Last year I remember coming across an article that really caught my eye on my Facebook feed. It was an article about how mothers are too quick to judge each other as opposed to supporting each other in the name of motherhood and womanhood. The article referenced the quote from Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please, in which she writes, “That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. ‘Good for her! Not for me.'” That quote really struck a chord in me and has stayed with me ever since.
I said full disclosure, right? Ok. I love to read articles. I love my Facebook feed. I love Huffington Post. I love to give my mama grief about how much time she spends on Facebook, while I secretly binge on it before I go to bed at night.
What I often find discouraging is how much judgement exists in the world today as opposed to encouragement. I am constantly coming across articles telling me what to do as a stepmother or rather emphatically what not to do. Do not let anyone assume that you are their mother. Do not discipline them. Do not try to take the other parent’s place. Do not vent to your partner about their ex-spouse. Do not vent to your spouse about the children. Do not let the kids call you by a special name. Do not be passive. Do not be assertive. Do not parent. Do not be a martyr. Do not forget your place. Do not expect too much too soon. Do not be disappointed. Do not forget to put that pillow over your face while you scream! Ahhhhhhhhhh!
Do not get me wrong. There is a lot of good advice out there. But I think the problem with giving blanket advice to all stepparents is that there is an assumption that we are all a cookie-cutter blended family. The assumption is that every blended family looks and operates in the same way. But we don’t! Some of us stepparents are full-time parents. Some of us are summer parents. Some of us are weekend and Tuesday parents twice a month except for that third week when we are Wednesday and Friday parents. Some of us are blending two families with two sets of children from former relationships. Some of us have great relationships with the ex-spouses and co-parent. For some of us, that is simply not possible. Other stepparents might be the only mother or father figure the child has ever known.
So what if the advice doesn’t fit your life? Just toss it out, right? Ignore! In one ear and out the other! If only it were that easy. Because often when you do not fit into that cookie cutter mold, then look out! Here comes the judgment. Does that mean I am not guilty? No way. I have to admit that I am just as guilty of it as the next person. What does Clairee say in Steel Magnolias? “If you don’t have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me.” But as a society, I sometimes think we waste too much energy on judging when we could be encouraging and lifting each other up. “Good for her! Not for me.”
Because full disclosure? I have been guilty of every one of those do not’s at one point or another. I am constantly second guessing myself, worrying that I have said or done the wrong thing, worrying that I am not making the right choices for them or for myself. And I imagine that every other stepparent out there experiences that same worry at some point or another. So it makes sense that if you only see your stepkids every other Saturday that you do not discipline them. “Good for her! Not for me.” I happen to spend five days a week most weeks with my stepkids. If I did not discipline them, who would? “Good for her! Not for me.”
No matter your personal opinion, I think the thing we can all agree on is that step-parenting is a hard job. That is not to say that it is not rewarding, just like parenting is rewarding. But it is a hard job. Everyone can benefit from some support and encouragement. So the next time you catch yourself judging another stepparent, try to remember Amy Poehler’s wisdom “Good for her! Not for me.” And if you totally disagree with me, you can still say “Good for her! Not for me.” It works all the way around! Amy Poehler really is brilliant.