You’ve been cast as the female lead in a dramatic series called “Your Life” as the Stepmother. Now what?

10 Aug

Not a suggested role, for obvious reasons.

As stepmothers, we often have a hard time deciding how to approach our role as the new “female lead in a dramatic series”. Custodial stepmothers usually chose the role of “mom”, but for those of us that have our stepchildren every other weekend (or some other non-custodial situation), choosing an appropriate role is a bit more difficult.  Add in your own biological children and it gets even more confusing.

 Here are some stand-in roles that have been suggested to many of us.  See if any of these describe you:

The Cool Aunt:  You are probably around the same age as the biomom but you are her polar opposite. 

Discipline:  Like any Cool Aunt, you have your limits, but most of the time, you let stuff slide.

Advantage:  The kids look forward to their weekends with you to do different things than what they would do at home.  Arts and crafts, dancing to world music, hiking in the woods, you are a source of new adventures! 

Disadvantage:  The biomom will either embrace the fact that the children are learning new skills and are being exposed to new things or she will be insanely jealous and either criticize those things or try to compete by “one-upping” you.  It could get ugly.


The Big Sister:  You are probably much younger than the biomom and not much older than the kids.  You have boundless energy and you’re very enthusiastic.

Discipline:  You don’t have to worry about discipline at all because Dad will take care of it!

Advantage:  The kids think “Dad’s new wife” is totally cool!  You get to do all the fun stuff with the kids; what’s not to love?

Disadvantage:  At first, it’s all fun and games, but then the kids get older and realize that you’re The Stepmother in disguise.  The tide may change.  Never mind that the biomom already dislikes the fact that she got traded in for a younger model. 


The Sweet Granny:  You see the world through rose-colored glasses.  Your stepchildren can do no wrong!

Discipline:  Discipline?  What’s that??  You love those children so much and you just know that any bad or inappropriate behavior can be contributed to the hurt of the divorce which you know you can heal through your endless love.

Advantage:  The kids LOVE the fact they have control of the household. 

Disadvantage:  The kids have control of the household.  And most of the time, you end up as a doormat.


The Babysitter: You married a man with children but you have no emotional investment in them. 

Discipline:  When the kids act up, you thank God they’re not your children. Your disciplinary plan:  “Wait ‘til your father gets home!”

Advantage:  They show up.  It’s a “free-for-all” weekend.  They leave.  Everyone’s happy, especially DH.

Disadvantage:  You have to put up with way more back talk than any babysitter would ever have to and to make matters worse, you don’t get paid.


Obviously these are tongue-in-cheek descriptions but most of us have taken on a few of these roles to see what fits best and still we come back to The Stepmother, a role that has yet to be universally defined.  However, there does seem to be one nagging universal truth to this role:  we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.    If we try to love the kids like they’re our own, we’re accused of trying to take over the BM’s role.  If we admit to not loving them like they’re our own, we’re labeled as heartless shrews.  If we treat them like our own children, we’re criticized for trying to act like a mom to them.  If we treat them differently, we’re accused of playing favorites.  Often times, it feels like a no-win situation with every move being analyzed by a cast of characters that all have their own agenda.  I think I speak for most non-custodial stepmoms when I say that all we really want to do is support DH in the raising of his children, yet finding a comfortable place in how we deal with and interact with our stepchildren is so very difficult.

What kind of role have you taken on as a stepmother?  How long did it take you to find a role that suited you?

14 Responses to “You’ve been cast as the female lead in a dramatic series called “Your Life” as the Stepmother. Now what?”

  1. Carol Lewis August 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    So true! I oscillate between cool aunty and babysitter – neither of which is very satisfactory. And you’re right it does appear we can never win with the natural mum.
    So what’s the answer?

    • BioStep August 11, 2011 at 9:28 am #

      There really isn’t an answer. We all have to fall in the roles that work for us and help the family function as best it can. I tend to be the Cool Aunt and Babysitter, too. DH would like me to be the Sweet Granny. I just can’t go there.

