Stepmoms Speak

1 04 2009

The Stepmom Angle

By Mrs. H.

Mrs. H. maintains a popular blog at A Stepmom’s Say.

Before I met my husband, my dating life was fairly normal. I would meet someone, go out on a date, maybe another. I had one real relationship before I met the man I eventually married. I dated this person on and off for about two years. It wasn’t a good relationship, only because he wasn’t the right man for me. We had been friends before we dated, and it should have stayed that way. Still, as imperfect as that relationship was, nobody ever question my motives for dating him. We broke up, I moved on, and through God’s grace, I met Husband.

Almost from the beginning, people questioned why I would want to date Husband. Now, I know that his friends and family were very protective-his divorce was hard on him, but I was astounded at how critical people were of me. I know that their attitude was from a place of love and concern for Husband, but I was very saddened by it all. If they could see what an amazing guy he is, why was it so hard to believe that I could too? The people that truly were Husband’s real friends came around, and the ones that didn’t are no longer of importance to him. Now that I have the ability to look back on those days with a more critical eye, I realize that dealing with this kind of third party judgmental behavior, was just a prelude to my life as a stepmom. To be sure, there are bad people in the world. Some of them are stepmoms. Some of them are moms. Neither role predisposes itself to ensuring that the person filling those particular shoes will be bad or good. But if we are being honest, stepmoms are far more criticized and placed under suspicion than moms are. People always want to know what a stepmom’s “angle” is. I believe there are a few reasons for this. First, it is not natural to actively participate in the raising of someone else’s children. Sometimes tragedy necessitates this, and when it does, we are far more able to rise to the challenge-especially if that child is of blood relation, like a niece or a nephew. Not only is it not natural, it can be incredibly painful. I can honestly say that nothing has tested me more as a human being than my life as a stepmom. The vast majority of time that I spend thinking about how to better myself as a person, revolves around my role as a stepmom. Second, even though divorce has started to become somewhat of an accepted part of our culture, I believe that divorced individuals still wear somewhat of a Scarlet Letter. While we can accept that our neighbor or fellow church member is divorced, we don’t exactly want our daughter to marry him. Further, why would our daughter want to marry him? Why wouldn’t she want to start with a “clean slate”?

Third, since infidelity seems to have become the shining example of the rich and famous, it becomes the hidden suspicion of every person who comes into contact with Wife #2 that she was “the other woman.” I know many people who are divorced for a variety of reasons-none of which include infidelity; but it satisfies our sensational minds better to think that most marriages end because of some sexual trist by one partner or another. I hate having to endure the sideways glances of the new people that we meet, wondering if I was the reason that poor Stepsons come from a broken home. I know that many people look at our marriage from the outside and wonder why I decided to marry a divorced, bankrupt man with two kids. What’s in it for me? If Husband hadn’t been divorced or had children, nobody would have ever thought to ask that question-but because he is, they do.

Other stepmom blogs, as well as mine, like to discuss the pressures of stepparenting and how this affects their lives. It is a crucial component to who we are. However, what rarely ever gets discussed, and what is just as important, is the weight of third party (including BM) scrutinization of stepmoms. Scrutiny of their motives and of them as people.

All you have to do is read through the comments on my blog or other blogs to see the veracity of this. A normal day when I write about my feelings on this or that, can draw comments accusing me of martyrdom or hatred or bitterness. Somehow, my feelings are more suspect because I am the stepmom. If I express displeasure about something, I must be bitter. If I express happiness about something, I must be selfish. If I criticize BM, I must have an inflated sense of importance, because who the hell do I think I am-I’m only the stepmother.

Forget the pressures of having four children in your home. Forget the drain on your finances or the emotional toll of legal battles. The thing that often weighs most heavily on the hearts of stepmoms is how society treats them. Despite the fact that a good number of these wonderful women do a pretty bang-up job of helping their husbands raise children that are not related to them, they are still treated as second-class citizens. Citizens, whose every move is cast with suspicion as to “what’s in it for them.”

I started feeling better about myself as a stepmom when I stopped letting these third party judgments really get to me. Anyone who thinks that way really has no clue what Husband and I are all about. Still, it can get to me, and I often think about all my online stepmom friends who I am sure go through the same thing. My blog isn’t a self-help page or a textbook diagram of a stepmom. It’s just my thoughts and deeds, in all their imperfect glory. You won’t find answers there. And if you’re looking for an “angle”…Well, I don’t have one.

Maybe my life would be a little bit more interesting to the reader if I was some spiteful, evil stepmother.Or even some selfless Mother Theresa-type giving of her everything to her husband’s first life. Unfortunately, I’m neither of those things-I don’t even look like a big-boobed trophy wife. I’m just a girl who happened to fall in love with a guy that had a little bit more of a past than most of us. And, I love him enough to accept that past as part of our future together.

