THE BLOG
01/31/2014 03:25 pm ET Updated Apr 02, 2014

10 Ways to Break Out of Step-Mother Hell

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Step mothers have the worst reputations ever. Even our fairytale stories are wrapped up in the "evil step-mother" prototype. We are the women who are portrayed as coming in and taking over the lives of children who are not ours and we are viewed as the women who steal the dad away.

10 Ways to Break Out of Step-Mother Hell

1. They Have a Mother: You must respect they have a mother and that you do not have the same role, rights or privileges in their lives she does, no matter if you respect her or not. You be yourself and love them the way you would love the children of your close friends. It doesn't need to be more.

2. Loyalty Conflicts: When step-children meet the "new woman" they often feel guilt that they may be somehow betraying their own mother, especially if they like you. This in itself creates distance. If you try too hard to be like a "mom" these loyalty conflicts will bite you in the end. Allow their mother to be the star of their show unless they want it to be different. When they talk about her listen and be supportive.

3. Stay Grounded: Your new husband has the baggage of his ex-wife and the aftermath of how the divorce has impacted his children. This is his baggage, and as easy as it is to get wrapped up in it, it is a sure way to make being a step-mother a living hell. One of the most challenging parts of being a step-mother is to keep your life as separate from that baggage as you can.

4. Seek Help: The step-mother is the most scapegoated person in a blended family. She cannot win for losing. If she gives and gives to gain approval she becomes a pushover. If she stays to herself, she is a b**ch. This is where a support group or a therapist can be helpful in the navigation of having to be in this role with the man you love and his children.

5. Hold the Integrity of Your Marriage: It is of great benefit to the step-children to see you and your husband staying together and fighting for your rights to be in love. Even when times are tough this teaches the children they cannot manipulate your relationship for a sense of importance or power.

6. Stay True to Who You Are: Each family is different, so try not to compare yourself to other step-families. It may seem other women are doing it better, but the statistics would not agree, as 70 percent of blended families end in divorce. Stay true to your path. Each path is different so comparing is not productive.

7. Have Alone Time: Have passions and a place of reprieve outside of your blended family. It is easy to get caught up in blaming yourself for your shortcomings as a step-mother but honestly it is the hardest job in the world. Celebrate that you are doing the best YOU can, and find ways to step out of the pressures this life brings to you.

8. Let Go of Self-Blame: As a step-mother you are going to make mistakes, cross boundaries you are not aware of, and feel like you may be doing everything wrong. You cannot live your life walking on egg shells every time your step-children are around. Accept this is a strange and difficult role and simply learn from your mistakes.

9. Your Step-Children are Not Your Responsibility: You cannot repair what you did not break. Do not go in and try and rescue these children. What is broken in them and for them was not created by you. Nor, do you need to take responsibility for fixing it. That is up to your husband and his ex-wife.

10. One Day at a Time: Take each day as it comes. Our most challenging roles in life are where we glean our deepest lessons. If we are being challenged we are growing. Look at this situation as a test with many unexpected pop quizzes. Do your research, be the best person you can be, and take responsibility for your happiness.

Being a stepmother often brings with it a pressure of having to be everything perfect to everyone, as you involuntarily become the focus of the entire blended family, including the ex-wife who often sees you as threat. Take care of you, turn down the noise, be yourself and remember that all you need to be is good enough.