Thanks, Cinderella. I walked around with the threat of being the “Evil Stepmother” for years. As a product of a still nuclear family, I had absolutely no experience with divorce, second marriages or raising someone else’s child. In the 15 years since I first held a precious little girl in a bright red hooded coat, I’ve learned a lot. I can sum it up in one way. Step-parenting is the New Black.
When you embrace being a step-parent or embrace the new step-parent in your child’s life, you have a huge opportunity. Here are 5 ways to win a navigating a blended family.
- Befriend your ex’s new partner. This person did not replace you. This person loves your ex and, no matter how you feel about your ex, chances are if you ex is happy, things will go a lot smoother between the two of you. In many cases, your child’s new step-parent is invested in the health and well-being of your kids. Let them be. Acknowledge their positive impact on you kids’ lives. You can do that because you stand in the position of authority. The step-parent isn’t your competition. They are a staffer of your “Make My Kids Awesome Adults” campaign. Give a gold star every now and then. Why bother? See #2.
- Step-parents can be great mediators.
me·di·a·tor (n.) ˈmēdēˌādər/
1. a person who attempts to make people involved in a conflict come to an agreement; a go-between.
Imagine someone helping you and your contentious ex come to a conclusion that is devoid of history, animosity, or selfish agendas. If you approach the conversation with inclusivity, you just might find an ally where you least expect it.
- You can help heal some wounds of divorce. Every time my step-kids say “My mom makes better garlic bread than you.” or “My mom gives better back rubs than you.” I answer, “I bet she does. I loved my mom’s (filling the blank) when I was little. Aren’t you lucky to have such a cool mom?” You know why I say this? Because I don’t give a flying fuck who makes better garlic bread or back rubs. These kids need to look at their parents like the perfect angels that they are and love being a part of that. And interestingly, the children really appreciate not having the extra stress of competition. Even though she doesn’t know it, I am their mother’s #1 Fan.
- If navigated well, the bond of step-parent and birth parent can last beyond childrearing. Because you share no biological link to this new step-parent, as the years go on, you can naturally transition to friends more easily than you can with your ex. It may not have been part of your design to share your children with another person. But, let’s be honest, that pesky muffin-top wasn’t part of the design, either.
- Objectivity is an amazing parenting tool. A step-parent can be a walking textbook of up-to-date parental and child rearing theory. Glimpsing objectively at your children is an amazing way to get to the root cause of some recurring issues. Lean on the step-parent to go CSI on that temper tantrum and help your kids grow.
We all have made choices in our lives that have had repercussions, some are marvelous, some, unsightly. All of them create the rich fabric of life. Embrace them. Flaunt them. Wear them well on a night out on the town because nothing is more fashionable than rising above it all.