What is your best advice for a new wife and stepmom?

Emilie compressed

My friend Emilie, her new husband Job and his (their) 5-year-old son Jesse. It was a beautiful wedding, but now she has a lot of new responsibility.

My 30-something girlfriend got married for the first time Labor Day weekend in a spectacular wedding on her family’s farm in the Berkshires. We were blessed that we were able to get away for 36 hours and go to her fabulous wedding. (Best wedding we’ve ever been to! More on the get-away later.)

But now the wedding is over, and it doesn’t matter that her dress was drop-dead beautiful or that her menu was amazing. Now she is a married woman with a 5-year-old stepson. (Her new little guy is a fantastic kid. I really enjoyed meeting him and chatting with him! He gave me a very detailed explanation of how the reception tent was hammered into the ground.)

So I thought it would be interesting to offer her our best marriage advice and advice on being a new stepmom. I think learning to be a great stepmom and walking that fine line with the child’s mom may actually be harder than learning to be a great wife.

The good news is she is great with children. Whenever she comes to visit us she is so interested in our children. She talks to them with respect. She plays with them, reads to them and loves to cuddle them. I think she will be a great stepmom to her new little guy. But I’m also sure there are tricks to the trade of becoming a stepmom and pitfalls she should avoid.

I’m also interested in your advice on getting married in your late 30s. I was married in my early 20s and went straight from roommates to a husband. I never lived alone. I think it would be a pretty different experience being used to having your own house and everything exactly the way you want it and then having to start compromising. I know it can be done, but I’m sure there are ways to make this transition easier!

What do you think? What advice would you give my very good friend about being a new wife and a new stepmother? Does she get to discipline the little guy? How much say does she get in decisions about his life?

82 comments Add your comment

New Stepmom

September 16th, 2009
1:57 pm

Thanks HB. I am lucky to have a supportive husband and several close step mom friends. Although I do not like the way the ex treats my husband and although the ex has very different ideas than I do on an array of subjects-she is a good mom. If presented with a similar situation to the graduation one you outlined above, I would do the same thing.

One thing I will warn of in addition to other thought I have posted, that I have only begun experiencing. I am 10 years younger than my husband and the ex. I met my husband 3.5 years post divorce. Because of our age difference there are women at my stepdaughter’s school who do not give me the time of day. They assume my husband traded for a newer model and I am some sort of homewrecker. These women look at me with great distaste. It stings at times, but I know, my stepdaughter knows and God knows the truth and I have plenty of friends and I am not there to make more friends but to be a part of her education. Theresa, that may not be an issue with your friend, but I am friendly and tend to make friends easily and that was a bit of shock.

nana

September 16th, 2009
1:59 pm

I was a step mom immediately upon marriage to my first husband to a beautiful 2 year old boy.. My ex and I had two children and they are very close to their brother. While we divorced over 15 years ago my step son and I have a great relationship. It makes me very proud to hear his wife talk about how much he loves me. I am now a step daughter as my dad remarried after my mother’s death. I think maybe my step mom could have used some advice on how to treat my dad’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. My dad and his wife help her children and grandchildren on a daily basis. Things such as help with books for college, clothes, etc. They have not once even bought my dad’s grandchildren or great grandchildren a pencil knowing that there have been lay offs in the family. It’s ridiculous. I say treat the step children as you do you own (to include grandchildren and in this case even great grandchildren. I agree with the let the blood parent do most of the discipline and never bad mouth the natural parent, EVER.

Denise

September 16th, 2009
2:19 pm

I was a stepchild for about 2 years (2nd and 3rd grade) when my parents divorced the first time. I liked my stepfather enough but I was (am) a daddy’s girl. I had my father in my life so I didn’t “need” another father. And in my little 8 year old eyes, he couldn’t measure up to my father. (I still feel that way at 36!) My mother didn’t tolerate us talking to him any kind of way; his children, my brother, and I were always treated the same. My mother and their father could discipline us with no issues from the other. Actually we would get in trouble for complaining about him to my mama. She wasn’t having it. Also, a key thing, was that my father didn’t downgrade the step. The only issue Daddy had was him trying to get me to call him daddy. NEGATIVE! I told him “you are not my daddy so find something else for me to call you”. LOL! We settled on just his name.

jct

September 16th, 2009
2:20 pm

@sad stepmom

Your situation is heartbreaking and unfortunate. I hope you and your daughter are getting the support that you both need.

