stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to Raise, she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son, Levon.