There is no sainthood, martyrdom or evil plan. There’s just us, trying to figure out how to make it day-to-day.

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A Father Speaks

11 03 2009

Bill has three kids from a previous marriage. He sent in his list of things he needs from his wife and the stepmother of his children.

  • Understanding that sometimes the kids are going to have to come first.
  • I apologize for having an ex-wife.
  • Understanding that scheduling is going to be hell and it will be for years to come.
  • I think the father needs to be a buffer between the stepmother and the bio mother if that’s possible.
  • I understand frustration about bio mom but would appreciate it if you don’t make comments about her in front of the kids.
  • Thanks for being understanding about my relationship with my kids because I know you will never feel the same way I do about them.
  • Communication is very, very important.
  • Divorce is not an easy way out. Let’s work through this.




Teleconference Call Reminder

13 01 2009

There’s still time to sign up for the teleconference call this Thursday, January 15.

Join me for a live one-hour teleconference call with Emily Bouchard, a stepmom of two, blended family coach, and the founder of www.blended-families.com on Thursday, January 15, 2009, at 6 p.m. PST / 9 p.m. EST as we discuss the challenges and joys of stepmotherhood!

The call is free (except for your local long-distance charges). To participate, all you need to do is submit a question for me here. After you send a question, the instructions for how to get on the call will be emailed to you.





Stepfamily Letter Project

13 01 2009

Ladies: I’ve teamed up with Erin on a fun website called the Stepfamily Letter Project and we need your input! Here’s a description from the site:

In the Fall of 2008, Erin  wrote an open-ended letter to her stepdaughter on her blog. The letter was filled with things Erin wished she could say to her 12-year-old stepdaughter but didn’t. From future hopes and dreams to the intricacies of teenage angst, the letter was one stepmom’s heartfelt approach to communicate with her stepdaughter without actually “communicating.”  The letter went on to capture the attention of other stepmoms across the Internet. 

One of those stepmoms, Jacque, had heard of The Mother Letter Project, a compilation of letters that a husband has been collecting his for wife as a Christmas present. 

The letters, written for mothers, could be about anything so long as it was addressed to a mom. At the same time, Jacque popped open her computer to begin her annual holiday letter to her family. Each year Jacque, her husband, and her three stepkids write a letter to each other that describes the previous year’s ups and downs and hopes for the upcoming year. Then they read them out loud to each other. It’s a tradition that Jacque’s dad and stepmom started when Jacque was a teenage stepkid.

And so an idea was born. Why not create a site where blended families could write anonymous letters to a member of their family. Stepmoms, stepdads, stepkids, husbands, bio-moms, half-siblings — we wanted to create a place where blended families could write letters to the people in their families  — be it heartful and  joyful to angry or sad.

If you would like to add a letter to the Stepfamily Letter Project, there are a few steps to follow:

  1. Compose your letter. We’re taking all kinds of letters: Happy, sad, angry, sweet — it doesn’t matter. We only ask you don’t threaten any harm in your letter. We won’t publish those. 
  2. Send your letter. You can send your letter within the body of an e-mail, in a Word document, a text document or Google Doc.  All we ask is that you send it to Stepfamilyletterproject@gmail.com. We’ll try to publish the letters within 48 hours of receipt. 
  3. Include your name and e-mail. Obviously, because you’re e-mailing your letter, we’ll have your e-mail address. Please also include your first and last name somewhere in the email . We will not publish your name or e-mail address on the website; however, should we need to contact you for any reason, we’d rather not have to start out with “Hey you with the letter.” 
  4. Spread the word. If you know someone in a blended family who you think would want to participate, let them know about the site. We’re happy to answer any questions about the project. We’ve event created this fabulous button (175 pixels x 175 pixels for your web-savvy folks out there) that you can post on your own blog or website.
    Stepfamily-Letter-Project

    Stepfamily-Letter-Project

    5. Check back or subscribe. If you have an RSS feed reader or aggregator, sign up for an RSS feed for the site. This way, you’ll be alerted when we post a new letter. 





S.M.A.C.K.s for Stepmoms: Refuse to trash-talk.

13 01 2009

Recently I had a conversation with a friend who is not a stepmom but is a divorced mother of one. Her ex is not remarried. She told me about a stepmother she met who as soon as my friend voiced compassion, the floodgates opened and this stepmom spilled her guts to my friend.

In the same week I had a talk with one of my dear friends who is now a stepmom of one. She told me that when I first started talking to her about what it was like to join a stepfamily, she thought I was exaggerating. But then she lived the experience herself and found out just how challenging it can be.

It’s clear that we stepmoms need people we can talk to about our feelings, but there is a line we cross sometimes that moves from venting to living full-time in negativity. So how can we be honest about our feelings, and then move through them and create a more positive life instead of wallowing in the yucky parts?

