Para leer en Español: Consejos para madrastras de parte de una madrastra

It takes a great deal of courage to accept being a stepmother.

Its sad to see movies projecting stepmothers like the bad one in the movieDisney, who taught me to believe in princesses, in my prince charming, in following my dreams, has failed me with this small role in life – the role of being a step-mother.

Although Disney is not to blame, it’s sad to know that the society we live in is still learning to live in this world where families separate, where approximately 50% of families end in divorce.

I constantly question myself on what to do and what not to do as a step-mother. How much should I get involve in Kiki’s life, a little? A lot? What tasks should I get involve and what should I leave alone?

So many questions. So little answers as every home and relationships between the families are different.

 I learned that the fact that your label isstepmotherit doesnt mean yourethe bad one in the movie“. Being a step-mother is emotionally difficult to accept because it’s not an easy job. It comes with lots of questions and decisions to make as you navigate this new lifestyle. 

As a  stepmother you have to deal with society not understanding your place.

Starting with the basics: In my personal experience schools are not yet able to handle that many of the children they are educating have two homes.  Events like family projects to do at home and they only send one – leaving the child wondering which home is the “family” to complete the project with. Another example, when it comes to the “open house” to welcome parents to school, teachers don’t seem to be prepared to deal with two families showing up per child and the parent that shows up second, having to sit in the back of the room feeling left out.

Then comes the other half of the issue, and for me probably the hardest one. How do you deal with the ex? With her emotional roller coasters when one day you are co-parenting together and the next you are the enemy. What do you do? How do you keep tings civil but at the same time defend your points and protect your house and your rules?

Being a Stepmother is a gift

Life gave you these cards and it is your job to do something good with them. Either you accept it and adopt the idea, or you look for a partner without children.

If you accepted the role of stepmother, you must act with love.

That child is an extension of your partner, and your partner feels and sees how you treat his children. Even if they don’t tell you, they feel it, they see it. They need you to be on their team and a support co-parent in their lives.

If you don’t accept them; you don’t accept your partner, period. You partner came with all his qualities, his flaws, his love handles, his gray hairs, and his past. And don’t forget, you also came with your own suitcase full of baggage of past experiences and laundry to be taken care of. Some like me, arrived with a past, a divorce and a dog. Other people, like my husband, came with a past, a divorce, and a son.

If the person you fell in love with has children, that child is as much yours as it is his/her biological parents. It is your role to be a positive influence and part of their lives. You must give as much love as you give to your own biological children, whether you like it or not, you are and will be part of their lives.

After all, when children have to go back and forth between homes, raising children becomes the responsibility of everyone involved in their daily lives, that’s why it’s called co-parenting.

Here are some tips for step-mothers that I have learned through my experience as a step-mother and have led me to a civilized relationship with the ex, a house full of love and a beautiful close relationship with my step-son. And as a bonus, a more special level of love with my husband.

Always act from a place of love

If you despise your stepchild because of your envy of the time and attention your husband gives his child and not you – its not love.

It’s not love for your husband. By taking away the possibility of creating a bond with his child. Surely the custody is shared, there is already 50% less time he could share with his child (and there are parents who may even have a smaller percentage of the time by only being able to see them every two weeks on weekend).

It’s not love for yourself. Because you believe that love is scarce and your husband doesn’t have enough for everyone. That by giving love to his child, is taking away the love he will give to you.

The love he feels for his child is something you can never replace, and neither should you want to. They are different loves and he needs both.

Do not despise, fight and criticize the child’s mother in the presence of her child.

Yes, dealing with the ex is no easy job, and she might do things that bother you and your partner but she is- and will be- in the child’s life for a long time. Don’t ruin his relationship with her based on your opinions of her.

By criticizing her in front of your step-child, you’re not hurting his biological mother’s feelings, she’s not there and the only getting hurt is your stepchild. Bio-mom has her special role with her own child and it is up to them how they build and nurture that relationship.

You’re not hurting your step-child’s father (your partner). He already divorced his child’s biological mother, and he already knows the good the bad and the ugly about her.

But do you know who are you really hurting?

You’re hurting yourself by acting out of spite. You’re serving poison in a cup and you’re drinking it yourself.

You’re hurting that little one. Because you are staining the image that has been created of his/her mother. It is not your place to tell or show him/her what he/she should or should not believe about his/her mother. It is not your place to compete with her.

Step-Parenting is not a competition

Did you know the little one doesn’t see it as a mother vs. step-mother competition?

And if he/she sees it that way, (because maybe you came into his/her life when he/she was older than the age my stepson was when we met) it’s your duty to educate him/her and show that it’s not a competition. You are not there to replace anyone, just to be one more person in his/her life. 

It takes a great deal of courage to accept being a stepmother.

It takes a lot of love to accept that role. If you accept it, it is because you chose it. You are saying YES and accepting all that comes with it. All the responsibility and benefits that comes with that YES.

You accept your husband as he is.

You accept everything he brought.

You accept to be with a man who has children, and you accept your step-mother role and what that means.

You agree to be part of his children’s life and help them become better people.

You agree to participate in co-parenting and you agree to act with love.

Your job is to support your husband by raising his child.

Your job is to make them feel part of your family.

Your job as a step-mother is to create your own relationship with your stepchild. Create your own habits, your own bond.

Your job is to teach him/her things that can make him/her a better person.

Your job is to help build a  create their own relationship and special bond.

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