Memo To Moms: Not All Stepmothers Are Wicked

In an excellent post on Suburban Turmoil, Lindsey Ferrier tells moms a thing or two about stepparenting. Actually, she tells them 15 Things Moms Should Know About Stepmothers.

She is right on. At the risk of oversimplifying, her message is this: we’re not all evil. We won’t hurt your kids, or go out of our way to make your life worse. Many of us really love your kids.

Like Lindsay, I’ve been a stepmother for 8 years, and a mom for 6. Being a stepmom isn’t easy: it’s a tough balancing act. If like me, the first kids you parent are your stepkids, you get the work of learning to be a parent at the same time that you have to learn when to stand aside.

You can, in fact you must, love your stepkids, but you can’t ever be their mom. That’s an awkward distance.

Moms don’t make it easier when they resent the stepmother or the new children she brings into the family. It’s hard enough for blended families. Lindsay points out that 70% of blended families split apart. Second marriages are at least as likely to fail as first marriages.

Of course I understand the impulse to resent a stepmother. The thought of another woman parenting my kids gives me the heebie jeebies, too. But making an effort to understand and accept the stepmom can make things much smoother for your kids.

Lindsay’s post is a great primer. She points out that stepmoms don’t want to replace you, and most of us know we can’t. That a stepmother isn’t simply an extension of your ex-husband: she’s a third party who might not be involved in your parenting decisions at all, or might even side with you sometimes.

I’ve been blessed to have a pretty good relationship with my husband’s ex-wife. The fact that she left him for another man two years before we met probably didn’t hurt my chances: she was relieved and happy when he found someone he wanted to move on with.

That said, I’m going to quibble with Lindsay’s final point: that if you had an affair that broke up his marriage, you need to accept that his ex-wife will never accept you. She’ll probably never like you. But she should still keep those feelings to herself. Just like her feelings about you taking them rollerskating or letting them eat candy after dinner: she doesn’t have to like it, but it makes the kids lives worse to be in the middle of that fight.

Yes, having an affair is a lousy thing to do. But healthy marriages don’t dissolve in cheating and divorce just because a pretty trollop shakes her booty at an otherwise stable family man. There was something wrong in that marriage that caused an affair. Like everything else, at some point you have to just get over it and accept that this new woman is part of your children’s family.

Photo: Oscar Alexander

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