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Author Topic: On being a step-mom...  (Read 19368 times)

gemini3

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On being a step-mom...
« on: Oct 09, 2009, 08:12:04 AM »
I consider myself to be a bit of an information junkie and as a result, when confronted with a new challenge, the first thing I do is read as much as I can on the subject.  As soon as I realized that my (then) boyfriend might end up being more than a boyfriend I realized that meant I might also be a step-mom.  It wasn't a decision I entered into lightly.  Deciding to marry my husband was easy, deciding to be a step-mom was daunting, at best.

I read a lot of articles and books on step-parenting.  The health and happiness of my family is one of the most important things in my life.  Being a step-parent is difficult no matter how low-conflict the divorce was - but since my husband has a high-conflict ex, I often feel like I'm navigating white water in a leaky canoe with no life vest and a waterfall roaring in the distance.  I comfort myself by learning as much as I can.  Which is how I came across this article.

http://www.siskiyous.edu/class/engl12/stepmom.htm


Several quotes resonated with me:

"The father wants to be the kids' best friend and so the stepmother ends up being the disciplinarian" (Misrach 90).  As a result, the stepmother is left to disciplining and assigning household chores to her stepchildren. To an outsider this often appears as cruelty. However if those were her biological children, those same outsiders would be praising the mother for instilling responsibility and manners in her children


"Much of the available research on this topic seems to indicate that stepmothers should supply all the needs of the children and home, yet have no voice in the discipline of the involved children

I often feel like step-mom's get all of the blame and none of the credit.  We're expected to love and nurture our step-children just as much as we would (or do) our own, yet we're not supposed to want (or sometimes even accept) any love, respect, or time in return.  I sometimes feel like people expect step-mothers to be saints.  If the love of a parent is unconditional, certainly the love of a step-parent is as well.  Being a parent is a tough, but rewarding job.  Being a step-parent is tough too - but there's very little reward.  Any credit for how well the children are doing goes to the parents, almost as if it is in spite of the step-parents that the kids are doing so well.  No credit is given to the step-parent, regardless of how loving and nurturing they are.  If the step-kids are having problems it's often blamed on the step-parents.

You're expected to love your step-kids and form and emotional connection with them, but you're not supposed to care or feel anything if that relationship is severed - whether by divorce, or by your spouses deployment or job commitments.  If you have a relationship with your step-child you miss them just as much as the parents do when you don't see them, but if you acknowledge it you're a bad person and "over-stepping your boundaries".

Children are set up to believe that step-mom's are bad.  A couple of years ago I went to read to my step-daughters kindergarten class.  My husband and I were engaged, and the wedding was in two months.  The teacher asked my SD to introduce me to the class, and she introduced me as her step-mom.  (I think it was a much easier explanation for five year olds than "this is my dad's fiancĂ©".)  The teacher interrupted her and said, "Well, let's just say for now that she's your friend."  Then she address the class and said "This is ______, SD's friend."  What she did was immediately stripped me of any significant relationship with my SD - and send a message to my SD that the relationship was somehow inappropriate.  The following year I went to her class to read again.  SD introduced me as her step-mom again, and one of the first graders said (with typical child-like innocence and honesty) "That's your step-mom?  But she's so pretty!".  The child obviously thought all step-mothers had warts and green skin and carried poisoned apples.

I wonder how other step-mom's feel about these things, and how they have handled them.  What I want more than anything is for my step-kids to grow up healthy and happy, and be successful adults - and (selfishly, I guess) I want my marriage to withstand the whitewater and not end up sliding down the waterfall to be bashed to pieces on the rocks below.  But sometimes, especially when BM is being especially hostile and the kids are acting out, it's hard to see how that will ever happen.


snowrose

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Re: On being a step-mom...
« Reply #1 on: Oct 10, 2009, 09:28:31 AM »

I wonder how other step-mom's feel about these things, and how they have handled them.  What I want more than anything is for my step-kids to grow up healthy and happy, and be successful adults - and (selfishly, I guess) I want my marriage to withstand the whitewater and not end up sliding down the waterfall to be bashed to pieces on the rocks below.  But sometimes, especially when BM is being especially hostile and the kids are acting out, it's hard to see how that will ever happen.


 
I can only speak for myself, but I feel the same way you do.  DH also has a hostile ex, and we have custody due to her instability and her allowing SD to be abused by her boyfriend.  It can be a very rough ride, especially when SD is acting out because BM infantiliizes her during their access visits - and because BM also ignores her during their visits and is uninvolved in the rest of SD's life.
 
DH is the man of my dreams, but sometimes I have the same fears you do.  And it has nothing to do with how he acts himself and everything to do with having to deal with the baggage of his past relationship.

Kitty C.

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Re: On being a step-mom...
« Reply #2 on: Oct 10, 2009, 12:41:21 PM »
Oh, how eloquent, gemini..............

