The Brady Bunch was awesome for a lot of reasons, not least because it showed us how fantastic blended families can be. But in the real world, it’s usually not that harmonious and step-mums possibly have the hardest gig of all.
So if you’re new to the role and need a few valuable pointers, probably the best place to start is with a list of what you SHOULDN’T do. Then the good stuff just makes a lot more sense.
1. Don’t come on too strong
We get it, you’re keen for your partner’s kids to like you so you can show him what a big happy family you can be. Plus you might be really excited about having step-kids (especially if you don’t have any of your own). However, if you come on too strong and try and force the love, it could backfire in a big way. So don’t ask them to call you Mum, try too hard or spoil them unnecessarily. They’re most likely dealing with a lot of emotions so let them come around to you in their own time.
2. Don’t see them as a burden
While having step-kids does create a lot more responsibility and less time for yourself (especially if you have your own children), try not to think of them as having a negative impact on your life. You have fallen in love with your partner, and his kids are part of the package. Children who have already lived through the separation of their parents can be more sensitive than most too, and often quickly pick up on bad vibes; so the more you think positively about being a step-mum and plan activities with the kids that you enjoy too, the better for everyone.
3. Don’t take over the chief parenting role
It can be tempting to take the lead when it comes to parenting and household tasks in your efforts to please everyone, or simply to make things run more smoothly. However, this can work against you. So don’t let your partner shirk his responsibilities as a parent. Make it an even playing ground and in particular, be sure they take responsibility for disciplining their own child so you don’t always have to be the bad guy.
4. Don’t overstep your boundaries
When you’re spending a lot of time with your step-kids under the same roof, you may feel comfortable enough to think of them as your own children and therefore forget the status of your relationship with them. No matter how close you are, you will never replace their own mother and shouldn’t attempt to do so. Don’t be too opinionated when it comes to knowing what’s best for them either, or assume anything when it comes to important family events that involve your partner’s ex.
5. Don’t take things personally
It’s pretty likely you’ll get “You’re not my mother!” thrown at you at some point, plus potentially the cold shoulder and a defiant attitude when it comes to you being in charge. Or your step-child may not want you to hold them or even have you present at certain times, such as the nightly bath or a kindy concert. While hurtful, you simply cannot take these things personally. Remember it’s not directed specifically at you, it’s just them dealing with the transition and with time, it should pass.
6. Don’t parent differently with your own kids
If you have children yourself, it’s important to treat them as equally as possible as your step-kids when it comes to things like bedtimes, eating habits, pocket money and other house rules. Don’t ever give preferential treatment to one or the other as this will create a feeling of imbalance and make both sets of kids question your feelings – don’t go overboard with trying to get your step-children to like you by relaxing all the rules just for them.
7. Don’t disrespect their mother
Regardless of how you and your partner may feel towards to their ex, keep this to yourself and don’t ever bad-mouth your step-kids’ mother. This will always have the effect of making them feel defensive and hostile, and as a new member to the family unit you don’t want to get involved in any of their family issues. Love, kindness and respect to all parties is the best way forward for everyone (even if the ex is creating waves).
8. Don’t have too high expectations
It’s normal to be really eager to get your new blended family up and running smoothly, with everyone getting along famously and a harmonious home life. However, these things do take time so lower your expectations around the whole situation and don’t be in a such a rush to get things where you want them to be. Being a step-mum is a marathon event – not a sprint – so just relax, do your best and before you know it, things might be looking a little Brady after all.
Read more about blended families: