It has been my experience that much has been written about the relationship between stepmoms and biological moms. They seem to be the topic of many conversations regarding stepfamilies. I think I understand, from my own experiences and from counseling all types of moms, some of the reasons why the relationship between these two moms can be difficult. I am going to approach this difficult topic with a tender heart because I have been there myself. I am a biological mom and a stepmom.
So, I was thinking that maybe it would be helpful for “moms” to understand where each of them might be coming from. Keep in mind that although there might be similarities typically they have different experiences. We have been brought up in different types of families, live in different types of stepfamilies, and have different experiences within that stepfamily. Usually, both “moms” are women. Usually, both women know how to love and nurture children because usually it is in their genes.
I think that in trying to understand each other, perhaps I can point out issues that you can think about. You might not agree with what I have to say but it might help you to have a better understanding just the same.
Insight for both the biological mom and the stepmom
Usually there is pain involved for one of the partners in a divorce. Sometimes it is the mom who decides to leave the marriage and so she is more accepting of all the changes involved in her new life. In that case it seems to be an easier transition, but not always. Certainly it isn’t always the mother who is disappointed, distraught and maybe angry after a divorce. However, if it is the mother, it can affect how she handles situations with her ex-partner’s new family. The biological mother might resent that she has to now have a schedule to share her own children, and live without them when they are with their father. She may be very busy with work and very lonely and worried for many reasons. Often her self-esteem is on the line if she feels that another woman has replaced her. Therefore, it is important for all stepfamilies to understand the feelings and needs of the biological mom. She needs time to heal and to be treated with kindness whenever possible.
The word “stepmother” carries so much baggage! She “steps-in” to help care for your partners children, she “steps-out” to let the parents deal with difficult issues that need to be solved, and she “steps- aside” to consider the needs of the biological mom ahead of her own needs for the sake of the stepchildren.
Stepmoms juggle the lives and the needs of moms and dads and stepchildren as well as many times her own children’s needs. Stepmoms usually try hard not to upset their partner or any of the children in the family. It is a difficult and continuous juggling act!
The reality is that both “moms” have a challenging time of it and if they can take a moment to appreciate that, a tall order for some, it will ease their interactions.
Here are 8 important issues that affect biological moms and step moms:
1. Being the mother, clarifying roles:
As illogical as it may seem, it is terrifying for the biological mother to think that she will be replaced with another mother figure. She worries about losing that special place with her children. That fear is very real to her. Biological mothers often feel sad that she gave birth to her children, raised them often for many years, put all her love and energy into them and now resents that someone can come along and take that position from her. Sharing children is hard.
Biological moms often forget that children will continue to hold a place in their hearts for their parents. Whether the mom is right or wrong, the children will always love her. Children love their parents unconditionally no matter what happens.
It doesn’t take long for the stepmom to realize she can’t be the mom and doesn’t want the sole responsibility to be it either. She can “step-back” and let the biological mom be the mom to her own children. Usually the last thing a stepmom wants is to be in competition with the biological mom.
Stepmoms know that they can have a good relationship with their stepchildren and a positive influence on them without expecting to be treated like the mom. They know that their role is to support their partner to care for his children, mentor them when asked, and keep them safe while they are at their home.
Let’s not forget that many stepmom’s have there own children to be concerned about. Often they have full time jobs and have much on their plates as well. Stepmoms are very busy people too.
If, and I say if, the stepmom could somehow get the message across to the biological mom by words or in writing, that she know she isn’t the mom and will never be the mom, it could significantly help the situation between moms. I have seen this happen.
2. Financial issues, easing the burden:
More often than not, there are financial worries in both of the children’s homes. Money can only stretch so far. The single biological mom especially, is often worried about her financial security. In those cases, the stepmom can encourage her partner to make sure the child support payments are on time. Inequality in the wealth between families is common. If this happens, it is wise to deal with this situation so that it doesn’t become a legal issue and cause bitterness between families.
It will give everyone peace of mind knowing that the children are taken care of in both homes. Also, the angst for the “moms” could be reduced and the relationship between everyone might become easier.
3. Making room for differences:
Parents often are influenced by the way their family of origin parented them while growing up. Accept that not all parenting styles will be the same in both homes. If both parents are reasonably responsible and children are not being hurt, try not to be critical. It is hurtful to hear from a third party criticism regarding how a biological moms or a stepmoms run their households. Judging each other’s way of parenting will only cause discourse between families. It is obvious that each family can only be responsible for what happens in their own home.
4. Parents need to make decisions for their children:
There will be times when a partner needs to discuss issues regarding their children with their ex- partner. All parents know that in order to take care of children’s changing needs, there must be freedom to discuss those needs. All “moms” will need to be respectful of the time and place for these discussions. Biological moms (and the ex-partner also) can be respectful when requesting time to talk about the children. It will really help if the partner discusses the issues before hand with the stepmom. After the discussion, the stepmom will also need to hear the decisions that were made because it will affect her life too.
5. Transferring children between homes:
Dropping off the children on changeover days can be tricky. If the children are old enough, let them carry their own things and go into the house themselves. Otherwise, drop them off at the door but be sure to stay outside. Both “moms” need privacy in their homes. It goes without saying that being polite on change over day is a must between both moms.
6. Serious issues arise for children:
There are times, such as teacher meetings or doctor’s appointments, when the two parents could go alone. It is not too much for the biological mom to ask. Usually stepmoms accept this and know it is important for the biological mom to have the comfort when dealing with children’s serious issues such as school. Not to leave stepmoms out though, the partner needs to be sure to tell the stepmom what happened afterwards.
Please note, stepmoms can always call teachers themselves and speak to them about the progress or concerns of their stepchildren. She will want her stepchildren to know that she cares about them, so a stepmom needs to be present at some of her stepchildren’s sports activities/concerts too.
7. Being flexible:
Schedules need to be changed sometimes. That is life! If it works for the children then everyone wins. A benefit of being flexible is that it creates a mutual willingness between families to give and take when needed. Schedule changes usually affect all family members, so “moms” might want to make sure everyone hears about the changes ahead of time, including the children.
8. Everyone needs there own space:
The biological mom and the stepmom need to have their own individual private lives if possible. It will work for both of them if they are not living too close together so that they have different shopping areas, different neighbors, and different friends. Each of them deserves peace in their own lives.
In conclusion, not all biological moms and stepmoms can be friends. It is very unusual, although it does happen. Those are the lucky ones!
I would emphasize the following comments for each of these “Moms”:
- biological moms feel so much better when they are gentle with themselves and learn to let go and make a new life for themselves. Focusing on the future rather than the past will help her find happiness.
- there is a trick to being a relaxed stepmom. It often helps to let go of preconceived images of what you thought your stepfamily should look like. Try not to personalize everything that happens with the biological mom. Making sure you have other interests of your own outside the stepfamily will make your life much easier.
We all know that happy stepmoms and happy biological moms will mean a happier and less stressful life for everyone in the two families. Remember that stepping back and taking time to consider each other’s situations will undoubtedly enhance the overall experience for everyone. Stepfamilies are a joy so let’s enjoy.