Taking on the role of stepmother

by: Michele Sfakianos, RN, BSN

Man and woman relationships, alone, are difficult. When you add his kids, her kids, his ex, her ex and the in-laws, most people cannot handle the pressure. Stepfamilies require more effort and understanding because of more people involved, and this often includes young ones who didn’t ask to be put into the situation to begin with.

Long ago, the term “stepmother” was used to describe the “new” parent who stepped in after the “real” parent’s death. Today, the stepmom is less often a substitute than she is an added parent. We all know the story of "Cinderella." Fortunately there was a happy ending, but it did bring to light the “wicked stepmother.” Most everything you read about stepparenting has to do with evil stepmothers, obnoxious children, responsibility with no control, resentful ex-partners and lack of worth or appreciation.

Being a parent triggers memories and emotions from one’s own childhood, whether conscious or unconscious. This may or may not bring fear to those thinking about raising another person’s child. Parents may raise children similar to their own upbringing, or the opposite. Parents may strive to give their children an entirely different upbringing. Being a mom can be one of the most rewarding things we do in our lives. It can also be one of the most difficult undertakings. Parental responsibility is not a responsibility we can take lightly. Taking on the role of stepmother can perhaps be the most difficult undertaking of all.

As mothers, we are programmed to love and nurture children. We were raised with the understanding that it is our “job” to take care of the children. So, we would naturally expect a loving response in return – or should we?

When Mother’s Day or your birthday comes around, this opens up opportunities for feeling down about being a stepmother. But do not give in. An attitude will get you nothing but grief. Moping around because no one remembers your birthday is not the answer. You have to tell people, “Hey, my birthday is on Friday and I want us to go out to dinner together.” Tell your partner birthdays are important to you, and strongly suggest your partner talk to the kids about acknowledging it.

Before special events or days which are important to you, take the initiative.

Be clear about your plans. Anticipate problems and discuss them with the children.

Tell them your expectations. People are not mind readers. Talk with your partner.

Do not expect a major deal about Mother’s Day. The kids feel conflicted enough as it is. Acknowledging it is important, but celebrating it may be too painful. Yes, of course it hurts to be ignored or snubbed. Try to understand the positive intent behind it. It is not meant to hurt you. It is about guilt and loyalty to the other biological parent.

The manner in which you approach the role of mother or stepmother and the attitude you put forth will differ from those around you. You must pay particular attention to your actions so as to not alienate yourself from your partner or the children. Getting into a stepfamily can be rewarding and will make for new adventures. As with every new adventure, hold on tight because there will be bumps along the way but the ride will be spectacular. 

Here is another article from Michele dealing with children's issues after divorce. 

Michele Sfakianos is a Registered Nurse, Life Skills Expert, Speaker, and Author. In 1982, she received her AS Degree in Business Data Processing/Computer Programming. In 1993, she received her Associate in Science degree in Nursing from St. Petersburg Junior College, graduating with Honors.In 1999, Michele received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Florida International University, graduating with high honors. Michele has been previously published in both poetry books and a nursing journal. Her first book, The 4-1-1 on Life Skills, was released June 2011. Her next book, The 4-1-1 on Step Parenting, was released October 2011. Michele’s latest book, The 4-1-1 on Surviving Teenhood, was published October 2012. Visit Michele’s Website:http://www.my411books.com