Marriage, Parenting

Wicked: Are You Glinda or Elphaba? A Guide to Your Role as a Step-Parent

If you’ve seen Wicked, you may remember that Elphaba always had good intentions. She tried to always do what she thought was right, but in the end, everyone hated her and loved Glinda (yes, the other mom) because she made everything look like she was the one saving the day! Does anyone see how this is like step parenting?

Elphaba: The Step-Parent

I’m Elphaba. Some people could have seen me as the person that swooped in to help parent 5 kids that needed a mom around (their mom had moved out of state), but instead, I’m the evil one. I just wanted our kids to do well in their life, eat healthy, make a decent living, do well in school, be productive citizens, become independent. Okay, so along the way I raised my voice at times and was caught calling my mom or my sister for parenting advice (also known as “you always talk crap about us to other people!” and is there a mom that exists that doesn’t reach out once in a while for some guidance?)  Anyway, I’ve never hit the kids, borrowed money and not paid it back, threatened to kill myself if they didn’t live with us, gotten into a brawl with any of them, driven them in a car after drinking, ignored them when they were sick, screamed profanities at them at the holidays, or left them for years to live in another state (not saying anyone else has, let’s call those examples).

Glinda: The Bio-Parent

Then there is Glinda, the other mom. Let’s just say that if she were to do all those things listed above that I have never done, the kids would quickly be over it and she is a rock star. My point is that the kids see her differently. As the stepparent, you are predisposed to be a terrible person in their eyes. Maybe it comes from fairytale stories or other people’s bad experiences with their stepparents. Those are not your fault, but it does mean that you have to be very aware of your role as you do your best to stepparent.

In my situation, Glinda and I both had stepmoms. Glinda lived with her stepmom when she was younger. She disliked her stepmom and felt she never loved her and was always unfair, and even though her stepmom was the only person that I witnessed trying to be in our kids lives on that side of the family, she told the kids their whole lives how terrible her stepmom was. This likely formed her view and our kids’ views of stepmoms. I also had a stepmom. I only saw her occasionally, but I never thought that she liked me and I generally saw her as the person that kept me from having time with my dad, so my outlook on stepmoms was not positive. This caused me to avoid dating men with kids for most of my life.

Glinda and I are also very good friends, but not because it hasn’t been difficult at times. See my post on The Other Mom: Co-Parenting With Step-Parents that discusses developing this relationship. This relationship is key to how you are viewed by your kids and their mom or dad.

"Don't talk about the shortcomings of the bio-parent. Rather, point out in a positive way why you parent differently than they do. Not that she or he is doing it wrong, but what you hope to teach them even though you don't agree with them." Lynn Peterson

Step-Parent Help Guide

Here are some ideas on navigating the challenges of your role as a step-parent:

  1. Praise Glinda in front of the kids. Don’t lie, but find positive things to say and stay away from saying anything negative.
  2. Don’t talk about the shortcomings of the other mom or dad. Rather, point out in a positive way why you parent differently than they do. Not that she or he is doing it wrong, but what you hope to teach them even though you don’t agree with them.
  3. Be very careful about who you go to for guidance and make sure you are alone when discussing issues about the kids (e.g. when talking to your husband, wife, mom, sister, best friend, don’t do it where anyone can possibly overhear you).
  4. Remember that Elphaba got Fiaro and cherish your marriage!
  5. Remember that you are not a terrible person, no matter what your teenager says! You are the good person with good intentions deep down, so don’t ever forget it!
  6. In general, for family events such as holidays, birthdays, vacations, reunions, weddings, etc. you are there to facilitate a wonderful time for your spouse and the kids.  That’s it. It is not about you having a wonderful time with your spouse and kids. See more about this in my post on Blended Family Vacations.
  7. Let your spouse discipline the kids. There are many different views about this, but in my situation, there were many times where my spouse did nothing and every time I tried to step in and parent, it only backfired. Try the role of coach or counselor if you can. Kids need to feel safe and comfortable that they can come to you when they are struggling.

Knowing your role as the stepparent is confusing and difficult to figure out. Try to fight your parenting instincts and use the suggestions above. Every situation is different. I’m sending the very best wishes to you on your journey!

FAQ

What is a blended family?

According to Your Dictionary, “A blended family is defined as a family made of two parents and their children from previous marriages. An example of a blended family is a woman with two children from a previous marriage who marries a man with three children from a previous marriage.”

What are common problems and challenges for blended families?

Common problems for blended families include children not feeling loved or feeling left out, sibling rivalry, children manipulating parents, ex-spouses, dreading holidays, vacations, marital problems, finances and discipline (or lack thereof).

Can blended families be successful?

Although many stepfamilies seem doomed for failure, it is absolutely possible for a blended family to be successful.  While some situations are unhealthy for everyone involved, many families can be saved if there is a desire to work through the problems

How common are blended families?

Blended families are becoming more common. According to Pew Research 62% of children in the U.S. live in two-parent households and 15% of those are living with parents in a remarriage.

2 Comments

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