Advice for Soon to Be Stepmom

Updated on January 07, 2011
R.J. asks from Seattle, WA
13 answers

My best friend is about to become a stepmom to 2 amazing kiddos (she has none of her own) ages 9 & 11.

I'd like to "get beyond the book" and get real advice from people who have either been stepmoms, or who have *had* stepmoms, to give to her.

They've never lived together (nor slept over) so it's going to be a whole new ballgame come March and anything that can: help her, or for her to have on her radar about the kids, things you don't ordinarily think of, best new-mom advice you've ever gotten, what not to do, what to do, what you wish you would have done, (and jumping back into the book thing) favorite books, etc. (anything I'm not thinking of), would all be fantastic.

Thank you mamas!!!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I'm not a stepmom, nor did I have O.. But I had a wonderful stepfather! He left the big decisions up to my mom, offered his help and opinions and guidance and loved me very unconditionally. He did a great job. he never demanded respect, he earned it. I was probably a snot to him at first, but he didn't take it personally and he was steady as a rock. When I needed it most.

7 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boca Raton on

I'm not a step-mom but my ex-husband remarried (briefly) so my son had a step-mom for a bit. One of the biggest things I would advise is to not run "interference" for Dad (i.e., communicate with bio-mom in lieu of dad, except in rare circumstances). Do not get involved in disputes between bio Mom and Dad either, and don't gin up harsh feelings where it's not productive (and it usually isn't).

All of this advice pre-supposes that mom is in the picture (and maybe she isn't).

Being a step-parent is a tough and sometimes thankless job. I wouldn't enter into that situation lightly (not that she is).

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I would try to play the role like a "fun aunt" - someone who wants to be their friend and have good times but also someone who needs to be respected as an adult. She should also though recognize that this might be a big adjustment for them and trying too hard to "bond" with them and be their buddy too soon might just turn them off. Respect their space and the life that they have with their mother - don't question her or appear to "dis" her in any way.

Leave the big-time discipline for the bio-parents, but if she is going to have any time alone with them, she should be able to discipline them within reason. Check with dad first if she has any concerns.

Basically, respect - it is a two-way street.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I don't really have advice. I am not a stepmom but I did have a stepmom. ( I still do, but we live on opposite sides of the world and keep up through letters and my sister) All I know is that she treated me the same as her two kids ( who she had with my dad after they were married) and she loved me the same. I think loving them, and treating them fairly without any jealousy is a great start to a good relationship.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

I second Angela S

Please advise her to not get in the middle of anything between the biological parents. My son's step-mom, as much as her heart can be in the right place sometimes, tends to interfere and it never (let me repeat, NEVER) goes right. Even though it's me she's trying to converse with and no matter how "private" the conversation, kids understand more than they let on. Trust me, it's better for her to be on the outside of that circle!

Good luck to her :)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

Tell her to try to be another parental figure/source of support for the girls without trying to "be or replace their mom" especially important if their mom has either passed or very much still in the picture. Be friendly but do not try to be their friend (can be tricky). She needs to love them and treat them as if they are her biological children (not "step" children)...if she can't she should not become a step-parent.

Her soon to be husband and her need to have a very frank discussion about what ground rules they will have as a couple raising these children...what they each expect, how they will handle discipline, what type of rules he already has for the children (will they stay the same or will they need some tweeking). If they can reach an agreement/understanding now, it will help prevent misunderstandings later AND they can not allow the girls to play one against the other (with can happen with parents but happens even more often when there is a split household and/or step-parents involved).

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

first of all remeber the kids werent in a market for a new mom. and they will say "your not my mom" from time to time. they will test her to the max. she needs to treat them like they would thier own kids. they may try to run her off cause she is interfering mom and dad getting back together. this is all normal. mom may try to pit them against her this is also not uncommon.

give all of them special time alone with her. and with their dad too. they need this especially with dad. they will probably rebel strongly against her this too is normal. PATIENCE, PATIENCE, AND MORE PATIENCE.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

it all depends on the kids and how well mom and dad communicate and get along and how she feels about her and how the kids feel about her.

For ex i cant' stand my daughter's step mom, she will not go to anything for my daughter that i may or may not be there for, her and my ex fight all the time and she gets offended because i wont let HER take my daughter by herself to a dr appt to a doctor that i've never met. we've had our rounds and i've blown up on her to the point that now she wont talk to me PERIOD.....what i wanted, she tries to over step her boundaries A LOT!

i have step kids and here's how i handle avoid them trying to come between my husband and i, i dont' give them permission for squat, unless it's just me and them. i don't talk to their mom, i dont' call their house myself (would if an emergency) and i dont' go to activities unless THEY invite me. I make sure i make it to all invited activities whether mom is supposed to be there or not (she wont come if i'm there-her loss) with or without my husband

a lot depends on the status of all relationships involved.....just like being a parent...trial and error.

