Who’s the Bitch: BM or SM?

6 May

I joined an internet stepmom group not too long ago and am appalled at the amount of BioMoms (BM) behaving badly. In fact, it seems that the stories about the BMs are almost all identical. I’ve taken a mental note and have promised myself not to act that way when and if my ex-husband ever gets married.

What I don’t understand is why BMs throw their children “under the bus” in order to get back at their ex once he has moved on? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to hurt the little angels that you’ve brought into the world to get back at a man that clearly doesn’t want you anymore (or conversely, one that you kicked to the curb). If he already had reason enough to divorce you (or to agree to one if you’re the one that filed), why give him more ammunition to mutter, “what a b*tch” under his breath?
What I can tell from these online groups is that both BMs and SMs feel threatened by each other. One thing that jumps out at me from reading posts is that SMs are “damned if they do and damn if they don’t”. If they are enthusiastic and caring, they are accused of trying to take over BMs role. If they are neutral and step back (pun not intended) they are considered cold and uncaring. It’s a “no win” situation. The majority of SMs do not want to usurp BMs position, especially SMs that are BMs as well. They just want to be the best that they can be for the little people that come into their lives through marriage or cohabitation. If BMs and SMs could put their egos aside permanently and have a conversation how to best work with each other, life would go a lot smoother for all the children involved.
Early in our relationship my ex-husband (BD) was very threatened by DH and wouldn’t even look at him, let alone talk to him. But DH, peace maker that he is, went right up to him one day during a drop off and told him, “I’m not trying to replace you as ‘Dad’. I’m just here to support the two of you in raising these kids.” Things have been great since. In fact, I would go so far as to say that DH’s willingness to break the ice is the reason why BD and I have a decent relationship now. When that threat was taken away and the guys put their egos aside, the child-raising machine started functioning as it should: smoothly. My kids are thriving and love it that we spend holidays and birthdays together. For some reason, that is really, really hard for women to do and that’s a tragedy for the kids.
It never occurred to me that we wouldn’t all get along at some point. I can remember a family function where the following were present all in the same room laughing and talking: my mother; my stepfather (who was my mom’s 1st husband) and his 3rd wife; my stepfather’s 1st wife and her 3rd husband; my stepbrother and his wife; BD; DH and me, and the 2 kids that I have with BD plus the baby I have with DH. (Note: my biological father would have been there, but he has since passed on. He did attend several family functions with some of the same players before he died in 2002.) As far as I can remember after all the divorces and remarriages of my own parents, this is the way it’s always been. I love that for my kids and for my niece and nephew. Like I’ve said before, it takes a village to raise kids and we have a mighty big village.
So, what’s my point? BMs and SMs should unite. I’m not saying we should be BFFs, but what I am saying is that we need to grow up and get along for the kids. They are what is important here, not our egos. There’s a book called “No One’s the Bitch”. The authors Jennifer Newcomb Marine (BM) and Carol Marine (SM) worked together (gasp!) to create a 10-step plan to help BMs and SMs to establish a relationship. The type of relationship you establish will be up to the two of you, but some kind of relationship that works and therefore ultimately benefits kids is more than important, it’s critical. They also have a blog and appear on radio shows like The Stepmom’s Tool Box . I’ve only been in the trenches for four years but from what I can tell Jennifer and Carol are the only BM/SM team to take on the issue of establishing a relationship. If you know of any other BM/SM collaboration, please let me know. I have my copy and I’m halfway through it, but here’s what I know from watching and listening to so many stepfamilies: the bottom line is no one IS the bitch, truly. BMs that always seem angry and unreasonable are mostly just scared and threatened that the kids just may like SM better (and they may still be really, really pissed at DH!), and that’s a scary place to be. SMs who seem like they’re trying to hijack their SC’s affection and replace BM are really just trying to do the best they can by DH’s children and are truly in a no-win situation. The issues can go a lot deeper but no matter what you can bet that both women are misunderstood by the other. It’s a shame that as adults, so many BMs and SMs can’t get it together for the kids. I’m not laying blame one way or the other. You can only be responsible for your actions, but think about it: what have YOU done to try to make this relationship work?

