As a former step-mother, I know from experience that it is not only a difficult job, but very often a thankless one as well. It can be painful to be unfairly vilified or stereo-typed as the evil, wicked step-mother, especially if you know you have entered the relationship with the best of intentions.
It is even more difficult to be a step-mother if you are also locked into a contentious relationship with your step-children’s mother.
If you are about to become a step-mother and you do not have children of your own, it is doubly important that you learn how to get along with your step-kid’s mother.
She has the power to become your best ally or your worst enemy. The way in which you approach her could very well determine which way the pendulum swings.
While these suggestions are not a complete and exhaustive list, they are certainly some important things to know if you want to get along with your step-children’s mother.
If Possible Reach out to Her First
If you haven’t met your step-children’s mother, it’s important to reach out to her before you marry their father. This can be intimidating. But, it could also be one of the wisest moves you make as a new step-mother.
Reach out to her and establish a positive, non-threatening relationship by showing respectful deference to her as the mother of your step-children.
It is a well known fact that women are fiercely protective of their children. If your step-kid’s mom thinks that you might attempt to replace her or usurp her authority, she will see you as a threat and might throw up a very resistant wall.
Regardless of what you may think of your own competence as a step-mother, humility will take you far in establishing a good relationship with your step-kid’s mom.
Do Not Attempt to Establish Authority or Rules Too Soon
One of the biggest mistakes over-eager, step-mothers make is that they attempt to impose rules before they have earned trust and respect from their step-children and their mother.
Not to mention, there is nothing more offensive than presuming to be an authority on matters in which you know nothing about. This is especially true when it comes to mothers and their children.
It is very important then to allow your relationship with your step-children and their mother to grow into one of trust and respect before you begin to impose rules or have any expectations.
This is not to say that you should set yourself up to be a door-mat in the parental hierarchy. But, do not presume to have the authority to impose rules until you have earned their trust and respect. It could mean less resistance (and resentment) in the future.
If there is a Decision to be Made and You are Unsure – Defer to Her Wishes
These types of situations will come up more often than you realize. Your step-son or your step-daughter asks your permission to do something, their father is not available and you are not sure what to do.
While you might think it makes you look weak or lacking authority as step- parent to say, “Let’s ask your mother,” nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, you do not want to undermine the authority of their mother. Second, two very good things could come out of this.
One, she will appreciate the respect you have shown to her by honoring her authority. Two, you will be building a sense of security and safety in your step-children’s lives by showing them everyone is in agreement.
Nothing instills anxiety and self-esteem problems in a child more than a lack of certainty and continuity when it comes to rules and expectations. Deferring to their mother’s authority in times of doubt is a win-win for everybody.
Do Not Suggest You Know Her Children Better Than She Does
It may be true that you know things about your step-children that their mother does not know. Maybe you even spend more time with them than she does. But, the same could also be said of a teacher or a neighbor. That does not mean, however, that you, the teacher or the neighbor actually know the child better than she does.
The bond between a mother and her child is so profound it is almost sacred. Sadly, not every mother cherishes and honors that bond, but most do.
So, if you want to get along with your step-children’s mother, never presume to know her children better than she does or suggest to her that you do.
Do Not Tattle on Her Children to Her – Leave that to their Father
Until you have built a relationship that includes good communication with your step-children’s mother, do not call her to tattle on her children. Leave that to their father.
While you may have the best intentions and feel you are doing her a favor by letting her know her children have behaved badly, she might interpret it as an attack or negative commentary on her parenting.
Again, that you would keep a respectful distance and not interject yourself inappropriately between her and her children, will ultimately serve you well in establishing a good relationship with her.
A Word of Understanding and Compassion to Step-Mothers
It may seem as if there is an unfair burden placed upon you as the step-mother to be the one to defer, concede and yield to your step-children’s mother. After all, you have feelings and rights too. That is true. However, becoming a step-mother to another woman’s children is much like navigating an on-ramp to a freeway.
You certainly have the right to merge onto the freeway, but, the responsibility to yield to the oncoming traffic is yours. It may not be fair, but that’s the way it is. By taking the highroad, however, you are investing in your family’s future happiness. The road will still be bumpy, but you will definitely avoid some of the bigger potholes.
“He Has Kids and I don’t – Should We Get Married?” December 3, 2010. Associated Content. January 29, 2011. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/6027448/he_has_kids_and_i_dont_should_we_get.html?cat=25
“Second Marriage Blended Families: What You Should Know Before You Say “I Do” Again”. December 2, 2010. Associated Content. February 1, 2011. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/6022596/second_marriage_blended_families_what.html?cat=41