How To Be a Good Stepmom.

**Warning – Long Post**

Being a stepmom is probably the biggest thing that has ever happened to me.

I honestly didn’t think about what I was signing up for when I agreed to marry the hubby. Love had kept me quite blind. My two stepkids and I had jumped from being practically strangers to being family. So the lessons I’ve had to learn were pretty huge and happened fast.

Here are my 10 personal commandments.

The Kids Had No Choice.
The first rule to be a good stepmom is to know that the kids had no choice. They didn’t choose me. I chose them and their father. To expect the kids to be sensible and care enough to accept me and draw me into the family would be unrealistic and idealistic. Unless I married a 60 year old man and his kids are all grown up with families themselves, the kids are not going to hug me enthusiastically and say welcome to the family. This was the first thing I had to learn to accept.

Love The Kids.
This sounds straightforward and easy. But 99% of the stepmothers out there who have problems with their stepkids did not do just that. I learnt to love the kids. I love them when they are good.. I love them when they are bad.. I loved them even when I thought I couldn’t anymore.. I would love them even when they didn’t love me back. The only way to have a meaningful relationship with a kid.. any kid.. is if they know and truly believe that you love them.

Do not expect the kids to call you “Mommy”.
The only time a woman has the right to expect kids to call her Mommy is if she gave birth to them or she raised them for at least 80% of their life. What is most important is not what they call you but the relationship that you share. Focus on that. It is hard. But remember that you want the kids to always call you.. it doesn’t matter what.. as long as they always call FOR you.

Be a parent. Not a friend.
Stepmoms would always try too hard to please the stepkids. Do that for a while in the beginning. You don’t want to piss off the kids before you’ve built anything together. But once you know that they know you love them, step up and be a parent. Kids don’t need their stepmom to be a friend. They need a parent. A guardian. To teach them what’s right. And to correct them when they are wrong. Our role is a nurturing, guiding, loving one. Don’t teach your stepkids too many bad stuff just so you want them to think you’re cool.

Always always always be there for them.
Stepkids have gone through one divorce, possibly an ugly one. Someone (be it their mother or father) had once left the family. They wouldn’t be the most secure little people in the world. You’ll be lucky if they still believed in marriage. Being passed from one parent to another every year becomes a way of life for them. Sometimes, they’ll get caught in situations where no one is there for them. As a stepmom, the biggest gift you can give to your stepkids is to put them as your first priority and always be there for them. Especially when their own father or mother cannot be.

Don’t shower them with gifts. Learn to say No.
This is probably the hardest because we want to keep the kids happy so that they’ll like us and be nice to us. But no blood parent in the world would shower their kids constantly with gifts. Because they know that they’ll be spoiling the kids and paving the way for their own self destruction later. The easy way out with being a stepmom is to give the kid everything he wants. That’s not love. That’s destroying the kid. If you truly loved the kid like your own, you would raise the kid to know the value of money and instill a reward system with gifts. When I first knew our gal, I chided her constantly for spending too much money on clothes. It was stepmother suicide, but I knew I had to do it if I loved her. If I took the other way.. i.e. gave her all the money she wanted to shop.. I would be ruining her, not loving her.

Nurture their relationships with their father AND mother.
Focus on the part that is “AND mother”. This has been the toughest thing I’ve had to do as a stepmother. Putting aside my opinions or feelings, and teaching the kids to love and honour both their parents. Don’t ever try to sabotage the kids’ relationship with either parent. Any kid that grows up hating or not having a relationship with any one parent would always have a void in their heart and would grow up with regrets. If you love your stepkids, nurture their relationship with their parents and teach them not to take sides. It’s the right thing to do.

Guard and protect the kids.
Do not.. I repeat.. DO NOT do anything (stupid) that would hurt the children. Some stepmothers think they are being clever if they tell their stepkids the truth about why their parents broke up. Or they think they can be closer to their stepkids if they tell the kids stuff that makes other people look bad and they look good. Remember that the role of a stepmother is no different from a mother. Our role is to guard and protect the children. If something would hurt them, reduce them to tears, cast self doubt or make them feel vulnerable and insecure, keep the kids away from it.

