What your stepchild’s mom wants you to know about her life

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Mutual understanding is one of the most important ingredients in the ex-wife/wife coalition mix. This post is in response to a guest post from the stepmom’s perspective by author Wednesday Martin.

Let the dialogue begin!

It’s not easy to feel judged and misunderstood

It’s not easy for me to be constantly seen at “the enemy” either. You and your husband may have bonded over a vivid dissection of my flaws and shortcomings, which feels scary and threatening. Part of your relationship fantasy about how you two so right for each other could have included a lot of evidence about he and I were so wrong for each other. This may very well be the case, but please consider how uniquely exposed and vulnerable and yes, even defensive this would make anyone feel.

And give some thought to the overall quality of the energy you’re bringing to our relationship. If I continue to sense like you’re gloating over my tiniest mistakes or keeping score on a You Wouldn’t Believe What She Did This Time roster, I’m not going to be very inclined to cut you any slack either! If you’re rude and competitive and snarky with me, how am I supposed to imagine you being patient and kind to my children?

My kids aren’t perfect

If you have your own child with my ex, you know how hard it is to raise kids. Everyone’s a parenting critic, until they have one! I may love my children with all my heart, but does that mean I’m automatically perfectly consistent as a parent? A model disciplinarian? Forever loving, patient and attentive? No, of course not.

The truth is, I often feel helpless, embarrassed, confused, and ashamed of the things I can’t handle or improve as a mother. Sometimes I’m just as overwhelmed and clueless about my child’s behavior as you are. The strong-willed toddler, the pre-teen mood swings, the ill-conceived forays into teenage independence, they throw me for a loop too. It seems like just when I get a handle on one of my child’s more difficult “phases,” they move into a new one, rattling my parental confidence. When you criticize my children, you incite my protectiveness, but my unconditional love gets tested too! Giving birth to a child doesn’t mean you are always in control of that child’s behavior, personality, or the trajectory of their life.

Also, some of the existing behavior or discipline problems you’re now seeing in my children are a reflection of the things in my marriage that didn’t work between your husband and I. And as you might have experienced yourself as his co-parent, my ex-partner and I were often at odds when it came to reinforcing rules and consequences. This likely contributed to the demise of our marriage, so don’t lay the blame for parenting mistakes squarely on my shoulders. Please distribute it fairly.

I’m not expecting everything between us to be all hunky-dory

I’m not looking to be your best friend, but I would like to feel like we’re on the same page as hands-on caretakers of these children. I would like to know that the priority between both households is raising these children well together, instead of proving the other side wrong. I would like to be able to call you to follow-up on a child’s cold, late (or missing) homework, or suspicions that one of them is falling in with the wrong crowd before it becomes a major problem.

The thing that keeps me from going there, in part, is the feeling that you and my ex are talking poorly about me. This makes it hard to trust you, or confide in you about things I may not be handling well because it doesn’t feel safe. If I knew you weren’t going to be so quick to judge me, it’d be a lot easier to problem-solve together. I know this goes both ways.

I’m scared of my kids loving you. There, I said it.

I have to admit, this strikes fear in my heart: I’m scared of my kids liking you, because if they like you, that could lead to them loving you. One the one hand, I want them to love you. But I also don’t. It’s not necessarily rational…. Plus, it’s hard to feel like the areas where you’re shining as a stepmom also happen to shed light on areas where I fall short as a parent. So is there a part of me that’s happy they don’t like you? Have I subtly or directly encouraged this? Yes, and I know it’s wrong and selfish and ultimately not in their best interests. But I don’t know you. And I don’t know what your intentions are with my children. Would you be willing to tell me?

It’s also hard to feel like a bomb blew up in your family. It’s difficult to see your kids forever schlepping their stuff between two homes. It’s tough to have them go away and not know what’s going on in their lives. I don’t have a crystal ball to see into your household and I worry about them. That’s what moms do! Sure, I want as many people as possible loving my children, but it’s also scary on some level to have it happen out of “viewing range.” And what if love for you mean less of an attachment to me? If you have your own children with my ex, you may think you understand what this primitive fear is like, but if you’ve never shared your children like this with another woman, I can assure you, you don’t.

I’m not my children’s “bio-mom,” I’m their mom. Period.

My children were not created in a test tube! Nor were they adopted (where this term originated). I gave birth to them, much as you don’t want to think about this. Yes, your husband – my ex – and I once went through our own little bubble of history that included joy, wonder, excitement and all the rest of it when our children were born. (Perhaps you two have experienced this yourselves.) Why do you feel the need to belittle my role by changing my name? Are you trying to diminish my sense of power or authority?

The things you’re doing out of a sense of competitiveness to prove that you’re the better mom to my kids (“I’ll show them what consistency and higher standards should look like!”) really only serve to objectify your stepchildren, if you think about it. And that can’t be good for them either, just like the blind parenting mistakes I’m making.

Perhaps part of your behavior is fueled by the pressure to solidify your marriage and validate your husband’s belief that he did indeed choose the right woman by being with you. But keep in mind, demonizing me lets him off the hook when it comes to him dealing with the deep-seated patterns that led to the demise of his first marriage. You should have a vested interest in seeing those issues resolved, because they may affect your marriage someday too.

I probably still have baggage with my ex

Yes, yes, it’s been however many years, but no matter who initiated the divorce, in some ways emotionally skirting too close to the divorce still causes me great pain and sadness. My family is forever in two pieces now, there’s no going back. This is reality for my children. When they came into this world, I never imagined this was how their lives would be…. I’m sure it’s the same for you, if you have children.

Parenting is even harder now that I’m divorced. I don’t have access to a ready ear from the only other person in the world who knows and loves these children (hopefully) just as much as I do — their dad. Now I’m in the dark, trying to do this all on my own. Even if I have a partner, he’s not their father. His patience is tried too. I can tell when he’s trying to bite his own tongue about aspects of their behavior that he doesn’t like. It feels lonely and sad and sometimes I fear for my children’s future because of it.

The only way out of this mess is to move through the pain, assign accountability fairly on both sides and forgive. But I’m reluctant to fully grieve the loss of my little original family unit because to do so feels like jumping off a cliff into the mouth of an active volcano. I’m afraid to go there, it seems overwhelming and scary. I don’t know how. So it’s easier for me to just resent my ex and blame him and unfortunately, that means you get thrown into the mix too. I do weird passive-aggressive things with both of you, I get angry. I inappropriately stick my kids in the middle and then I secretly regret my bad behavior. You might not believe me, but I know it’s wrong and I know I need to change. I’m just not sure where to start!

I promise to play nice if you do.

We both need to try harder here. If we simply give in to the temptation to see each other in the worst possible light, things could easily continue on like this for years. And in the meantime, the children are growing older and experiences where OUR conflicts take precedence are piling up, instead of the normal developmental milestones THEY’RE supposed to be having. Our focus should be on them, not our drama. Let’s work on minimizing our conflicts and model healthy emotional management skills for the kids to use later on in their own families.

Can we at least shake hands on trying to do better?

© 2009 Jennifer Newcomb Marine   All Rights Reserved

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Comments

  1. Jennifer,

    I realized early on when my ex walked out to live with his girlfriend that I was completely demonized. I had to be. It was the only way “they” would work.

    I made SO many mistakes.

    and then because I wasn’t remarried at the drop of a hat, my ex and his new wife decided to begin a subtle campaign of “your mom is unstable.” About that same time, I was undergoing breast cancer treatment…chemo, radiation, being bald. Yup. Unstable.

    Now that I am mom and stepmom, I see both sides. I know how it works between me and my husband’s ex-wife. Are there some gotchas? Sure there are. We’re just different enough to keep it interesting, but we’re the same enough to keep things on an even keel.

    I’ve never met my now adult daughters’ stepmom. Nope. I have tried reaching out, but who knows, I’m probably still the spawn of Satan.

  2. Jen, these are wonderful. The first step to change is acknowledging our behavior. Sometimes I’d like to shake the person that can’t see themselves and shake the hands of the ones that can.

    I missed the Dr. Phil show and I can’t seem to find it anywhere online. I meant to record it but of course my alarm was set a day too late. Such is life :).

  3. Jennifer, this article is exaclty what I needed. Even though Im a mom as well as a stepmom, I only see my usbands ex through my stepmom lens. This is a real eye-opener, and Im truly grateful for your honesty and courage in putting it out there. I tried to “share” it on my site, but there was a bug on blogger, so I copied and pasted it – I hope you don’t mind – I linked it back to here. I thought it was so important to share. All the best.

  4. Hi Jen, Carol, and all your readers,
    Brava on this piece for its honesty and for the light it sheds! I can’t help but feeling that we’re preaching to the converted here with our back and forth–anyone coming here will likely already be willing to take the kind of self inventory you are advocating–but you never know who could be moved in ways s/he hadn’t expected, or moved to pass it along.
    best,
    wednesday

  5. I love this post! This is my favorite part: “I’m not my children’s “bio-mom,” I’m their mom. Period.
    My children were not created in a test tube! Nor were they adopted (where this term originated). I gave birth to them.”

