I Wish Mom And Dad Were Still Together

These are words that can strike at the heart of a stepmother so it’s important to understand what kids really mean when they say this.

If you have lost one of your own parents, you might sometimes feel like saying “I wish dad were still around. I really miss him”. I think you know what I mean. It’s like sighing out loud. You sure wouldn’t want anyone to respond: “Well, that’s silly, he’s been gone for years!” You just need to say it in order to feel better. You are not looking for a solution, just a sounding board.

For kids, the loss of their family is like a death. They miss the entity that was their family. They don’t expect it to magically be put back together, they just need to say it out loud.

If you find yourself overhearing this, or talking about this with your stepkids, here are some important things to remember:

  1. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU

It’s about feeling torn in half. They live in two different homes, with different bedrooms, different food, different neighborhood friends. Perhaps there is even a pet who lives at one place but not the other. Due to the separation, they might feel the weight of having to deal with bitterness and or unhappiness of one parent, or a big difference in how happy and settled one parent seems compared to the other. They think that if their parents were living together again, those problems would go away.

2.  WANTING A NORMAL FAMILY

This is a big one for my own stepkids. One stepson in particular often expresses how badly he wants what he thinks of as a ‘normal’ family. This comes from not having enough life experience to understand the wide variety of family situations. They think their own family is the only one with these kinds of problems. They may feel that other kids are judging them or at least observing what they think are embarrassing things about their life.

3. EXPRESSING THEIR HURTS IN ORDER TO HEAL

Just like in the example I gave above, we all need to express our feelings in order to process them and be able to heal from our hurts. Imagine if, in the example above, you said those words to your mom and she responded by saying “But dad has been gone for so many years, I thought you would be used to my new husband by now” You would say, “Good grief, mom, it’s not about him! I just miss DAD!”

Hearing comments like “I wish mom and dad were still together” can have an effect of activating some of your ‘old stuff’. We all have old issues in our unconscious minds such as insecurity about belonging or how rejected or unimportant we were made to feel at another time in our lives. Try to notice when you are experiencing a feeling that you recognize from another situation and detach that from what’s really happening right now.

You want to develop a relationship with your step kids that will give them the security to come to talk to you about anything that comes up for them (think serious teenage issues!) without worrying about hurting or upsetting you.

WHAT TO SAY

Here are some samples you could try out:

“You wish your mom and dad were still together. Is that what you said?”

“I understand. What do you miss about that time?”

“Did something happen to make you feel especially sad about that today?”

“It’s OK to wish that! You’re allowed to wish whatever you want!”

Then, just stay in that wishing place with them for a while, let them feel your company. Let them talk about their old life and what they miss about it, or why they feel extra sad today.

You’ll be surprised what you hear when you just listen!

Is your partner struggling with guilty parent syndrome? Here’s help in 3 easy steps

What I want you and your spouse to know is that guilty parenting is not a crime. If you feel guilty about having caused some suffering, it’s a sign that you’re a good person, it means you have empathy! Guilt is actually a healthy emotion, it’s supposed to help you modify your behaviour. It pushes you to do better.

Shame is another story altogether. Shame shuts you down, makes you want to give up. That’s because guilt is about something you’ve done and shame is about who you are. Nobody should ever be shamed for their parenting fails; it doesn’t lead anyone down the road of a better life.

We all feel like we’ve let our kids down in some way, we feel guilty for the divorce that messed up their lives, we feel guilty that we can’t spend more time with them, that their standard of living has been affected, that you had kids with the wrong person, whatever.

What we don’t want to do is let guilty feelings hold us back from being the kind of parent our kids both need and really want. Guilty feelings should lead us to double down on our commitment to our kids; to make it up to them, (whatever we think “it” is) by being 100% of the dad they need even if  we only get to be with them 50% of the time.

We don’t want to fall into the trap of trying to make it up to them with stuff; believe me, they don’t actually want stuff.  And, they also don’t want to be the boss.  Being the boss of the adults is not a secure place for a kid. They want to be taken care of – to feel taken care of in whatever way they need. They need to see you in all your integrity, and guilt is just the thing to push you to do that, to do it for them.

Nobody else can do what you can do for your child/ren. Think about this: nobody complains to their therapist about how they never felt like they could ever be good enough for their Little League coach, their Boy Scout leader, their third grade teacher or the dad next door. We all spend our lives trying to win the approval of our parents and nobody else; your kids are hardwired to want to please you! You simply need to learn the trick to hacking into that desire and using it! You owe it to them to do that. If you’re a guilty dad, you’re a motivated dad.

I have three easy steps for you that are designed to help get you out of your own way and to renew confidence in your ability to parent the way you really want to, even through the disappointment and challenges of separation or divorce.

STEP ONE

Don’t change a thing! Not yet, at least.

Without changing how you interact with your kids, just start to become aware of what you’re already doing.  Try to notice how you feel when it’s time to correct your kids, when you’re “picking your battles”. The best coaches high-performance athletes and business leaders don’t tell them what to change, they just get them to pay attention to aspects of what they’re already doing.

Here’s a little exercise:

Q: When your child is misbehaving or annoying you, what do you feel in your body?

A:

Q: Which times of day is your child likely to be more co-operative or or more disruptive?

A:

Q: Do you prefer to have some routine and structure in your family life or do you like to just go with the flow?

A:

Maybe you’re a permissive parent by nature. It’s good to learn about the 4 main parenting styles. This  could really help you to figure out how naturally approach parenting and how you might choose to adapt that to get the outcome you’re really after.

STEP TWO

Sit back and let your child do the talking. Just be curious; there’s nothing more seductive than someone asking you questions. Did you know that your chances of getting hired at a job interview increase by asking more questions about the company?  Not only that, but  your chances of getting to a second date with someone are higher if you just ask more questions on your first date! 

If nothing else, just repeat what your kids say back to them with a sort of question mark at the end. Keep them talking and keep asking questions. Kids, like all people, want to be heard and understood.

It’s important to notice whenever you’re “zoning out”. Passive listening is not the same as active listening, and neither of them are effective if you’re looking at your phone. You want them to perceive that you’re interested in them, and the rest will fall into place.

Try and catch yourself zoning out instead of listening or asking questions.

Q: What’s your go-to escape hatch? Your phone? The TV? Work?

A:

Q: How does it feel when you keep yourself present? Bored? Frustrated? Restless? Annoyed? Reminded of your ex?

A:

Be curious about that too – notice how you feel. When you shine a light on something, it has a funny tendency to melt away on its own in time!

STEP THREE 

Stop thinking about punishments; instead, focus on follow through. What’s the difference? It’s subtle, but really important.

There are really only 3 reasons to discipline your kids:

  1. for safety,
  2. to build confidence, and
  3. as a way of giving life guidance.

Everything else is just noise. You don’t have to discipline your kids in the precise way that you were raised, or in a way that satisfies your partner’s style of parenting. Your job as a parent is to keep them safe, whether that’s preventing them from running out into the street without looking both ways, or teaching them how to resist the addictive pull of gaming. It’s your job to help them feel supported so they can confidently challenge themselves – in sports, in academics, in relationships. And of course, it’s your role to point them in the direction of achieving their greatest potential. Discipline, at its best,  keeps pointing them there again and again, the way a good coach keeps you focused on the end result of effort and excellence more than on the instant gratification of winning the next point.

As the parent of a child living in two homes, you’re constantly walking a fine line between holding limits for your kids and going easy on them so they don’t tell their mom they don’t like it at your house. In the case of  teens, there’s a fear that if they don’t like your rules they just won’t want to come over any more. The good news is, discipline is not about enforcing endlessly increasing punishments. It’s about choosing consequences that feel effortless for you to follow through with so you can demonstrate your integrity.

