If you are a parent, you know the joy, from the very minute you received the “Positively Pregnant” on your urine stick. While that little bundle of joy is growing inside of you, your own internal and external body changes. There is no doubt, you know you are having a baby. It is yours forever.
Not only does it grow inside of you; but you grow together forever. This is a bond that can never be broken, and it grows stronger every minute of every day. You nurture your pregnant body to take care of yourself for your little, living baby inside of you. Oh, the joy of it all!
At some point, life may take a turn and you might become the parent of someone else’s child – not through adoption but through marriage. You have now claimed the title of “stepmother”. This child did not grow inside of you, you did not nurture this baby from inception; through birth, adoption and so on. Your heart, mind, and emotions have not taken a vow to love and care for this little human. This is the child of the man you now love and adore until they leave home. They are now part of your home, your world.
There is a difference. The biggest difference is that you are not their mother.
I am writing this article from my personal experience. I have been a stepmother twice: once to two darling little girls and the second time to a college-bound young man. I am also the mother of two girls that had to deal with a stepfather as older teenagers.
9 Tips for How to be a Loving, Supportive Stepmother
1. Never ask your stepchild/stepchildren to call you mom. You are not their mother; no matter how much you love and nurture these little beings. While they are in your house, you are your husband’s wife, their friend, their caregiver, their stepmother. The transition of divorce and different homes is very difficult on little ones and older ones alike; the first year being the hardest. Be patient, be kind, be loving. Their entire family dynamics changed, and not by their doing or choice. It can take up to three years for everything to feel normal for the children and the adults.
2. If the children are mopey around you or say, “I wish my mother and father were back together” or “I hate you!” remove yourself from the situation and let their father take care of talking to them. They are not mad at you. Unfortunately, you are just the reminder that their parents are not back together or will ever be.
3. Do not punish or reprimand your husband’s children. I am not suggesting there should not be house rules or boundaries and this doesn’t mean you should be a doormat to win their love and approval. In a speaking voice, never shouting; just remind them of the established house rules by saying, “In this house we…” If necessary, get their father involved to remind the children of the house rules. He is the disciplinarian.
4. Never, ever say negative things about your husband’ ex-wife – aka the children’s mother. Depending on the nature of the divorce, there could still be carried over hostility. If your husband is on the phone fighting with the ex and his kiddos are around, remind him as well. NEVER SAY NEGATIVE THINGS ABOUT THEIR MOM.
5. The time they are with their mom is great for your stepchildren. For you, it gives you time with your husband and your children alone. For the children, there is no competition for love and affection. Do be mindful of not going overboard when your step-children are back in your home about over-stating all the great things you did while they were gone. This will feed their resentment of you and your kids, their step-siblings. Make sure that all the kids feel equal love by all the adults in the household.
6. Don’t become the stepparent expecting praise. Pick and choose your battles. Most kids aren’t known for gratitude. They get busy with friends, social media, and they are just plain being kids.
7. Money is the root of all evil. You and your husband have discussed a budget. If your husband is the guilty type, he might shower his kids with gifts. Or, he might be angry with his ex-wife and feels he pays enough in child support, alimony, etc., and so the argument goes on. Stay out of the argument. Make sure the fighting over money with his ex is not taking place in front of the children and most importantly, as husband and wife; stick to your financial budget.
8. Never make your spouse choose between you and his kids. For you, that is a losing proposition. After all, who would you choose?
9. Never forget that your own children are also part of a blended family: in your home and possibly in their father’s home as well. How do you want them to be treated? Do you want reasonable house rules for them? Do you want to have them call someone else Mommy? Do you want them to hear their father and you squabbling about visitation, money, etc.? Do you want them to feel that they are loved any less than their father’s present wife’s children because their dad lives with them?
Be kind, be supportive, be loving, be mindful. After all, our children and stepchildren are our little bundles of joy. Post-remarriage, your children and his children become part of a blended family – whether they like it or not. If you feel hurt or angry about something one of them say’s or does, remember that becoming part of a blended or stepfamily wasn’t the children’s choice.
Jacqui Atcheson is a Certified Divorce Coach ® and Certified Divorce Mediator that specializes in working with her clients starting at the earliest stages of divorce. She helps them get certainty about what they want, control over their future and peace of mind knowing they made the best possible decisions. Her passion for helping others through divorce began as a personal mission in 1979 and became her profession in 1996. Get introduced to her services at: www.betterpathtodivorce.com