The “Mother” in Stepmother



As I have written before, stepparenting can be a challenging endeavor. Perhaps more so, according to the research, for the stepmom than the stepdad. We are all so familiar (thanks Disney and various fairy tales! ) of the evil stepmom. She is almost an archetype.

Such thinking though does little to help evolve those in the situation.

Over the years, I have tried to help my stepchildren formulate some type of vocabulary and awareness around their experiences. One of the things I have found to be most helpful is to speak to them about the word “mother”- in both the noun and verb form.

As there can be significant loyalty issues in stepchildren (especially if these are fostered and encouraged by the biological mother), that there can be little space for the sharing of love.

To help alleviate these issues, I differentiated the word “mother” for my stepchildren. I tell them I am not their “mother” (noun) nor will I ever be, nor do I have any desire to be so.

However, given the dynamic in which we live, for half of their lives, I am the “mother” (verb) energy. I do everything we expect of the word “mother’ in the verb form. I mother (v.), although I am not their mother (n.).

I have to tell you, this has really helped my stepkids, as they totally get it. It alleviates the stress of loyalty divisions and places the energy where it belongs.

I wish all involved in blended families would understand this idea. Too often, stepmoms are judged for being “too mothering” that we are told we need to understand the children are not “ours” (although we are told to love them as if they were ours…always such clear, clear signals from those in “divorced with children” scenarios πŸ™‚ ).

When the stepchildren are with us, I am not trying to be a mother (n.) for them. I am required though to mother (v.)them as I am the only woman in their life at that time. This is true for all stepmoms. Unless the their is some polygamy going on, the stepmom, when the stepchildren are with her, is the mothering figure for them. There is no other woman in the picture to provide the mothering energy. So let us not judge her for carrying forth the actions we so expect of her.


23 thoughts on “The “Mother” in Stepmother

  1. Pingback: Two Thumbs Up Tuesday | Not the Average Mama

  2. I have a question. Do you try to explain their bio mum has a disorder to the kids? I have a little one and really dunno how to deal with her mum having this disorder. I don’t want to bad mouth the mum. I just want my lil one to know it’s not her fault. Any suggestions is gratfully appreciated.

    • Hi, I am so glad you wrote. I have followed a number of paths in regards to your question about the bio mom and the kids.

      Looking back on the experience, I would say it is very difficult when the kids are young to have them make any sense of the situation. Children are simply too oriented towards their mother and there is not a lot of outside influence. All that being said, I did try. Sometimes, it created more drama, but I think it was worth it. I did try to point out great examples of moms and children in books, movies, and real life. I think more so than anything, young children simply need a solid adult supportive person in their life to orbit around.

      Now that the kids are older, I am more direct. I simply say, “You know your mother is not really an adult herself. That is why you become frustrated with her and she confuses you.” Children KNOW when their mom is not normal (seriously, they do). This does not lessen the pain for them, but it is important they know it is not them.

      I hope this helps. I am reading “Mother, Mother” by Koren Zalickas. it is frightening for me as (on a smaller level) I see this in my stepkid’s life. You may want to check it out.

      • It was difficult on how to pose this question, so thank you for the lovely response. Yes, she very little right now, but I will need to cross this bridge eventually. Thank you so much for the kind, gracious and insightful reply. You’re truly a godsend for these children even though you may feel worn down at times. Sending you strength and faith.

      • Thank you so much, Mark. I wish you the best as I know the journey you face ahead. Your awareness will be the most precious gift you can give your little one. She does not always needs answers, she simply needs a true, loving adult in her life- and that is you.

  3. Pingback: The “Step” In Stepmother – Faithful.Live

  4. I love this! I myself have 2 SKs and told them many times that I never want to be their mom. I think what s hard for me though is, now that I have my 2 own kids, to make my SKs respect me as a mother to their sibblings. Unfortunately conflict arises a lot with my stepson, he is only 11 but he steps over my motherly choices sometimes and when that happens it infuriats me. The worst is it makes me not appreciate my SKs as much as I did before having my 2 kids with their dad. Any advice for me? Thanks a mil!

    • I find your comments interesting as I never had children of my own. It must be so difficult to be treated in this manner when all you are trying to do is mother all the children who are with you at a given moment. I really feel for you, and sorry I don’t have any advice. I think at times you must be conflicted and exhausted! πŸ™‚

      • Pretty much conflicted, for a while confused and hurt at times however my strength is in my family and they are part of it too, I am trying to detach myself from their lives but also conveying the message of you can always count on me…I don’t know if they get it just yet but nothing much I can do, I am kept busy by my 2 little one, let alone keeping my hubby happy:)

  5. Pingback: The "Mother" in Stepmother - Fruitland Home

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