The Rules of Step-Parenthood {aka being Wonder Woman}


Let me tell you…being a stepmother is hard. There are a whole lot of unwritten rules and unknown boundaries that you don’t realize until you break them or cross them. Don’t get me wrong; I was under no illusions that marrying a man with 3 children was going to be a cakewalk. I was prepared for it to be challenging at best. Well…it was about 45 bazillion times harder than I could imagine.

So, I’ve come up with a little list here of do’s and don’ts that may or may not help some of you out there.

(Please read these with the bit of sarcasm that is intended.)
1. Do NOT make the mistake of thinking you REALLY are a parent. You don’t have to worry about forgetting this one. You’ll be reminded constantly (by both parents and kids).
2. You will be expected to be a parental figure when it is convenient for the parents (i.e. Helping with homework, picking up kids from school or friends’ houses, washing dirty laundry, picking up messes made by said children, etc.) and when it’s convenient for the kids (i.e. they want permission to do something or they are telling on a sibling).
3. You will be expected to realize your proper place as a non-parent at other times. These times will be communicated to you on a need-to-know basis.
4. The “ex” has been placed in your life to be a constant thorn in your flesh. You probably made the mistake of asking God for patience or perseverance or some other virtue at some point in your life.
5. The parents can speak frankly about the children. The can say to you (or to each other) our child is a drama queen or is lazy or needs help in this area or that. You are NOT allowed to agree with these statements and NEVER repeat these things out loud. It will be received as an insult. It’s that whole concept of “I can call my brother lazy, but if you call my brother lazy then I’ll kick your butt!”. (my brother isn’t lazy, by the way)
6. The unwritten rules (that no one knows ahead of time) can change by the moment. What may be right and acceptable today could very likely be forbidden tomorrow.

To be honest, I deeply love my stepchildren. I know the youngest loves me back just as much. She and I are best buds! The middle child…hmmm…I think he does too though he won’t likely admit it (I think if he admitted it he’d think he was somehow betraying the mother)…the oldest (aka the man-child) thinks I’m (and this is a direct quote) 60% evil stepmother (which I am doing my utmost to live up to) and 40% decent human being.

Me? Well I’ve decided that I have to be a super hero to even get it 1/2 way right!! I’m shooting for Wonder Woman (because my husband thinks she’s sexy…if I’m going to be an “evil stepmom/superhero” I may as well be sexy too!!!)

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13 thoughts on “The Rules of Step-Parenthood {aka being Wonder Woman}

  1. Doggone! Anyone who can live with this day in and day out IS Wonder Woman!

    Based on this, I am surprised anyone makes it in the world of step parenthood. In fact, if I read this at a time when I was considering marrying a man with children, I would probably be too afraid to go ahead with it. I wouldn’t walk away…I’d RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Many pastors want a couple to spend several counseling sessions with him before the wedding. I would like to see premarital counseling for people who are considering marrying a person who has children.

  2. Bridget Clary says:

    I HAVE to comment on this one….I have had a much different experience being a stepmom. I give a lot of credit to both Martin and Emma for that. I have been offered complete acceptance as a real parent by both of them. I know that has much to do with Emma’s age when I came into the picture. I often wonder how and IF things will change between us as she grows into a teenager, but I don’t think it will be much different given her loving and respectful nature. She’s a great kid! I guess what I feel is that each step-parenting situation is different. There are many factors which will determine how you will be perceived by the child and the parents. I know how lucky I am….I don’t think I would be very successful at ALL in the scenario you described. I believe that step-parents ARE parents and should be able to serve as such in their home.

    I for one hate the “Evil Stepmother” image!! As a stepmother, I feel well loved and respected. I know Martin would say the same about being a step-parent. We don’t expect respect from the other parents of our kids…that is never going to happen. And it’s okay.

    I know I make lots of mistakes as a stepmom (and a parent to my own kids). Parenting is hard. Period.

    • The comment about NOT being a parent was said somewhat in jest. Fortunately, you and Martin have very similar ideals in how to raise your children together. You also get a certain amount of respect because you have your own kids. That makes you ‘official’. People who do have children of their own make the mistake of assuming that since I have not given birth to a child that i am somehow unqualified. YES…this has happened to me. It is much easier when the families are blended and children are younger…that is why Katie and I are so close…

      • Bridget Clary says:

        I also think I have it easier since Emma, Gina and Erin live under my and Martin’s roof the vast majority of the time. Having primary custody and being “mom” to the kids 90% of the time makes it much more normal for them (and me). I never hear “I don’t have to do that. You are not my mother.”

        Excuse me, but it is ludicrous for anyone to think you are incapable of parenting any child because you haven’t birthed one, but I’m sure that is coming from the birth mother. You will have to deal with feelings of jealousy and the other party will feel threatened by you and that’s one of the miserable aspects of step-parenting.

  3. Bridget Clary says:

    Let me add one more comment. Honestly, I never expected that when Martin and I merged our families it would be so EASY!! I must admit that I expected there to be a lot more strife involved.

    So, there’s your alternate point of view, Margie. For what it’s worth. πŸ™‚

    • One more comment…most of my stress come from the oldest child and the ex. I adore my relationship with Katie. We decided over the summer that we didn’t like the term “stepmom” either and decided that big sister was better…that’s the kind of relationship we have.

      • Bridget Clary says:

        Ex’s…ugh. You know I understand that one!! We got two of ’em to deal with!!
        Nice that you have such a positive relationship with Katie. No doubt you will be a great role model to her!

  4. Bridget Clary says:

    Okay…I have a cute little story which is an appropriate illustration for our discussion here:

    Last week, I picked Gina and Emma up from their “summer club” where they go during the day while I’m at work. They usually say they had a great day when I ask. They enjoy that place. On one day, though, they had a story to tell about a “mean girl” there who had been pestering them, mainly Gina. This girl had swiped some of Gina’s Lincoln logs and took off with them while Gina was trying to build something. It had made Gina cry. Apparently, this upset Emma who stepped in to defend her sis. Emma told me how she handled this bully…(I just love this part!!)…she said, to this little girl, “I can call my Step Mom to come up here!”. πŸ™‚ I totally felt like a super hero at that moment!! Martin and I had a laugh over that one later!

    That one little comment by Emma spoke volumes to me about several things, not the least of which is the way my girls stick together in the face of adversity. I love love love that they have each other out on the world when I can’t be there to kick some butt for them! (which Emma obviously knows I am capable of-also love!! Haha)

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