I've been on both ends of the spectrum, but I was lucky enough to have a great teacher.......DS's step-mom.  Since DS's dad and I were never married, DS had an automatic stepmom when he was born (another one of those 'long stories').  Given the situation, I would not have blamed her for being pissed off.  But she welcomed DS with open arms and she taught me an incredible lesson in forgiveness.  If she was ever pissed at anyone about the situation, she directed it at the source...DS's dad.  And when my ex and I split when DS was 4, it was incredibly stressful........involving an interstate custody dispute and mudslinging (mainly from him).   

Time and distance thankfully had a way of giving a sense of healing and by the time DS was 9-10, we were able to amicably co-parent.  DS spent every summer and EO Christmas with his dad and stepmom.....believe it or not, I was much more comfortable knowing that she was there for DS during those times, as she had a much more stabilizing effect on DS.  And when my ex died when DS was 12, she welcomed me into her home while I was there for DS and the memorial service.

She taught me so much about parenting and forgiveness....and only by her actions.  She taught me how to put my personal feelings aside for the sake of the child, and for that I can never repay her.  Believe it or not, when I finally had the courage to tell her how I felt about all of that, she seemed surprised.

I came into SS's life when he was 3 years old.  And although DH's divorce and custody dispute had just as much animosity involved, SS's BM wasn't anything like DS's stepmom.  She held on to her anger for a very long time and I truly was the 'evil stepmother' to her.  But in this case, time and circumstances had a way of changing things for SS, too.  It wasn't until BM went through another divorce and custody dispute that I guess I finally became 'human' to her.  Our relationship is much better than it used to be...but we're not 'friends, nor do I ever want to be.  Regardless, BM has some mental issues that invade almost every aspect of her life and that is something that will probably never change and I just choose not to get too involved in that.

I always thought it was so sweet that DS has called her 'Epmama', which was close enough to her real name, Emma....when he first learned to talk, he couldn't say stepmama and that's how it came out.  He's 20 now and still calls her that and she even signs her cards to him that way!  He is planning to get married next summer and he is adamant (as am I) that she be there.  And I want her sitting in the front row right beside me, too.   

As for discipline, I also took a lesson from DS's stepmom.  In my home, ALL children follow the rules....I don't care if it's DS, SS, or the kid down the street.  I expect the same from all of them.  When it came to issues regarding decisions that had to be made about SS, I gave DH my input or opinion, but it was only a decision that DH and BM could make.  It took some time for BM to realize that she could not dictate what went on in our home any more than I could in hers.  Once she came to that realization and how much SS needed his dad, things went a lot smoother on both sides.

BM had to get over the feeling of hating her ex more than loving her child.........I think she has pretty much accomplished that now, mainly because DH and her have not had a full blown argument over SS in a very long time.  She still gets anal about certain things once in a while, but we chalk that up to her 'issues'.   

I truly believe in my heart that if I had not had such a shining example in Emma, I would never have handled the situations with SS's BM as I have.  To me, Emma is just as important in DS's life as I am.  I know that SS doesn't remember me NOT in his life and that he loves me very much despite what his BM has done or said in the past.  I also know that when he graduates, tho we may not be able to have a 'joint' graduation party for him (I don't think DH has a high enough tolerance for that, LOL!), we will be sitting next to BM at the ceremony.  In fact, I have a feeling that if we actually sit next to each other, DH will make me sit in between them! 

When we got married, SS asked a lot of questions, especially since BM got remarried exactly 2 weeks after we did.  Our explanation to him was that he wasn't losing his parents, but that he had two more people in his life that loved him very much.  That was very reassuring to him.  I've always believed in the saying that you have to love your children more than you hate your ex.........that one aspect alone would go a long way in mending any animosity between step-families.   
Handle every stressful situation like a dog........if you can't play with it or eat it, pee on it and walk away.......

asof2005

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Re: On being a step-mom...
« Reply #3 on: Oct 10, 2009, 01:36:01 PM »
I understand a lot of the standards that come with the title Step-mom, and I have struggled with the loving my step-sons and feeling guilty that I am not their mother.  I have been in their lives for over 4 years now and I refused to volunteer at school until I was officially their step-mom (about 6 months ago).  It is not that I did not want to, I just didn't want to over step bounds or have to explain the situation.  I am more comfortable now if I have to go to their schools with out DH

Disciplining has never been tough at our house.  First off, the boys are very well behaved.  Second, my DH doesn't feel that he needs to be the good guy, he handles most of the disciplining.  I only discipline if he is not around or busy.  And that mostly consists of either separating the boys or taking something from them they are arguing about.  DH has stressed from the beginning that the boys respect me, not just because I am with him, but because I am an adult, and now their step-mom.  Our relationship has been close for years and they naturally look to me for guidance, advice and nurturing.  They love BM but they dont seem to feel guilty for looking up to me (or at least they do not show guilt)

I think it has come easy for me because even before I was around, DH was the dad and the mom, now I have just taken some of the mom role from him so he can be just dad again.  BM is irresponsible, always moving, always trying to start problems, and above all unfortunately, not putting the kids first.  And they are getting old enough to see that on their own.  I have never talked bad to their mother or about their mother in front of them, and I think that has been super important.

Above all, I understand I will never be their mom.  This makes me sad, especially since I do not have any biological children.  But I know for certain that these kids will grow up and be thankful for a mother "figure" who took time, effort, sweat and tears to  help raise them.  I am so proud to be part of their lives, and I am proud to say that I have a hand in helping them become good men.  I used to feel bad about it, but know I know that I get credit too and that is nice.

snowrose

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Re: On being a step-mom...
« Reply #4 on: Oct 10, 2009, 09:06:55 PM »

I think it has come easy for me because even before I was around, DH was the dad and the mom, now I have just taken some of the mom role from him so he can be just dad again.  BM is irresponsible, always moving, always trying to start problems, and above all unfortunately, not putting the kids first.  And they are getting old enough to see that on their own.  I have never talked bad to their mother or about their mother in front of them, and I think that has been super important.

Above all, I understand I will never be their mom.  This makes me sad, especially since I do not have any biological children.  But I know for certain that these kids will grow up and be thankful for a mother "figure" who took time, effort, sweat and tears to  help raise them.  I am so proud to be part of their lives, and I am proud to say that I have a hand in helping them become good men.  I used to feel bad about it, but know I know that I get credit too and that is nice.

 
I could have pretty much written this, except there are 3 kids - 2 SS's of 25 and 23 who even now I am helping become good men and good family members, and then SD9 that we have custody of and I'm being a role model and mother figure for her.


redbabyblue70

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Re: On being a step-mom...
« Reply #5 on: Nov 03, 2009, 08:50:28 PM »


When we got married, SS asked a lot of questions, especially since BM got remarried exactly 2 weeks after we did.  Our explanation to him was that he wasn't losing his parents, but that he had two more people in his life that loved him very much.  That was very reassuring to him.  I've always believed in the saying that you have to love your children more than you hate your ex.........that one aspect alone would go a long way in mending any animosity between step-families.   


This is EXACTLY how I feel and how we have treated our situation.  I became a step mom on October 24th, 2009, and it is an honor I take very seriously.  His three children may not be children of my body, but they are children of my heart.  I am not here to take their mother's place, I am here as an additional adult that loves them and wants only the best for them. 
My husband asked his children permission to marry me and would not do it until all three agreed to it.  Again, we selected our wedding date, we brought the children into our special day by having them be important wedding party members (bridesmaid, flower girl, and ring bearer/usher.)

Trust me, it was a hard decision to start dating someone that had three children with someone else.  You are not just becoming involved with him, you are becoming involved with the children AND their mother.  I have had my moments, where I was worried it wasn't going to work out, that I couldn't handle it.  I have no regrets and all has worked out in the end.

My own father remarried, and he did not handle his situation this way.  He basicly said, here is the new woman in my life, accept her, or else.  My stepmother is only 11 years older then me.  She was more of another sister/friend then she was mother.  When she became pregnant and had a child of her own, she made me become the outsider of their family unit, and that broke my heart.  This is why I had issues in the beginning with being with someone that had children. 

We have decided that if God wills it, we may have a child of our own.  I have sworn to myself, that I will not treat my own child any different then I will treat my stepchildren.  I won't do to them what my stepmother did to me.

blh1013

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Re: On being a step-mom...
« Reply #6 on: Nov 23, 2009, 01:17:00 PM »
O Gemini-
Many will say it, (they feel the same as you) but only another stepmom knows what it feels like. I'm tired of crying- I love my hubsand, but knowing now what I know then, I might have put off th ewedding. Between his ex-witch-- she's jealous that he moved on, so she's brainwahsed the child, now 12.....when thinking back on my wedding, I don't remeber the happy times, but two specific icidents- the day of the rehearsal my mom asked my to be stepson if he was excited about the wedding, being best man,, etc and his answer was No, cuz my mom said if i wasn't marrying his dad, he(dad) and me and my mom and brother could all live together and be a family. It felt like I had been stabbed- of course, I and my mom did not tell my husband about this. During the reception, our first dance had to be delayed three times becasue he was crying so upset that we did get marreid.
 
Now, three  years later, the child is in fifth grade, refuses to acknowledge I'm in the room, and my husband and I have attempted to file neglect charges against her for the past two weeks (he's been absent 10 times in the seven weeks since school started cuz he wakes up late and doesn't feel like going, and told us mom doesn't kepp food in the house, he's been late/absent b/c he doesn't have clothes, been suspended twice, and CPS answers nothing I've described is neglect (I actually posted my letter and the reply in Father's issues as what when CPS doesn't care)......
 
Remeber, you are far from being alone...
Brandee

 

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