How do you fit into your family?

by Amy  - January 4, 2022

Who are you? 

How do you see yourself? 

This is a question about identity. 

These are some of my thoughts and ideas about identities as they relate to families and blended families.

I ask this in the smaller sense of within your family. Who are you in your family? 

If I gave you the sentence prompt starting with: I am … how would you finish it?

Would you say you are a parent or a stepparent, a spouse? 

There are a lot of possible answers. 

Within a family our identity can be related to our sense of self and security and even contentedness. 

Titles and roles can get a little bit complicated in blended families.

I’ll come back to that in a minute. 

How would you describe yourself?

Literally what words would you use? 

Or maybe you get stuck because you aren’t really sure?

Identities are not fixed or static

Or your identity is changing because one thing about identities is that they do shift and change. Sometimes this change is slow like when you change from a high schooler to a college graduate with a professional title like doctor. Or the process of changing from a teenager to a senior citizen. Other times this change can be fast. One day you can be a single person and the next day you might be married. And the reverse as well one day you are married and the next day you can be not married. 

How would the people who you live with describe you? 

Would they use the same words as you choose?

Do the kids in your family call you a stepmom or do they use your name or say something like my dad’s wife. 

How do the words feel to you? 

Words can be important.

Words can hurt a lot. Words can also empower. 

Mom. Stepmom. Are these the same for you? 

Probably not. 

And this is where your identity can potentially become significant or powerful.  There can be all kinds of things emotionally wrapped up in the word “mom” and “stepmom.”

There can be and there also don’t have to be. While these are words that represent identities they are also just words. 

Think about what these words mean to you. 

Think about your family and your parents and maybe stepparents if you had that. 

Inside these situations and your thoughts about your identity are sometimes clues about triggers and what’s bugging you. 

If you struggle to figure out your identity you can journal on a prompt like: I am … and see what comes up. 

I recently had a conversation with a friend. He’s around my age. So around 50 years old. We were talking about the holidays. As far as I know this friend is not aware of what I do professionally or that I coach adults in blended families. 

He was trying to describe his holiday plans. He was talking about his father and his father’s wife who is not his mom. First he said my dad’s wife then he self-corrected and said, my step-mom except I hate calling her stepmom…sometimes I call her the evil stepmom. 

I stopped him and asked him why he didn’t like to call her step-mom. It turned out his mom died and his dad remarried recently. His dad remarried when his kids were adults around 40 years old.. 

I asked my friend if his father or his wife had expressed a desire to be called stepmom. He said he didn’t even know. They hadn’t discussed it. I offered to my friend that in my opinion  it was probably fine to call her his dad’s wife. The reason I offered this is that she’s not his mom, they’ve never lived in the same house or had a parent-child relationship. My friend thanked me for my opinion and shared that he wasn’t sure he found tough to call her stepmom. 

I think I get it. 

Some of these words like parent and mom and dad can be very attached to emotions. 

Words can carry weight. 

Part of the reason is that they convey your position in the family. 

We all want to know who we are and where we stand in our family. 

Of course we do. 

This is totally normal. 

And my next point is that when there is a disconnect for any reason … this can be a source of conflict.

If you see yourself as a stepmom who can make and enforce rules in your house but the kids see you as a new wife who should respect rules made by the previous couple (mom and dad) well that’s a problem. 

That problem in my experience can show up with words like, “you’re not my mom!” 

Have you ever heard that? 

Often right before or after, “you can’t tell me what to do!”

I definitely heard this from my stepkids. 

Sometimes it stung. It hurt and it was confusing.

True story. A long time ago when my step-daughter was about 9 she was very upset and screamed, “You’re not my mom.” 

I was not a coach yet, at all. But I instinctively answered, “That’s right, I’m not your mom. You have a mom.” I didn’t yell it … I just said it.

I have no memory about specifically what was going on but in my memory that defused whatever situation was going on a little bit. 

It was confusing to me at the time. It created confusion in my mind about my position in the house organizational chart. In my mind, I was an adult in the house and that should mean I had some authority even though I wasn’t “mom.” I still feel that way and when I coach stepparents I give them tools to empower themselves within their homes. 

Here’s an example that comes up in many families not even just blended families that is tied to the role you play in the family. 

This is the idea of the jobs mom’s should do. This is sometimes called the invisible workload of women. This comes up in a lot of families but it can slap new step parents suddenly in the face. 

I have a client who came to me when she was dating a man with kids. With the custody arrangement sometimes he had the children when he was working and he asked my client to watch the kids. She initially agreed to be kind. He then began to assume that she would always be willing to watch the kids at any time. My client felt a lot of resentment to her boyfriend about this arrangement. When she brought it up to him he seemed surprised. 

I shared with my client that I thought this could be an identity mismatch. My client saw herself as his girlfriend – an independent woman who should have the choice of what to do with her time. Her partner saw her as a woman who should watch kids as part of her natural responsibility. 

With that in mind I suggested they have some conversations about what they each believed that the roles and responsibilities in their relationship were and what they might be if they got married and added kids together to the mix.

If you are curious how this worked out let me know. Did the couple work it out or not. Shoot me an email and I’ll share with you what happened. 

Do you believe that the love of a parent and child different than a stepparent and child?

A super common struggle with new stepparents is the perception that they are expected to “love” their stepkids. 

Some people believe that there is a stronger bond between biological parents than stepparents. I’m not a biologist but I have definitely seen very strong bonds between stepparents and kids and also adoptive parents and kids even foster parents and kids. 

Still this is another example of where knowing your identity is helpful. 

If you love your mom then you may assume that all kids love their mom’s and that because of that you are deserving of respect and love in your role as step-mom. Or on the flip-side that as step-mom you should somehow automatically love your partners kids. 

Neither of these is true. 

In fact none of this is true. Not all mom’s love their kids. Not all kids love their moms. A stepparent can be deeply loved and respected or not at all. Stepparents can fall instantly in love with the children of their partners or not like them at all. 

In my opinion this is just because of a little bit of nonsense wrapped up in the words mom, dad and parent. 

Some adults feel great responsibility towards the children in their families. This is, in my opinion, different than love. Perhaps closely related but not exactly the same.

If you can step away from the idea that your identity is a stepmom and shift to the idea that this can be a label. Parenting can be something you do. It can be part of your identity but perhaps not the whole thing. You can perhaps choose how much priority or emphasis you place on these titles, identities or labels.

If that sounds interesting perhaps consider these possible thoughts. You are an adult. You are in a relationship with the other adult. Your responsibilities in the family are not assumed but should definitely be a topic of conversation and understanding. All of these things can change over time and when circumstances or desires change.

Identities and roles when blending a family

Here’s my last example today about how and why  knowing your identity within your family can be mega important. 

I recently coached a woman who is in the process of blending a family. She is married to a man who has 2 kids from a prior marriage. They have one child together and she wants more kids. He doesn’t want more kids. She is very sad about this and feels like her “motherhood experience” is being cut short. She’s angry at her husband, she’s feeling resentment towards her stepkids and she’s wondering if she made a mistake. 

That’s a tough spot. 

There’s actually a lot that we unpacked in this and you may have a lot of feelings about her story. 

If you are reading this and it’s tugging at your heart and it really upsets you … well  then you might really be attached to an certain ideas and thoughts about being a mom or motherhood. 

Thoughts and ideas that you are choosing. 

Now, from a completely logistical standpoint I will say that I do have an opinion that it can be a very good idea to have an open and honest discussion about kids before you start blending a family. I also live in the real world where people change their minds all the time. Stuff happens. 

If you have ideas and thoughts about being a mom or a dad what I offer to you is that these are yours. There is no official motherhood experience that is the same for every person. Being a mom is not something that everybody does. Being a mom doesn’t make you more virtuous than another person. A person who has a bunch of kids is not more of a mother than a person with one child. They admittedly might be busier although I suppose that’s a guess and I honestly can’t be sure of that. 

In the end sometimes it’s a choice. What does being a wife mean to me? What does being a stepparent mean to me? What does being a mom mean to me? What do I want these words to mean? What kind of adult do I want to be in my family?

This is where I think understanding your role and identity in your family can be very empowering. 

I hope that this was interesting to you. Some of what I’ve written here might be a little controversial or you simply may not agree with what I’ve shared. That’s okay. These are my opinions. Also, I’m very aware that I can be incorrect. I’m always open to hearing from people with different opinions and new information.  I look forward to hearing from you. 

Training for You

Grab my Steps for Happiness as a Stepparent

Parenting Styles in Blended Families


Amy Stone (she/her/hers) is a life coach who helps adults in blended families. She is a mom, step-mom and a step-grandma. Other random fun facts include that She is a 7-time Ironman triathlon finisher and many many marathons and shorter races. She created

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