Painful stereotype, meet reality!

Over the weekend, we learned a valuable lesson.

Jenna shared a link to an article on our Facebook page that she thought might be potentially inflammatory, but also stimulate an interesting discussion — given the fact that some stepmoms do indeed wrestle with this kind of behavior with the mom in their lives.

All hell broke loose!

I watched in horror as both moms and stepmoms sought to defend themselves against common stereotypes associated with each side.

Yes! Moms can definitely be like this!

No! It’s unfair that these assumptions are made, when there’s a perfectly good reason for some of this behavior.

The heat of the comments really made me think….

Why are these stereotypes so dangerous?

And so painful?

Think about it: stereotypes exist for a seemingly good reason.

They’re a way to size up a population that’s different, a population you may even fear.

They’re a way to separate yourself, to reinforce your chosen identity and say, “That’s not me. That’s not how I would have handled that situation/challenge/problem, etc.…”

We reject the negative qualities we see in others. We push back against unwanted behavior we don’t condone and can barely understand.

Think about all those lazy, neglectful mothers out there.

Or the self-absorbed, cold-hearted stepmoms.

And there’s plenty more where that came from!

Crazy, irrational, control freak moms who must still be carrying a torch for their exes, blind to the ways they’re dragging the kids through the mud and ruining them for life.

Competitive, passive-aggressive stepmoms with a martyr complex, bent on squeezing the kids out of the picture so they can have Dad all to themselves, or themselves and their kids.

Obviously, we’re so much better than those other people….

But when we buy into the stereotypes, we lose two important things.

The truth of what’s really actually going on!

And the chance to learn from someone who’s not like you.

That was the danger in that article.

It fueled more of a separation between all of us. Between the side that was so clearly “right” and the side that was being victimized in a lop-sided characterization.

And all of a sudden, all the GOOD in the other side seemed to be canceled out, in one fell swoop.

One of the best parts about our community is we each offer a glimpse inside “the enemy’s camp,” in an effort to help the other side UNDERSTAND…

What might be fueling that other person’s difficult behavior?

Is it the pain of seeing someone they love in pain? Grieving a loss that’s knocked them off their feet? Jealousy? Protecting someone dear? Feeling hurt and betrayed? Lost and powerless?

Show me one person in your life who doesn’t occasionally act like an idiot or a total pain in the ass when they’re struggling!

When you’re having a hard time, your attention turns INWARD. You focus on the problem, the issue, your discomfort.

This inward focus puts you out of sync with your external environment.

You miss cues from other people. You respond from habit or old, unresolved issues in your past. You may become rigid in your behavior. You probably overreact to simple things.

Fine!, you say.

So you can understand the other woman overreacting every once and a while. But years? Maddening crap for years??!

Yes. It happens.

Do you see how hard it is for all of us to navigate these relationships? To continually adjust?

We are ALL bumbling along in these dual-family relationships. We’re the guinea pigs. We’re writing the two-family playbook right now, as we make our mistakes….

We’re all trying to find our place.

To be seen and respected.

To belong.

To be safe.

To be loved.

No one’s got a leg up.

Really.

So try this next time you’re frustrated with the other woman….

Ask yourself, what might make ME act like this? What would have to be going on with ME to push me to this type of behavior?

Haven’t you ever gone off the cliff in your life? Acted in a way that filled you with regret and dismay later? Ever watched yourself act like an out of control child from afar, absolutely horrified?

There’s a real, live human being behind each stereotype…

What are some stereotypes you now know not to be true about stepmoms or divorced moms?

And how did you arrive at this insight?

We want to hear from YOU!

© 2011 Jennifer Newcomb Marine All Rights Reserved

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Comments

  1. Lucky (Renee) says:

    While there were a lot of disagreements and a couple of misunderstandings, I think everyone handled the discussion quite well. We won’t always agree, because we’re all coming to this with different perspectives. But I think most of us walked away with a larger perspective. I was at no point horrified. I thought it went really well. No one resorted to low blows or name calling. No one was disrespectful.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Thanks, Renee! I agree, everyone handled it very well. There were just a few harrowing moments where I think we were taking the turns too fast, but it all ended up okay in the end… Thanks for participating! :-)

  3. See, THAT’s what I felt was so important about your book, your website’s private forum and even your Facebook page… it gives each side a crucial glimpse into “the enemy’s camp”. It gives you the opportunity to see things from the other person’s perspective and I’ve gained SO much insight into WHY the other woman might be feeling the way she’s feeling and reacting the way she’s reacting through reading the book and these forums and comments on your blog. I feel almost like I get to see the whole picture, instead of just my one-sided view as only a stepmom who can’t relate to what the mother might be feeling. I don’t think the Facebook situation got out of control either. There are some woman who don’t think the way I do and their circumstances and how they run their household is not at all in sync with how my husband and I run our blended household, but that’s ok. I don’t condemn any one of them for their opinions, cause we’re all entitled to one! Each one of us is coming from different perspectives, upbringings and circumstances that tend to influence how we think about this whole blended family subject, and that’s ok. As a stepmom, I tend to bristle a little bit when stepmoms are maligned or shoved into some “category” and I know that mother’s do the same. But we all have to keep in mind that there are actually people to DO fit into those categories… I hope it’s a small number, but there ARE crazies out there. I would venture a guess though that the women (and men) who follow your blogs and forum and have read the book don’t fit into any of these stereotypes, simply because if you’re on this site, you’re trying. Maybe not perfect yet, but trying!

  4. Beautifully said, CKsmom — thanks! That is the beauty of this growing community – letting other folks peek into life on the other side – and genuinely trying to help each other learn.

    And you’re probably right about the people who actually do fit into those categories on the extreme spectrum. I kind of doubt they’re reading here too, but you never know!

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