Karen rethinks the role of a stepmom and comes up with a simple solution.
A few months ago I got married; my new husband came with three children from his previous marriage. Even though his children and I get along really well and I was happily taking on this extra responsibility, I had my doubts about how step-parenting works. I was apprehensive about getting too involved in their lives as I didn’t want to step on any toes. My initial approach was one of taking a back seat. It made me realise that I was missing out on so much of their lives.
'You're not my mom!'
My approach clearly needed a rethink and I realised I was looking at the whole situation from the wrong perspective. I had thought that if the biological parent disciplines his children, they may not like it but they will still love him because he is their dad. But if I do the same, I become the ‘wicked stepmom’: the one who makes them do chores and boring stuff. I have a personality that likes to please, so I thought I could avoid this by just not being so involved with that side of parenting. I could be the fun parent and that way they will love me too.
This made me think about my own childhood and my relationship with my stepdad. I remember my stepdad treating me no differently than my little brother who was his biological child. He didn’t try and step-parent me, he simply parented me as if I was his own. That’s when I realised I was just complicating things by thinking of them as my stepchildren and not just our children.
By removing the step and simply parenting them as you would your own, you will face the same challenges any parent does. So I took a step back (see what I did there?) and removed the step. It has made life so much easier; sure, we are not a perfect family and my husband and I may have different views on things regarding children, but then again so do most couples.
5 simple ways to avoiding any responsibility whatsoever
If you are not convinced that this is the best way to approach step parenting then here are 5 alternative ways to avoid wicked stepmom syndrome:
1. Do not marry a man with children: Rule number 1 is fairly straight forward, if you follow this rule all subsequent rules fall away.
2. Do not engage with the stepchildren: Just be there alongside your partner as a kind of family decoration; never speak to or engage with his children. That way you can’t be blamed for anything and nothing can go wrong.
3. Defer all discipline to the biological parent: This is the parenting version of good-cop/bad-cop. When the biological parent handles all of the discipline you will always be the good cop.
4. Do not take on any role of responsibility, including decision making: This way you will avoid the dreaded you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do-you-are-not-my-mom conversation.
5. Do not support or attend any of the stepchildren’s school or social events: This is very important as they already have two parents so you really won’t be missed. It helps you avoid any third wheel situation. It also sends the stepchild a clear message that you have no interest in interfering with their lives or life goals. Of course, the downside to this is that you may miss out on a few important milestones that are meaningful to your partner but I am sure he will get over your lack of interest in his children… in time.
Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
Do you have any more tips for step-parents?