I have been with my husband for 7 years and have taken on the role of step-mom. It has its ups and downs, but our kids are our world and we do our best to blend our families. Here are a few things I struggle with on a regular basis.
- Knowing your role. It is difficult, sometimes, to know where a step-mom role stops and the mommy role begins. I have to be careful to be loving, affectionate, and to enforce the rules of our home without stepping on her toes. My kids don’t need a second mom, but they do need to respect me and understand that I, too, love them more than anything. I make sure to keep a very amicable relationship with their mom and treat her as though she is part of the family which shows our children that I respect her as their mom and I am by no means trying to take her place.
- Not over-compensating for my step-children. It is easy to go overboard with your step-children when they don’t live with you 100% of the time. You want them to be happy when they are with you and like being at daddy’s. This is especially difficult when their real mom has way more money and can do more fun things with the children. I have to remind myself daily that it is not a competition and that ultimately what kids need is to be loved and to feel safe. We certainly provide that and give them a very structured, stable home. We know deep down they are happy and love us, but we have to step back sometimes and remember what is really important about being a parent. It’s not about buying things and creating spoiled brats, even though that is easier sometimes.
- Reminding my husband that the kids love him. As the kids get older, they are able to express their feelings more. Sometimes this means saying things that may hurt my husbands’ feelings. Of course they don’t mean to and are by no means malicious, they just don’t have a filter to soften the blow. Like all kids, sometimes you want mommy and sometimes you want daddy. Our 3 year-old changes her mind about this by the minute. We have her 100% of the time so neither of us takes it personally. When my step-children say they want mommy it can be like a knife through the heart. We are very careful not to make them feel guilty about their feelings and explain that it’s okay to miss mommy and that they will see her soon. This is when I have to remind my husband that the kids love him and it’s not meant to be hurtful. We remind each other that if they didn’t miss her, we’d probably have bigger problems.
- Not going overboard at the holidays. Two Christmases, Two birthday celebrations (sometimes more), two or more vacations each year. There are two of everything when you have two homes. Of course we want to fulfill all of our kids wishes at the holidays, but have to remind ourselves there are more than just the two of us buying presents. What ends up happening are that my kids get more presents than they could ever possibly need and they come to expect that. This is scary to me as how much will it cost us when they are teenagers? Where do you draw the line? This past year I invited their mom over on Christmas morning and we discussed who was buying what. They still had too much, but hopefully in years to come we can split the lists and tame the buying a bit.
- Putting aside my feelings for the children. I have to do this more often than not. I have swallowed my pride, bit my tongue and taken the high road even when I didn’t want to. I’ll admit, I hate her sometimes. I hate her decisions, her judgments and holier than thou attitude. My kids, however, will never ever know this. As far as they are concerned we are all friends and I support their mommy. It is hard enough being a step-mom, I don’t need to fight with the kids when they come to her defense. We handle adult issues in private and keep them out of it. Divorce is hard, but I’ll be damned if the kids will suffer because of pettiness and immature adult decisions.
Just remember, kids need love, support and to feel safe. Keep that in mind above all else!