Skip Nav
Moms You Meet
The 13 Moms You Meet at the Grocery Store
Little Kids
This Mom Taught Her Daughter the Ultimate Lesson About Bullying — With a Tube of Toothpaste
Kid Shopping
The Surprising Reason Babies Everywhere Are Sleeping in Cardboard Boxes

3 Parenting Situations Off Limits to Step Parents

3 Parenting Situations Off Limits to Step Parents

"Where do you draw the line on step parents making decisions in their step-children's [lives]?" asks Circle of Moms member Lindsay H. Should a step-mom weigh in on the school her step-child attends, or whether he can get a tattoo?

Many moms whose ex husbands are remarried feel strongly that there are certain situations where step-moms need to mind their own business. As Allison S. explains, "Obviously, when my daughter is in their home it's their rules, but I don't feel this woman should have any say in the 'big decisions' in my daughter's life."

So what are those "big decisions?" When is it okay for a step mom to set rules and enforce them (covered in a recent article), and when will she be perceived as crossing a line? To help answer that thorny question, I've rounded up three parenting situations moms generally flag as areas of caution for step-moms, plus one general piece of advice on how to tread when these issues come up.


1. What Kids Wear

According to Dawn A., step-moms shouldn't assume final say on how a child looks or what she wears, as her choices might not mesh with the wishes of the biological mom. Her daughters' step-mom, who buys a lot of clothing for the family, selects items that Dawn deems "a bit old," for her girls, including a string bikini for her 13-year-old.

2. Parent Teacher Conferences

Responsibility for a child's education belongs to the biological parents, says Circle of Moms member Donna L.: "I don't think the step-mom should go [to a parent teacher conference]. I think the child's parents should go."

But can step and bio parents attend together? Gina M., who used to teach, explains that this is often a recipe for its own kind of trouble, because mixing parents and step-parents in the same room can be "like jump-roping on land mines. You had to watch your step or things could quickly explode."


3. Major Life Decisions

Finally, many moms feels step moms should step back when it comes to high impact life decisions like which high school to attend, says Amber Q. "That should be my ex's and my responsibility," she says.

Many parents include medical decisions in this category, including Dawn M. She shares the story of a friend whose child has a medical condition: "The stepmother, an educated woman but not a medical professional, decided [my friend's son] didn't need to go to the doctor appointment that she had agreed to take him to. She has also decided he only needs to take half the dose of medicine prescribed by the doctor."

Natasha W. underscores the point that step-parents should exercise caution in situations like these, adding that unless the child's biological parents are out of the picture, "it's just simply not legal" for a step-parent to assume this kind of responsibility.

A Word to the Wise

Many Circle of Moms members say they wouldn't object to the step-mom in their children's lives having an opinion in decisions, as long as she consults and respects her opinion, too. "The step-parent needs to talk to the biological parent first before making serious decisions for the children," says Candace S. "My ex-husband's wife tries to take over my role as a mother. Yes it was hurtful when I found out that both of them were teaching my daughter to call her 'mom.' I feel they both don't give me respect as a mother."


In the end, a little courtesy on both sides seems to go a long way, says Amy T. "Step-moms need to remember they will be living with the biological mom for a long time. When you married her ex, you didn’t just marry him and his children, you married her as well."

For another point of view, see Should Stepparents Step Up as Disciplinarians?

Image Source: spaceodissey via Flickr

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
riss41 riss41 2 years

"When you married her ex, you didn’t just marry him and his children, you married her as well." Are you on crack?

EJM2010 EJM2010 3 years
As a step mom with no bios, I agree with this article to some extent. The problem I am having, however, is that I am not given any "rights" as a parent, but I am expected to do all the "parenting" things. I really don't mind not having rights. I am not the mother. I leave all the "worrying" to the bioparents. However, I also do not feel comfortable with taking the children to doctor's appointments and attending parent/teacher conferences and going to talk to the teachers about assignments and behavior etc. Yet, I am expected to do that! YES! Both bioparents as well as my in-laws EXPECT me to do those things! Yet, I am constantly reminded that these are NOT my children and I have no rights, nor do I deserve respect from them unless I EARN it... How do you earn respect from children? I am good to them. I feed them. I wash their laundry. I am nice to them... yet, they don't respect me because I haven't earned it. Only recently, have I started to set some boundaries on what I will and will not do. It has not been received well... But hopefully it will work in time.
CoMMember13630837966001 CoMMember13630837966001 3 years
I am both a biomom and stepmom. I have been with my husband for 11 years and have known his daughter since she was 1 and a half. We started dating when she was 3 and moved in together around the time she turned 5. I have a daughter from a previous relationship and we have another daughter together. While his daughter is in our home she needs to follow the rules of the house and I am very involved in making those rules as I should be considering that they are made with 3 children in mind and not just his daughter. I am also not just entering the picture. I have been here for a long time and know the child very well. Her mother has found it an annoyance that my husband will discuss things with me before deciding especially in situations that involve money. Our policy is if we can't afford it for all then we can't afford it for one. Everything we do reflects on the fact that we have three children to provide for not just one. So to an extent I do need to be involved in some decisions as it sets precedent with the other children. Clothing is one of those things I am involved in. My step-daughter has come over in clothes that I have asked her not to wear over again because I find the style unacceptable on a girl her age, her father agrees. She can wear it at her mothers house just not here. In some situations there needs to be some acceptance of the rules in the other house whether you agree with them or not because your child is not the only one that needs to be considered. There are obviously boundaries that I don't cross and parent/teacher meetings are one of them. I have attended open houses though. There is nothing wrong with a child's teachers knowing the players in your child's life it can be important. I don't tell her mother how to parent her daughter or what rules to establish in her house and I expect the same courtesy and that should not be wrong.
Janina1393059481 Janina1393059481 3 years
Eva, you proved my point wonderfully! I never mentioned if I was a step-parent or not. I never claimed a step parent should make decisions about a child. I simply observed that the battle over the role of step parents seems to be more about biological moms claiming territory over their kids in a possessive fashion rather than really thinking about what is better for their kids. A child will often bond with a step parent and confide in the step parent; the step parent may offer insights and suggestions to help a child. Why would any mother reject helpful information about her child, whether it comes from a doctor, a teacher, or the child's step parent? For the sake of the children, I wish people would stop treating them like possessions and start treating them like valuable human beings who deserve the love and affection and support of all the care-givers and parents in their lives.
EvaJackson10306 EvaJackson10306 3 years
Janina, You have no rights to children that are not yours. Just because you chose to marry someone with a child does not give you any rights to make decisions about that child's life. There is a reason step parents legally have no rights to their step children usually. That's because a step parent is NOT permanent. When your marriage ends via death or divorce so will your relationship with any minor child. Of course there are a few circumstances where this will not happen but that is an exception not the rule. Parents will always be the parents. If you don't like that you really have no say in your step child's life then don't become a step parent. And I say this as someone who is a step parent. Yes you can love and care for your step children. But you need to let mom be mom, and dad be dad. Step parents are never equal to parents. You get all the work with none of the benefits. It's a thankless job. If you want to be Mom, have your own kids and raise them the way you see fit. In a way that goes with your values. The more people that love the child the better. However, the more folks involved with the decision making just leads to confusion for the child. The more a step mom tries to take mom's spot also leads to confusion for the child and often backfires on the step parent.
Janina1393059481 Janina1393059481 3 years
