New Stepmom Circles Podcast: Does Stepmothering Get Easier?

15 07 2010

A new Stepmom Circles Podcast is available! Tune in to hear my discussion with Dr. Ann Orchard about what happens over time in the lives of stepmothers. Does stepfamily life get easier? What happens when the kids leave home or there is a wedding or the birth of a grandchild?

Dr. Ann Orchard is a licensed psychologist who runs stepmother support groups in Edina, Minnesota. I joined one of her support groups before I married my husband. It was a life raft in a chaotic time and I have continued to benefit from her wisdom over the years. Don’t miss this one!

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How Do I Listen? Click on the links to the show above or visit HERE for all of the Stepmom Circles shows.

Stepmother Water Torture

10 06 2009

Hello M’Ladies:

We had a submission over at the Stepfamily Letter Project that I felt really spoke volumes about what it’s like to be a stepmom. Check it out:

Dear Husband,

I would never leave you. Not in a million years. But I would consider leavingeverything you bring to the table. Especially on the days when my efforts go unappreciated. Especially on the days when I feel taken advantage of by you, your ex wife, and the brood the two of you had together. There are days when I hate what you bring to the table and I feel so trapped I can’t breathe. So many people are pulling on me asking things of me wanting a piece of me and then criticizing the parts of me they do get because they’re not enough that I don’t know how long I’ll be able to withstand the pressure. I am strong. By God, I am the strongest f-ing person I know. But even mountains crack when the plates constantly shift beneath them and the water wears at them day after f-ing day after day. I have to leave. For a day. For a weekend. I have to vent the pressure building in my chest or I’m afraid of what I’ll do.

Many of us have been at this point at one time or another. It’s amazing how you think you’ve got the stepmotherhood thing down and then something comes along to knock you off your feet.

In stepfamilies, those of us who are not related by blood do not give each other the benefit of the doubt. Even if things have been even-keeled for years, if there’s an emotional upheaval, we assume the worst. Stepmothers assume the children hate them and are behaving that way just to get at them. Stepchildren assume stepmothers are being manipulative so they can have more of Dad’s attention. Ex-wives assume that stepmothers are harming their children even after years of service.

Please. Let’s give each other a break. If a kid tells us something the other household said, let’s not jump to the conclusion that it’s a message from the ex-wife. It could be that the child misinterpreted something that was said, or that the child is the one who is trying to stir things up. Let’s not assume that a snotty kid is trying to get back at us. Perhaps she had a crappy day at school.

I have to admit, I am terrible at this. I am probably lecturing myself in this post. I make assumptions about what is motivating behavior in my stepfamily and usually it makes me more miserable than just talking to the person who I’m having a challenge with to find out what’s really going on. 

But when you’re in a low point and the stepmother water torture so aptly described in the letter above is getting you down, it’s hard to maintain your emotional intelligence. Usually if I give myself a few days to calm down (aided by dark chocolate and a glass of red wine) I can see the situation more clearly.