Out of all of the issues that arise in a blended family, the hardest one to deal with is usually the stepchildren’s mother. When it comes to their children, mothers are usually ferociously protective, emotional and defensive, over-compensators for the split of the family, and devoted. No matter how good a relationship you may have with her, there’s always a boundary that must be respected. It seems you can’t make any decisions in your own house without having to contend with her. You feel powerless over your own life!
Coming from both sides, as a stepparent caring for my husband’s children and as the mother of children who have a stepmother, I can empathize with both sides of this inner battle. I say inner because we often don’t like to talk about it or show it. But it’s there. The bitter way we feel about the step mom’s decisions or discipline for our children, and the bitter way we feel about our husband’s ex is a constant struggle.
There are mothers, of course, that are not embarrassed to share this with all who are around and are constantly bashing either the real mothers or the stepmothers. Unless there is abuse or any other serious moral or legal matter, this open hostility toward the mothers is NOT acceptable. Children identify themselves with their parents, especially the mother. When we are openly talking about the children’s mother in an offensive manner or expressing an attitude or gesture that is negative toward them, the children are the ones who suffer. Even if their mother is making a bad decision or a decision that is contrary to your household’s ways, you CANNOT express this in front of the children. Their mother is an extension of them and they will start feeling as though it is they you are against. They will feel guilty for loving their stepmother because she is against their mother. They will start questioning their own mother and her authority. Nothing good could come of this.
On the other hand, doing this to the stepmother and giving the children the impression they don’t have to listen to her, will inevitably lead them to either distance themselves from their father or hinder your own communication with them.
Putting the children in the middle of this is selfish and hurtful. It doesn’t matter how you feel about their mother or what she has done to you, whether you are the step mom or the mother, this should be off limits in front the children. For all of your fighting and arguing, you are only serving yourself and not the children. If you must interfere with the other household, do it behind closed doors.
*“And now, I will show you the most excellent way.” Having love and empathy for their mother will never disappoint. Many times, if you put yourself in her shoes, you would’ve done the same things she has done. Most conflicts come from fear and insecurity. Tell her you respect her as the mother and will do all you are able to enforce her authority in your home. Tell the children to respect her. Encourage their bond with her. Bear with her struggles and fears. If she is doing something that is not good for the children, pray for her and tell the children you are doing so. Tell them she has good intentions, even if the decisions are always the right ones. Above all, love her children. Love them as though they are yours. *“Love never fails.”
*I Corinthians 13:1 & 8
For more info see: Loving your new stepchildren