If you’ve been a stepmom for longer than 5 minutes, you know how confusing the role is.
Unlike being a birth mom, there is no rule book, or even standard of behavior for stepmoms. Even if there were, we all have different interactions and time with our stepkids, any other parents involved, and kids who may or may not love us or even accept us.
So what’s a stepmom to do?
Turn to other experienced women, ask questions, and learn new methods. And take the information and apply it to her own situation.
At the very least, she’ll gain a sense of community and not feel so alone. At most, she might find a creative suggestion that is perfect for a unique situation.
And besides, we all need stepmom friends!
So, after years of talking to and reading questions from other stepmoms, I’ve compiled this list of frequently asked questions about being a stepmom.
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What should my stepkid call me?
This is, without a doubt, one of the most talked-about questions I see. Overwhelmingly, most stepmoms answer that their stepkids call them by first name.
However, there is a lot of room for other answers here. Bonus mom is another popular name, but it doesn’t roll off the tounge very smoothly.
Just make sure your stepkids and your spouse are comfortable with whatever the name may be. If their birth mother is around and involved, I’m sure she will have an opinion, as well. It would be considerate and a safe bet to ask her. That does not mean you have to go with her wishes, but they can at least be considered.
Don’t go through the heartache, though, if it is a high-conflict situation where you are not accepted. You likely already know what she’s going to say.
My stepkids call me Amanda and Smom, interchangeably.
When we first told them we were getting married, they were ecstatic and said they would call me mom. We assured them they did not need to, but could if they were comfortable with it. Two days at their moms house and my middle step-daughter actually cried when a boy at school asked if I was her mom. She yelled and said, “She’s not my mom.” I understood what likely caused this response so I didn’t take it personally.
We decided we would to stick with Amanda or another name we came up with. That’s where Smom came from and it has stuck. Additionally, I get to call them my Skids, which is worth a laugh every. single. time.
It is unusual to have children that you care for call you by your first name. It almost feel dismissive, at first. But given time, it can become natural. Especially as you become more comfortable in your position.
I would encourage you to not think so much about the title but the relationship. You know what you do for your family. If being called “First Name” is the way to keep peace, roll with it and move forward knowing you are more important than just a name.
What do I do if I don’t like my stepkids?
This is tricky. Hopefully you are able to figure this out before you marry their father. Because, honestly…..those are his kids and if he is worth it, HE SHOULD CHOOSE THEM OVER YOU!
But let’s assume you find yourself in a situation, for whatever reason, where you are a stepmom to kids you do not like.
The first thing I would recommend is therapy. And no, it’s not because there is anything wrong with you. As a matter of fact, it is pretty normal to struggle with kids that aren’t your own when you’re put into such a tough situation.
But a therapist can help walk you through those feelings. They can give you help in dealing with them productively. Heck, they can even give you a chance to talk to someone on the outside who won’t judge you for feeling that way.
The second thing I would recommend is trying to build a relationship with your stepkids anyways. It’s a pretty safe bet that if you don’t like them you probably don’t have much of a relationship with them. Getting to know them a little better may help. Even if it’s something as simple as going for a coffee and trying to talk.
You could also try asking fun questions to get the ball rolling. I posted 55 fun questions to ask your younger stepkids and you might find them helpful.
I’m not going to lie and say that building a relationship is they key that will definitely make it all work. You might find, after getting to know them, you like them even less. That’s where the therapy can help you come to terms with those feeling and process them correctly.
There are plenty of workable, respectful, and mature relationships where love and like don’t come in to play. But you can learn to live with their presence and have peaceful interactions regardless.
Also, remember that you are not failing just because you do not love them unconditionally. I’ve seen, more times than I can count, a stepmom tell another stepmom that they should love their stepkids unconditionally.
If you do, that’s amazing. It’s an excellent goal we can all strive for. But it takes time, and effort, and a bit of luck. You can still be a good and successful stepmom even if you don’t have unconditional love to offer.
What do I do if my stepkids disrespect me? They treat me like dirt!
This is a two-step answer. They are both necessary and they must be done in this order.
- Set your boundaries. Decide what you are going to tolerate and what you are not. Importantly, you must also communicate these with your stepkids. Let them know you will not accept them talking back to you (or whatever the case may be) and let them know exactly what the consequences will be. Make sure everyone – including your spouse – is EXACTLY CLEAR on what your lines are.
With any luck, this will be enough. Kids thrive with boundaries and sometimes they just need to know what they are. We have a tendency, as stepmoms, to think that “this is mom’s fault” and “they’re doing it because I’m the stepmom.”
