Sometimes as a stepmom we feel like we have to be diligent about establishing ourself in a parental role in order to be taken seriously, and typically this means diving headfirst into the role of disciplinarian. I know that as stepmoms, we mean well. We are just trying to make sure that our authority as a parent/guardian is taken seriously, but this zest for making and enforcing rules can quickly take a bad turn. Our seemingly innocent attempt to solidify our role has quickly made us into the dreaded evil step-monster. I know that, at least for me, it was hard to figure out the rules of blended family life. There is a lot of muddy water to wade through when deciding which rules can be done away with and which ones are a non-negotiable, but it can be navigated through with the right mindset. As always, blended family life has a lot of gray areas that need to be taken into consideration. You don’t want to go in guns-a-blazin’ only to alienate yourself from your family, but you also don’t want to be the “cool” stepmom that is basically a doormat who lets them get away with everything. As always, being a stepmom is a tightrope walk that takes some careful consideration in every step. You may have a hard and fast set of rules in place for your little family, but here are some things to consider before you make yourself and your family crazy.
Some Rules Are Set Before You Got There
One of the first things that you need to realize when thinking about your family rules is that some rules were set before you got there. This beautiful family that you are in was partially created before you made it there, and so therefore, typically some family rules were set in place without your approval. (Rules made without the queens say-so? Yup, that’s how it has to be in a blended family castle.) You can’t fight these rules. You can question why they are their in private with your SO, but for the most part I would just go along with them. As long as these rules aren’t going against any core beliefs you have or hurting anyone, then it can only benefit the children to remain consistent and continue enforcing these rules. Even if this rule seems silly to you. Like maybe making the bed isn’t a big deal for you, but that is a family rule they had in place. Keep enforcing it! It may take some getting used to for you, but it can only benefit the children to have that little consistent structure.
Some Rules Simply Won’t Work for Your Dynamic
Second, you need to realize that some rules you always thought would be present in your family may not work for your existing blended family dynamic. You always dreamed that you would NEVER let your kids do something. You would never let your kids say “fart,” you would never let them drink soda, you would never let them watch youtube videos, etc. The truth is that they may have already been allowed to do these things throughout their lives before you entered. Different people have different mindsets on what is important when raising a child, and before you came along, together your SO and his ex may have decided that the things that are important to you weren’t so important to them. (Sidenote : different does not always mean bad. Just because the set of rules is different doesn’t mean they are bad.) Again, as long as these things aren’t going against your core belief system or hurting anybody, let them go. It won’t kill the kids to drink a soda every now and then, a few youtube videos won’t rot their brains too badly, and although hearing a toddler say “fart” may not be the most polite thing ever, it’s not the end of the world. (This is when the word “step” in stepparent can mean just step back and let it go.)
Rules Don’t Always Transfer Back-and-Forth
A hard thing to realize in a blended family is that, although co-parenting is often attempted, some rules don’t transfer from house to house. Co-parenting is a great way to find cohesiveness on the big stuff, but it doesn’t work for everything. You have to come to terms with the fact that there will be rules at your house that just aren’t important when they are at their other house, and vice-versa. You can’t expect every single rule at both houses to be identical, especially if there are stepparents bringing a whole extra perspective into the mix. Be patient with the kids when they forget to put their clothes in the dirty clothes. (for the 387th time…) This may not be a rule at their other house. It is easy for us to have a routine way of doing things, but we forget that this is only their routine half the time. So, give them some leniency when their dirty dishes don’t make it to the dishwasher until the third reminder.
Some Rules are Non-negotiable
Even when you cannot come to a co-parenting agreement on some rules, they can still be enforced at your house. If your SO and his ex cannot seem to come to an agreement on a rule that the two of you have decided on, then you bet your a** you can still enforce it in your house! If it is important to you and you SO, then don’t be afraid to make it one of those rules that simply doesn’t transfer houses. You may need to explain to the children that although they don’t have to follow this rule at their other house that it is an important rule that must be followed while at your house. It may also help to explain to the children why this rule is in place, and they may take it with them on their own! One of these rules that we have is – No saying “Oh my God.” I follow this rule personally, and I don’t allow my stepkids to say it in our house. It isn’t something that is stressed at their other house, so there have to be a few gentle reminders, but they both understand the importance and reasoning behind the rule while at our house. Your non-negotiable rules should have a solid meaning behind it, because you can guarantee that if a rule doesn’t transfer houses the kids are going to question it.
Everything in a blended family takes a few extra steps and a few extra considerations, and setting family rules and boundaries is no different. You definitely need to remember that, even if they aren’t important to you, some rules are set before you get there. Some rules may simply not work with the existing dynamic, even if you thought “my kids will NEVER.” Some rules just won’t transfer from house to house, and that is okay! And some rules are simply non-negotiable! You and your SO can decide the specifics, but these are some little reminders when the family rules are stressing you to the max. You got this stepmama! Just remember that the ultimate goal is to raise kind, healthy, and happy kids.
Love your family, love yourself, and live your happiest life.