The more I read comments about the proper role of a step-parent, in several conversations here and elsewhere, the more evidence I see that the argument is really about territory and possession rather than about love and care for children. In virtually every comment where a mom is against the involvement of a step-parent, the source of her stance appears to be the sense that her territory has been infringed upon. I see very few comments, especially by biological moms, that actually discuss the potential merit and benefit to their children of having a caring and loving step-mom offer support and love in a variety of situations. The discussion instead focuses on what each person's role is "supposed to be" and whose adult toes are perceived as being stepped on. I have great difficulty understanding why the need to claim territory over your child is more important than seeing your child benefit from a wider community of love and support. Is being a mom more about your identity as a particular child's main care-giver and parent or more about doing everything you can to ensure the longtime health and happiness of your child, including allowing your child the freedom to benefit from the love and support of a step-parent? When a step-parent is a reasonably healthy, well-adjusted adult acting as a care-giver for your child, he or she will get to know your child in ways that, combined with her or his unique experiences and perspectives, will enable the step-parent to offer valuable contributions to the decision-making and upbringing of your child. There is no good reason to deny or prevent your child from benefitting from the love and support of his or her step-parent; there are only selfish reasons. Think about it.
JenniferShepherd2142 JenniferShepherd2142 3 years
I read this a year ago, and since then, I have gone from being the only mother my stepsons had to the biological mother deciding (after four years) that she was ready to parent again. I still maintain that the stepparent can and should step up when the biological parent is unwilling or unable to be an effective parent, or a parent at all. Now that the biological mother HAS decided to be mom again, I have backed off accordingly, and will only step in when I am specifically asked by my stepsons. But while she was absent, THEY STILL NEEDED A MOTHER. So this article, while it has a valid point, by no means should make sweeping generalizations. Every family is different. And that last line, " married her as well." Nope.
juliadoherty juliadoherty 3 years
When my ex and I first seperated I had a live in nanny. She cared for my son, helped him with homework and brought him to school 2 days a week. She was like part of the family. My parents now often take care of him in the afternoon and help with homework and his Godmother picks him up one day a week. Should they attend the teacher Confrence? If both parents are present they remain the parents and make the primary decisions. Step parents are only in the child's life as long as they remain married to the parent and second marriages have a higher divorce rate than first. The step parents relationship must be contextualulized in this regard, as the parents partner not the child's parent. Therefore they can certain have conversations with their spouse regrading parenting issues etc but they don't belong at things like parent conferences or frankly anyplace else that could cause a tense situation that could effect the child. In short, yes they should mind their place and there place is as the parents spouse and sometimes care giver not the parent.
CyndiDavis1389106123 CyndiDavis1389106123 3 years
This article frustrates me. As a stepmom who helps a child with homework and takes her to school, I shouldn't attend parent teachers conferences. This child I'm suppose to treat and love as my own? The message I hear over and over is treat the child as if she's your own but she's not your child so remember your place. You have all the responsibility but none of the rights and must find a way to keep everyone happy regardless of how you are being treated.
LauraHealey2707 LauraHealey2707 3 years
Oh boy this touches so close to home. I have only one daughter, she just turned 12 and is in 7th grade. Her dad is remarried and his wife (the step mom) is constantly overstepping the boundaries of being a step mom. Let me go on to say I too am a steo mom to adult step daughters, so I know what it is like. I realize and respect they have their own biological mother. I am so tired of having 'firsts' stolen from me. Puberty books bought for her (without my knowledge, padded bra and most recently makeup!) These are things MOMS should do with their kids, especially went the biological mom is in the picture. I could see if a bio mom is not involved, careless, and not fit however I have residential custody, I am VERY involved. This woman needs to back off. I've talked to the ex numerous times he just of course he takes her side. The one that suffers is my daughter. the whole school thing too - this woman is so WAY too involved in school. Emaiing teachers attending conferences. I am so not ok with it but I can not do a thing about it. Well I can hire a lawyer and take him to court however, once again that just hurts the 12 year old. Living like this is the pits.
YellowRose60274 YellowRose60274 4 years
I would say that I agree to most of these things. Most decisions such as mentioned above should be left up to the bio parents of the children. I am a step-mother and my SC do not primarily live with us. However I do buy my SC clothes for my house, simply because 1.) I do not like the clothes their mother sends them in (they are old, worn, do not fit and filthy) and 2.) it makes things much easier when we get them for the weekend. Instead of their mom having to pack them clothes then me having to make sure they all are clean and sent back, it is just much easier to have my own things at my house that I can keep track of. I do see where it might be a concern for the mothers if their daughters step-mother is dressing them in clothes that are meant for girls twice their age, I have enough common sense and mutual respect for my kids BM. I dress my step-daughter in cute little girl clothes that are appropriate for her age. Everything else that is listed above, I do. I take a backseat in all things that require my husband and his ex to make decisions about. However, my husband and I both make decisions that will affect OUR family together. Usually what will happen is my husbands ex will call and tell my husband what is going on, if he is unsure about something he will tell her he will call her back to discuss it.. We will then sit down together and discuss our viewpoint on the matter that way we are on the same page, and once we have discussed the issue, he will call her back and go from there. The important thing is that she and him are able to communicate about their children in a positive way and everyone can agree. I am sorry but for BIO moms that feel a step-mother should not have any decisions, that is wrong. She is entitled to be respected by her husband and they are entitled to communicate effectively in their marriage about what goes on in their home. Step-Parents may not have legal rights to make decisions, however they should be able to talk things over with their new spouse so they can be on the same page.
BatistaCorbin BatistaCorbin 4 years
I have raised my son on my own for his entire life. His father is involved every other weekend and I do agree with this article. His dad wants to make sure a new partner in my life knows he is not his dad and I feel the same way. He has another child and if he remarries the person will be that childs third stepmom. Stepparents are replaceable. You may love the kid, you may try your best, but at the end of the day if things don't workout you are out of the picture and a child is left with their biological parents. I understand in some situations kids don't have their real parent, but in situations where a child has two parents, they are who should make the decisions. The new stepparents should never be called mom or dad! That is completely disrespectful when good parents are raising a child, and it can create confusion conflict and a lot of heartache that is unnecessary for the child. Everyone should do what is best for them and if what is best is not involving the stepparent in the major decisions than that's what is best. Not mention that most custody arrangements, and legal aspects are between the biological parents when it comes to schooling, activities, medical, and all other major decision making. Truth be told, it is sad and pathetic that our society is so full of divorces and blended families, and that should be the biggest concern for everyone.
StephanieWebb8067 StephanieWebb8067 4 years
come on. ..If You marry someone You should take in allLLLLL the input they have on Your children. They are Your's and so by marriage and good will to have wanted to marry them Your children are their's too. Get over You one sided relationship with Your kids and let You spouse me Your other half. Yes the other parent might be in the picture but that does not mean You ignore what Your partner has to say because the mother/father of the child has their opinion. .. marriage is not just hanging out and is being one with eachother. ..
HonestAnswer HonestAnswer 4 years
I am a wife, mother, step-mom, and ex-wife. My husband is a business man who is out of town throughout the week and some weekends. I read this and it saddens me greatly that people don't put their priorities straight. First and foremost I am a wife to a wonderful and caring man for 15 years. I had a child from my first marriage. He had a child from a relationship. We have a child together. All of our children are raised in a Christian home. We have our rules that they have to love by. Yes we have had obstacles however we work it out. Our number 1 rule is that if you move in with your other parent you are not allowed to move back in with us. A lot of kids use this very tactic to get what they want. We put our marriage first so they will have a better chance in their marriage. The children's best interest are easy to follow with this and there are no sides. We have never been told youre not my mom or you're not my dad. The kids know we are there for them and are being the best parents we can. So when you say step parents have no say. Yes they do. Remember you chose to have a child and you chose to divorce. The children are actually wards of the state and so stop placing blame. All four parents have a say.
JenniferHopkins44279 JenniferHopkins44279 4 years
My husband has a say in what my kids wear, regardless of being a step-parent or not. We create a unified front, and do not allow them to play us against their father. He also attends parent teacher conferences, and has a say in all major decisions. We discuss things as they should be, between the parenting parties (all three of us as there is no step-mom yet) without the children present. Saying that a step-parent has no say in certain things only takes from their authority and shows the kids they don't have to listen if they don't like the answer. The step-mother that decided the child should not go to the doctor or take the full dose of medication was out of line. If there was concern over the dosing, it should have been addressed with the doctor, the PROFESSIONAL. Just because some step-parents are hell-bent on proving their role and pushing the boundaries doesn't mean they all do it. As a step-child, a step-parent, and a woman with children who have a step-parent, I know it from all angles. I find it ridiculous that you want someone to be a part of your life, and a part of your children's lives, but limit what they are allowed to be involved in.
MargretCallaghan MargretCallaghan 4 years
Sometimes it is best for children to live with their parent and step parent. Reason being the other biological parent may not be ready to raise their child on their own and maybe need some time on their own and to have the biological parent and the step parent to raise the children. Or the one parent is into heave drugs and only think about themselves and put their child in second because that parent only thinks about themselves first and the child is better off with the one parent and step parent because they know how to help raise and grow a child with love and happines instead of having the child live with the other parent that only think about themselves not the child. Beleive me I am in that situation and I'm the one that makes the decisions most of the time because of the safety for MY SON. And me and my hubby agrees. sure Im his step mom but I been a mother to him more then his biological one. Some people don't respect that because their too against step parenting. It doens't matter if your blood or not if the biological parent is in love with that someone and accepts the person to be the other parent then thats great. It all depends on what situation your involved in. Luckily Our son has an AWESOME step mom and a great dad! =)
AndreaMullins48141 AndreaMullins48141 4 years
UGH I have I have 2 sons, only one did i give birth to. My older son, who is my son by marriage only sees his bio mom once every other weekend. his dad works 10 hours days, and a 2 hour drive each way. So I am the one who has helped him with his home work. The one who comforted him when he had a bad day. The one the school calls if he is sick. I AM HIS MOM. I make and break his appointments, I go to his school conferences, I pay for school registration, new clothes, shoes, school supplies. I give chores and allowances. This article is a piece of cr@p. On a side note, there was a girl who said she herself had a step-mom who she hated. Amy... maybe you should look back and ask yourself if you could have helped the relationship or if you were just a brat like you made yourself sound. It sounded like your step mom did everything she could to help you and you "I rebelled, misbehaved, started skipping school." I doubt your step mom was as bad as you think she was, grow up. I my father remarried after my parents divorced, although I was over 18 I would have given the woman the respect she deserved as my fathers wife, and if I had a problem I would have gone to my father.
MallaryMadill MallaryMadill 4 years
Horrible article! I agree with other previous posts. I am a step mother and half the time if it wasn't me doing the things that are listed in this article the child would have gone without. There is so much negativity put towards step parents, and half the time it is the step parent who is the only one who can look past the issues and fighting going on between the biological parents and actually see what is best for the child. Yes, having a blended family is tough work, but how can you expect your child to respect someone if you don't. I have lived with a step parent and i had the same "fights/arguments" with him that my friends were having with their bio dads. I also had a shitty step parent. Life goes on and people need to grow up.
CherylWilmet CherylWilmet 4 years
I met my step daughter when she was 13. We have always have had a great relationship. I also love her mom. We were both in the delivery room for our first grandchild together. This woman knows that I love her daughter unconditionally and has never had issues with my relationship with her daughter. When she was married last month at 30 the mom looked for me in the reception hall so that her, I and dad were introduced to everyone as has parents of the bride. Whenever she has introduced me to any of her friends it is always been as her daughters mom. This lady loves my daughter who is mine with my stepdaughters dad (my husband) and they visit together, lunch together and she has even taken her shopping because she wanted to buy her a new outfit for school. I know how lucky I am to have been blessed with a mature ex in my life. She is the best!
CoMMember13613337691525 CoMMember13613337691525 4 years
Completely disagree with this in too many ways to list. I'd appreciate as a mother and a step mother more unbiased posts when it comes to blended families. Articles encouraging working together as opposed to pushing away.
KinseyZellerhoff KinseyZellerhoff 4 years
This article made me so upset. I am a "step parent" to 2 amazing little girls that have a mother that is so emotionaly twisted I can't even write my feelings on here for fear of her seeing it and saying something damaging to the girls. Sometimes it's the "step parents" that step up to be the true parent, not because we have to, but because we CHOOSE to.
Things Not to Say to Single or Widowed Moms
Dad's Message About Doing Things For His Ex-Wife
Should You Date Before the Divorce Is Finalized?
How to Talk to Kids When They Misbehave
From Our Partners
Latest Moms
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds