Tag Archives: stepmother

“I wanted to apologize…”

17 Sep

An apology can sometimes calm the rough waters of steplife. Photo credit: Easton Lemos, copyright 2012

I haven’t written much in the last 18 months.  I’ve been hyper-focused on raising my kids and working, and honestly nothing has come up that has made me want to write.  During my “time off”, I leaned on the stepmoms in my support group.  We’ve created a safe place to rant and rave, and once in a while, something comes through from the “other camp” that makes us believe that there really is a light at the end of the stepmother tunnel. 

Recently one of the stepmoms shared that the biomom in her life had a very ugly break-up with her live-in boyfriend of a few years.  Imagine the SM’s surprise when she found this email from biomom’s ex-boyfriend in her inbox: 

I wanted to apologize to you for the sometimes unkind looks and for participating in the madness. Now that I have stepped back , I can see that I was wrong and even you had a better understanding of what was going on. I completely get the unhealthiness between all of them. I could not be better now that I am away from it all. There has been a lot of spin and co-dependency that might have filtered the truth to you. I wish you the best of luck and I am sorry for not being so kind from time to time. Though I own it, I was working off the information from the other side.*

Wow.  That’s huge.

The stepmom shared with me that her contact with the boyfriend was limited to the kids’ events, concerts, plays, etc.  She doesn’t remember ever saying a word to him, but she does remember him participating in the stare downs.

I asked the stepmom to share her thoughts about the letter.  Here’s what she had to say:

I was very thankful for the apology.  It took a lot of guts to admit that he was wrong and that he was intentionally hurtful, when he could have easily just walked away. I never had a direct issue with him because I knew he was her puppet. Still, it’s nice to know that there are people who are willing to take responsibility for their behavior and actions and not blame it on someone else.  A simple apology shines some light into the dark tunnels that many stepmothers feel trapped in.  Will I ever get any apology like this from biomom?  No. Nor do I expect one. But it’s nice to get an apology from someone that used to be under her influence. 

An apology does wonders for the soul.  Have you ever given or received a sincere apology from the stepmom or biomom (or in this case someone who was involved with her)?  How did your relationship change afterwards? 

*Printed with the author’s permission.

BM | SM | WFC?

3 Nov

Pick your battles

There’s a discussion group on Facebook that typically has lots of fireworks between BMs and SMs (the group is open to both).  I watch the heated discussions, but rarely post.  In a recent thread, an SM said she was thankful for the group and was hoping for better relations with BM.  The BM replied with the same argument that we’ve all heard:  don’t call me BM, it’s the same abbreviation as “Bowel Movement” and the term “Biological Mother” is more appropriate for women that have given up their children.

Here’s an SM publicly holding out an olive branch and the BM takes issue with an abbreviation.  And we wonder why BMs and SMs can’t get along? 

BMs that take issue with “BM” listen up, “BM” and “SM” are acronyms that are commonly used when writing on the internet.  Other acronyms include:

                                                                                                                                                                                          SD = Stepdaughter          BD=Biological Daughter

SS=Stepson                        BS=Biological Son

SK=Stepkids                       BK=Biological Kids

DH=Dear Husband           BF=Boyfriend

Sure we could write out “my husband’s ex-wife” or “the mother of my stepchildren” or use your first and last name, but  c’mon.  Pick your battles.  We all know who the mom and the stepmom is in the relationship.  “BM” and “SM” are internet/texting shorthand terms and in all honesty, are probably a lot better than what the other women would like to call you some of the time.  Furthermore, if you’re using terms like “lol”, “omw”, “cya”, “btw” or “jk”, you should probably think twice about criticizing the use of “BM” or “SM”. 

Let’s focus more on building working relationships with the BM or SM in our lives to make things easier for the children instead of taking offense over internet acronyms.  JS (just sayin’).

