Stop FIGHTING and start CO-PARENTING

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I am often discredited as a stepmom blogger because my relationship with K’s mom is so great. I take very little credit for our positive relationship; that was all Amanda, K’s biological mother (BM). She has chosen to invite me into her daughter’s life and treat me as an equal instead of opting for hostility and resentment. Not only has that given me a new lifelong friend, but it makes K so much happier that she doesn’t have to choose sides!

Here’s just a peek into a few of the awful things I’ve heard from other stepmoms about their stepchildren’s mothers:

  • Spreading rumors and untruths about their stepmother to the children, CPS, cops, neighbors, in-laws, etc.
  • Public defamation, including screaming and cussing, about and to stepmom.
  • Refusing to let stepmoms pick the children up from mom’s house and/or refusing to acknowledge stepmom’s presence when they’re in the same room.
  • Proclaiming death threats against the stepmom and/or the stepmom’s children.
  • Discrediting the stepmom role, referring to her as a babysitter or playing with someone’s old discarded toys.

I have witnessed so many gross indecencies that can actually be chalked up to miscommunication, and not just from BM’s side. There are stepmoms out there who act just as negatively. As women, many of us have a tendency toward girl-on-girl hate. Instead, I urge all of us – stepmoms and BMs alike – to focus on supporting each other! Which is why I felt it necessary to create this list of 20 things I wish my stepchild’s mom knew.

Fortunately for us, Amanda has made our relationship so easy and natural. But when I sat down to write this, I didn’t want to be clouded by my own experience. As a member of several stepmom support communities on Facebook, I asked fellow stepmoms what they wish their children’s BMs knew. Below, I’ve combined their statements with my personal experience as a child of divorce and a stepmom to provide you with the following list.

The stepmom/mom relationship doesn’t have to be hostile; mom and stepmom can play on the same team.

Things I Wish my Stepchild’s Mom Knew

1. You can make your place known while also allowing your child to have a relationship with me.

I wholly respect you as my stepchild’s mom. Your role is undeniable and is completely separate from the role that I play in our child’s life. Your child having a relationship with me when she’s at our house is helpful for her; it gives her a female role model and confidante when she’s at her dad’s home. It’s a role that doesn’t overlap with yours; it’s completely in addition to your role as Mom.

2. I wish you were open to conversations about your child.

I oftentimes have questions about things your child says or does, and I’d love to discuss them with you. If I’m ever at a parenting crossroads, I’d much prefer to have input from you than to make a decision unilaterally in our house. Sometimes it’s something as simple as an after-school routine or homework methods, but other times I’d like to discuss diet preferences, bullying, or health concerns.

3. I would prefer if you asked instead of telling us what we’re going to do.

I completely understand plans change; life is unpredictable in that way. I can be flexible, but it’s a lot easier to do so when you ask instead of tell. If you tell me I’m going to do something, it makes me think, “Why are you my boss?” which is definitely not a positive outlook on our conversation. When you explain the cause for the change and pose your solution as a question, I can be a reasonable person and definitely adapt to your proposed changes.

4. Compromise goes a long way.

That being said…. The ability to settle in the middle really speaks volumes. When you’re more willing to compromise with us, we’re far more willing to compromise with you too. I really do understand that plans and circumstances change – I know that ours do! If we could be flexible with each other and accommodate these unforeseen changes, I really believe our relationship would be stronger and better. For example, if my husband or I have to work on one of our normally scheduled days, it would be amazing if you could swap time with us for another day we’ll be home. We’d be happy to return the favor!

5. I wish you’d embrace the help of your children’s additional parents.

I’m here, willing and able to help you raise these children. Two minds are better than one, right? Let’s all (Mom, Dad, Stepmom, and Stepdad) collaborate on the morals we want to instill, the discipline techniques we’ll utilize, and the routines we want to establish. If our child gets in trouble at school, we can all discuss an appropriate punishment and ensure it’s being enforced at both homes! I’ll have a different perspective than each of her other 3 parents, and I know that together we can come up with a plan that will teach the lessons we want to teach and raise the best children possible.

6. I totally understand plans change – communication is all we need!

I really only ever ask for communication when things change. If you’re going to be late to pick up or drop off, please let us know! If you’re going to miss your pickup altogether, you should definitely let us know. We don’t want to be left wondering where you are, if you’re okay, if we should go ahead and continue with our plans for the day, etc. It’s A-Okay if plans change, we just need to know what to expect.

7. There’s no need to be jealous or threatened.

I want to be in your children’s lives. I want to be a parent, and I want to have a relationship with them. I am in no way trying to be “Mom” or to step on toes. I want a relationship that’s in addition to yours, not one that oversteps or blurs lines. I completely respect your relationship with your children, and I will never try to take your place. Your children know exactly who their mom is, and they know I’d never try to replace you. I just want a bonus relationship with them.

