Archive | October, 2010

Confessions of a BioMom Gone Bad: Keep that woman away from my kids!

2 Oct

This article first appeared in the July 2010 issue of StepMom Magazine.

When your ex-husband started dating, did you find yourself analyzing the new woman:  her hair, her clothes, her makeup and the fact that she could potentially be your childrens’ stepmom? I did. And it was ugly.  In fact it was probably the ugliest time of my life, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway.

My ex-husband and I had an nasty divorce. We had promised each other that we wouldn’t date until our divorce was final, but a few weeks later I discovered that he had started living with another woman. Now you’d think I would have been thrilled since I had been unhappy in our marriage for years, but oddly enough, once I found out there was a new woman in his life, my claws came out. 

What? Her? Are you kidding me? 

I analyzed the other woman backwards, forwards and sideways. She was completely different than me in every way possible:  tall, blonde, big boobs, an impossibly flat stomach and grown children. She was being wined and dined by my soon-to-be ex-husband in ways that I was not. I heard rumors about her that made me certain there was no way I was going to allow this woman to get near my children, let alone become their stepmother. “Keep that woman away from my kids,” I told my him. Then, I did what any insane almost-divorced woman would do; I broke them up. I was a biomom gone bad.

I won’t give you the gory details of what transpired, but let’s just say there were phone calls, name-calling and lies on both sides. Once they were successfully split, my husband and I decided to take another shot at making our marriage work. In those two months, we both remembered why we filed for divorce in the first place and broke it off, again. And then I realized what the issue was: I didn’t want him, but I didn’t want anyone else to have him either and I didn’t want “that woman” near my kids. Why? Was it my competitiveness? My need to control? The rumors I had heard about her? Looking back, I’d probably have to say “all of the above” and now, I’m kicking myself. Four years have gone by and my ex-husband is still single and here I am happily coupled with a combined total of 5 kids: two mine, two his, one ours. I am blissfully happy, and no matter how acrimonious our divorce was, I’d like to see the father of my two oldest kids happy. What if I was the person who screwed that all up for him? What if “that woman” was the best person for him and I blew it for both of them because of my own need to control who could potentially be my children’s stepmother? Who am I to decide that?

I can remember looking at her and thinking “Don’t even think about getting near my kids”. But why? Based on rumors that I had heard? The way she looked? The way she could keep my ex-husband’s attention in ways I could not? I feel bad now because I never even gave her a fair shot. She might have made my ex happy. She might have been great with my kids. Shame on me.

I promised myself never to act that way again, yet I can’t help to think how many biomoms do that to stepmoms. How many of us look at her with complete jealousy and envy? How many of us would love it if she’d just fall off the face of the earth? How many of us think that she’s  trying to take our place as mom? How many of us have tried to find any little piece of dirt on her so that we could prove that she’s “unfit” to play parent to our kids or better yet put a restraining order on her? How many of us are secretly scared that our kids might like weekends with Dad and the “Stepmonster” better than being at home?     

STOP. 

As a biomom, I understand the scrutiny and now that I’m a stepmom, I understand being scrutinized. I’m firmly straddling the fence of “Biomom World” and “Stepmom World” and here are my current truths. Are they yours too?

As a biomom: I’m not sure that I will ever like you so keep your distance and let’s just have a business relationship until we get a few things straight. First of all, I don’t want my kids to like you more than they like me. I don’t want you to try to take my place. And I really don’t like that you’re going to play “family” with my kids. If you want to love them and treat them as you would your own, then please do so, but don’t over do it. And remember, at the end of the day, they have a mom, and it’s ME.

As  a stepmom: I like your kids, I might even love them. I want to do what’s best for them because I love their dad and because they’re children. I will always speak kindly about you and support you in front of your kids, even if I don’t agree with you, and that might be a lot. I’d like to have a relationship with you, but I understand that this might be awkward for you, but I’ll try to be patient. Let me be perfectly clear about something though. I don’t want to be a mother to your kids, they have a mom, and it’s you. I would just like to support my husband and you in raising them. Think of me as your “backup” and this just might work.

It’s complicated no matter what side of the fence you’re on, but I would venture to say that mothers that are both biological and stepmothers (what I call “biosteps”) have it the worst. We have the stepmom under the microscope while we are simultaneously under the biomom’s microscope. It’s like a never-ending sociological experiment  with husbands and children watching from the sidelines wondering why everyone can’t just get along. 

Recently, I picked up a copy of “No One’s the Bitch” by Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine, a biomom and stepmom team that worked together to devise a ten-step plan for getting along with “the other woman”. I’ve had it for 6 months and I’m only halfway through it, not because I read slowly, but because the book makes you look at your own stuff and sometimes I don’t want to do that. My original intent was to read it from a stepmom’s perspective and then realized that being a biomom, I needed to read it from that angle too. I need to behave well as both a biomom and stepmom. I know when my ex-husband does find someone, I’ll have to remember what it’s like to be closely evaluated and monitored as a stepmom not just by biomom, but by everyone, and try hard not to inflict the same kind of in-depth analysis on the brave woman willing to take on my two high energy children every other weekend. I’ll have to keep my primal self from screaming “Keep that woman away from my kids!” and instead, learn to give her a chance.

This could be difficult, but I think I’m up for it. How about you?

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

1 Oct

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but did you know that  it’s also Domestic Violence Awareness Month?  This post on Co-Parenting 101 reminds us that domestic violence isn’t just about physical abuse.  Verbal and emotional abuse are considered domestic violence, too.  The tragedy lies in the fact that most women in this type of domestic violence situation don’t realize that they’re in it.  If they do realize they’re being abused, they understand that they can’t call 911 to report that their husband/partner just had another name-calling rant.  Women usually wait until violence erupts and even then, very few do report.  Instead, our sisters sit in silence. 

I’d also like to remind you that domestic violence isn’t just against women.  I personally know two men who have just come to realize that their ex-spouses were abusers.  When it comes to men as victims of domestic violence, the silence is deafening.  If this describes you or someone you know, I urge you to check out Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women.  They specialize in helping men abused by their female intimate partners.

The post is the first in a series about co-parenting and domestic violence.  A complicated undertaking of epic proportions, for sure.

For more information on National Domestic Violence Awareness Month check out the link on the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence‘s website.  And for help and support, call The Hotline:  The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

And now for the post from Co-Parenting 101:

Below is the first in a series of guest posts on co-parenting and domestic violence:

“It can’t be domestic violence. I’m not getting hit”

I was married to man for 13-years that I describe as a “clever abuser”.  He was “clever” in the fact that his abuse was almost exclusively emotional and verbal.  He knew a bruise could land him in jail and make him lose his job in law enforcement.

I’ve known him since I was eight and he was eleven.  I knew that his father verbally and physically abused his mother and his stepmother, but it never occurred to me that our marriage would suffer the same fate.  Looking back, his abuse was slow and deliberate.  Within a few years of being married, I was totally and completely under his control.  I had very few friends and couldn’t go anywhere without him following me or calling me incessantly and demanding to speak to my friends who were there with me.  I was constantly accused of dressing too provocatively, flirting incessantly, and of being a cheat.  The names he called me would have made Mel Gibson blush.

Click here to read the rest of the post, it’s worth it.