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Ask Yourself

* Is living in a Blended Family or a Stepfamily “more than you bargained for?”

* Does step parenting feel like the most challenging and thankless job of all?

* Is the tension and conflict taking its toll on your relationships

* Are you becoming worried about your children and their well-being?

* Are you constantly arguing with your partner about the kids, discipline and parenting in general?

• Is your ex or your partner's ex causing real problems in your blended family and in your relationship

• Are you at the end of your rope and need some answers NOW

* Are you considering entering into a Blended Family or Stepfamily and want to be prepared?

Stepmothers - Surviving and Succeeding


Step Institute

It has been estimated that 50% of all women are likely to be in a stepfamily or blended family relationship at least one point in their lifetime. With this in mind, it’s time that all women, consider the likelihood that someday, if not already, they may be in the Stepmother role. As a child, no one ever says “I want to be a Stepmother when I grow up”; honestly most of us never even consider the possibility until it is right there in front of us. The first time you consider choosing a partner with children, is when you begin to wonder what it means to be a step mom. At that moment you need to begin educating yourself thoroughly about the world you may be entering into and the decisions to be made. Being aware of and preparing for the incredible challenges ahead as a step parent, is one of the best predictors of your ability to survive and succeed in the role.

Surviving or succeeding is not an either or scenario. Actually, surviving is the first step towards succeeding and you can do this in a number of ways, beginning with putting yourself in a front runner position. So much is written about how stepmothers can fit in and make their stepfamilies and blended families the best they can be. The problem with this simplistic approach is that the stepmother is not included as an equal member of the equation, with needs and hopes of her own that need to be taken into consideration. Remembering that this is your life too sounds so simple, but is actually one of the keys to survival.

Too many stepmothers approach the task with an eagerness to take away everyone’s pain and in an effort to rise above the stereotype of the “wicked Stepmother” many also overcompensate in ways that lock themselves into the role of martyr (to varying degrees). You may truly want to take care of everyone else but if you fail to do the same for yourself, you will almost certainly burn out over time. You may likely begin to resent not only being swallowed up and taken for granted by your new family, but also the over dependent step relationships that you had a large part in creating. There are many reasons why stepfamilies don’t succeed and the unrealistic overzealousness of new step moms, which gives way to burn out over time, can be a major predictor.

For many Stepmothers Mother’s Day can be very difficult and painful. Stepmothers usually have similar parental responsibilities, but without the respect, appreciation or adoration which is reserved for “real or biological mothers”. Mother’s Day symbolizes the importance and sanctity of motherhood, not necessarily “step motherhood” and can leave stepmothers feeling forgotten and unappreciated. If you are a stepmother, you first of all need to appreciate yourself for being willing to take responsibility for the raising of someone else’s children. This is the kind of commitment which requires real courage and compassion; it is also one that doesn’t come without a price and often the full extent of that commitment or what it will cost us is not realized until we are knee deep into the situation.

Surviving and Succeeding is not simply about finding the best ways to “help or save your new family’, or “fitting in and causing the least disturbance”. To truly survive and succeed in the role, you must decide if it is the role for you, consider what you want out of life, and how this enormous new responsibility fits into the plan you had for yourself. Realistically assessing what you’re willing to do and not willing to do, and negotiating everything with your partner from the beginning, will be worth it in the short and long run.

Although the image of the “Wicked Stepmother” may not be as prevalent in our minds as it once was, the stepmother role remains misunderstood and scrutinized, leaving individuals to struggle alone in silence. The flip side of suffering in silence is to open up, admit how difficult it is to be in this position and reach out for the support, understanding and respect that you need and deserve. This is an absolute must if you want to succeed at being a stepmom. Equally important is to find someone who understands your position with whom you can talk to openly and honestly.

Some of the best advice we can give to Stepmoms or to women considering the role is to put yourself into the equation, not just as the caretaker or substitute mom, but as a real person with needs and aspirations of your own, who just happens to have a big enough heart to take on the responsibility of raising someone else’s children. You don’t have to be a hero, just be yourself and work diligently with your partner to find the balance that will give both of you, as well as the children you’re raising, a chance to succeed at building this new family. Your stepfamily or blended family can be a success story, not because you’re willing to do it all, but because you set a tone in the family that values respect, negotiation and consideration for everyone involved. And by the way, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL !!

Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSWac





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