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Stepmom vs. Stepdad: The Double Standard

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Stepbomb: As a fairly new stepmom, I can't wrap my brain around the double standard that seems to exist when comparing a stepmom to a stepdad.

man and woman arm wrestling
My husband's ex-wife has been living with her now-husband, the girls' stepfather, since less than a year after the divorce. But why did all hell break loose only after I became the girls' stepmother? Why did my husband's ex-wife sue for custody, claiming she didn't want the girls' environment disrupted with a new person in the house, when she'd already had a stepparent in her daughters' lives for years? And why did she get upset when I wanted to volunteer at the school, when long before I entered the picture, her own husband had been volunteering and coaching the girls' soccer teams? 

Never has my husband accused his daughters' stepfather of trying to be the girls' father. Not when he discovered him coaching the team at a soccer practice; not when the girls told him that their stepfather had attended a field trip; not even when the stepfather and my husband's ex-wife had the affair that ultimately ended the marriage. 

Since day one, my husband has put his own ego aside and has accepted the arrangement, because the girls love their stepfather. He has never thought it wrong for another person to love his children. And he has never felt threatened, because he knows how strong his bond is with his daughters. 

Why is it that when I want to be involved in the girls' academic or social lives, I'm "undermining" their mother's role -- yet when their stepdad volunteers, he's just being "helpful"? Why is there a double standard? Are stepdads considered nonthreatening because the word "dad" appears in their descriptive, not "mom"? Or is this simply the difference between how men and women get along with one another? 

Are men more accepting and understanding of other men than women are of other women?


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41 comments so far | Post a comment now
Micaela  September 8, 2010, 3:54 PM

i often wonder that myself. My step sons mother has had a few men in her life that would just move in & my husband hasn’t had a problem. Women are just too emotional & dramatic.

DadToo September 8, 2010, 3:56 PM

Honestly, it doesn’t sound like dad was doing a whole lot of parenting to begin with. From all of your other posts, it sounds like he was a flaccid dad who lets the woman do all of the work and pitches in the bare minimum now and then.

I still don’t think any of this drama has to do with the stepmother. I think it has to do with dad not parenting.

I don’t think the mom is angry at the stepmom for sticking her nose in things. She just wants the dad to man up and parent in the first place.

So, I think stepdad is supplemental parenting in addition to mom. Stepbomb, on the other hand, is primarily parenting (after school care, homework, party planning, etc.) and bio dad has just been along for the passive ride.

That’s the ‘double standard’ at play.

Anonymous September 8, 2010, 5:32 PM

I don’t think it’s a double standard, it’s more about the mom and dad. The dad wasn’t jealous, but for some reason she was. It also seems to be more common for moms to resent stepmothers than for dads to resent stepfathers. There are books about how to survive being a stepmother, but not for stepfathers. Kind of like women have more trouble getting along with mothers-in-law than men do with their in-laws.
I also suspect that DadToo might have a point. Moms often do more than dads. So if the mother was used to running things, it’s more of an issue when that changes.

Christina September 8, 2010, 10:04 PM

I don’t get it either. Stepmothers are evil, while stepfathers get a pass for being willing to take on some other man’s children. Of course, pesky statistics point out that it’s more likely a stepfather will abuse his stepchild(ren) in some fashion, but hey, he’s not a girl so it’s all ok. If I seem a little bitter, it’s because I am. My brother and I were both abused by my mother’s second husband.

Carol Wyatt September 8, 2010, 10:15 PM

As a mother in this very situation I need to remind the step mother that being a mother is VERY different than being a father. Mothers are territorial of their children and have had to take charge in the most difficult situations. Sometimes completely alone and with no help from the ex parent. It’s instinctual for a mother to protect her children. There is an inexplicable bond that is separate and unique to that of the father/child bond. Obviously this mother feels threatened and her feelings should be respected. There is a reason for her feelings and it would be wise for you to find out what those reasons are. After all, she is the mother of these children. Not you. The more respect you show the mother, the better things will get between you two. You are secondary and should remember that. You are not entitled to parent these children, volunteer at their school, or take over in any way. You are lucky to be invited to care and share in their lives and should be grateful.
I am on both ends of this equation and I have found that respecting the biological mother is the best way to get along. I don’t always agree with her, but we are friends and she comes first in her children’s lives. Not me.
You will also be teaching respect to your step children by honoring their mother. They will admire you for your efforts.

Leah September 9, 2010, 5:26 AM

Sounds more like dad didn’t want to be bothered by the kids and was more than happy to let step-dad take over, just like he lets step-bomb take over.

Kirsten September 9, 2010, 7:26 AM

As is often voiced in comments to Stepbomb’s posts, people seem to think the dad isn’t involved in the children’s lives and doesn’t parent, even though she’s said on numerous occasions that this is written from her perspective and that her husband is very involved with his children and is a great parent to them. I don’t think the drama has anything to do with the mom wanting her ex-husband to parent more.
Yes, mothers have a special bond with their children and usually do more of the parenting, but it is also a complete double standard that stepmoms get a bad rap for doing the exact same things stepdads do.

Selley September 9, 2010, 8:34 AM

I went through a similar situation with my stepson’s mother when I married my husband. She even went as far as telling my stepson I would be mean to him and mistreat him, so when he came to visit us for a month in the summer, when his father would leave for work he would get so tore up he would vomit. My husband finally sat down with him and found the root of the problem, and since he has gotten to know me better he knows I would never do such a thing, and that I am not that type of person. Good luck!