Teach them good values.
Constantly keep the kids in an environment with good strong values. Kids from broken homes may have memories of their parents screaming at each other. Or may think that it’s alright to walk out of a family for another person. Or may feel that they are not important and it’s only always about what the adults want. Teach them the importance of family. Teach them the importance of being good people. Be firm when they are being disrespectful. Show them the importance of having good values. You have the right and the responsibility to do so. With a good value system, the kids will grow up to be good people who know what the priorities in life are. They will make sound decisions and live happy lives. A kid without a good value system will self destruct through selfish actions, poor prioritisation and poor attitude in life. We don’t want that.

Be honest.
Never lie to the kids. Even when things are tough and the truth hurts, guide the kids to be strong but never lie to them. If they came from a broken home, chances are there would have been a good amount of lies spun in their lives. The last thing they need is yet another adult who wouldn’t tell them the truth. When I don’t want to tell the truth, I evade the topic. But I never lie. And when they know that you are always honest, they’ll have someone in their lives that they can always trust.

Be patient. Wait.
People always say, “They are still young. Wait till they grow up.” It’s very true. Don’t expect good things to happen overnight. Don’t expect children to know how to swing from being a bratty kid to being a sweet endearing one. Even if they wanted to. Cut them some slack and give them time. If you’ve been a good stepmom, trust that they’ll grow up to be wonderful kids. And the day you realise how wonderful they are, and it brings tears to your eyes.. that’s the day you’ve become a good stepmom. =)
 

——
Disclaimer: I speak from my own experience and the lessons I’ve learnt. I get asked alot by fellow stepmoms about how to be a good stepmom. I am no saint and certainly no expert. I’ve made lots of mistakes and have my share of struggles. This journey is a very tough one and there is no one single formula to be a good stepmother. It’s a constant learning process. But we’ve laid our beds, so suck it up and do it right. Good luck.

[Postscript on 5 August 2011 - Comments were closed earlier, but I've opened the space up now. Please feel free to leave word.]
 

 

25 Comments

  1. thanks for sharing your experience. it makes me realized that i’m not the one who being clueless how to approaching your partner’s kids. i will meet my partner kids in 2 weeks. i hope they will like me.

  2. All I can say is that you are very blessed to have your hubby and such accepting kids; your hubby is really lucky to have found such a great wife, and your kids are very fortunate to have such a cool stepmom. :)

    I wish you all happiness and unity forever!

    • Hi Tyler, thanks for your very encouraging note! I do try my best, it’s not always easy. But I have the best step kids in the world. They are great and I’m the blessed one. =)

      I wish you happiness too! Be well!

      Cheers
      Bing

      • All of that is great advice and things I have or currently implement being a step mother. But what if the “ex” does everything to make things difficult or purposely tries to sabotage your current or future relationship with their children. And the choices bio parents make to be the cool or better parent. How are we to compete with that? I feel like its been this constant uphill battle trying to be a loving and supportive step parent. And you’re so right, we the step parent made the “choice” to love their father and choose this lifestyle. I just wish it didn’t have to be so hard. If bio parents in the world could put aside their insecurities for a moment and truly think about what’s best for the kids, the better the children would be in the long run. Unfortunately, there are too many selfish people out there. It’s sad.

        • Hi D, I empathise with you. It IS a constant battle and while we are trying to be the best we can be, there are other people who may or would sabotage us. It is indeed sad that so many birth mothers cannot get past their insecurities. For me, when it gets too hard, I take a step back. At the end of the day, the kids are hers (the ex-wife). I can fight all I want for their welfare but they would never appreciate it because their loyalty is always and should be for their own mother. It’s a long losing battle. And all I can say is, let’s try our best.. take a break when we are tired.. and not expect the situation to ever be perfect. Good luck!

