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Brittany Lynch, RN, BScN, CSC Presents: Stepqueen by The Whole Stepfamily

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5 Hard Truths Every Stepmom Wants Her Husband to Know

May 30, 2018

It is without a doubt that I can tell you this:

At first, being a Stepmom was one of the most challenging, most confusing, and highly emotional roller coasters that I’ve ever been on in my life.

Thankfully, my husband, his ex-wife, their son (my stepson), and I, have come to a place where we have a very limited amount of conflict within our family.

It took some serious work and some professional help, but I can honestly say that there is a very, very minimal amount of drama in our Stepfamily.

Since my darker Stepmom days, after scavenging the internet desperately for some positive resources for Stepmoms, I realized — there was nothing. Problem solver that I am, I set out on a quest to change the conversation the world has about stepmoms, and that stepmoms have about stepmomming.

Now, I’m a Stepfamily Foundation Certified Counsellor, and am so blessed to be able to help women who are in the lonely and tumultuous place that I was in only a handful of years ago.

Do you need help getting your partner to see things your way? Click here to book a complementary call with us to find out how we can help

Now, generally, I like to keep things on a positive note. But, as with all things in life, there are 2 sides to every coin.

As much as I love my husband, I wish that he had known these 5 things when I first became the stepmother to his son.

And so for you, Stepqueen, I am writing this today, in hopes that your husband will accidentally stumble across it because it maybe didn’t get closed on the iPad you left in the bathroom *hint hint.*

We NEED to be your Number One

Ask any Stepmom if she has ever felt like runner-up or second-place, and you will be answered with a soft-eyed, furrowed-brow, pouty-mouthed expression. It’s like the Bat Signal, but for Stepmoms.

Or like that sign they make in Hunger Games where they stick their peace fingers up into the air. Between your ex-wife and the kids you have with her, we are sometimes left in this whirlwind of no-man’s-land, wondering how our living room turned into a McDonald’s Play Place at the decibel of an AC/DC concert.

And then there comes hockey practice, dance recitals, and science fairs. There are driving lessons, swim meets, and parent-teacher conferences. There are doctor’s appointments, orthodontist appointments, meetings with lawyers, and  meetings with the bank.

Though each and every one of these events is meaningful and important, we didn’t ask to be signed up for them. And we especially didn’t want for them to cut into our precious time with you.

Look, I understand that a father’s time with his children can be limited. I understand that fathers want to jam-pack as many activities into their every-other weekend as possible. But what happens when the kids come and become the centre of your world?

Stepmom is left sitting in a corner with her bottle of wine, weeping, and nobody even takes notice. I’m only going to say this once, but Stepmom isn’t going to turn 18 and leave home. Your kids will. If you fail to nurture your present relationship, then you are failing your partner, and ultimately failing your children as you set them up to experience yet another relationship breakdown.

If you fail to fix your mistakes from your first marriage, allowing your kids to dictate your every move, then no marriage past that point stands a fighting change.

I’m not saying to avoid situations with your children in which they need you. I’m not suggesting you avoid dance recitals. But I’m just asking, husband, that you take into consideration that you are married to a woman who very much loves you.

Children are infamous time-suckers; nothing you give to them will ever be enough. (Ever.) They gobble up every second of the day, and are left to complain that they are still bored.

Even though your wife loves you, she is not by default invited to or included in your activities with your children, nor does she necessarily want to be.

Before you make plans with your kids, before you agree to spend every waking second with them, just have the decency to ask your beautiful wife how she would feel about your attendance to these events.

Since stepmothers are true unicorns and goddesses, you know that she will be agreeable. If she isn’t, and if she wants to spend time with you alone, that’s okay too. Release the judgment and hear your partner for what they’re saying.

When you don’t put us first, it only reinforces our belief that we aren’t, and will never be, as important as your first family was. In a marriage, your partner should always take precedence over your children. This is even more important in a second (or third) marriage.

Loving You Doesn’t Mean We Love your Children

Ok, so whoever made up this myth was either a saint or a sadist. You have no idea how many Stepmoms come to me, completely deflated, because they don’t actually love their stepchildren.

Just because you fall in love with a man doesn’t mean you automatically have to love his children. Kids are complex, difficult, demanding little creatures. Humans are one of the only mammals who will accept the offspring of another pairing.