In most cases, the BM/SM relationship isn’t going to be easy, but it’s certainly one worth pursuing. Wouldn’t be amazing if we could just sit here and be so overjoyed with the fact that our kids have so many people who love them? Isn’t it worth it for the kids? Wouldn’t we function so much better as mothers and as human beings? What do you think?

22 Responses to “Who’s the Bitch: BM or SM?”

  1. Ashley May 7, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    Awesome! This has been exactly what I have been talking about with my DH…
    How much better our lives would be if we all could get along!

    I am taking the first step by sending the BM a Mother’s Day card from me and also went and took the kids to go get her one from them.

    No matter what, this IS ONE whole family, her and her child, her parents and family, our 3 kids together, the 4 kids of her’s and DH’s, me, my family, DH’s family… it’s time we start acting like it!

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • BioStep May 7, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

      Ashley, so funny that you mentioned sending a card this weekend. I just told DH last night that I was going to send a card telling her that she’s a great mom. Don’t know how it will be received, but at least it’s a start.

  2. Paula Bisacre May 7, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    I’m wondering if there are any professional mediators that specialize in bio mom/stepmom relationships…

    Paula Bisacre
    Publisher, http://www.remarriagemag.com
    FB: Remarriage Works
    Twitter: reMarriageMag

    • BioStep May 7, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

      Paula, that’s a really good question. My only thought is: how do we get SMs and BMs to attend mediation? Ex-spouses usually head to mediation because of custody issues, so if there’s no legal tie between BM and SM, what the incentive to go? Hmmm, I have to think about this one….

      • Paula Bisacre May 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

        Would love to hear from professional mediators more about this…What percentage of your clients seek your services because they are forced to? What come for the good of the children?

  3. StepMom Magazine May 7, 2010 at 4:46 pm #

    Very well said. Perhaps you should submit an article to the magazine! Hint hint!

  4. Kristen May 7, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

    I love this article and I love the fact that your DH and BD get along so well! I have tried numerous times to get to this point with my BM, using almost the exact same words your DH used but to no avail. I have tried being there for SD, I have tried disengaging, we have tried counseling for all 4 of us but it seems like no matter what I do BM won’t accept me. DH has tried talking to her (they were never married and split up when SD was almost 2) I was the first real relationship that DH had since splitting with BM because he wanted to make sure that when he brought another woman into SD life it would be permanent. BM has had multiple bfs and DH hasn’t had a problem with any of them. All he asks is that they treat his daughter with respect and be good to her. Other than that he understands that they are taking on a stepfather role in her life. I just don’t know what else to do to end this 5 year battle between BM and me.

    • BioStep May 7, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

      Kristen, when DH and I talk about difficult relationships, he always says, “Have no expectations”. He says to give and love and do the right thing and don’t expect a thing back. Don’t expect a kind word, a smile, NOTHING. Zero. Zip. Nada. He’s been saying that for four years and I didn’t really get it until this year and it applies to all my relationships, not just my difficult ones. So what I would say to you is to keep treating BM as you would want to be treated. You may have a relationship one day, then again, you may not. In the end, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you treated a person with kindness. Just be the best person YOU can be. I know, easier said than done!

  5. Rachel Baksa May 7, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

    So here’s a question…what if the BM really isn’t a good mom and you feel (and are told by others) that you are the better mom to the kids? I know that she is their mom and I can’t be that to them, but I feel I can be the best step-mom I can be. I am VERY involved in the SK’s lives, even more so than BM. I am in constant communication with their schools, Dr’s, friend’s parents, coach’s and sports, etc. BM does not attempt to do any of that, but if offended that I do it. It is for the benefit of the kids, and in my household dad is the “breadwinner” and mom cares for the kids. So, not only do I do this for our children together, but for my SK’s as well. DH fully supports my involvement, and encourages it because if I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done. With that all said, how can I even TRY to develop a good relationship with BM when I’m offending her at every turn? She has even herself admitted that she “just doesn’t have the time to parent like I do”…I just don’t ever see us getting along. We have more of a ‘deal with eachother only when necessary’ relationship. It seems to work for now. It’s been months since we’ve argued. (which is a HUGE step for us…)

    • BioStep May 7, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

      If you have a “business relationship” with BM that works for the both of you, congratulations! That’s so much more than so many families have! This relationship is like learning the tango for the first time: neither of you know the steps and you end up tripping all over each other. You don’t have to be BFFs and go to lunch every week. Just do what works for the two of you and ultimately for the kids. Here’s what I’d ask myself: We have a relationship that works, do I need to pursue anything more at this time? BMs and SMs come to the party with all kinds of baggage and sometimes a “good” relationship isn’t possible. Sometimes it just has to be something that’s “workable”. And that’s okay!

      I think being involved in your SKs lives is great. Obviously DH and your SKs appreciate it as well. However, since you are a biostep like me, put yourself in her shoes for a moment. Perhaps feels threatened that you’re move involved in her kids’ life than you are (at least that’s how I’d feel). How do you fix that? I don’t know. But I’d love to brainstorm it with you! Is there a way you could make her feel more involved? Could you send her an email updating her on what’s going on with the kids and their schedules? What would make her feel less threatened? What I do know is that you have to keep doing the best you can for all of your kids. You have to keep treating BM as you would want to be treated but still have healthy boundaries. And you can’t have any expectations–at all (see my response to Kristen).

  6. Mister-M June 9, 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    Ha! I would argue that in the majority of cases it has nothing to do with “egos” or “threats” to one another’s motherhood/step-motherhood.

    When people begin to see the light regarding just how often personality disorders drive litigation, combativeness, and unnecessary litigation… the “new woman on the block” simply becomes another convenient target for the vindictive, malicious ex-wife’s RAGE.

    I see way too many people who are going through the same exact crap time after time after time… and by “exact” – in eerily similar situations, I mean just that.

    From the horrifyingly aggressive voice mails…

    Hostile, vulgar emails…

    Excessive litigation…

    False allegations to Child Protective Services…

    It’s ridiculous. When you’re dealing with a high-conflict ex who are that way simply because they’re wired that way… Mother Theresa could have been a stopmother and she would have been met with the same rage and hostility as so many with whom I interact.


  7. A "Biomom" June 11, 2010 at 9:36 pm #

    “I joined an internet stepmom group not too long ago and am appalled at the amount of BioMoms (BM) behaving badly. In fact, it seems that the stories about the BMs are almost all identical.”

    This line intrigued me enough to respond even though I am sure I will get decimated. As you mentioned in another blog there is three sides to every story and as such these stories are all written by stepmothers so of course the other is not portrayed positively. I have read things that our daughter’s stepmother has written about me on certain sites and by her description I am an absolute monster!

    I am crucified because I didn’t encourage our daughter to go visit them for the last Christmas holiday but there was no mention of the fact that her father had not called or spoken to her since JULY…over 5 months and as of today has only spoken to her twice since then.

    I was called greedy because the child support was raised but no mention of the fact that they haven’t paid their share of medical expenses for over 2 years which is why the support was raised.

    I was called sneaky because I switched our daughter’s school after her stepmother called the school wanting information about me from her forms but no mention of the fact that we moved to an entirely different city in that same month.

    I could go on at the left out parts of the stories written but it’s not where I’m going. My point is each time a “rant” was posted about me, our daughter’s stepmother got the “poor me” and “I know what you’re going through” rally cry. So it’s hard to give credence and feel sympathetic when I read about these “crazy Biomoms” because I know there are many pieces left out of stories about our situation in order to elicit the desired sympathy.

    That being said, I also know that the amount of support sought by stepmoms means that there is an big issue out there. I have searched for mom support groups and found few if any so that alone gives validity to the most difficult road you travel. I do not envy you. Personally, I wish there was a place for us to exchange perspectives safely. Not a “OMG, guess what she did?” place but a “How would you react to this as a stepmom?” place.I would have liked to know how some of my actions were (or would have been) perceived before I did them. Maybe I would have changed my course, maybe not but I would have thought twice.

