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Stepparenting

Before Becoming a Step Mom

An open letter to women who are considering becoming a step mom. It can be a rewarding and wonderful experience, but only if you go into it with your eyes open.

I get a lot of email from women telling me heart-breaking stories about not really wanting to be step moms. If you are thinking about marrying a man with children, please consider carefully the following information.

There are real differences between dads who only have their kids every other weekend with two weeks in the summer, and those dads who have full or shared custody of their children. These very real differences significantly affect the women who choose to be step moms, as well.

Dads who are granted shared or full custody of their children used to be an extremely rare occurrence. In fact, out of all divorced couples with children, the mother has typically been awarded primary custody in over 90% of cases. But this pattern is changing, as dads take a more active role in fighting for custody and judges stop assuming that only women can care for children.

More and more women who are choosing to marry a man with children are going to find themselves helping to raise his kids. However, even if the man you are planning to marry does not have custody of his children right now, that could always change. Stepmoms have shared instances with me about bio mom passing away, about the situation at bio mom’s house become so volatile that dad had to take custody and even situations like mine, where bio mom chose not to keep the kids.

The point is, if you are considering joining your life with a man who has children (and the same holds true for the man in your life if you are a mom planning to remarry), you need to prepare to be married to a man with children.  Men don’t give up their children for their wives; in fact, if they were involved in a divorce, they may treat their children with kid gloves and be too lenient because they feel guilty, leaving you, the step mom, to come in and wonder why the kids are getting away with murder.  Your man’s children will also not disappear when they turn 18.  He will continue to love them and they will continue to be a part of his life – and yours.

I believe that being a stepmother can be a rewarding, fulfilling experience. However, I don’t think that happens unless you and your man spend a great deal of time talking about how you will all live together.  You need to know before you are entrenched in the situation whether he will undermine your authority by always taking the kids’ side and whether you have similar ideas on child rearing or not.

Most of all, you need to do some soul-searching to know whether your love for your man is enough to sustain you through the unavoidable stresses and challenges of building a new family together. Talk to my sister Tiana and I … we have had much different experiences with stepmothering … talk to the other women who are joining us in conversation here and gain some insight.

This is one case where looking before leaping is strongly recommended.

Get Shadra’ s book, Stories From a StepMom, available on Amazon Kindle.

11 replies on “Before Becoming a Step Mom”

I recently became a step mom and discussed parenting and discipline in depth prior to our marriage. Everything that was said and agreed upon has been subject to change. If I am no longer able to discipline the child when he is misbehaving is it horrible to say he cannot be left alone with me as that is the main time he acts up?

Opinions and much advice is needed?

*Don’t take the points in the above article lightly. If you feel you have already covered all your bases do it again, and again.

Tanya,

I’m sorry you are having a rough time. It’s so frustrating when you think you have everything worked out and then it changes. While it’s pretty normal for stepkids to push the boundaries when the bio parent isn’t around, it’s not ok to leave you in charge and not let you be able to discipline the child (and by discipline, I do NOT mean any kind of physical punishment, simply enforcing rules and delivering consequences when necessary).

Have you talked to your spouse (gently, kindly, when you’re not frustrated)?

Hopefully other stepmoms will chime in with their thoughts, too!

-Shadra

I am struggling with whether to commit to being a SM. I am 32 y/o nonparent, my BF is 30. After dating BF for a year he told me the girl he was casually dating just before me got pregnant with what turned out to be his kid, so he now has a baby girl and is in a custody/support battle with the BM. He and BM (22 y/o) were never married and she is engaged to another guy, whom she refers to as ‘daddy’ around the baby. Note, my first marriage ended in divorce (no kids), ex switched jobs and then went back to school so we were in different places financially and timewise, that caused some strain. I fear that BF will always have to commit his time/$ to the kid (we are both professionals and he’d have to pay quite a bit in support to BM–unfortunately in NY it doesnt matter how much time he gets w/the child, the more monied parent pays support). That means I will always have to contribute a larger share if we ever have a kid of our own, and maybe have fewer kids or not be able to give them everything i want b/c most of his $ will go to his first child. BM’s parents are paying her lawyer to fight for sole custody and max support from BF, BF is fighting back with his own $. The baby is 7mo now and everyone in BF’s family adores her. Admittedly, I feel some resentment and jealousy (BF’s brother and his wife just had a baby girl so focus is on the 2 new babies and I feel like an outsider)… But my BF wants me to ‘try’, says so many other blended families make it work and if I loved him enough I’d be willing to make some sacrifices (he does not expect me to parent his child but I’d have to put up with his having less time and $ for me/us).