Husbands, you need to know this one thing: We are doing the absolute best that we can to accept your children. The bonds that you have with your children are biological in nature. It is in your blood to want to protect, love, and celebrate your own DNA. We, on the other hand, have to work (sometimes really, really hard) at this bond.

And no matter how much work we put in, we will absolutely never feel the same way about your kids that you do.

You see a kid who throws a temper tantrum once in a while, we see a hundred red flags. You see (or don’t see) a kid who forgets to clean up after himself, we see a child who is entitled and blatantly disrespectful to the adults who provide a home for him. You proudly see the wonderful qualities that you’ve passed on in their genetics, we see their mother’s eyes, her hair, her mannerisms…

It’s not that we don’t want to love your children. Some of us do come to a place where we do, in fact, love them. Others will never form this level of admiration.

And that is okay.

It shouldn’t be expected of your wife to dote on your children the way you or their mother would. It is simply not realistic. She gives as much as, and sometimes more than, she is able to. Let me remind you that she does not get the same payoff as a parent would. Kids do not reciprocate their love to their Stepmother in the ways that they do to their biological parents.

As long as everyone within your home treats each other with respect and kindness, the love component should be a non-issue.

We Don’t Want to Hear About your Ex

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

We just really, really don’t like hearing about her.

Trust me, we know that some ex-wives can be difficult and drama-causing and make questionable parenting decisions. We don’t like it any more than you do. But we are the absolute wrong people to vent to about your previous partner and her mysterious ways. We don’t want to give her any more attention than is absolutely necessary.

We don’t want to hear that she was a terrible cook. We don’t want to hear about her parents. We don’t want to delve into all the reasons that she is an awful person. We are already reminded of her on a regular basis as tiny humans containing 50% of her DNA smush cheerios into our furniture every other weekend and boast about how wonderful their real mom is.

There is no such thing as being an ex-parent. You can only be an ex-spouse.

This delineation means that your relationship with your ex should absolutely only be focused on collaboratively being competent co-parents. Your conversations should be all business, and only kid-focused.

If she needs help with her garbage disposal, she can call herself a repair man. If her cat dies, she can call her best friend. If she breaks up with her boyfriend, then you are absolutely under no circumstance to be the one to provide any emotional support to her. You made a decision when you entered into a relationship with your new partner to leave your past in the past. Because you’ve brought children from your prior life, and because they are a part of you, then you have also brought them. Your ex is not a part of you. Keep your relationship civil and focused on the only thing that still ties you together.

Under no circumstance are you to trash-talk your ex.

This is essential in front of your children. When children hear their parents talking poorly of each other, they take this to mean that since their mom is no good, that they are no good.

Speaking poorly of your ex to your children is highly damaging to their already warped self-esteem that has resulted from the separation of their parents.

Trash-talking your ex to your current partner is also a cause for concern and is highly unnecessary. A stepmom being faced with this dilemma should immediately stop her husband from spouting off, and firmly remind him that he needs to vent to a friend or a therapist, not to her.

It’s Not Cute When your Kids Come in our Bedroom

One stark realization I had when I became a stepmother was that children are completely ignorant to privacy and what a closed door actually means.

It’s no secret that kids are hard on sex lives.

This is even more so when they help themselves at will to your bedroom. Saturday morning cartoon snuggles can happen on the couch in the living room, but please for our sake, don’t invite your children into our bed. Especially if you’ve never asked us how we feel about this. In a first-family, since the parents are both related to their kids, they don’t see an issue with allowing their children in their room. In a stepfamily, this does not translate well.

Our bedrooms are our sanctuaries. They are the one room in the entire house that the kids should not be allowed free reign.

Kids are notorious for making messes, snooping through drawers, and taking things that don’t belong to them. That’s okay. They are allowed to explore! I encourage it!

But for the sake of your partner, please, please don’t encourage late-night or early-morning bedroom visits from your tiny humans unless you’ve communicated with us first…

It should be established as early on as possible that the kids are not allowed inside the parents’ bedroom, especially without knocking.

And if the door is closed, only knock if the house is burning down. Allow your wife the courtesy of having a place that still belongs to her. Capitalize on this privacy and spend time with your partner behind closed doors. You wouldn’t eat supper in the bathroom. Don’t bring kids into your bedroom.

We Didn’t Actually Know what we Signed up For

If I hear one more person say to one more stepmom, “you knew he had kids when you started dating him,” well… I don’t even know what I’ll do. Probably write about it.

