Tag Archives: Stepmothers

“I thought I was the only one who didn’t love her stepchildren”

11 Jan

Not loving your stepchildren can make you feel guilty

A post that I wrote in March 2011 has been getting a lot of hits lately and stirring up all kinds of feelings. “Taboo Topics: Things that Stepmothers Don’t Want to Say Out Loud” was a three-part post based on a conversation I had with Heather Hetchler on The Stepmom Connection. The first topic was, “I fell in love with my husband, not my stepkids”.

More than a few stepmothers have had a “Thank God, I thought I was the only one” moment after reading the post and comments. And then, at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, there are the indignant women that believe if you don’t love the kids, you should stay away from the man.

Some stepmothers love their stepchildren as much as they love their biological children. And then, there’s the rest of us experiencing a range of feelings towards our stepchildren, but not love. Yes, kids were part of the package. Yes, we knew that going in. If we didn’t already love our stepchildren, we hoped that those feelings would develop over time. And for some of us, it just hasn’t happened yet and for a few of us, it never will. But even the women who openly admit to not loving their stepchildren still treat them with kindness. We love our husbands, and the children are part of him, so we do our best by them, just as we would for any child.

Loving a man, but not his children is puzzling to us. We think to ourselves, “As a woman, shouldn’t I feel instantaneously maternal towards them?” If we don’t we think, “What the heck is wrong with me?” In a word: nothing. There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s no reason to feel guilty. Give yourself time and be open to the possibility of love yet be prepared if it doesn’t happen. You can care for your stepchild his/her entire life and never really fall in love with them or have the same love as you do for your biological children. It’s totally normal. And based on the comments on the original post, it’s more common that you think.

If you’re a stepmother who grew to love her stepchildren over time, please share how your relationship with your stepchild evolved and tell us when you knew your feelings had changed.

“I think you suck” from Anonymous

10 Feb

 

It’s easy to be a jerk when you think you’re anonymous.

A few days ago, I read an article written by Jeff Pearlman, a columnist for SI.com, who tracked down an online hater.  Cloaked in the wonderful world of online anonymity, a commenter posted some distasteful stuff (and that’s putting it nicely) and the journalist tracked him down and had a conversation with him.  Jeff Pearlman said, “Anyone who writes or is written about is now a potential target for abuse. Online civility — it if ever existed — has withered up and died. And it’s only getting worse.” 

This is true not only for sports columnists, kids who post videos on YouTube (the language is mind-blowing), bloggers, but oddly enough in the stepmother community as well.  Pearlman calls it “online civility”, but I think it’s classic online bullying and it’s rampant between BioMoms and StepMoms.  You’d think as moms we’d be aware of cyber-bullying and refuse to play, but we’ve got BioMoms signing up for fake facebook accounts and joining “stepmom only” pages in order to bash (or at the very least jab) the stepmother in their lives.  We’ve got commenters using fake names on stepmom blogs to harass the blogger.  It’s easy to be a jerk when you think no one knows who you are, but the truth is that most online bullies (especially the ones who just can’t stop themselves from commenting) have a hard time not giving themselves away (unless of course, they are very talented writers and use the computers at the public library instead of the one at home). 

I think it’s shameful when BioMoms and their “posses” feel the need to harass their ex-husbands and/or the StepMoms online or in person.  Get therapy, work through your issues, write your comments in a journal and remember what Thumper said, “If you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”  And if you just can’t help yourself, then “man up”, use your real name and take responsibility for your comments.  Same goes for StepMoms, although it seems that they are in the minority when it comes to this offense. 

Am I guilty?  If you’ve read my blog then you know that I’m guilty of airing dirty laundry on my old blog (which has since been taken down), but not of stalking, harassing and name-calling (online OR in person).   I keep my frustration to myself and throw the dirty laundry in the washer.  It’s alot better that way.

 Cyber-bullies aren’t just in middle and high school.  Some bullies are grown up.  Some bullies are women. If you’re an adult “mean girl”, it’s time to grow up.  You know who you are. 

Have you ever been harassed online?  How did you deal with it? 

A big thank you to socialsklz who posted the link to the CNN article on their facebook page.  Socialsklz “features interactive, age appropriate workshops where students learn modern day social and communication skills. Equip our kids, tweens and teens with the tools to succeed in life!”  I wish they’d franchise across the nation!

“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too”

22 Sep

Is it our vindictiveness that keeps us from forming a working relationship with the "other woman"?

 

Recently I received a list of questions about stepmothers, and one particularly got my attention:    

Why is it that stepdads seem to be spared the challenges that stepmoms face?    

THAT is a very good question and one that sparked a great late night conversation between DH and me.    

Me:  Answer this question, “Why is it that stepdads seem to be spared the challenges that stepmoms face?”  For instance, the challenge that we hear most often is that the biomom hates the stepmom.    

DH:  Gender.    

Me:  That’s what I think too, especially with this issue.  Men aren’t as wicked to each other as women are.    

DH:  Women are too competitive with each other.    

