Step-Mothers: They Aren't All Bad
Three Types of Step-Mothers
Step-mothers have been made out to be villains throughout fiction. They are the people that we love to hate in every Disney movie that we watched growing up. Snow White and Cinderella are the most notable of these films with the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Lady Tremaine (wicked step-mother) in Cinderella.
Step-mothers have been getting a bad wrap for a long time. That's not to say all "real-life" step-mothers are wonderful people, but we should not be so quick to judge based on our fairy tale archetypes.
There are three types of step-mothers. Women who marry into families with children in which the biological mother is still alive and an active part of the child's life. Women who marry into families with children in which the biological mother is absent, but was once a part of the child's life. And women who marry into families where the mother is deceased or has not been in the child's life since birth.
Note: I say "marry" but this could mean enter into a long-term relationship, become common-law, actually marry, or just live with. Families are made in many different ways in our present day.
The Other Woman
This is the category of women who marry into families where the biological mother is still an active part of the child's life. This is arguably the hardest role to take on, depending on the dynamic between the biological parents.
If there is a strained relationship between the biological parents then it will be difficult for the step-mother to find her place. The biological mother may view the new woman as competition for her child or children's affection and this may cause adverse issues for the children.
Ultimately, in situations such as these, the child or children are the main focus. It is important to be able to, as a step-mother, respect the parenting choices of the biological parents and do your best to keep a routine in place for the child or children during this transition process.
Change doesn't come easy to children, no matter what age. Young children will react in unique ways to new people in their lives. Older children may be likely to lash out or rebel at a new presence in their parent's life. It is important to respect the opinions and feelings of the child or children, but also remember that you have an important role to play in their lives.
You are building a relationship with their biological parent. You are building a life for yourself and you are accepting the child or children into your life. Treat them like you would treat your own child and take the rest in stride. Time will sort things out.
The Second Model
This category refers to women who marry into families with children in which the biological mother is absent but was once a part of the child's life. These are unique situations and ones that need to be examined individually.
This can be a difficult place to be in depending on why the biological mother left the life of the child or children. There may be a level of protectiveness on behalf of the child or children for the biological parent that stuck around. There may be a level of resentment towards the step-mother that is entering their lives.
Consistency and routine are important. It is crucial not to try and change things too quickly in a child's life or they may react adversely to it. When things have been a certain way for so long, being resistant to change is normal. Take small steps and work on a parenting style that suits you and the biological parent.
You may be viewed as the second model, the version of their mother that maybe won't leave. There may be a level of fear from the child or children that becoming too attached to you is dangerous because you may abandon them like their mother did. It is important, if you are to become a part of their lives, that you make sure to make them comfortable and confident in your presence.
Children like to be able to count on the people in their lives and when you are dealing with a child that has been let down before it is important to be that person they can count on. Love them, reassure them, and take things slow. You may not be the mother that left, but you can be something more meaningful in their life. You can be the mother that stayed.
This category refers to women who marry into families where the mother is deceased or has not been in the child's life since birth. Here you are dealing with a touchy situation.
The loss of a parent, whether it is through death or abandonment, is a tough thing to wrap your head around. Depending on how old the child was when this happened it could be something they are barely aware of or something that is very fresh in their memory.
It is important that you communicate with the biological parent about the situation with the child or children. Their grief over the loss of their other parent will be a huge factor in them accepting you as a step-mother.
Children are interesting. Some children are simply happy to see that their parent is happy, regardless of their own grief. It is just nice to see that their parent is smiling again and that there are no more grey clouds hanging around the house. Some children hold onto the memory of the lost parent like a shield, and they will throw it in your face at every chance as a reminder that you are not their real mother. And some children will just be quiet about it all.
It is important in these situations to understand that you are not a replacement for their lost parent. You are your own person and you will never be able to fully replace what they have lost. But you can fill that void in your own way. You can offer that maternal position in their lives when they are willing and ready to accept it.
Ultimately, being a step-mother isn't easy, but no one said it was going to be. Being a parent, in general, isn't easy. You are your own person. You are not a replacement, new model, or other woman. You are someone who can have a positive influence on the life of a child or children while making a life for yourself with someone you love.
So take a deep breath, put away the bad thoughts, and remember that for every bad behaviour there is usually a reason when creating a merged family. Put aside the anger for a moment, remember you're dealing with a child that can't process adult emotions so they act out instead. Try to find the source and try to find a solution.
And if all else fails, have a glass of wine, take a hot bath, and hope tomorrow will be a smoother day.