The Age of the Stepmother: Being Recognized + Valued


The word conjures up images of wicked, evil, sinister women out to ruin their stepchildren’s lives. I used to pray my parents would stay together so I would never have one. Growing up, stepparents were rare if present at all; I grew up on a cul-de-sac comprised of nuclear families where most moms stayed at home, most dads worked and most families were intact. In the 70s and 80s divorce was still uncommon, remarrying even more so – most kids did not have a stepparent and those that did became objects of speculation. Stepmoms were not celebrated but socially ostracized and vilified.


Today, stepmothers are much more prevalent with experts predicting that blended families will soon become the dominant family form in North America. I became a stepmother myself nine years ago to a three and five-year-old. Raising my sixteen-year-old daughter was no longer my only priority. I was once again booking camps, going to the park, cooking kid-friendly meals, buying pull-ups, wiping runny noses and bums, and cleaning up vomit after the stomach flu.

In addition, I inadvertently became the permanent liaison between my husband and his ex-wife to help alleviate on-going grievances. I became responsible for drafting the annual parenting schedules, managing schedule changes throughout the year and jointly coordinating and booking the children’s extra-curricular activities, dentist and doctor appointments.

Society does not have a proper place for the stepmom. We aren’t recognized caregivers. We don’t have any rights or legal power. If we were to rush our stepchildren to the hospital, we would require one of their “real” parents to provide consent. I sure feel as though I am one of my stepchildren’s “real” parents. I am sure doing “real” work in raising them. I am sure giving up “real” time of my own.


While there are countless support systems and mommy blogs in place for mothers, there are limited resources for the stepmother. It is often unacceptable for stepmothers to seek help by publicly discussing challenges they face raising children that are not their own. A three-year study by Auckland University doctoral candidate, Anna Miller, found that the majority of stepmothers felt they were treated as if they played a negative role in their stepchild’s life. Miller found this to be due to their awareness of negative stigmas and accompanying societal pressures. Stepmothers are prone “…to significantly greater anxiety and depression than biological mothers…” says Lisa Doodson, a psychologist teaching at Thames Valley University.

I am fortunate to have a spouse who values my role and who, for the most part, defers to me as the head of household of our family. He gives me respect and always has my back, which allows us to form a united front. Our children are loved, well taken care of and thriving. I believe we are unique in how we work as a blended family.  We are equal partners and the children view and respect me as their mom when they are in our home. I have always called them “my children who happened to be born before I met them”. They know how much I love them and I am truly blessed to have them in my life.


My hope is that other blended families can operate with the stepmother role being validated, respected and appreciated; not only within the household but outside of it as well. Our kids will be better for it knowing they have so many adults in their lives who love them and only want the best for them. After all, it takes a village doesn’t it?

S&S recommend checking out these helpful online resources for the involved stepmom:

StepMom Magazine, offers a private online support group with advice on taboo topics


Your relationships make you who you are. Find more articles about NURTURING RELATIONSHIPS.

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