    I am a mother and a “stepmother”. The “stepmother” term is the one that is false. Due to my profession and my work with couples in remarriage, this term and terms like “blended” are not helpful. This new term “bio mom” is enough to make me go Uzi. Who came up with this? A biomom is a mother who gave her child up for adoption. Period. End of story.

    I am the mother to my four children. My ex’s husband’s wife is not their mother or even a stepmother. She is an ally to them and I appreciate that from the bottom of my heart. Thank God she never tried to “mother” them or there would have been hell to pay from me. Love them all you want, but not mother them. They don’t want it, need it or aspire to it. And thankfully, she doesn’t either.

    I have complete and total respect for the role of mother towards my husband’s ex. Not because I agree with her decisions, but because I respect her role as MOTHER. As for her daughter, she needs only to accept me into her life in the most shallow of ways, put up with me if you will…I am only her father’s wife.

  6. I totally agree with what Wednesday said–anyone enlightened enough to come and read this is likely already TRYING to be civil and NOT use her children as pawns in the game of “destroy the ex”. Unfortunately, the ones that make it difficult still hate their exes more than they love their children.

    Maybe some of the “Children First in Divorce”-type class educators will find this blog and incorporate some of the information in the classes…and maybe, just maybe, it won’t fall on deaf ears.

    Former stepmom (of 2 kids with a pawn-playing mom) and now divorced mom (civilly coparenting),
    Tina

  7. I don’t know enough about all stepmoms to know if this is true across the board or not, but I suspect that at least a chunk of us would say that we don’t spend much time talking about our guys’s past relationships with his kids’ mom — or with anyone else — and we don’t want to demonize people he’s been with in the past. It’s hard to be interacted with as if we were doing that!

    Also, I do think a big chunk of the stepmom population would say we never dreamed of trying to be a mom to our stepkids — or to compete with their mom in any way — and it’s hard to be interacted with as if we were trying to do that, too!

    A lot of us are just trying to have our romantic relationships and build appropriate relationships with our partner’s kids who live with us part of the time — it’s hard to be approached and interacted with as though we were doing things to hurt the kids’ mom behind her back! It’s hard to be seen as so hurtful and scary and untrustworthy by default, if that makes sense…

    It’s hard to have the responsibility of putting mom at ease added to the weirdness of trying to join a family system where you are automatically the outsider…

  8. P.S. Amen to the ‘biomom’ thing — that has always struck me as a disrespectful and hurtful name for a mom.

  9. Jen-

    I loved your article. I also saw the show on Dr. Phil, and thought it was wonderful. As a step-mom, I am not automatically a “Mom” hater. Unfortunatley whether your are the Mom or the step-mom, there are always pre-conceived notions and fears of the other person that are sometimes hard to get past. I think all of the things you wrote about above are very valid. I think it is great that you and Carol were able to “overcome” your difference’s and your feelings and get along and address your concerns.

    While my SS’s mother and I can usually remain civil, it is normally because I bite my tounge (but who knows, maybe she is doing the same thing on her side). I do feel like I try to put a lot of effort into co-parenting with her and my husband, but I often feel like that effort isn’t reciprocated. But I won’t lie, I do judge a lot of the things she does. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I love my SS and only want what is best for him.

    I don’t “Mom Bash” in front of my step-son, even though I know in the past she has done this to me. I really think a lot of these relationships would be so much better if everyone could just sit down and talk, and be TRUTHFUL, and for the most past, leave the kids out of it.

    I think you guys are a great model for blended families, and can only hope that my husband’s ex might one day stumble across your site. (Doubtful).

    I am not the perfect step-mom (nor have I ever pretended to be), but being able to see things from your perspective gives me more tolerance towards his Mom, and makes me want to work harder, in hopes that one day we can truly be “co-parents” in all of this.

    Great article !

  10. I never really thought about how “biomom” might be hurtful. I never use that term outside of the blogosphere, but I will make a mental note to be more aware. This is a great letter – it highlights so many things that, as a stepmom absorbed in my own troubles, I haven’t thought of.
    Unfortunately there is no relationship between the ex and myself. She refuses to acknowledge me; looks away if we drive past each other, ignores me at the gym, hurries in the other direction at the store. I truly do want to at least have a coffee and get to know each other on a surface level but I guess it’s easier for her to pretend I don’t exist. I thought about getting her a copy of your book for Christmas, but I think it may get taken the wrong way. Or else, it will just be a waste of money for she’ll just ignore it.
    I think the most encouraging part of this letter was, “I know it’s wrong and I know I need to change.” That gave me hope that maybe our ex isn’t always riding a high horse and realizes she’s just as imperfect as the rest of us.
    Thanks for this!

  11. Am I the only “bio-mom” in the world who was GLAD to see my husband go? NOT jealous of his new wife? NOT worrying about what they say about me? I’m pretty secure in my knowledge that I did a good job of raising my child. My son behaves well; that speaks for itself.

    My marriage didn’t work out. That’s ok. My ex-husband got a new girlfriend literally the same week that I let him know our relationship was over. That was fine with me.

    My son was four years old, and he spent a lot of time with his new stepmom. As far as I know they got along well and still do, 25 years later.

    It’s not that hard, folks.

    If people didn’t guilt-trip themselves over the “failure” of their marriage, maybe they wouldn’t seek to blame and guilt-trip other people.

    Maybe we just need to re-think the whole idea of marriage, and even whether it’s a good idea or not.

  12. This is a very well-written piece. It’s interesting to think about things from the other side. As a stepmom myself with no biological children of my own, it’s interesting to see another perspective. Further, it gives me new perspective to the dynamic among my parents and stepparents. Remarriage is truly a sticky subject for everyone involved.

  13. I’m stuck on Mary T Kelly’s comment that I can “love them all I want but not mother them.” What does that mean exactly? What exactly does a mother do that a stepmother doesn’t?

  14. To marytkelly’s comments – I am a mom and a stepmom. And yes, I am a stepmom. Your comment that you feel that wives of fathers are not mothers or even stepmothers is insulting. I DO parent my stepchildren (i.e. ‘mother’) when they are in my house. When they are in my house, I am the mother. I feed them like a mother, I talk to them about school and friends like a mother, I make sure they have clean clothes, take showers, brush teeth like a mother….I do ALL the mother things while they are here.

    Even when they’re not here, I think about them…as a mother. When I’m out shopping when they’re not here, I look for things for them with my mother’s heart and mind. I text them to let them know I’m thinking about them. I worry about them when I notice they miss school.

    I may not be THE mother to them, but I am A (2nd) mother to them…and there should be nothing wrong with that. I’m not taking the 1st mother’s place, but I am augmenting her.

    And the BM in my case (yes I will still use the term), feels that step parents can be equal parents because she feels that her husband is more of a father to her kids than their real father…has said so and has the kids call her husband Dad. Yet, I am just Dad’s wife and their friend. Totally unacceptable.

  15. Every mother/stepmother dynamic is different. Not all of the dyads have healthy women like you Jennifer, who are willing to examine themselves and what they bring to the table. At least you are mature enough to be accountable for your own thoughts, feelings and actions. I applaud your courage and willingness to share. Admittedly, I am envious that you and Carol were able to forge past the differences and form a healthy and genuine relationship.

    If only all mothers would take such a veracious analysis of themselves before choosing to judge and/or reject the new woman entering their child’s life. Mine didn’t. Unfairly, I didn’t have a chance from the start. I have arranged many discussions and one-on-one sessions to bridge the gap. Those moments are short lived, and quickly forgotten. She still rides her horse called entitlement, jumping boundaries, breaking parenting agreements, all the while wearing her “judgment free” mommy badge to justify and exempt all of her chaotic and unhealthy behaviors.

    I feel a great sadness for my SD that her mother insists on perpetuating dysfunction. In an effort to end the nonsense, I have reached out to her countless times, my husband too. I now share the same sentiment as Jill. My romantic relationship with my spouse and fostering a healthy relationship with my SD has taken the front seat in my life, and tending to the needs, wants and drama of the mother has taken the rear, sometimes even the trunk (given the level of the toxicity).

    Have I given up on her? NO, because I love my SD. However, I have learned that I can only be accountable and responsible for myself. By doing so I take the (at times almost out of reach) high road. I encourage my SD to foster a healthy relationship with her mother, even in times of adversity. I never make a face, cast judgment or speak poorly about her in front of my SD. When we share the same space I exercise proper social decorum, I am civil and courteous. I do all of this for myself, my sanity and because my SD deserves this.

