Why Step-parenting is Harder for Moms than Dads

Posted by on Apr 15, 2016 in Healthy Separation and/or Divorce Counseling | Comments Off on Why Step-parenting is Harder for Moms than Dads

Four key ways stepmoms are challenged in the process of blending a family

Step-parenting can be rough, especially in the early stages of family blending. According to research, the “early stages” of bonding can actually take up six to eight years! Stepmoms, especially, experience a lot of stress, guilt, and pressure as they try to build healthy relationships with their partner’s kids. Consider the following four unique step-mothering challenges:

1. Loyalty Binds

Children often feel that they have to choose loyalty to their biological mom over their stepmom. Liking the stepmom feels like betrayal. They will often intentionally find ways to be unkind or disrespectful to avoid being disloyal.

Unfortunately, only the biological mom can release a child from this kind of loyalty bind. She can encourage  her children to give the stepmom a chance or reassure them that she won’t be upset by their relationship with her. Essentially, she lets her kids know that she’s secure and okay with the stepmother’s presence in their lives.

2. Pressure for Perfection

Women put a lot of pressure on themselves to create a perfect blended family. Society adds to this as well. Even male partners sometimes increase expectations that she will somehow create happiness and harmony. Internally and externally, a woman feels pressured to bring everyone together like the Brady Bunch. Although we laugh at the simplistic sitcom, women still feel like they should live up to the TV family’s happy example.

3. Stepmoms vs. Ex-wives

There is a significant difference between the way stepmoms deal with ex-wives and how stepdads deal with ex-husbands. Post-divorce, generally, women tend to harbor feelings of anger and hostility much longer than men. Men tend to be more optimistic, believing that relationships will work out and reconciliation may even occur eventually. That contrast ends up setting the stage negatively for the former wife and the new stepmother.

The ex-wife may end up feeling resentful of the new relationship. An ex-husband’s attempts to avoid making waves with his former wife may lead to over connection or over involvement, increasing tensions between the two women. These adult situations can create further stress for a stepmom trying to establish herself in the family.

4. Stepmoms Become “Family fixers.”

Stepmoms are in a tough position:

They often feel thrown under the bus when it comes to their partner’s children. They may be dealing with poor treatment from the kids or disrespect. Their partner may be reluctant to correct their biological children or even flat out refuse to do so. On top of all that, the stepmother is expected to care for her stepchildren without the rights and disciplinary options of a biological parent.

To deal with all of this, stepmoms actively attempt to  become the family counselor. They may seek out self-help measures, books, etc. for ideas on how to improve their home life. In addition to educating themselves, they will also try to educate their partner and stepkids in order to make things better at home. However, the things the stepmom finds problematic aren’t necessarily things her partner or the stepchildren view as problems at all. For a lot of women, it can be extremely frustrating and exhausting to try and make any headway.

Trying to correct family problems can be depleting and thankless work. Over time, the effort of it all can significantly increase a stepmother’s resentment and dissatisfaction.

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