The number one path to superhero parenting is to show your integrity: consistently doing what you say you’re going to do. You don’t have to be an ogre. You can remain open and loving while you hold your ground. Start by offering something small rewards – ideally something involving your time and attention.  If they don’t comply, you’re always ready to try again to help them to do better tomorrow.

If you’d like some quick tips and sample phrases to get you started, you can grab my free cheat sheet called 100% Dad in Half the Time. You can hear my full podcast on this topic at the Essential Stepmom podcast wherever you listen. And there’s a Facebook group just for bio dads in blended families called One For The Dads. Send us a join request, we’d be glad to see you there!

Is Meditation Too Woo-woo For You?

You can still increase your awareness and benefit your step-parenting journey without sitting cross-legged or closing your eyes.

I’m a huge fan of meditation. It brought me to where I was ready to find a new partner 6 years after separating from my first husband. Strictly speaking, it allowed me to see him right in front of me, and to know with total clarity that going with my gut was a good move and not a crazy impulse I would regret.

I have since learned that everything my gut tells me from a place of meditative calm is something I should be listening carefully to. My gut instinct is the voice of my “higher self”, my inner being – the one that is connected to everything – and it knows better than my overblown ego what’s good for me and what’s not.

Want A Gratitude Journal Template?

Free! Just for Stepmoms.

If you’re new to using a Gratitude Journal, let me help you get going! Click here and I’ll send it over.YES! Send It Now!

I Hate Calling Myself A “Stepmom”!

I have been a “stepmom” for 12 years now, having already been the regular, normal, default kind of mom for some years before that wretched title was foist upon me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life with my husband’s kids. I just hate having to call myself somebody’s “stepmom”.

For the years before I was actually married to their dad, I used every term I could think of to keep from sharing the “S” tag with a legion of Disney villains that no child ever wants to have. As far as that goes, I’m pretty sure that no woman alive has ever had “stepmom” emblazoned on her bucket list, either.

I called myself “their dad’s girlfriend”. I called them “my roommates”. They were “my partner’s kids”. Once we got married, I had to just get over it and start calling myself what still sounded to me like like the equivalent of “mirror-dweller”.

We have no good archetypal models for the stepmom role. I’m not talking about the kind of stepmom who marries your after your mom died much too young. That’s Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle. Anybody would want to be her!

I’m talking about the woman who lives in one of the two homes you bounce between, and who isn’t sure exactly who she is supposed to be with respect to you. You might live with her full-time,  while openly idolizing your absent mom.  You might really love your stepmom but feel secretly guilty about betraying your mom.

Some women seem to like to be called Bonus Mom. This is definitely a term with its heart in the right place, but to me, it still smacks of a consolation prize or the extra round on a lottery ticket.

No, I think we’re stuck with “stepmom”, and it’s on us to own it. We need to engage ourselves in elevating the energy around that word. We need to imbue it with power and meaning and purpose. We need to be valued for sacrificing a great deal of personal autonomy in the process of hitching our wagon to a family project already underway. We need to stay above the day to day drama and focus on our role: helping to grow secure, confident, compassionate human beings despite the wounds of divorce.

Wow. I can’t believe I just said that. We actually rock. Let’s do this.

Stepmoms rule!!

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If You’re A Stepmom, There’s ONE Ingredient Your Cooking Is Missing

How does it feel when your stepchild doesn’t want to eat what you make? At very least, you probably feel irritated. You spent a lot of time shopping with them in mind and cooking what you think they will like. It’s hard not to take it personally, so you might even feel rejected, insulted, disrespected.

If saying no to your grilled cheese sandwich isn’t bad enough, how about when they will eat the exact same thing if their dad made it for them? What does he put in his peanut butter sandwich that’s not in yours?

You might think this child just manipulating you and dad!

I would argue that it might not be as simple as that.  I don’t think it’s manipulation, and it’s not a reflection of your parenting skills. It’s actually not about you at all. It’s about dad, whether he’s in the room or not.

