For any moms out there dealing with hideously evil stepmonsters, I offer some general truths that may ease your minds. Not only do I have a stepmom (since the age of five) but I’m also a stepmom (a.k.a. broomriding stepwitch) myself – something I never expected.
The situation I grew up in couldn’t be more different than the dynamic I now have with my stepkids and their mom, but regardless of circumstance there are some common threads to this complicated relationship.
EVIL STEPMONSTER MYTH 1: She’s going to take my place.
TRUTH: This is never going to happen. Never! Shall I repeat? N.E.V.E.R. No matter how cool, involved, sweet, or fun the stepmom may be, there is no way for her to ever magically recreate [one word, recreate] the biological bond between a birth mother and her child, even if she tried. There is an unseen, but nonetheless real, bond between any mother and her kids. Why do you think adopted kids go searching for their birth mothers when they grow up? Why do kids want to protect and return to abusive parents? You’re connected at the most basic level and nothing can take that away.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I’ve been with my stepkids for six years now, starting when they were two and four. They are the coolest. I love them with ALL my heart. I volunteer in their classrooms and sports teams, tuck them into bed, care for them through illness, make their lunches, and more. And guess what? Their mom is still their mom! They love her, they’re part of her, and they even look like her!
A stepmom is just another family member who cares about them, almost like a significantly older sister. Your kids may love the other people in their lives who care for them, but it doesn’t affect the love they have for their mom. Now they just have a bonus relative.
EVIL STEPMONSTER MYTH 2: She’s a b***h, my enemy, and I’m happy to keep it that way.
TRUTH: In reality, the wicked stepmonster may end up being a great ally in your journey raising your kids. There are a number of benefits from working with her, rather than shutting her out. For starters, you most likely still have to deal with your ex-husband on at least some decision-making. Now let’s keep it real: you and the dad are divorced for a reason – you weren’t seeing eye-to-eye somewhere along the way. If you thought he was difficult or didn’t listen when you were married, I can promise it doesn’t get easier when you’re divorced. Fortunately, there will be things that you and the stepmom can agree on. If she’s on board with you then she can work with you to bring dad around! Additionally, she’ll probably have a good idea about where your ex stands on certain issues, so you can get some insight before approaching him about a topic.
When trying to coordinate a kid’s million responsibilities – school, sports, activities – you may also find that the stepmom is easier to plan with than your ex. Often, women (sorry for stereotyping, dads) are better at planning ahead, organizing, and attention to detail.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: My stepkids’ mom is also a child of divorce, so making sure the kids feel safe and secure has always been our first priority. Although we’ve had ups and downs, we always support each other to keep the boys on a solid foundation.
We usually hammer out scheduling together and then I’ll pass it by the boys’ dad (way easier than my husband and his ex trying to work it out). We’ll discuss future possibilities for the boys as well as any concerns along the way.
EVIL STEPMONSTER MYTH 3: It will be best and easiest if she just stays out of my life, and my kids’ lives, as much as possible.
TRUTH: Growing up with a stepparent you aren’t close to is like having a stranger around. Someone you don’t really know, or perhaps even like, is now in your family for life. It sucks.
Your kids, although they may not like their stepmom at first, are going to have to spend time with her. It’s important that they have time to bond. Otherwise your kids may end up feeling awkward or resented. This ultimately translates into a whole lot of bad news for their emotional well-being.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: Growing up, I wasn’t close to either of my stepparents, and it hurt. Like most kids, I was a little jerk sometimes (stole my stepmom’s makeup, was rude to my stepdad, etc), but with parents love is unconditional. With stepparents it’s easy to end up in a hands-off, disconnected relationship, which is not ideal for anyone!
So hang on to your hats, mamas, and give that stepwitch a chance! Maybe you’ll thank me later (and your kids will be all the better for it).