Sunday, July 29, 2012

Managing the Relationship Between Moms and Stepmoms

One of the recurring issues I see in my practice is problems between mothers and stepmothers; particularly if Dad has primary custody of the children. I was one of those stepmothers whose step-child primarily lived with his father. And me, of course.

I didn’t really have many problems with mom. But then again, I was very careful not to step on her toes. As a stepmother, it is important to remember you are not mom; no matter how many motherly things you do for your stepchild. Or how much better a mother you may think you are to your stepchild.

Stepmoms, whatever you do, don’t make the kids call you some form of mom. They should be allowed to call you whatever comes naturally, provided it is not derogatory. If that is some form of mom, that’s fine. But if it is something other than "mom," take no offense to that. You are not mom. Have enough respect for the person who gave birth to your step child to allow her that title without your interference. You are step mom no matter what you feel or want. It is just a name or a title. What the kids call you is not reflective of your relationship with the child. The kids are just lucky to have another person to care and love them.

On the other hand, moms, try not to get offended or hurt if your child wants to call step mom, "mom" or some form of it. Kids understand that role and when they are with dad, there is a woman there who fills that role. Your children mean no hurt to you. They are just kids - they don’t have the capacity to understand why that might hurt you.

Step moms: It is important, whenever possible, that your husband handle the discipline and the communication with Mom. But moms, you have to keep in mind that from time to time, as much as you may not like step mom, you will have to communicate with her so it is good to have a working relationship with her. You don’t have to like her, but you will have to communicate with her in such a way that will not cause your children grief or stress. For example, there may be times you are both at a doctor’s appointment or at a school event.

Neither Mom or step mom should talk badly to the kids or around the kids about the other mother (yes moms, the step mom is a mother). If your child likes step mom, you don’t want him to feel like he is doing something wrong. Try not to feel threatened by step mom.

Speaking as a step mom, it is not an easy role. I think it is more difficult than being a mom. As a step mom, you walk a fine line every day. No matter what happens, it is your fault; not dads and sometimes that is a difficult thing to live with.

From time to time, I have seen step moms driving the family bus; pushing litigation in modifications. Step moms - you are not in charge! Not of your stepkids or their mom. Step moms must take a back seat in the decision-making process with respect to the kids, even if the kids live primarily with you. Major decisions regarding your step kids are made by dad and mom; not you. You have to step back and take a back seat to mom. If you don’t, all you will do is cause everyone grief - your husband and the kids.

The important thing to keep in mind is respect. Whether you are Mom or step mom. Respect the other mother and her role in the kids’ lives. You can’t change that role and if you try to, the kids will pick up on it and resent you for putting them in the middle. They will never forget it and may never overcome it.

Ami J. Decker

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