  3. I’ve had a hard time this week being the Stepmom and lack of decision making power. This post really hit home. I’ve been trying so hard to be the best I can be but find myself slipping when it comes to my stepson – I’m not as encouraging as I should be, not as loving as I should be and not as open as I should be.

  4. Thank you for such a positive message. It is truly inspiring.

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience and tips.

  6. lovely post!!

  7. As a stepmom and biomom, there needs to be clear cut boundaries. You have left this out. I never stepped on my husbands exs toes when it came to her children. I love them, but I am not their mother. I do not take offense to that. it is a fact. She’s allowed to be defensive/set boundaries of what I can and can’t do. I’m fine with that and do not consider it a “fault” of hers. I do not assume she’s insecure at all. I respect that she’s willing to work with me and I her. I ask how can I help? If she says no, I don’t do anything, I dont. I’m not pushing myself into the role of mom. If the girls want ears pierced, I ask her..if its ok to do AND if she cares if I’m the one to take them.
    My exs new wife and I do not get along. I blame my ex for not respecting me, they do things like show up to parent teacher conferences, despite me saying no. I asked if we could split taking kids to practices, he says why? My new wife can do it.
    There were only two things I asked for her not to do, and she’s violated both and he’s asking me to show respect for her and her relationship with the kids. I’m being sarcastic here: Yeah, cause we don’t all need to get along, all kids need a stepmom. Who cares if mom and dad get along, kids don’t need that, they need a stepmom!
    Be respectful! Biomom’s not crazy, and stepmoms just don’t have rights. I know. I’m a stepmom who can be a great role model for the girls…and respect their privacy. I don’t need a school record to help with homework I don’t need to go to the doctors. I can still remind them to wear their glasses without having to step on moms toes.
    In return we all have fun at graduation prom band concerts birthday dinners we all get to see the children more…she doesn’t mind if her daughters stop by. I’ve proved to her that I am not trying to taking her place, and respect her as a mother. And I’m respected as a step.

    • Hi Karen

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t really know how to reply to it. And I will just voice out random thoughts that I had after reading your comment. =)

      Firstly, I think everyone’s situation is different. Some biomoms are wonderful parents and some aren’t. Some stepmoms really care about their stepkids and want a perfect happy family with them and their husband, and some are just too insecure and end up being evil. Some stepmoms try too hard and step on the biomoms’ toes. While some stepmoms.. or rather, step-PARENTS cannot give a damn about their step kids and make it very clear that their step kids cannot expect anything out of them except a co-existence.

      I agree with you that a stepmom should always respect the biomom and not attempt to take her place. And a smart stepmom should realise that she can never take the place of a biomom, no matter how much better she is at doing the parenting job or how much more she cares about the children. So yes, you are right that there are clear cut boundaries. But I don’t think it is easy at all for a stepmom. She is required to “love the kids like your own”. But when shit happens, let the kid drown because the biomom said to go the other way, and then let everyone tell you “be grateful that that’s not your own kid”??

      Lastly, I don’t think your ex’s wife was trying to offend you. I can’t see why she would find parent-teacher conferences and taking your children to practices enjoyable. Honestly, she would have had more fun taking them to tea or shopping. Perhaps she’s just trying to be a good stepmom or to build a relationship with your children. There are worse step-parents out there. There are step-parents who make it clear to their step kids that they are not to rely on them financially for their education. There are step-parents who don’t attend graduation ceremonies. There are step-parents who take their partners for holidays and leave the kids behind or send them off to their other parent. There are step-parents who don’t care if they get to know their step kids or not. Yes, stepmoms don’t have rights. But I think that as long as your ex’s wife is making an effort with your kids, she deserves some appreciation. They are YOUR kids.. not hers.. she doesn’t owe it to you to even care for their existence. I know this is very harsh, but really my late night thoughts.

