I was a stepdaughter twice, courtesy of my father who kept rushing to get married and apparently had a problem with being single and alone for long periods of time. Being a stepdaughter under the third wife was problematic. It was the same with the next stepmother, but eventually, our relationship became better. Dad and my stepmothers have now passed on. From the perspective of a stepchild, I think any woman who plans on marrying a man with kids should consider some things.
1. Get to know those kids before the wedding.
Dad started his third and fourth marriages off on the wrong foot by not introducing my siblings and me to his fiancées beforehand. In fact, he just sprung the new brides on everyone after the nuptials. Then he wondered why there was so much drama. I often wonder how much the third wife knew about his kids before they hooked up. Unfortunately, his fourth wife believed it would be a smooth transition into being a parent. It wasn’t. Having a relationship with the kids beforehand can make the difference between having peace in the house or having to deal with constant tension.
2. Don’t say anything negative about the kids’ mom.
One of my stepmothers, after a negative encounter with my mother, yelled to my face that my mother was crazy. The kids’ mom may be that and many other things. But make those comments to your husband, or better yet, keep them to yourself. Even if the kids have a fractured relationship with their mom, they may not appreciate anyone verbally running her down. This is especially true if they don’t have a solid relationship with their father’s new wife.
3. Watch that “let’s be friends” attitude.
If a stepmom wants to assert her authority in the house, it’s not a good idea to use the buddy routine with the kids if they are under 18 years of age. My father’s fourth wife made the mistake of doing that with my siblings and me. When incidents came up between her and us where she decided to lay down the law, it just created resentment. Remember, a friend doesn’t have to take advice—nor orders—from another friend.
4. If the kids’ mom is not interested in being cordial, take the hint and let it be.
My late mother once threatened to physically assault my father’s third wife. Ma learned that she was the woman that Dad cheated on her with, so there was no friendship to be had. The fourth wife often said she would like to meet my mother, but my younger sister and I quickly pointed out that would not be a good idea. My mother had nothing more to say to my father after I reached my mid-teens. She certainly would not have been interested in having any conversations with his wife.
5. When a serious situation comes up with the kids, voice your opinion, but let your husband be the one who makes the rules about how to handle it.
If the kids’ mom is present and available, allow her to have her say-so as well. Stepmoms often don’t like to be told this, but they have a place and need to recognize when to stay in it where the kids are concerned in many situations. It does not matter whether those kids are toddlers or adults. Pushing to be heard when silence would be better often has the effect of making matters worse.
6. Recognize that the kids have a mom, and never forget that.
Doesn’t matter if she’s on the scene or has passed on. The kids may develop a warm relationship with you, even if it doesn’t start off that way. Swooping in from day one and declaring “I’m the mama!” without laying any groundwork for a relationship to grow naturally is not the way to go.