always treat them as your own, but NEVER fully mom..............HARD AS HELL FOR ME

i've sat back and watched my step mom and LOVE HER TO DEATH. what she does that i TRY is only involve myself WHEN ASKED especially when it comes to activities that are planned when they are with their mom, not us.

something that's taken a while for my step kids, is to acknowledge and treat me as "mom of the house" even though they dont see me as mom. we had to sit with them one day and explain i'm not mom i know that, but THIS is my house too and OUR rules, which WILL be followed...i was step monster at one time, but i THINK we're past that, they have been venting to us/me about things mom does...and comments like ooo we can't tell mom that (used to tell mom EVERYTHING) but ok....let's go for it that'll be fun!

we are MUCH stricter than their mom is, but we can alsot be much more laid back than mom

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My SIL is a Step. She is having a hard time because the bio-mom, and the inlaws baby the stepson beyond reason. She has a child that she is trying to not spoil. When the stepson comes to her house he acts out, wants to leave, etc to get attention so that his Dad will spend time with him and he doesn't have to be around his half sister, but also so that he doesn't have to listen to his stepmom. My hubby and I also treat him like my kids so we are not on his favorites list either because of that. Everyone else in the family takes the 'whatever makes him happy' approach, and so he basically gets away with tons of stuff that the other 4 kids don't. Which isn't fair.

Ex. for arguments my sitter has a 'bubble space' method. Your bubble space is the air around you. Basically, keep your hands to yourself. Anyway nephew and my daughter start fighting. I walked in and called bubble space. Daughter to the chair, that's her bubble space. Nephew to the sofa across the room, that's your bubble space. The two shall NOT meet! 2 mins later he calls me back into the room. 'Aunt Meg I think I need the whole room to be my bubble space, so she needs to leave!' Excuse me? My inlaws solution would've been to make my daughter go play in the other room. My solution was that I made the room my daughter's bubble space and made him leave. He left crying for his Dad.

Another key thing will be the moving in. If she is moving into their Dad's house, she will need to define some 'me space' without stepping on toes.

Good luck

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Wow! R. Asked a QUESTION!!!! tehehe

Depends on how much the kids will be in their house I think. I think it's a REALLY REALLY bad idea for a stepmom to PARENT in anyway (thus the term StepMonster), also depends on how determined she is that they follow HER rules, if she can just enjoy their company as 'guests' and let DAD parent then it'll all be fine.

I've said before I don't envy ANYONE with the prefix "Step".


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answers from Seattle on

Here are some of my thoughts:

Considering that our culture has so many stepparents, there is not an accepted or prefabricated mold for their role. Our families are *supposed* to be comprised of Mom, Dad, kids (all living in the confines of their specific role). For those of us whose families don't fit into that mold (stepparents, kinship care parents, foster parents, single parents, gay parents, multi generational families living outside of a larger, supportive/similar culture, intentional living houses/co-parenting with non related individuals, etc), we must come up with our roles mostly from scratch and with borrowing from other molds. In some ways, it's very liberating. The existing mold of Mom, Dad, kids and what their roles *should* be, is (IMhumbleO) suffocating and restrictive. *I* don't think any mold is very healthy if we are feel like we *have* to conform to it. Better that we create unique structures that are healthy for us, as unique families, and that nurture our children more completely.

Stepparents challenge the our set of roles. (When we forget that we are NOT our roles, we become very upset.) How often do we read a post on Mamapedia from a stepparent who feels like he/she doesn't fit in or "get respect". Or from a mom/dad who feels displaced by the new parent or relationship.

In reality, more people to love our children is great! But, when our authority, or our place in our familial structure is threatened, we get...grouchy.

I'll be honest, if another woman came into my children's life as a stepparent to our children, I might feel scared of being replaced, or angry if she didn't go along with what *I* already have set up. My role, most certainly, would shift. Change doesn't always feel comfortable. In truth, I cannot be replaced. I am unique and the skills and love I give my children is unique. I'd have to make it work. Let's hope I don't have to ;)

When my stepmother came into our lives I was, at first, thrilled. I was glad my dad had found someone to share his daily life with. I invited her into my life and heart. I was 13. Unfortunately, things didn't go smoothly from there. I was, as an adolescent, upset that their marriage had shifted our family's roles and I felt like there wasn't a place for me anymore. It's a long story, but essentially, after breaking my trust she refused to give my dad and I any space to ourselves. I wanted to be able to eat lunch with him once a month by ourselves, or take a fishing trip once a year...something like that. She felt threatened and asked him to choose between us and our needs. Oh dear, what a messy time. It took a decade to sort out.

Some of the best parenting advice I received was 1.) be the person you want your child to see 2.) everything that comes you will be able to handle - that was in relation to labor, but I've found it helpful in a myriad of situations.