But unless you’ve ever been in a serious relationship with a man who has children, you have no idea what it’ll be like.

There are some very real differences between a stepfamily and a first family. This doesn’t mean that a stepfamily can’t function well together; it just means it can’t function the same way. Trying to make a stepfamily act like a first family is like playing chess with the rules of checkers.

What does this mean for you, dear husbands? It means that you are going to need to become up-close-and-personal and familiar with these differences in order to support your wife, your children, and yourself in your stepfamily journey.

When your wife tells you that she feels left out, she isn’t lying or being selfish for your time. When your children treat her like their maid, it really and truly upsets her.

When you allow the guilt and shame of your divorce to overshadow your parenting and disciplining of your children, your wife (and kids) will notice every time.

All that we want is to live in a household where everyone respects each other and pulls their own weight. It sounds simple enough, but to act it out can be complex. Learn to listen to your dear wife when she comes to you with her concerns. Please don’t be defensive. Spend time with her, alone. Nurture and prioritize your marriage.

Remind yourself that children thrive with strong authority and a high level of responsibility. This is especially important after divorce, as kids will test limits and pit their two households against each other. (This is just what kids do.)

You and your wife are teammates. Partners. Lift each other up, and hold on tight. Stepmoms are stepmoms because they fell in love with a man with children. Stepmoms are stepmoms for no other reason than because of love. Keep this love at the forefront of everything you do, and you will be rewarded infinitely as you build and reinforce your life together.

We love you, dear husbands. And together, we are going to be just fine.


What are some truths you, as a stepmother, wish your husband knew? Which of the above resonated with you? As Stepqueens, we are committed to ending negative Stepmother associations. How have you recently risen above the Stepmonster label? Do you find it hard to connect with your stepkids? Click here to find out how we can help

18 Responses

  1. One thing I, at first, found surprisingly pleasant… then horrifying, is that my fiancé’s daughter became extremely attached to me. She preferred my attention over her fathers at times. And it was sweet (at first), but that meant if I was left alone she would follow my every move, do all but grab my leg and beg me to stay in her room with her. Even though I was her buddy anything I told her to do fell on deaf ears.

    Her mother has a drug problem and has not been a steady figure in her life. At first I thought this would mean she would be more welcoming to me (and she was,) though now I think there is a void that I or anyone else can never fill that with.

    On our last vacation at the beach we we’re watching a show with the kids (he has an older son too, who is quite easy to get along with) My fiancé (again) fell asleep on the couch and his daughter began insisting her and I went down to the beach together. I told her I would prefer all of us go together after the show was over. She persisted that boys are stupid and we should go, I just tried to brush it off hoping she would stop.
    The part that frustrates me the most was that I NEVER get to watch tv and I actually had a moment to chill on this vacation. I had no control of the situation. It was a make or break our relationship situation after the vacation was over.

    When I mentioned that this was too much to my boyfriend he was totally oblivious to the anguish this was causing me and thought we just got along really well.
    I have become much more reserved since all this. I stressed evenings were particularly hard for me with his daughter and I begged him to never ever EVER leave me alone with her until she is asleep in bed, or we have established better boundaries. There are some things that mothers usually do for/with their daughters that he has no experience with and I am learning is not my place, even if his daughter wants it to be. She is a sweet girl but very had to handle at times.

    He understood, though I hate it got to that. He still struggles with what is and is not a problem for me. Though he does try very had to do whatever he can to make me happy, and I love him dearly.

    1. Princess, just run. Find yourself a kids free men. After you get married to a man with kids, things almost certain will get worth. I have done that mistake…..

  2. This is the best written article about being a step-mom and I really wish my husband would read this. Thank you!

    1. I just got my husband to read through the entire article! Going through a nightmare time atm but am looking at counselling now

  3. Thank you!! I thought I was the “only one” feeling like a crazy person. My partner doesn’t understand because our daughter is biologically hers. I am also a female and we are raising our 6 year old daughter together. Her bio father is in and out of the picture. I tried fixing everything at first, admittedly, even still sometimes. But I figured out that I will never win. I can’t. Even over the father she has cried in fear of so many times before. Not that he hurts her, he’s just more authoritative than her mother or I. I find myself asking, “will I ever be enough?” My partner treats her baby daddy kinder than me at times, like she’s terrified to lose him for our child’s sake, i get it. I fear that also, i truly love my child to death. She is and was the love of my life from the moment i laid eyes on her. But that isn’t fair..she risks our relationship due to her fear of our daughter not having a father. I dont know. It’s hard. No questions about it. I wish this was spoken of more and brought to light for bio-parents.

  4. What resonated most with me was when you spoke about not loving the children. I have felt tremendous guilt over the years for not feeling the love like I thought I should be feeling. I think it’s mainly because the ex wife has made it extremely difficult over the years and my spouse hasnt always backed me up or put me 1st. We have been together for 15 years and the kids are now 19 and 17 & I feel like there’s nothing that can be done to change it.

    1. I love this article! My spouse and I have 10 kids in our blended family! I’ve known his 7 kids since they were small soo we get along good the two girls and one of the boys make life difficult. Mom loves to put the kids against me and run me through the mud. Soo it’s all a learning process. The ex wife only has something to say when she thinks I’m doing a better job than her. We have residential custody due to a domestic violence issue with her and her baby daddy. It’s a mess she still believes it was appropriate for him to punch her kids. There’s no respect or descipline with her soo she’s their ideal place to be soo bumping heads is on a regular with the kids. I love ALL 10 kids and I truly believe by being stern keeping my word and loving them as I love mine makes a huge difference.

  5. I was a step child. My Step Father was fantastic, we had an incredible bond. He didn’t have kids of his own so all of it was new for him and I think he handled it so well. He was by far a better father to me than my biological father was.
    My former Stepmom on the other hand was horrible to me. I didn’t see it when I was young, I didn’t understand why she was cold towards me sometimes. I always hated that when she came into the picture I was no longer aloud in my Dad’s room to admire his photos, trinkets, and thingamajigs. I was so oblivious and wanted her to like me so much, I admired her because she was beautiful, smart, funny and athletic. She told my Dad she resented me because I was prettier than her own daughter. She would count Christmas gifts to make sure her daughter had more than me. Anyways..
    Where I’m going with this is, I didn’t agree with a lot of what I just read. I can understand this way of thinking if you don’t place yourself in the child’s shoes. You have to imagine what it would be like to be them learning to love you, a stranger, an adult that now takes up most of their parents time. They are learning too, they are learning to share with a stranger and they are learning to love a stranger.

    What I did agree with was this, “Stepmom isn’t going to turn 18 and leave home. Your kids will.”

    I am currently learning to love a toddler that isn’t mine. Last visit we were the best of friends, he ran to me for everything. This visit, he hated me. He hit me, angrily yelled “STOP” whenever I tried to play with him and cried at the very site of me. I couldn’t wait for him to leave. I didn’t feel bad for feeling this way but I do feel bad that I don’t feel bad. It’s so confusing.

    He calls me Mom but now I realize he calls every woman Mom and it no longer feels special.

    I don’t love him yet, I want to though.

    Good luck Stepmom’s.

  6. I recently have been having some issues with my boyfriend/fence and honestly this arrival helpped me see his point of view. I know is addressed to dads from step moms but honestly it should say step parents. Because this hiy the nail on the head

  7. i love this article. Ive been facing the same problem too in handling my step son. try hard to make it better for every weekend but sometimes my patience level is getting low and i lost control..lol

  8. This blog was on point! Totally how I feel as a stepmother of 16months to a now 7 year old boy who whines daddy for everything. He behaves when it’s just me and him independent of his father but when his father is around he acts like he can’t do anything on his own and needs so much help and direction. Frustrating part is that I know he knows how to do most things without the helps and attention he seeks at the wrong times.

    Trying my best but I love what you shared that’s it’s not an automatic love toward the Step child etc.

    Thank you so much. Glad I’m not alone in feeling the way I do. I shared your blog with my husband!

  9. I love my husband dearly, he is a great loving man such a sweet heart, but he has shown me that he is all about his kids, which I accepted to be second only to them, but as time went on I realized, that his first family has greater benefit especially his EX, than I will ever have I jist cant play second place to her, he defends her is there for her even when certain discrepancies have proven themselves, and when I call them out he defends her, She has been since remarried has 2 other children and now is on her 3rd or 4th marriage, I have grown tired, exhausted, brokenhearted I feel used, we have the kids and he still helps his ex out financially, even though we are barely making ends meet. I feel like he never set a boundary with her he should have done it years ago, he doesnt understand im on HIS side and he is jist her ATM and crutch, it is with a broken heart that I say I dont see us together in another year. All her problems and issues have taken a toll on me all the stress.And Im going to do what he couldnt and that is put ME first. Good luck ladies. Only the strongest make it through this.

  10. I gather that for the most part this is addressing minor step-children. Let me tell you some of these issues continue well into the adult children’s lives. I love my husband dearly, but quite honestly his adult children just about drive us crazy. Both have medical issues which is not their fault and I do empathize; however, that does not them give them the right to sponge off the parent and step-parent and make their life miserable. I consider our financial resources ours, but most of the money going out for these kids is part of my inheritance. I am not bitter because I would take nothing in the world for my husband. Talking about not signing on for this – I’ll take smashed cheerios and rambunctious kids because there is still hope they will be independent. Just saying don’t count on 18 or 21 being magical.

  11. I totally agree with this article. I’m a stepmom of two girls. One is 13 the other is 10. I met them when they were about 5 and 8. Things were somewhat ok then. I tried being there for them especially that their mom was not the best to them (treatment wise) but since about 2 years now I’ve been having a hard time getting asking with them. They are very entitled, they don’t know boundaries nor space. They want to barge into the bedroom without knocking. They don’t like to clean up after themselves they don’t follow rules. I also am always the one enforcing the rules while their dad just wants to be the fun way going guy. There are v so many other grosses that I have but I will not get into it.

    I just want to say it’s hard and wears me down emotionally these days I don’t have the will to deal with it anymore. Since days I cry because I am unhappy and feel helpless. I feel stuck because I think this is how my life will always be and I feel I
    Should have chosen differently.

    I feel bad for feeling that way but honestly I’m at a point where it affects my relationship to their dad as I’m most times irritable and feel second to and unheard.

    Recently, I just decided to step back from everything and from stepmoming it’s hard because I want to do right by everyone but I takes so much from me and my now 3 month old. So I’ve basically been pouring my everything into my baby and myself.

    Sincerely,
    Drained

  12. Great article! I’ve read it a few times now. All of it hits home, makes me cringe, makes me cry, but ultimately speaks of real truth and concern.
    Honestly, I think the number 1 concern I have in trying to explain to my SO is, I shouldn’t come 2nd to his kids. I’m not meaning this in a selfish (me first) kind of way. In ANY family, to actually START a family, it takes 2 adults. As soon as children take the presidence over an adult, it throws off the original dynamics of the family. What woman (or man for that matter) had dreams of growing up and becoming a STEP parent? Being the 2nd mother or father? The answer, NO ONE. There is so much conflicting information (and lack of support) for step parents. When you go to marriage counseling, they usually say, “the marriage comes first, the children come second”. In my opinion, that is true, EVEN WITH A STEP FAMILY. My whole stance is this: these children have been through a lot (I know, I come from a divorced family). They are confused, influenced by their parents (good and bad), and are waiting to see what a positive and well functioning relationship looks like. It is the parents responsibility to show their kids what a healthy relationship is. If the world revolves around the kids, the kids get everything they want, if the kids see the step parent get pushed aside (and take a back seat to them), the parents are actually showing and teaching their kids that its ok to push your spouse aside. The parents are actually teaching their kids that eventually, they will be 2nd place in their own marriages, and to just accept it. Just like we step parents are to accept being second place to the kids.
    Now don’t get me wrong, if it’s an emergency and a child needs the help of their parent, I get it and would NEVER sacrifice a childs health and safety over my own. However, parents do need to realize that their children will grow up and leave the house. If they neglect their SO, if they neglect their relationship, if they put their children first all the time, when the children grow up and leave the house, the parent will truly have an empty nest. Most cases, there will not be a partner standing next to them. Because NO ONE likes to be in second place.
    I just wish there was more information and support to help the bioparents realize, how hard it is to be a step parent. And, in their first marriage, the SO would never come in second to the children they created. They would work together as a unified front (putting the marriage first and the children second). So why should it be any different for the step parent?

  13. Ok ladies I have ready many of your comments. And I am going through the same things. The biggest problem I have is never being a priority. We both have children from previous marriages. He has 1boy(13), I have (20) and (12) yr old boys. I know all to well when they turn 18 they are gone. Do any of you have any books I could read touching on the things y’all are commenting on

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