The Myth of the Mom vs. the Step-Mom


In my humble opinion, the difference between a mother and a step mother is simply that a special distinction separates them. The difference is only that the mother has given birth and has care of the children, and the step mother has not given birth and inherited the care of the children. However, I believe a mother and a step mother are essentially the same person. In fact, most of the time if you met a mother or step mother on the street, you would not be able to tell them apart.

I became a mother at the age of 20 by giving birth to my first daughter and having another daughter by the age of 23, and a son shortly after I turned 26. I became a step mother by the age of 27 by inheriting two additional daughters. By most standards that is a huge family and with that many personalities you are going to run into a few issues.  That is why I am “silver threading” today, and my hair has turned grey.

Blended families have many of their own unique problems, but at the top of the list is the mother versus the step mother issue. It doesn’t take long in a new family for these feelings to surface and for a feud to begin to ensue. My two step daughters are the oldest of the children in our family and the remaining three children follow in ages consecutively as such: step daughter no. 1, step daughter no. 2, daughter no. 3, daughter no. 4 and son no. 5.

2014-07-10 12.17.15Our Blended Family in Younger Days

The feud in my family usually began when I, as the new step mother, would ask one of my step daughters to do some sort of task. Now this task is the same thing that I, as the mother, would ask my natural children to do. Such as, “Did you clean your room?”

What would follow is the new step child saying, “You’re not my mother and you can’t tell me what to do so, why do I have to clean my room?” This exchange was usually accompanied by rolling eyes and a slight toss of the head. My own children would then lament, “Why do I have to clean my room?” This was also accompanied by rolling eyes and a slight toss of the head!

I always answered in a calm, quiet voice to all of the children, “Yes, you have to clean your room because it needs to be kept clean!” In this simple way, I as the mother had responded to all five of the children in the same way. There was no distinction between what a mother or step mother would say. It was all said in the same way. Clearly, there is no doubt that the role of mother and the step mother is essentially the same. You are there to guide, teach and nurture all of your children.

wag purr

It is easy to see that in my case, most mothers and step mothers are one in the same. When my older step children had issues with school or friends, my younger, natural children usually had the same issues and questions. I answered all of them the best I could at the time in the same way and never tried to act differently as a mother or a step mother. I took each child exactly as they were with their faults and gifts and reveled in their triumphs and felt their sorrows. In fact, I never used the term, step child. I felt that I was raising the children and I claimed the right to call them my children! By defining all of my children in the same way made me feel like I was treating them equally.

However, society has many opinions on the subject. The role of the natural mother is glorified and the role of the step mother is vilified! It is acceptable to believe a step mother would not love a child as much as their natural child, evoking memories of fairy tales told long ago. The step mother is always mean and appears like a wicked witch, with hair standing on end and eyes flashing, instead of being portrayed as a motherly and loving woman dressed in pearls and wearing an apron.

Be Kind

Another stance that society allows is the idea that a step mother who hasn’t had a child can’t be a mother! If that were the case, why are women allowed to adopt other mothers’ children to care for as their own? I think these are just myths and don’t believe that the social differences between a step mother and a mother are that far off. Instead, I take the view that all mothers and step mothers are essentially the same because they share the same role.

I have found that I have the same feelings and expectations as a mother that I have as a step mother. I am simply a mother and this likeness defines me. I am one in the same, interchangeable; having raised the children with the only difference still remaining being whether or not I gave birth to them.

After many years of marriage, I recently rejoiced when one of my “step” daughters said to me, “Mom, all you have ever done was to try to be the best Mom that you could be to us. You always were there and continue to be there for us still today. You will always be my Mom!”

I can tell you those words were the sweetest and most unexpected of all. My “step” daughter considered me to be her Mom after all! My hard work and love had paid off. I had proven that my role as a step mother had no special distinction other than to be there for my children and show them love and respect. The same thing any mother would want for her children and it really didn’t matter if I had given birth to them or not!

I was just their Mom.


Thanks for stopping by today, I enjoyed seeing you all,

Silver Threading

31 thoughts on “The Myth of the Mom vs. the Step-Mom”

  1. What a great post :-). I am a step-mum too but my husbands children live with their mother but stay with us as often as they can. I call them my step-children because I do not want them to think I want to take their mothers place. I have my own place in this “threesome” of adults and I try to be there for them as much and with all I have to give. But I consider myself as an addition and I always kept out of the parenting my husband and his ex are doing. I think they are doing a great job considering how difficult it is to make sure children are able to be with both parents when they are separated.
    I also am a step-child myself but my mother had passed away when my father had a new wife. So that’s another story entirely. But I agree with you “mothering” has nothing to do with the fact of having given birth or not. In Africa they say “you need a village to raise a child” and that is what I believe in. No matter who gave birth to a child I would always try to be a mother for it and give the care and help they need.

    • We are kindred souls Bee. I too, had a step mother after my mother passed away when I was three. I remembered how I felt as a step child. I always claimed all 5 kids because I figured I raised them. Cheers to you being a step mom too. I decided long ago that I could be a mother to other children just because I loved them. Blood is not everything. <3

  2. This was a beautifully written post, Colleen, and it happens to be one that hits very close to home with me, only I’m not the step-mother—I’m the birth mother.

