Being a stepmom is a crash course in a whole different world. Most women are tremendously unprepared for the life of a stepmom. We thought we were getting a fairy tale and it is often anything but. It’s definitely not for the weak. In the spirit of information sharing, here are some ways to unintentionally hurt your husband and stepkids. (In other words, stuff you SHOULDN’T do.).
- Insist that your stepkids call you “mom.” Be really clear in your heart & mind: you are not mom. Whether bio mom lives right down the road, is deceased, resides in jail or lives across the country: you are not mom. You might do mom-like tasks, you might love your stepkids, but you are not mom. Bio mom might have been abusive to her children…but you are still not mom. You might be lucky to transition from babysitter status to friend to aunt to parental figure, but that takes time and relationship building. Each child is different. One child might eventually decide to call you “mom” but to another child you may forever be “dad’s wife.” Take joy in serving Him in all you do, not in what you are labeled. No matter what you are called, you have a great opportunity to make an impact. So don’t force the kids to call you “mom” or treat you as such.
- Don’t back up your husband. In a godly marriage, the husband is the head of the household. This doesn’t mean unilateral decisions. A wise husband consults his wife (yes, even when she is not his first wife) and carefully considers her input. Ultimately he may make the final decision, especially when it comes to his bio kids. Remember he is balancing the long term vision of what’s best for everyone (not just responding to the here & now), the perspective of his kids, relationship with his ex, impact on the blended family and more. Respect his decision. Demonstrate a united front to your stepkids. Even when you disagree with dad, you can model respect for his decisions. One of the greatest gifts you can give the kids is modeling a healthy marriage. So, do support your husband.
- Monopolize your husband’s time. Experts know that it’s important for parents to spend 1:1 time with kids. (note: assuming there are no safety issues such as abuse or substance use). One-to-one time helps kids feel important and loved (they get a parent’s full undivided attention for a specific time; don’t have to fight siblings for dad’s attention). This special time fosters communication, healing, self-esteem, and relationship. Additionally, after dad remarries kids can worry that stepmom will take up all of dad’s time, in other words, it can increase their fear that they will lose dad. Allowing and actively promoting 1:1 time between dad and kids is a great gift you can give them. A confident stepmom knows it’s not a matter of excluding her from the family, but rather a way to help kids resolve grief, continue bonding or reuniting with dad, and building healthy relationships. So don’t monopolize your husband’s time.
- Refuse to become one with your husband. It’s biblical: leave & cleave. Leave your parents, cleave to your spouse, so much that you become “one.” Think about it. Who are you really married to? Your spouse? Or are you more aligned with your ex or your bio kids? Is your spouse more married to his bio kids than you? God is clear: leave and then cleave to your spouse, not someone else. The bible verse does not read: Leave & cleave unless it’s your second marriage. Do become one with your husband.
- Create a child-centered home. It can be easy to fall into this trap. Sheesh, haven’t we known our kids longer than our new spouse? Doesn’t that count for something? But I love my kids – shouldn’t I give them their way? I mean, aren’t we all aware of the grief and loss we have caused our kids by divorce? (Even if the divorce was not our choice, didn’t we “do this” to the kids?). Wouldn’t it help the kids if we just gave them their way more often? If we bought them more treats, toys, and expensive clothes wouldn’t it help make up for the hurt they have endured? What about more trips to Disneyland or Mexico – wouldn’t that help the kids heal? What’s so wrong if we let the kids call the shots in our house? Well, there’s a lot wrong in that. It’s really unhealthy for kids to be in charge. A healthy godly marriage has a certain hierarchy. Put God first. Then your spouse (remember you’re one now). Then the kids. Then everything else (work, hobbies etc). Kids thrive on order and stability. Knowing that there are rules and structure actually helps kids know that they are taken care of and reassures them. Kids with too much freedom and too few rules can become unruly and anxious. Plus kids who call the shots run the risk of becoming the kind of adults that no one wants to hang out with and probably won’t be great employees either. A child-centered home is not the same thing as a home with lots of love for the children. A child-centered home has the kids in charge instead of the parents. Be brave, parent well, and do not create a child-centered home. Your kids and their future spouses will thank you!
Today I’m thankful for God’s direction. In 2 Thessalonians 3:5 it says, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (NIV)
What are you thankful for?