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Stepmoms Get a Bad Rap

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Stepbomb: Being a stepmom is one of the hardest -- and most rewarding -- things I've ever done. It's unfortunate that stepmoms get such a bad rap in our society.

angry woman
I realize that there are stepmothers out there who have earned such a rap. Think Cinderella and her wicked stepmother. Think movies like "Stepmom." (Although everything worked out in the end, Susan Sarandon's character did have to die first ....) Think of the word "stepmom" and ask yourself what comes to mind. 

From the moment my husband called his kids' mother to tell her we were engaged, she didn't accept me. I had already been in her daughters' lives for years, and she herself was already remarried. But the minute I went from "girlfriend" to "stepmother," everything changed. As the two of us have tried to coexist, it's been like a bomb going off over and over and over again. And I have a lot of regrets.

I'm not blaming this on the mom. I also shoulder the responsibility. But I do feel like I was never given the benefit of the doubt, as stepmothers often aren't. (My own mother and stepmother had issues!) It never occurred to the mom that I might actually be a good influence on and love her children. But would my husband have married me if that wasn't the case?! The answer is absolutely, 100 percent no. Which is why I didn't just date my husband; I also spent equal time getting to know his daughters. And if they had not accepted me, I wouldn't be their stepmother today. 

I never came into this situation wanting to be anyone's mother. What my husband and I told the girls was that I was simply another person who would love them. But as I prepared to walk down the aisle with their mom's ex-husband, she decided that I was trying to replace and undermine her. It's been difficult to see her perspective when it seems she has full license to act however she wants, simply because she holds the title of "mother". Why is it that she can curse me out, threaten me and sue my husband for custody, but these things are seemingly overlooked because I let my stepdaughter borrow my old Abercrombie and Fitch T-shirt?!

I'm not saying -- nor have I ever claimed -- that I am not guilty of wrongdoing. Where I especially failed was in not understanding what it feels like to be a mother and to feel insecurity when a stepmother does things like volunteer in her daughters' classrooms or talk to her daughters about sensitive subjects. We have years and years ahead of us, and many issues that will continue to surface. At what point will things change? 

Will there ever be a mutual respect for and understanding of each other's roles? Because as a stepmother, don't I also deserve that?


next: Not Hot for Teacher!
26 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous September 2, 2010, 10:18 AM

yes you do deserve that. your husbands ex sounds like a pain in the @$$. i’m a stepmother and thank god, my husbands ex and i get along great. we enjoy hanging out (don’t get me wrong, we don’t go shopping at the mall together), but we will talk on the phone and facebook eachother. she is a ridiculously funny person and i’m glad she is a part of my life.

Anonymous September 2, 2010, 10:55 AM

I know this is hard to hear, but as a mom, I don’t feel I need more adults to love my kids. They have parents and relatives already. It’s great to have teachers and mentors who care about you, but love is more for family.

I also am not looking for someone to be a good influence on my kids because I think that I already am. When they are teen and don’t listen to me, I hope for lots of adults with good advice, but I would like to have some influence on who those adults are. Your husband’s ex had no say over who he chose to marry (naturally). They’re divorced so she may not have as much faith as you do that he would choose someone who will be a good influence. In any case, he was probably looking for someone who would love his children and be good at taking care of them. She probably wasn’t.

I think the fact that he had you babysit the girls after school while she worked was probably huge in this whole situation. Sometimes it sounds like he at least was trying to replace her. I keep wondering if he doesn’t approve of her as a mother and if that has an effect on the whole mess.

She shouldn’t curse at you or anything. You have the right to be treated with respect. I just understand why she would feel threatened by you and why she might sue for full custody.

Anonymous September 2, 2010, 12:37 PM

simply because she holds the title of “mother”.
Spoken like someone who is not a mother.

Agree w/anonymous above - moms don’t NEED an additional mother to “help” mother their children. And while you may write in this episode about all the respect you “deserve” what about the disrespect you have shown the mother. No matter how you want to spin it you aren’t their mother.