Food is a representation of care from their dad, of what they need from him that they are not getting, for whatever reason. Food is an important part of the parent-child relationship, and wanting the food to come from dad is a sign of something they feel is missing in their connection with him.

Here’s an example that might hit home for you:

Imagine that you are dating your future husband, and you are hoping that he’s going to ask you to marry him.

One day you visit him at his parents’ home, and his mother surprises you with an engagement ring that she picked out for you. She says it’s high time you two got married and she’s tired of waiting for her son to pop the question. He stands behind her and says “Well, yes…of course I want you to marry me. Will you marry me?” 

That would pretty much suck as a proposal, am I right?

Here’s the thing – your future mother-in-law wants the same thing that you want, and she spent a long time looking for the perfect ring for you. It fits and it’s actually pretty nice. Your boyfriend has now proposed, and you’re engaged, so what’s the problem?

Well, it’s obvious to you (but not at all to your mother-in-law) that the ring needs to come from him! It’s an exchange that is supposed to happen between the two of you. It doesn’t matter that you now have a ring, and you’re engaged – it didn’t come from the right person! It doesn’t fill the emotional need you have around that object at all.

This is what it’s like for kids, even big kids, to want dad to cook for them. It’s reasonable for them to want dad to make the food, at least some of the time. It’s also a clue that he needs to give them more attention, the kind of attention that is focused on what they want to tell him or to do with him. It’s not about you, it’s about their relationship with dad and when they feel better about that, your whole family will feel lighter and easier.

My husband’s kids love it when their dad makes french toast for breakfast, or makes pizza from scratch. It’s like a big warm hug from him, and they don’t actually need that from me! 

I’m feel lucky that my step kids ate pretty much everything I ever made for them, with the exception of a few loser meals that I didn’t even want to eat myself! On the other hand, any time I have ever tried to reproduce dad’s special noodles in butter and soy sauce, they let me know that I will never get it just right. 

And the french toast? That’s my dad’s french toast that my husband tries to duplicate and he’ll never get that one to taste the same as when my dad makes it!

If you’re interested learning about helping your stepkids to eat more nutritious food, grab my free download of tips and recipes called “Let Them Eat Cake”. It even comes with 6 videos to help you let go of suppertime drama and make relationships a priority on your way to healthier eating.
tracypoizner.com/lpages.co/let-them-eat-cake/

How to Have Good Boundaries | Stepmom Wellness

As a stepmom, you probably often feel that your boundaries are being challenged, if not actually stomped on! Between the step-kids, your partner and the bio-mom, your ability to feel grounded and confident in your own home gets constantly tested. Boundaries can be personal, emotional or energetic. Here are 3 basic situations:

  1. Too much of you leaking out. It’s hard to keep your energy from draining away. You easily over-give or find it hard to say no. It’s like you can’t plug the holes in your borders.
  2. Too much outside getting in. You can’t protect yourself from outside influences. Others are able to hurt you too readily, and you might find that you easily feel the emotions of other people or even their physical pains. You need a kind of shield or cape to protect you from the outside.
  3. Both of these can be happening at once. Having weak boundaries makes it hard to stand up for yourself. This problem can show up physically as a weak immune system. Immunity is what protects us from invading germs, viruses, bacteria, etc.

Rituals are practical ways to reinforce good boundaries. Rituals are used in every culture and religion to purify our external and internal environment. Choose whatever feels good to you and make it as personal as possible so it will have meaning for you.

Physical Rituals

Insist on having some private space. You can make it emotionally and spiritually beautiful by including whatever feels good for you like art, music, nice smells, lighting, etc. It’s good to have a physical reminder that your boundaries are important and this place helps you to nurture them.

Take time away for yourself doing something or being with people who nourish you and help you renew and get perspective. This can even be a way to gently detoxify from negative energy in your home or family.

