How do you deal with being a stepmother

“At some point it all stinks”: Being a stepmother is a challenge

The stepmother often sits between stools. The new man is still emotionally owned by the ex while his children lead the way. Author Susanne Petermann explains how you can find a place in the blended family.

It is not always easy for a stepmother in a new family. Photo: NADOFOTOS, iStock, Thinkstock

Ms. Petermann, you deal intensively with the subject of “stepmother”. They wrote a book about their particular situation and set up a stepmother blog on the Internet. What situation do most stepmothers live in?

Susanne Petermann: Most women are part-time or weekend stepmothers, in many cases once a week and every 14 days for an entire weekend. If you don't have any children yourself, that's a real challenge. Quasi foster or childminder without training.

What is it that makes a stepmother's life special?

Anyone who falls in love with a man with children does not have him to himself. Even at the beginning of the relationship, there is no quiet phase of being in love in which other couples huddle up so wonderfully on the weekends. The partner's children arrive. A Stepmother must first find its place in this constellation. His children, his ex, the new husband of the ex, possibly lawyers or the youth welfare office are also present.

Is it difficult for the stepmother to find a place in the family?

However, this is often not easy! Imagine the following picture: The father has been separated from the mother of his daughter, who is now pubescent, for a while. On the weekends that father and daughter have spent together since then, the girl sat in the passenger seat of his car. Now the father has fallen in love, the new partner also wants to get in. And because the girl - as usual - sits down next to her father as a matter of course, the woman only has the back seat. The stepmother wants to take the place at her partner's side, but it is occupied.

Can't such conflict situations be resolved in advance?

I do not think so. Because you are not sure about your own needs and preferences for a long time until someone ignores them. I recently had a stepmother on the phone who complained that her partner's daughters behaved differently. For example, the girls drink milk from a bag and use some kind of towel in the bathroom so that nobody has their own. For the stepmother, on the other hand, it was always completely natural and important to drink milk from the glass and dry off on your own towel in the bathroom. Unfortunately, nobody responded to their objections and requests for changes. Until her borders were overrun, she didn't even know how important they were to her.

That sounds like outside control ...

Every stepmother has her own individual problems, but all stepmothers have one thing in common: they often feel controlled by others. Your weekends are shaped by the children's visiting rhythm. A stepmother often cannot even organize the “child-free weekend” because the mother and ex-partner suddenly want or have to postpone appointments. Often this determines when the child can go on vacation with dad: the child may then decide where to go.

How do these issues affect the couple relationship?

Problems like this need to be addressed, but many men have a tendency to bury their heads in the sand. They have a guilty conscience towards their children because of the separation and want to make up for what they otherwise miss on the children's weekend. It should be harmonious. The stepmother should then make a good face to the bad game. This works just as well as simply putting dirty dishes under the sink instead of washing them up. At some point it all stinks.

And the world of emotions begins to totter ...

Reading tip!

Many women do not feel understood, suffer quietly and doubt themselves. Not a day goes by without a stepmother contacting me - full of joy that she has found someone through my blog who knows what is going on in her. Again and again women say surprised and relieved: "I didn't even know that what I felt was completely normal!" Stepmothers have ambivalent feelings. On the one hand, they have a lot of understanding for the feelings of the child or children, they want to be considerate. But when you try to reduce your own feelings, anger, anger and dissatisfaction grow. Understanding is seen as a sign of the “good stepmother”, when angry and angry she is quickly seen as a “bad stepmother”. That doesn't want to be a woman. Your own needs are also important.

What advice do you have to a new stepmother?

Don't expect Hollywood scenery! Even if you get along well as a stepmother, it is always complicated. Many stepmothers tell that they have a wonderful and loving relationship with their partner. "But when we argue, it's about the children," I keep hearing. "The tatters fly, then it gets down to business." Be responsive to the children. But don't let yourself be made sole responsible! If a stepmother always has to look after the children on her own at the weekend because her partner disappears to play football, I recommend firing a real warning shot. Then talking alone no longer helps. You have to shake such a quitter awake.

How can the stepmother find a place in the blended family?

"It'll be fine," say many. In a sense, that's right because it takes time for a blended family to grow together. Problems rarely change on their own, however. Before moving in, it makes sense to stand in the apartment for a moment, let it sink in and look for an answer to the question: What would I most like to change? If the answer is “Everything!”, It is better to postpone moving in or to look for a new apartment together - then the cards will be reshuffled. But even if there is little to complain about, changes should be approached carefully. With a rush-hour situation, a stepmother quickly makes herself unpopular.

How do you get your own children and stepchildren under one roof?

In general, I recommend: "My house, my rules!" Children understand that. But stepchildren may be used to different rules than their own children. It is difficult for her to suddenly have to follow completely new rules with Papi because the stepmother wants it that way. But if they are allowed to do more than their own children, there will be trouble. A jointly agreed compromise makes sense here. “Your stepbrothers come at the weekend, we make new rules. You know, the two of them are allowed to stay up at home longer than you. We'll meet in the middle. You can stay up late, the two of them go to bed a little earlier than usual. " So nobody has the feeling of being passed over.

Where can a stepmother find help?

There are no explicit advice centers for stepmothers. There are, of course, psychologists who specialize in patchwork. But is it correct that a woman should go to a psychologist because she needs advice on patchwork? A stepmother is best understood by other stepmothers. There is a contact list in my blog, including Swiss women. Nobody here hears: "You knew he had children." Shared pain is half of the pain. There are also stepmother groups on Facebook where you can exchange ideas.

Are there also beautiful sides to being a stepmother?

Naturally! Man's children can be a real asset. I know a lot of women who say they had a child "as a present". With him, the previously childless stepmother experiences the world again through childrens eyes. And the stepmother, who is a mother herself, sees how children find each other and become step-siblings. In addition, a responsible father is often much better as a partner than the "lone wolf".

To person:

In her blog, Susanne Petermann gives insights into the life and special problems of the second wife of a father. In addition, she has developed a stepmother contact list, with the help of which she mediates contacts between stepmothers.

Book tip:

«You have nothing to say to me! Being a stepmother is not for cowards »by Susanne Petermann. The book was published by Diana Verlag in 2015.