Christina September 2, 2010, 2:19 PM

Sorry, I have to disagree with both anonymous posts. I have not gone through a divorce, and I am not a stepmother, but as a mother of two I cannot agree that love is only for family (which anonymous’ seem to define as blood relatives). I also cannot agree that there should be a limit on the number of people who love my children or are a positive influence on my children. My kids have 4 sets of grandparents, and I do not differentiate between the “real” grands and the “step” grands. They all adore my kids, and I am very happy for that. For myself, I have friends who are closer to me than most family members, and who are, frankly, more likely to be there for me than certain family members. I also refuse to dictate to my boys whom they should and should not love. As parents, it is our responsibility not only to love our children, but to model appropriate behavior. I would argue it is an unloving act toward ones children to treat a stepmother in the fashion described above. It puts a child in an emotionally untenable situation and deprives them of a potential ally and mentor as they grow to adulthood. As a child of divorce, with a very unstable mother (who got custody), I know whereof I speak.

Yolando September 2, 2010, 3:00 PM

I treat my stepson as if I gave birth to him. Since I’m unable to have children I’m happy to have him in my life. We have a great relationship.

Anon September 2, 2010, 3:32 PM

@Christina - My family includes many people who are not biologically related to me. I agree that love makes a family.

My point is my kids’ lives are already full of people who love them. I would find it odd if a babysitter or teacher talked about loving my kid, except in an I love all kids kind of way. So I wouldn’t be thrilled at the idea of a stepmother who would love my kids. Perhaps it doesn’t sound good, but I think that’s how many mothers feel.

Emotionally unstable parents shouldn’t get custody, period. But I think an ordinary, stable parent might not really want a stepmother to love their children and might see that as acting like a mom. I can imagine an okay parent acting badly in that situation. And I don’t think the mom here is the only one causing the difficult situation for the kids.

Micaela  September 2, 2010, 4:03 PM

Well, she will never change. I have been in step sons life for almost 13 years, & she still hates me. And for the other moms-what about your spouse? If you remarry? He cant love your child? Gawd! I can’t stand insecure, bitter, ex’s. Makes the rest of the normal mothers look bad.

Christina September 2, 2010, 4:04 PM

@Anon - I find it odd that you would find it odd for a babysitter or teacher to develop a personal relationship with your child. I find it absolutely horrifying that you would have an issue with a stepmother who loves her stepchildren. I cannot imagine being so presumptuous as to assume another woman could not love a child to whom she did not give birth. By that logic, adoptive parents don’t love their child(ren). It’s also more than a little odd to make the determination that “my children have x number of people who love them, and they need no more”. It’s dismissive of your child as a person and dismissive of what other people have to offer.

My boys have had 2 babysitters who have had a wonderful and positive impact on their lives, and who still keep in regular touch with our family. Sure, they love all kids in a general way, but they have a bond with my boys that they don’t necessarily have with every other kid they babysit. And that’s fine - I definitely had kids I was more fond of back in my own sitting days. I don’t find their love for my boys, and my boys’ love for them, at all odd, I find it healthy.

I myself had a couple of teachers with whom I stayed in touch, and they with me, long after I had finished taking classes from them. They were invaluable mentors to me and, as time went on, friends. So, I find the idea of dictating affection to be deeply distasteful.

Kirsten September 2, 2010, 6:30 PM

I think the people who say they wouldn’t want their children to be close with a step mother have obviously never had one. Having had both a step mom and step dad, I think it’s sad that a natural parent would be so insecure in their own relationship with their child that they couldn’t stand another woman—with very good intentions—trying to help her with the very big task of raising children. And, why is it just stepmoms whom we seem to have a problem with. It doesn’t sound like this dad freaked out that his ex-wife remarried and his daughters now had a stepfather who probably loves them and is helping raise them as well. Sad double standard.

stepdaughter September 2, 2010, 7:08 PM

i am not a mother. i’m actually still a student…

but i am a stepdaughter. my dad remarried when i was in elementary school. i never lived with him or my stepmother. she was always kind, but never friendly or welcoming. i think that’s just who she was… but i would have preferred to have a stepmother who wanted to have my sister and me around, someone who welcomed our presence. i don’t think it was anything personal since she’s actually a very quiet lady, but still…

now, he has a new third wife. this woman IS friendly and always makes my sister and me feel welcome. she always tells us she WANTS us to visit more often! she talks to us, and sometimes scolds us. but i prefer this over the 2nd wife!

that’s too bad the girls’ mother dislikes you. too bad she can’t see it from her daughters’ perspectives, and appreciate that you enjoy being around her daughters and that you make them feel like they aren’t baggage!

