Blame Disney -- the portrayal of the wicked stepmother makes it hard for blended families everywhere. While the real truth behind stepping into the role of a stepmother is different for each family, carving out your own place in your new relationship can be fraught with conflict. By knowing your responsibilities, you can create new relationships with your stepchildren without stepping on any toes, therefore kicking the stepmother stereotype to the curb.
Defining Your Role
One mistake that stepmothers sometimes make is trying to assume someone else's role, which can breed contempt among kids, warns the Ohio State University Cooperative Extension. Rather than trying to step into their biological mother's shoes, your responsibility is to create a new role for yourself. While you may have mothering responsibilities, you are not your stepkids' biological mother. By cultivating individual relationships with your stepchildren, you can define your role as stepmother, rather than surrogate mom.
Supporting Biological Parents
While it may be hard to separate personal feelings from your working relationship, it's your responsibility to support both of your stepkids' biological parents. As a stepmother, you should remain a neutral party to the children, even if you dislike the biological mother. Avoid undermining either of the biological parents and always ask before doing something that would traditionally be their responsibility, like helping out in a stepchild's class at school, suggests Divorce Magazine.
It's not your job to decide on rules and their consequences -- that's left up to the biological parents unless both ask you to step in. Instead, you can discipline in form of enforcement. Rather than initiating your stepkids consequences when they're out of line, it's your responsibility to relay and enforce what the biological parents have stipulated. Still, it's also your responsibility to make sure your stepkids respect you, notes DrPhil.com. Enforcing existing discipline rules is a way to keep them in line without actually initiating the punishment.
As a stepmother, you can either be the force that drives a family apart, or the person who keeps them together. By building relationships between you and your spouse, you and your stepchildren and even their biological mother, you solidify your role as someone who cares about the emotional climate of the entire family. By getting to know your stepchildren better, paying attention and even cultivating a healthy working relationship with your spouse's ex, you fulfill your core responsibility as one of the heads of household in a blended family.