-What is your name and general location? (South, New England, etc)
My name is Claire aka StepMotherDoom and I live in North West England.
-How many stepchildren do you have? (And what age and gender, if you’re comfortable sharing) If you have biological children, feel free to let us know about them here, too!
I have 2 stepchildren and no biological children. They are two delightful little girls aged 4 and 7.
-Can you tell me a little bit of background about your stepparenting story?
I became a stepmother around 2 years ago when I met my now husband. At first he didn’t tell me about the children. Most people find this shocking and quite bad behaviour but I understand his reasoning. I wouldn’t have dated someone with children. It just wasn’t what I wanted from my life, I had seen friends go through horrible experiences as step mothers and I wasn’t about to add that drama to my life. After a couple of weeks of meeting he told me about them and by then it was too late – I was already in love with him. We waited a short time before me meeting the kids, we would have waited longer but we had decided to move in with each other so I couldn’t be kept a secret from them much longer.
We met in a really neutral environment (the local library) and I was introduced as just another adult. We didn’t hold hands or kiss and we didn’t talk about me being daddy’s girlfriend. They were only 2 and 5 then and they had already been through the breakup of their parents relationship around 6 months previously. We wanted to create a very non-threatening happy environment. Fast forward two years and we are now a family. We got married 6 months ago and the children where a massive part of that. They now split their time between their two homes – they start their week with their mum, spend midweek with us and then go back to mums, then they come to us on the weekend. We never go more than 2 days without them staying here. It’s not been the easiest journey but I bonded with them both very quickly so our relationship has been the easiest thing about it.
-What do your stepchildren call you? If you also have biological children, how does the role of titles (ie mom and dad) work in your family?
They call me Claire. We’ve never asked them to call me anything different and it works for us. When introducing me to people they’ll say this is Claire, my stepmum.
-How/When did you first meet your now stepchildren? Did you run into any difficulties bonding with them? (right away or just in general)
After our first meeting in the library we made sure that the girls had alone time with Daddy for the first few months so they didn’t feel I was intruding on special time with Daddy. Our little one was a little reluctant at first, if she saw me kiss Daddy or touch Daddy she would scowl. That was her Daddy and low and behold anyone who went near him. We were very aware of this so made sure we didn’t do that in front of her but it soon resolved itself as we built our own relationship. The first time she ran to me instead of Dad when she fell over in the park I knew we had really become close. Our older one I had no trouble with at all. We are really similar, we both enjoy similar things and have the same sense of humour. On the first day we met she asked her dad if she could read with me instead of him.
-How do you and your partner handle discipline/rules within your family? (Is it 50/50?) How do you and your partner make sure you are both respected by the children?
This was lots of fun at first – (she said sarcastically). For months, everytime the kids went to bed we would discuss how the day had gone. If we disagreed with how the other parent was handling a situation this is when we would discuss it, not in front of the kids. Their dad has a quite laid back approach and I’m more a fan of structure and rules, we had to work out what our house rules would be and what kind of parents we would be. Getting this structure in place has been a godsend to us. We don’t run a regimented house but simple things like bedtime routines, sharing, not lying, trying new foods, table manners etc. we know what we expect from the children and more importantly they know which creates a stable environment for them. Obviously we aren’t perfect and sometime Dad will say “if you don’t do X then Y will happen” and then doesn’t follow through on the consequences which really winds me up and I’m certainly no Mary Poppins but we’ve found a way to parent together.
-Do you participate in communication/relationship with your stepchildren’s other biological parent? (Not your partner) If so, how much and how do you maintain that relationship?
This is probably where we fall down most as a non-traditional family and I try not to focus on it because my step children have brought so much joy into my life and that is where my focus should be. I don’t communicate with the kids Mum at all and the relationship between my husband and the kids mum is fraught with difficulty. My job is to support him in that and to ensure the kids are never aware of it. And yes, that sometimes means taking her side. If I think he is being unreasonable when dealing with her I’ll tell him and while that causes us to fall out sometimes it’s important to me that we don’t create an us vs her situation. As the kids get older this situation is likely to become more apparent to them so I focus on talking about their Mum positively in our home and doing things like making sure we save some cakes to take for Mum when we are baking or make something for Mum when we are crafting. Anything I can do to let the children feel that the adults in their lives are all there to support them.