REALMOM September 9, 2010, 12:19 PM

Carol Wyatt, you really hit the mark. I love what you said. I agree that being a stepmom is not an invitation into the lives of the children. I think stepbomb needs to get her own kids. Let their mom handle you being there on her own. She may include you when she feels comfortable. Maybe, it would take me forever maybe!

JaneNotSoDoe September 9, 2010, 12:27 PM

Stepbomb keeps insisting that dad is a great dad and an involved dad, but actions prove otherwise.

I’m sorry, an involved dad doesn’t let someone else go to orientation night at school in his place.

An involved dad writes a letter about parenting concerns to his ex-wife himself, he doesn’t let another woman take over and dictate something so important in his place.

Those two really stood out for me.

So I agree with what Leah said. Sounds like dad is happy to let anyone “help” him so he can do whatever else he thinks is more important.

MartiniMama September 9, 2010, 2:07 PM

I think it sounds like the mom is just scared to death that someone else might replace her in her children’s lives, which is beyond stupid. Although I have to question her own morals, since she had an affair that ended her marriage. Some posters on here sound like they have the same issues as the mom in this scenario.

People need to grow up and stop being so selfish. What do the kids need in their lives? People who love them. Who cares if the step-mom is the one who helps them with their homework? Someone who cares about them is helping them. The parents should be happy about that.

Sounds to me like a lot of people have issues and could use some counseling to get past them. What matters is what is best for the children. Sounds to me like the dad, step-dad and step-mom are being pretty reasonable in this scenario.

I only hope that if my husband and I would ever get divorced that he would find a woman who would accept my son with such open arms and make him such a welcome part of her life!

REALMOM September 9, 2010, 2:13 PM

Martinimama, that’s soooo sweet, NOT girl get real. I wish some chick would play mama with my kids, it’s gonna be on! you just want someone else to take care of your responsibilities so you could have another martini, that’s why it’s so cool with you.

Anonymous September 9, 2010, 2:35 PM

@MartiniMama - The problem with arguments about the best interest of the child, is that people usually use them to tell someone else how to behave.
Anyhow, If children already have two parents who love them, they don’t actually need more people who love them. They would be perfectly fine if their parents never remarried. Dad, of course, needs someone to love him, and they need for that person to like them and treat them well.
I don’t think it’s a sign of sickness for moms or dads to not want their kids to have more parents. It’s just human nature. I can’t quite see why anyone would want a stranger to join their family and love their child. I think this is one of the difficulties modern families face - people get divorced and create new families and then have to deal with jealousy and arguments.
I agree with you on one thing though - if you have an affair and get divorced, you shouldn’t be too surprised when your kids get a stepmother.

momwfaith September 10, 2010, 8:21 AM

Are you people really that insecure about the bond with your children?! I welcome any loving adult into my daughter’s life. If my hubby and I split, which won’t probably happen because we respect our family which this mom obvs. doesn’t, I would hope that he would remarry someone who cared about our child. Step parents have the word “parents” in their title for a reason. I had a step-mom who cared about me and “played mommy” to me many times. I now have a step-dad who I know loves me very much. I have never once questioned my bio-parents love for me because some one else was also doing that. It takes a village, and if you can’t handle some one else loving, teaching and guiding your kids occasionally, maybe you should take a closer look at the bond you have with your children.

momwfaith September 10, 2010, 8:23 AM

Are you people really that insecure about the bond with your children?! I welcome any loving adult into my daughter’s life. If my hubby and I split, which won’t probably happen because we respect our family which this mom obvs. doesn’t, I would hope that he would remarry someone who cared about our child. Step parents have the word “parents” in their title for a reason. I had a step-mom who cared about me and “played mommy” to me many times. I now have a step-dad who I know loves me very much. I have never once questioned my bio-parents love for me because some one else was also doing that. It takes a village, and if you can’t handle some one else loving, teaching and guiding your kids occasionally, maybe you should take a closer look at the bond you have with your children.

Anonymous September 10, 2010, 8:25 AM


“I would welcome any loving adult into my daughter’s life”
There is a huge difference between welcoming a loving adult and ALLOWING someone to be their mother

momwfaith September 10, 2010, 8:29 AM

A child only has one mother. No one can “allow” anyone else that title. It’s not up for grabs if you are a present and good mother.

Jillian September 10, 2010, 9:00 AM

My stepson’s mother used to constantly complain to my husband about me while asking at the same time if we would take him extra. My husband finally asked her if she thought I was so awful why did she want him with us on her time. Now that my stepson is grown she has owned up to being jelous of me because her son repsected and liked me.

cori September 10, 2010, 10:22 AM

As a child of divorce, my parents put me in a situation where I had to accept the step parent as a mother/father figure. I didn’t have a choice. The parents/step parents may not have like each other but because of the choices they made, it was never a problem between parent/step parent. It’s about your kids feelings not yours. So get over it. You put your kids in this situation by having them and then getting divorced. I sure as hell didn’t ask to have step parents, but I respected them, even if I didn’t like them, because they were my parents husband/wife. Maybe, just maybe, if there wasn’t so much cheating, disrespect for others and divorce..society wouldn’t be as screwed up as it is.

Anonymous September 10, 2010, 10:32 AM

“A child only has one mother”
Glad you agree w/me. Clearly Stepbomb doesn’t and that’s why she continually oversteps her boundaries and tries to act as the girls’ mother.


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