Two very different kinds of momentum

If you’re a mom and you’re going through a divorce — or you’ve already been through one, where you are couldn’t be more different than where a stepmom is.

Divorce makes you feel like a tornado just tore through your life. It ripped up all your dreams for your family, for your children, for your relationship — and scattered them into another county. You have the external evidence of this in the form of household upheaval and change, but you also have the sense that a bomb went off in your insides too. The disorientation, the chaos cannot be described.

Any stepmoms out there ever go through a break-up? A soul-pulverizing, tough one?

This is where the moms are. Only there are kids involved. And a home. And money. And friends.

History, dreams, memories.

Resentments, disappointments, fury. The kind of wounds that seemed to beg for a legal split, to prove to the world how deep they were.

People push for a public, authoritative “culmination” for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is validation of their feelings. But that’s not always what they want, in the long run. Sometimes it just means, I have no fucking idea how to fix this and save my family.

Ripping apart your family is godawful. It’s agony. It’s primal. It’s monumental failure that sears your heart in the process and makes you feel like you’ll never get over it.

And then you do.

You start to put your life back together again. You watch your kids on a microscopic level to see how they’re holding up. You nurture them. You give them space. You smother them. You lie awake nights consumed with replaying loops of guilt.

And then… you start to savor the freedom. Look! I can parent the way I want to! No more new resentments piling up in the corner! (At least not in your immediate environment….) No more new hurts. It was good for me to get away. I did the right thing!

But divorce certainly doesn’t fix everything, as we all know. You’re still intimately tied to the person you created children with, because, well, you created children. So imagine all the problems you used to have before, only now, they’re complicated by distance and competing agendas. Woohoo! It’s a party!

And stepmoms?

Stepmoms fell in love.

Stepmoms arrived on the scene because of the man….

They were simply innocent women, who, like all of us, wanted to find love and be loved and love another and well, if there are kids involved in the process, the more the merrier and I’ll just love them too. We’ll put it all back together even better than it was before. You’ll see. It’ll all be okay.

Women are the natural menders, the natural weavers of harmony and cohesion. Of closeness. We make circles of people and experiences.

It’s not the stepmom’s fault that there just happens to be another woman in the picture — the mother of the children. If the children were actually motherless, it’d be a whole lot easier to form that circle, but nope. There the mom is, hovering ever so slightly, or glaringly, in your field of perception….

The stepmom is knitting. The stepmom is dreaming. The stepmom is planning and hoping and pouring her best self into creating her dream.

The moms know this place. They were once there too.

The stepmoms are moving towards.

The moms are moving away.

And this is the crux of all their problems, in a nutshell.

This is why the moms don’t want you around. This is why they’re rude. This is why they shun you. This is why the moms look at you like you’re an alien when you try to be gracious and extend a hand in friendship.

They want the divorce as far away as they can get it from themselves, illogical as that may be, since there are still kids to raise. Communications to make. Negotiations to handle into eternity.

And in their minds, they’re like, What? Who the hell are YOU???!!!! Where did YOU come from? And why do I now have to deal with you regarding my own children as if you now have some kind of claim or authority over them, some jurisdiction in their lives?

And in the stepmoms’ minds, they’re like, Hey! Are you crazy? Can’t you see I’m here to stay and I’m doing YOU a favor by pouring time, effort and energy into raising kids that aren’t even MINE???!!!! Aren’t you grateful for that? Can’t you show some kind of grace? If you care about your kids, then why are you hurting them by making ME your enemy? Us your enemy?

The pain of the divorce makes moms skitter away, emotionally. Many, MANY women are left with emotions so raw and overwhelming that they simply turn away from them. They have no earthly idea how to ACTUALLY deal with them and process them and heal them and release them. They’re that big.

Sound familiar to any of us as human beings?

You’ve never done that, right?

Nah. Me neither.

And the stepmoms are simply moving forward from a place of love and caring and hope. Many of them have the best interests of the kids at heart and are walking into a field littered with landmines like naive children themselves. If they experience the culmination of having children with their partner and then go through a divorce themselves, they’ll know what the moms are going through.

Two people.

Two paths.

And maybe, just maybe, two new possibilities that come with understanding the other.

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Comments

  1. Your creative, compassionate spirit and voice ring through loud and clear, Jennifer!
    AM

  2. Great post, Jennifer! I hope it encourages more of us to react and respond as “a” woman rather than “the other” woman.

  3. Nice Jennifer! Been there, done that! Twice. Thank you for reminding us that it’s all ok….

  4. Thanks, Ladies! Strange how each “side” has totally been where the other is, and yet can seem so far apart…. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Wow, what great insight Jennifer. It makes me look at this process in a totally different way. You offer great perspective from both sides. I know there are many, moms and step-moms out there, that would really benefit from reading this.

  6. That was a powerful, compassionate breakthrough of viewpoint.

  7. Jennifer,

    This article is beautiful, heartbreaking, powerfully written, and dead right. And it needs a wider audience. Moms and Stepmoms everywhere need to read this.

    Love,
    Peggy

  8. Thank you thank you thank you thank you. This article (and I’m sure others on your blog) are likely going to prove very useful for me and my partner (and his son.)

    I’m so, so grateful that this resource exists. I wish I could hug you.

  9. Jennifer – this was a brilliantly insightful post. Reading it was like putting on two pairs of glasses. The first pair brings into focus the world as seen by the mom. The second pair brings into focus the world as seen by the stepmom. Both views of the world make sense. You present both sides with simplicity and respect. This is so important, especially since the pain and conflict associated with divorce, and the joy of falling in love make us short-sighted. Thank you for your dedication to this topic.

  10. Thank you so much, Peggy! That’s high praise coming from you and the work you do. I appreciate your comments.

    And Jamie, consider us having virtually hugged. Huggen? Huggetted? :-) I’m so glad this material might make a difference in your life as a stepmom. Anything in particular you’d like to read more about?

    Jonathan, wow! I loved your analogy and thank you for your compliments. It’s something worth emphasizing over and over again – both sides really ARE just human beings, with strengths, fears, issues and worthy, heartfelt goals. It’s just that each side seems like an alien to the other! Thanks for taking the time to both read and write…. :-)

  11. I love this article. This is probably the first time that I have been able to really “GET IT.” I realized that I was trying to be “friends” too fast and that she just wasn’t ready, but I don’t think I understood why until now.

  12. Oh how I wish there were articles like this 20 something years ago (and that my daughter’s stepmother would find on her own!)

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