 Postscript (11-4-11): as the thread developed on the page, it turns out that the BM and SM are on friendly terms and the comment was meant in jest, but of course the tone was lost in writing.  Still, this is an argument that has come up time and time again, which is evidence by the very long thread debating acronyms.  As I’ve stated before, we know who gave birth to the child and we all know who the stepmother is.  Let’s do our best to raise the children and try to get along for their sake.

You’ve been cast as the female lead in a dramatic series called “Your Life” as the Stepmother. Now what?

10 Aug

Not a suggested role, for obvious reasons.

As stepmothers, we often have a hard time deciding how to approach our role as the new “female lead in a dramatic series”. Custodial stepmothers usually chose the role of “mom”, but for those of us that have our stepchildren every other weekend (or some other non-custodial situation), choosing an appropriate role is a bit more difficult.  Add in your own biological children and it gets even more confusing.

 Here are some stand-in roles that have been suggested to many of us.  See if any of these describe you:

The Cool Aunt:  You are probably around the same age as the biomom but you are her polar opposite. 

Discipline:  Like any Cool Aunt, you have your limits, but most of the time, you let stuff slide.

Advantage:  The kids look forward to their weekends with you to do different things than what they would do at home.  Arts and crafts, dancing to world music, hiking in the woods, you are a source of new adventures! 

Disadvantage:  The biomom will either embrace the fact that the children are learning new skills and are being exposed to new things or she will be insanely jealous and either criticize those things or try to compete by “one-upping” you.  It could get ugly.

 

The Big Sister:  You are probably much younger than the biomom and not much older than the kids.  You have boundless energy and you’re very enthusiastic.

Discipline:  You don’t have to worry about discipline at all because Dad will take care of it!

Advantage:  The kids think “Dad’s new wife” is totally cool!  You get to do all the fun stuff with the kids; what’s not to love?

Disadvantage:  At first, it’s all fun and games, but then the kids get older and realize that you’re The Stepmother in disguise.  The tide may change.  Never mind that the biomom already dislikes the fact that she got traded in for a younger model. 

 

The Sweet Granny:  You see the world through rose-colored glasses.  Your stepchildren can do no wrong!

Discipline:  Discipline?  What’s that??  You love those children so much and you just know that any bad or inappropriate behavior can be contributed to the hurt of the divorce which you know you can heal through your endless love.

Advantage:  The kids LOVE the fact they have control of the household. 

Disadvantage:  The kids have control of the household.  And most of the time, you end up as a doormat.

 

The Babysitter: You married a man with children but you have no emotional investment in them. 

Discipline:  When the kids act up, you thank God they’re not your children. Your disciplinary plan:  “Wait ‘til your father gets home!”

Advantage:  They show up.  It’s a “free-for-all” weekend.  They leave.  Everyone’s happy, especially DH.

Disadvantage:  You have to put up with way more back talk than any babysitter would ever have to and to make matters worse, you don’t get paid.

 

Obviously these are tongue-in-cheek descriptions but most of us have taken on a few of these roles to see what fits best and still we come back to The Stepmother, a role that has yet to be universally defined.  However, there does seem to be one nagging universal truth to this role:  we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.    If we try to love the kids like they’re our own, we’re accused of trying to take over the BM’s role.  If we admit to not loving them like they’re our own, we’re labeled as heartless shrews.  If we treat them like our own children, we’re criticized for trying to act like a mom to them.  If we treat them differently, we’re accused of playing favorites.  Often times, it feels like a no-win situation with every move being analyzed by a cast of characters that all have their own agenda.  I think I speak for most non-custodial stepmoms when I say that all we really want to do is support DH in the raising of his children, yet finding a comfortable place in how we deal with and interact with our stepchildren is so very difficult.

What kind of role have you taken on as a stepmother?  How long did it take you to find a role that suited you?

A Tale of Two Mommies

2 Nov

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that I think there are several different ways to make a stepfamily.  DH and I are not married, but you wouldn’t know it if we didn’t tell you.  In fact most of our friends are surprised to find out that we’re not.  Regardless of the lack of legal documentation, we consider ourselves a stepfamily.  My two oldest children enthusiastically embrace to DH as their stepdad.