      Please excuse me if I have offended you. I am not trying to be rude or start a debate here. Everyone’s situation is different, and I’m sure every parent or step-parent who came upon this post must have been trying to do a better job, whichever role they are in. We all just want the best for the children and for our families. At the end of the day, I honestly feel that bio-step parent conflict should be avoided as far as possible. The only people who will get hurt by it are the kids.

      Kindest regards
      Bing

  8. I don’t understand how another parent would believe they can determine who comes to a school conference. Seems to me you would want as many people as possible to contribute to their education. I attend my bonus-kids conferences, especially since I manage the majority of their school work. I think it would be selfish as the bio mom to prevent another person from contributing to a child. I have no issue with my ex’s gf helping my kids. In fact, it helps me! Someone else who takes an interest in their school projects, their homework, and such is very beneficial. School work is not about parents–it’s about kids. They deserve all the support they can garner. No matter who it comes from.

  9. i read your article ” how to be a good step mom ” I’m getting married to a man that has 6 year old twin boys. I just wanted to thank you.

  10. Your post was very interesting, I myself was in the divided family with a new step- mom and a new step dad. I never thought about finding someone with a child but it happened and I am glad that I can make sure that another child does not end up with the step-mom that I had. But at the same time, DOES IT EVER GET EASIER?
    Just for some background information, I have been with my boyfriend for a year, and him and his daughter that is 11 has been living with me for about 6 months. My boyfriend and I hit it off really fast and new what we both wanted. My boyfriend just finished a 6 year custody battle with his ex. his daughter is so sweet but at the same time I am having trouble establishing what I should say or knowing when to shut up. My boyfriends daughter is very loving and we get along GREAT, she always wants to spend time with me etc. She has a little problem with being the center of attention as her mom has 3 other children under the age of 6 so at her moms house it is a constent battle of getting her moms attention. But at our house she is the only child. My boyfriend does discipline her but there are some situations, for example not listening where he does not understand. His daughter is very litteral… And I know what everyone is thinking how litteral can a 11 year old girl can be, but trust me I mean LITTERAL… So you her ” lets go” as she is sitting in her room, while everyone is trying to eat breakfast so we can go to church and she gets up and walks out the door, you tell her to stay in the house and she says ” you said lets go, so i am going” (Just for an example). But lately the listening thing is getting really bad and I dont know if it is a battle I need to get involved in. I know there is a certain degree where I need to say something because she is in my house with my possessions that she sometimes does not have a care about. But when does it get to the point where my boyfriend just doesnt see it, and I should step in. We do talk about the situations together but he is always giving her excuses, like well she wants to get attention at her moms so its just natural to do it here etc. (Dont get me wrong I know this is a valid point). But there has to be a point where you have to try to set boundaries in our house so that, that behaviour is not the same at both houses. So needless to say after this long post… If there is any advise anyone can give me I will greatly appreiciate it. Thanks in advance for reading this extreamly long comment…

    • Hi Katrina

      I don’t think it gets easier. But you do mellow out after a while and accept that there are things that are just out of your control, no matter how much you care.

      I find that most step-moms struggle because the Dads don’t step in enough. Most men want to avoid conflict with their kids and naturally make excuses for them. So in many occasions, the step-moms end up feeling victimised. Over time, I have learnt to accept that the kids have both their parents in their life and doesn’t need or want me to criticise them all the time. So these days, I am a much more relaxed step-mom, and I honestly have learnt to let them be. Where I see a serious behaviour issue, I would highlight it to my husband.. and sometimes, highlight it to the bio-mom. But I leave it to them to decide on what to do. I do not interfere with their decision. This is my way of respecting them as the parents of the kids.

      As for boundaries, all I can say is try your best. I’m not going to cushion it for you. It’s really hard. There have been many incidents where the only way for me to stay sane was to walk away. It was either that or run the risk of turning evil because of anger. So sometimes, when it gets too hard, instead of getting yourself worked up, try stepping aside.. have a drink.. go for a massage.. give yourself a rest.

      The good thing is kids will grow up. They’ll know you care about them and you will find comfort from them where you least expect to.

      Good luck!

      Warmest regards
      Bing

  11. What’s the answer when bio-mother hasn’t made an effort to see her children in over 3 years and lives out of state? My step-son has asked me to adopt him, but that has all changed today when “she” called and started her emotional manipulations again. I seriously don’t know how to handle this. I rely heavily on my faith in God and try to teach my kids right. Their bio-mother is an addict. My daughter was born at 24 weeks because of her methodone addiction.

    • Hi Maruba, I’ve reached a point in my step-parenting journey where I have accepted that even if the bio-mom is missing-in-action, I am NOT the replacement mother to my step kids. I try to be there for them as much as I can and be as dependable for them as I can be, but once the bio-mom (decides to) come into the picture, I back off and let her take over. Every child yearns for a relationship with his/her birth mother. No child will grow up with a void in their heart because they didn’t have a relationship with their step-parent, but if they didn’t have a relationship with any one of their birth parents, they will always feel sad and disappointed about it (whether now or later on).

      Also, whether the bio-mom’s ways are right or wrong is not up to me to judge nor approve or disapprove. They are HER children and she will always have full rights over them. If there is a problem with the bio-mom’s ways, what I would do is highlight my observations or opinions to my husband and leave it to him (the bio-father) to sort it out with her. I’ve learnt that when it comes to emotional manipulations, I have to take a step back and back off, otherwise I would go crazy or worse, turn evil.

      Everyone’s situation is different. So how I manage my situations may not work in the same way for you. I hope you find a solution soon.

      Best of luck to you!

      Cheers
      Bing

  12. Hello,
    My issues are a little different. My husband has custody, it’s legally joint, but the mother is more a hassle than a mother. Anyways, she’s not allowed to pick her, daughter is 13 in April, from school, sign anything from school or even attend any sort of conferences unless he has told her about it and asked her to be there. That happened once when she was in first grade.
    My major problem is daughter wants me to be more a mother to her but I don’t know how. I already do so much for her and help her with things, what else am I supposed to do? She is mad at me right now actually. She asked me of this because she doesn’t have much of a relationship with her mom.
    Any ideas? I am at a loss of what to do.

    Thank you,
    Christina

    • Hi Christina

      Someone once told me that children are not “ours”. They are only on loan to us till they are grown up. If your step daughter wants you to be a mother to her, it’s probably because she can’t get what she wants from her birth mother and is trying to get it from you. Consider it a privilege and enjoy your journey with her. Love her as much as you can. But be prepared that she or her heart may leave you one day when or if her birth mother is back in her life. I keep saying that children need their birth parents because they do. They will grow up with a void in their heart if they don’t have a meaningful relationship with any one of their birth parents. That’s why I encourage every step parent to nurture the child’s relationship with their birth parents no matter no hard it is. That’s the real sacrifice every step parent has to make. We have to love children that are not ours.

      All the best,
      Bing

      • Hi Bing,

        While I can appreciate where you’re coming from, I have to respectfully disagree with this statement that all kids NEED their birth parents. I’m seeing the same malevolent patterns within my son (technically step-son, but there are no steps in my family) when he has contact with his egg donor. There is no one in their right might that can tell me that him having HER in his life is best for him. There is not one positive thing that she can offer my children. She chose (and still chooses after 3 years) to use and abuse illegal substances over the children that she gave birth to. There is no part of this scenario that I can be ok with nurturing a relationship between my kids and her. I tell my son that it is OK to love her, as he remembers his good perceptions of when he was small. But, I also tell him that he should pray for her to get better, and to love her children enough to change her life.

        Mom is not always the same person as Mother. What distinguishes the difference between these two titles? Mother is the person who gives life to a child. Mom is the person who gives her life to the raising of a child. A person who willingly accepts the burdens, responsibilities, heart breaks, and joys of raising a child. Wish my son could see the difference. When a woman chooses drugs over her kids and leaves them, she is not worthy of the title mom or mother.

