Being a stepmom has been one of my greatest accomplishments. It has also been one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever undertaken. I say this not because I have a terrible stepkid that presses my nerves everytime she is with us, as a matter of fact, it’s exactly the opposite. I have a fabulous stepdaughter with whom I feel I share a great bond. Are there times when I know she doesn’t like what I have to say about a particular subject? Sure. Are there times where I am sure she has a slight attitude with me? Probably. However, for the most part, my life with my stepdaughter is great. She is one of the most important people in my life. She is my only daughter and I enjoy the time I share with her. At the same time, however, my “stepmom” life has had it’s ups and downs mainly due to the fact that I had to retrain my brain on my standards by accepting and learning from my mistakes, and understanding my role.
Think about this, approximately half of all Americans live in a step-family. Therefore, every single day there are stepparents out there, just like you and me, who are undauntedly taking on the task of step-parenthood and this job is one of the most difficult jobs there is. One of the main mistakes parents make when step-parenting is that they feel as if they have to be the “be all and do all” for their stepchildren. We feel we have to stop everything just to accommodate everyone, including our own children, our spouse, the exes or the family pet for that matter, all of which usually goes unappreciated. If you are guilty of this as I once was, STOP! Know this, everyone ends up resenting the martyr. Martyrs make people feel guilty and when guilt arises in any relationship, resentment builds. Having this attitude is an unrealistic expectation that you are setting for yourself and essentially for those around you.
Another unrealistic expectation that some stepparents have is that their stepchild is going to, or should automatically like or love them; they will surely want to call you “mom” or “dad” and that all of you will be one big happy, loving family. This idea is totally unrealistic. Eventually you might get there, but it takes understanding, effort, hard work, consistency, and most importantly, time. Remember readers, stepchildren experience a wide variety of conflict when a divorce creeps into their lives. They don’t need extra baggage.
Another issue I have seen with stepparents is they want so badly to be a “friend or confidant” with their stepchild that they go way too far. For example, they turn the clock back and try to relate as if they were the same age, they withhold information from the child’s parents, they want to be on their level in order to gain acceptance. You are a parent and it is your job to do just that — help to parent your stepchildren along with your husband and/or wife. I tell my clients all of the time, a child has a child’s place and so does a parent.
Lastly, I would like to impress upon you readers, and I know you have heard it all before, however it is worth rementioning. Never, ever ever bad-mouth the ex in front of the children. For example, don’t stand at the front door and mimic your husband/wife’s ex. Don’t use pet names for him/her in front of the children and never fight with your husband or wife about the ex in front of the children. This only adds fuel to an already grieving child. Private feelings about the ex should only be discussed in just that — private with your spouse. What this eventually causes with the child is resentment and coarse feelings for you and for your spouse. This even holds true when your stepchild is badmouthing his or her parent and/or other stepparent. Do not fall into the trap of agreeing with them. If your stepchild brings you a valid concern, take it to his/her parent.
As I always like to state, children live what they learn. If they see us handling our situations with anger, back and forth drama, they will do just that. Do not become a stepparent that expects gratitude, things will not always be “peachy keen,” but at the same time, remember, you are the grown-up and we need to handle our standards in that fashion.
Peace & Blessings,