What I suggest to new parents is a parenting formula based on: Flexibility, Consistency (the two are a good team, and do not oppose each other), and Love, Love, Love.

What I would suggest to a parent who is going to raise a child who is not their biological child, is based on the same principles. But I think needs an extra dose of patience and empathy. Flexibility is paramount. And team work (which is tricky because instead of including one other parent, now includes X amount of adults). *Communication*. Being able to understand that rejection, coming from children, isn't the same as from an adult. Often, if kids are given the space to have big feelings (confusion, anger, frustration, grief, happiness, joy, calm, etc) they will feel safe and stop rejecting. If we try to "strangle" their feelings or punish them for the feelings themselves (not to be confused with their actions based on feelings), the feelings will build and they will push us away. Now, that is not to say that we should be fine with being treated badly by *anyone* including our kids. But, we can let them have their feelings and deal with their feelings in healthy ways at the same time as asserting and communicating our needs and boundaries.

I'll tell you, every difficult-difficult moment with my little niece is worth those moments of loving bliss. We have had to create new roles in our family, but as the result she is *mostly* doing very well. I can see my love having an affect on her body/mind and it is darn rewarding. It's taken MONTHS to get to a place that feels pretty stable, most of the time. It's been hard work, beautifully challenging. And it is worth it.

Also, I think sometimes we confuse uncomfortable with bad. Finding our place in a preexisting structure - while it is shifting to make room for us (be it a work place, home, family, town) does not always *feel* awesome. So we need to be ready for that process (not that it will always or mostly be uncomfortable). When kids are involved, that becomes more complicated because their developmental process/ability is shifting all the time. Our roles, in relation to them, must shift with them. Ugh. It takes time and energy, doesn't it.

I think a valuable tool, if AT ALL possible, comes from both sets of parents being able to communicate. I can't speak from personal experience but... One of my best friends is doing a fantastic job of this. She and her ex have three children (one with a different bio dad), he just had a new baby with his partner and she (his new partner) had a child already as well. My friend is also partnered with a man who has a child. So, between these four parents - and their X amount of exes - they have six children. Holey Cow, what a wild ride. At first, my friend and her ex had a really rough relationship. Terrible, draining, angry court battles and the such. But somehow (well, not somehow...they've put an incredible amount of time and work into their relationship) they are at a point where everyone is talking to everyone. They up date each other, do birthdays and big holidays together and try to make life easier (instead of harder) on each other. The result shows in the kids, who are doing far better than they were before the team work began. They are happy, healthy and balanced. They don't get to pit parents against each other and feel safe and supported in all homes. They don't resent their parents or their parents SOs. It's not all rainbows, but it works and everyone is doing better. My friends ex's new partner (what a mouthful!) and my friend have gone out to coffee. My friend's new partner's ex and her have also gotten together on a couple of occasions. They check in. They are all one big team effort. Just because our relationship, as lovers/life partners didn't work out, doesn't mean we can't still co-parent effectively.

Redefining their roles has not been easy and has been scary at times. But their kids have benefited from their process. In huge ways.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I have a stepmom, never been one. Mine came into my life when I was in my early 20s. I call her my "Bonus Mom"; I love her so much.

She has been patient and kind when I needed adult parenting and felt I couldn't turn to my Mom and Dad. She asks questions about my life. Now, she asks my kids about themselves. She never makes anything about HER unless is really, truly IS.

The other stress we have AT ALL is all mine - she calls me "her daughter" and wants me to call her "Mom." I am not okay with this - I all ready have a Mom - but I only tried to explain it to her once & it was clear that she was hurt. She isn't pushy about it and means it in a loving way, so I let it go. But I probably couldn't have let that go as a kid or a teen.

Hope that helps.


answers from Spokane on

Hi R.,
I am a step-mom, I have a step-mom and I have a step-dad.
My step-dad came into my life when I was in 2nd grade. He was (and still is) amazing. He adores my children and is one of my husbands best friends. He left major decisions and issues up to my Mom, yet they would discuss things and decide together what would happen. He earned our respect and he loved us unconditionally. He never asked us to call him Dad, but didn't bat an eye if we did. He did everything he could to establish a relationship with our bio father b/c he thought it was important for us kids. I didn't understand or appreciate how important that was until I became involved with my now husband and his daughter.
My step-mom came into my life when I was a senior in H.S. I always referred to her as my Dad's wife and she never corrected me. I didn't really have a relationship with her until years later. She waited patiently for me to be ready. She is fabulous with my children and loves them as though they were bio grandkids.
So......I had very good examples to learn from. My advice for your BF would be to do her best to have a relationship with the bio Mom. It will mean a lot to the kids. Try to leave major parenting issues in Dad's hands, but also let them know that you she is an adult in their home that they need to respect and listen to her. Be open and loving and very understanding. It won't always be easy, but it will always be worth it!

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