        Every situation is different. If the bio-mom is not harmful to her children, then I am all for fostering a healthy relationship with bio-mom and child; however, it is a sad world in which we live, and this is just not the case with my family.

        Best regards,
        Maruba

  13. mind* not might….sorry!

  14. I was trying to come up with the way to express what Maruba said. I agree. A mom is the person who takes care of you! A mother is the person who gave birth to you. They aren’t always the same person.

  15. Please someone help.
    I’m somewhat young in 29 I have no children of my own and my childhood was hard, learned hard truths early and felt very alone all the time it was a very distant family,
    Anyways I’m with a wonderfull man who has a six year old boy with his ex of about seven years or more.
    The way the raised their son was to respect him as a human, let him make his own decisions, I wasn’t there tose are just the two he told me in conversation.
    I do not really like the child for a boy” I know he’s only six, seven soon” I find him whiney, and coddled, he is waited on a lot and cries if he falls softly on the carpet. I feel the mom had a bigger influence in raising him than the father and he just went along. Some things they did I feel are wonderfull others I feel are not.
    My deliema is that me and the fathers ideals or child raising are SO different. I feel if he’s a little boy and falls and gets a scratch, nothing threatening , I’d say go wash your cut n go on, but they act as if his arm is cut off , thus why he is so whiny when he barley gets hurt if even. My parents sometimes at the wrong time told me the hard facts of life, I feel the keep it from him. I feel the cater to his every whim and are not preparing him for a world that isn’t always so kind. I feel when the child comes to stay on the weekend that’s its him and his father, …….then me. I don’t ever feel we will be a unit of any kind me and the mother will never get along because of outside circumstances, and I’m worried. Mind you I’ve been ther with two of my best friends with their first children and things flowed perfectly, where she left off , I began, I felt loving and camphortble around the kids and the kids loved me, but they were raised more like how I would raise a child if I had one. I just don’t know what to do. I’m scared I wNt ever like the child and there for that wont help my relationship with the father. Then I start to worry about the future, and if there is one for us. Please if anyone has advise I need it so badly I’m scared and lost and at odds with the one I love over how to even involve myself in the slightest way. Please help…… Thank you…Carrie

    • I can see that you are reaching out for answers to your dilemma.

      I’m disappointed to hear that you dislike A young boy. He is after all only 7. He was raised a certain way. Perhaps you should be upset with his parents? Just a thought. They are the ones responsible for the way he behaves.

      Consider perhaps, that part of the reason his parents are treating him so tentatively is because they likely feel guilty about divorcing. Perhaps you could mention this to your spouse. Guilt-parenting is common.

      Reasonably, if the child isn’t with his dad 50% he should focus his short time on his son. Also, you could suggest activities that you could all do.

      I also think you are putting an immense amount pressure on yourself. Relax a bit. Let your relationship develop with the boy. Create your own relationship. Perhaps you can make him a special meal or treat? Making him feel welcome. Plan a few things? A board game? A trip to the park? Tell him it’s something special you thought he would like. You announce it; not your husband.

      Also, be in communication with your husband. These fears should be shared with him.

  16. My own mom passed away when my siblings and I was still very young. Since then, dad had quite a number of girlfriends and long-term partners. He never remarried, although he was only 33 when mom died.

    I think it is partly because of us. In our eyes, none of them were good enough. And we certainly made our thoughts known. We rejected them right away when they tried to ‘mother’ us. We rejected them when they tried to ‘take’ daddy from us. The ones that we kind of approve are usually the ones that let us be. They accepted us for who we are but unafraid to tell us off when we are wrong. Deep down, we can tell who really cared for us and who didn’t.

    So if you are sincere and truly love your step-children, they will know. You are right, it’ll take time. It is only when I moved out of home to study overseas that I expressed my appreciation to dad’s current companion for keeping dad’s company.

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