However, sometimes it’s just a matter of kids being kids and testing boundaries. BUT, if it doesn’t work, it’s time to move on to step two.
- Make your spouse step in/up. Sometimes you need to call in the ‘big guns’ to get boundaries enforced. If it’s a respect issue, where they do not see you as an authority figure they need to listen to, then it’s time to get the authority figure they DO listen to involved. Dad needs to make it clear that they support your authority and boundaries and they will be enforced. If he is unwilling or unable to help, well, that’s a bigger issue and one needing its own answer.
If even Dad cannot get the kids to listen or obey, you’re dealing with issues that don’t have anything to do with being a stepmom. Interventions on a bigger scale are necessary and they are something that Dad needs to be leading.
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We keep losing clothes to Mom’s house. How do I keep my stepkids clothes at home?
There are a lot of options here, but I’m going to tell you what we do. It’s has been entirely successful and keeps clothes where they were bought. But before I get there, I’m going to take a (super quick) pit stop.
Please don’t call them mom’s clothes and dad’s clothes! They are your stepkid’s clothes. Instead, refer to them as their clothes that belong at mom’s house and their clothes that belong at dad’s house. Also, don’t make the poor kids haul stuff back and forth. Have a complete set of everything at your house so they feel like they belong there, as well.
Ok, now back to the original point. We have a 5-2-2-5 schedule. We are easily able to do laundry while they are home.
Wash and send them back to their mom’s house in the outfits they came in. The only exception to this is on short weeks where they arrive in school uniform. In that case, they can either wear an outfit they brought from Mom’s house or their school uniform. Either way, no clothing is leaving the house that did not come into it.
It’s a tough fight at first. You might lose a few pieces of clothing along the way, but eventually, everyone settles in.
Because we have been doing this for 6 years, it’s made the transition into the teenage years a little easier. They are used to the process. If for any reason they do not want to wear the same outfit a few days later, they bring a different one.
How do I deal with the stepmom outsider syndrome?
The first thing I want to tackle is why stepmoms feel like outsiders. And really, it’s pretty easy to understand. Stepmoms have entered a family and are trying to find where they fit. Often, they’re being told they shouldn’t be and aren’t wanted there.
Rules, norms, and habits are already in place that a stepmom had no influence on. Really, we should be asking ourselves why a stepmom wouldn’t feel like an outsider!!
So how do you combat outsider syndrome?
There are a few things you can do that will help. At least until you get your feet underneath you and start to understand your place a bit better:
- Add your own rules and routine to the family. With your spouse’s help, you can slowly work in things that are important to you. It’s not as easy as if it was just the two of you, but it definitely comes with the new stepmom territory.
- Have a quiet space that’s all your own in your home. At the very least, you’ll have an escape hole when you need a break. But your home should feel like yours also. If that means carving out a corner, then do it!
- Manage your expectations. Don’t assume you’re going to roll in and be the new mom. As a matter of fact, you may never be the mom. But you are now a part of the family. Take it slow and figure out what that means. Don’t feel like a failure if it doesn’t happen quickly.
- Tackle one thing at a time. You’re going to have a list of things that bother you pretty darn quick. Approach that list one at a time and come up with a solution. If you can see you’re making progress, it will make your long list seem do-able.
- Know you are not alone. Some statistics show as many as 14 million stepmoms in America alone. That’s a lot. And they each feel like an outsider. Which is amazing given that blended families are on the rise while traditional families continue to decline in number. (Source)
Questions about biomoms
You may notice that I didn’t tackle any questions about biomoms on this list. And let’s be honest, a majority of stepmoms have struggled with biomoms.
I can’t put a number on the times I’ve thought myself or about other stepmoms/biomom relationships, “You think they’d be happy that someone the kids love and who loves the kids is in their life.”
But that’s rarely the case. And for a list of reasons that can’t possibly be unpacked in one post.
Because I understand how tough these relationships are, I want to give them the time and attention they’re due. This blog will tackled these questions, but they will be one at a time and in much more detail than I’ve given here.
Bringing it all together
If you take anything away from this post, let it be that you are not alone. There are stepmoms all over the world asking the same questions and dealing with similar struggles.
There are likely solutions to your struggles. You just need to find them. And I’m here to help.
Take a stroll through the stepmom posts on my blog and maybe you’ll find an answer. Or email me at Amanda@thewindingwillows.com. I love talking to stepmoms!
Comment below with your biggest struggle as a stepmom and how you’ve overcome it.
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