Maggie Prince* has been a stepmother for more than 15 years. These are some of the things she's learned along the way:
1 Prioritise the primary relationshipsIt’s important to cement the stepfamily, but you also need to let your stepchildren have a primary relationship with their natural parent. I was always aware of the fact that my stepsons (I consider them my stepsons even though their father and I have never married) needed time alone with their dad. For example, at half-term, we’d all spend the first four days together and on the fifth day I'd say to Andy, “You take the boys out for the day and go bowling; I'm taking Tilly shopping.”
2 Make time for your partner, tooWe were lucky because Tilly went to her dad's house every Friday night and didn’t come home until Saturday afternoon. That gave Andy and me a much-needed breathing space. I think that's very important for couples who are in a step-parenting role.
3 Put the children firstAs a stepmother you have to be unselfish and put all the children first. Sometimes that’s difficult, but it’s essential. There were times when I really didn’t feel like getting out of bed and going down to make breakfast so the boys could have a cuddle with their dad, but I knew it was the right thing to do so I did it.
4 Create a neutral spaceWhen you’re attempting to blend your families, if at all possible start again in a home that is new for all of you. Andy thought Tilly would find it hard to adjust to him moving in to her house, her space. She'd lived in that house from the day she was born and him moving in wouldn't have worked. He was right. Space was a factor but it wasn’t the main reason. We had to buy a family home to enable us all to have a fresh start.
5 Accept that you’re not the most important person in your stepchild’s lifeYou have to learn not to mind that even while they're with you, your stepchildren might want to ring their mum and confide in her. I can deal with that because I'm close to my daughter, but if I didn't have a child of my own I think I’d feel left out.
I want the boys to care about me – I’m only human – but I have to accept that they're closer to their mum than they are to me. If you can accept that but not be too jealous of it, then it's okay. But if you always want to be number one, there will be problems because children will always love their mum (or dad when the situation is reversed). And why shouldn't they?
*Names have been changed.
Find out how Maggie became a stepmother.
Living in a blended family? Check out our coping tips.
Read our logart about how one couple began to blend their families here.
Come and chat on Logarty talk.