Back to topic…do any of you have a preference how your called? I am called by my first name. As a term of endearment I am called ‘not the mama’ whenever I do something that it is not very maternal. That started when he was 13 and sick. I stayed home with him. I wore gloves and a mask whenever I entered his room. I left his soup on the desk instead of giving it to him. I still have yet to live that one down.

Make sure that you also tell your friend to relax. You will do silly stuff like my story above. You live and learn.

Julie

September 16th, 2009
2:24 pm

Theresa, Good luck to your friend Emilie. She’s beautiful, intelligent and has financial resources. How fabulous for her!

Being a stepmom is one of the most difficult jobs there is. My advice is much the same as others have said: don’t try to replace the young boy’s mother, don’t badmouth his mother, have the father do the discipline as much as humanly possible, and give the boy lots of love. Children can benefit greatly from the love and wisdom a stepparent can offer, but unfortunately most of society equates the prefix “step” with evil and assume that stepmothers are out for Dad’s money, or have an axe to grind against the child.

Emilie has established a relationship with the boy at an early age which will definitely help her out. Unfortunately, there will come a time when even the best-behaved child will test the relationship and try to manipulate the parents against the stepparent. I hope and pray that Jesse’s mother and father will not only be smart enough to see through it, but also want to avoid it for Jesse’s sake.

All the best to your beautiful and blessed friend on her new adventure!

New Stepmom

September 16th, 2009
2:37 pm

JCT, my stepchild calls me by my first name. When we were dating she called me “Miss First Name,” but I thought that was too formal once we got engaged. She still calls her step dad “Mr. First Name.”

I have to give a big shout out to my parents. Their first bio grandchild was born a week prior to my engagement. They do for my stepdaughter exactly as they do for my nephew-same money spent on gifts, same amount of visiting etc. They are Mimi and Papa to both my step daughter and my nephew. My mom took them both to get pictures made together last winter before our wedding. That made my step daughter feel very loved and special and like part of my family. My mom will come up for grandparents day at school this fall since my husband’s parents are elderly and cannot travel. I think the step parent’s extended family embracing the child is just as important as the step parent accepting the child.

bufordmomof4

September 16th, 2009
2:50 pm

When I got married at 23, I became a stepmom to a 3 year old boy. He’s now off to college. Being a step-parent can be tough, but it’s do-able. Over the years I learned to love my stepchild as my own when he was with us (mom was primary custodian). I kissed boo-boo’s, made favorite foods, cheered at ball games. But, I also kept in mind, I WASN’T his mother, he already had one and didn’t need two. It’s given us a more friendship-type relationship. Any disciplinary issues, I left to the parents. Never, ever talk bad about the other parent in front of the child, no matter how horrible they might be. Save it for your alone time with your husband when the child is back at mom’s house. Do not let aggravations with the ex come between you and your husband. Allow it to grow and strenghthen your bond with each other. I would also definitely set up similar rules while the stepchild is at your house. Continuity of care regardless of whether the child is sleeping at mom’s or dad’s is VERY important.

Wiblets

September 16th, 2009
3:56 pm

Sorry to hijack the blog with my idea, maybe this can be an upcoming post? This is a link about the 2 year old at Cactus Joes.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1212583/Family-horrified-getting-restaurant-describing-year-old-daughter-little-f–er.html

JATL

September 16th, 2009
3:58 pm

Ah, Deirdre_NC -my comment wasn’t directed to you at all.

Becky

September 16th, 2009
4:55 pm

Wilbets, I googled that earlier..No matter how bad the child may or may not have been, there was no call for this to be written on the reciept..

Zachs Mom

September 16th, 2009
5:12 pm

After a rough start when I was 12, we call our step-mom BONUS MOM. It took a long time for her to go from being the “step monster”. While the kids still have some issues, she treats all of the grandchildren the same.

motherjanegoose

September 16th, 2009
6:40 pm

RE: Cactus Joes….while I abhor children who ruin everyone else’s dinner in restaurants ( and I do not want to hear the excuses) what was written on the receipt was totally uncalled for and the waitress should have been canned.

Our family was at Three Dollar Cafe on Saturday night. They have several TVs and were airing various games. The TVs were the focus of the eveing as it si a sports bar.

A family came in with two couples, 2 babies under the age of one and the grandparents. They were all wearing purple with LSU logo on it, soone would assume they were aware of what was going on at 8:00 p..m My husband yelled loudly at a play and it frightened the baby who was at the next table. The baby cried. My husband felt bad and tried to be silly with the baby and this only made things worse. The mother was pleasant and said, “He is already tired…”
HELLO…do babies belong in a LOUD sports bar at 8:00 p.m.? I ran this by a teacher ( I know) who has a baby and she told me NO…what were they thinking…not of the baby.

