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Navigating Different Parenting Styles in a Blended Family

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“I’ll never let my kid do that when I become a parent.” (… Unless I marry a single dad and we have different parenting styles)

I am 99.9% sure at one time in your life these words have rolled off your tongue. I know they have rolled off of mine plenty of times. We all think we know exactly what we will do when we become parents… until we become parents.

This is equally true when you become a stepparent. What you once said you would never allow, your significant other or your stepchild’s mom may deem appropriate. This harsh reality sometimes leads to anger. Sometimes, that means fights with your stepchild or either of his parents.

If you are like me, some of the most difficult stepmom moments arise because of different parenting styles. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you realize you cannot care more than the parents do.

I am not my stepdaughter’s mom. Many stepmothers get upset with me when I say this, and I’ve never quite understood why.

I am the mother of my home, but that doesn’t mean I am my stepdaughter’s mom.

I can scold her when she stomps her foot at me, I can tell her to pick up her toys, or even drop her off at dance, but there are some things that I do not, should not, and will not decide.

When I first became a stepmom, this was difficult for me and caused a lot of frustration in my home, marriage, and relationship with my stepdaughter’s mom (big shout-out to her for dealing with New Stepmom Emily… I was nauseating at times).

Navigating Different Parenting Styles in a Blended Family

Recently, I had to whisper to myself a couple [hundred] times that I cannot care more than her parents, when my stepdaughter attempted to master potty training.

I met my stepdaughter at 10 months old so by her second birthday I was ready to sit her booty on the potty and start a sticker chart. Her parents were not.

I tried to sit her on the potty in the living room anyway, and for two days she actually went pretty consistently. But then she went to her mom’s house, who only wanted to potty train on my stepdaughter’s terms.

When she came back to our house and wouldn’t sit on the potty, I became so angry. I was angry that all of my hard work went down the drain (no pun intended). I was angry her mom didn’t follow suit and I was even angrier that my husband didn’t seem to care.

I thought he was being lazy; he was taking his ex’s side, and I thought he wasn’t respecting me as a parent.

It reached a breaking point where I knew I needed to change. I was the only one upset and seeing red. So I stepped back.

I never once sat my stepdaughter on the potty unless neither of her parents was around. I rarely discussed the topic with either parent, and I let them handle it.

Different Parenting Styles: The Harsh Reality

You know what happened? My stepdaughter was potty trained. They nailed it, without me.

I’m not sure what comes over us stepmoms sometimes.

Maybe we like to be in control over little things because most of the big things in our lives are controlled by court orders.

Sometimes we may just have this strong idea on what our children should be like, should do, or should eat. We sometimes forget that when it comes to our stepchildren, it’s not usually our decision that’s final. For those stepmoms who do a lot of the parenting in their homes, this can be a hard lesson to learn.

All I know is that not caring more than my stepdaughter’s parents do has not only saved my marriage and other relationships but has also put my mind at ease.

This doesn’t mean that I am any less of a parent in my home. It doesn’t mean that my opinion doesn’t matter; I am positive my husband always takes it into consideration. It just means that my stepdaughter has two very capable parents who don’t always need the whole village to raise her.

My mother, who is also a stepmom, once told me, “A good stepmom knows when to step up and knows when to step back,” and I think in this situation that advice truly shines through.

Different, Not Less-Than

There are times when my stepdaughter’s parents ask for my opinion, and there are times they don’t.

There are times in my stepdaughter’s life where she needs me to be more than a bystander or friend, and there are times that she doesn’t.

This doesn’t mean my love for her or her love for me is any less in whatever situation we face because, at the end of the day, I am just her stepmom.

She has a mother and a father who parent her the best way they can. They have their own principles, traditions, and ways of doing things that I may not have ever heard of or experienced firsthand. They also are allowed to screw up just like any other parent.

No parent is perfect; no one has all the answers. Becoming the best parent you can be is all about learning from your mistakes. This is one of the principles I hold close to my heart.

At some point, I thought it would be best to make sure everything in my stepdaughter’s life was perfect because I felt bad she was already in the middle of this co-parenting mess. In reality, I was not only doing her a disservice, but I was also doing a disservice to her parents, and to myself.

If I always stuck my nose in and never let them excel in ways I never thought of, then I wouldn’t be able to sit here and give this advice. I wouldn’t be able to sit back and admire how far they have both come in the last four years. Seeing them learn through their mistakes helped me learn through mine.

So, no, mama, you cannot care more than the parents do. You cannot control everything around you. If you’re not on board yet, then this may be one of the stepmom lessons you may have to learn the hard way, as I did.

Sometimes you need to have a little faith in your partner, and in your stepchild’s mom, and remember to have a little empathy. Remember, if it doesn’t work out their first try, cut them some slack.

Stepparents don’t get a manual, but neither do biological parents.

P.S. If you’re struggling with different parenting styles at your stepchild’s other home, here’s how to maintain house rules when your stepchild has two homes.

9 thoughts on “Navigating Different Parenting Styles in a Blended Family”

  1. I agree 1000%! I had to learn these very hard lessons the difficult way too. 🙁 Changing my ways of thinking and approaching things freed me of a lot of stress and misery. I only wish I had read this back when I was struggling. I will occasionally tell myself now, “not my kid, not my problem.” It sounds harsh, but it really helps me put things in perspective. It’s good to know other stepmoms out there struggled with the same things I did (and sometimes still do;). Thanks!

  2. Uuggghhhh I am in the thick of this right now. It’s so hard to say nothing when I see the child doing something wrong. I was raised to say something if I see a child doing something wrong. I was the first to discipline my niece and many of my friends feel comfortable with me stopping their children when they are misbehaving. Stepping back is not in my nature, but I don’t know what I’m doing here. Your blog helps tremendously to give me perspective and not feel so alone.

  3. I would have to say this is hands down the most challenging part of being a step mom for me. I was just talking to my husband about this a couple weeks ago. Having different parenting styles is a challenge as parents in general, but I feel like when you’re a step parent it’s a little more challenging. I’ve been a step mom for a while now, but this is always the most challenging for me. I think for me it’s because those are the moments I remember I’m not their bio-mom. We are all a pretty close family, so those moments of “Oh yeah I’m not their bio-mom” are few and far between for us, but when they come around it’s pretty painful honestly. But in those moments I just try to breath and take a step back, and yeah sometimes I let out some tears. Side note: I don’t like the label of “step-mom” I think it makes me sound like I’m not their mom, but it’s what society or whoever’s, decided to label us.

  4. Wow. You hit the nail right on the head! Amazingly broken down. I’m 24 m, I have a 7 year old girl and a 10 year old boy step son. I deal with this all the time. Thinking I’m doing the right thing. There has been a few times where I thought of this… just stepping back and let it be but it was short lived. This truely helps me see even more into this. Thank you so much. I will always keep this in mind!

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