8. I wish you’d encourage your child to have a good relationship with her stepparents.

Stepdad is not more important than stepmom. Stepmom and stepdad are not more important than mom and dad. I truly wish you’d encourage your child to have great relationships with all of her parents. We are all here ready to love on these children as much as we can, so please don’t inhibit that relationship. Instead, encourage it. More parents means more love for your baby! What more could you ask for?

9. I wish you’d encourage your child to have a good relationship with all her siblings.

Similarly, I really crave healthy relationships for all of our children. We don’t see “half” or “step” in this house – only siblings. Your children with your new husband are not more important than my children from a previous marriage or my current marriage to her father. All of her siblings are invaluable, and I want her to have close bonds with each of them!

10. Miscommunication and disagreement should be addressed with us directly, not others.

Please don’t talk to your best friend, my husband’s parents, or any other person than us if you have an issue with how we are parenting or co-parenting with you. We desire a great relationship with you and your husband, and the only way we know if we are falling short of your expectations is if you communicate with us about those instances. Talking to others instead of us makes us feel like you’d rather maintain a hostile relationship instead of a co-parenting relationship.

11. I’m not a babysitter or “playing house.” I’m a parent, and I’m here for the long haul.

It deeply offends me when you suggest I’m only a babysitter or “playing house” with my husband and children. I am a stepmother to your children, and I deserve the respect of that title. I care for and love your children as if they were my own, so I am certainly not just babysitting, playing house, or any other offensive comment you’ve made about my role. If you truly don’t understand what it’s like being in my shoes, I recommend reading about the realities of stepparenting. While you’re given the benefit of the doubt, I’m left to defend myself each and every day. I am trying my hardest to fill this role to the best of my ability, and your doubt and ridicule are only making it harder for me to care for your children.

12. Though things probably aren’t done exactly how you’d like, I’m doing the best I can in my house.

When a child lives in two different homes, there are going to be differences in parenting styles. There’s no way around that, but I promise I will do my best to respect your wishes when they’ve been communicated to me. If you have expressed that you don’t want your daughter eating donuts, I’ll take your wishes into consideration. If you have a strict bedtime and it means a lot to you that your child recite prayers each night, of course we’ll respect your wishes. But understand that sometimes things will be done how we think is best when your children are in our home. We are also parents and are also capable of making decisions. I will always try to take your wishes and parenting style into consideration, please trust that.

13. I want to understand your perspective just as much as I want you to understand mine.

Though this letter has been about me and my perspective, I truly want to understand your perspective too. Could we have lunch or coffee soon and discuss our desires for our children’s upbringing and talk through some of our disagreements? I’d really love to understand where you’re coming from, and I definitely want you to understand where I’m coming from.

14. Children sometimes confuse stories, pander to the parent they’re talking to, or express untruths. Ask me for my side before you believe everything you hear.

Please don’t believe everything our child tells you. Children are much smarter than we give them credit for. When you ask if she wants to play softball, she might say no because she knows you don’t enjoy her softball games, but when I ask her if she wants to play, she insists that yes, she definitely wants to play. She knows that I played softball growing up. If she tells you something about me or our home, please ask me for my side before believing a child’s skewed perspective 100%.

15. Talking poorly about my husband or me is only hurting your children.

Please, please, please do not talk poorly about my husband or me in front of the children. We will never talk about you or your family negatively, and I would truly appreciate (and frankly, expect) the same respect from you. Your child loves her father and respects his decisions, so please don’t bad-mouth him to or in front of the children. Children should be able to just be little. Don’t involve them in adult issues or disagreements.

16. The issues you and my husband had are in the past. He’s a good father, and I support him in that.

You and my husband divorced for a reason (several, probably). I completely understand you think he isn’t perfect and you doubt his capabilities. You were primary caretaker for the children while he worked, and you don’t think he should have as much time with the children as you do now because he never spent as much time with them as you did pre-divorce. But at the end of the day, he’s still a great father. I understand he wasn’t a good spouse to you, and I understand your reasons for doubting him as a spouse. But he is a great father and he is a great spouse to me, so I continue to support who he is today.

17. It’s really difficult being a second wife.

I respect your position as Mom so much that it’s actually really difficult for me to be his second wife. I strive to be as good of a spouse and homemaker as you were for them, and I want you to know that I do truly value and respect the role you’ve played in their lives. I’d really love it if you learned more about the struggles I face as a second wife. I think you’ll better understand my perspective.

18. I really want to co-parent with you, but it’s a two-way street.

I really want a great relationship with you and your husband. I know that all of us getting along and working for the child’s best interest is what’s ultimately best for our children. I’m willing to set aside adult differences and disagreements if you are. I promise I don’t do things just to get under your skin, and I promise that I do have the utmost respect for you as our children’s mother. I crave a healthy co-parenting relationship and would really love to work with you as a team.

19. I think you’ve raised a really incredible kid.

Your child is really amazing. I love spending time with her, and she continues to amaze me. Her heart, mind, and passion are all so incredible. You’ve done an amazing job raising such a respectable child. She makes it easy being a bonus mom! How could anyone not love this little girl??

