How to Be a Vibrant and Powerful Step-Mom When Feeling Like an Outsider with Diane Gibson
Meet Our Guest:
Diane is a Registered Psychotherapist in Ontario and has worked with stepfamilies throughout her career. She is a Stepmom herself so has a diverse understanding of the challenges and joys in being a Stepmom. Her suggestions on best practices comes from her educational, professional and personal experiences.
“Being a step parent is in and of itself its own little…no, scratch that… BIG phenomenon!”
My guest this week on the Vibrant, Powerful Moms Show is, Diane Gibson, a woman who got married at 33 and became a step-mom of two young adults. She’s now been married over 18 years and has become a therapist who helps step-moms and step-families create strong, positive relationships.
I had her come on the show to share with us about some of the tips, tricks and tools she’s learned for step-moms, both by living in the trenches herself and through her work with others.
When asked to define the role of step-mom, Diane explained,
“I’m going to generalize because it’s such a unique experience, but there are some best practices out there. A step mom is definitely NOT the role of a parent or a mom - you have to remember when you become a step mom, you are in love with dad and dad is in love with you, but the kids may or may not be on board. They just had their whole life turned upside down and there’s this new woman stepping into everybody’s life.”
Diane clarified that by adding that, of course, there are situations where bio-mom is not going to be present in the child’s life anymore and then your role will be different. When bio-mom is around though her message was clear.
“You are not a replacement for mom.”
Diane shared a few general guidelines to follow when you’re in a step-mom role, including being flexible, refusing to take things personally and how to be the ‘adult in charge’ when you find yourself taking care of the kids.
“First and foremost, you really have to be flexible. Don’t think you can just come into this family and start changing things and be the head of the tribe. That is not your role.”
She cautioned step-moms to always remember that the children’s lives have just been turned upside down. They’ve likely just lived through a divorce (or a significant parting of ways if their parents were not married), lost their sense of family, and perhaps are now being asked to switch back and forth between residences.
“Even if you’ve been together for a couple of years, when you move in together or are getting married things change. Your role is to support dad and help dad be the parent.”
“These kids are truly struggling with the loss of the family as they know it. They are struggling with loyalty…if I’m really nice to step-mom does that mean I’m betraying my mom? There’s been so much change for them and you really have to acknowledge all of the stuff that is going on for these children.”
Diane suggested you put a lot of energy into building a strong, positive relationship with your partner and ensure communication is flowing smoothly between you both. She reminded us that if he thinks you should be taking on the role of mom, it’s time for you to sit down with him and have a heart to heart.
"If your partner is thinking that you’re going to come in and take over the ‘mothering’ duties, you need to sit down and work through how things are going to look. I would suggest getting a professional in to help with it…it’s that important.”
Tune into the show to find out Diane’s key tip to keeping family communication flowing; your role when it comes to discipline and even what you might do when bio-mom is driving you crazy!