Emotional Rituals

The practice I recommend most because it works so quickly is doing a Gratitude Journal. The energy of gratitude will raise your overall vibration, and when you resonate at a higher frequency, you are less susceptible to harm from negative energy. You might have already noticed that when you feel really excited and joyful, you’re less interested in pettiness, gossip, immaturity or drama.

Disengaging doesn’t have to be physical, it can be a mostly emotional activity. Remind yourself from time to time to keep the right boundary between yourself and others – especially your stepchildren. There was a healthy boundary there once, and you might have dissolved it yourself! You can put it back with your mindful attention and everyone will feel better.

Energetic Rituals

We’re supposed to have a slightly negative charge to our body energy field,  not unlike the slightly alkaline (negative) pH of our body fluids. The best way to reset that good charge is to do grounding activities. Walking is great (especially in bare feet if it’s possible where you live) and gardening is also very grounding because we put our hands in the soil. Another great way to ground is to take a bath with Epsom Salts, which you can buy at any pharmacy.

Bach remedies are simple flower essences that work to balance our emotions. The best-known one is a blend called Rescue Remedy, but there are 38 of these and 2 stand out for making better boundaries. Centaury is helpful for people who are too easily influenced by a stronger personality and find it hard to assert themselves or to say no when they really wish they could. Aspen is for very sensitive individuals who just feel too open to everything outside themselves. They feel they can be hurt at any moment because they don’t have enough protection from inside.

Finally, the essential oil of clove is known as the oil of boundaries! Interestingly, it is one of the ingredients in the amazing immune support blend called OnGuard (or a similar blend known as Thieves). As I said before, our immune system is the part of us that is most connected to our boundaries because its job is to protect us from outside invaders. Essential oils are for external use only unless you’re being advised by a qualified practitioner. You can diffuse them or dilute and rub them on your feet, behind your neck or right on the top of your head!

All the above information is for educational purposes only. If you would like help getting started with your gratitude journal, I have made a little template to get you going. You can request it here:

Gratitude Journal

Hold Your First Family Meeting!

Maybe convening a family meeting sounds like as much fun as joining a Polar Bear swim on New Years’ Day, but if you do it right, it can be something everyone actually looks forward to. It also serves as a great way to accomplish a lot of crucial goals for your family:

  1. It makes rules and expectations clear.
  2. It gives everyone a voice and lets the kids tell you what they need or are struggling with.
  3. It avoids surprises
  4. It helps build a sense of comfort by becoming a reliable landmark among other family routines and rituals , and
  5. It makes everyone in the family feel they belong and are respected.

For the first meeting, tell everyone you’re going to try something new right after suppertime that night. If you have a weekly routine of doing something together like taking a walk or a playing board game, you can squeeze the meeting in between.

It’s important that the first few meetings should be strictly about showing appreciation for whatever is going well in your family. Acknowledge the kids for anything they have done lately to cooperate, to share, to help out around the house, to get their homework done. Announce whatever might be coming up the following week, especially any change of routine. We often take for granted that kids know when business trips are coming up or visitors are expected – even birthdays can take them by surprise!

Tell them you’ll post an agenda on the fridge that they can add items to. When issues come up during the week, show them how to add them to the agenda. Let them know you’re open to talking about these things and show it with your open-hearted attitude and good listening skills. Finish up with a family game, playtime, movie or whatever you like to do together. It would be a good time for allowance if that’s something you do in your family.

For the next few meetings, begin again by showing appreciation for things that have made your family run smoothly or created a happy atmosphere. After that, focus only on the kids’ concerns. Whoever is chairing the meeting should make sure that nobody gets interrupted, and that you avoid any negative patterns that could derail the meeting.

Make sure that everyone gets a turn to talk. If your family includes someone who can’t help butting in during someone else’s turn, use a talking stick or some other object that gives the holder exclusive rights to speak without interruption. You can lighten the mood of the whole thing by using something funny, like a stuffed animal or a silly statue to call the meeting to order.

