In our private Facebook community for stepmoms, some of the most popular questions revolve around- you guessed it- The Ex.
What do I do if my stepchild’s mom doesn’t take me seriously? Doesn’t respect me? Won’t talk to me?
I am nothing but nice to her! She has no reason to hate me!
Why doesn’t she include me in things? Why doesn’t she want me around?!
Stepmoms from around the world are wrestling with these questions day-in and day-out.
As a stepmom, you feel so involved with your stepchildren, like such an important part of their lives (which you are!). You tuck them in at night, pack their lunches for school, bathe them, and love them… you would do anything for them…
…and yet, their mom still wants nothing to do with you. Ouch.
After the countless hours of caring for your stepchildren and showing them unconditional love, you can’t comprehend why you aren’t considered to be part of the parenting team by their mom. It stings, but you’re determined to get to the bottom of it.
To determine the answer, stepmom introspection is critical.
Questions to Consider if you Want Some Respect from your Stepchild’s Mom
As with all differences of opinion, it’s important to look at this situation from many perspectives. Because of that, I’ve crafted this questionnaire to help you determine why your stepchild’s mom isn’t taking you seriously, and what you should do about it.
How long have you been with your significant other?
Of that time, how long have you been in the lives of your stepchildren?
New stepmoms tend to rush into things without even realizing it. You can be dating your boyfriend for 6 months and feel “all-in.” It’s possible that in those 6 months, you have spent every-other-weekend with your stepchildren.
What we feel in our hearts is often very different from how those around us view the situation. Your boyfriend’s family may not consider you a stepmom yet, so why should your stepchild’s mom? Does dating a man with kids automatically make you a stepmom?
Pro-Tip: Be sensitive to and think practically about how long you have really been a consistent part of the picture. Your perception may be different from the perception of others.
How long after your significant other and your stepchild’s mom separated, did you and he start dating?
Was there infidelity?
Whether or not there was infidelity, the timing really matters. If you meet and start dating your significant other soon after he separates from his wife, you’re automatically starting off on the wrong foot with her. You’re already at a disadvantage with her.
You may have met and started dating him 6 months after they separated, which may feel like “long enough” to you… but do you think it feels like long enough to her? If their divorce isn’t finalized, the likelihood of tension between you and your stepchild’s mom is pretty much guaranteed.
Pro-Tip: If you may have started dating a little too quickly, it’s necessary to ease into your relationship with your stepchild’s mom. Don’t force yourself on her.
Do you and your significant other live together?
If so, how long have you lived together?
If you don’t live with your significant other, then you probably aren’t considered a stepparent by most people. Again, you may feel like a stepmom, but think about it. If the father of your child had a girlfriend, would you really want to discuss the parenting agreement or school concerns with her?
If you live together, how often do you have the kids? Have you stepped in to assist with logistics such as school pick-ups and drop-offs? If you haven’t stepped into a parenting role yet, that is okay!
Pro-Tip: Don’t rush things. There is no shame in living your life as a childless person for as long as possible. There is no need to rush into your role as a stepmom and try to demand respect.
Are you and your significant other married?
Now, this is a big one! It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived with your boyfriend for years. It doesn’t matter if his child lives with you full-time. If you aren’t married, there is a pretty high chance that virtually no one considers you a stepmom.
Should that be the case in 2018? Should the marriage license matter?! Probably not- especially since marrying the child’s dad gives you absolutely no legal rights to the child- but hey, perception is reality. Again, same example as before, if your child’s dad had a live-in girlfriend, would you take her seriously?
Pro-Tip: Seriously- ENJOY the dating and engagement periods. And don’t worry, there are YEARS of “official stepmom” chaos to endure once you’ve said your “I Do’s.”
What does the custody agreement look like?
Does your significant other have primary physical custody? Shared or 50/50 physical custody? Visitation only?
The type of custody your significant other has and how the custody schedule is laid out, have an absolute impact on the way your stepchild’s mom treats you.
If your significant other has the child less than half of the time, there’s a pretty decent chance she doesn’t take either one of you seriously. Even if you have the child half of the time, there’s a decent chance she still considers herself the “primary” parent (and let’s be honest- you may feel that way about your significant other, also).
If your significant other has the child primarily in his care, then it makes sense that the mom is sensitive to the situation, and sensitive to you coming in and “filling her role” (which, she doesn’t understand, you are not trying to do).
Pro-Tip: Remember that the custody agreement is between your significant other and his ex… not you. There may be things you don’t agree with, but you can’t fix what you didn’t break.
Has your stepchild’s mom settled down with someone new?
This is like Girl 101. If your significant other is her most recent ex, and she is single, you have an additional hurdle to jump. The comparisons, jealousy, and resentment- which occur in both directions- can be a nightmare to sort through and move on from.
Would you want to see your child’s father settle down with someone new before you do? Petty or not, that’s the reality.
Pro-Tip: As much as you want to tell your stepchild’s mom, “Get over my man!” just give her a little slack. Your boundaries need to be clear, but reasonable. Understand how her circumstances skew her judgment.
Do you have biological children?
Do they live with you? What does their custody agreement look like between you and their dad? Do you have an “ours” baby with your significant other?
Is your home like a revolving door? A combination of his, hers, and ours? Is it possible she thinks that her ex is prioritizing your kids or his “new family” over her kids? Is it possible she sees him as a better father or husband now, and she is resentful?
Understandably, having a biological child provides you with a completely different approach to stepparenting. Additionally, whether you had biological children before or after becoming a stepmom makes a difference.
Pro-Tip: Just embrace what these tiny humans have done to you and your emotions, and understand what they have done to your stepchild’s mom, as well.
How long have you known your stepchild’s mom?
Is there a history between you two?
Sometimes, stepmoms have known the mom for a long time and there is a deep, lengthy history between the two. It can be messy. If your stepchild’s mom knew you 5 years ago when you were doing keg-stands behind a frat house, it makes sense that she’s skeptical of you now. Unless of course, she was the one holding your feet up… in which case, she’s being hypocritical.
Sometimes, your significant other dated you and your stepchild’s mom in a back-and-forth pattern, and it’s messy and complicated due to when the pregnancies occurred… but you all want is to push forward. It’s just hard.
Pro-Tip: In all seriousness, your past history matters. Maybe you are one to brush things under the rug, but maybe your stepchild’s mom is not.
So tell me… Why doesn’t she like me?!
At the end of the day… she just may not be ready to. She hasn’t processed every turn of events the same way you have. She hasn’t finished grieving. She’s too proud to ask for help or to acknowledge your helpfulness.
Maybe she doesn’t see you as a member of the parenting team yet. Maybe it’s not you… maybe it’s her. And that’s okay.
It’s easy to get caught up wondering why your stepchild’s mom doesn’t like you, but at the end of the day, as Kait once said, “your relationship with her isn’t personal, it’s business.” And that’s not a bad thing.
The next time you’re wondering why your stepchild’s mom doesn’t like you, think it through. Consider her perspective. Consider the event in question and its importance. Consider your friendship, and if it’s time to try and nurture it or not.
Remember your circle of control. You can’t change your stepchild’s mom, but you can consider her perspective, and you can keep working on yourself. In your blended family, you want to be water, not gasoline.
If you’re not even sure where to start, we offer 1-on-1 stepmom support coaching and would love to guide you along the way!
P.S. Did you read this and think it was a total waste? Maybe you’re just not ready to hear it…
P.P.S. Are you further along in your stepmom journey and still looking for answers? Take care of yourself, Mama!