    I understand that a mother, like you Jennifer, who considers themselves accountable and proactive in their child’s life may feel disrespected, belittled, or dethroned by the term “bio” mother. Similarly, much like the term “step” mother and all of its accompanying evil connotations can make me feel unaccepted, judged, and ostracized. Terms and labels hurt, especially when you know exactly who you are. Knowing myself and my relationship with my SD, I am nothing remotely close to evil and although I occasionally cringe when I introduce myself as her stepmother (fearing the stigma), it doesn’t hurt my feelings when she opts for other labels of reference like, “other” mother or “bonus” mom.

    I think it is worth exploring what terms and labels really mean (by definition), how we interpret their meaning (literally) and what effect they have on our perceptions of one another. From your post and all of the subsequent responses I have read it seems to me that we are all guilty of feeding hurt, animosity and dysfunction from using this type of language. The term “biological” mother means exactly that–biology, meaning a woman who gave birth to a child. Last I checked the act of giving birth did not make any woman a mother by default. A “mother,” by its true definition, is a female who nurtures, protects, and watches over a child with love and tenderness. If we adhere to those definitions, that would make you Jennifer, both a “biological” mother and a “mother.” Conversely, it would make me a mother too! That in itself is something we should all consider.

  16. Hmmmm. It seems like there could be lots of different names for women who nurture, protect and watch over a child with love and tenderness — a woman who does that could be a grandmother, a nanny, a teacher, an older sister, an aunt, a next-door-neighbor… I guess I fall into the camp of thinking that says a woman who gives birth is a mother, and that how loving and close she is with her child doesn’t make her more or less of a mom. She may or may not be very nurturing, but I guess I don’t see “mom” or “dad” as names that are earned.

    That said, stepmoms being expected to tone down their love and care and involvement so they don’t make the moms feel threatened really bugs me. I guess I don’t see how a connection with a stepmom could ever take away from the connection the mom has with her child — it seems (to this stepmom at least) that no amount of love from a stepmom could make a child love his or her mom less. For the moms out there, if you suddenly had a stepmother — even if she was perfect — could she take away from your relationship with your own mom? That wouldn’t be the case for me! I’d still love my mom the exact way I do now. Our connection is not about other people — it’s about her and me. No one could take her place, because no one else is her.

  17. As a mom and ex-wife, stepmom, daughter, and adoptee I can assure you nobody can take away any existing relationship that’s healthy and good. Period. I love Jill’s comment “I’d love my mom the exact way I do now”. That applies in all of the possible scenarios. If we’re confident in what we do with children, in the fact that they’ve come first and we’ve attempted to put ourselves in their shoes and remembered as best we can how it feels to be a kid and conducted ourselves accordingly there’s no need to feel threatened by anyone. No parent, step parent, biological parent, mother-in-law (don’t forget them and the connotations of that “label”) foster parent, aunt, uncle, or even teacher can change what is, good or bad. I want the person who’s around my son when I’m not to be good for him, I can deal with the odd pang of jealousy because I know nobody can replace me. If I ever met any bio parents my adoptive parents needn’t worry because no one can take their place. I am not my stepchildren’s mom, they have one and I will always respect their relationship with her out of respect for them. How could I possibly do anything else if I truly love them and their father? We can only control what we do, how we react to the vast amount of situations and personalities that exist in this world of blended families. As Ella Mental said “I can only be accountable and responsible for myself.” I agree at times the high road can sometimes seem “almost out of reach” but it’s always there just waiting to be taken and I guarantee you, it’s well worth the journey!

  18. My initial response was to cringe . . . to my eye and ear the language in the letter from the mother to the stepmother made assumptions, used labels, and came from a defensive place. Not entirely, but enough to make me wonder many things.

    First, I wonder if the initial attempts a woman who marries a man with children makes to “fit in” with her new family are misread as trying to take over, trying to manipulate the kids to like her, trying to ____, etc. The first months, or year of a new family are tough and no offense to husbands, the remarried dad doesn’t seem to know how to help his new wife fit in with his kids. So, I think this period sets up a competitive tone . . . assuming there is not a healthy discussion and processing. And, I’d argue, is there EVER? Do couple ever go through the grieving rituals necessary to reach some resolution BEFORE they move on and take new partners?

    Second, I wonder why so many assume the newly married couple spends their time dissecting the mother of the children? Not everyone does. Many do not. Many understand there is nothing to be gained by going down that road and that it is disrespectful.

    Third, I wonder if demographics are changing things at all. Many of my friends, and now me, remarried and became stepmothers in their 40s. It’s a completely different thing than remarrying in the 20s or 30s. What I see in this breed of stepmom is a person who does not need to be in competition, who respects the mother for her role, and who has had a life that is not defined by being a “mother” to someone else’s children.

    Fourth, the business of labels . . . this feels a little like the Republicans versus the Democrats versus the Libertarians, and so on. As soon as we think of ourselves as us versus them, we are set up for polarization. What is bizarre to me is that I think my husband’s ex and I are quite a lot alike and that our values are in line. Of course they are, he chose both of us. ;-) But, what is different is that we have different coping strategies given to us by the very different lives we have lived up to this point. And then, throw in the mix money issues, entitlement, who is loved more, and a few other juicy issues and we’re off into the reptilian-life as described by David Schnarch, in The Passionate Marriage. And, no matter how mad I’ve been at my husband’s ex, I always return to a place of knowing “she’s doing the best she can” and practicing compassion toward her. Always.

    Fifth, my “dream” about co-existing in the world with my stepchildren, my husband, his ex-wife, her new partner, etc is that we can all take a step back and see that we are on this road together. Whatever I do will influence how my stepkids feel and behave and will ultimately come back to me in some form or another. And, whatever my stepkids’ mother does will also influence how those kids feel and behave and will ultimately come back to her. We ARE inter-connected and we ARE interdependent. It is tempting to project our feelings of what we would do onto someone else. It is tempting to project our reactions onto another. Our job, as adults who care about caring for the children in our lives is to own our own stuff and carry compassion for the other and to do the best we can.

    Finally, I know my husband’s ex likely has all kinds of things to say to me and that her hurt runs deep. But, what I also know is that much of what she thinks is projection, because she does NOT know me. Also, much of what she dumps on me as anger is not about me, it is about her unfinished business with my husband.

    The authors here are exceptional and I commend them. However, how will the rest of us absorb the parts of the message that fit into our lives without adding another level and layer of judgment about what we are “not” to the mix of our chaotic and unstable lives? We women judge ourselves enough, more than enough.

  19. Eliabeth,

    Wow! I was beginning to think that I was totally alone in my thinking until your comment. No you’re not the only one that didn’t cry over the divorce or break up and never worried about what the ex and his new wife said about her. My son is also a very intelligent, well-rounded, compassionate little boy and to me, that speaks for itself, so who cares what anyone says about me. That being said, he’s not perfect, but what child is? So again, who cares what they say or have said about me. Our child is a reflection of all of us (me, my husband, my ex and his wife) and our parenting skills, not just mine. But this has never been an issue with us because none of us ever made it an issue.

    My ex married his wife after knowing her for only 3 months and initially, I had some reservations about her. Not because I didn’t know her, but because he didn’t know her. However, I NEVER allowed that to interfere with our co-parenting relationship. I was going to give her a chance, the benefit of the doubt if you will, until she proved otherwise and she never has proven me otherwise. For the most part, she’s been great to my son and I respect her role as his mother figure in his life. Does she make mistakes? Of course, but so do I and so does my ex and my husband. I don’t doom her to hell every time she makes a mistake and she doesn’t do that to me.

    I’m with you, Eliabeth, it’s not that hard at all. It’s all about being in charge of your own emotional baggage. I’ve often encouraged my clients and readers to view the modern (I don’t like the term blended or step either) family as a plane. On the plane is everyone in the modern family; the children (both sets), the ex-spouses and new spouses. It’s not just you, so don’t bring your emotional baggage on the plane. Check it before you board because we ALL have to deal with and are affected by your emotional baggage if you bring it on the plane. Checking your baggage before you board our plane means dealing with your own emotional issues. Meditate, pray, seek out the advice of a good stepfamily therapist. Deal with it on your own because it’s yours to deal with. Don’t make it everyone in the modern family’s problem. For example, I could’ve made my issue everyone’s issue when my ex chose to marry a woman he’d only known for 3 months. I could’ve reacted badly towards her before even giving her a chance. I could’ve tried to treat my son as a pawn because I didn’t agree with my ex’s decision, but I didn’t. Had I done so, our relationships would’ve ended very badly. But I chose to deal with my own baggage and told myself that I can’t judge this woman based on what I THINK might happen, but hasn’t happened yet. By the same token, my ex’s wife has admitted that she was a bit insecure and intimidated by me in the beginning because her husband and I share a history and a child. To her, we were connected in ways that they weren’t. They’d known each other 3 months and we had been apart of each other’s lives for 6 years. But, she dealt with her own emotional baggage. She didn’t make it my problem and she too gave me the benefit of the doubt.

    Ex-wives and wives need to learn to be in charge of their own emotional baggage. It’s not your jobs to make each other feel better. It’s your jobs to co-parent together and we can’t do that if we are constantly trying to be each other’s therapist. Don’t allow your hurt or insecurities to interfere with your co-parenting relationships. It’s okay to feel hurt and insecure, but don’t make it everyone else’s problem. Seek the help of a stepfamily therapist to help you deal with your issues before you allow them to creep, no matter how subtle, into your co-parenting relationships.

    *Kela*
    http://www.blendedfamilysoapopera.com

  20. Peggy, how painful to have gone through all this during chemo!! I got a bit confused though – are you saying there were two stepmoms that came after you?

  21. Jenna – Thanks! I know what you mean about wanting to shake the other person at times, I suppose it’s only natural. I owe you an email!

    Stina – I’m glad it prompted some insights! What in particular made you think? And that’s fine about you posting it on your site, as long as it was credited…. :-)

    Wednesday – Maybe we’re preaching to the choir – but maybe not! There certainly seems to be strong feelings on either side. As long as folks are willing to consider what the other is saying, then that’s still progress, if you think about the angry, vehement venting out there. I’m heartened by the thoughtful, impassioned responses we’re seeing here and on your blog. Thanks again for your wonderful post!

    MaryTKelly – Thank you! I had to read your comment a few times before I got what you were saying… (I think!) Are you saying you take issue with the terms “mother” or “stepmother” because you think they are limiting and ultimately inadequate? Correct me if I’m wrong!

    Tina – You must have an interesting perspective, as both aformer stepmom and now divorced mom. And you’re right, I think it’s all too easy for the adults to focus on their own difficult thoughts and feelings and inadvertently drag the kids through the mud, sadly.

    Jill – I know not ALL stepmoms talk about the ex-wives, but judging from incoming traffic to this site, there are a TON of stepmoms on message boards who do! It’s difficult to try and address everyone in these situations. Perhaps I’m “aiming” myself in the wrong direction, but I am hoping to reach the women who are in high-conflict situations and give them a new perspective to consider. I know a lot of stepmoms are really taking the high road with their behavior and I commend them for it…. (And I agree on the “bio-mom” moniker – I’ve even seen some stepmoms laughing over the acronym “BM” and something else
    that reminds them of. Big sigh….)

    Evil Step Mom (not!) – good for you for modeling maturity and self-discipline! You’re helping your stepkids in ways you don’t even realize – and your marriage too. It’s hard when good behavior doesn’t “automatically” generate the same, but at least you can hold your head up high. :-)

    Eyes Wide Open (love your blog!) – Sorry, that sounds painful. I would hate to be treated that way. Sometimes I have a very thin skin and that would be hard to ignore. Sometimes the best you can do is just try to make your own world work as best as possible and protect yourself from the hurtful stuff. As for her own awareness that she’s doing something “wrong,” it’s hard to say. But the fact that she’s attempting to snub you shows you she probably feels threatened and anxious on *some* level, you know?

    Eliabeth – I’m sure there are other women like you out there, but they seem to be few and far between! Glad to hear it went fairly well and is all in the past.

    Sharri – Thanks! Glad it provided some food for thought. And nice, pensive pic!

    Kathy – I’ll let MaryT speak for herself, but I actually thought she was saying something inclusive, not negative. MaryT? Your thoughts?

    Huda – see above. :-) And yes, I know many stepmoms absolutely bust their asses to take good care of their stepkids and they have my undying admiration because of it.

    Ella Mental – Sometimes the best thing in the face of repeated hurtful and aggressive behavior is to generate rock-solid, clear boundaries, which it sounds like you’re doing. You sound analytical and insightful yourself! Kudos to you for monitoring your behavior and doing your best not to feed the drama. As for as names, we all know they’re loaded. Either one can be used to say you’re better than the other — or worse. And I’m in total agreement that ANY person can fulfill the role of loving mother. It’s the actions that count, not the designation.

    Jill – I don’t think stepmoms need to tone down their love and care. I only think they should be accutely aware if they’re actions are motivated by a sense of competitiveness (something both sides are prone to!). And I agree with you, ultimately, about no one being able to replace the mom (even if she was abusive – look at how children still have loyalties to abusive mothers). I was only trying to be honest about *fears* that moms have….

    Campbell – What you described is exactly what motivated me to get over my pangs of jealousy with Carol. I wanted my kids to foster a good relationship with her for THEIR SAKE! It was painful at times, but to me, that’s what good mothering is about sometimes. You do the thing that’s inconvenient or uncomfortable because you know it’s the right thing. Not saying it was easy though….

    Kim – Wow, thanks for such a thoughtful, measured comment! I agree that some of this language can be read as defensive and not totally “clear.” I was trying to give voice to the most common feelings that moms struggle with, including myself, though those are almost entirely in the past for me. I certainly don’t want to contribute to the same old arguments going back and forth between moms and stepmoms – it was supposed to be more like, here’s what’s going through the minds of many mothers, rational and healthy or not.

    Great points about properly grieving to make space for the new relationship. Very important issue that’s often overlooked.

    Again, in terms of newly married couples venting about the ex-wife — not all of them do, but it’s common enough that it bears a strong mention. Just hop around on many stepmom forums and you’ll see a real bash-fest. Kind of scary to see as a mom!

    I hope you’re right about changing demographics. It sure is a brave new world out there with modern families, huh?

    I love what you had to say about being aware of the mom in terms of her issues, fears, our human tendencies towards competitiveness, etc. You’re asking some complicated, but important questions about added pressure to do things a certain way in these relationships. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I’m always interested in new perspectives and exploring together!

  22. As far as gossip and internet posting goes, I think an important idea to explore more is “relational aggression” — on Wikipedia right now it’s described as “a type of aggression in which harm is caused through damage to relationships or social status within a group rather than physical violence” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relational_aggression).

    I think talking anonymously on the internet about frustrating situations and feelings is not the same thing as relational aggression. Trying to humiliate a person or turn other people against them through gossip is definitely a harmful action. I’m not sure I’d put venting anonymously in the same category, though, because it is not trying to undermine the other person’s relationships or to humiliate them. I didn’t find it helpful myself in the past (the distant past!) but some people say that it helps them sort out their feelings without taking those feelings out directly on the people they have the strong feelings toward.

  23. Sorry, just a late note to apologize. There were about ten comments that came after Jill’s that were deleted when we switched over to a new server. I did everything I could possibly could (help from our web designer, tech support calls and emails to both hosting companies) and for some reason, they just vanished. If you posted something here and it’s gone, that’s what happened – it wasn’t deleted!

    I’m also very sorry because there were some great comments and they contributed to the discussion. Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful contributions and just know there shouldn’t be any more deleted comments.

    Cheers,
    Jennifer

  24. Brianna Barkley says:

    Hi,
    I found this piece hard to read. Not because it is not completely valid and normal that she felt most of these things. But because it suggests way to much tolerance and less just plain understanding. Lets face it. Most of the women who are relating to these topics are in these situations as moms and step moms because that is how our lives have turned out to this point. Instead of pushing negative assumptions and jealousy onto each other we all need to just wake up and realize that in reality raising children is a long road ahead and something to take pride in as a family. That means getting past all the Bull.
    I am a stepmom and I know that anytime you come into a situation where two people have become divorced that most likely their are a lot of bruised feelings and anger. If I only went with my husbands feelings I think I would not like my step kids mother nearly as much because my husband definitely does not see her in the best light. But over time that is improving and we are all doing good work for our children. I say it is for OUR CHILDREN because my step kids are small and I have one child I gave birth to with my hubby. I love them all the same and they all call me MOM. But the children know she is their mom. I always tell them about her and help them when they miss her. My kids have visitation with her every other weekend. She and I are working on building a relationship as best we can because we do it for the kids. Reading this definitely helps remind me to always try and remember her feelings because she has started to deal with this all much more gracefully. But, I also have quite a lot of feelings myself because I am a stepmother who has my kids full time and loves them all the same. I never introduce my kids as my stepchildren. Their mother refers to me as mom to the kids. I do not know if anyone else has a situation like this but if anyone does please let me know.
    I would like to think that all moms could be able to see past the small stuff and pull together to raise children in a positive coparenting environment in order to see their children become confident, educated, and loving grownups.

  25. I was directed to this site by a stepmom blog which is authored by the new partner of the ex of a good friend of mine. On her blog she often speculates about the motives and behaviour of the “biomum” (she thinks her blog is anonymous, but it’s not). To me, my friend is a marvellous, warm person who loves her children immensely, and has conducted herself throughout the relationship breakdown with almost superhuman dignity. To the stepmom blogger, she is a cardboard cut-out stereotype angy and toxic ex. It angers and saddens me that she has got it so wrong, and I have lain awake nights wondering how (or if) I could possibly get this across to her.
    Now that I know she has read Jen’s wonderful piece which communicates what is going through the head of a Mum (NOT Biomum)I feel much better. I hope she takes it on board.
    We all are just human beings bumbling along trying to do the best we can.
    I know these can be incredibly emotional, highly charged situations, and often seeing the other (stepmom or mum) as a 2 dimensional sterotype seems like the easiest way to deal with it all, but in the long run it’s not going to be helpful.

  26. First of all, let me say this is an awesome piece!
    I’m a mom and a stepmom… my natural children are grown and have flown the coop and I’m starting “anew” with 3 beautiful teenagers… However, there is one difference between me and the other “stepmoms” on the block. The “biomom” (and I too hate this term, but in this case she really is ONLY the one who incubated the egg) took off and left my DH with a 3 year old daughter on her birthday, taking with her his two sons and everything they owned. Leaving him stranded with a baby and nothing with which to care for her… thankfully there were many people who helped him to move through that phase with her. For 8 very long and painful years he had no idea where his children were or what was going on with them. During this time he raised a very healthy, happy, well adjusted daughter who just happens to be bi-polar… by himself! What determination and strength that took — one thing that makes me love him all the more. 6 years ago we managed to wrest the boys away from their “bio-mom”, to find that they had been abused, neglected, molested, and starved in her care. Now, due to her action (or lack thereof) these children will NEVER, EVER see her again… *I* am MOM in every sense of the word — I may not have given birth to them, but all three of them call me MOM introduce me as “my mom” and have never referred to me as “other mom”, step-mom or any other term that might indicate I’m not their natural mother. Fine by me… the sooner they forget the hell they went through because of her and with her, the better off they will be. Not all mothers deserve to be called MOM… some don’t even deserve children, because they squander, degrade, and destroy the finest gift ever given them.
    I for one don’t like using the terms “bio” or “step” and in my case never do — I am their mother, unless it’s something legal — at which point I’m “stepmother” in the eyes of the law only. In a few months we will begin the adoption process for all three children, making me MOM for real and permanently! What a joyful day that will be — when I can proudly say I’m their MOTHER legally, and effectively cut the negative tumor of a “mother” out of their lives!

    I was in a position many years ago to be the stepmom to two beautiful children who were young. Their mother and I agreed that we had to communicate with each other civilly in order to parent the kids as a “team”. This team included me and their “stepdad”. We were united on most things, and those we didn’t agree on we let the “bio parents” talk out and come to an agreement on. Those times were rare… I was on wonderful terms with her, and we discussed everything that involved them, and probably a lot of things that didn’t. Even after he and I split up, she continued to make me part of their lives and involved me in things even when HE remarried again. They are still in my life today through e-mail, text, and phone… they call me by my first name, and when they introduce me, I’m “My friend” instead of my exstepmother or anything at all negative. Conversely, I never got to know my children’s stepmother, because she flat refused to have anything to do with me — then she left marks on my sons arm with her “talons” (3 inch nails with a 2 year old) and I lost it… she never darkened dad’s doorstep again… good thing, I’d have had to take her out if not! It was hard not knowing what was going on with my kids when they were with dad, and not having an “ally” in the house. Now, he and I communicate regularly although the kids are grown, and his current wife is a great person, who was good to my kids when they were with her.
    It is so important that good relationships be fostered between the “two moms” so that consistency carries from home to home. The thing that makes watching your kids schlep their stuff from house to house tolerable is knowing that when they are with dad they’re cared for the way YOU would want them to be… not the way YOU WOULD DO IT, because only YOU can do it that way… I see no harm in the new wife forming a good relationship with the children, it only adds to the supports they can draw from when a problem arises…and it’s really a good thing to be able to send them to dads and NOT worry about what happens because you know the person caring for them and you are confident in her ability to be there for your child. When this isn’t possible just do your best to be there for the kids, and never, ever, say anything negative or degrading about their mother within their range of hearing, that only fosters animosity from them and contempt from her.

  27. Wow lots of information.

    First I would have to say the section of “I’m scared of my kids loving you. There, I said it.” really hit home for me. Not in the way it was intended either. Years ago my stepdaugthers other mother was a hurtful, abusive and evil influence in her life. Since then and years of counseling they have come to have a mildly decent, but by no means “close”, relationship. They have built up to every other weekend visits. I found this to be the breaking point where I felt the way that paragraph described. Except it’s all backwards and odd. Sometimes I wish I was a normal stepmom with normal stepmom problems because I don’t think there’s anywhere for support for stepmoms like me who raise the child and have the extreme pain when the other mom comes back into the child’s life. We’re expected to pretend they didn’t hurt or walk out on their children and of course they must be the warm and loving person because well they did give birth.

    I said “other mom” because for years we’ve all been just saying I was my stepdaughters mom. Not that her other mom wasn’t her mom, she just wasn’t BEING a Mom, or being THERE at times. I was the “acting Mom” just like others’ can be “acting president”. Step just didn’t seem appropriate. That was our family dynamic, that’s what my mothers’ day cards said. I was the doctor visiting, stay home when she’s sick, go to school meetings person. So NOW that other Mom is back in the picture (albeit not often and not with school/doctors etc.) I feel like I’m missing a part of my child’s life when she’s gone for the weekend. Just like the post said, I can’t see what she’s learning, or what’s going on with her. I have this terror that she’ll come back some different person someday (I know it’s unreasonalbe that over 2 days she’d be a different person)

    Maybe we should just drop the step bio adoptive foster etc. and just say if you’re raising a child you’re a Mom, you just may not be the only one.

    Whether you agree with me or not, if you know of a place for torn up stepmoms like me, let me know.

  28. Having been on both sides of this fence, a divorced mom and a stepmother, I find it interesting that both sides are still somewhat demonizing the other. I feel for the divorced mom and her feelings of sadness and grief at the demise of her marriage, but for the sake of your children suck it up and get over it.

    I feel for the stepmom in the jealousy of the ex, the sensitivity to the idea that he had children with this person (perhaps worse if they were planned and you have happy memories of having your own children in your past marriage or if you are both beyond the wanting to have children age since you won’t get that with him), you too need to suck it up and let it go.

    Are either of these sides easy, hell no! It’s human to be a bit insecure and jealous and petty, but the fact is that these kids have no part in it. My best advice? Treat your stepchildren as you’d wish someone would treat yours, treat the stepmom the way you would like to be treated and vice versa, respect each others places in the order of things and find some (any!) mutual ground where you can get on with raising these impressionable people that are in the world whether you would have it that way or not. Stop demonizing the exes and their new spouses and the fact that since there are children you will not be able to make a completely clean break, walk away, and never see them again. That ship sailed the day you had them or married into them and that’s just life.

    When you decided to give birth to your child(dren) or to marry a man who already had them you no longer have the freedom to be petty, etc. when it affects them. It is no longer your ex-husbands job to deal with all of YOUR insecurities and problems. He’s a father to your children. That does not mean you have a right to lay your issues out unless you are asking for help in the form of him taking custody. If you can’t deal, that’s your problem. Seek help, talk to friends and family (he’s no longer that to YOU) and be a parent.

    Stepmoms it’s not an inconvenience to deal with your stepchildren. Yes, so she phoned and asked if you could take the kids on a non-scheduled night because she has a date/manicure/girls night out. So what? What about all of the nights that you and your husband spend together because she has full time custody (if that’s the case). If it’s the reverse, Mom you need to get over it, as well.

    Growing up and not acting like a child yourselves would go a heck of a long way to resolving 99% of the conflict in these relationships. Past is past, it can’t be changed, and anyone using children as a weapon should just give the other side custody until you’re adult enough to deal with your own baggage.

  29. Breanna says:

    I am a mother/stepmom as well, and have just started getting along with my husband’s ex. When I read this, I felt as though it was a personal letter from her to me… and it made me cry! (in a good way…) In addition to the usual issues mothers and stepmothers face, she is Bipolar, and rarely takes her medication. The only time she is pleasant to deal with is when she is pregnant (which she happens to be right now). I have been attempting to patch our relationship while there is a chance, and hoping she will continue to remain civil once her baby is born! To be quite honest, I am a bit scared!

    It’s so strange (and sad) that so many others have gone through almost the e.x.a.c.t. same thing our family has. It is difficult, never-ending, and sometimes downright depressing to be the stepmom sometimes! But my stepkids (7 and 5) are so dang cute, I just can’t give up on them! I appreciate this post and will be bookmarking it, so I can read it when I get discouraged.. Thanks so much!

  30. Genevieve says:

    I am a mom to three beautiful girls, 2 with husband and 1 is his daughter from previous relationship. I do use the connotation of birth mother because that’s all her egg donor ever was. Husband had full custody when his daughter was 5 months old. I have been there since she was 28 months. Egg donor was in and out for the first 2 years of our relationship and that was it. My daughter will be 13 in June and hasn’t seen/communicated with her egg donor in 7 years. This person who gave birth to her, that is all she did. She cannot be considered her mother, as she never was. Being a mother is taking care of children, not pushing them out of your uterus. I am presently in the process of adoption, and egg donor is not giving her consent or contesting it. She’s just making things difficult.

    I would have wished for egg donor to step up and be a “mother figure” to my oldest daughter, but even then, I have raised her since she was 28 months old, so for her to decide one day that she wants to be there wouldn’t make her a mother would it? Not in my eyes.

    I hate the terms step-mom, i’ve heard it used many times from her egg donor’s friends referring to me, but then again, if I wasn’t here, my daughter wouldn’t have a mom at all…

    so who’s to say that some connotations don’t work for specific people? I am the mother, soon to be the adoptive mother, as my daughter says it, her real mother. Even though I did not give birth to her like I did for her sisters, I’m still her mom. Whatever egg donor wants to call me, she has never accepted her responsibilities of giving birth to a child, then why should she have the right to call herself a mother?

  31. Sarah Sousie says:

    Can I just say one thing here? I totally understand where you are coming from, but what do you do if the child’s mom just isn’t there? If she is calling you because she can’t control her own child, if her child is so starved for attention that he is begging for someone to take a maternal role in his life? It’s a hard position to be in, to love a child so much and to feel motherly instincts toward them, but then to constantly be reminded that you are NOT their mother, even though the mother is, quite simply, not doing her job because she is too busy trying to figure out “what she wants in life”. What she should want in life is to be a mother to her child, in my opinion. I guess I am just bitter because I tried to be an ally to my husband’s ex and all she did was take advantage of and abuse me, just like she does to him. What do you do when the mother really is impossible to deal with and is doing a crappy job raising her own child? Do you just sit back and allow it to happen, because she birthed the child and therefore has a right to ignore him if she wants? Having a baby doesn’t make you a mother, I am sorry, but it’s the raising of your your child makes you a mother.

  32. Stephany says:

    I’m not sure I agree with much from the step-mom’s point of view. However I did read the view from the ex-wife and that was very enlightening.

    I am a step-mom. I am called names all the time by my husbands ex wife, I feel her entire goal in life is to belittle me, and remind my husband of all the mistakes she feels he has made over the years. And this at whatever cost! Meaning she doesn’t seem to care how this affects her children. Every conversation, email, and text turns into a personal attack directly on my husband or myself. My favorite is – “Thank her for babysitting the kids”.

    I didn’t give birth to my own children. Not because I couldn’t because I never wanted too. However I met and fell in love with a wonderful man that has two children almost 7 years ago. We married after 6 years of dating. His children are my children now. I love them as if they were my own, in the only manner that I can determine. I do acknowledge that I do not have my own children so understanding the extreme bond between mother and child I will not ever experience. I do know how I feel when one of the kids falls down and scratches up their knees, learns that other kids are talking behind their backs when they thought they were friends, or they are just sick with a cold or a flu. I also know the joy of good grades, their first concert, getting their hair done, and their first crushes. I hurt and feel joy with them because I love them. They are wonderful, amazing, very well adjusted children and I am very lucky to have such a wonderful relationship with them.

    I don’t need to be introduced as “This is my ex husbands wife”. I don’t need to be told that I should be considerate that your parents don’t live here and don’t get to spend time with their grandchildren so I shouldn’t have them around my parents. I don’t need to be told never to speak to you or your children again in front of them. I do not need to have the door shut in my face when I drop the kids off back at your home. Above all our life does not need to be an open book to you. At one point you chose to have children with my husband. You trusted him as a father. You may not trust him because of mistakes he made 9 years ago, and your family has been torn apart BUT he is still the same man you chose to trust to have children with. If the father is a good father, loving the children, playing with them, teaching and caring for them. TRUST HIM AS A FATHER.

    I do understand that you worry, and that you feel left out. Did it ever occur to you that I feel the same way? That your boyfriend/husband and the father feels
    the same way. When is it time to just grow up, get over it, and make the best of it. I am sorry that it hurts you that the children and I are close, but trying to
    turn them against both their father and I will only hurt the kids in ways that have nothing to do with them not liking me, or wanting to spend time with their father.

  33. Momma Mia says:

    This book has a lot of good tips for women who have someone they can actually work with.

  34. what’s tough is that the mom is THINKING these things, whether they’re true or not. i don’t try to take her place. her biggest problem is that she wants to be the ONLY parent and does everything possible to belittle her ex and me. it has only gotten worse since she lost custody. if my stepkids’ mom could just be a rational person, her children’s lives would be MUCH better and happier. we could stop wasting money in court and focus on putting the kids through college, instead of putting our lawyer’s kid through college. as much as moms want the stepmom to understand their position, moms need to understand our position, too. in a perfect world, there would be communication between mom and stepmom before the marriage with neither coming into such communication with preconceived notions about the other. i have no desire to take her children from her, but because of her actions, she lost them and now i have to take care of them – buy their groceries, cook for them, take them to school, make their doctor’s appointments, pay their medical insurance, etc., etc. i can tell you it’s difficult to do these things without resenting being treated like satan by children that she’s brainwashed in her jealousy. i wish that she would grow up and be responsible and allow my husband and me to have a “honeymoon” period in our relationship.

  35. oh and amen pam!!! wanna comne talk to my stepkids’ mom??? lol

  36. tired-of-trying says:

    OK I have to say that as much as I appreciate these insights from a Mom’s point of view, I have to say that this doesn’t fit into my situation at all. I know that I am not SD’s mother and I never try to be but does that mean that I do not treat SD as my own daughter? No. I do for her exactly as I do for my son. I uphold rules, institute consequences, provide advice and a shoulder to cry on, I try to guide her on the right path in life, I attend P/T conferences, open houses and school functions, etc etc. I NEVER introduce myself as SD’s MOM and I never refer to SD’s mom as a biomom or BM outside of online support groups or discussions.

    But what about the situations where the tables are turned? My DH was never married to SD’s mom, they split when SD was 2 and wouldn’t have stayed together that long if SD hadn’t been born. DH was the one who tried to make it work and his ex was the one who walked out. DH did not introduce another woman into SD’s life until he met me 5 yrs after he and SD’s mom had ended their relationship. We do not badmouth SD’s mom to SD EVER even though she is constantly bad mouthing me. I have extended the olive branch more times than I care to admit over the last 5 years only to have SD’s mom grab it and try to beat me with it. I have always made sure to try and not over-step my boundaries, like if SD has something special that she only does with her mom I do not let her do it here with me because it is a Mother/daughter thing. I don’t get involved in issues that mom should handle, like sex talks or deciding when the time is right for SD to start shaving her legs.

    But SD’s mom fights me tooth and nail at every turn. I get screamed at for helping SD with homework, not doing her hair right, overseeing baths (when SD was younger) or attending school functions. SD’s mom has accused me of trying to step on ehr toes because I take SD shopping when she is with us or because my family treats SD like one of their own. She has gone so far as to call the police simply because DH wouldn’t allow her to just take SD during our time when she showed up unannounced at our house.

    So where is the letter from a mother like SD’s? Stating that she hates me and everything a represent and that she will continue to tell SD that SD doesn’t ever have to listen to me or respect me because I am not her SM but just her dad’s wife while insisting that SD call mom’s bf Dad and his parents Grandma and Grandpa? Where is the letter where she says that she still wants my DH and will parade around in a thong and bra when he comes to pick up SD in an attempt to seduce him? Or where she states that she will call up DH and say she is pregnant with his baby even though they haven’t been together in over 6 yrs and he has been with me for a year? Or where she states that she will do whatever it takes to make SD miserable when she is with us? Even going so far as to tell SD that she can’t call us and ask if she can go to a sleepover on our day cuz we will just say no anyways? Or when she tells SD lies that DH beat SD’s mom when they were together, made her eat garbage or even that DH stressed SD’s mom out so bad that she had a miscarriage when in truth she was never pregnant. Where is the letter from mom to SM stating that she will fill SD’s head with as many lies as possible, will tell SD that if SD’s mom ever lost custody she would kill herself?

    Not all issues in the Mom/SM relationship is the fault of a SM trying to replace/badmouth/hate the mom. Sometimes the mom is the one who REFUSES to work together for the good of the child. In those situations not only does the stepchild suffer immensely but so do the SM, the dad and any kids the dad and sm have together. So where is the advice for the SMs who have gone above and beyond over and over and over only to be spit on until they finally say they are “Tired of Trying”?

  37. Then there are the bio-moms (there, I said it) who leave and abdicate the role of mother to the stepmother. That’s my case. His bio-mom is just that – a bio-mom; the one who birthed him and hung out for a few years and then left. She stays in infrequent contact and still wants to maintain the title, but none of the responsibility. I know his teachers, his health issues, his sports teams and coaches, his friends names, the girl he likes at school, what frustrates him, what makes him laugh, what makes him sad. She knows none of that and has chosen not to know it in almost 3 years. So I take the title of mother and/or stepmother freely. She can call herself whatever she wants, but “bio-mom” is how I view her even though I cannot adopt my stepchild because she will not relinquish legal rights.

    I never wanted this role. It was foisted on me when she took off. She left of her own free will with no warning to us or prompting by us. Just….gone.

    Not all moms/bio-moms/stepmoms are created equal. Be careful of judgment.

  38. I have to admit reading this post was a major TURN OFF. Some of it was very enlightening, but honestly, what stands out is the power struggle. At some point, aren’t we just supposed to take care of OUR OWN baggage and stop trying to victimize ourselves. I swear, so much drama in blended families would be eliminated if both sides stopped crying “poor me.”

    Regarding the BioMom Issue:
    “Why do you feel the need to belittle my role by changing my name? Are you trying to diminish my sense of power or authority?”

    A stepmom is capable of adopting a child with her heart, before she even realizes it has happened. This does not mean that MOM is LESS of a mom.

    Bio= biological. Its simple and scientific, and I’m sorry it doesn’t feel good to look at it from a dictionary definition- but that is what it is. It does not diminish, it simply makes it clear. In such a progressive country, you would think progressive women would be able to cope with black and white.

    A “mother”, according to the dictionary “a term of address for a female parent or a woman having or regarded as having the status, function, or authority of a female parent.”

    So a BIOLOGICAL mother is one who HAS given birth. A STEP mother, is one who has chosen to love and care for the child DESPITE the LACK of biological relation.

    It is possible for a woman to marry a man with children, but due to the relationships, will never be a Stepmom to those children. Some prefer this. Some dont.

    The issue at hand is hearing “bio” hurts a mom just like hearing “step” and “not THE mom” hurts a mom (even if she is a step). When it comes down to it, its NOT ABOUT the stepmom or the biological mom; it is about the child(ren). How the child sees the two parents and WISHES to refer to them is their choice.

    I will also add, that the BM in our life flipped out on my Stepson for calling me “Mom”. She couldn’t stand to hear it. I had never asked him to, never necessarily wanted him to, but he felt most comfortable (being so young) having two safe relationships he could identify as mothers. Well now if my Stepson ACCIDENTALLY slips and says “Mom” he starts crying nearly uncontrollably. “My mom is going to be so mad at me.. I can’t say that because it hurts her feelings.”

    I’m sorry, but anyone with any ounce of understanding knows that it is NOT a child’s responsibility to tend to the adults feelings. It is not healthy and so inappropriate.

  39. I read this initially thinking, this is so much of what I feel, maybe I could forward this link and start some sort of relationship.

    And then I read the comments from so many stepmoms (and in my case, I’m not deal with a stepmom, I’m dealing with my not-yet-exes affair partner) that minimize every feeling and fear in this article.

    I feel quite hopeless at ever being treated with respect or compassion. There’s certainly no remorse from the affair, the children were introduced well before any expert recommended it. And now i get emails from my NOT YET EX HUSBAND that I should respect her. On what basis? I feel as if I am parenting to prevent their morals from seeping into my children.

    Hm, I think I strayed from topic.

  40. SMomOf2Boys says:

    Eh. I disagree with this. Maybe because the birth-mom (yes, I said it! When you’re only involved at your own convenience, BM is applicable!) doesn’t want anyone involved other than herself, because, dug, it’s super annoying to have to deal with others, I may be biased. I’m wrong to care about her kids who are in my life on a regular basis? The kids WANT to be mothered by me and this is my fault bc I care? I’m at fault that they, completely unprompted and uninfluenced buy me “mom” themed cards for each holiday? No, I’m not their mom and it gas taken a lot of reassuring on my behalf to tell them how it really is, since their BM brainwashes them. But I AM a mother figure to them. Just as my grandmother was a mother figure to me. Why do we idolize moms so much? I’m a more the merrier kind of person and that is how my divorced parents raised me. I accept each of their SOs. I’m grateful to have these 4 people who care about my DH AND treat my skids as if they were my kids and their grandkids. I believe it takes a village and it’s the parents and their insecurities who screw it all up.

  41. rubberbandit says:

    Regarding the term ‘bio-mom’, I’ve never heard it used outside internet discussions and then its usually in its abreviated form BM. I would never refer to my sd’s mother in the real world as bio-mom! Do mothers get upset when they see it on the internet? Because I think it’s just a case of being easier to type ‘BM’ than ‘my SD’s mother’. Would mothers prefer that just the letter ‘M’ was used? This seems a little unclear to me.

  42. AmericanHoney says:

    Well, well, well. If it isn’t the power struggle between mom’s again…Yup, I am a mom to my daughter. No, I did not birth her. Yes, she has another mother. No, she does not call me mom, she does not get that what she calls me is my name. She’s 3. She knows that she has 2 ‘dads’ and 2 ‘moms’. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. She knows that everyone loves her. She knows that she loves everyone. She will learn in time that the people that love her don’t necessarily love each other, but she’ll be old enough to understand why. I call myself my SD stepmother because it’s easier. I did not birth her so I am not her biological mother. But I mother her on a daily basis, even on the days i don’t see her. She’s my daughter. I claim her as my own. With that said, i would NEVER try to take the place of her ‘other mother’, as she calls both of us this when talking about us. She uses my name in place of mom, see calls me ‘her ******’.

    Things with BM aren’t always civil, they can be really dramatic at times. But that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love her daughter. She may show it WAY differently than I do and she may use her daughter as a pawn, in my eyes. But I choose to believe that she is doing the best that she can. Just as I am. No one in this family is perfect. Hello!!! NO ONE’S THE BITCH!!!!!! she’s not evil by nature. she makes mistakes. no, i don’t like her. i don’t have to. but i do have to accept her for who she is. the biological mother of my stepdaughter. and hopefully she can accept me for who i am someday. But this debate seriously needs to end. does it really matter who loves the kid more? or what your damn title is? no! it matters only to you. the kids don’t care, they know that the people around them love them. and on the basic of all levels, that is ALL that matters. show them love, care for them, etc. in the way that only You can. and forget the rest of the power struggle. because the more you make that matter, the less of a solid relationship anyone is going to have with the kid(s). ever think that the kids are always watching? we are their role models. it’s time we step up and be the best role model we can be. and be the kind of role model we want our kids to have!!!!

  43. Hi. I’m a step mum and a mum. I’m a desperate step mum in need of help and understanding. I can fathom the fears, anxieties a mum would feel when her children have a close relationship with another women, but I haven’t experienced it so I can’t pretend to know for sure. One thing I feel confident about though is I’d be far more grateful my kids had someone who loved and cared for them opposed to the ‘evil’ step mother in Snow White. But how do you make it work when nothing is ever right, no matter what the kids father (my hubby) suggests, is right, his opinion doesn’t count and in fact her words are constantly it’s “my decision and thats final”. Then when you don’t say anything you’re doing the wrong thing, so you try several times, in different ways to say the same thing and no matter what the defensives go up and WW4 breaks out. Apparently I’ve crossed boundaries but when asked what are the boundaries she wont tell us. I certainly don’t want to be her friend, in fact right now, I’m sorry but she is a bitch, I despise her and sadly have no respect for her as a person nor a parent. But thats why I’m here. I hate how I feel about her it bothers me like nothing has ever bothered me before but how can I fix it? How can I or do I approach her to find some common ground. I’m currently in counselling to try and distinguish the frustration and anger I’m feeling, but when you start seeing and hearing her bitterness come out in the kids and the kids tell you of their fear to be honest with their mum because of how she reacts and makes them feel – what do you do? I can’t tell her because I’ll be breaking the trust and confidence I have with the kids and they are scared of what she will say to them if she was to find out… What can I do?

  44. Hi Jodie, many of us have been in your position. My best advice to you is to figure out YOUR household, and be confident in the rules you set. Be confident that you and your husband are doing the right thing and try as much as possible to detach from her attacks on you. Disengage in any way possible. Is your husband supportive of you? Does he set boundaries and enforce them when it comes to her? That will be KEY in you surviving a situation that can take it all out of you, if you let it. Good luck and stick around here for more support! Also, have you joined our Member’s Community? It’s private, free (one cent per month) and you’ll get lots of support from other mom/stepmoms there :).

  45. Bio mom I can see would be hurtful. It also hurts when ss says “real mom”. Most of the time, though, we are both referred to as “mom”. WE know who he is talking about. Sharing a child is so difficult, I think, because it is so unnatural to communicate, see, and talk about the ex so much. But when there are children involved, you have no choice. I can understand these feelings a mother would have. I am a mother too. I just think things are a lot worse when she has “baggage” still. How can you deal with knowing that she still wants to be with your husband?

  46. About this bio-mom thing:

    Right. I don’t want to be called the “bio-mom”, and I’d be pissed if anyone tried it. I’m the mom, and I earned that title. A biological mother is one who gives her kids up for adoption. I don’t fault any mother for doing that: it’s an enormously brave thing to recognize you can’t give a child what she needs and give her up. But that’s not me. I’m the one who took care of and protected a baby through her dad’s mental illness and hospitalizations; who fostered her relationship with her dad nonetheless; who had the job of breaking the news to her when her dad decided I was responsible for his illness and divorced me; who pulled all-nighter after all-nighter to hit deadlines and keep a roof over her head; who is her rock emotionally and will go to bat for her when her dad’s leaning on her to do something she’s scared of or really, really doesn’t want to do. I could list a thousand other things. I do them. My title is Mom. And I love it. So don’t call me bio-mom. If you want to elevate “stepmom”, go right ahead — but don’t do it by trying to cut me down.

    Baggage…oh, baggage. Okay, here’s how that unwritten letter goes:

    Trust me, I do not want your man back. I stayed with him as long as I did only because I couldn’t trust him with custody of a toddler. His recent behavior’s been so hostile and rude that I’ve finally done something I’ve wanted to do for years but haven’t, for my daughter’s sake: I’ve told him he must stay out of my house. And it’s incredibly liberating. Finally, after all these years, I don’t have to have a guy come to my house regularly and stand there hating me and blaming me for his life. It’s tremendous.

    If the situation were any different, I’d be warning you to run, run far away from this man before he knocks you up. Sweetie, he’s nuts in a bad way, and those disability checks he hasn’t told you about keep on coming for a reason.

    I can’t, though. Not least because if you actually paid attention and recognized you were getting into something bad, he’d take it out on me. Besides, he’d likely just find someone else, and that someone else could be awful, whereas you seem all right, if insecure and broke and prone to walking blithely into bad situations. It hardly matters, though — you’re so hopeful, wanting so badly for it to work, you wouldn’t hear it anyway. And I expect he’s told you lies as wild as he told me about his first ex-wife.

    Here’s my hope, in the end:

    First, I hope some miracle occurs and it works out. That’d be best all around.

    Second, I hope you don’t have a kid. Not that I wish you ill, if you want children, but this is a man with quite a history, and it’s unlikely things will work out. Not having a kid would make the breakup so much lighter for everyone.

    Third, if you strike out on both counts, I hope you won’t take it out on me that I’m well out of it and free, and you’re not — either because you’re scared to be alone, or because you have a kid and can’t afford to leave (sorry, sis, but my kid’s child support will come first).

    Fourth, if you do pull yourself out, I hope you won’t move. I know you have no money and probably can’t afford to stay here. But if you have a kid and leave, you’re taking my daughter’s sibling with you, and damaging her.

    Finally, I hope you’ll have enough sense to protect your time and money. The last thing anyone needs is for you to go nuts diving into stepmotherhood and then get mad that you’re spending massive time and money on someone else’s kid. Boundaries, please have boundaries.

    I’m sorry. I hope it all works out. I hope you don’t damage my kid in the process. I hope you’re not crazy. In the meantime, I don’t resent you, I’m not jealous of you. I like my life. If I seem weird when you’re together, it’s because I still get a feeling, seeing my ex, of picking up a rock and seeing all kinds of gross slimy things underneath. It’s tiresome, having you act as though I’m dangerous and you need to hide behind him, but I get it; I bought his lies about other people for a long time too. But what you should know about me is that I’m not afraid to fight on behalf of my kid.

  47. AmericanHoney says: “does it really matter who loves the kid more? or what your damn title is? no! it matters only to you.”

    So if what I’m called matters to me, then please respect it. If you want to get along with me, that is.

    I know what goes into being Mom, because I’m the one who does it. If my kid doesn’t know, that’s appropriate. Nobody sane wants to burden the kid with a sense of obligation like that, or a sense of being serious work. My ex’s gf doesn’t know; she hasn’t got kids and isn’t in the end responsible for my daughter. My ex doesn’t know, because I do most of the parenting. But I know. I’m not generally big on titles. I don’t go throwing my academic credentials around unless there’s a real good reason, I prefer being called by first name at work. But this one means a lot to me.

    Of course, you can go on calling me whatever you want. Nobody can stop you. But you should know you won’t make friends by doing it.

    Why do we lionize moms? Easy. We don’t pay them. You think I’m kidding, but there’s not enough money to pay for what most moms will do for free. And, increasingly, on our own.

  48. Jenna, there’s one more you forgot:

    /Do not mess with parenting and child-support arrangements./ Yes, I know you feel put-upon. I know it seems like a massive amount of what ought to be your money is going to my household. I know you’re playing “omg that’s too much” with your friends. Let me tell you something: Your husband is paying half or less of what it actually costs to raise his children. Children are expensive. If you want a rich man, don’t marry my ex. He has prior obligations. And if you’re in a state where marrying him will mean your income is included in his support calculation — please, think about this before you set the date. I’m not going to accept responsibility for your unhappiness and resentment later, when you change your mind about what you’re glad to do.

    Similarly, please do not play lawyer-up with me. I understand that you’re trying to build your husband up and rescue his relationship with his children and convince yourself that he’s prime daddy material, and also to get the support order knocked down. But you’ve actually walked into a functioning, and possibly delicate, ecosystem. There are reasons why the decree says what it says, and the reason is not that your new husband is life’s victim, or mine, or that he was racked by baseless guilt. Either he wanted this or he doesn’t stand up for himself. You can’t change either, though you can expend enormous energy trying to force him to stand up for himself, and get angry, and make life crazy and expensive for me, and introduce more stress into my home.

    Doing that would pretty much destroy trust. Considering that we’re going to be living with each other for another decade or more, and that financial and living situations will likely change, you may want to consider whether a few hundred extra a month, or whatever it is, right now is really worth long-term damage.

  49. @Kristine “I was directed to this site by a stepmom blog which is authored by the new partner of the ex of a good friend of mine. On her blog she often speculates about the motives and behaviour of the “biomum” (she thinks her blog is anonymous, but it’s not). To me, my friend is a marvellous, warm person who loves her children immensely, and has conducted herself throughout the relationship breakdown with almost superhuman dignity. To the stepmom blogger, she is a cardboard cut-out stereotype angy and toxic ex. It angers and saddens me that she has got it so wrong, and I have lain awake nights wondering how (or if) I could possibly get this across to her.”

    THIS! I can relate to much to this. Somehow my daughter’s stepmom thinks that I am the “cardboard cut-out stereotype angry and toxic ex” although I do nothing but love my daughter and raise her with kindness. I very rarely slip and say anything negative about her father or her stepmom, I am involved in her education and extra-curriculars – I feel like if I am anything, it’s a cardboard cut-out SuperMom. But all she can see is the woman who her husband hates.

    It just makes me sad sometimes. I left him because he was dishonest, distant, a cheater, and we just plain didn’t get along. I was young and very imperfect in the relationship, but we split up 4 years ago and I am light years from that person I was at 26 years old. But she just stews in that feeling of who she thinks I am.

  50. A stepmom... says:

    I appreciate this article … genuine thoughts from a mom — a bio-mom — to another mom, a step-mom, both loving and sacrificing and caring for the same children. I esteem many of the sentiments this “bio-mom” shares and values. Not all “bio-mom’s” share these same values. I found this blog as I was researching a particular set of problems I am experiencing. There are lots of support sites and networks for step-moms who are trying to learn and grow and be the best loving and happy step-moms they can be. I notice there are very few similar sites for bio-moms who are also contending with many personal struggles. For example, in my situation, I have figured out that the children’s bio-mom, while she is so pleased I am caring and loving towards her children, is experiencing hurt, fear, jealousy, and anger that the children have bonded well with me. She has chosen not to “play nice”. Her actions and words indicate she sees this as a battle in which I am her enemy threatening to take the love and affection of her children away from her and focusing it on myself, at her expense. Unfortunately, she appears to believe that the ends justify the means, and she does whatever nasty, unloving, and cruel thing she can to undermine my relationship with the children. The children and myself have become collateral damage in her fight to feel triumphant with respect to who is their one and only “mom”. I truly wish there were more support networks and articles written for bio-moms, to help them work through difficult emotions and fears in healthy ways that nurture their children. The first step (as I remind myself for my own issues) is to be honest about our hurts and fears, not in a discussion with our children but in a discussion with ourselves. From this place, we can understand our perceptions, actions, and how they may be unhelpful, unhealthy or more positive for all involved, especially for the children. In this situation I am in, the bio-mom has chosen to put her reactions, hurts and fears above her love for her children, and she has embarked on telling lies, mis-truths, encouraging the children’s guilt about divided loyalties, and, of course, representing me in a negative way to her children. My heart-break has been the deterioration of my very wonderful relationship with the children. I realize I must let this go and simply find a way to cope with my pain and heart-break — the children are too young for me to do anything but love them despite their newfound mistrust and detachment. It does not have to be this way. Moms in blended families, both “bio-moms” and “step-moms” will benefit from helpful, well-researched articles and support networks.

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