New "Step" Mom Advice

Updated on May 15, 2017
A.B. asks from Gadsden, AL
15 answers

My boyfriend and I moved in together about 6 months ago. He has two children: a 7 year old, and a 2 year old. He gets the children every other weekend and sometimes once during the week depending on if our work schedules will allow us to get the 7 year old to school. Anyways, I have completely thrown myself into this whole "stepmom" life full force. I do not have children of my own. I get along with their mother and even meet her to get the kids alone some days. I cook for the kids, clean, go to ball games/birthday parties, etc. I even took him to pick out his mom's Mother's Day present. Trust me, it takes a whole part of me that I didn't even know I was capable of.

If you have ANY advice, please throw it at me. It is so exhausting but so rewarding. I love his kids so much.

The only issues we ever have is that his 7 year old will make little comments when Dad isn't around to test me and my leniency. Such as: he was grounded and we went to the store alone after his dad said he couldn't buy anything, and since his dad wasn't around he would say things like, " I realllllly wish you would get me this...", of course I didn't and would never go behind Dad's back, but it puts me in a very awkward position because I don't want to overstep any boundary of correcting him. Dad said "Just remind him that he's in trouble", but I don't want him to resent me. I don't feel like he blames me for their divorce, but I don't ever want it to come to that. Both mom and dad were very open with him in explaining their new relationships and the divorce in a way he could understand.

Basically, I'd just like any advice for someone in the new "stepparent" role and to connect with people in a similar situation as me.

There isn't many people in my situation who actually have a decent mutual understanding with the baby mama, so for that, I am grateful.

What can I do next?

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D..

answers from Miami on

Your heart's in the right place, but here's my advice to you.

You moved in 6 months ago. You aren't this man's wife. But you are taking on a really big responsibility. Perhaps too much of one, BECAUSE you aren't married to him.

It's hard to think in these terms, but you need to make sure that you aren't being used as the person who makes this man's life easier with his children. I can understand that he would want to make sure that a future wife would be good with his kids, but you need to know that he is considering you for marriage before you give your heart to these children. Both for your own emotional well-being, and for this man who will need to make a commitment in his own mind that he wants to make a commitment to you.

The best thing to do as far as the 7 year old is concerned is to say to him "This is what your dad said, so that's the way it has to be." You don't need to remind him of why he's in trouble. He knows. And make SURE that the father tells the child IN FRONT OF YOU what the "rule" is, every single time. The last thing you want to do is ask this child what his father's rule is. If he fudges or outright lies to you to get what he wants, you are then in the position of having to call him on his lie. Instead, you put the responsibility for who issued the punishment on that person. You aren't that person. This is part of being the STEP. You're not the parent. Let the father BE the parent.

8 moms found this helpful
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M.6.

answers from New York on

Be careful - going "overboard" can be worse than going "underboard" (not a word, I know). For example, my daughter likes her ex's girlfriend well enough and has nothing against her really, but it drives her crazy that the girlfriend ends up being the primary caregiver instead of dad, especially since he only has her 2 weekends a month. Why is that a big deal? Well, his girlfriend is pregnant now with HER first child now and will likely focus all her attention on new baby - dad already has been and will continue to do nothing, so where does that leave my little grandbaby when she is at daddy's house? Out in the cold. In fact, it is already happening because the girlfriend is "too tired" to "parent" on dad's weekends now, so either they don't take her at all, or she is basically ignored. It is really sad.

Let dad pick out the Mother's day present for their mom and do as much of the parenting as possible. Especially since the two of you are not married AND it has only been 6 months that you are living together AND you have no child rearing experience of your own. Your supposed to be "back up" for Dad - not him for you.

Good luck - oh, I agree with the other posters - don't use the term "baby momma," it has such negative connotations attached to it.

7 moms found this helpful

D.B.

answers from Boston on

I'm a long-time stepmom, and I understand that you are throwing yourself into the parenting thing full force. It's absolutely fantastic that you have an open and accepting relationship with your boyfriend's ex. Most of us don't get that. But I wouldn't use the term "baby mama" - it's really demeaning, and you will get nowhere in this world if you demean other women, especially one you need to stay in contact with.

My advice to you is, temper your enthusiasm! I did the same as you, believe me. But at some point, it can go overboard. For example, my step kids found me to be so fun, they named me "S'mom" (for Step-mom) and it padded my ego, and then really ticked off their mom! Don't let your situation go there!

If the 7 year old tests you, just say, "I know you want the ____ but that's something to discuss with your dad." Don't get into a big debate about the item he wants or how great it really is. That just feeds the manipulation. If you don't want to "overstep" by saying, "You're grounded," then just say, "You know that your dad said no, so there's no discussion. Now, help me pick out the apples and bananas we need." It's not an awkward position unless you make it one. And if taking a "grounded" child to the store is turning into a reward or at least an escape from the dad who grounded him, then don't take him!