Laila September 3, 2010, 5:28 AM

I AM a step-mother and a mother and until you become an actual mother (through birth or adoption) you cannot understand what it feels like to be the mom.

Stepbomb in all your posts berate the mother and paint yourself in the best light - in reality nothing is ever that black or white. Instead of installing yourself in the middle of situations let mom & dad take care of it. Be there like a loving StepMom but bear in mind you are not the mother or a decision maker in their lives and I guarantee things will go much smoother.

interesteddad September 3, 2010, 10:05 AM

Christina,
You have restored my faith. I had started to get really disheartened by all the hateful rhetoric spewed by moms toward stepmoms and dads. It’s about the kids, and the more people who love them, the better. My wife knows that she is not my son’s mom, but she loves my son to no end, and he reciprocates. Nothing but good can come from adults loving kids.

Anonymous September 3, 2010, 11:29 AM

@Christina - I 100% believe in the love of adoptive parents. It is not about giving birth or biology. It is about being the parent and raising the child.

I expect babysitters and teachers to like my children and to have a personal relationship or bond with them. Love is a much bigger thing for me. I have been a preschool teacher and a babysitter. I thought I loved the kids, but the feeling was nothing compared to my love for my own kids. (Again, this is not about giving birth. If I had adopted kids, I’m sure I would also love them much, much more than the kids I took care of for their parents.)

I don’t think it’s dismissing your children’s needs to believe that you are taking good care of them already. As a mom, I think my husband and I do a great job of loving our children and providing an extended family who loves them. I don’t think there’s a hole that needs to be filled. As my children grow up, they will, of course create a circle of friends and someday find someone special to love. For now, though, they have adults who love them, adults who care about them, and a wide circle of adults who like them. I think they themselves are more interested in friends their own age, though. I really do believe that kids who are getting their attachment needs met at home aren’t looking for adults who love them. Some kids aren’t getting their needs met and they do look for adults love. For them an outside adult can be a life saver.

I think we also need to allow people to have different perspectives and feelings. A kid will want stepmom to like them so that they can spend time with dad. Dad will want his new wife to love his children. Mom may have more mixed feelings without being a bad mother. I think jealousy of a stepmother is natural. Ideally, mom will control her feelings and dad and stepmom will go out of their way to avoid making her feel jealous.

Anonymous September 3, 2010, 11:43 AM

@Stepbomb - will things every change? I don’t know. You can’t make the Mom change. Time and patience sometimes work. However, sometimes you need outside help. I think Mom and Dad need to see some kind of counselor or mediator. Then when they have made some progress, the three of you should talk.

DIANE September 3, 2010, 4:59 PM

I REALLY LOVE THIS ARTICLE. I AM MARRIED WITH 3 CHILDREN(ONE IS MY STEPSON) AND I NEVER UNDERSTOOD WHY MOTHERS ARE QUICK TO PASS JUDGEMENT ON SOMEONE THEY HAVE NOT HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET. I WAS JUGDED AS SOON AS THE ENGAGEMENT WAS ANNOUNCED, NOT ONLY BY THE BIOLOGICAL MOTHER BUT HER MOTHER AS WELL (I NEVER MET THESE PEOPLE!) THEY SHOT MY CHARACTER DOWN. BUT I KEPT GOING. I NEVER FORCED MY SON TO CALL ME MOM, THAT WAS SOMETHING THAT HE FELT COMFORTABLE DOING BECAUSE I ACCEPTED HIM AS IF HE WAS MY OWN. IT GOES BOTH WAYS WITH MY HUSBAND, IT WAS ROCKY AT FIRST, BUT WE ROLLED WITH THE PUNCHES AND DID NOT LET ANYTHING COME INBETWEEN WHAT GOD PUT TOGETHER. WE STOOD OUR GROUND AND BECAUSE OF THAT RESPECT IS GIVEN. SO DONT TAKE IT PERSONAL, SOME MOTHERS MAY STILL WANT WHAT IS NOT THERE ANYMORE?????? TO SAY LOVE IS FOR FAMILY..YOU DO YOUR CHILDREN AN INJUSTICE IF YOU DONT TEACH THEM THAT WHOEVER MOM OR DAD IS WITH THE LOVE INCREASE!!!!

