Should the role of Stepmom come with a rule book?


Boy meets girl. Girl likes boy. The two fall in love, get married and start a family. If, however, you’re a woman of a certain age, the story may change. Tell me if you have heard this before. Man meets woman. Woman silently wishes her dating days are over. Man tells woman he has kids from a previous relationship. The couple, more mature and pragmatic, forges ahead, gets married and blends families. Simultaneously, the woman has two new titles after her name, wife and stepmother. Full of optimism and love, she embraces her new roles. But what happens when said stepmother is told,

Stay in your lane and play your position?

Perhaps naively, it never occurred to me that a stepmother’s biggest task would be to stay in the background, help when needed, but never be included in significant decision-making or disciplinary actions. I assumed that a martial partnership would also include a close-to-equal say in the lives of the children. I mean, there may not be a biological tie, but surely, a stepmother has to mean more than a babysitter or a teacher? As someone who dated a man with two young children, I often wondered what my role would be in their lives should the relationship advance to the next level? In the meantime, I battled internally with how much of a connection to build to the kids and their well beings. I was always aware that at any moment, the bonds we formed could be broken; the relationship could end or the biological mother could exert her veto power and exclude me from their lives. Surely, it would leave a considerable hole in my heart, and perhaps in theirs too. It wasn’t until last week when watching The Wendy Williams Show did I hear what might be the popular opinion of many biological mothers. Essentially Williams advised stepmothers to stand-down, not to make stepchildren her “everything” and always keep in mind that the kids are not hers. Although, I am no longer in that relationship, Williams’ words struck me. Would I have been expected to maintain a certain distance from the children? If I had married him, does staying in my lane mean remaining tight-lipped on important topics like their schooling? Certainly, a portion of my earnings would pay for their food, clothes, outings, and transportation. There would be holidays and birthdays shared together. Photos snapped to memorialize moments. Could I not consider us a family?

As more children are born outside of marriage and on the opposite end of the spectrum, divorce continues at the same rate, dating someone with children becomes a more probable scenario. What are the rules of engagement?

Can you cap the depth of your feelings simply because the offspring are not biologically your own? How do you silence your opinion and ideas on raising kids that in every way other than DNA are part of you? If becoming a stepmother means staying in your lane, maybe it’s time to park the car and walk.