It’s 2018, and as a society we have come a long way in evolving away from the restrictions of gender roles. From instilling into our children that pink is a “girl color” and dissuading little boys from playing with Barbie dolls, to stereotyping dads as breadwinners and moms as housewives, we continue to move step by step toward home lives where we can all just be ourselves. However, in blended families, gender roles can sometimes actually allow stepparents and stepchildren to navigate their places in each other’s lives more simply, such as in a two mom household.
Often, when a heterosexual family faces parental divorce and a child moves into two homes, a gender parental role is left open to be filled by a stepparent. I, of course, mean role as in parental roles and responsibilities within the family dynamic, not within the heart of the kiddo. At Dad’s house, those maternal instincts and that feminine energy can be filled in by the stepmom, which allows the transition to be more seamless and gives the stepparent and stepchild a way to settle in and get used to each other.
Whether the roles mean simple tasks like Mom packed the lunches and Dad always wrote the note, or the fact that Mom is always the one who does the Barbie voices in the bathtub, the existence of these “jobs to be filled" are part of what can help stepmoms settle in and stepkids feel a sense of normalcy.
My Role in a Two Mom Household
When I was falling in love with my wife, I never thought much about what my role would be as a stepmom when my stepdaughter would already have a Mom in our house. We’re both Moms. Although I’ll be the first to admit I do expect her to take the trash out because it grosses me out, and although I prefer dresses and makeup and she prefers chinos and men’s oxfords, we don’t have gender roles in our two mom household.
When I first moved in with them, I asked myself what parent child dynamic I would be able to create with my stepdaughter when I wouldn’t be the only female parent taking care of her. Who would pack the lunches? Who would pick out her clothes? How do I bond with her without the special appeal of “girl time” when she already has an incredible mother in each house? How can we define our duties within a two mom household without clashing with one another?
It look me a long time to realize that just because my stepdaughter already has two amazing Moms, that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t love to have a third. I questioned where I was going to fit in my stepchild’s life if I couldn’t fill some kind of void in her family dynamic. My stepdaughter never had a dad, so she didn’t need one now. She already has two Moms, so I thought I needed to figure out what I brought to the table as a parent. In reality though, all I ever needed to bring to this new home was myself.
What I’ve come to learn, though, is that my own insecurities about "what kind of Mom I could be when she already had two" forced me to form a separate, unique bond with my stepdaughter. Sure, she already has someone to paint her nails and do all of the different Barbie voices with her. But I’m the only one she will let braid her hair, and she credits me with teaching her how to tie her shoes.
A house doesn’t have to be made up of one dad and one mom for there to be roles that need filled. In our two mom household, my wife makes fantastic Sunday morning breakfast, but her pasta game is weak. My stepdaughter loves to go to the park with her Mommy, but she likes to watch movies and create art with me. It’s not about gender roles, or being the Mom or the Dad in a house. Being a stepparent is about creating a bond with your stepchild by getting to know them and forming something special that’s uniquely for the two of you.
Step parenting is about working to build a new family dynamic, not to replicate an old one. As a stepmom, you’re a woman, but you’re not just the Mom of the house. You’re who you are as a person, and that’s your role. I’m one of three Moms, but I’m a movie buff who loves to colour and can do one heck of a french braid. Let us share who we are, not just what we are, with our stepchildren.
As a stepmom, give yourself permission to stop worrying about navigating your role and what space you can fill in your blended family, and instead focus on letting yourself shine through. Because what your family only really needs, is you.
Beth is one of three moms raising one fun, feisty little redhead. Over at the Babbling Blonde, she provides support and inspiration to women in nontraditional families, from stepmoms to LGBTQ parents. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, andTwitter. Download her free Essential Co-Parenting Custody Journal here.