I am a mom that sends kids to a house with a Stepmom.
I am also a Stepmom.
This gives me a unique perspective of the role of a Stepmom from both sides.
According to the TIME magazine’s article Amazing Moms of the Animal Kingdom, Meerkats live in packs of about 20, dominated by one mating pair that produces two to five pups in a litter, with up to four litters a year. In a group of meerkats with so many new pups, it is often the aunts and sisters of the group who care for the young. After 21 days underground, the pups emerge to join the foraging party, where they learn the skills needed to live in the Kalahari Desert.
If we lived in a society of meerkats every mother that is able to help raise your pups would be celebrated, but we do not live in a society of meerkats and raising kids is no longer the responsibility of the community as it was ages ago.
Being a stepmom is one of the hardest roles on earth. You are always walking a tightrope with huge precipices on either side. With practice to you turn into an acrobat, but there is some preconceived ideas about your role as Bonus/Extra/Stepmom that do not help and really must die.
I personally found that the biggest problem with being a stepmom is not the kids. Not at all. The biggest problem with being a stepmom is boundaries. There are invisible boundaries and walls that you did not even know exists until you walk straight into them. If we could celebrate every woman that help raise our children instead of seeing motherhood as a competition or as a role we have to fiercely protect, we would all be so much better off.
We celebrate teachers, coaches and grandparents, but as soon as another woman helps raise our children we see her as competition. I am allowed to say this as I am also a Birthmom that send my kids to another mother and not ‘just’ a stepmom.
When I read all these wonderful advice articles for stepmoms I feel like pulling my hair out of my head. I used to gobble this nonsense up and read everything I could get my hands on. After ten years of being a stepmom and spending half of that sending my kids to a stepmom here’s my advice: “Find out what works for you and do that.” Ignore all the experts who think they know everything and listen to your instinct. No one knows your life, or your kids, like you do. And yes, they are your kids too. After wiping their bums and noses and putting them to bed for years, you’ve earned that privilege.
There is a list of preconceived ideas about Stepmoms that we need to retire. Their time has come and gone and it is time that we hold a funeral and move on.
Here’s my list of ideas that must DIE. You are welcome to add a few of your own in the comments.
1. The Stepmom is a nanny
A Stepmom is not a nanny. You do not need to send her list of things that was in your child’s bag or a list of everything you think she should do. You cannot control what is going on in her house and she does not need to follow your rules.
Rather speak to the Stepmom and tell her what you are worried about and work with her. You can discuss homework and agree on a schedule that suits everyone. Communication is the key.
2. The kids have only one home
This is not true. The children have two houses each with their own rooms. They should be allowed to leave clothes and toys at both houses. Personal and private space are important for children who visit part-time. They need to feel part of the household and not just a visitor. If the kids occasionally forget something at the other household it is not a crisis.
Don’t make the children take basic necessities back and forth. Rather, make sure that they have pj’s and a toothbrush at both houses and worry about special things like a teddy bear or school books. If you discuss this with the Stepmom she more than likely would buy the kind of shampoo you prefer for your kids. Life is too short to waste time on petty things.
3. Meltdowns when the Stepmom is called Mom
The fact that the kids sometimes call their Stepmom ‘Mom’ does not diminish your role as their mother. A Stepmom fills the role as mom when you are not with them. Please stop feeling threatened by what the kids call their Stepmom. In the end it is just words. Your kids know that you gave birth to them and that you cannot be replaced.
The term they use to describe their Stepmom is not important, the fact that they have a good relationship with the other person helping to raise your children is. Let them called her on her name or extra mommy or even mom, whatever they feel comfortable with. Rather celebrate that another woman love your kids enough that they love her back. Do not make the children scared to talk to you about their Stepmom, just in case they refer to her as ‘mom’ and they know this will make you unhappy. What the children calls her is their choice. This is not a reflection on you as a mom.
4. The Stepmom have no place disciplining my children
I have heard too many people say discipline is the responsibility of the ‘Real’ parent. Being part of your children’s lives makes the Stepmom a real parent. Stepparents are always advised that they should wait to tell the ‘Real’ parent whatever the child did and then the ‘Real’ parent can discipline the kid.
If the kids are jumping from the roof or running in front of a car would you want the Stepparent to wait till the other parent is around before the Stepparent interfere? I did not think so. When you drop your kids off at your parents house you expect them to follow the rules and respect them. The same applies when the Stepmom/dad is the adult in charge. Rules are mainly there to protect children, part of the job of the Stepmom/dad is to protect your children when you are not around. Yes, most discipline issues, especially when kids are older should be handled by all the adults involve, but it is not practical to convene a meeting every time your child breaks the rules, or when they are in immediate danger. You cannot choose when you want the Stepparent to be involved.
5. Visitation is a power
Some moms see visitation as power that they can revoke when when things do not go their way.
The rules and laws are changing and the courts are recognising that the role of a Dad is just as important as that of a Mom. (I am not talking about cases of abuse or neglect, just ordinary people trying to make a blended family work.)
It is in your child’s best interest to have a great relationship with their dad, however you might feel towards him as a person. The only relationship you harm by taking away visitation rights is the one you have with your kids.
Don’t let your own insecurities spill over into the kids’ relationship with their dad. One day they will grow up and realise how hard their dad fought for the right to see them.
6. Seeing the Stepmom/dad as the enemy
A stepparent is not your enemy. It is disrespectful not to greet them, especially in front of the kids or other people. It only makes you look bad and set a bad example for the children. A civil greeting, whatever your personal feelings, is polite. It is one of the skills children need as functioning adults in society.
Discussing the Stepmom and your feelings about her in front of your kids are not ok. You do not want to be discussed behind your back in front of the children. Respect her and keep your opinions to yourself till you can discuss it out of earshot of the kids.
The stepparent did not divorce you and whether you like it or not they are helping to raise your children. They deserve the same respect as you would show any other mother or father.
7. Turning motherhood into a competition
Being a mom is a competition that you must win at all cost is an idea that needs to die. Biology is not the only way to be a mom. Yes, you have the stretch marks of carrying them inside your body for nine months. If you are lucky your kids will have a Stepmom that will carry them in her heart. We do not always have to see motherhood as a competition and compare ourselves to others. You do not take love away from one child to love another. When children starts loving their Stepmom it does not take anything away from the love that they feel for you.
Lets try and be a little bit more like Meerkats and celebrate and appreciate the fact that there is another mom that loves our children. An extra set of eyes to keep them safe, extra arms to hold them and another mom that keeps them in her heart. It’s time to let go of these outdated ideas about Stepmom and Blended families.
If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy: Rules for Stepmoms
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