When tabling possible solutions to a given problem, suggest a trial period of one week or two. Check in at the end of the trial period and revisit the topic to see if everyone is satisfied with the change.

Don’t include any of the adults’ concerns until your family meetings have become established, and begin gently with things that are not heavily charged with emotion. A family meeting is a great vehicle for reaching agreement about things like chores and allowance, curfews and consequences. Making decisions by reaching a consensus is always a better route than simply taking a vote because everyone buys into the final outcome instead of feeling that they were outvoted.

Wait for an appropriate before bringing up sensitive issues and never include things that are very personal or embarrassing for any individual – those should always be dealt with in private.

Be respectful of everyone’s dignity as well as their feelings. Do your best to make this an opportunity for new ways of connecting with your kids, especially as they move into the teen years.

Can you be a good stepmom if you don’t like kids?

Here’s what I think: the only opinion that matters about whether or not you are a good stepmom is the child’s. He or she is the only one who gets to weigh in on that. Not your partner, or his ex, or his parents or anybody else who wants to judge what you are doing.

Let me be clear – I like kids a lot! The focus of my work as a holistic health professional has been with children, specifically to help them with challenging behaviours. I believe that all children want to please their parents and other important people in their lives. When they don’t seem to want to do that, something is going on that needs to be healed!

But I also understand that a woman has every right to have life goals that just don’t include being a mother. And goodness knows, none of us ever set out on a quest to become a stepmom! It wasn’t on my bucket list, that’s for sure.

So, how can you avoid just feeling guilty all the time if you ended up with kids in your life via your spouse’s earlier relationship? What can you do that doesn’t make you feel like a total phony when you are with them?

From the child’s perspective, you can be a more-than-good-enough stepmom if you do two things:

1: give them more opportunity to get what they need from their dad than they would have if you weren’t around, and

2: give them the space and encouragement to love their mom while they are with you.

You see, when kids lose their family to divorce, they lose more than the chance to be with both their parents at the same time. They lose the right to love both their parents at the same time. It’s either mom or dad, all the time, and it’s just not good for the human heart to live like that.

To be a good stepmom according to the child, you have to be OK with hearing them talk about their mom and know that it’s not meant as a comparison with you. If you can just understand that it’s normal for them to miss their mom when they are with dad, you are already being a good stepmom!

When you hear them say “My mom has that same sweater” or “My mom gives makes better hot dogs”, you have to remember that they aren’t judging you. They are asking you to acknowledge that they have a mom, just as they might do if they were visiting a friend or if you were a teacher. All they need from a good stepmom is for her to say “Oh, really? Tell me more!”

The best part about being a stepmom who doesn’t like being around kids is that your instincts will lead you to give them the best thing in the world – more dad. It’s his show anyway – at least, it should be if the kids are going to get their basic emotional needs met – so just leave it to him.

Feel free to use visitation time to do some of the things you don’t do when you’re alone with your partner, like hanging out with your girlfriends, taking long walks immersed in a favourite podcast, sitting through a double feature at the art cinema or working out at the gym. He can carry on doing just what he would do if you weren’t in the picture!

Of course, you should make an effort not to telegraph your dislike, just as you do when you have a boss or co-worker you don’t care for. Schedule some time to be with them and do your best to be natural and friendly. Just make sure that it’s not longer than you can be comfortable.

If you need a little help relating to an especially difficult child, check out my free resource for tips on dealing with challenging kids:

Playing Hard To Like [10 Challenging Step-kid Personalities and How To Win Them Over]

A Stepmom’s Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

Remember, a while back, I asked for someone to share a loving relationship with? At the time, it was the most important thing in the world to me. I thought if I could just have that one thing – a partner – my life would be perfect. Well, you came through, and if I haven’t said it yet, I want to thank you for that one. 

Thanks also for the way you always sneak something I actually need wrapped inside something I want – good one, ol’ fella!

Nobody in their right mind would ever ask for challenges that will stretch them beyond their limits so they can’t do anything but grow. I didn’t ask for a life situation that would oblige me to become a better person in the coming year, but that’s what you sent wrapped up inside the love of my life. I’m doing my best, but I’d appreciate a little magic leg-up to help me on my way to that better version of myself you keep pushing me towards.

Please sprinkle some magic North Pole grace on my blended family. Family is usually bound together with DNA and lifelong memories. Those things make their own magic. We need your help.

Help my step kids to know I’m not their enemy. The best gift you could give them is to see me as a friend, someone just trying to help my partner to be the best parent he or she can possibly be. Help them know that I love them even when I’m deliberately looking the other way.

Gift my spouse the insight to see his/her kids the way I see them and to be able to parent them with confidence and strength as well as with love. If you’re sending books or videos, podcasts or emails to that end, please sprinkle something on them so he or she actually reads, watches or listens to them! (LOL. That means I hope you can tell there is love mixed in with my exasperation).

Help us as to communicate better as a couple and to spend enough time together to remember what we love about each other. If I may be so bold, Santa, some magical arrangement of childcare for this purpose would be most welcome this year!

And me? I need something to get over my habit of taking things so personally. Whether it’s being talked about behind my back or having kids in my house who don’t like to eat whatever I make, please send a fairy to sit on my shoulder repeating the words “It’s not about you, it’s never about you” so I don’t forget. If there’s room for me to add another three words to her vocabulary, let them be “lighten up, girl”.

About my naughty or nice track record, I know I don’t always sound grateful for some of the things that are propelling forward on my journey. Growing is painful work and this stepmom gig is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I hope you’ll be proud of me when you see how far I’ve come this time next year. 

I know what you’ll probably say – you’re proud of me already.

With much love to you and Mrs. Claus,

A stepmom.

6 Ways To Be A Stepmother Who Is Not A Mom

My personal approach to the role of stepmother is to avoid behaving like a “mom”. There could be good reasons to do otherwise, but for most of us I think this is the best policy and here is why:

  1. I’m pretty sure that females of all species are hardwired to scratch out the eyeballs of any creature who tries to mother our babies. You don’t need to wake this sleeping monster! Despite the rare and welcome cases where bi0 mom and stepmom become friends and cheerfully co-parent a child, 99% of perfectly reasonable women will become completely enraged if they hear their child call another woman “mom”. I know I would!
  2. It’s confusing for the kids. We’re simply not hard-wired to belong to two mothers (unless they are your only two parents and love each other). The “Loyalty Bind” isn’t really about a conscious decision of how to treat a mom or stepmom, it’s a completely unconscious drive deep inside a child’s heart to punish themself for loving two moms. We can spare them this suffering by being clever about how we approach our relationship with them.
  3. You can easily get burned out from overdoing and over-giving when you act like a mom. Many stepmoms feel resentful and unappreciated for all the mothering they do. It’s much healthier for you to let dad be dad, and to play more of a supporting role in the family dynamic.

Here are 6 types of persona or “alter-ego” that you can choose from in how you relate to your partner’s kids:

  1. Camp counselor
  2. Den mother
  3. A Friend’s Mom
  4. Mentor
  5. Auntie
  6. Fairy Godmother

THE CAMP COUNSELLOR

Did you ever go to sleep-over camp? If so, you might still fondly remember your favorite camp counsellor. A counsellor is a kind of teacher, but since they live with you right in the tent or cabin, you develop a closer bond. They are close in age, but different than a peer because they are older and wiser. They’re responsible for keeping you safe and for dishing out a certain amount of discipline. They can be a confidante who will listen with a caring ear to your troubles, especially if those problems involve your relationship with your parents.

A camp counsellor encourages you to get out of your comfort zone and try new, sometimes scary things. They oversee a wonderful time of growth and maturity.

If you are a high energy, fun loving type of person, this persona might be a natural fit.