Let’s try an experiment. For the next two weeks pay attention to how you talk about your stepfamily. I asked you to do this in my book, and I’m bringing it up here again because it is so important. If you find yourself trash-talking your husband or your stepkids to everyone you know, you’re going to make your home life even more challenging. Instead, practice neuro-linguistic programming. For the next two weeks take a vow that you will only say positive things about your husband, stepkids, the ex. Refuse to engage in any trash-talking and see what happens. At the end of two weeks check in with yourself. Do you feel different? Have you had the same old fights? Has anything changed?

For more S.M.A.C.K.s, check out my other blog: www.smackyourinnercritic.com





The disengagement creep.

6 01 2009

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I had a child of my own nine months ago. Since I discovered I was pregnant, I have found that I’ve started the disengagement creep with my stepchildren. Here is what I am guilty of:

  • Instead of tucking them in and saying goodnight, I go to bed early with the baby. Sometimes I don’t even say goodnight at all, but just disappear upstairs.
  • While making the emotional transition to mother, I have wanted to turn inward. I developed tunnel vision as I nested and marveled at the experience. By doing this, I alienated my stepchildren.
  • Instead of making me feel a stronger bond with my stepfamily, having a child of my own made me feel the differences and emotional gaps between us even more.
  • I have become more critical of my stepchildren’s mother. Though I can identify with her in new ways, I have become less tolerant of the behavior I disagree with now that I have a child of my own.

Since it’s still within the first days of January, I think I’ll make myself a 2009 plan to combat my disengagement. 

  1. I will say goodnight to my stepkids every night they are here.
  2. I will spend time with each of them and show interest in their lives.
  3. I will not feel guilty if I mess this up now and then.
  4. I will allow myself to acknowledge the differences I feel for the children in our home without feeling guilty about them. It is what it is. But I will do what I can to avoid showing favoritism.  
  5. I will team up with my husband to plan fun activities for the entire family like we used to.

The good news is that emotional transitions are just that: transitions. They come to an end. I can already tell we are moving in a new direction because my husband and I were finally able to have a discussion about the fact that I’ve disengaged over the past year. My daughter is older and I am more settled in my new role as stepmom and mom. The kids are growing up and have accepted their baby sister into the fold now that she can play with them.

Soon I’ll crawl out of the nest I built and re-engage with my stepchildren and it will feel good. But I will always be grateful to my husband that he gave me the chance to have a little tunnel vision with my daughter without making me feel like I was turning into a wicked stepmother.





Stepmoms Speak

30 12 2008

A New-Fangled Christmas
by Peggy Nolan

I grew up in a blended family (ok, a puree’d family) so Christmas with step-relatives was no big deal for me. In fact, growing up as a “step” kid (my mom later adopted me and my brothers) paved the way for my future as a step/bonus mom.
When I married my husband, I not only married him, his kids and his ex-wife, but I married into his ex-wife’s family. My “mother-in-law” is really my husband’s ex-wife’s mother…but she refers to my husband as her son and introduces me as her daughter-in-law. Kinda nice…but it does come with a separate set of “between my own ears” issues.

Putting my own personal issues aside, this family arrangement brings forth a realm of blessings that I can’t imagine a stepmom not wanting. My husband and I attended my mother-in-law’s family Christmas on December 20. This gathering included my husband’s ex-wife, her boyfriend, three of my husband’s semi-adult children, and all of “mom’s” children as well as her ex husband and his wife. All together, there was probably 25 people at mom’s. Five short days later, Christmas dinner was hosted by my eldest stepdaughter, and most of the same people who were at mom’s family Christmas were also at my stepdaughter’s.

The blessings are infinite and grow with each gathering. My husband’s children don’t have to split their time between parents. They don’t have to decide who they’re opening presents with, who they’re having dinner with, or how much time they spend at dad’s.

My husband and his ex-wife ended whatever battle they had going on in their marriage a year or two after their divorce was final. By the time I came into the picture, there was no animosity, no drama, no negativity. In fact, I was welcomed into her family as a sister and a daughter. And her kids are free to love me, like me, or leave me. Three of them have chosen to love me (the 4th chooses to leave everyone and be a victim).

My husband’s ex-wife and I are not best friends, but we are friendly toward one another. Her youngest son lives with me and my husband full time – and I know she appreciates where I’ve stepped in because her son is thriving.

Weather permitting, I will be spending New Year’s Eve with my husband, his ex-wife, her boyfriend, her sister, and at least one of her brothers and his wife. Originally, her sister invited my husband and I to join her for First Night…and we were going to spend the night at her place so that we wouldn’t have to drive home; however, with my husband’s ex-wife also joining in, we won’t be spending the night…all in good time, but not now. Even my husband is not ready for that!

Check out Peggy’s blog at: www.serendipitysmiles.wordpress.com