I recently read an interesting post about a stepmother’s bill or rights on Becoming a Stepmom. Apparently there have been some interesting discussions floating around on the net about whether or not it is dangerous to stepfamilies. Below is one version of the bill of rights and my perspective on each.
1. I will be part of the decision-making process in my marriage and family at all times.
I agree with this one and don’t think it’s unreasonable for a married woman to want to be part of the decision-making process in her marriage and family at all times. I thought that’s how a married couple was supposed to operate. I think some people have a problem with this particular “right” because they assume that stepmothers mean that they should be involved in picking the school, doctor, dentist, religion, etc.for their stepchild. This is not what this “right” is saying. Stepmothers aren’t demanding control here, they are asking to be included on the decisions that directly affect them and their marriage as a whole and their husbands should include them on matters that will affect their marriage and family.
2. People outside the immediate family – including ex-wives, in-laws and adult children – cannot make plans that affect my life without my consent.
Similar to the one above, this is another one that is often misinterpreted. Again, stepmothers aren’t asking to be included on choosing schools, dentists, doctors or signing their stepchildren up for extra curricular activities. I think all this falls under the heading of “common sense.” We know that we don’t need to be consulted on those types of things and don’t expect to be, IF the decisions don’t affect us. It’s when you sign them up and then notify the stepmother that she is the one who will be taking him every week that’s the problem. You can’t make plans for someone else’s life. My biological parents were married nearly 30 years before my dad passed away and neither of them ever signed us up for activities and then told the other (without checking their schedules) that he or she would be the one taking him. It’s called common courtesy and isn’t unreasonable to expect, even for a stepmother.
3. I will not be responsible for the welfare of children for whom I can set no limits.
This is another one that I find very difficult to understand why certain people don’t get it. Some have said that stepmothers should just accept that they won’t be involved in discipline because it should be left up to mom and dad and/or the children just won’t accept it. Personally, I don’t think CHILDREN should have a say in this matter. If you do something wrong and you’re in the care of an adult, that adult should have the right to discipline you. If the children are with grandma, do you tell her that she can’t discipline them when they misbehave? What about at school? When they do something wrong at school, do you expect the school not to implement some form of discipline because it should be left up to the biological parents? If your answer to either of those questions is no, then tell me, why should that be any different for stepmom? If the children are under her supervision, she should be allowed to set agreed upon limits for and discipline them. The fact that the kids won’t always listen has nothing to do with my right, as an adult, to impart discipline on them. Heck, sometimes my biological kid doesn’t listen and/or readily accept discipline, but that doesn’t stop me from disciplining him.
4. I must be consulted about which children will live with us, when they can visit and how long they will stay.
This one all depends on the circumstances. Dad has an obligation to care for his children and stepmom cannot and should not dictate if his children can come live in his home or not, UNLESS that child has been violent towards her or any other children in the home. At that point, the stepmother should definitely be consulted and part of the reunification process as well.
5. I will not be solely responsible for housework; chores will be distributed fairly.
This one I can agree with!
6. I will be consulted regarding all family financial matters.
I think this is another one that is often misinterpreted. Stepmothers aren’t telling their husbands not to pay child support. We know that there are agreements that were made and must be adhered to, before we came along. Not to mention that a father should take care of his children, no matter where they reside and I wouldn’t expect anything less from my husband. However, there are times when ex-wives often want above and beyond what has been court ordered, and if it falls outside of the court-ordered amount which has already been budgeted and agreed upon, then yes, husband should consult with stepmom (his wife). As an ex, there have been times when I’ve called my ex and expressed that I needed some extra money for our son and I never got offended when he said he had to talk it over with his wife first to see what and/or if they could afford it. I think it is a fantasy for ex-wives to assume that they will forever be the ONLY partner in these types of decisions that involve their children once their ex-spouse remarries.
7. Others may not violate my private space at home, nor take or use my possessions without my permission.
I agree with this one. It all falls under the issue of respect, but kids, whether biological or step, don’t always listen and follow rules. It has nothing to do with them being your stepchildren and everything to do with them just being children.
8. I will never be treated as an “outsider” in my own home.
This one is another one that is often misinterpreted. It has nothing to do with instantly feeling like family and more to do with some of the points mentioned above; such as consulting stepmoms on certain decision, allowing them to be involved in discipline when the children are in their care and so on. Not doing those things is what makes stepmoms feel like outsiders. It’s not the fact that their husband’s kids prefer them and go to him with or ask him everything. Again, growing up in my biological family, I sometimes had a preference for one parent over the other, and they were both my biological parents. Personally, I’ve never felt like an outsider in my home. I actually enjoy the times that both my bio son and stepson prefer to be with my husband. It is at those times that I get a the opportunity to have some “me” time. I think most stepmothers feel like outsiders for other reasons.
9. My husband and stepchildren must treat me with respect.
I totally agree with this one! Respect is one of our household rules.
10. Our marriage is our first priority, and we will address all issues together.
This one makes me want to pull my hair out because people don’t get it. I’ve heard everything from, “children are a priority too” or “you can’t neglect the kids” or “isn’t that selfish?” I’m a little taken aback with people always telling stepmothers what they already know. We know that kids are a priority too! We know that it’s not the marriage or the kids, it’s marriage and kids. We don’t neglect our children just because we expect our marriage to be a priority. A marriage will not last unless it’s the first priority. The husband and wife are the pillars of the family. They are responsible for setting the foundation for how the family will run. If they don’t blend and aren’t on the same page, then the family won’t make it, be it biological or step. If they aren’t happy in their partnership and as a couple, then the family won’t be happy as a whole. And again, it doesn’t matter if the family is biological or step.
Making your marriage a priority means that you realize that your spouse is your life partner. Make time for him or her instead of always focusing on the drama with your past marriage. Include him or her in decisions that will directly affect him or you. There shouldn’t always be a battle between your kids and/or your ex-spouse and your spouse. I always say that while your ex-spouse is your co-parenting partner, your spouse is your life partner and should always be treated as such. This is what stepmoms mean by not wanting to feel like outsiders in their home and wanting their marriages to be a priority. These are common sense things that should apply to any marriage. It doesn’t mean that stepmoms are victims, they want their husbands to just do away with all their responsibilities as fathers or they desire some unreasonable amount of control. It means that stepmoms desire to be treated like wives and life partners. Personally, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
Grace and Peace,