    This is something that, although there are a lot of commonalities with extended/combined families, is also unique to each situation. My son was 1 1/2 when my husband and I separated. I knew to do it while he was young to avoid him having to go through the emotional aspects of it happening when he was old enough to remember his parents “together” in the same home. There was no “cheating” going on, so that was not a factor in our breaking up. He met his wife-to-be relatively quickly (I think it was within a year) and I only warned him not to get our son attached to anyone before he knew it was a serious relationship. She had two kids (a couple of years older than my son) from a previous marriage. Ultimately, they did get married.

    I don’t want to get longwinded and it’s not necessary to take everyone along on a 25+-year ride, but for us it came down to some very critical aspects of who we are as people as to why things have turned out as they have. Both she and I are very fair-minded people, and all 3 of us respect each other. My ex and I made it very clear that we would never put our son in the middle of anything, would never talk down to him about the other parent, that when he became a teenager my ex wouldn’t allow him to “play” the “I’ll live with you instead of Mom” thing, etc., etc. I also told my son, the first time he was going to stay with them at their house after they were married, that I am his mother, but when he was at their house, that he listen to her the same way he would listen to me—to respect her. There is more, but that’s all I’ll say here.

    When my son was 7 years old, they were planning a trip to Disney World. I am a HUGE Disney fanatic. They decided my son probably wouldn’t be happy if they were going and I was “left out,” so they invited me along and paid for my trip. Yes, you heard me right. We had one “hump” to get over while we were there, and ever since then, she and I became very, VERY close over the years. When they had a daughter together, I was there for all of it, helping decorate and plan all her birthday parties and everything you can think of. I’m “Aunt Donna” to her. My mother and his wife (I’m avoiding using names here, purposely), feel like a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. She (his wife) is one of the most cherished people in my life, and I for her. I thank God he found a woman like her because ALL of us are family. She was a loving “other mother” for my son, and though she held that position, she never crossed any line that actually mattered without running it by me first. He lived with me full time and visited them whenever it worked for everyone. We never were strict about anything in the divorce papers. I could go on and on about the wonderful give-and-take we’ve all had over the years, but it’s not necessary.

    In my son’s life, he has had several mother figures, including my mother because we’ve lived with them since he was 7 (he’s now 29 and married). My mother and my ex’s wife have been a “mother” to my son in many ways, but not in the way that I have been his mother. This is our situation. In fact, when my son and daughter-in-law got married, my ex, his wife and I all walked up the aisle together, arm in arm. Her two kids, my son and their daughter are not “half” or “step” or anything—they are brothers and sisters and it’s a beautiful thing. My ex’s wife is one of the people I thank God for, she having been the one who ended up in our lives. She could’ve been the “wicked stepmother,” but she wasn’t! I also could’ve been the “wicked ex-wife,” but I wasn’t. We are very blessed 🙂 And I’m glad, in your situation, that at least your “daughter” grew up to realize what IS and what matters 🙂

  3. I am a blended family mother, too. I actually had few problems with my step kids–more with their mother who I think felt threatened by me because I got along with her kids. I had to take her aside once and assure her that no matter how I might love them her kids were always going to be her kids and they would love her. I think having my own children from a previous marriage helped me to not worry so much when the step kids acted out because mine were doing the same thing to my new husband.

    Now we all sit around the table and laugh at what at times was a horror show of hurt feelings. It felt more like being chopped in a blender sometimes.

  4. So we are also fellow step moms. I wish I had met you 9 years ago as it would have made all the difference in my experience as one.
    I had a tough time to find a way to be accepted by a 6 y/o girl, who after 4 years having daddy only for herself, all of a sudden felt threatened by my arrival in their lives and in conflict because of her loyalty to her mom.
    I read many books, talked to many other parents, cried sometimes and found my way to deal with the situation.
    She’s 15 now, and became a lovely girl. We have an excellent relationship and are best friends.
    I never could really play the mother role without running the risk of a conflict with her mother; so I act behind the scenes exerting influence through my husband. It works fine.
    The interesting thing is that I am the safe and trusted harbor; for not being the ‘real’ mother.
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful experience. ❤️

    • I raised two step daughters 11 and 8 when we got married almost 30 years ago. It is not easy. I have one step daughter and our son who have gone their separate ways. They are grown adults and some things they just need to figure out for themselves. Do your best and just be yourself. I am always here. ♡

  5. Step mothers do get a bad rep. Like the wicked stepmother. Some stepmothers are wicked and some mothers can be wicked too. Women deserve credit for being good mothers even if the children they are mothering are not their birth children. It is hard for the children, if they remember their birth mothers, because there is a natural bond there. Even when you are the greatest step mother in the world it is still hard for them to resolve their feelings. But I know I would find it hard not to take it personally when I was the one on the front lines with the kids.

  6. I love this post. I also have “step”-children (their father and I aren’t technically married, yet) and always viewed them as my own. They even called me Mommy for a period until their mother came back and now, sadly, I never get to see them anymore, but I love them the same. The love I have for them is the same I have for my son.

    Also, we don’t call the kids “half-siblings”. They are brothers and sisters, no matter what.

  7. Thanks for including the photo! You easily might not have, but it was fun to see your blended family–and get a better grasp of the responsibility you had as a mom.


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