Regardless of your views on homosexuality or same-sex marriage, gay and lesbian stepfamilies are also included under the umbrella of stepfamilies.  Because same-sex marriages are not recognized by most states it’s hard to get an accurate count of the number of gay and lesbian stepfamilies there are in the US, but they fall in the estimated number of families created by co-habitation.

Tina and Lisa

I recently reconnected with a friend via Facebook.  Lisa and I did cheer and theater together in high school so I was thrilled to find her. But I was even more thrilled to learn that she had found the love of her life in her partner Tina, after a very difficult marriage.

I know several lesbian couples, but Lisa and Tina are the only gay couple that I know with such a huge blended family.  When I asked Lisa if they would be willing to be interviewed, she quickly said “yes!” and I was lucky enough to pin them down for a chat before they left on a 3-week European cruise.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in a stephousehold with two moms?  Read on!

How long have you been a couple?
We have been together for 4 years. In fact, we just celebrated our anniversary in Santa Barbara in September.
How many children did you each bring into the relationship?
We each brought three children to the relationship. We call it the “modern-day Brady Bunch”.  Lisa brought two girls whose ages are 19 and 17, and one boy, 12. Tina brought three girls ages 24, 19 and 14.  Lisa’s children are from her former marriage.  Tina’s two oldest children are biologically hers and her youngest is biologically her ex-partner’s. We also have 2 dogs together!

A "modern day Brady Brunch", Lisa and Tina both bring 3 children to the relationship ages 24 to 12.

 

What do your custody arrangements look like?  Do you have to do a big “kid shift” every other weekend?
With six children between the two of us, you’d think it would get confusing, but it’s really pretty simple. Tina’s two older girls are now over 18, but she was the primary custodian for both, and her ex-partner is the primary custodian for her youngest daughter.  My ex-husband is deceased, so I have full custody of my three children.

Was it easy to blend your families?
There were a few bumps in the road in the beginning. Our girls did competitive cheer together, (in fact, that’s how we met) so they were best friends first. Becoming sisters though, was a little bit of a transition.

Tina and I are friends with Tina’s ex. She’s a great person, and we all try to work together for the kids. In our experience, it’s very common in the lesbian world for ex-partners to remain friends. In fact, I think it’s even more so than in the straight world.  A couple of weeks ago we moved my 19-year old into her dorm at college and it was the three of us putting her room together.

I’ve always personally thought that there would be great advantages to having two moms in the household since traditionally women do much of the child-rearing.  What advantages and disadvantages of being raised in lesbian household?

Really and truly it’s just about two parents (either gay or straight) showing love and respect to their children and to each other. I think for us personally, we tend to just pick up when the other one needs it. We seem to know when to step in and take over for one other without even saying. We just seem to know when one of us needs the other to be stronger. Call it women’s intuition? I don’t know, but it’s wonderful.

I don’t really see that we have any real disadvantages. We joke around a lot about who got the “lesbian gene” and who didn’t when something breaks, but the truth is we both try to fix it until one of us gets it. It all works for us. Tina loves to cook and I love to clean. Tina doesn’t mind laundry and I don’t mind gardening. Tina’s good at math homework and I’m good at school projects. Tina’s great at sports and I’m great at rhinestoning everything (and I mean, everything).

Being in a stepfamily has many of the same challenges whether you’re gay or straight. Do you think there are unique challenges to lesbian stepfamilies? How do you overcome them?

The most challenging part of any stepfamily is everyone trying to find their place. Where do they belong? Where are their boundaries? Tina and I have different boundaries with each other’s kids than we do with our own. For example there are some things that only I can say to one of my girls that she just doesn’t feel is her place to say and vice versa. Each child has a different place with both of us mainly because of their ages. Tina’s oldest was grown when we got together so I don’t really have a “parent” role with her but we have a great relationship. As far as my son is concerned we co-parent him together (he’s the youngest and the only boy). Each one of the kids in-between fall into categories according to their age. It took us a while to figure out how everyone fit together and where everyone’s place was and that was probably our biggest challenge.

