Step parenting can be a challenging endeavor. Perhaps more so, according to the research, for the stepmom than the stepdad. We are all so familiar (thanks Disney and various fairy tales!) of the evil stepmom. She is almost an archetype.

Such thinking though does little to help evolve those in the situation.

Over the years, I have tried to help my stepchildren formulate some type of vocabulary and awareness around their experiences. One of the things I have found to be most helpful is to speak to them about the word “mother”- in both the noun and verb form.

As there can be significant loyalty issues in stepchildren (especially if these are fostered and encouraged by the biological mother), that there can be little space for the sharing of love.

To help alleviate these issues, I differentiated the word “mother” for my stepchildren. I tell them I am not their “mother” (noun) nor will I ever be, nor do I have any desire to be so.

However, given the dynamic in which we live, for half of their lives, I am the “mother” (verb) energy. I do everything we expect of the word “mother’ in the verb form. I mother (v.), although I am not their mother (n.).

I have to tell you, this has really helped my step kids, as they totally get it. It alleviates the stress of loyalty divisions and places the energy where it belongs.

I wish all involved in blended families would understand this idea. Too often, stepmoms are judged for being “too mothering” that we are told we need to understand the children are not “ours” (although we are told to love them as if they were ours…always such clear, clear signals from those in “divorced with children scenarios).

When the stepchildren are with us, I am not trying to be a mother (n.) for them. I am required though to mother (v.) them as I am the only woman in their life at that time. This is true for all stepmoms. Unless there is some polygamy going on, the stepmom, when the stepchildren are with her, is the mothering figure for them. There is no other woman in the picture to provide the mothering energy. So let us not judge her for carrying forth the actions we so expect of her.


Written by Kimberly Harding