I know many will not agree with me but WHY would parents bring a small baby in a LOUD place when they are already tired and ready for bed? I am way too old fashioned and think that if babies are tired then they need to go to bed at 8:00 p.m….some need to go even if they are not tired because the parents are~ Sometimes parents have to relinquish their own fun or GET A SITTER so that the baby can be comfortable. IMHO.

catlady

September 16th, 2009
8:25 pm

A lot depends on the class of the father and biological mother, as well as the patience and forebearance of the new bride.

My children’s stepmother did fine. Of course, I raised them to respect her as their dad’s wife, and they did. As they grew older, I did not try to hide her (or his) faults, and by the time they were in their teens they had a pretty clear perspective of some of the stuff–but NEVER from me. In fact, at one point my younger daughter suggested that Dad and Suzy come live with us so I could take care of them, too.

Although we are not all that close, I am one of 4 people who have permission to pick up my former husband’s second family child at school if they cannot find his mother. (Which is funny since I have a professional job and she sleeps late and drinks all day). But although he is not my stepchild (but the half brother of my children) he is welcome at my house–polite and respectful of me as well.

Stepmom has always said that her stepchildren (my kids) have been very easy to deal with. I am sure that part of it is her patience and forebearance as well.

Lucky Stepmom

September 16th, 2009
8:48 pm

I am really shocked at how negative some of the folks on this blog are. When my husband and I got married he had a 6 year old daughter and 7 year old son from his first marriage. It was a second marriage for me as well, but I had no children. I loved him and I wanted to spend my life with him and be part of his family. Both children spent all summer with us and Easter and Christmas since they lived quite far away. My stepson came to live with us full time 2 years later. Both children have now graduated from college and I’m close to both, but especially to my stepson. So I think I can give some advice.

The first rule is obvious, never speak ill of his Mom or criticize the way she does things. Don’t put him in the middle of any issues. The main thing is to pay make him feel like he’s part of the family, not a visitor. Since he doesn’t live with them full time, make sure his visits are special for him. Take time to do things with him, don’t get a sitter when he’s visiting – let him have time to bond with his stepmom. Let him have his own room, that’s his – not a guest room. Our kids always had rooms of their own and when they came over, the rooms were just as they left them.

Her husband will need to help by supporting her enforcing rules of your house etc. In the beginning I wouldn’t suggest being the disciplinarian – certainly enforcing rules is OK, but work into being the “parent” slowly. If they have been dating for quite awhile, these issues may be addressed already.

He and his Dad will need time to themselves – he may be jealous of your relationship, so let them have time together.

The main thing is to love him, get to know him and enjoy him for the person he his. This is a wonderful opportunity and I wish them all the best of luck.

HB

September 16th, 2009
9:13 pm

“I know many will not agree with me but WHY would parents bring a small baby in a LOUD place when they are already tired and ready for bed?”

They may not have realized just how loud it would be (I mean, there are loud sports bars, and then there are LOUD ones). Or they may have a baby who dozes off easily even in loud places. Or they may live nearby and figure if things go downhill quickly, they’ll take the baby home. Or they may have made the plans ahead of time based on baby’s usual later bedtime but then the baby didn’t nap well that afternoon. Or they may have just made a bad call — even great parents do that sometimes, but the kids manage to grow up fine anyway. It’s highly unlikely that they do that every night, so it just doesn’t strike me as that big of a deal.

deidre_NC

September 16th, 2009
10:34 pm

i agree mjg—i always wonder why people dont post on their own names..

and yes whoever you were…’these ones’ ..geeze get over yourself

deidre_NC

September 16th, 2009
10:41 pm

jtal….that wasnt me..it was from @deidre_NC (whoever that is) directed to me…not you lol

deidre_NC

September 16th, 2009
10:50 pm

about the restaurant….mjg i agree….any kind of bar is not the place for a young child…when people drink you never know what could happen….some people get mean when they drink and to take a child around strangers drinking is ridiculous….

what that server wrote on the ticket was awful….no matter how the kid was behaving….i do not liek to go to any place and have to listen to a kid being bratty….i understand that..but what was written was way outta line!!

