When I first met my future stepchildren three years ago, I knew they were immediately judging me. In their minds, I was going to be the “evil stepmother.” You know the one portrayed in children’s movies: the tall, mean lady that would take their dad away, lock them up, and make them do all the chores. Seriously, I’m convinced that children’s movies about stepmothers have ruined everything for us real-life stepmothers.
Immediately, I did everything I could to eliminate this misconception. I was nice and friendly. I gave into their wishes to stay up late, have candy, and not brush their hair. I tried my best to be a “cool” stepmother and guess where that got me? Nowhere. They stepped all over me and did what they pleased. I wasn’t “their mom” — they made that very clear and so did their mother. Also, I didn’t have the authority to make mom-type decisions or co-parent.
Once I realized all of this, I made a decision to accept my role as a “stepmother” and part of that meant I couldn’t let these kids walk all over me or take advantage of me any more. I wanted to show them that they needed to respect me, but I needed to go about it in the right way. I was going to be kind but not a push-over. I wasn’t going to suddenly turn into the classic “evil stepmother” but I was going to be an important figure in their lives.
Every other week, they are under my care. I, along with their father, am responsible for what happens to them. There are house rules that must be followed. I expect my son to follow the rules, so my stepchildren and anyone else that visits the house need to as well. When my stepkids are with us, I clothe, feed, and care for them just like I do my own son. I play games, organize birthday parties, craft, laugh, and most importantly listen. I listen to every word they say. I listen attentively when they want to talk about how they are feeling, what is going on at home or at school, and about their favorite TV shows. My role is to make sure these children are happy, safe, and healthy when they are in my care. You want to stick that under the word “stepmom” go right ahead but don’t you dare add the word “evil.”
Even though I try hard to erase the “evil stepmother” misconception, I still have days where I want to lash out. I want to yell at them. I want say mean things about their mother. I want to run away and never come back. But do I? No!! I take a few deep breaths, calm down, and talk to them, not yell, talk. I also listen to what they have to say. I listen politely, especially when the tough questions come up. I put myself in their shoes. It’s hard for children to have to deal with their parents’ break-up. On top of that, there is the creation of two new families. One family is difficult enough to handle, imagine being 7, 8, and 9 and having two families. I sit back and listen. I listen like a friend. A friend is exactly what a child of divorce needs.
It’s not always easy, but I am trying to make it work. I would like to set an example with my stepkids. According to the Census, about 1300 new stepfamilies are forming every day. That’s a lot of stepfamilies. I would like to show them that stepmothers rock. Maybe movie studios will catch on and the next big kid’s movie will feature a kind and loving stepmother to break the “evil step-mother” stereotype!More On