When you think of stepmothers, what comes to mind? Cinderella? Her dilemma of being demanded to scrub out the sooty fireplace, having to miss the chance to dress up and miss a night out with a handsome Prince, or having to suffer the superiority of step-siblings? All of this creates a skewed picture of the 'wicked-witch stepmother'. Well, real life is a bit different than a fairy tale, but the misconceptions surrounding stepmothers still seems to reside in the dark ages. By taking a few minutes to consider today's society and its needs, maybe stepmoms can step out of the fairy tales and become an asset to their stepchildren's informative years.
Unfortunately, no formula is foolproof. There will be missteps, misunderstandings, and pitfalls because you and your husband, their dad, may not have the children fulltime . . . it might even be as little as every other weekend and some holidays. The best you can do is make the best of the time they are with you.
Following are six steps to helping your relationship as stepmom to the children of your husband.
- Create their own space. Even though the children may only be with you for short periods of time, provide them with their own private space. This may include a bedroom, or at least a bed, dresser drawer space and/or closet space.
- Provide nutritious meals. Take the time to create a full-weekend menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Their school-week schedule may be hectic and not as nutritious as it should be, so this is a perfect opportunity to fill them up with wholesome, satisfying food.
- Set a schedule. Even though you will only see the children sporadically, let them know there are specific curfew hours. You may find them enjoying the fact they can catch up on sleep while still spending time with their dad.
- Never put the children in the middle. This may sound easy, but think about this anytime and everytime you are about to make a comment about their mom, their activities, their relationship with their dad, or anything else that will have them choosing between you or any other part of their life. Children should not have to make a choice between either parent, or defend one parent over another, or explain decisions made by one parent over another. You will only make them wary of talking with you as a step-parent if they are made to feel disloyal toward either parent.
- Keep it light. There is enough stress in a split-family situation, so this is where you can shine. Take the time to find out what interests your stepchildren and engage them in conversation, or research some trivia facts relevant to their interests and enlighten them, or find some age-appropriate jokes and tickle their funny bones. They will remember those moments.
- Love them as your own. These are your husband's children, and after all, you love your husband, their dad, and there is a definite common gene here. Zero in on personality traits of your stepchildren that mirror your husband's and realize those can be the same traits to be admired in them.
The most important trait to remember, though, is you. Your husband, their dad, and you are together and it is now the time to become that blended family. Relish the weekends together, take lots of pictures, create memories, and relive moments whenever appropriate to help them realize their "home-away-from-home" is important and relevant in their lives. Do not compare, contrast, or criticize one over the other -- just let them know how lucky they are to have so many opportunities at their disposal.