For several years I have had full custody of my precious daughter, a couple years ago I remarried and have watched the family dynamics change. I am no longer the favorite; when it is bed time my daughter wants her step mom to read to her, tell her a story and pick out tomorrow’s clothes. I’ve kind of been etched out but that is okay, I still get my time with the kid and wife plus the joy of watching them interact, laugh and play. They both get along so well and there is genuine love between them.
My daughter gets to see her real mother every other weekend, which was decided by her through the choices she made, past and present. Our daughter misses her mother, which is completely understandable, and sometimes she perceives me as the bad guy because I am her primary parent and she “has” to be with me MORE. But wait, I thought this article was about step mom appreciation… well I am getting there. Sometimes I wonder if this perception is also being imposed upon my wife.
To My Wife the Underappreciated Step Mom
Introduce the wonderful step mom, the person that holds this family together, teaching us right from wrong. Her patience for both me and child overflow and is evident by her love. She embraces her role as step mom by doing all the motherly things nearly 7 days per week. Dance lessons, skating lessons, making sure appropriate clothes are worn to school, getting to the bus on-time and not to mention her love, compassion, brilliance and gentleness. The struggle comes when all this effort and love is given to the child and instead of appreciation she says, “I want to be with my mom.” To this 8-year old everything her mom says is golden and to see her is as good as Disney Land but for a step mom that provides 24/7 care there doesn’t seem to be any appreciation.
Wife, I know you know the child isn’t your “real” daughter yet you continue to love her, nurture her and protect her just the same. Even when you have tears in your eyes because of the hurtful things that come from a child’s mouth; like, “I wish my mom and dad would get back together and you could be my nanny.” Ouch! But then again it could be taken as a compliment, right? What I see sometimes is a child, a spoiled child, at times that doesn’t understand how to express her feelings.
I know when she grows up she will appreciate everything you have given her. Sure you will have to make it through the teenage years and we will both be the enemy at times but the good thing is; we will be in it together. Your love for my daughter doesn’t go un-noticed and the way you have embraced us into your life only makes me love you more.
Common Obstacles to Being a Step Parent
Being a step parent can be really hard work. There are no concrete rules that you can use because every child is different. What works for some situations may not be any good in other scenarios. Most of the lectures go out the window when reality comes into play. Much of how you handle situations simply comes with experience. There are some things, however, that are just a given. You need to know about the following problems and how to avoid them when possible.
The Cold Shoulder
Don’t expect your step children to warm up to you just because their mother or father does. Winning them over is a whole new ball game. You are not going to enter their lives and be accepted by way of the parent. There is still a lot of bonding that must be done. Lots of step children don’t even want to get to know their step parents. The cold shoulder can be one of the most frustrating parts of being a step parent. It’s one of those things that you really have to prepare for. Resist the urge to simply buy them things. Try communicating with them instead.
Disciplining Your Step Child
This is a rough thing that you should realistically discuss with your significant other. Don’t let the relationship go too far without discussing this matter. The two of you may have some totally different methods in relation to discipline. You may need to be able to reach a compromise. Whatever the case may be, there needs to be some communication on this. Parents that are not in sync will be played against each other. No step parent wants to be the bad cop in the role of authority. Both parents need to be on the same page and realistically both need to be able to carry out discipline.
Chores and Allowances
Take time to get things like chores and allowances in order. It’s hard to have any real discipline without setting some rules in place. There should be some chores like taking out the trash, washing dishes and cutting grass. Giving chores may get the kids to resent you even more, but allowances will balance things out. This presents an opportunity for step kids and their step parents to communicate. Step parents should use this and any other chance they get to communicate with the kids.
Blended families take time to come together. It’s not an instant overnight success. It takes work.
There are some basics that are sound step parenting advice in most situations. Keep in mind that not every child or individual step parent is the same, so nothing is absolutely the same with each family. Being a step parent takes a lot of patience, a good sense of who your step children are, and as much honesty in communication as possible. If you allow for these factors, most step parents will find that they are more successful overall. Here are a few tips that should help along the way.
Remember who you really are. You are not the biological parent to your step children, but you are part of their family. Some step parents try to be a buddy or best friend, yet this is not really the role that is best in most situations. You do want to gain the respect of your step children, but still do not undermine the authority of your spouse in the process. For the most part you should be a partner to the parenting method of your spouse, so that your place is defined by the partnership of your marriage. Try to be both subordinate, yet share the equality of parenting through your role as a husband or wife. It will make more sense to the step children and will not make them feel forced about respecting your place in the family.
Do not try to force your authority upon your step children. This may be frustrating at times, but when you find they are not listening to you, then you should defer to the biological parents. You can say things like, ‘Wait until your mother or father gets home’. This is the most fair and forceful way to show your authority, but not undermine or threaten your step children. Take your time with learning how to interact effectively with your step parenting. It takes patience, but is the better method for the relationship being forged with your step children. Try it and watch the results.
Often step children will want to communicate with you about personal matters, so let this be a way to bond with them. They will eventually open up to you as a step parent, when then do be open to it and do not let past problems block your communication with them. They may have needed to test your patience and trust you will not get unnecessarily angry with them, before they were secure in talking openly about other issues. Learning to communicate with your step children will take as long as it does, but it is worth the effort that you put into it. Communication is the key to any positive step parenting and all family relationships.
One of the most joyous times in a person’s life is when they marry and become parents. For some, this happens all at once, when a person marries someone who has children from a previous marriage or relationship and they have a ready-made family. Although this sounds like an ideal situation it’s important to remember that even the Brady Bunch had to get past hurdles when step parenting young children.
It’s important when going into an already existing family that the children are going to feel a plethora of emotions; happiness for the parent marrying, excitement over a new family member, sadness over such a change and a feeling of confusion because they will want to like the new person but they will feel that by doing so they are being disloyal to their other parent. Just remember that, just as the step parent has to adjust so too do the children let them work through their feelings and they will find their way to the answer right for everyone. Remember, it took you time to process the enormity of the situation and all of its repercussions; it’s no less of a life changing experience for the children involved so they need that same consideration.
The first instinct will be to want to love the children, which is a good place to start. However, remember that, to a child, you are effectively replacing someone they hold dear and cherish, their initial instinct may well be to distrust and dislike you. Just remember that while you want to love and care about them it’s also important for you to be firm and not simply allow the child to do as they please, this will create worse problems later as well as losing the respect of your step child. In time the child will realize that you are an extension of their family and that you care about them and want to be there for them.
Step parenting young children can be a trial on your patience, but it can also be full of rewards.