Anonymous September 4, 2010, 8:59 AM

@Stepbomb, some of your previous blogs have made me a little skeptical, so I have a few questions. When you say here that she threatened you, are you talking about the letters she had the lawyers send? What exactly did your husband tell her when he said you were getting married? Was there something he said that might have made her feel she was being replaced? Also, you’ve never addressed the question of whether they were arguing about the kids before you came into the picture. Or how much he was doing back then - was he visiting you some weekends? Did he usually let her do things her way? When did you decide to watch the girls after school and who exactly made the decision? Who was paying for child care before that?

REALMOM September 9, 2010, 9:59 AM

Yes, Stepbomb there is a double standard. Get your own kids. Stop trying so hard. Just be a wife until you get your own kids. Leave hers alone. I hate stepmoms. If i divorce and my husband gets a new gf, It’s not going to be pretty.

Perspectives September 13, 2010, 6:15 AM

Some of these comments sound very insecure and offensive.

Not every divorce/re-marriage story is the same. There are two divorce cases in my family in which the wife was at fault. In the first case, the wife cheated and walked out on the marriage. And yet now she acts like she’s the victim of the divorce and her ex-husband is the bad guy.
In the second case, the wife was extremely emotionally abusive and yet she tells everyone that she was literally the perfect wife and her ex was the abuser.

So it’s wrong to act like every ex-wife/mother is pure as the driven snow and every step-mother is an evil child stealer.

There are good people and bad people on all sides. Some ex-wives/mothers are decent people, some are not.
Just like some step-mothers are decent people and some of them are not.
You can’t put them all in one basket.

MomAndStepmom October 28, 2010, 9:04 PM

I have been married to my stepdaughter’s husband since she was 2. Like other stepmoms, my stepdaughter’s mother (and husband’s ex) judged me before she met me or even spoke to anyone who knew me. She took my husband to court to have the judge rule the daughter couldn’t come within fifty feet of me (she actually met me for the first time in court). The judge ruled that the daughter’s father has a right to delegate day-to-day responsibilities to whom he likes, which included me picking my stepdaughter up from preschool. On the other hand, my husband never had a problem with his daughter’s stepfather spending time with her. He felt that his ex-wife would not marry someone who wouldn’t be a good parent to her daughter and wouldn’t love her. She had no problem insisting her new husband loved her daughter, but she has always had a problem with my love for her. I am one of four parents who have been raising this girl for ten years, since she was a toddler, on a 50-50 parenting plan with the ex-wife, and I love her like my own children.

And to those reading this who have questions, yes I do have my own children - two, a boy and a girl. I gave birth to them. And like any mother, I love them more than anything. And I want the best for them. My husband and I have an older next-door neighbor whom my children refer to as “Granny” and who loves my children very much. I am thankful for having Granny in my life, and in my children’s lives. I want my children to have as much support as they can in life, and to disregard their important connection to Granny simply because she is not blood related is not fair to my kids.

My own kids are four and six. My stepdaughter is 12. The thought of denying any of them the opportunity to make connections with other adults is shocking to me. You can’t measure “love”, and any person can “love” another. Who am I to say Granny doesn’t really “love” my kids?? Should my stepdaughter love my kids - her step-siblings - any less simply because they don’t share her exact bloodline? As parents - step or biological - who want nothing but to see our children be emotionally healthy, I don’t see how we have any option other to encourage our children to make positive connections with other adult role models, regardless of what we call that connection - “love”, “caring”, or anything else.

Speech Ideas For Middle School Graduation November 25, 2010, 12:56 AM

The Constitution gives every American the inalienable right to make a damn fool of himself.


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