As a stepmom people often make assumptions and judgements about what your role should be in your stepfamily life. Most of these people haven’t walked in your shoes and don’t understand the many complexities of the stepmom role. Strangers, coworkers, even friends and family may have an idea of what being a stepparent means and try to give you advice, but ultimately it’s up to you to define your stepparent role.
You could be confronted with statements and assumptions that don’t feel right. Hopefully by educating people on the unfair statements made, the negative stigma associated with being a stepparent, especially a stepmom, will change.
1. You should love them like they’re your own.
Falling in love with your partner doesn’t guarantee you’ll fall in love with the kids or they’ll fall in love with you. It’s important to act lovingly towards the children and work to build a relationship and bond with them, but expecting to love them as if they’re your own, is unfair. Stepchildren aren’t expected to love their stepparents as they love their bioparents and it isn’t right to expect stepmoms to love them as their own.
My mentor, Jenna Korf, shared an analogy with me, which allowed me to think of this analogy…
Imagine you had a dog your whole life. You grew up with this dog. You played, walked, and loved this dog for 10 years. You built a strong bond with this dog. Then one day, someone takes that dog away and hands you a brand new dog and tells you to love that dog just as you loved your other dog. It wouldn’t be possible. I am not comparing children to dogs. The analogy is meant to allow you some perspective in this unhealthy expectation of stepparents.
Love varies from person to person. The love you have for one person is different than the love you have for another person and that’s okay. Ease up on the pressure to love your stepchildren as your own, and work to create a love for them that you are comfortable with.
2. You should be involved, but not too involved.
You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Stepmoms are told that they need to be more involved with their stepchildren. Then they step up and get involved and they are criticized for overstepping.
Women tend to be the organizers of the family. They keep track of the calendar, appointments, sports practices, after school activities, and other events. It’s natural for stepmoms to help organize and manage the household events but it becomes a balancing act in stepfamily life. Talk to your partner about clarifying your role and find what works for you in your relationship and family.
3. You should be readily available when needed.
Stepmoms aren’t waiting by the phone to say how high when someone says jump. Stepmoms and their partners are a team and decisions are made as a team. They are valued members of the family. Stepmoms step up to support their partner and stepchildren. They are often the springboard for creating a loving family unit. Stepmoms love, engage, cook, clean, play, paint, brush, dance, drive, learn, grow, help, care, pray, support, teach, manage, shop, organize, and problem solve. Stepmoms matter. To be expected to be readily available when needed is just disrespectful.
4. You chose to marry into that and you knew what you were signing up for.
My guess is, you knew you were partnering up with someone who has a past. Their past involves children and a potential divorce under their belt, and you knew that would bring some challenges with it. But I’m also guessing you didn’t realize you were signing up for conflict, judgment, misunderstandings, abuse, threats, feelings of anger, anxiety, and resentment. You can never prepare yourself for the complexity of being a stepmom. The relationships, the challenges, the intrusions, the communication, and the many feelings that arise are something you can’t prepare for.
My guess is, many of you would also say that all of the challenges you encounter strengthen your marriage and strengthen who you are as a person.
Unfair statements are made by people that haven’t been in a stepparent role. A lack of understanding causes these statements and assumptions to be made. Just remember it is your job to define your stepparent role. By educating people we can hopefully stop perpetuating the unfair statements made and the negative stigma associated with being a stepmom.
-The Determined to Change the Stigma Stepmom