A very common stressor that Stepmoms have is not being on the same page with their partner when it comes to the kids, specifically when it comes to rules, discipline, expectations and even how her stepchildren are allowed to treat her.
Another common stressor is the stepmom and dad SAYING that they are on the same page, but when it comes to execution, the father’s follow-thru isn’t so great…Leaving the stepmom looking… well, like the evil stepmom.
For various reasons, I’ve been giving this topic more and more thought over the past several months.
I’m a firm believer that, for the most part, as humans, we behave in a way that works for us. When something gives us gratification, and the benefits outweigh the negative consequences, we keep doing what we’re doing.
When the negative consequences outweigh the gratification, most times, the behaviour stops.
(NOTE: I do recognize that may be an over-simplification of human behaviour, but generally speaking, barring any other contributing favourites, it’s the truth)
That being said, many times when stepmoms are having issues with their stepchildren… when you really dissect what’s going on, the issue isn’t necessarily with the children; it’s with the “real” parents (and whether or not they are providing the necessary consequences for the behaviours OR whether or not they find an issue with the behaviour in the first place)
In many blended family situations, the expectation of a stepmom is to jump in and provide some of the parental duties in the household. This happens over time, more in some families than others, but especially in families where the father has full or split custody of the kids. As natural caregivers, women often take on certain jobs …. (again, for the most part)
Whether or not a stepmom should provide any structure or discipline in the home is a HOT topic among stepfamily experts. It depends on so many factors and there is no one size fits all approach.
But regardless of their role in the child’s life, a child should treat an adult with respect.. Aunt, Stepmom, Babysitter, Teacher, Neighbour, whoever…
I spend a lot of time connecting with other stepmoms, discussing the stressors that are unique to their situations.
In addition to trying to get on the same page with house rules and consequences, I encourage them to have a good chat with their husbands about what their role in the home will be.
- But what happens when a stepmom enforces these rules but the father doesn’t?
- What happens when a stepmom enforces an agreed-upon consequence, and the father overrides or doesn’t follow through?
- What happens when a stepmom is left in a caregiving role, and experiences the behaviour firsthand, but when the father hears about what happens, the child gives a whole other story…. and dad believes it?
- What happens when a stepchild continues to be disrespectful to a stepmom, and there are little to no consequences for their behaviour?
If you’ve experienced this firsthand and scrolled through that list expecting to find an answer that is going to solve all your stepfamily problems, then I am oh so sorry because you’re not going to find it here.
Because a cold hard truth of stepmom life is that the parents CAN trump you… at the end of the day, no matter what your family dynamics, they are the “real parents”
… and when it happens, because you’re trying so DAMN hard, are trying to love these kids like they’re your own, and really thought you were on the same page, it feels like you’ve been punched in the gut… and hard.
As stepmoms, there are so many situations in our family dynamic that are totally outside of our control, and unfortunately, this is one of them!
You can only have so many conversations about being on the same page. You can only have so many conversations about what the rules and discipline will look like in your home. At the end of the day, it’s not about talk; it’s about actions and follow-through.
If your decision/agreements continue to be overridden, then it may be time to re-evaluate what your role looks like in your family.
Because if you ask me, you can only get punched in the gut by the same person so many times until you have to take responsibility for putting yourself in that situation time and time again.
So, what the heck do you do?
In a previous post, “A Stepmom Confession: Some Days Are Just Shitty” I said that as stepmoms, we often feel like we’re good enough until we’re not. To expand on this, we’re good enough to make the lunches, do the laundry, and the dishes, do the running around, coordinate schedules, organize celebrations, etc. etc. etc but when it comes down to making decisions about the kids or participating in those “special milestones” it’s not our place.
As Zoe Hardy puts it, many times stepmoms feel like glorified babysitters.
When any of the above happens, and you’ve tried and tried, my advice is to take a step back.
- Maybe you re-evaluate what you do as a glorified babysitter
- Maybe you stop going above and beyond
- Maybe your answer becomes “Ask your Dad” or “Not until your Dad gets home” to avoid putting yourself in a situation where you will look like the bad guy
- Maybe you put the parental responsibilities back on the “real parents”
The thing is, caring about behaviours and things that the other two parents don’t see an issue with is most likely going to be a waste of your valuable time and energy… because you’re going to end up looking like… well, like I said, the evil stepmom!
Take a step back. Re-define what your relationships and responsibilities are when and protect yourself from getting punched in the gut.
Because unfortunately, in many situations when step-parents and parents are not on the same page, the stepmom truly is the glorified babysitter.
… and personally, I outgrew the whole babysitting thing about 17 years ago.
IS IT TIME TO DISENGAGE?
If you’re wondering if you should take a step back but aren’t sure how to go about it, I have a quiz that will help you decide.
Click here to take the quiz, When Should A Stepmom Disengage? NOt only will I tell you whether you need to disengage, I’ll show you how to do it the RIGHT way!