“Sometimes I feel like my stepchildren take advantage of me,” Melinda, a stepmother of three years stated.
“I clean and cook for them, and try to help them keep their room straightened, but I struggle to get them to do their chores,” she continued. “And when their dad isn’t around they say, “You aren’t my mom–I don’t have to do what you say.”
“It really hurts because I try so hard to make the time they are with us nice for them.”
In situations like this a stepmother needs her husband, the father, to come alongside and help her. He is the parent; they are his children. She is the new addition to the picture. He is the one they have grown to love, trust and obey. He automatically has the authority to implement structure, she does not.
This husband and wife will need to work together as a team to make sure the children recognize and acknowledge the stepmother’s role in Dad’s life and in the home. A stepmother standing alone does not have the power or the authority to parent his children. For the stepfamily to survive, it requires the dad to take charge.
If Melinda’s husband is not an engaged father, but one who is passive and lenient, parenting out of guilt, the stepmom will be in a no-win situation. In other words she can’t do it without him. When the children shout, “You are not my mom,” the dad’s role is to step in and firmly say, “Joshua, I know it’s hard to live between two homes with two different sets of rules. However, you may not speak to my wife disrespectfully and in that tone of voice. If you continue to do so there will be a consequence.” And then dad needs to tell his son what that consequence will be, and follow through.
When a stepmother is placed in a situation where she is responsible for getting the kids to do chores, but every time she tries to enforce the rules the children refuse or they appeal to Dad and he backs down, her only solution is to politely resign.
Politely resigning is stepping out of the sabotaged role. For example, in a calm, firm manner as opposed to screaming or ranting, she can share with her husband, “I know we have asked Joshua to be responsible for taking out the trash, but he refuses. It’s not working for me, as the stepmother, to be the one to enforce the rules, so I’m stepping out of that role. I’m not going to get angry and start a fight, I’m just stepping back. If you want him to take out the garbage, as his dad you will need to be the one to implement the rules and discipline. I’m not going to do it for Joshua, and I’m turning over the reins and letting you handle this.”
The hope is as dad notices that no one is taking out the trash he will be motivated to make changes. If the issues are more serious than chores, the couple may need to seek professional help on how to overcome stepfamily complexities.