Yesterday we talked [and by "talked" I mean I preached and you read] about how to be a good mommy and play nice with your kids’ new stepmom. Today let’s talk about the role of stepmom. Here’s a short list of things not to do if you are a stepmom. Of course, you will sometimes faulter, but don’t beat yourself up about it. I know Lee will read this list and go “girl, take your own damn advice” in some cases. And all I have to say to that is…it’s hard being perfect all the time. *wink*
(1) Don’t try to be the bridge between your family and the bio mom. Let your husband deal with his ex. You don’t have the relationship with her. He does. So keep your nose out of it. Now that doen’t mean you need to keep your opinions to yourself in private. If your stepchild is coming to visit a day early or staying a day late or whatever, of course you and your husband should discuss and make sure it works for both of you. And you may have some choice words to say about something the bio mom has done, but it’s not your place to tell her. That’s your husband’s job. For many couples, visitation [or rather, making revisions to visitation] or child support or school fees or whatever are toucy issues. Sometimes arguments may arise. Let your husband fight those battles. Not you. Nothing pisses off a bio mom more than having her ex-husband’s new wife tell her how to raise her child. Don’t do it. Keep the peace.
(2) Don’t ignore his ex. You’re an adult. Surely you can be respectful and act like a grown up for a short period of time. Ignoring her just makes you look like a snob. Nobody says you have to be best friends, but sitting with your back to her at your kid’s basketball game is just rude. When you are in the same place at the same time, it’s most likely because you are at one of the kids’ activities. The kids don’t want to feel uncomfortable at their music program or their football game because you can’t act your age. They don’t want to feel like they are betraying their dad by sitting with their mom or betraying their mom by hanging with their dad. Don’t put your stepkids in that position.
(3) Don’t bad mouth the bio mom to your stepkid[s]. That’s their mom. And you aren’t their mom. You are just making yourself look like an ass when you talk shit about their mom to them. They don’t believe you and even if they do, they don’t want to hear it. Remember when you were a kid and you’d bitch about your mom because she wouldn’t let you do something you wanted. As soon as your friend said, “yeah, she is a bitch” you got all defensive and told your friend to shut up. You can talk shit about your mom, but if anybody else does you’ll beat their ass.
Plus you aren’t making any strides in greating a good bond with your step-kid if you’re slamming their mom. They aren’t going to confide in you or even hang out with you if they can’t trust you. And what’s more important to you, making your point to a child or bonding with said child? Get your priorities straight.
(4) Don’t bad mouth the bio mom to your husband. Even if he’s bad mouthing her. This was somebody he loved enough to have a child with and in most cases married. He doesn’t have the love feelings he used to have for her, but he still doesn’t want to hear you putting her down. She is still the mother of his child[ren] and honestly most men want to live in this little bubble that their kids are in a good place with their mom. They don’t want to hear you bitching about how she drinks too much or sleeps with too many men or whatever. Plus men tend to be anti-gossip. They only half listen when you gossip about your friends or your co-workers. They don’t want to hear you gossiping about their ex.
(5) Don’t listen in to every phone call your husband has with his ex. Also, don’t insist on being with him at every drop off and pick up. Give the man a break. If he still loved her he wouldn’t have divorced her. And if you don’t trust him enough to let him pick up his kid by himself, then why did you marry him?
(6) Don’t listen in on the conversations your stepkid[s] have with their mom. You may really, really, really want to know if they are complaing to their mom about you. But what good will it do you if you know? Are you going to jump on the phone and defend yourself? Do you realize how psycho that will make you look? I got news for you. He’s going to bitch about you to his mom. He’s a child. He will complain about you even when you were right. If you took away his Playstation because he hit his brother with the controller, he’ll be mad. He’s a kid. That’s what kids do. He’ll grow out of it. You’re the grown up. You’ve already grown out of it. Act like it.
(7) Don’t ignore your stepkids. To me this seems obviously, but I have run in to many stepmom’s who say when their stepkids come for the weekend, they just let their husband deal with him. It’s their special time together. To that I say, “WHAT?!?” So basically, you have custody of your husband during the week and every other weekend. And that’s a good marriage? Wouldn’t it be better if you just welcomed your stepkid in to your family. Yeah, taking a weekend to youself to get your hair done or see a movie with your friend is great. But you want to do that every other weekend? That’s a lot of hair you’re getting done and a lot movies with your friends. How about spending one of those nights on your couch at home with your husband, your stepkids, some popcorn and a DVD?
And it’s not just about you spending time with your husband. But it’s also about your stepkids. You may think they really appreciate you stepping aside and letting them have their dad all to themselves for the weekend, but you’d be wrong. I grew up as a stepchild to a stepmom who never really accepted me. I felt like an outcast in my own home. She loved my dad. So why couldn’t she love me? What was wrong with me? Kids are selfish. I don’t mean that in a spiteful I-hate-kids kind of way. I mean that in a that’s-how-kids-feel kind of way. Children and even teenagers think the world revolves around them. That’s part of the growing up process. They take everything personal. Don’t make them feel like they aren’t worthy of your love and attention.
(8) Don’t treat your kids better than your stepkid[s]. Yes, it takes a long time to forge a relationship with your stepchild. Yes, you don’t have to work that hard to forge a relationship with your own child. So? You’re point is what? Sometimes it feels like your stepkid is doing whatever he can to sabotage you. And sometimes he is. He’s testing you. Don’t fail the test. Remember, it’s not about you. If you have to, force yourself to be just as caring and loving and FAIR to your stepchild as you are with your own child. Don’t be Cinderella’s evil stepmother. Eventually won’t have to force it anymore. It will just come naturally. It just takes time [sometimes a lot of time]. But you can do it. Just be patient.
Being a stepmom can be a very rewarding [difficult, but rewarding] job. It will probably be one of the hardest jobs you’ve ever had. But you can do it. You just need to make the choice. Do you want to spend those years battling with you’re husband’s ex and fighting with his kids or do you want to take the peaceful path and sometimes just bite your tongue? To me the decision is obvious.
You can’t control somebody else’s actions. Only your own. You need to take the high road when you react to their actions. If the ex is a real loser, then you’ll just need to grin and bear it. Eventually she realize trying to torture you is no fun and give up. And in the process she’s only hurting her kids. Because eventually kids figure out who’s being manipulative and/or making poor choices. Make sure that’s not you.