The Collaborative Divorce Center

Navigating Stepfamily Dynamics: Roles and Expectations

Stepfamily Situations: Roles and Expectations

We’re all familiar with the image of the Evil Stepmother and Evil Stepsisters from the fairy tale Cinderella. Fortunately, most stepfamily situations aren’t anywhere near that bad. However, the reason why there can be a negative stigma attached to stepparents has far more to do with misunderstandings and preconceived notions than with “evil”. Being a stepparent is a confusing, difficult job: sometimes easier, but often more difficult than being a biological parent. “I often feel that I have all of the responsibility, but none of the authority,” says Paula, a stepmother of three pre-teen boys. “I can drive them to hockey practice, bake cookies for them, do their laundry, and cook their meals, but if I try to discipline them, they come back with ‘You’re not my Mom – you can’t tell me what to do!’ It makes me really mad!”

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