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Debunking the myth of the evil stepmother

WATCH ABOVE: Becoming a stepmom can be a difficult job to tackle, but it's a scenario we're familiar with in Canada. Kim Smith has some advice to debunk the evil stepmother stereotype.

The role of a stepmother often comes with myths and stereotypes and can be a difficult one to tackle.

“We’re hard on stepmoms. They’re told that they need to love kids as their own but when they do love their kids as their own, they’re told they’re overstepping,” said Ali Wilks, a certified stepfamily coach based in Edmonton.

READ MORE: How to make co-parenting work: Mom is grateful for child’s stepmom

In Canada, about 12 per cent of families with children are considered stepfamilies, according to 2016 numbers from Statistics Canada. However, despite the prevalence, stepmothers are often judged harshly by themselves and others.

“Being a stepmom is sometimes like a dirty little secret. Like there’s a lot of shame,” Wilks said.

“Stepmoms can feel ostracized and not a lot of women like to say: ‘I’m a stepmom,’ and say it proudly.”

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Typically, it takes seven years for a new stepfamily to feel like a cohesive unit, according to Wilks. However, she said some families need more time to feel solid and some need less.

“Every stepfamily situation is going to be different.

“A lot of stepmoms don’t realize that your new family is built on grief and loss. The kids are dealing with grief and loss.”

Wilks said her advice for stepmoms is to be authentic, keep expectations in check and to focus on self-care.

“I’ve heard time and time again that: ‘I don’t want to be this evil step mom,’ so we try to overcompensate for that,” she said.

READ MORE: Step-parenting advice: How to navigate a new blended family

Becoming a stepmother

Heather Jones, of Edmonton, and her husband met eight years ago. Her son is 11 years old and his daughter is 16. The family of four have been living together full-time for the past two-and-a-half years.

“The hardest part was adding Emma to our house full-time. Adding our stepdaughter to our house, it changed the dynamic of every which way that we did things,” Jones said.

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Jones said she believes stepmothers are often misunderstood. She had a decade of experience being a mom but had to figure out her new role as a stepmom.

“When you’re a mom, if you can imagine, you’re driving the car. You’re making the decisions. It’s your child,” Jones said.

“When you’re a stepmom, it’s a completely separate role. You go from driving the car to a passenger. You may have influence on the direction that it’s going but you’re not in control.”

READ MORE: Dads surprise cheerleading daughters with their own cheer routine

Jones said her advice for other new stepmoms is to take a step back and to be themselves.

“Kids are really smart. I think they’re looking for you to be honest and be yourself,” she said.


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