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 toward the step-mother who is actively involved with her step children on an everyday basis, whether your visits are once a year or daily. I am a stepmom too, which is why I am sharing my experiences with you.
Part 2 of my 3-part Stepmom Series:
1) If you have kids of your own, nothing will ever be fair. Ever. If the father of your children is in the picture, their dad and his family will give your child things and take your child places that make your step children jealous. The father of your children has his own rules at home that may end up affecting the privileges your child receives. Your step children may resent that. The same thing happens when the mother of your step children and her family give your step children things and take them places, and your children may not receive the same privileges. Even if another biological parent is absent, your parents or your husband’s parents may feel obligated to show favoritism toward the children who have “less” by giving them things and taking them places. It’s not fair. It’s never going to be fair, no matter what you do. The earlier you accept this, the better. Your job is to be as fair as possible in your own household, because you can’t control others outside your own household. Hold to your values at home, because that’s what matters most.
2) Sometimes, you’re going to feel like they hate you. It’s inevitable. It’s a fact of life with children that you’re going to feel they hate you sometimes. It’s even worse with step children, because you were forced upon them; they didn’t choose you. They may resent you in some ways, but most likely it’s because they resent the circumstances that brought you into their life, not you yourself. Try not to take it personally. Understand that they really are in pain, no matter when it was that their parents split up. Don’t resent them for the times you feel they hate you. You’re the adult, and you can handle it. Love them to your best ability. Eventually they’ll accept that you’re in their lives for good and love you for who you are.
3) Love takes time. When you are helping to parent children who are not yours biologically, it’s different than if you had your own children. If you don’t have children of your own, you may not know the difference. That’s awesome. But if you do have kids of your own, you may feel guilty that you don’t love your step children the same as your own. That’s okay. You didn’t carry them for 9 months inside your body, they don’t share your genes, and it’s possible you didn’t know them as infants. This all affects how you feel about them. It never will be the same, because biology is so so powerful. It’s okay. What you need to do is love them for who they are the best you can. You know how to love children who aren’t yours: nieces, nephews, children of your best friends…love your step children the same way. Just because you weren’t there from the beginning doesn’t mean you can’t love them the way you love any other child. And don’t feel guilty if you don’t love them like your own children. It will never be the same, and that’s okay. You may not feel like you love them immediately, but it will grow on you. Just be patient. Make the choice to love them (because love is a choice), and it will come. Love takes time.
4) You’re not their mom. You will never be their mom. The earlier you accept that, the better. They may come back at you sometimes with the quip, “You’re not my mom!” That’s true, but don’t let it hurt you. Just like you can’t love them like your own children, they can’t love you like they love their mom. They share her genes, they lived inside her for 9 months, and most likely she raised them from the time they were infants. They may love you like an aunt. They may not love you at all for a while. Just like it may take time for you to love them, it may take time for them to love you. Love takes time, like I said, the earlier you accept the fact that you’re not their mom, the better off you’ll be.
5) You’re also not their friend, you’re their stepmom. Just because you’re not their mom doesn’t mean that you can be their best friend. It’s great to do fun things with them like a friend does. And if he/she can talk to you like a friend, that’s awesome. But you are also an authority figure in their lives, and both you and they need to understand that and respect that. Sometimes you’ll be alone with them. They need to respect you, and you need to expect that from them. You are like an aunt figure or a teacher in their lives, and they need to respect you just as much. Just like an aunt or teacher, their parents make the final decisions that affect their lives; you need to respect those rules and decisions and set boundaries that allow you to have a healthy and mutually respectful relationship with your step children.
6) Ask. Whenever you want to do something special with your step children, ask. Check with Dad first. He may have some input. If he doesn’t care or if it’s something that may affect the mom, see #7. If it has something to do with fairness between your biological children and your step children, ask. Make sure you and your husband are on the same page. This is non-negotiable if you are going to be as fair and consistent as possible.
7) When in doubt, check with Mom. Even if Dad says it’s fine to do something with your step children, their mom will want the privilege of having the firsts, especially with girls: first manicure, pedicure, etc. Whatever you do, don’t try to take that from her. This is like the #1 no-no for a stepmom. You may be tempted to be part of the firsts, but they’re not yours biologically, and it’s not yours to have. Yes, it will hurt. You are expected to be an authority figure in their lives, discipline them, care for them, yet you’re not allowed to be part of the special moments. As much as I hate to say it, you’re going to have to deal, because it’s not your right as their stepmom. If it’s a first or something special, check with the mom first. She will be so thankful for that.
8) Respect their Dad. This is important in any family. Don’t tell your children about your personal problems with Dad, and don’t downgrade their dad. Your husband is part of your step children. They share his genes, and are therefore part of him. Whatever you say about him reflects on them. Respect their dad, and they will learn to respect other men in their lives. Not only that, but your relationship with their dad will be all the better for it.
9) Respect their Mom. Just like Dad, Mom is part of your step children whether you like it or not. They share her genes. Whatever you say about Mom affects how they feel about themselves. One of the worst things you can do for your step children is downgrade their mom. Not only will it affect how they view her, but it will affect how they view you as well. Respect her. You may not like her, but you need to suck it up and keep that conversation for other trusted adults. This is probably one of the best things my parents did for us children–they didn’t bash each other. They may not have been able to stay married, but they were cordial to each other and respectful of each other. This is so so important.
10) Communication is key. Whatever you do, communication with your step children’s parents is so important. Communication with their dad will allow you to be as consistent and fair as possible. When you communicate with their father allows you to be on the same page, which will make attempts to turn one against the other impossible (all kids will try to do this by the way). Communication with their mother does the same thing. It may be impossible to have the same rules at her house as at your house. You can’t control what goes on at her house. The important thing is that, if your step child is grounded at one house, she is grounded at both. What goes on at one house should be communicated to the other house, because it affects everybody. Doctor’s appointments, special events–they must be communicated. If one parent is left out, not only with the biological parent be resentful, but the child will be hurt as well. Communicating at least once a week is one of the best things you can do to both keep the peace between both households as well as to be as consistent for the step children as possible.
There are definitely other things that come up when you’re a stepmom, but as a step child, a biological mom, and a step mom, these are my top 10 tips for surviving step parenting. Here are some other resources that may be helpful, as they were helpful to me:
- Blissfully Blended
- The Smart Stepmom: Practical Steps to Help You Thrive by Ron Deal and Laura Petherbridge
- 101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom: Expert Advice From One Stepmom to Another by Laura Petherbridge
- The Smart Stepfamily Marriage: Keys to Success in the Blended Family by Ron L. Deal
- The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family by Ron L. Deal
- Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do by Wednesday Martin
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a percentage of each sale when you make a purchase using these links; however, I fully support and recommend each of these products. You can view my full disclosure policy here.
Linking up at: