Updated: March 18, 2014 4:15PM
Marriage is tough. Raising children is tough. Raising someone else’s children is often a deal-breaker in second and third marriages. Today some stepparents offer advice on making it work:
CHANDRA: I found being a stepmother relatively painless. I think the reason was because I had two sons of my own. They occupied my time and I didn’t have any need or desire to inject myself too deeply into my stepson’s life. That suited him just fine.
As a result, my boys were never jealous of me giving my stepson too much attention, he wasn’t upset that I was always in his face, and my husband was just glad that we didn’t all kill each other!
KYLIE: I think a stepparent has to be aware of what his or her stepkids and spouse expect from him or her. Do they want a co-parent or a friend or a mentor or an “aunt” or an “uncle” or what?
You’re setting yourself up for heartache if you have a fantasy of a happy new family with yourself in a starring role. That’s probably not going to happen. At best, you’ll probably be somewhere on the sidelines, hopefully cheering everyone along.
HALLEY: As a stepparent of two children, I can say that no two children will react to you in the same way. I think it’s a big mistake to rush in and try to step into the role of mom or dad.
In my case, the older child has a much more reserved personality. Our relationship is not overly close, but I am respected. While in our home, my rules and discipline are followed. The younger child is much more outgoing and affectionate. I would consider our relationship very close. I’m not “mom,” but I am someone she’ll come to for advice on everything from school to boys. I hear and I say “I love you” on a regular basis.
Both kids were given the time to develop the relationship that they wanted. I guess it can be a little difficult for some people to understand that just because you marry the children’s mom or dad that you’re not an automatic family unit. A stepparent has to develop a somewhat thick skin when it comes to certain things and not take them personally.
However, as a stepparent, you do have the right to set the rules for your own household and are owed respect from the children while they are living under your roof. You and your spouse need to agree and present a united front.
It’s unrealistic to say that as the stepparent, you can’t discipline them or tell them what to do and not do when they’re in your home. But, you need to be on the same page about discipline and expectations because nothing will sink your relationship with the kids faster than you telling them to do something then their father or mother telling them they don’t have to do it.
Getting into a relationship with a person with children can be a daunting task, but there are rewards and those children can enrich your life just as you can enrich theirs.
Are you a stepparent? How’s that working for you? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out my new website askcheryl.net.