BlondeHoney

September 17th, 2009
12:07 am

Hmmmm ok I have not remarried but since i have had a total of FOUR count ‘em FOUR stepparents (3 stepmoms & 1 stepdad) & my boys have a stepmom i feel somewhat qualified to address the issue. LOTS of good advice posted here. Dad needs to be a Dad consistently and not ignore his 1st family for the 2nd family he creates with wife #2. And you know what, the stepmom who is 10 years younger than her hubby & upset by people thinking she is a homewrecker…I would feel sorry for her except that women like me who are in your husband’s age range won’t give us a 2nd look, all they want is 10 year plus younger women like YOU. No fool like an old fool. And I’m flabbergasted that you have to TELL the stepmom to “give dad some alone time with his child’…OMG i am sad that you even have to TELL women not be jealous of their stepchild. How sad. And MJG, i am WITH you about that 2 year old kid in the UK restaurant. Whew..i am done for tonite all :)

Fatima

September 17th, 2009
12:52 am

My advice to your friend would be to follow her husband’s lead, and know your place. For example, if your husband tells you not to befriend the mother of the child (even if you are trying to make the situation as amicable and healthy as possible) DON’T DO IT! He has known her and this situation a lot longer that you have, so trust that there is a reason he is telling you this. I made the mistake of trying to do this, and all I ended up with is a lot of heartache and hurt feelings (because after she showed her true colors, she turned out to be the EXACT person my husband said she was). Also be assured that it is ok for the two of you NOT to be friends. Amicable, and respectful, yes; BFF’S- not necessary.

Another piece of advice is to never treat the child like a stepchild. When you married your husband, the two of them were a package deal. Accepting the proposal signifies that you agree and are willing to accept this responsibility. Treat him as your own; your relationship with him will be the better for it. Also, never speak ill of the child’s parent (no matter how trifling she may be). Taking the high road will ensure your sanity, and keep you from getting involved in silly bouts. And never feel bad about taking a step back and removing yourself from the situation, ESPECIALLY if the two of you have kids of your own. Sometimes this may be necessary to protect you and yours. NEVER feel remorseful for putting the emotional health and well-being of you and household over any negativity that may arise in regards to this situation.

Lastly, and most importantly, NEVER, NEVER, EVER allow the negativity (if any) associated with his previous spouse and her child cause a rift between the two of you. Being a step-parent is trying at times, and if the both of you do not have a solid foundation within your marriage, it WILL break you. She can do this Theresa. It is definitely do-able, but it is hard work. As long as she is up for the task and loves her husband unconditionally, I have no doubt that being a step-parent and a wife will be a great experience for her. Congratulations and best wishes!

StepMom Magazine

September 17th, 2009
5:58 am

Over 20 million women in the US are stepmoms and new stepfamilies are said to be forming at a rate of 1300 each day. Your friend has lots of company. The best thing she can do for herself is to educate herself about the dynamics that stepmoms and stepfamilies experience. There are many common experiences, emotions and techniques for dealing with a variety of situations that she will face both in her marriage and as a stepmom. Like anything, the more you know – the better prepared you are to handle whatever comes your way! There is no one better equipped to provide support and advice than someone who has been there – so her sister-stepmoms can be a tremendous help. Aside from StepMom Magazine, there are also many new books, blogs and websites out there for her. We’ve got them all listed on our website. She can visit us at: http://www.StepMomMag.com

Becky

September 17th, 2009
8:26 am

Read the article about the little girl and Cactus Joes and had a good laugh. I think the comment on the bill was totally inappropriate however, the father’s description of the girl being ‘mildly’ bothersome was so funny. Some parents think their cuties can do no wrong. My bet is that she was screaming.

Becky

September 17th, 2009
8:52 am

After my ex and I divorced, I went to my stepsons Moms second wedding..Her and I never had any problems with her being the ex and me being the new wife..At one time, her, I and another friend wallpapered my living room..That might not sound strange, except..The other friend was living with my ex husbands ex boyfriend..

Angie

September 17th, 2009
3:04 pm

Your post sure stirred a lot of debate for at least one person (who likes to post under a different name every time). I have to wonder, is she (or he) personally connected somehow to the couple? Jealous ex-wife, maybe? Spurned ex-boyfriend? Ex-mother-in-law? You get my point.

