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Step-Parenting Teenagers – Why This Stepmom Has Taken A Major Step Back


I’m a wife, stepmom x3 and mom x 1. When I couldn’t find the stepmom support I was looking for, decided to create it myself. I love mac + cheese, distressed denim, sauvignon blanc and all things Dateline. 

Hey, I'm Jamie


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When I first became a stepmom, the kids were 6, 8 and 10 years old. 

I’ll never forget the first time that we met. They were sweet, interested and excited about this new woman in their life. The introduction went better than my now husband and I could have expected, and even the years following have been pretty blissful.  

As I transitioned from dad’s girlfriend to stepmom and then parental figure in the home, there was never any backlash. It was all quite smooth. Surprisingly smooth actually. 

As a child of divorce who would try and scare off my dad’s girllfriends for sport, I expected to be put through the ringer. I was sure that becoming a stepmom was going to be some deserved karma.  

Almost 5 years later, the two oldest are officially teenagers. To this day, I will admit it’s still pretty blissful. While we have dabbled into some teenage rebellion and attitude, I haven’t had to deal with any of the teenage drama that I’ve heard can come with the dreaded teenage years. 

Nonetheless, as the two older ones embarked into these teenage years, I’ve changed the way I step-parent. 

In fact, I am not sure you can even call it that, because truthfully, I don’t do a lot of the “parenting” at all! 

When the kids were younger I was often the primary caregiver in the house. While my husband was at work, if the kids needed direction, I would provide it. If a rule needed to be enforced, I would do it. If I needed to take-away an iPad as a consequence, I would take away the iPad. He and I were on the same page, and there was an expectation that the kids listened to me the same way they would listen to him.  

Now, the kids are pretty self-sufficient. While I used to spend days in the kitchen making meals and snacks, they not longer want that. They’d rather make themselves some waffles after sleeping in until noon, and then head off to hang out with their friends. 

Up until last summer, I had days planned with fun activities for us all to do together – this summer, they aren’t really interested in my itenary. 

In short, they are independent and need me less. 

The issues that require parental guidance have also changed. Before my parental responsibilities included reminding them to clean up their clothes, breaking up an argument or supervising a playdate. 

Now we’re dealing with curfews, friends with cars, hormones, boyfriends, Snapchat, fears of underage drinking, peer pressure from friends, parties on the weekends and grades that can determine their future… 

We’re dealing with real life issues with real life consequences for their adult lives. 

Somedays my head spins. In just over four years, I’ve become a parental figure to kids ranging from 3 all the way to 14. I thought we were supposed to have 13 years of parenting experience before embarking on this teenage crap?

All jokes aside, I think I have a pretty good grasp on this stuff. In fact, I feel fully (I mean somewhat)  prepared to tackle these new teenage parenting challenges…

But I’m not going to.

I’ve taken a MAJOR step back in the step-parenting department. And I’ve done it very consciously. 

In fact, even though my husband still expects the kids to respect me as they respect him, I’ve decided to take on more of a “babysitter” or “cool aunt” approach. 

I can see you stepmoms getting squirmy in your seats with me saying this, but hear me out! 

Here are the 3 reasons why I’ve made this decision…

If my husband gives one of the kids crap about something, they get mad, yes. They are upset and potentially have some attitude for a bit, but they bounce back quickly. 

The first time I tried to approach one of those teenage issues I listed above, the rebound time was a lot longer. Walls were put up, and it took us a while to bounce back to regular programming. The truth is, they don’t see me the same way as they see their parents. 

I didn’t like living like that. I hated the tension. I know it is part of parenting, but I don’t want to be the bad guy in the house, especially when it’s not as effective coming from me, as it is when it comes from my husband. 

So I’ve made the conscious decision to let him have those tough conversations with the kids – as he should! 

When an issue arises and he isn’t there, I take a deep breathe and wait until he is home to fill him in on what went down – he can then proceed as he sees fit.

Up until this point, we’ve even very much in sync when it comes to parenting expectations. Sure, maybe I was the one to enforce it more regularly, but for the most part we have the same beliefs. 

Like I said though, that was up until this point. There are things that he says YES to without batting an eye, and I’m left looking at him thinking “are you freaking kidding me”… and there are things that I would like to say YES to and his response is “over my dead body”.

Where he is strict, I am lenient. Where he is lenient, I am strict

But at the end of the day, it is essentially his call. So I let him make it… and then I pour myself a glass of wine! 

I’m not interested in a scenario where I say no, when their dad would say yes….
I’m also not interested in getting into an argument with my husband because I have allowed something that he would not…  

It’s not worth the battle, and I’m saying this from experience. 

Look, I know I lucked out in the step-kid department. I really really did. At the end of the day, these teenagers are pretty stand-up kids. They make mistakes yes, but they know the difference between right and wrong. 

When they do come to me and ask something, my response is always “what do you think is fair?“. I  think seeking their opinion is important when it comes to developing independence. 

For example, my step-daughter often asks when she needs to be home at night. I ask if she has homework, and then ask when she thinks she should be home. Her response is typically earlier than I would have told her. 

An area where my husband and I are on the same page is, TRUST. We trust the kids. We’ve told them that we trust them and will give them the freedom that comes with that trust, but if they break the trust, life will change very quickly…

Now when I do sense that they may be teetering into a not so great decision, I’ll provide guidance and give them my opinion. 

I’m always here to talk. I’m always here to help out. ALWAYS! That will never change. 

But that’s where I draw the line. 

Discipline is 100% on my husband and their Mom. 

It wasn’t an easy transition to make, especially because I am the one who is home more often. But it really was the best thing for our family. 

It’s called pulling the “just the stepmom card” – and for us, it’s resulted in a more harmonious home. 

