The transition into step-motherhood isn’t easy. Blending families necessitates the difficult tasks of organizing financial and living arrangements and dealing with any unresolved issues from your significant other’s previous relationship. Not to mention the fact that you’re diving headfirst into parenting kids who may be primed not to like you based on their own feelings about their parents parting ways (anyone seen Stepmom?). It doesn’t help that Disney has been giving stepmothers a bad rap from day one, either. Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel…these poor kids’ stepmothers don’t even have first names, apart from “Evil.”
Of course, life is nothing like the fairy tales, a fact of which, if you’re starting fresh with a new partner, you’re probably aware. “Stepmother” is far from synonymous with “intrinsically unkind parent,” as Cynthia Copeland, author of Good Riddance: An Illustrated Memoir of Divorce points out. After chronicling her divorce and subsequent self-discovery, Copeland happily remarried. For the next few years, though, she watched from the sidelines as her ex-husband re-entered the dating scene, made a couple off missteps, and finally ended up with an attentive, devoted woman Copeland, a stepmother herself, admires for her skills on the job.
Based on Copeland’s first-hand observations and what her kids have reported back to her, here are the five things her children’s step-mommy does right:
• “She is good to the people my kids love. She visits their grandmother…at least one a week and helps her with cooking and cleaning.”
• “She’s hung photos of my kids all over the house, which makes them feel special and important.”
• “She seems genuinely happy when they visit.”
• “She gives them time alone with their dad.”
• “She works hard to make meals they like.”
Copeland emphasizes that, at the end of the day, if your intentions are good and you make a genuine effort to welcome your step-kids into your new home, that’s really the best you can do. But a little advice from seasoned veterans never hurts.