So many stepmoms I meet preface their deepest fears and biggest struggles with “I know this may make me sound like a bad stepmom, but…” and nine times out of 10, those aren’t truly signs of a bad stepmother.
Struggling in your new role, making mistakes, and stumbling along the way do not make you a bad stepmom.
Being here, reading this article, wanting to be better… Those show me you’re a great stepmom.
Signs of a Bad Stepmother
Sometimes it’s obvious and the signs of a bad stepmother are difficult to miss. Take Cinderella for example. We can all agree that her stepmother certainly isn’t our hero, right?
But other times, it can be far more subtle. If I don’t love my stepkids, does that make me a bad stepmom? If I do a little happy dance when they leave after the weekend, does that make me a bad stepmom? What if I say I don’t want my daughter to grow up to be a stepmom?
Where do we draw the line? How do we know when it’s okay to express those innermost thoughts, the ones we’re most ashamed of? Is it possible to truly know what makes you a bad stepmom, and what’s normal for a stepmom to feel or struggle with?
There won’t always be a clear answer, but if you avoid these five signs of a bad stepmother, you’re definitely headed in the right direction.
A Bad Stepmother is Mean.
Waking up on the wrong side of the bed sometimes? That’s all right. Occasionally stressed out and a bit too direct? Excusable.
But definitively, repeatedly mean? Not okay. A stepmom who is mean to her stepchildren or to her partner is not positioned for success and love.
Examples might include: extremely harsh punishments, mocking and bullying, and blatant favoritism.
As a general rule, avoid crossing the line to cruel, and you’ll stay on the right track.
A Bad Stepmother is Unwilling to Compromise.
If you’re only focused on your own needs and desires and are unwilling to compromise with your partner to balance needs for everyone in the family dynamic, you might need to make some adjustments for the health of your family.
Now, don’t get me wrong… Boundaries are absolutely critical for being a successful stepparent, and you definitely need to take up space. But there is a very clear difference between being only concerned with what benefits you (especially if it displaces the rest of the family) and being a strong, boundaried stepmom.
A Bad Stepmother is Uninterested in her Partner.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: none of the drama as a stepmom is worth it if you and your partner aren’t aligned. If your partner isn’t your soulmate, the absolute best person you can imagine spending the rest of your life with, then why are you dealing with the added complexities of blended family life?
I’ve heard stepmoms share they’re only trying to make things work because they care so much for their stepchildren. Staying in a relationship you don’t enjoy because of your stepchildren is a recipe for disaster. Your partner is the integral part of your family; they are the glue.
I’ll take it a step further and share that part of our purpose as a stepmom is to role model a healthy relationship for our stepchildren. They’ve already witnessed a failed relationship; it’s our responsibility (privilege?) to model a partnership built on love and respect.
A Bad Stepmother Demands Power and Control.
When I first started dating my husband Kevin, I had a big power struggle. When I met him, I was a fiercely independent woman who owned her own home and was very driven. I made all of my own decisions, and I needed every bit of control I had over my daily life.
Dating a man with kids and learning how to release some of that control was brutal. I struggled to learn how to gain back control (boundaries!) in a life that felt like it was dictated by a custody schedule, an ex-wife, and, in some ways, a child.
Learning how to let go and trust the process—and my partner!—was necessary for me to step back and become a better stepmother to my stepdaughter and a better partner to Kevin.
A Bad Stepmother Oversteps Boundaries.
In the same way that a stepmom is entitled to her boundaries, so is everyone else in the stepfamily dynamic.
Your stepchild’s parents will have boundaries, and you don’t get to decide if those are fair. You simply have to respect them.
Every misstep is an opportunity to learn more and do better the next time. When you choose not to grow and continue to overstep boundaries, that’s when you might be doing a disservice to yourself and your family.
Those decisions have a trickle effect. When you overstep someone’s boundaries, there’s tension. That tension seeps into other relationships. One day, you could wake up and your entire stepfamily will be consumed with resentment, stress, or some other result of underlying tension in the family.
Not Displaying Any of These Signs of a Bad Stepmother?
Then you’re likely all good! A happy stepmom shows respect, loves her partner well, and shows up authentically in her family. She doesn’t pretend to be something she’s not, and she gives from a good place.
If you’re still unsure if you’ve crossed the line or if your thoughts or reactions are normal, let’s chat about what’s concerning you in a complimentary 30-minute stepmom coaching introduction call.
P.S. Even good stepmoms still struggle! Here are 8 of the most common struggles stepmoms face.