If you have step-teenagers in the house, I’d love to hear how you and your partner handle the parenting. Remember, just because this works for us, doesn’t mean that it will work for you. Every stepfamily dynamic is unique! 

Comments +

  1. kmoua1211@gmail.com says:

    I am a step mother to two beautiful teenage daughters aged 13 and 16. I have been in their life since they were 1 and 5, so quite a long time. Just a couple years ago, I gladly took the position of full time mommy to my girls. It was a tough situation for the girls. Things were always smooth from the beginning, until recently. The girls still keep in contact with their mother via phone chat, and occasional visits. Since the mom dropped the girls on our doorstep, it has been a whirlwind for them. They have spent loads of time with us before and they know the rules of the house. They’ve been rebellious and destructive. I’m really trying to understand their situation and I’ve stepped back. I don’t want my girls to hate me. They love their mom so much, but she is not disciplining them, yet alone even spending time with her daughters. My husband wants me to take over and teach them to be good kids. He says that they’ve already got one bad mom, they need someone, a female to be the good example. Am I really being a good example by disciplining my girls? I’m scared that they will resent me?

  2. notsosimplyblended@gmail.com says:

    This is EXACTLY my approach as of the recent years. It’s better for our family. I just step in only when asked by the kids themselves for my help or if they need to talk. I always say "I’m here to listen if you want to talk, and if you don’t…I’m still here." By staying out of it my relationships with my step kids has gotten better and I will take that any day.

  3. jennyrwilliams79@yahoo.com says:

    This resonates with me SO MUCH! I came into my step-daughters lives when they were 4 & 12 and feel like I struck out so hard with the older one, but I’m taking this same approach with the younger one now that’s she’s 16 and I feel like it’s working so much better for me and the rest of the family! I’ve learned so much over the years about "step-momming" and what works for me so that I don’t feel like I’m over-stepping OR over-stressing, and stepping back was finally what gave me some peace and balance…oh, and wine…wine helped too 😂

  4. amdeines@hotmail.com says:

    I was like this at first when the oldest (now 16) turned 13. He moved in with us shortly after that so we have him 90% of the time. He treats me as his mom so it’s different. My stepdaughter (13) just moved in with us and she has a very different relationship with her mom so I use this approach more. It’s odd how even stepkids can need you differently depending on how they see the relationship. Having a toddler as well I find myself focusing most of my attention on the "ours" baby – you know, so he doesn’t eat the soap. Love this blog!

  5. sarahfields17@gmail.com says:

    Thank you for sharing. I’d like to address a part in your post that made me cringe a little.

    "just the stepmom card"

    I do understand the context in which you are/were using it and more importantly, I understand why you chose to do this. I’m not a fan of the "just a…." phrase, in general, but especially when it comes to parenting. I’m a nurse and I hear this phrase all.the.time. "I know you’re just a nurse but…" And frankly, it stings every time I hear it, not matter the context.

    I strongly believe the "just a" card is one we need to move away from. To me, it can and does contribute to feelings of insecurity and is demeaning in a way. I think the shear act of saying "just" or "only" has this learned or inherent implication that what follows is not of as much value as other things. I sincerely try and catch myself if I hear my words headed in that direction (believe me, we’re geared to say this…) and have learned to replace it with, "I am the step-mom and I’m going to _____" i.e. ask that we table this until your mom/dad is home OR "I’m the nurse for this visit, but I’m going to consult your medical team".

    I appreciate the healthy dialogue and am grateful for your postings, as I know this step-mom community is small, unique and isolating at times. Thanks for your support!! I’d also like to add that, I really loved how you shared your "what do you think is fair" technique. I had never thought of this before and I think it could definitely work well for some of those more challenging and argumentative times. Great suggestion!

  6. peaches2424@hotmail.com says:

    I came into the picture when my boyfriend’s son was 13 and now 15. It has been hard to say the least. When I first started dating my boyfriend the plan was that his son was going to go and live with his mom so he could go to a certain high school, so we would only have him every other weekend. I was good with that because jumping into the "parenting thing" with a 13 year old was extremely scary for me. Well fast forward a year and he wants to move back home because his relationship (if you can call it that) with his mother wasn’t good. So now he is with us full time and very rarely goes to his mothers. It’s very hard because I feel like at 14 when he moved back with us, he is already set in his routine and what he can and can’t do so its hard to just overhaul his life because I don’t agree with how he acts. Everyday he is moody, gives us attitude and it is hard to bite my tongue. Any advice?

  7. mt41313@yahoo.com says:

    Why have I not found you earlier?!? I have 3 stepdaughters and my 2 1/2 year old son! When I met the girls they were also young 4, 7 and 14. Our 14 year old has the kind of an 11 year old and it may not advance (she is 20 now). Needless to say we did not go through the “typical teenage” drama with her. Fast forward 6 years (5 years of marriage) and we have our first teen! Ugggggggg! And I am taking a major step back. We have primary custody and live in a different state from their mother. My husband also travels… so I have really had to take on a lot more “than I signed up for” (lol). We have been in therapy for a few months. My husband and I in couples and the teen with her own therapist. And the decision was for me to step back! And besides being a stepmom this may have been the second most difficult thing to swallow! But I did and YES!! It has been great. We also tell the 13 yo that she is being a bully or terrorist who Huns makes our day and we won’t have it anymore. So for now it is working. I am a lot less stressed! I like pulling the I am just the stepmom card… but I don’t like when they tell me I am just the stepmom. That is the worst.
    Anyway, thank you so much for your blog! It is amazing the similarities! I subscribed to your email and will be reading all of your blogs! It is such a relief to find people who understand what we go through… being a full time stepmom of three is not for wimps!!

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