To BioMoms from a Stepmom... Try this on for size

Hope - posted on 01/24/2011 ( 11 moms have responded )

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Sorry for the title...but Im trying to get attention :)My SD will be 10 this spring. She's lived with Dad since she was born and BM has been gone from the home since SD was 6 months old. BM rarely saw the child, and when I met my SD, she was 4. At that point she didnt know who her mom was. She actually asked once if BM was her aunt when coming across a picture. BM for the last 4 years or so is a little more involved but not nearly as much as she could be (she lives long distance). My SD knows that Mom could make more of an effort and resents that she doesnt. SD will mention ball practice, or a game, or something going on to see if her Mom will remember to ask her about them. SD even times theirphone conversations and will say things like "45 seconds. I think thats a new record." I think SD just wants Mom to try to make more of and effort to be involved. When she visits Mom, Mom's idea of quality one on one time is a trip running errands. (mom is very busy with husband and their 2 kids). If she's lucky they may go see a movie. But there isn't really even one on one time in the house. SD just resents the whole situation and has told me she doesnt like/ see the point of going over there. She isn't close with her other two siblings bc they are toddlers (one of which has serious behavior problems. Serious enough to be sent home early from daycare) and says when she goes over they mostly watch T.V.. Its to the point where if we even mention a trip to her mom's she groans and complains and asks why she has to go. She hates going on spring break bc she says she would rather have that time off to spend relaxing at home. She hates going for summer bc shes' there too long. She doesnt even see her Mom's house as a home and has told her mom once but instead of listening Mom just insisted that it is like a home. Mom and I have an Ok relationship but I think only now bc my husband hates cooperating with her (a constant source of disagreement) and if she wants anything I think she realizes I am her best ally. But I think this is why she is now cooperative, not bc she respects me. I've tried to hint that she should spend more time with her and even suggested activities that I know SD would enjoy but Mom has yet to even try. I am afraid to come out and just say "look lady, youre messing up. SD doesnt even want to see you. Listen to your daughter. You need to be more involved no matter how much SD acts like she doesn't want to talk to you." I think if I tell her directly that her daughter doesnt even want to be over there she not only won't believe me, but it will be a source of conflict. I feel for SD bc I know as much as I want to be, I'll never be a real mom to her, and this is a relationship she is going to want/need later in life.

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Ashley - posted on 03/27/2012

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Sally, I wish you the absolute best of luck. It can be better and.... your health can improve too! Believe it ;) Let us know how it goes... I'll be keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers :)

Sally - posted on 03/27/2012

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Thanks Ashley, this is a good start. It's funny you mentioned it's damaging to your health. It is! I have panic attacks regularly because of it. I just know is I love the kids my husband and I just want to be in a position with the girls mom where there's common ground. So let's see what happens! :)

Ashley - posted on 03/27/2012

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Well... Sally, all I know is that a lot of what happens is because of misunderstandings surrounding all of the super strong emotions that fly around in these types of situations. One person assumes another person's intent based on their own emotions and then the game goes around and around, bringing everyone spiraling down into misery together.



For example, you are saying that "she just wants us to do what she wants" and "if she gets you upset enough". Be careful. Those are your words, not her actual intent. You are making a judgement on her intent without talking to her to verify it. That type of thing snowballs into disaster quickly and frequently, if you don't get off of the ride. If you can actually sit down woman to woman, mother to mother, and talk... it can do wonders to clear up all of those misunderstandings. I know that sounds crazy, but its true. If she is already reaching out to you when you drop off the girls, reach back. Schedule a time to meet in a public place for a 4+ hour cup of coffee. Lay it all out on the table. Start by hearing the *whole story* of what she is feeling instead of trying to "understand" based solely on her outbursts. Work really hard to understand her based on your *conversation*. Everything else you are doing to understand her is based on conjecture. It may take a little Q&A to get down to the bottom of how she feels. Once you truly understand her, process that against your own feelings and then try to look for opportunities where *you* can make things easier. Ways that you can "team together", helping her to understand that you do not want to take her role in her daughter's lives. But, you are in a position where if you don't show them love, it will hurt them. You can work WITH HER to determine what your role should be. That's the easiest way to reach a good understanding. It sounds like you are living in fear rather than taking a shot at a reasonable co-supportive working relationship and THAT is eating you alive. It can be different, but you have to risk being a little vulnerable to make that happen. AND, you have to be ready to use Herculean strength to pick your way carefully through that first conversation. Based on her previous actions with restraining orders, I doubt anyone in any of these situations has reached out to her with compassion to work this out. You have a unique opportunity.



PS> Regarding your husband's role, mine thought I was crazy when I told him that I was going to go for that first conversation. But, I told him that I could no longer live in anger and fear. It was damaging my health. After she and I worked things out, it became A LOT more palatable for my husband to be around her. I don't know why, but we were ALL able to come together. I hope that plays out the same for you.

Sally - posted on 03/27/2012

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How can I change my role? I guess it's just I don't know how. I don't want my stepdaughters to think that I don't care about them. I just feel if I listen to her demands it will only hurt the girls and eventually hurt my family.

Sally - posted on 03/27/2012

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This last post was for Ashley.....sorry, I forgot to clarify who I was responding to.........



