As Georgianne’s story illustrates, it’s not only your expectations about your role that are affecting the daily tension levels in your home. Your husband has his own set of ideas that are influencing his behavior, too. Perhaps he believes that this new family will assuage some of the guilt he feels for putting his kids through divorce.
Maybe he thinks you should just step in and become a mother figure for his children. Full-time stepmothers often report that their husbands expected them to step into the role their ex-wives vacated by asking them to take over the scheduling and school visits. A lot of dads hope for instant love between stepkids and stepmoms.
In psychologist Dr. Ann Orchard’s research for her study, “Expectations of the Stepmother’s Role” published in 1999 in the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, she found a majority of the stepmothers she surveyed did not expect to replace or compete with her stepchildren’s mother. But a large number of fathers expected their new wives to immediately take over the mother role and asked them to get involved in parenting, in effect replacing one family with another.
Clearly, this can cause major disagreements in a new marriage, when the two heads of the house have such different dreams for their new family. Heidi, the former family law attorney, now stay-at-home stepmom, remembers when John came to pick her up to move to her new home.