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Grew up as a stepkid? Would love your input...

My SS is 5 (soon to be 6 - just started kindergarten). DH and i have been married a little over 3 months, but i've been on the scene for a while now.

i grew up with both parents in the house, and my friends who had divorced parents spent most time with mom (every other weekend with dad if that), and i wasn't close with any who had stepmothers. One friend who had a totally non-existent dad had a pretty great stepdad, but honestly, i didn't think about it much at the time.

My point? If you had a stepmom growing up, what did she do right? What did she do wrong? What did you *wish* she had done differently?

This is all very new for me, and sometimes it's *really* hard. DH and the ex are back on relatively civil terms after her ill-fated attempt at suing for full custody last year. (There were no grounds other than her wishes). There is an every other week arrangement (and has been since they split). All that to say, she's a volatile question mark and doesn't make this any easier, really.

Would very much appreciate your help and/or advice.

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Re: Grew up as a stepkid? Would love your input...

  • My first suggestion would be to stop making remarks about his mother.

    Remember not to be the one who disciplines, this is the father's job and you are there to support. On the other hand make sure you don not cave on everything because you are the step parent.

    Your H and yourself need to sit down and talk about how certain situations will be handled. NOW before they come up.

  • Say nothing, and I mean nothing, about this kid's mother. He'll hear; he'll know; he'll infer; he'll understand what the deal is. He gets to love her unconditionally; and have her love him the same; without having to listen to anyone cut her down/criticize her/roll eyes about her etc.

    Support her discipline methods in your house. Always. (I'm presuming she's not an abuser).

    Be a second mother to this kid. He's got two strikes against him now already, having survived a brutal custody battle; he's already damaged coming from a broken home. Love love love this kid. When you cry for his tears,  you'll know you're a mother to this boy; and that's what you should be striving for. Keep all promises you make; lift him up when he falls; empathize with his sorrows; praise his good works and tell him you have faith in him when he does wrong. Apologize when you screw up; follow all your own rules; and make sure his father disciplines him. Tie this boy to you with bonds of love and be a good example to him, always; be someone you'd want him to emulate.

    That's how to be a good stepmother.

  • Background - my parents divorced when I was 6.  My dad got custody and ended up moving us across the country.  He remarried when I was 8.  So I basically grew up w him and my step-mom, visiting my mom for long summer trips. 

    When I was young, I feared her more than respected her.  She was very moody, and also insecure.  She was jealous of my mom, of my relationship w her.  And I think she wasn't really thrilled about being a step-mom. I would say she was one of those women we see here sometimes who married a man she fell in love with w/o really understanding what dating a man w/ kids really means. 

    So- that being said.  I agree- don't talk about his mom when he's around.  Save the talk about her/ the issues you and DH have for when your SS isn't w/ you.  While you can't control her, YOU and DH can do your best to try to show a united front with her, not against her. 

    I do feel you need to be a figure that he respects.  True discipline - sure, I can see leaving that to his dad.  But asking/expecting him to follow basic rules of the house and to listen to you - you should expect that much.  ANd I would hope your DH will support you on that front.  The two of you need to be a team in your own home. 

    I agree to be a 2nd mom.  Love him and support him as best you can. 

    While I didn't really like my step-mom growing up and I feared her, our relationship has changed over the years and she is someone who I genuinely love and care about now, and someone I turn too.  We've had our bumps in the road along the way - but as we've both grown up and matured, we've gotten to a better place.

    But I really wish she had been better prepared to be a step-mom way bach when.  I hate that I feared her more than respected her. 


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  • I grew up with both parents married (and still are) but I am a step mom too.  I have a good relationship with my SD and I also get along with her mom.  While there are some things I may find odd in her parenting, I would never say anything to or in front of her or SD, because 1) it puts the child in an awkward position and 2) there's nothing we can do as a step parent to change the birth parent's methods of discipline and raising. DH just always said "you're the step mom, she needs to listen to you too because you're 3rd in command," and he's also made it clear to her that house rules made by him OR by me must be followed.

    Everything Sue-Sue said to do is right on the money.

  • I didn't have one until high school and I lived with my mom, so honestly it wasn't that big of a deal to me. Of course, it probably wasn't a big deal because she was very nice, and she took a much older sister/favorite aunt type role. But since I wasn't staying the night over there very often, and I was so old, there was hardly a chance for discipline issues.

    As a SM, I've had SS since he was 8. He lives with his mom but is with us every weekend. I *hate* it when people say that the SM shouldn't discipline, to leave the parenting to the parents. Because that makes it sound like the SM should be a doormat. And that's not good for the child either.

    We have rules. There are consequences for breaking the rules. I am not running around making up new punishments for SS, but at the same time I do enforce the rules and remind him of the consequences. To me, this IS discipline. I tried to treat him as I would my biological child which means giving him time and attention when he needs it, some treats sometimes and setting/enforcing limits.

    When SS was around 11 we actually sat down and drew up a contract for stuff like homework and grades since he was failing due to not doing or not turning in homework. The consequences were spelled out very clearly (losing electronics for varying lengths of time), and we all sat down and signed it and agreed that it was reasonable (all of us includes SS, DH, me and SS's mom). It made it very easy to say, "well, you got 2 zeros on homework this week so no tv for you this weekend". It's very easy to nip any complaints in the bud when you have written rules to refer back to. It also means that the rules for important things are consistent at both houses. We have always enforced the punishments his mom dictated and vice versa (typically no TV or no electronics). I can't claim to know if SS liked this or not, but he's a good kid and pretty mature for a 15yo.

    - Jena
  • I was a bit older than your SS when my parents divorced.  You're already in a better position than my dad and stepmom, because they got married 6 months after my parent's divorce was final and they went to Vegas and didn't bother to invite me.  Way to create a family.

    My dad really pushed my stepmom on me and tried to create a relationship instead of letting one develop.  My stepmom and I are very different people and it was really rough for a long time.  She made many comments right in front of me (like my mom needed to be in a mental hospital, which is NOT true, just a rude comment on her part, and that kids from previous marriages/relationships are excess baggage.  Nice).  So just don't do that and you'll be way ahead of the game  :)

    I agree with a pp to a certain extent, that your DH should handle major discipline, but please do not be afraid to redirect in YOUR own home.  As a kid I would have resented my stepmom for that, but as an adult I understand it.  It is your home also, and if he's misbehaving and drawing on furniture, etc. you should be able to say and do something about it. 

    Just try to let a relationship develop naturally and don't force anything.  If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen.  Also please take his feelings into consideration.  If he gets jealous and acts out, or feels left out of his fathers new life, please do not complain about your SS.  His feelings are normal and natural and he may have ups and downs - you are the adult, continue to act like it. 

    One biggie - make sure your stepson and DH get some alone time while he's in your custody.  That will go a long way..

    Good luck!

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  • You might have some more answers on Blended Families, btw... 

    I had a SM for a very short time, so I didn't have to deal w it, BUT I had a Step dad and he was there all.the.time. 

    As a present SM, I let DH and BM deal with things on their own.  I do discuss things w DH if they really bother me, but for the most part, I stay out of it-it's better that way-IMO.

    As for rules, etc... they know that I am a part of the household and a part of their lives.  They do come to me for things and I like to think of things for us to do as a family.  I hope I'm fair with them and I do not say anything negative about their BM or whatever in front of them.    We would enforce any rules-let's say the kids lost their DS time at their mom's... we would continue that at our house if it was during their 'grounded' time.

    The SKIDS are really pretty good and don't tend to 'push' us/me.  I hope we give them a good all-around upbringing and I feel they also respect me.


  • I am not a step mom, however DH is step dad to my sons, ages 7 and 10.  I think everyone here hit some good points about being a parent to your step children, however I agree totally with Jen5/03 regarding step-parents not being allowed to discipline.  DH and I sat down a long time ago and agreed on appropriate punishments for things and if he is there when the rule is broken, darn right he is disciplining.  For him to not discipline, I think, would bring on a dis-respect of sorts and after a while, make them wonder how much he actually cares.  We are a family, and the boys know that.  When they draw pictures in school of their families, they have DH and myself, each other, and their bio-dad, all in the same one.  Please note that bio dad is a total loser who has never paid support etc., but neither one of us would ever say anything negative in their presence.

    When life gets the better of them, and one is sad about leaving one household and going to another, saying goodbye or having to say goodnight over the telephone, I remind them that they are so lucky to have so many people that love them so much.   

  • My step mom came into the picture when I was five.  She and I are much closer than my bio mom and I are, so I think I've learned from one of the best.  I've been with DH since my step son was 2, he's now 7.

    You are his parent, so treat him like he is your child.  Other than that, don't make him call you "mom", don't force yourself on him (ex. don't force him be affectionate towards you, he will when he wants to), and be sensitive to the alone time he wants to spend with his dad.

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