It's hard enough to raise your own children in today’s world, but there's a group in Barrie that can assist stepmoms trying to help raise someone else’s children.
Aimee Allen says she knows the struggles that come with being a stepmom. She and her husband, Mike, joined their families together when they married in 2014.
“When we first got together in 2011, I had no idea what to expect,” Allen said. “I had my two kids and had never been a stepmom to anyone else's.
"There were so many things that came with it all, from finances to rules to the ex-wife," she added. "It was near overwhelming.”
While on Twitter one day, Allen saw a post about a stepmom retreat in Texas. She contacted the organizers to find out if there was one closer, but there wasn't.
Allen told BarrieToday that, even though it was far away, she felt she needed to be there.
“There were about 80 women from across the U.S. I was the only one from Canada,” she said. “It had workshops on how to deal with situations and, even more importantly, it was with women who were going through what I was going through. I really needed that.”
The seed had been planted for Allen, who knew she wanted to learn more and help others.
Allen attended more retreats and conferences, eventually starting up a local group called Barrie Stepmoms that serves those in the city and throughout Simcoe County.
Her moniker, The Happy Stepmom, has become well known in the stepmother circle. Allen has has written for Stepmom Magazine.
Her group, which currently has eight members, meets monthly in Barrie’s south end. Allen wants to make it bigger and eventually have events as a group.
While the meetings are full of advice and techniques, it also helps keep the sanity of the members, she said.
“I look forward to it, especially when things get hectic, because it reminds me that I’m not alone,” Allen said. “This is a place where we can chat and not just talk about the problems we’ve faced, but also about the successes we have had.
"It isn’t always a struggle; there are many rewards.”
Allen said stepmoms also have to understand there's someone on the other side going through similar struggles: the ex-wife.
“It has been better over the last little while, but it is definitely the biggest hurdle,” she said. “And through the years, I have also realized it was hard on her. Her youngest was two years old when Mike and I got together, so she was giving up some time with her baby to another woman. The whole situation can be tough for everyone involved.”
The Barrie Stepmoms group meets once a month at Williams Fresh Cafe, located at 501 Bryne Dr.