[D]uring World War II, the Empire of Japan organized “kamikaze” suicide attacks against the Allies. Special forces were trained to pay and give the highest sacrifice in an effort to advance the mother empire in the growing war. I often wonder if young Japanese pilots ever stopped to assess the role they would ultimately play. Many were caught never realizing until it was too late what they had signed up for.

Stepmoms can have it rough. Their roles are often unclear, and they can change even after a few months as children grow and their needs evolve.

If the dad remarries, it’s important that he communicates to his children consistent and clear rules as to the step-mom’s role. If communication with his Ex is amicable, those rules can be conveyed from both parents (although not always possible, not in my case anyway).

Kamikaze bomber during WWII attackThe rest of the family also needs to know the hardships of a step-mom. In many families, the step-mom is the unsung hero, hard working unrecognized parent. She has no legal authority, but the dad’s children, who will have their own personal issues should recognize that their dad’s new wife is a big part of their life, and they need to act accordingly. Talking back with phrases like, “You aren’t my mother,” can be hurtful, especially if the stepmom isn’t trying to substitute for the mother—and they rarely are.

If the stepmom has children with her new husband, they have to draw lines between how they treat their own children vs. how they treat their stepchildren.

[tweet “Stepmom are unsung heros. Not everyone understands the difficulty in being a step-mom.”]

The real manager here is the dad. Effective fathers can usually intervene and show how the system can work for that family. Systems that are fine for one family can be disastrous for another. And every year or two the dad should talk to the mom about the kids and how they treat their stepmom. Is it a different relationship? Sure. Is the stepmother a substitute or surrogate mother? No. But everyone needs to understand the difficulty in being a stepmom. Furthermore, there is no one size fits all answer. One family may have an absentee biological mom, from which the step-mom plays a bigger role. Another family may have the stepmom entering the equation as the kid are wrapping up high school. Their stepmom will have a totally different relationship than a step-mom entering a role with a two-year old step-kids. In short, it’s complicated.

That’s why it’s critical that the lines of authority are drawn, redrawn and understood by all family members, especially the stepchildren.

Most stepmoms want to do a good job, and have no interest in encroaching their boundaries, but sometimes, either through a lack of communication or human error, she will overstep her authority. But if it’s an honest mistake, it can probably be forgotten and everyone can move on.

Stepmoms Have the Hardest Job in the World

If “motherhood” is thought to be the hardest job in the world, they have nothing on stepmoms. Many sacrifice their lives and endure unspoken hardships for their stepkids. Whether your a kid, an Ex, a spouse, or a family member, take a moment and thank the stepmom. After all, they are the noble Kamikaze supporting the best cause in the world…your family!

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What roles does the stepmom play in your family? How have you shown appreciation to the stepmom in your life?

Feature image courtesy of PhotoStock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, above image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.