Don’t Become the Wicked Witch! – Marrying a Man with Kids
You’ve fallen in love – finally met the man of your dreams. Life is like a fairytale….but wait! Turn the page! Quick! He has children. And suddenly you no longer envision yourself as Cinderella, or Snow White. The only image that seems stuck in your mind is that of their wicked stepmother, and you shiver as you realise that ‘stepmother’ is exactly the role you will be playing.
Don’t close the book yet though. There are many more pages in that binding….and you’ll want to read the ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ at the end.
I speak from experience when it comes to stepmothers. I’ve had two. I’ll refrain from boring you with the details of the first, especially since she was only in my life for a year.
Then along came Stepmom 2. She was different in so many ways – but what stood out the most (although it took some time) was that she had a kind, gentle and understanding spirit. She was the one. Almost twenty years down the line, she is still my stepmom. And I can honestly say that I love her for who she is.
There are some things to make mental notes about when you’re given the opportunity to be someone’s stepmom. Please note the use of the word ‘opportunity’ – because it most certainly is: a set of circumstances that allows you to possibly make a positive difference to a child’s life.
- It doesn’t matter how bad their biological mother is, or was; it doesn’t matter if they have a strained relationship with her; it doesn’t matter if they have always expressed a desire to have a ‘real mother relationship’ with someone. You are not Mom. As they grow, and as your relationship with them strengthens, you will be able to love them and care for them and share with them – but you will never be their real mother. Don’t take this to heart – accept it for what it is, and build on what you have.
And whatever you do, do not suggest, ask, or tell them to call you Mom. If they decide to talk about this rather uncomfortable subject for some, or suddenly start calling you Mom, then that’s fine. But avoid speaking those words yourself.
- Love and respect their father in front of them – even when his behaviour borders on unlovable, and he does things that you perhaps deem as unworthy of your respect. By the same token, don’t agree with them when they are angry with their father, and don’t allow them to be disrespectful towards him. In the heat of the moment, this may not always go down well because children love to have someone on their side (we all do) and will still try and manipulate you and their father by playing you off against each other – but they’ll thank you for your resolve to remain neutral later.
- They probably won’t like you much. It’s important to remember though that this is not personal. You’re a threat to them, and they need your understanding in this. Be gentle. You may be the ‘love of his life’, but he belonged to them first, and because they share the same blood, he will always belong to them. This is the moment where you have to put in to practice one of the fundamentals of life that we so often try and drill into children – share.
Yes, you have needs. But you are the adult in this relationship. You need to make allowance for the children’s needs – and understand that they may actually need a little extra to begin with.
- Never be ashamed to admit that you may need a little help in difficult times – or possibly even in not so difficult times. Just be careful what you do to get it. Social media is not the place to air problems with your stepchildren, and neither is talking to every friend who will listen. Step-parenting can put a huge strain on the marriage relationship – and of course, your husband needs to understand that as much as he has a responsibility towards his children, he also has a responsibility towards you. Seeking counselling from whichever source you prefer can help to ease the transition from simply being in love with and sharing your life with him, to growing to love and sharing your life with them.
- Don’t compare. This applies to EVERYONE involved, including you. Do not try and measure yourself according to ‘Mr X who lives next door’s new wife’, and how she fits into their family.
Do not compare your stepchildren with any other children, including your own. EACH child is an individual, with strengths and weaknesses. They ALL need support and encouragement, and while some may need more, that is not an excuse to compare and make them feel bad about themselves.
Don’t compare the way things are in your marriage to other marriages that may seem similar. EVERY marital relationship is different, no matter how much they may seem alike.
Don’t compare your husband, or his method of trying to cope with all the changes, to other men you may know. You’re just asking for disappointment. There’s no room for negativity when you’re trying to build a healthy marriage and healthy relationship with children who are not your own.
Of course, all the points mentioned above are not foolproof. They carry no guarantees. That’s the thing about relationships – they’d be perfect, if it wasn’t for people.
Everyone’s circumstances are different – personalities are different. The world would be boring if this was not so, not so?
But know this – if you’re having a difficult time, I very much doubt you are alone. Do yourself a favour – take a deep breath, take a step back, and allow yourself to ask for help. There’s no shame in that!
written by Meg G