My advice for your friend (some of this may be a repeat from above posts, but bears repeating):
1. Don’t try to replace mom, but don’t try to be a friend either. Your stepson should respect you as he would an aunt or other respected family member.
2. Don’t expect to “love him as your own”. It’s unrealistic and you will only beat yourself up with guilt once you realize that you don’t. That’s not to say that you won’t, but it doesn’t happen over night. Give yourself time.
3. Set the rules and expectations with your husband as the “house rules”, and then enforce them. That way, you are not imposing your own rules, nor are you simply adopting expectations that you don’t necessarily agree with. And as another posted said above, don’t be the one that always enforces the rules, in fact, try not to be the one for a while.
4. The ex may very well be your greatest ally. Let her know that you fully support and respect her role as the mother and that you have no intention of infringing on that. Ask her to help you get to know her son better (if you enlist her help, she’ll likely be flattered). Don’t act as the mediator between your husband and her. If they have issues, let them work it out and be supportive of your husband.
5. Nurture your relationship with you husband. Make it your greatest priority. He must have 100% total faith that whatever you do, you always have his sons best interest at heart. Even if he doesn’t like something you’ve said or done, if he trusts you, he will know you had no ill-will.
6. Never argue with your husband about the boy or the ex in front of him. Discuss your differences in private. If there is a pressing issue, ask to have a moment alone to discuss it before either one of you renders a decision. Your stepson needs to see you as a united front.

that’s my two cents worth. There’s a goldmine of information, including resources, on my website at http://www.blackwellfamilyresources.com

Best of luck to your friend.
Angie Blackwell, CPC, CFLE

Kat

September 17th, 2009
5:57 pm

Let me begin by agreeing on the beautiful dress! Fabulous! I think you fall in love with the guy and his children. She has a protective hand on his little tousled head, and it’s sweet. I’m not a stepmom (just a mom), but I would think that agreement on the basics with the “non-custodial” parent would be important. She will definitely have to think of the “kid” first, but it sounds like she’s naturally well-suited to the job. I think if she is as smart as she sounds, then she will ignore the negative comments that come her way via this blog.

Kat

September 17th, 2009
5:58 pm

Also, I didn’t read as to how long she has been dating her now-husband, but if the child has had time to form a relationship with this child, it will all go better. Not like that idiot “girl toy” that Jon Gosselin has been hanging with – potentially 8 stepkids one day? No thanks!

Katie

September 19th, 2009
10:46 am

Whew am I glad that I don’t believe in divorce….

Melanie

September 28th, 2009
10:21 pm

Enter your comments here My life mirrors your friend Emily’s. I got married last October at 38 years old to a slightly younger man and his 6 year old son. I’ll keep up reading the comments for advice on step mothering. I’m particularly interested in how others manage discipline, especially since we have shared custody with mom.

Patrick

September 30th, 2009
1:33 pm

Although not a stepparent (or a parent for that matter, unless you count cats as kids lol), I do have this advice to offer: Be patient. Let the kid come to you, not you to them. While they may have been willing to have you into their lives while you and their father were dating, they may not be as accepting to you living under the same roof with them, especially if their birth mother still has a part in their lives.

kirsten

October 4th, 2009
8:25 pm

Enter your comments here
At age 36, I married my sweeheart,He came with a 10 yr old , who is very sweet, and his jealous ex-wife who is the type that will feed you a brownie to your face and stab you in the back at the same time. We had custody, which made his ex very angry and hard to deal with.We have been married for almost 4 years now. The best advice I can give is to realize your husband can deal with his ex for most things. If you are indifferent to the ex. She will realize in time that she cannot make you frustrated. Just always be respectful towards her that way the children learn to always respect all of their parents. With the stepson I have learned that I should be aware of his talents, praise him, teach him chores,be aware of his interest school life, friends, take him to his sports, feed him good meals, be there for him, be a reasource, but also realize that you will never be his mom but will always be there for him. That brings peace in the family as a whole. I do not have to be her friend but I do have to deal with ther for the rest of our son’s life. So with that in mind. I do my best to be a good wife and mom.

Mike

October 14th, 2009
1:38 am

Really great post. This is an angle that doesn’t get covered as often – nicely done.
Reading this made me think of Kathleen who sent us her story about becoming a stepmom. She talks about her initial uncertainty, and then with her husband’s help learning to follow her heart and now absolutely LOVING being a stepmom.
Below is a link to her video. I hope you like it as much as I do. Take care.
http://www.ahamoment.com/vote/kathleen

Robin

November 13th, 2009
4:22 pm

I was married once before and have a 4 year old son of my own and my fiance’ has 3 children of his own from his previous marriage…I am 25 and he is 30…we make it work because we both love ALL of our children and bailing out is the easy way…anything worth while takes work!!!