I think it is important in all areas of life to try and be empathetic and try to attempt understanding of another’s point of view. Too often us step mum’s can see the ex-wife as someone who is trouble or causes unhappiness in our lives.
Unless we have been through a break-up and have kids with an ex, it can be quite hard to what understand what they must be going through. I am sure no-one goes into a marriage expecting it to end and then become a single parent.
I have a good friend who has (in her own words) a fairly difficult situation with her stepfamily life. Her ex-husband has remarried and now has a child with his new wife, so her kids have a step-mum. It isn’t a perfect scenario in her eyes.
I asked her to give me an insight into how she views the situation, as I feel this could help stepmum’s to change their mindset about an ex they perceive to be difficult.
Now I know a lot of what I say is to stay in your lane, focus on your happiness and not let the ex bother you, but I still feel it important to show empathy and understanding to others, especially in a stepfamily situation.
Also, I want to add that in my eyes, some of what my friend said I don’t necessarily agree with. But that is because I am not in her position and can’t possibly understand how she feels.
Neither one of us are right or wrong! We are just different.
I think it’s totally ok for a stepmum to do her own thing when the kids visit, or for the stepmum, dad and their ‘ours’ babies to go on holiday without the stepkids. The stepkids most probably go away with just their Mum, so why should the ‘ours’ babies miss out on having alone time with their Mum too?
This obviously doesn’t mean never sharing experiences with your stepkids, it just means that it is acceptable to want to have bonding experiences with your own biological children separately from your stepchildren.
Also, it is important in my eyes that the kids have one on one time with their Dad, without the stepmum being there.
It can also be quite hard to create a family environment in a stepfamily, as a stepfamily does not work by the same rules as a first family. Stepfamilies take on average 5-7 years to ‘blend’, and those are the ones that do actually blend. A lot of stepfamilies can’t for one reason or another, merge together seamlessly. Although I know a lot also do! Again, there is no wrong and right. Each family has to do what works for them, with the happiness of the kids and their marriage holding equal value.
In an ideal world, a stepfamily would become a strong and bonded unit, but I have found that if you take the pressure off yourself to be an intact and close family, sometimes the ideal family environment emerges for you.
All stepfamilies (and families for that matter) are different, and it is sometimes a case of finding out what works for you.
But anyway, here is what my lovely friend says…..
Firstly, I was happy with the step-mum because she seemed to make an effort with my twin son and daughter, and they came back telling me how nice she is and how she made things for them.
I loved that.
I never felt jealous at all but I think some mum's can do and that's not right. In my view a good mum should want as many people as possible to care, love and give to their children. Their father was nicer and kinder to them when she was around, so I came to love her.
However, a few years later she had her own child and things changed. I hear this often does. She then clearly cared only about her daughter and dismissed and ignored mine. They told me awful things like she went out with her daughter to the park and left them with their dad while he worked from home.
That she wouldn't let them in the lounge if they had colds as she didn't want her child getting sick and made them sit far away and eat separate (when you have more than 1 child in any home you just never do this so doing it with step children is just clearly mean).
Their little stepsister is now almost 5 and they don't do things together as a family often with the twins. One or two times a year maybe.
But mostly they go away without the twins - the 3 of them - or she goes off with her kid to do something with friends and family while he takes the twins out or has them at home - this is very difficult for my kids because without understanding it they feel left out and unwanted.
They often say they don't feel wanted or loved by their dad or step mum. I have heard so many negative stories it has prevented me from having a new relationship - I work long hours and am just too tired for the trouble and hassle a relationship with stepchildren might bring to my life.
A guy I worked with said his 18-year-old stepson dashes into the shower and locks the bathroom door the moment he hears his alarm going off just to prevent him shaving and showering before work. He stays in there over an hour no matter what time he sets the alarm. The guy has to shave and shower in the toilets at work! It's been going on for 6 months.
Another woman I know is upset because her 2 kids and her boyfriend yell and argue constantly and the house is utter chaos and nothing she tries works.
From a biological mother’s point of view, here are 6 things I would say to any step mum:
1) Imagine yourself as your stepchild and seeing you from their eyes - is that how you would expect/want to be treated?
Sometimes you don't realise how you are seen. Stepchildren may feel jealous or like the outsider in a situation too.
2) Make your home a safe sanctuary for all the children you are both responsible for.
Children deserve the right to feel like they are welcome in any home they spend time in. This leads to a more secure and confident child.
3) Create a family environment for all of you together.
Instead of seeing the visiting children as baggage or a hassle. Children pick up on these things and know when they are not wanted. Imagine how it feels to feel unwelcome in your own home.
4) Where possible, try to do things with the other family.
I have invited the step mum and her child for lunch or dinner or park visits so the kids can see each other’s homes, but for some reason they can never do this. I think this is a real shame. If all adults worked together the kids would be happier - this is very hard for many to achieve.
5) Create time to bond 1-1 with the stepchildren.
There are cases where step kids have a closer relationship with their step mum or dad than the stepparent’s biological kid - it does happen - so be open to that. I feel it is really important to get to know the kids. You never know, you may have a special loving bond that lasts a lifetime.
6) Never discipline another person’s child unless you have a secure and strong bond with your stepchild - it backfires every time and they might resent you.
Ideally, the father should be doing the disciplining. If it is possible, could you speak to the biological mum about the kid’s behaviour? I know I would be totally open to speaking to my kids’ step-mum as my kids father isn’t the best at disciplining and she may do a better job.
It is not easy parenting kids let alone step-parenting and the lack of consistency between adults makes the kids behaviour worse and harder to manage - team work is always the best option where possible.
Obviously, this is all easily said and is the perfect way but not always feasible.
Most stepfamilies are challenging and include too many adults and conflicting schedules.
It is the hardest thing ever to make stepfamilies work... The biological mum and the dad MUST be strong on discipline and respect, so the kids aren't awful to the stepparent and vice a versa.
I have full respect for step-mums - I know how hard it can be - hence why I've not had the courage to even try it.
....... I hope that helps. Sometimes we can get wrapped up in our own lives and forget how others view a situation.
Empathy, patience and understanding can go a long way - and help your own sanity too!