You have to remember that sometimes you will be the "bad guy" or at least "the bad guy's girlfriend" and that neither parenting nor step parenting are popularity contests. If the kids are mad at you, it doesn't mean you've failed. And it doesn't mean you open yourself up to him thinking you are responsible for the divorce. Don't make a big mistake now by trying to avoid unpleasant future scenarios that may or may not come up.

That's why I say you have to get past the thrill of being so involved and get down to the nitty-gritty of parenting, which has many hard moments. It doesn't mean step parenting doesn't have many rewards - it does!

7 moms found this helpful

B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

You've got the cart before the horse.
Until you are married, you are not a step mom - you're playing house/happy family.
It's too easy to just walk away at any time when there's no marriage - it happens a lot - and it's so horrible for the kids when it does.
It's nice you get along and 'love' his kids so much - but if boyfriend loves you and wants you part of his family for the rest of his life - he needs to propose and at the very least you and he need to see a justice of the peace and get officially hitched.
I can hear you thinking "Why is it such a big deal?" - say your boyfriend is working or traveling, you are watching the kids, and there's a medical emergency - you are not next of kin and you have no authority what so ever in seeing that they get medical care.
If you and he love each other - make it official.
THEN worry about co-parenting.

6 moms found this helpful

D.D.

answers from Boston on

As the girlfriend who has been living with their dad for 6 months I think your throwing yourself into the stepparent role is turning into over stepping. I lived with a guy for 2 yrs who had children and I was very attached to them. I got along as well as could be considered with their mother but I would never have them when their father wasn't around. Part of shared custody is that they need to spend time with their dad not their dad's girlfriend.

You shouldn't be taking the kids shopping to pick out something for their mother. That should be up to their father or another family member (grandparent, aunt, uncle).

Please remember that if things don't work out you'll be severing your ties with no only your boyfriend but the children as well. Trust me on this no matter how well you get along with their mom she's just putting up with you because she has no choice.

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J.C.

answers from Philadelphia on

To start, I would not consider myself a "stepparent" until I was married. You are playing house, my advice is to get married. I also would never use the term "baby mama" since your boyfriend was married to his children's mother. I also would caution you not to become a baby mama. Marry your BF before starting your own family with him. Best of luck and I hope things work out for all of you.

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M.S.

answers from Oklahoma City on

I agree with Doris. I think your heart is in the right place, but I wouldn't take on the role of stepmom/parent until you are certain that you are in this family for the long haul. I am a stepmom and I didn't perform any kind of parenting role until my husband and I married. We didn't want my step daughter to bond with me only to have me leave her life. I only saw her periodically while I dated him and I never took on any of the parenting responsibilities until we committed to be in each other's lives forever. We were extremely cautious about exposing her to unnecessary loss. We had to make sure our relationship was set (dating for 2 years) before we made a family.

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E.B.

answers from Honolulu on

To be candid, you're not the step-mom, and the children's mother is not the baby mama. You are the live-in girlfriend, and their mother is precisely that: their mother.

The rules aren't yours to make; they're the parents' rules. Don't try to correct the boy. Simply reiterate what his father has said. "Your father told you no. That's the end of the discussion." There shouldn't be any awkwardness. If you work at an office, and the boss says 30 minute lunch break only, with no exceptions, and a new co-worker asks if 40 minutes is ok, you would just say "no, Mr. Boss has a firm rule in place. It's not my place to make any exceptions or extensions".

You've only been living with the children's dad for a few short months. It's great that you are willing to share in their lives and cook for them, and provide stability in their house, but unless you're married to their dad, your position is still temporary, no matter how deeply you love him.

Don't throw yourself into any of this. Respectfully abide by the parents' expectations and rules, do your best to ensure that when the kids are at the house that they're clean and comfortable and cared for, but don't try to be the step-mother.

My brother moved his babysitter into his house and made her the step-mother, telling the kids this was their new mother, and even encouraging the kids to call her "mom", long before they got married. She started making the decisions, the appointments, the house rules, etc, and it led to years of resentment and problems. Tread lightly, and hopefully you'll have a long and enjoyable relationship with the kids and both their parents.

5 moms found this helpful

C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

One advice I would give you is to let your boyfriend do the parenting. It is his responsibility. He needs to spend the time doing the work of caring for his children when they are over at your house. If you jump in and do it all they are not bonding with their dad and it seems a bit like he is using you. I grew up going to my Dad's house every other weekend starting at age 7, and I never actually spent any time with my Dad. He just did his own thing. I played with my stepsisters and my stepmom did the work. I reached adulthood and realized my Dad and I didn't know each other at all. Still I do not feel at all close to him. Next - If the 7 year old was told no about something then do not give in when it is just you. Every kid does this with their parents at times...test the limits and try to manipulate to get what they want! Don't worry about him resenting you...just say, "Dad said no, so we are not buying that." It is really great that you get along with the kid's mother. I commend you for that.

