What you and I have in common – Part 1

I’d painted myself into a corner with my writing here recently and felt less and less able to really be myself.

What popped me into clarity was reading about how stepmom Becky Lippett of La Belle Mere transformed her previously wretched relationship with the ex-wife, while on the cusp of divorce. Look at what she’s created by taking some very brave risks:

  • “I have a new friend. And I mean that sincerely. I have to admit, to my surprise, that I haven’t had to try very hard to like her. It actually came fairly naturally. We have lots more in common that either of us realised.
  • The children seem over the moon with the situation. Their excitement and happiness is impossible to miss.
  • My marriage has improved beyond measure. In fact, we are stronger and more in love now than ever before.
  • I no longer suffer from “Outsider” status. Rather than having the sense of being on the outside of something that is “theirs,” I now feel on the inside of something which is “ours.”
  • I am less likely to feel the sense of persecution that I felt before. I no longer feel under attack or like I am forced to share my husband and my world with “the enemy.”
  • Events such as parents evening, school plays and sports days are no longer likely to induce an anxiety attack that can be measured on the Richter Scale.
  • My heart feels bigger.”

Becky credits our book, in part, for her big change. And Erin over on the Erin Experiment also had a recent epiphany that’s led to more peace and happiness by ironically, taking a step back from being a Super Hands-On Stepmother. Read more in Learning the Art of the Stepmom Stepback.

THIS, folks, is why we wrote this book!

This is why I’ve been writing this blog for three years (we turned 3 last month!). It makes me deliriously happy to read Becky and Erin’s stories of change and healing.

Becky’s terrible relationship with the ex-wife was one of the main reasons she was heading towards a split, but instead, her family life has been transformed. If she can do it, then maybe you can too! And don’t miss her update, answering questions on this cool turn of events.

With all my heart, I want to help others create happier extended families after divorce and remarriage. And yet… I’ve been struggling myself.

I’ve been thinking things that have created a sense of separation and disconnection for me and I miss everyone. I want to get back to feeling like we’re in this together. So in that spirit, a list of some surprising things we have in common:

I’m on my own too

Sometimes I felt like such a poser. Where’s the stepmom in our picture? If she’s not typing away with me, doesn’t this cancel out our book’s message of Kumbaya and mom/stepmom harmony? I’ve mentioned before how Carol’s art career takes up a huge part of her life, but even if she had eight arms and two heads, Carol doesn’t have the slightest interest in writing anything here. She has that right, much as I wish it were different. In the meantime, I’m lucky enough to call her a close friend and I love her like a sister. So interviews, videos (more on this in Part Two – they’re in the can and ready to go!) and me picking her brain will have to suffice.

This can be hard because….

I can’t get the moms involved either

Their backs are turned to me too. I say “too” because that’s who’s reading our blog and book: the stepmoms. So here I am, a mom/ex-wife talking to (mostly) all you stepmoms, telling you to not give up, to keep plugging away and trying… when really, I’m in the same boat (minus the heart-pounding tension).

Why is this?

My theory: moms hold most of the power. The kids usually live with them. The kids are “theirs,” whether they’re appalling parents or candidates for Mother of the Year. Who wants to let go of control? The ability to call the shots? Not many folks, once they have it. Most mothers just wish you weren’t around. Simple as that. But it’s still possible to create a life that works, in spite of it. More on that later too.

I know what it’s like to be betrayed

Carol and I are close friends, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relate to your pain. Recently, I became involved again with my first love, long-distance. Because I knew him long ago, I foolishly ignored some glaring red flags and got massively burned. This was someone who had done something fairly hurtful to me over thirty years ago and believe it or not, every few years I would dream about him so I could ask him WHY??? Why did you treat me this way? I finally have my answer….

I ended up being nothing more than a rebound—and perhaps even worse—a secret. So I still know what it’s like to put your heart on the line and offer it up to be sliced open. Many, many good lessons here, excruciating though they were.

(If anything, this recent experience makes me think it’d be a good idea to talk a lot more here about what makes a good relationship and how to keep them alive and healthy! Lord knows I’ve still got a lot to learn….)

Okay, so romance and stepmom/mom relationships are very different. But aggression and deceit, no matter who serves it up, still stings. Lies can make you doubt yourself. In our naïve surprise and confusion over being mistreated, we can gnaw on a situation over and over, trying to make sense of something that cannot be understood.

Being screwed over by someone is a great opportunity to gauge your self-love — the areas where it’s strong and where it needs shoring up. Although these lessons are of the “oh crap, MUST I learn this stuff this way, through pain?” nature, the breakthroughs they can lead to are invaluable.

Just like what it’s like with the conflict in mom/stepmom relationships.

It’s hard to create peace in your life when you feel like there’s a leak in the submarine. Which is why…

It’s better when we’re in it together.

More on this in Part 2!

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Comments

  1. I’ve been wondering where you went. And funny, just yesterday I was thinking about how funny it is that your blog is mostly read by step-moms, but you’re the “mom”. Weird that the day after I was thinking about that you write it here! Kindred spirits? I think so :). I’m interested to read Erin’s post, as I too, recently, decided to step back, for my own sanity. Right now I’m at a pretty tough place emotionally. I need to get away, to treat myself well, and I thought I had this awesome personal retreat planned and then the place called to tell me they were booked. MAJOR disappointment. Anyways, my point is that when we’re down the hardest thing seems to be to reach out, even though that’s what we need most. Glad you’re back :)

  2. I love your honesty in this post. Way to go! :)

  3. I want you to know that I have been reading these blogs and your website from time to time. I have not yet made it out to pick up the book, but it is on my todo list. I am the stepmom, well the stepgirlfriend who will be the stepmom in the future. I find what is written here very helpful, however what do you do when the mom wants nothing, I mean nothing to do with you. It is so bad that I can not be seen in the car during pick-ups or drop-offs and she complains when I answer my boyfriends cell phone. But I am not doing these things to be annoying I truly don’t want him to miss a call from his son’s mother. What if it is important. We have standard visitation and we do the best we can at making him a part of our family, (I have two children of my own from my ex). We do family things together, which complains are not right because he should be spending his time alone with his son and not with us. We, I can not win at this stupid game. I could go on and on about all the stupid things that occur in this situation. I have tried to contact her and put forward my best effort forward. Most recently she sent valentine cards for my boys and some homemade soaps. So I emailed a thank you and that was all I did, I did the appropriate thing and said thank you. This lead to a 45 minute pickup for my boyfriend that had to listen to her complain that I am not to contact her not at all. She doesn’t want me to even say thank you. She was so upset that she said the soaps were not for my boys they were only for him. I feel so bad for my boyfriend cause he is actually the one caught in the middle. He has me on one end asking him why can’t she just be cordial. She has already went as far as to say when he begins to play sports she will create a schedule for my boyfriend of which games they will each attend so that she won’t have to see me. Poor little boy, poor little boy that is going to suffer. I don’t asked to be liked, but his son is so specail to me and I love him very much that I want whats best for him. He is only 3 but I know that in the long run this will affect him. Why can’t she see that? I guess I struggle with this cause my ex and boyfriend get along great. We all co-parent the boys and it is peace and harmony all the way around. I am at my end whits, guess I should just give up, I just don’t know what to do anymore.

  4. Jen –
    I have felt happier and more peaceful than I have in years and I owe a lot of that to you. Your mom advice reminded me how and why I should step back from trying to be everyone’s everything. My stepkids have a mom and a dad and as much as I want to try to chime in about something that pertains to the kids, I don’t anymore unless their health or safety is at risk.

    And it feels great to have myself back. I missed me.

    xoxo,
    Erin

  5. Jennifer! So very very awesome to see your talented writing self back on this blog! I have missed your words and your mom wisdom in the mom/stepmom relationship!

    Rock on girlfriend!

    xo
    Peggy

  6. Hi! I really appreciate your honesty! I think that your audience is mostly step-moms because usually we are the ones who are stepping into a role that can be threatening to the “mom.” I know that as a stepmom, I wish that the “mom” in our lives was not so spiteful and hateful and determined to undermine me and everything that I do, so I find hope in your writing that one day, she will see that I am not trying to snuff her out, but am just trying to blend a family with the man she used to be married to and has children with. It is not as though I went around looking for some woman to piss off…..and stumbled upon my husband and thought “PERFECT”…..I can now be the target to a very very angry woman. Thank you for opening your life up to help us see that it is not impossible.:)

  7. I love reading your blog! I really feel like you are a rarity among “your kind”, lol. ;) Just kidding (sort of…). But really, I really do enjoy reading your blog. I think that it’s great that you and Carol get a long and that all three parents “parent” together, regardless of who’s updating the site :)

  8. Hey Jen, was just reading through this again and wanted to also say that I don’t think Carol needs to write or be involved in this for your words and message to ring true. You teach how to have a better relationship with the mom/step-mom, and that’s exactly what you’ve done! :) Writing is your thing and painting is hers.

    I hope you’re doing well and I’m looking forward to part two!

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