I don’t believe that only women who have already been mothers have the market cornered on maternal love– you either have the innate desire, or you don’t.
One sure sign that your ex is moving on from your marriage is when he brings a new woman into his life and to that of your children. You will have no control over who your ex dates, and eventually re-marries. Naturally you will wonder about what kind of influence she will be and whether or not she will be kind and loving.
It’s difficult to imagine your children sharing part of their life with another woman standing in as a parental figure. While some part of you might wince at the thought of them liking, even loving her, it is actually beneficial to your kids to have a good relationship with their new stepmom and to be able to count on her as a resource of care and support when you can’t be with them.
But, what if the new stepmom has never been a mother before?
Can a woman without children really be a good stepmom?
Women are childless for a variety of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with not liking or wanting children. Your ex’s new love might not yet have children because of her career, she hadn’t yet met the right person, for health reasons, infertility, and so on.
Hollywood will have us immediately jump to conclusions about stepmoms, envisioning a hooded black cape and shiny red apple in the back of her closet. I know that many not-so-kind women and stepmoms are out there, and some will marry our exes and become stepmoms. I contend that many more truly decent women are ready to become step moms and are capable of doing a fine job.
We shouldn’t be too hasty to judge the intentions of a new stepmom or her childless status. Also, is it reasonable to believe that in this age where women do not have to marry that very many would-be stepmoms would willingly choose to marry a man with children if they dislike kids? We, modern women, have the luxury of marrying for love instead of being forced into less-than-ideal situations, including becoming a stepmom to children against our will.
I’m going to step out on a limb and suggest that the majority of step moms in the year 2016 became involved with their new family with full knowledge and acceptance of the children. She didn’t have to marry him or agree to become a stepmom, so there’s a very small chance that her heart is not open to the prospect of making your children part of her own family and becoming a part of their life.
As a stepmom to four children (and two of my own), I can tell you that my marriage to their father was also a pact of love to them. I knew full well when I started dating my husband that he was a father, and it was understood that for our relationship to progress the kids and I would have to be willing to accept each other.
As much as he and I cared for one another, if I had been unwilling to take on four more children as my own, or if they had rejected me, our relationship would have ended. Our commitment was a package deal. He had to accept me and my children, and I had to be willing to do the same for him. The same would be true of a childless woman.
Your ex was a father first. She was surely aware of the children, knew that they were a huge priority in his life and that they would become a regular part of the schedule and future holidays, vacations, and so on. Children of her own or not, she made a conscious decision to include your children into her marriage and life. I’m not sure that any stepmom fully comprehends the myriad of emotions and life-changing transformations that accompany the role; but, it is not a choice one would enter into blindly.
As a stepmom with my own biological children, I have no doubt that I had an advantage over a non-parent when I became a stepmother. I already had firsthand experience with parent-teacher conferences, staying up all night with sick little ones, disciplining unwanted behaviors, and so on. All this is to say that I knew how to raise my children. I knew their quirks and preferences. My real life mothering experience gave me insight into how to take care of his children, but I still had to get to know his children individually and adapt to their personalities and needs.
They were used to different foods, traditions, methods of discipline, and so on. I’m glad that I had my experience as a mom to get started as a stepmom, but I still had to venture into new territory with teenagers and other things that I had not yet done with my own kids. Having already been a mom in no way made me a parenting expert. In fact, my husband and I still talk and brainstorm every day about issues going on with the kids and how to address them. We also both read, ask other parents, and try to educate ourselves about raising kids through different situations because we are still learning!
This tells me that a non-mom could also research to figure out how to get through. Maybe she has nieces and nephews, friends with kids or other supports to tap into. Your ex will be an indispensable resource for her to get to know the kids, and she will need to take cues from his actions as to the routines, boundaries, and other important factors in their lives. Perhaps, she may even be able to rely on you to provide information and guidance? Try not to think of it as a contest because it’s really about your children being safe, happy, and comfortable wherever they go!
So, can only an experienced mother do well as a stepmother? I don’t think so. As already stated, this new woman in your children’s lives made a conscious choice to enter into a union where children already existed. Although parenting experience might make the transition to parenting a little easier, even a veteran mom would need to get on the same page with your ex’s parenting style and learn all about your kids.
I also don’t believe that only women who have already been mothers have the market cornered on maternal love– you either have the innate desire, or you don’t. Let’s face it, it requires more bravery and commitment to take on someone else’s children if only part time than it is to start from scratch with your own. At least with your own child he or she only has you for comparison! We don’t question whether or not an adoptive mother is fit for the job or has the capacity to love another woman’s child, so why do we place step moms under greater scrutiny? I say that if a woman has the nerve to step up and assume the role as part of a child’s parenting team even though she shares no DNA or history with that child, she deserves some sort of medal!