20. I love your child as my own.

It may sound cliche, but it is 100% accurate. I love your child as my own. Not more than my biological children – equally! I would take a bullet for your daughter without hesitating. When her heart breaks, my heart breaks. When she experiences joy, so do I. I sometimes find myself crying tears of happiness thinking about just how much I love this little girl and how thankful I am she and her Daddy came into my life.

Mom2 in Action

I wholeheartedly believe that Mom and Stepmom can play on the same team, work toward the same goal, and love the same child. Here’s how we’ve made it work.

Confidence in our Roles:

There’s no question in our households that Amanda is K’s mom. All of her parents make it clear she has 4 parents that love her dearly but only 1 she calls “Mom” and 1 she calls “Dad.”  Instead of being jealous or threatened by the close relationship I have with K, Amanda encourages our relationship. She gets her daughter excited about days out or other bonding time spent with me, her other mom.

Communication

Whenever I’ve had questions about my stepdaughter, her mom has always been quick to answer. We’ve discussed K’s recess stories about bullying, our mutual concerns about raising children in a sick world, and preferred disciplinary methods. Instead of being offended that I’m offering advice or threatened that I’ve taken a parenting lead as well, she’s cooperative and approaches these conversations as if we’re a team.

Instead of saying “I’ll discuss with her father,” Amanda encourages parental discussion between all parties. When it’s a disciplinary conversation, it will always include all 4 parents: Mom, Dad, Stepmom, and Stepdad.

Amanda is vegan-ish, but she doesn’t tell me what I can feed her daughter in our home. Additionally, any time she’s requested changes to the schedule or method (pick up vs. drop off) she has always asked instead of demanded. And every time we’ve requested changes, she’s been incredibly flexible.

The Child’s Role:

We don’t use K as a messenger or a pawn. Messages are sent directly through parents, and we don’t talk negatively about the other parent to our daughter. And honestly, she’s never been happier! She has two houses full of love, and she knows that we all want what’s best for her. She doesn’t feel like she has to choose sides.

Co-Parenting:

We can communicate requested changes, be flexible, and compromise so much easier now that we’re co-parenting and so clearly on the same team! We often have co-parenting dates: either out at a play place, out to dinner, or at one of our houses. Showing to our daughter that we really are one big happy family has helped her state of mind so much more than I could have imagined.

20 Things I want to tell my stepchild's Biological Mom

At the end of the day, we’re all working toward the same goal. We all want to raise children that aren’t “broken” just because they’re children of divorced parents. We want them to continue to live happy, healthy, productive lives, and we want them to grow into successful adults.

Let’s work together instead of against each other.

What do you say?

21 Responses

    • Kristen

      Thank you so much, Virginia! I feel so strongly that Mom and Stepmom should be able to work on the same team!

      Reply
  1. Shelly

    Nice article if all parties involved are willing to get along but when BM is a high conflict, narcissist with undiagnosed mental health issues this is a fairytale! Unfortunately, she’s like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get!

    Reply
  2. Robyn Sweet

    Wonderful article. As a bio mom, stepmom and foster mom – I can tell you that I have all kinds of “parenting” relationships. I truly support my ex and his new partner, we have disagreements but that is probably why she is with him and not me to be honest. I have had a rocky road with one the bio moms of my stepchild and the other is downright hateful. The bios of my foster run the ladder between super grateful and co-parenting to thinking I am the enemy. The children absolutely benefit far more from the co-parenting than not. They are not forced to pick sides or able to play the sides against one another. As a parent – while this will be difficult at times – take the high road, give the other parent the understanding you wish you were receiving…..if nothing else the children will see this and when the time comes (maybe not til after they are grown) they will appreciate you and your fairness, honestly and integrity. #NotAllStepMomsAreEvil

    Reply
  3. Tina

    I love love LOVE this post! My role as a stepmom is not simply to babysit or be the place you point the blame when you can. This post was incredibly accurate! Great job

    Reply
    • Kristen

      Thanks so much, Tina! I’m sorry that you’ve had such a negative experience as a stepmom, but I’m glad I could help your voice be heard!

      Reply
  4. Yolanda

    Thank you for writing this. It’s nice to know that all of us step moms are actually going through similar experiences.

    Reply
    • Kristen

      Thank you for reading this! There’s such solidarity in the sisterhood of stepmoms. I’ve got your back! <3

      Reply
    • Kristen

      Thanks so much, Krista! It’s definitely challenging when you’re communicating about something so personal.

      Reply
  5. Jen Enoch

    Your first paragraph is everything! I so wish that all other moms who have step moms in their lives could read & understand this post. I am sharing this to spread the word. Great tips. Good for you and BM for being responsible and loving adults.

    Reply
    • Kristen

      Thank you so much, Jen! I’m really hoping this article can help bridge the communication gap between mom and stepmom. Ultimately I want the relationship that Amanda and I have to be the norm, not the anomaly!

      Reply

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