    • BioStep June 11, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

      I am glad that you decided to comment!! I am both a BioMom and a StepMom and trust me, I know both sides of this coin. I have an article coming out in StepMom Magazine in which I wrote about how poorly I behaved as a BioMom (and I’ll be the first to admit it, I was pathetic). When I talk about BioMoms behaving badly, I’m talking about the things that they/we/I do (or have done) that were completely out of control like yelling, screaming and name-calling in front of the children, dressing them in filthy clothes and sending over a garbage bag full of dirty clothes for the weekend, raising child support and then pulling the kids out of private school and getting a boob job. Seriously, once you join these groups, the patterns of outrageous unjustifiable behavior is apparent.

      The ugly truth is that there are BioMoms that behave badly because they can. I know because I’ve done it.
      There are also BioMoms that justifiably “behave badly” because their ex-husbands don’t call their kids, don’t pay medical expenses or child support on time and/or are completely uninvolved in their children’s lives. I’ve been there too. I remember when my ex hadn’t paid child support in 6 months and had missed several scheduled visitation and his girlfriend called me a “whiny, money-grubbing bitch”. She had no idea that when my ex-husband left, he wiped out our bank accounts and left me with $75. Like I said, there are three sides to every story: mine, yours and the truth.

      There are many BioMom/StepMoms that get along and trust me, those of us that do not get along with the other woman are green with envy.

      All that being said, there are a couple of groups that I would encourage you to check out: Enlightened Mothers (on Facebook), BioMoms + StepMoms = More love for the kids (also on Facebook) and No One’s the Bitch (www.noonesthebitch.com). While there will always be an element of “OMG you’re not going to believe this…” every once in a while, the majority of the discussions are positive and solutions driven.

      Keep reading and commenting. It’s important to get perspective from BioMoms! Thanks!!

  8. A "Biomom" June 14, 2010 at 11:59 pm #

    Thanks for the group recommendations! I recently joined the Enlightened Moms group and am hoping there will be participation.
    Unfortunately, I am a member of the BioMoms+Stepmoms on Facebook but can no longer see it. It seems that once Enlightened Stepmother became the administrator that any moms that she had blocked at the request of stepmoms are now excluded from that group :(.
    I have read “No One’s the Bitch” but didn’t realize there was a group attached to it so I’m going to go look for that!

    • BioStep June 15, 2010 at 8:18 am #

      I know ES so I will ask if blocking is an option on BioMoms + StepMoms. Seems like it defeats the purpose of the group. I’ll let you know what she says via email.

  9. Matilda Smith February 8, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    If you really want to know what stepmom’s think and feel visit Steptalk.org. It is an eye opener on the SM and how they feel about their step kids… awful site

    • BioStep February 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

      Steptalk is a place to vent. I’ve single mom and biomom venting forums as well, so I wouldn’t make a generalization about stepmothers after looking at Steptalk. It’s difficult to read blog after blog after blog filled with frustration, anger, anxiety, and hopelessness, so I tend not to go to that site. I know more stepmothers that love their stepchildren than I do stepmothers that resent their stepchildren. But no matter their feelings towards their stepchildren, they still do right by them every single day.

      There are lots of positive stepparenting blogs and forums on the web. I highly recommend Cafe Smom (www.cafesmom.com). Heather Hetchler is one of the most inspirational stepmothers that I know!

      • Matilda Smith June 20, 2012 at 11:58 am #

        Yes it is very hard when you first read the blogs on the site not to be judgemental. After staying for a while, I realize they love their step kids.. I was wrong. They are just frustrated. I think it is great that they can vent ~ they (we) need to vent sometimes.

    • Yusuf June 8, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

      Wow who knew! Thanks for sharing about this very imarotpnt day. I could weep just thinking about the many times in my 15+ years of stepping that all I needed was some encouragement, validation and/or an ear to listen.I have received just that from sites like yours I even bought your cup and tee-shirt because I’m proud of my Smom status! I will definitely take the pledge and reach out to the few stepmoms that I know on September 12th as I seek to grow my connections in this sisterhood.

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