-How do you decide what things to do when you don’t have the children (when the children are with their other parent) and what things you want to wait to do until you have the children with you?
This has never really been an issue for us. Being a stepmum is awesome because I can spend time with my non parent friends, go to nice restaurants and travel around the country on our non kid days and focus on them on our kid days. I have no idea how parents manage it full time! I can plan things and cook in advance on non kid days meaning that we can enjoy real quality time on kid days.
-Hardest/Most Difficult stepmothering memory?
Our most difficult times have been when there has been conflict with the kids Mum. I won’t go into them here as that wouldn’t be fair or productive. I will say though that when the kids say something to me which shows that they have been affected by this conflict it breaks my heart. Knowing that you can’t fully protect them is a terrible feeling.
-Best/Funniest stepmothering memory?
There have been so many! I think last Christmas was certainly in the top 10. To sit with my family and see the kids behaving so well and integrated so will well with their cousins and aunts and uncles and look back on how much has changed in the last few years and how much richer my life is for it.
-Any particular resources (books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc) that have helped you along in your stepmothering journey?
I have found parenting linkies very useful because the titles of the linkies often point me straight to the step-parent specific blog posts. Also I find twitter in general helpful because of the people who I have followed I see posts from other stepmums on a daily basis which reminds me that the difficulties are almost universal and I’m certainly not alone.
-What advice would you give your former self if you could send a letter back in time? Please write a short version of that letter here.
Dear me a couple of years ago,
So your new fella has some kids and you’re becoming a stepmum. Ah, what’s the worse that can happen? Just remember, by becoming a step mum you don’t have to become a supermum. All parents are a bit flawed, no-one gets it perfect – kids favourite thing is attention, not expensive activities or well thought out crafting sessions. Also, 2 year olds cannot be reasoned with – stop trying.
-Do you ever get jealous that you aren’t the children’s biological parent?
Hell yeah, all the time! I know it’s ridiculous but I find it quite strange sometimes that they have another mum. I know I shouldn’t admit that because it’s weird but hey, there’s nowt as strange as folk.
-What do you say when people ask if you have kids?
I say yes. I think that when someone asks if I have kids they aren’t asking for my life story. I don’t hide the fact that they are my stepkids but I don’t lead with it either.
-What do you say when a stranger (waitress or something like that) refers to you and your spouse as mom and dad? (ie “Ask your mom and dad”)
We don’t say anything. The kids accidentally call me Mum a lot anyway and we don’t call attention to that either. It doesn’t seem to bother the kids when other people refer to me as their mum.
-How are you preparing for when the children might someday say “you aren’t my real parent” or if others say that to you?
I’m sure they will say that to me at some point – teenagers are brutal! I don’t think I could prepare myself for that and I’m sure my husband will support me through it. I have already had other people say it to me and it’s painful. I work project included some contribution from employees children and when I was asked to do something for it someone said ‘but they’re not even her kids’. I took it on the chin and then went and had a word with that person to let them know they had hurt my feelings. They were mortified! It was just a throw away comment and quickly forgiven.
-Was your now partner having children a pro or a con when deciding whether to date and ultimately marry them?
If I’d have known I wouldn’t have gone on the first date – brutal but true. I had never considered this as a life choice for me but it has turned out to be the best decision.
-Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to get into this relationship?
1 million times yes! Becoming a mum without the normal 9 months notice is hard. Re-arranging your life for little people you have only just met is hard. Building a relationship with someone when from the start you are not the most important person in your partner’s life and know you never will be? Hard! But it’s all so worth it. The moments cuddled on the sofa watching a film, running around the park, reading, talking, adventuring, learning. They are all priceless.’
Tell us three interesting facts about you that DON’T have to do with stepmothering. Also, please leave any blog or contact links below if you’d like that information to be featured here.
- My first baby was a furbaby – my pooch will be 8 soon and he is just amazing
- I’m passionate about empowering people to control their own health
- Me and my husband met on Tinder
If you’d like to follow along for more of Claire’s stepmotherhood journey, you can find her over at StepMotherDoom!