I also forgot to say that my husband will sometimes not go to an appt with his daughters just because it's too hard for him to be there with her at the same time. She will email him telling me not to come inside the dental office, even though my daughter has an appt at the same time. She just wants us to do what she wants and I think sometimes that if she gets me upset enough my husband I will just not want to be involved at all. It's kind of a pattern for her. SHe placed a restraining order on her exes new wife, told the court she had hit her eldest son. But it didn't happen and the poor lady couldn't be around her stepson alone for 13 years. Then when my husband told her to move out she placed one on him so he couldn't see his daughters. The judge told her if my husband couldn't work he can't pay child support so she dropped the order. I'm so afraid thats what will happen to me. I'm a corrections officer and if that ever happend I would lose my job and she wouldn't care.

Sally - posted on 03/27/2012

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Actually, no we have never sat down and talked. We have had conversations about certain things like vacation schedules and little things but when I sem to think that I have little give from her she flips around and says I'm being to involved parent wise and controlling. I have never made legal decisions or have done anything that would need a legal parent to decide. I just usually volunteer my time at the school, which my eldest also attends, I make cookies or something like that for parties. Iv'e attended school functions for all three kids since preschool so I don't understand why in the last 3 years it's all of a sudden a big burden for her that I'm there. I actually try not engage in conversation with her just to keep it light. She usually is the one that will come up to me or she will come to my car when I have the girls with me and make me open my car door. It's totally nerve rattling, but feel like I have no choice. I try to understand her feelings, really I do. I have an ex with a Fiance and I don't feel the same way. My daughter loves her, But I know, she knows I am mommy. So I guess it's just different for me. I just don't know how to remove my self from my stepdaughters lives socially and family wise so I don't offend anyone. My husband looks at me like why I even would think it's okay not to be involved but then I have biomom looking at me like a bad guy all the time.

Ashley - posted on 03/27/2012

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Sally - Have you sat down and talked with BM one on one? Much like the advice that I gave Hope, all change has to start with you and your outlook on the situation. You have to be open and understanding of *her* feelings, because there is *nothing* that you can do to change her feelings. You can only change your own behavior and work through understanding why she feels the way that she does. Then you two can work together to find a common ground. That can only happen through face-to-face private communication with BM. Anything you do to speculate on your own (i.e., thinking that she is "petty") will only bring negativeness into the situation. It will not help. In order to reach a positive working relationship, you have to use Herculean effort to suppress your own feelings until you understand hers. Then work together to figure out how to make your relationship work. Objectivity is critical and painful, but once you get there, it does get easier. Hopefully, this makes sense.



If you're a reader, you might want to check out the following two books:

No One's the Bitch: A Ten-Step Plan for the Mother and Stepmother Relationship by Jennifer Newcomb Marine (http://www.amazon.com/No-Ones-Bitch-Step...)

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen (http://www.amazon.com/Difficult-Conversa...)

Sally - posted on 03/26/2012

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What should I do when I try to be involved in my step children's life, but, the biomom tells me to back off and sends me nasty emails. I have a 12 yr old and a 6 month old son of my own. She doesn't like it when I make an effort to be there for all of the kids. I've been helping in raising my stepdaughters since they were 1 and 2. They are now 9 and 10. How do I not include myself without hurting my family. Once she told me not go to a school valentines party for her youngest. She made it about her. Thats how petty it is. I really don't know what to do....

Ashley - posted on 04/01/2011

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Hope - I notice that your post is several months old. But, I thought I'd go ahead and post a reply.



I am a SM who is always trying to keep BM involved. Based on your last statement, it seems that you really understand that there is a mother/child relationship that BM/SD need to forge/maintain and how your role can influence that. That's HUGE! Especially as a SM who takes on so much of the mom role. Kudos to you! :)



All that said, my Step-Wife and I have had some frank discussions about why she hasn't been as involved and that her kids desperately need that. Surprisingly, some of the reasons why she hadn't been so involved didn't have anything to do with my assumptions of her disinterest and/or busy-ness with other things. It had actually been because she almost felt like she was imposing and/or she wasn't kept up to date on what was going on. I realized that those were things that I could help with. Things that I could help to nurture their relationship. It can be really difficult to maintain a relationship when you are not together most of the time and she may feel awkward about it.



If she has started to reach out to you in some form of alliance (and it doesn't matter if it is based on respect or not because that doesn't influence what is needed for SD) then I say go for it. Plan for a discussion by laying out what you consider success to be (for SD, not for you, she may never "respect" you... and that's "ok"). Then consider what she might say so that you can go in with a completely open mind about getting to a place that benefits SD. You might be surprised. Especially if you are careful and respectful of how she reacts. There are things you can do to help your SD form a better bond with her mom. And, it can start with a positive convo with BM.



One other closing thought... don't give in to (or even acknowledge/commiserate with) a 10yo's eye rolling when being "forced" to spend time with her mom. Every little bit of time matters, even if she doesn't see that now. The eye rolling will only get worse as she becomes a teenager :)



Good luck and let us know how it turns out!

Queen - posted on 01/30/2011

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Its so sad when a parent refuses to be a parent to their child. The only thing you can do is what you've been doing. Suggest activities, be polite, and be there for your step daughter.

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