5 moms found this helpful
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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

I see you have gotten a lot of judgmental responses so far, this will not be one of those. I don't care that you are not married, not everyone needs to get that piece of paper to be committed. What is important is that you live with their father full time and act as another parent, i.e., a step parent. So far it sounds like you are doing everything right. You are trying not to overstep boundaries while still being active in their lives. There is nothing wrong with saying no when they ask for something. There will be times they will resent you, but that would be true for any parent, even ones that are still together, kids just resent their parents sometimes. Keep open communication with your boyfriend about what he wants from you with them, and of course always be respectful of their mother, as you well know you are not a replacement for her. Kids really never can have too many people who love them and want what is best for them. Best of luck!!!!

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S.S.

answers from Atlanta on

The kids mom is NOT a baby mama. She is their mother. How do you have a mutual understanding with her? You treat her with respect. You LISTEN to how she wants her kids raised. You don't talk bad about her to the kids. You don't make their dad's house the "fun house", the rules should be the same at both houses. I know there are people that disagree, but I've seen the "good cop - bad cop" with broken homes and it builds resentment and hostility and puts the kids in the middle. "well at Dad's house..."

You are NOT their step-mother. You are their dad's live-in girlfriend. If there is a medical emergency? You have no rights to them. None. You are playing house. That piece of paper IS important for so many reasons.

When the kid is in trouble and dad says "you may not have anything from the store" and he asks you for it in a whining voice? I'd say "what did your dad say?" and when he says "but....I want it..." you say "that's great. I understand your wanting this toy, but your dad said no."

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

I agree with 2kidmama about letting your boyfriend do the parenting. Two of my good friends are step moms - and my brother is a step dad. Before they were married, they didn't get involved in the parenting. So they would redirect back to parent. So for example if 7 year old tried to get you to go against dad, you would just say "That's up to your dad. He said no. Please don't ask me again." type thing.

All kids do that to parents - step or otherwise. You just remind them not to question the parenting decision. Doesn't matter if that parent is not there.

You also don't want to be a pushover and never saying No because that backfires. My good friend wanted her boyfriend's kids to like her, so she used to go all out and I noticed she was just run ragged. She scaled back on that over time. She also had 'house rules' that were agreed upon by her and boyfriend - and she would just say "that's not how we do things here - remember the rule". That way, if down the road the 7 year old says "I don't have to do that at mom's house" it won't matter. Your house (yours and boyfriend's) - your rules.

3 moms found this helpful

V.B.

answers from Jacksonville on

I guess I came in late, b/c I don't see any reference to baby mama in your post. Glad to see respectful references throughout. I generally find that if I make my mouth say the right words, my attitude can follow more easily, and it's important that your attitude toward these kids' mom is a positive one.

As far as your specific question (advice as a new "stepparent" role), just remember to always assume the best of the children's mother. And understand that no matter what (what happens, what anyone says, if they are angry with her over some disciplinary issue, whatever) she is their mother and they love her. Just like you never (ever) vent to your parents about little things in a marriage (b/c they will never forget the negatives you told them about your spouse and it will forever color their view/opinion of him/her), you never EVER speak ill or rudely to or about their mother. They love her. It hurts the children to be unkind towards their mother. You gain nothing by doing otherwise. And any negativity towards her will naturally cause them to be defensive of one they love. They will defend her/her actions, and see you as the villain. If not now, eventually.

When kiddos beg for you to go against Dad's wishes, you don't have to worry about them resenting you. You just have to defer to what Dad said. As if you were a baby sitter. "Can I stay up and watch this movie I'm not allowed to watch?" "Your parents said you can't watch that and that bedtime is at 8:00 pm." You can be sympathetic in your tone if you'd like. Or you can joke. Or you can be stern if the situation seems to demand it. But the language is the same: Dad said ______. You are an extension of his authority. But you have no authority to act on your own decision making about such things. They will learn quickly that trying to play on your sympathies (to get what they want, b/c kids are smart and will play on the knowledge that you want them to like you) gets them no where. They won't hate you for it. They might actually learn to respect you for it.

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J.B.

answers from Tulsa on

As a stepmom of about 17 years, my best advice would be to let their Dad take the lead. Don't implant yourself too far in the middle of things or you are likely to become the scapegoat. My SDs' mother and I were always able to get along and I think that helped the girls out immensly . . . not having to deal with tension. However, be careful to not overstep boundaries. It's very easy as a woman for us to want to come in and take over . . . but, at the end of the day, your boyfriend and his ex need to work together to co-parent the children. You can support your boyfriend in that role but don't try to take over.

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J.M.

answers from San Francisco on

You've received a ton of advice, and I don't think I have anything to add to it. I am replying only to correct something. Being married will NOT automatically make you your SS's "next of kin" in a medical emergency. Because you drive him places and it seems like you are alone with him a lot, you will want to have an agreement/arrangement with his dad about what to do in an emergency if he or his ex cannot be reached. But getting married is not the way to do it. Check the laws in your state to be sure, but in most states step parents have very little if any legal rights when it comes to their step children.

Take care of yourself.

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