Friday, November 12, 2010

Musings on the Stepmother Role

When I tell non-stepmoms about how I love my stepdaughter and what an important part of my life she is, their response is often suspicion and “your-stepdaughter-already-has-a-mother” hostility.

I’m frustrated when I encounter this black-and-white thinking. It seems to automatically equate loving our stepchildren with wanting to replace their mother—which of course couldn’t be further from the truth.

I know that the love a biological mother feels for a child is different from the love a stepmother feels for a stepchild—but that doesn’t mean that the love we feel isn’t also real and important. It doesn’t mean that our stepfamily relationships are without value and worth.

If we don’t want to replace the BM, then what do we want? I think we want society to have a better understanding of our role. We want recognition for the care and support we give to our family members whether or not we gave birth to them. We want the people around us to respect the validity our stepfamily relationships as much as our blood ones.

Pleased and Honored

I wanted to jump on and say hello and let you all know that I haven't disappeared off the grid. I've been experiencing some technical difficulties which luckily have been resolved.


I'm honored to have been interviewed by Wednesday Martin, author of Stepmonster, for an article about stepparenting to appear in Parents Magazine. The article will be featured in either the July or August issue--I'll let you know when I hear more!

Changing Perspectives

Sometimes I wonder how my husband’s experiences with his stepmom color the way he views my step-mothering. I also wonder if any of his opinions of her have changed after watching me struggle to find my way within the same role.

Interestingly, he was telling me this weekend about how upset he was by something she told him on her and his dad’s wedding day. Apparently she came up to him after the ceremony and said bluntly, “I’m in your family now.”

I’m sure that as a boy, hearing something like that must have sounded pushy and domineering. But to me as a stepmom hearing that same story, it sounds like she was craving reassurance and approval.

I’m curious—did any of you stepmoms out there have stepmothers yourself growing up? Did any of your husbands/partners have stepmoms? If so, how has your stepmom experience affected your views or memories of your stepmothers?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Making Father's Day less Bittersweet

Father’s Day is bittersweet for some of us stepmoms.

We may outwardly celebrate our husband’s parenting but inwardly feel angry at him for being too lax on his children—or even the fact that he has kids at all.

It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of negative thinking. The arguments over rules and the battles over schedules can leave you feeling pessimistic about the whole situation.

That’s why I think every step-parenting book should include a section about becoming happier by working on being optimistic. After all, studies show that optimists are happier and healthier than their negative counterparts, and research shows that optimists cope better with difficult circumstances than negative thinkers.

Notice I said working on in the paragraph above. For most of us, looking at the glass half-full doesn’t come naturally.

Luckily, you don’t have to have been an optimist. According to this article by Marguerite Lamb, “a tendency toward optimism is only about 25 percent genetic . . . that leaves plenty of room for life experience — not to mention your behavior — to shape your point of view.”

How can you start being a more optimistic stepmom?

1) Whenever you find yourself thinking negatively about your stepchildren or your stepmom role, stop and immediately say to yourself that the situation will be better in the future. Tell yourself things like:

• “The kids will grow out of this phase”
• “We’ll all get more used to each other as time goes on”
• “A year from now this won’t seem like a big deal at all”

2) Change your self-talk:

• Switch “I don’t know if I can take his kids’ behavior anymore” to “this is a difficult situation but I know I can handle it”
• Turn “How did I get myself into this mess” to “I am learning from this and will emerge stronger because of it”

3) Reframe the situation and search for the positive:

• Think about what you’re learning in your stepmom role and how you can apply it to other parts of your life
• For example, if you don’t have children of your own yet, think about how you’ll be more prepared for your own
• Think about how you now have more patience to apply to a difficult boss or colleague.

4) Cut out negative thinking:

• Do away with ruminating
• Quit venting so much
• Stop negative thoughts in their tracks – check out: Stopping the Negative Observer

5) Count you blessings:

• Look at the big picture of your life and make a mental list of all the good things you have going on—and not just once and a while, but every day or every few days. It sounds hokey but it works; this simple exercise helps you make looking on the bright side a habit.