Were it not for the kid, I’d agree to spend my life with him in heartbeat, he has everything I want in a partner, but reality is the kid and BM are in the picture, too. I’m scared to commit to SM life and find out the issues are more than I can take, not to mention I am aging out of the time to safely have kids of my own and thinking, maybe I should try to find someone w/o the baggage (although in my age bracket its hard finding a good guy w/o kids already). I hate to give up the great relationship I have had with BF but I feel like everything will change and with such a difficult BM (she fights him on every point), how can it work in the long run? Any perspective is appreciated…

Jess,

I’m not a licensed counselor or anything – just a mom and stepmom who has seen so many people in your place take the wrong step forward.

I’m not trying to be harsh, but the fact that you have this many misgivings and say that he ‘would be’ the perfect man if not for baby, and the fact that you are hung up on the financial aspect of it, means you should absolutely NOT move forward.

YET.

You may get there and be fine..but you have far too many concerns to overcome (and too much resentment toward the baby and the financial obligation she will entail already) to make the commitment right now.

What I didn’t see in your message was how your BF feels about having a baby, but you do say that he is fighting hard to obtain visitation. Doing the math, the most you and your BF can possibly have been together is 16 months, and likely less than that. Do you really know him well enough to know if he is the right one for you? Do you know how being a father will impact how he prioritizes his life?

You also don’t say anything about how he supports you in all of this, and to me, that’s the deal maker or breaker. If my husband had kowtowed to his ex-wife or placed so much emphasis on his kids that he excluded me or it left me feeling outside of the family, we would not have survived. Instead, he included me in decisions about the kids, he demanded the kids respect my place in his life, and he was open and honest with me about his obligation (financial and emotional) to them.

Moving forward was a joint decision, and it sounds like your BF wants you in his life, but I think the two of you ought to do a LOT of talking to make sure you both understand how each other feels and whether or not moving forward would be as good for you as it would be for him.

Is his family supportive of you? Do you (when people aren’t oohing and aahing over babies) feel a part of their family?

There is so much that goes into making a relationship work…and the one thing you cannot change is that your BF is now a dad. That will not change for the rest of his life. The only question is, can you be a part of it?

I wish you the best of luck, and encourage you to open the lines of communication with your BF about how you are feeling. Hopefully others will have some advice to share, too…

Keep in touch!
-Shadra

Hi Jess
I know that this feed is over two years old but I am in the same situation as you stated above with joining into a relationship with a man who’s ex girlfriend was pregnant at the time. We have been together for about 18 months and he has a 10 month old. I find that I have resentment toward the mother and the amount of child support that we/he gives out each week. I also feel alienated by his parents when his son is around. Almost like I don’t know what I’m doing and nor does he so his mother just does everything and I truly want to try but when I feel like I can never get a word in edge wise, etc I feel like I can’t do it. We also have some differences in how we parent, so that is a slow process. Right now we have his son twice a month over night and on the off weekends my BF goes on his own for visitition on the weekend. I have only met his son around 10 times. I have no connection to him. He really doesn’t know me, so I get that he doesn’t come to me, etc I’m not a kid person but I’m trying so hard to be because I truly love my BF and I really think he is the one. I want to be a part of his life and with that comes his son. I guess I just wish that I felt like I mattered when his son around and not just when we are alone.
I just wondered too if you are still in the relationship with your BF and the process that it took to be where you are.

I think one of the most important things to remember is that the rules and guidelines have to constantly change and evolve as the situation does. If what you agreed to prior to marriage is not working then it has to be revamped! One approach I have found works well is to do what is best for “our family”. Then it is not your kids or his kids, but the family unit as a whole.

If the child is acting up when left in your care, it is up to your husband to deal directly with the child to express that misbehaving for you is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Then you must have consequences if the behavior continues. No computer time, game system, etc. The most important thing is for you and your husband to be a united front and working together for what is best for the family. Hope that helps!

