It is safe to say that nowadays, about 1 in 4 children is a stepchild. While blended families are growing more and more common and so called traditional families evolving, there is one constant myth that has not changed. THE EVIL STEPMOTHER.
Stepmothers, especially in Western culture, carry many myths that make it difficult for them to integrate into the new family and succeed in their new role.
If you look at characters from children books and fairy tales, you will run across over 500 stories where the evil stepmother plays a starring role. They are mean, cruel, lack empathy and love. Look at Cinderella or Snow White and you will see a perfect example of the stepmother abusing the innocent kids.
I have a stepdaughter and I am ok with her calling me her stepmom. However, my husband hates the word and will not let her to call me stepmom or for my daughter call him stepdad. We go by each other’s first names. Making things worse is the fact that we speak Spanish at home and in Spanish the word “madrastra” ( stepmom in Spanish) has a worse connotation than in English.
I was reading at some research on this topic and according to a study published at the University of Ohio Human Development and Family Science department, research has shown that stepmoms also have the most negative image among members of any family.
Stepmoms are perceived as less loving, unjust and unkind, unloving and very cruel.
The stepmothers I personally know have told me that these ideas or myths make it at times very difficult for them to form a bond or try to be good mothers to their step kids. I can vouch for that because I have also felt this way at time.
But what’s the solution? After reading extensively about this subject I have gathered some practical tips taken from different sources about how to deal with these preconceived ideas about stepmoms.
1. Prepare For Your New Role As A Stepmom. Do as much research as you can about your new role, ask the tough questions from each person whose family you are joining. Ask about habits, tastes, likes and dislikes. Learn as much as possible about your future stepchildren. This will help you navigate tough situations and make the transition seamless.
2. Be Tactical. Ask yourself, what type of stepmother will you be? From day one, you should insist on courtesy and respect, and most of all open communication. Communication is the key to a successful relationship with your future step kids
3. Accept The Fact That You Are Not The Biological Mother To These Kids. You will never be able to replace their mother so don’t even try. Expect negativity from the children so don’t take it personally. Some kids may need a longer time to grieve the fact that their parents are no longer together. Make sure the father is involved in communicating to the kids that your role as a stepmother will be quite different to their moms and that you are not replacing her.
5. Accept That You Will Need To Share. Make peace with the fact that you will always share your husband with his kids as long as you are together. Your husband may have a very strong bond with this kids and this should not change. Nurture that relationship and encourage it. It will only make yours with your husband stronger
6. Prioritize Your Marriage. Create united front. Support each other in every decision you make regarding the children and always make time for the two of you. Have date nights, go away for a weekend once a quarter if possible and always have time for the other person to talk through conflict.
7. Understand That Acceptance Will Not Be Immediate. It will take time for you to nurture your relationship with your step kids and for them to trust you. Don’t take any rejection personally and continue to try to have an open line of communication. With time, it will happen.
8. Use Humor As A Bonding Technique. I have found humor to be a great tool to bond with my stepdaughter. Making silly jokes, playing around and making her complicit in my little pranks are some of the way I have bonded with her.
9. Develop a Relationship With The Biological Mother. Try if at all possible to develop a relationship with the stepchildren's mother. Both of you will benefit by talking and sharing information about the kids. You don’t have to be best friends, but can work together for the well-being of the children. The stepmother / stepchild relationship is one of the most difficult to develop and maintain. Families need to communicate and work together to dispel the myth of the evil stepmother. It is the only way stepfamilies can succeed.