According to some movies, the stereotypical stepmother is usually someone reminiscent of the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’. Well, I’ve been a stepmom to my stepson for about 3 years now – and in his life for about 8 – and I’d like to think that my witch tendencies are at a minimum. Mind you, it’s not always easy to be a supplementary mom to a kid who already has a very present, hands on mom. In fact, what is my role as a stepmom anyways? Besides for being married to the kids dad, I mean. And how do you avoid overstepping boundaries?
Look, its a no brainer, blended families are more predominant in this day and age, that’s for sure. And with it comes the challenge of making it work, while keeping all parties happy and the development of the child on the forefront. Some of things that I’ve found works for me (well, I hope it’s working!) is:
1. I don’t interfere
This is a hard task to see through, especially when you have a spreadsheet brain and a gazillion other children of your own. But I have found my greatest reward in having Hubstopher allow me and Kyle’s dad to “parent” our son together as much as we can. It is with this same respect that I allow Hubstopher and my stepson’s mom to parent their son together. I’m talking about giving them space to make those hard decisions and discuss the best way forward for the kid. Look, if you’re putting your ego into this, you’re probably not doing it right. As a stepmom I want the best for the kid. And sometimes that means I need to keep my mouth shut.
2. I don’t expect anything in return
The thing about being a parent – whether it be step or bio, adopted or in-law – is that it’s a selfless job to take on. I’m not out here waiting for a round of applause after I’ve changed my daughter’s diapers or cooked my son a meal. Why should it be any different for my stepson? And if I want recognition, who best to get it from than the kid himself? I don’t need a pat on the back from family or friends or the parenting community of the world. Your pat on the back can’t buy me food or Steri Stumpies.
3. I don’t compare
If you’re comparing your stepchild to your bio child, and wondering why the one can’t be more like the other, I’ve got news for you: Each child is different, even if they came from the same womb. Kyle is stubbornly independent, whereas Seth can be a bit more clingy. But I attribute that to their personalities and characteristics. Each child is to be celebrated. Creating comparisons, even if just in your head, opens a door for negative thinking. Red alert, stepmom: avoid that stinking thinking bug! Pretty soon a thought turns into a feeling and a feeling into a deep rooted issue and before you know it, you’re the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’. Not a good look.
4. I don’t try to be the “cool” parent
As a step parent you often wonder if the kid even likes you. And yes, you could go about doing things to please them and get on their good side. But guess what, I have rules in my home and those rules apply to ALL our children. I don’t need you to like me and I don’t need you to think that I am the coolest parent. Why? Because I want you to grow up to be a really amazing human being, that’s why. If any of our kids think I suck for not allowing them to stay up till 3am to play XBox, oh well. They’ll get over it. (Analyses based on a true story.) There are other people in my life who think I am exceptionally cool. I’ll be okay.
5. I don’t assume the role of Mother
I’m not the kids mother. That’s that. I will always do my best to include him in everything but for me to expect him to treat me as if I am the first lady in his life is absolutely ludicrous. I do understand that there are situations where the bio mom is not present, and I totally get the beauty in having a stepmom take over that role. In my situation, this is not the case and that’s okay too! In fact, when Mother’s Day comes around I expect him to honor his OWN mom. Not getting chocolates or flowers or a handwritten card won’t devalue my role, as stepmom, in his life. I wouldn’t mind a nice cup of tea though. In fact, I want a cup of tea right now actually. Someone?
With all of this said, allow me to reiterate that I am NOT perfect. I am a work in progress! Our family has its own set of challenges and bumpy roads to overcome. But hey, I’m sure every family does – no matter what ‘family’ looks like to you.
What are your thoughts on the topic, ladies? We’re all learning here. Are you a stepmother? Have you found ways to make your relationship with your stepchild work? Please share them with us!