If there is one thing that all the stepmoms i have worked with confess is that they do not want to become the proverbial “evil stepmother.” While their intentions are good from the beginning the challenges that they have to overcome on a daily basis may sometimes be too much to handle or the stepmom may find themselves ill equipped to handle the curve balls of blended family life. As a stepmom your actions can either enable the growth of healthy relationships within the family or hinder them.
Here are a few tips to help you prevent the evil stepmom stigma and instead foster healthy relationships in your own stepfamily.
1. Commit to the long haul
Many times stepmoms come into the picture with high expectations and hopes for the happy family only to find out that its a lot harder than they expected. It takes between 4-7 years according to research, for a members of a step-family for create that authentic intimacy of a family. So its important that you are patient and that you commit to the long haul, continuously striving for love and acceptance through all the challenges. It may feel like for every step forward you take 3 steps backwards but consistency with your love and actions will pay off in the long run.
2. Don’t take everything so personally
Stepmoms struggle with many insecurities, they are constantly comparing themselves and competing with the biological mother. Unfortunately this only causes more problems because they can never measure up to “mom” in the eyes of the children. Instead of focusing on who you are not, its important for you to focus on who you are and what it is that you bring to the table and constantly strive to improve on that. That way you are secure in yourself and nothing anyone says be it your stepchildren, their mother/father, extended family or other outsiders can bring you down.
3. Direct your efforts toward being a friend rather than a parent
The goal of any stepparent should always be to build a relationship with the children. Becoming a parent too soon generates anger and resentment from the children and this only jeopardizes your relationship with them. Leave that to the biological parents and focus on building your relations with the children, getting to know them a little better and allowing them to know you as well. Once the relationship is in place, parenting becomes a lot more acceptable by the children and much easier on you as well.
4. Make your marriage a priority
Parenting demands can consume much of you and your partners time and energy making it very easy for the marriage to take a back seat, yet marriage is the very foundation of any family and if it is strong the family will in turn be strong but if it is weak then the family crumbles. You and your partner need to spend time apart as a couple, back each other up when it comes to parenting and discipline and act as a unified front displaying a friendship that positively impacts the children.
5. Encourage healthy co-parenting
Its important for every child to have a relationship with their mother and father whether they are together or not. Its therefore important for you to allow your spouse and his ex to co-parent the children with healthy boundaries in place of course. In the same way do stay out of any disputes between your spouse and their ex. Its crucial that the homes do not meddle in each others business, but critical to have the basic rules and schedules for the kids respected regardless of which home they are in.
6. Recognize and appreciate your stepmom role
Your role as as stepmom is very important and you should not let anyone negate it. Sure, it is different from the one of the biological mom but that does not mean it is not as critical. Stepparents have the ability to remain objective and recognize unhealthy patterns in the children simply because they are not blinded by the unconditional love and blood bond that parents share with their children. This is a huge advantage for step-families if only they recognize and embrace it.
7. Do not quit
The divorce rate among re-married couples is higher than that of first time marriages. This is due to the step-family dynamics that present unique challenges for the couple and every member of the family. The stepmom journey is a difficult one for sure but it is also worthwhile but only for those who stick with it to the very end. Therefore commit to the long run one day at a time.