I loved this article- right on.

I have been a stepmom for two years now and literally the only problem is the mother.

If there is any advice I would give stepmoms or stepmoms to be is,

1. Dont lose yourself- YOU ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE HUSBAND/BOYFRIEND AND THE KID
2. Focus on your husband (this one holds up whether you are a parent or not)
3. Focus on building a positive relationship with kids free of any sort of parenting and let the kids set the pace

When I first met my munchkin, she HATED me- understandably as mother had drilled into her head that daddy “abandoned” her for me. I began slowly. Whenever it was visit time, I would remove myself for about an two or three hours so that she can have daddy all to herself. Then I would participate in whatever family activity was going on. Slowly but surely, she felt more comfortable with me and realized daddy was never going away.

I can thank God, or the cookie monster (lol), because now we have a beautiful relationship.

As for the mom, she is still just as hostile and venomous as she was when I met my husband- LONG after they had broken up (never married).

Sadly, I treat her like what she is: a non-entity in my household. I have no respect for this individual.

But be warned, even when u have a good relationship with your step-kids, there will be days when you’ll have the rug pulled from under you as you hear your stepkids repeating what mommy is saying. STILL- keep your dignity intact and ignore it.

One thing I will note though is: If your concerns/reservations are against the child or your partner’s parental responsibility, then please do not become a stepmother because you will become the stereotypical meanie we all seem to be bundled into.

Lala,

Brilliantly said!! I completely agree – especially with the part about not becoming a stepmom if you have concerns or reservations. Those concerns & reservations often manifest themselves in horrible, passive-aggressive ways against the stepkids and even the husband. You have to be all in – good, bad and ugly.

Thank you so much for sharing your insight & advice!!

Shadra

Any advice for a new step mom to an infant? My Husband and I dated for 5 years and then broke up for almost a year and then got back together and married. During that year someone that he briefly(Less than a month) saw became pregnant. Im very open to our life because this child will grow up having two families, and we might be able to avoid some of the usual problems. The only issue now is the childs mother. She is very against me being in the childs life and continues to make statements to my husband, saying that he should be with her and that they should be a parenting team and that doesnt include me. She even keeps the child from him, unless he is alone. Any advice on how to deal with this?

Oh Betty, that is sad!! How is your husband about this? Honestly, it will take his help to smooth this out over the long-term, including fighting for custody and visitation of the child, remaining involved in the child’s life, and insisting on your involvement as his wife and the mother of his future children who will be this child’s sibling.

My advice to you is to be supportive to your husband in building a relationship with this child and participating with him in obtaining custody and visitation rights. Avoid having any confrontations with bio mom, as it will not lead to anything good. Be patient… If you and your husband have a strong relationship, you will be able to work through this.

You may need the help of a lawyer for custody issues and a family counselor to work through the other challenges…I would ask you to be empathetic, too, since it would be very difficult to share an infant with anyone…but don’t give up on loving the baby and being committed to being there. No baby can ever have too many hearts loving him or her.

Good luck, and feel free to keep in touch. I’ll be interested to know how things progress.

Hi, I’m in a bit of a strange situation too. Feel like I have no one to talk to. I have been friends with this guy for a year now, we were both married. Earlier this year in January, we decided that we liked each other. We knew that we have both had issues in our marriages that we had tried to resolve but they weren’t the people for us. We had decided to get divorced before getting involved, two weeks later, he found out that his wife was pregnant. He had told his wife that he wasn’t ready for kids yet and she went off her contraception anyways, saying that nothing will happen, he mustn’t worry. He told her he was leaving anyways. He is distraught. He always wanted a little girl but not with her. I am divorced now, but his side is complicated. He left her in January, separated. But she has been in denial. We have started seeing each other in Feb. I am devastated. I love him. I pictured myself pregnant with his baby. Sounds stupid and I’m normally so level headed. I’m 30 by the way. We have spoken about the baby. I do have many insecurities and I get jealous. And I have my up and down days. Mostly I just want to be involved so that I’m not left out. And I realise it’s not my baby. And it hurts that it’s not. But I just want him to involve me. But he says that he wants to take it slowly and not force me on her. I’m just worried there is never going to be a good time for me yo get involved. Sigh. Is it me, my insecurities. Am I impatient?

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