  2. Kris August 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    I vacillated between “Cool aunt” and “Disciplinarian” when I was married to my ex-husband. At first I tried to be “mom” when SD was here but that didn’t work out well at all. Then I tried to be the “cool aunt” but her mom got uber jealous of all the fun stuff SD and I were doing. Then I had to go to Disciplinarian when SD got into the pre-teen years cuz XDH suffered from guilty father syndrome and just wanted SD to be in utter bliss the whole time she was with us. That meant letting her do and say whatever she wanted. Because I had just had a baby and didn’t want him picking up on her bad behavior I had no choice but to step up and do the job my ex didn’t want to do. Honestly I love my XSD with all my heart and miss her terribly but I do not miss the roller coaster ride that is stepmotherhood. Of course now i am living the life from the other side, that of the biomom and it’s just as bad from this side of the equation too.

  3. Laura Riggs August 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    I have a different roll with my two stepkids, because of the age difference…we have full custody ( mom has school vacation visitation ) and with ss16 it’s somewhere between an aunty who expects him to do the dishes every once in awhile/ big sister who will try and keep him out of trouble, but with sd11 i definantly have a full time smom roll, making sure chores are done, homework is completed, room is clean etc…..the different dynamics combined with having a biotoddler makes me crazy sometimes 🙂

    • BioStep August 11, 2011 at 9:30 am #

      It gets tricky when you have kids at very different ages, doesn’t it???

    • Kris August 11, 2011 at 9:37 am #

      It really does make it more difficult when there is a big age range. My SD was 9 when my son was born. She always used to say that I treated them differently. Of course I did. He was a baby and she was a pre-teen. I couldn’t ask him to pick up his toys, or help out around the house but there was no reason she couldn’t!

  4. Michelle Christensen August 11, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    Oh my lord.. thank you for your blog. This made me feel so much less “alone” in my position today.

    This describes exactly what I’ve been feeling the last week, better than I ever could have.

  5. DevilHerself August 12, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    I don’t fall into any of these categories. I treat SD the same as I do my son but with respect to their age differences. We do a lot of fun things with our children so I may seem like the fun aunt to her but that is just the type of things we do as a family. We are long distance parenting right now so she doesn’t get to do so many fun things that often.

  6. Talia August 15, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Hmmm…I lean more toward Babysitter, yet they are too old to be babysat.

    I have learned (yes, the hard way) to keep my mouth shut and let DH and BM do the parenting. It has been made abundantly clear to me that they are not my children, therefore, I shall not parent. And, I am okay with that because when they screw up (and they do) it isn’t my fault, because they aren’t my kids. (sorry for the sarcasm!)

    • BioStep August 15, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

      No need to apologize for the sarcasm but it begs the question: when they do something fantastic, do you ever take credit? Just wondering. The only thing I ever took credit for with my SDs was teaching them how to swim (and then later paying for the swimming lessons so they could continue to learn to swim).

      • Talia August 18, 2011 at 5:44 am #

        No, I don’t take credit for anything they do that is fantastic. It wouldn’t be right. And truth is,they have perfectly good parents who should take the credit.

  7. Charlene the Wicked October 4, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    Great post and SO true!

    I am lucky (insert sarcasm here) to be constantly villainized by my youngest’s Bio Mom. She tried to treat me like nothing more than a babysitter in the beginning (even treating me as her personal transportation assistant when she could not leave her new job in time to get her own daughter). When her daughter and the instructors at the after school activity saw me as more than that, all hell broke loose. Jealousy and competition do not even come close to describing her behavior. She took my hubby to court and tried to get full custody with him only having every other weekend, holiday, and one night a week. Previously, they had always done 50/50. She wrote a blog presenting herself as the one who was the victim – as though my husband was trying to take custody away from her – which was never the case. He wanted limits and boundaries. He simply desired no more last-minute switches so she could go on vacations or showing-up hours earlier at our home, hours earlier than agreed, and demanding her daughter. He desired no more than the respect he deserved as a parent and discontinuance of her bullying him into submitting to her way only when it came to parenting decisions. It simply didn’t work anymore because his daughter was older and he felt her Mom’s decisions were not always best. He has a daughter 3 years older that he has raised and providing excellent parenting to, amazing parenting, and she never gave him any credit.

