I realize that not every step-parenting situation is the same. Some biological mothers have passed away, some are absent. While these situations may be your situation, this post is targeted to reflect the step-mother who is actively involved with her step children on an everyday basis, whether her visits are once a year or daily. I am a stepmom too, which is why I am sharing my experiences with you.
For the biological mom, I also realize that not every parenting situation is the same. Some step-parents are genuinely not good people and are not looking out for the best interests of your child. But for the most part, these are things I know to be very common concerns not just among step moms but among their step children as well, for I am both. I am also a biological mom. Coming from all 3 viewpoints as well as the friend of stepmoms and the friend of biological moms, these are the most important things to remember when co-parenting with your child’s stepmom.
Part 3 of my 3-part Stepmom Series: 8 Things You Need to Know About Co-Parenting with a Stepmom
- It’s never going to be fair. Ever. If I have kids too, there is no way things will ever be fair between your kids and mine. My kids may have a set of grandparents that yours don’t have and vice versa. Not only that, but sometimes grandparents feel that one child is less fortunate (if they have one less set of grandparents, for instance) and try harder to fill that space that your kids have but mine don’t. Please don’t take it personally. We do our best to make things as fair as possible at our house. But when it comes to friends and family, it’s never going to be fair between all of these kids. Please try to understand this and don’t hold it against us.
- It’s not a competition. Please stop trying to one-up us. It’s quite possible we struggle with this too, and we may need a gentle reminder not to do this. Kids tend to be materialistic in some sense just because they’re kids. I know it seems like you will be the better parent if you can give them the biggest and the best. You may feel like they love you “the most” if you let them do what they want. It’s more likely, though, that they will learn to appreciate the parents who set firm boundaries, keep them safe, and do what’s best for them. Just be a regular, loving parent to them. Be involved. That speaks volumes more than the best new gadget will.
- Please don’t make promises you can’t keep. Your kids will come over to our house and be so excited about what you promised them. Even if you didn’t say “I promise,” the kids remember that you said you “will do” something, and they tend to interpret this as a promise. When you break your promises consistently, you hurt your kids over and over again. Please stop yanking them around. It hurts them, and subsequently hurts all of us. Please only promise them things you can really give them. And if we do this, please gently remind us too. We all fail sometimes.
- There may be times when I step on your toes. Most likely, I didn’t try to hurt you on purpose. If you could just talk to me about it calmly and politely, I’ll probably understand where you’re coming from, especially if I have my own kids.
- I’m not trying to replace you. You are the mom of my step children. Chances are, you are very involved in their lives. But even if you’re not, there is no way I can replace you or replace their love for you no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Even if you were to be the worst mom ever, you’re still their mom and there’s still a place in their heart for you. I know I can never fill that space for them. I am their step mom. You are their biological mom. These are different roles in their eyes, and I am just doing the best I can to fulfill my role.
- That being said, please don’t talk down about me when they’re around. All this does is sabotages any chance of a relationship I might have with them. You may want this, but it does more harm to them than good. If I end up needing to be a source of authority to them at any point, you’ve just downgraded me. This breaks down their respect of you and me both, and then we’re all worse off. If you have to vent about me, please do it to your friends or family in confidentiality when they’re not around.
- Please don’t talk down about their dad when they’re around. I don’t care what he did to you (chances are, he will do it to me too). I’m sure he probably hurt you, but there’s no reason for you to tell your kids that he’s a scumbag (if that’s really what you think). Not only does this hurt their opinion of him, but it breaks down their respect for you, and it ultimately hurts your children. They are part of your ex no matter what. Please respect that and respect him. This will save us from a lot of problems in the future. Once again, if you have to vent about him, please do it to your friends or family in confidentiality when your children aren’t around.
- Please communicate! Parental alienation hurts your children more than anything. If the kids have doctor’s appointments, please let us know. If they have events coming up, please let us know. Keep us in the loop. If there’s something going on, we need to know. Whatever happens at your house affects all of us. If we all just communicate, the kids we will be so much better off for it. And we will so appreciate it!
This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but these are the things that have affected me the most as a biological mom, a step mom, and a step daughter. Ultimately, focus on doing what is best for the children–not necessarily what’s best for you, and the family will be much better off for it. Consider praying for your children’s step mom. Step parenting is challenging no matter how good the relationships. And please please please try to get along with the step mom. There’s nothing more conflicting to a child than trying to choose sides–even when the child is grown.
Moms, I’d love to know what you think in response to these tips in the comments. Stepmoms, what would you add?
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