THE DEN MOTHER

A den mother or dorm mother is a little bit more subdued in their energy than the camp counsellor.She might be like a Boy Scout or Girl Guide leader who provides a structured framework for adventures. She doesn’t make up the rules, she just enforces them while teaching life skills and other useful things. If she’s more like the kind of dorm mother at a boarding school or college, she’s probably not so actively involved in taking the kids out of their comfort zone. Instead, she provides a feeling of security they can rely on when they come in from the outside. She takes care of their practical needs and makes herself available for many kinds of problem-solving.

She can give affection when it seems appropriate but nobody would ever mistake her for the actual mother of any of her charges. There can be plenty of warm feelings between the den mother and the kids which might last a lifetime.

A FRIEND’S MOM

Think about what it was like to visit with your friends when you were a kid. That mom could keep you in line without ever acting as though she were your own mother.

In the role of Friend’s Mom, you can be authoritative, but in that “I know all about being a mom even if I am not your mom” kind of way. There’s always the idea that your friend’s mom will totally tell your own mom on you if you get out of line. Sometimes she lets you get away with things you are not allowed to do at home, but you also respect the rules at her house. If nothing else, you respect her when she tells you that you can’t do that at her house.

Sometimes you wish your own mom could be more like your friend’s mom. Sometimes you are glad your mom is not like her!

THE MENTOR

Remember that movie The Karate Kid? A quiet middle-aged man teaches karate to a bullied teenager and helps him regain his self-respect. He teaches him that the secret to success in karate lies in the heart and the mind, not just in the hands. He mentors the boy by passing on some important values and life lessons.

Yoda from Star Wars is another example of a mentor. He keeps the hero on the path toward victory and stands behind him giving support during the trials he has to face along the way.

If you’re someone who feels connected to your own important values, it can be very meaningful to mentor a young person and see them blossom and become a good human being. You can model behaviors for them as well as helping them solve problems with patience and creativity. Everyone should have a mentor in their life to help lift them up to a higher level of personal growth and achievement.

THE AUNTIE

This could be a combination of den mother and camp counsellor, but with the added element of “family member” thrown in. The auntie might secretly spoil her niece or nephew (I know mine did!) but she can be trusted to have their best interests at heart. Because she belongs to the extended family, a higher degree of physical affection seems acceptable.

An auntie can be a good intermediary between mom and dad and can sometimes recognize qualities in the child that the parents don’t notice. She can encourage the child in pursuits like drama or theatre that their parents might not approve of and make them feel that someone important believes in them.

She is a more long-term influence than the previous three personas because she is there from the child’s birth and presumably, for as long as she lives. She might keep in close contact with the child even if she lives far away or if the child moves to a distant place. She often embodies qualities that are lacking in the parents such as spontaneity, resourcefulness or independence.

THE FAIRY GODMOTHER

This is my personal favorite; I guess it just matches the energy I like to feel around my step kids. She combines wisdom with a certain magical playfulness. The Fairy Godmother understands their needs and provides just what is needed to solve their problems and propel them forward in their lives. She’s a good listener and can be relied upon to give sound advice.

The magical element is especially fun here; the Fairy Godmother is always ready to pull a rabbit out of a hat, whether it’s creating an adventure on the spur of the moment, making a nice meal from random leftovers in the fridge or knowing enough about home healing traditions to be able to take away a headache or relieve period cramps. She keeps a calm view of the future and can reassure them that everything is going to work out in the end.

There is a lovely saying that comes from ancient commentaries on the Old Testament: “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers “grow, grow”. The Fairy Godmother works quietly, even invisibly in the background, encouraging growth and propelling these young people forward into their adult lives. She works magic; some that they see and some that they don’t even know about. She loves the chance to do good in the world, and they are grateful to have her in their lives.

If you are not already a member of my Facebook group, The Spectacular Stepmom, click on the link to join. You might also enjoy my weekly Essential Stepmom podcast. Come explore the pages of the stepmom’s playbook with us!