    On the other hand, his oldest’s Bio Mom is almost like a friend to me. She is someone I would be friends with even if we weren’t connected through this blended family. She and I collaborate well with each other and are not threatened by each other. We have mutual respect for each other.

    After about 6 years with my husband and 2.5 years of marriage, I have become a Bonus Mom to both of his daughters. I’m not “in place of” (as the term “step-” actually means), I am a bonus to, their Bio Moms.

    It works great for our household and the youngest’s Bio Mom is learning to adapt ever since the courts upheld that 50/50 was what was best for their daughter. She loves both of them, and both of their new families, very much. She deserves to be a part, an EQUAL part, of both families.

    I look forward to reading more!

  8. not a stepmonster! May 6, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Love this site! In the scenarios you depict, unfortunately I am somewhat between cool aunt, big sis and babysitter, hating it too. Start off with me being 8 yrs younger n 70 pounds lighter than ex wife, DH calls me his trophy girl, his m&d, sibs n friends love me while she would rather snatch up the kid n haul off 600 miles to Pennsylvania than spend 2-3 hrs w DH’s fam n all their sons cousins n let him have fun on Christmas. She has violated the restraining order she got on DH, (in NH all you have to say is I’m afraid whether true or not) and he spent a night in jail over it! She called him! Hate the fact that sk thinks his BMs lack of rules extends to my house (DH moved in with me and dtr 18 mos ago, I owned my own house at 24 y o and I’ll be damned if ss is going to damage it!) So I get no say and since DH bends over backwards to make ss happy, my home gets trashed and dogs have both been kicked by ss (7 yr old big kid, 68 pounds and 54″) yet I am a bitch for yelling at him for kicking. He is too big to not understand that it hurts to get kicked and too old to act like a baby when scolded. Cries to his father if I say no to anything, tantrum every day this weekend visit, same as every weekend. Talk about embarrassing, he threw a tantrum on the ball field yesterday in front of everyone, even when he knew he was out and before that he was screaming his team was winning and they don’t even keep score, he always has to win n is never to blame for anything. Tbd biobeeotch for having no rules n raising little lord fuckleroy. It is a broken record and he seems to enjoy making me mad over hurting my dtr or pets and then crying to dad that I yelled.
    This weekend was the last straw, I told DH that one more kick to anyone in this house will result in him getting put in a police car and get arrested for assault if its me or dtr, animal cruelty if it is my dogs, I don’t care if he is 7 he is a nasty little boy. Rude and violent and no manners and I am sick of being second class citizen in my house every weekend. Last night I had to sleep on the couch cause stepbrat wouldn’t sleep in his own bed, when I went to go to bed next to my husband, he was in my spot. WTH? I did not imagine my boudoir having Star Wars sheets and legos all over the floor.

  9. Wendy December 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    Damned if you do or don’t! I couldn’t agree more. My steps (18B, 15G, 11G) are being raised by an extremely permissive BM. Suffice it to say that I have more rules & expectations than bio mom. I have a great relationship with my ex, and he is a wonderful source of support in raising our two children (16B, 14G). My DH doesn’t have this with his ex. So my steps are always a challenge when it comes to acceptable behavior. Bio mom allows the 15 year old drive alone (she doesn’t have a license) date, etc. 11 year old does what she wants, when she wants. I’ve voiced my opinion on what I think, and have tried to explain to the steps why certain behavior can have serious consequences. More often than not it causes problems between me and DH. So, now my position is one of “if it doesn’t effect me or mine” I ignore it. It becomes too much of a struggle to fight the permissive parent.

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