If you could be the spokeswomen for lesbian stepfamilies in America, what would you want the world to know?

We would want the world to know we define “normal”. We are just like any other family. We deal with the same challenges every day that most families do. One of us works outside the home, one of us stays home with the kids. We have dinner at night together and do homework together. We go to baseball, football and volleyball games and to cheer competitions. We laugh, we cry, but most of all we love all six of our kids. We both truly love each other’s as if they were our own. I think the love and respect we show each other is the best thing that we do as parents.

Some people would like to think that lesbian households are not normal.  Let me tell you, my life is so normal now compared to what it used to be. My relationship with my husband was very dysfunctional and my children were raised in a home that the whole world saw as “normal”.  That was the farthest thing from the truth. Our family is what a family should be and I thank God that my children are now a part of a loving, safe home.

NMKNMP

28 Jul

Have you made a U-turn?

 

What???? 

NMKNMP is internet shorthand for “Not my kid, not my problem”.  Have you heard yourself utter those words?  

NMKNMP is like its own little city.  For some of us, it’s a place that we arrive when we’re driving aimlessly between the cities of “What I Say Doesn’t Matter” (population: 1-YOU) and “Wasn’t Blending Supposed to Be Easy?”  (population: 1 million).  We arrive at NMKNMP completely defeated because we’ve come to the conclusion that our input about what goes on in our stepchildren’s lives means nothing.  

For others, it’s a place that we come to as giddy as we would be about a bucket full of cash and a weekend in Las Vegas.  We’re overflowing with the new-found freedom that we’ve discovered after learning the steps to the “Stepmother Stepback”.    We arrive, unpack our suitcases and hit the pool. 

I got to NMKNMP because I took what I thought was a wrong turn.  I tried for three years to blend our families, without much success.  I was frustrated and kept wondering what I was doing wrong.  I came from a blended family, had children of my own, and naïvely thought, “This should be easy!”   Ha! I had no idea what I was up against.  After reading “Stepmonster” and a few very teary conversations with DH, I knew I needed to head in a different direction. With total support from DH, I declared that I needed to stop encouraging the blending of the family like an overenthusiastic cheerleader.  I needed to concentrate on myself, my relationship with DH and my own children.  I needed to do the “Stepmom Stepback” and fast.  

So I did.  

It was easy to take a U-turn since my stepdaughters are EOW, but I still felt guilty.  I had to hang up my Super Stepmom cape in the closet and that’s not an easy thing to do for this overachiever. But ultimately, it turned out to be the best thing for our family.  DH has total responsibility of his two oldest daughters on his weekends.  He manages their meals, their bedtimes and whether or not they brush their teeth or change their clothes.  When we first got together, those were some of the day-to-day issues that he left for me to manage.  It made perfect sense to the both of us because I was managing my three children as well.  But now, what gets done and what doesn’t get done, is his responsibility and honestly, he’s done a great job at stepping up to the plate.  All that’s left for me to do is show them love while they’re here and let me tell you, that’s a very refreshing place to be.  Battles over clothing?  Not my kid, not my problem.  Battles over meals?  Not my kid, not my problem.  Don’t want to go on a family outing?  That’s okay, I’ll take my three kids and you can catch up when and if you feel like it. 

I found myself in the city of NMKNMP thinking that I wasn’t going to like the accommodations but found that once I had checked in and unpacked my bags that the amenities were quite nice.  My stepdaughters were being taken care of by their father, who’s really discovering his own parenting style after leaving the “dirty work” to his ex-wife (for the last 9 years) and me (for the last 4 years).  No longer did I feel guilty about not trying harder to blend the family.  And best of all, my relationship with DH is better because I’m not so stressed out every other weekend.  

What about you?  Have you arrived at NMKNMP?  How did you get here?  What do you like and dislike about it?