Me: Yes, but men are competitive too at work and in sports, so why aren’t they competitive in family situations?  Why don’t we hear about conflict between stepdads and biodads?    

DH:  That’s true.  Men can be really competitive with other men at work or in sports, but at the end of the day, they can go out and have a beer together.  Women are…what’s the word I’m looking for?  Vindictive.  Yeah, women can be vindictive sometimes if they don’t get their way or if they don’t win.    

Me:  It’s true.  Women are hyper-competitive with each other but sometimes they can’t “leave it on the field” so to speak.  Instead they go in the locker room formulate their own “Kill Bill” list.    

DH:  Like a list of all the women they want Uma Thurman to take out?    

Me:  No, just a list of women that they despise. “The Wicked Stepmother” is usually on the top of that list.     

Ask any stepmom and she’ll tell you that one of the biggest challenges of being a stepmom is the relationship (or lack of) with the biomom.  Biodads and stepdads can meet in the driveway during pick-up and within 15 minutes, they’ve worked out a comfortable co-parenting relationship between themselves.  I’ve seen it happen in my own driveway. Once DH moved in, he made sure to approach my ex and let him know that he wasn’t here to take his place, he just wanted to support us raising our kids.  Two months later, they were sitting on the couch watching football and having a beer.     

Biomoms and stepmoms are a different story.  Put them in within 5 feet of each other and they’re sizing up the competition.  They put on their best fake smiles, exchange pleasantries, then go to their corner of the ring and morph into the Wicked Witch of the West. Remember how vindictive and spiteful she was:  “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too!”     

Not to pick on biomoms, but in most cases, we’re the ones with the chips on our shoulders (see my article in the July issue of StepMom Magazine).  Next thing you know, the stepmom is at the top of your “Kill Bill” list, also known as “The List of People I Wish Would Just Fall Off the Face of the Earth”.  We’re plotting the stepmom’s demise and ways to make her life a living Hell while the biodad and stepdad are having a genuinely pleasant and friendly conversation.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Does anyone realize that the kids are watching?     

So back to DH’s point, is gender the reason why stepdads seem to escape one of the biggest challenges that stepmoms encounter?  I think it is otherwise someone would have written “No One’s the A**hole” as the companion book to “No One’s the Bitch”.  I think much of the tension and conflict between biomoms and stepmoms happens because of the way women are “wired”.  We are all territorial and protective of our children, and then there are those of us who are still working on the less savory aspects of our personalities like jealousy, insecurity and fear which tend to rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune times.  Of course there are all kinds of societal expectations of women as mothers and stepmothers, as well as their expectations of each other. But when there’s a contentious relationship between the two, nothing gets resolved.  When a stepmother and biomom spend time whipping up tornadoes and waiting for a house to fall on the other’s head, no one wins. The big losers in the war?  The kids.   If you think they don’t sense your deep-seeded hatred of the other woman, think again.  Maybe it’s time we take a lesson from the guys and learn to shake hands and play nice for the well-being of the kids.  Be a little less “Wicked Witch of the West” and a little more “Glinda the Good Witch”.  You’ve got nothing to lose by being nice but you risk quite a bit, including the respect of your children, by acting vindictively.     

So let me ask you the same question that was asked of me:  Why is it that stepdads seem to be spared the challenges that stepmoms face?  Do you think there’s a double standard as far as expectations of stepmothers and stepfathers are concerned? Do you think stepmothers face greater challenges simply because of gender or does society’s expectation of women in a stepmother role factor into the equation?    

NOTE:  This is the first installment in a series that will look at the unique challenges that stepmoms face.  Next topic: feeling like an outsider in your own home.

Why I love Wednesday Martin

10 May

A few months back, I read Stepmonster by Wednesday Martin.  One phrase has stuck in my mind.  Martin calls it “the ugly, unsentimental truth of stepmothering, a truth at once liberating and brutal…”

“…many of us do not –cannot– feel maternal toward them. While we did indeed choose a man with children, it would be disingenuous (for most of us) to pretend we chose the kids.  We chose him, and they came on the side.” P 68.

That one sentence alone liberated a lot of women.  Many stepmoms have an outward struggle with their relationship with their stepchildren.  But there are so many more that have an internal struggle that they don’t articulate for fear of being judged.

Here’s a perfect example of why they don’t talk: a stepmom friend of mine asked for some support in dealing with her relationship (or lack of one) with her stepchildren on her Facebook wall. Another stepmom friend replied with, “Recently, I came to terms with the fact that I many never have a relationship with his kids.  But then I remembered, I married him not his children.”  I know for a fact that she had read “Stepmonster” and felt good about being able to say that out loud without feeling guilty. Within a few minutes a soon-to-be stepfather wrote, “That’s horrible!  My fiancé has a daughter and I love her just as much as I love her mom.  They came as a package deal.”  And therein lies the problem:  if you don’t have maternal feelings for your stepchildren, if you don’t love them like they were your own, if you know deep in your heart that you’ll never love them as much as your own kids and you’re genuine about the way you feel, you get slammed to the mat.  Not just by soon-to-be stepdads but by your in-laws, other stepmoms, other mothers, BioMoms and maybe even your own husband.

Your internal dialogue may sound like this:  How can I not love them?  Why don’t I feel maternal towards them?  I’m a mother and a woman—that’s what we do!  Am I that much of a heartless shrew? Am I completely defective as a woman?

I remember the day I told DH, “I don’t think I’m ever going to love your kids as much as I love my own.”  The eternal optimist replied, “It might take some time.”  And I came back with, “It may never happen and that’s okay too. But that doesn’t mean I won’t do my best for them.”  It felt weird to say it out loud, but it’s the truth.

This is why I love Wednesday Martin.  Her book Stepmonster puts into words what so many stepmothers cannot for fear of being thought of unmaternal and defective.  She takes a refreshingly realistic look at what it’s like to be a stepmother.  I read several things in the book that I was personally struggling with, because I felt like I was the only woman on the planet with these issues. But somehow, reading other women’s stories made it okay for me to feel the way I do.  Stepmonster made thousands of women breathe a sigh of relief as they finally felt like it was okay not to love or even like their stepchildren.  And yet, so many of us are still quiet about it. 

How about you?  Do you feel conflicted about your relationship with your stepchildren?  Do you keep it to yourself? How do you feel about stepmothers who publicly admit that they don’t like their stepkids?

What makes you a Stepmother?

4 May

DH knows someone who follows my tweets and said that I was “out there” in my “obsession” with stepmother issues and said that since we’re not married (legally) that I’m only a stepmother in “my fantasy world”.
Hmph. Really? I love it when people unknowingly give me topics to blog about.
With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, this is a PERFECT topic. What qualifies you as a stepmother? Is it a piece of paper legally binding you to your partner? I think not.
According to unmarriedamerica.org, “Traditionally, the word ‘stepchild’ was used to mean a child who came to be related to a person through marriage to the child’s parent. However, as marriage, remarriage, and cohabitation patterns have changed, the words ‘stepchild’ and ‘stepfamily’ now may include some families that are formed by cohabitation rather than marriage.” http://www.unmarriedamerica.org/Census-stepchildren/2000-households-with-stepchildren.htm
Beyond being stuck on semantics the truth is, I AM a stepmother. I’ve been with DH for four years. I’ve cooked, washed clothes, paid for swimming lessons, cleaned up snot and poop, and shared laughs and hugs with his girls, but most importantly, I know my boundaries. I am NOT their mom, nor do I want to be. I love the girls because they are part of DH, but I’m clear about my relationship with them and how it may or may not develop over the years.
Maybe it’s because of the way I was raised. In our Filipino/Japanese/Hawaiian-style family we called people who weren’t blood related to us “aunty’, “uncle”, “cousin”, “grandma/tutu”, as a sign of respect. The lines of blood relations have been blurred my entire life. I’ve done the same with my kids. They don’t call DH “Dad”, but they do refer to him as their stepfather. They don’t call their baby sister their “half sister”; she’s their “sister”. And they call DH’s girls their “stepsisters” even though we aren’t married (they arrived at “stepsisters” because DH’s girls were uncomfortable with the term “sisters”). My kids consider his kids family. My kids know that your family isn’t necessarily the one you’re raised with, sometimes it’s the one you make along the way. My kids have a team of “other mothers” too, other women who are crazy about my kids that I rely on for support and backup. It takes a village to raise children, and we have a big village.
Part of my village includes my fellow Twitterers and internet friends. One of the several things I tweet about has been stepfamily issues. I follow a lot of stepmoms/dads and they in turn follow me. I belong to a few stepmom groups for information and support. I’m just trying to learn to be the best stepmom that I can be because this gig is a whole lot different than being a BioMom. If trying to be the best person I can be for DH and his little ones can be categorized as an “obsession” and a “fantasy world”, then so be it. I only hope that if my ex ever gets remarried that his new wife does the same. My suspicion is that being uninterested and uncaring would be garner criticism from this person as well. Personally, I’d rather be criticized for trying to do good instead of washing my hands clean of “his kids”.
Am I offended that someone thinks I’m only a stepmother in my “fantasy world”? No. Actually I feel sorry for that person. Stuck in his world of semantics, he is more content to play “word police” instead of seeing that I take my self-appointed label of “stepmother” very seriously and how this ultimately benefits DH’s girls. The three of us have worked hard over the last four years to carve out a relationship that works for us. It’s a work in progress, but we always land somewhere that’s comfortable. My “fantasy world” is a place of hard work and lots of love. It’s the same “fantasy world” occupied by hundreds of thousands of unmarried stepfamilies (straight and lesbian). It’s a “fantasy world” where families are families. Period.
So Mr. Word Police and Defender of Families, you can do whatever you want to in YOUR family. As far as I’m concerned, you don’t earn the title of “stepmother” with a piece of legal documentation. You earn it by the love that’s in your heart. So Happy (Step)Mother’s Day to all you unmarried stepmothers! Being a mother is hard work and in a lot of ways, being a stepmother is harder.