However, I’ve also heard a lot of frustrated stepmoms talk about how they seem to end up taking up the slack between non-communicating bio parents. I’ve read some blogs and forum posts where stepmoms talk about sending texts, emails, and phone calls to the bio moms, relaying information back and forth between their partner and his ex.
After reading and reflecting on my own experiences, I’ve been thinking about why we stepmoms decide to take this responsibility upon ourselves. Here’s why I think we do it:
1) We feel obligated to do what we see as “the right thing”
2) We think this is the way to be a good stepmom
3) We want to make ourselves look and feel like part of the family
4) We want to look good to the bio mom (i.e., involved and responsible)
All of this makes me think: how much communicating with the bio mom should a stepmom really do?
I’m sure this is going to sound a little controversial, but my opinion is that a lot of us stepmoms shouldn’t put much enegry into proactive communication with the bio mom.
Let me clarify. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not our responsibility to be reporting what our stepkids did that day, what TV shows they like, or what their new friend’s name is. It’s not our responsibility to send reminders about visitation times, appointments, or court dates.* That kind of thing is your partner’s responsibility, and if you do it because you feel obligated to, then you’re likely to end up feeling used and frustrated.
Furthermore, if you try and be a good stepmom by relaying information between your partner and his ex, you actually end up making yourself feel excluded. Rather than relaxing into your place in the family as a partner/wife and stepmom, you’re constantly holding yourself up between these two former lovers. It may only be an attitude, sure, but it can still negatively impact your happiness.
Finally, if you try and make yourself part of the family by being the reporter and coordinator, then you actually end up feeling empty despite all your best intentions. Even though coordinating information with the bio mom can take a lot of your emotional energy, it’s not actually doing much to build a bond between you and your stepchildren. At the same time, you feel frustrated to have put so much energy into the stepfamily situation without receiving the reward of affection back from your stepkids.
Instead of being the information exchanger, I think stepmoms should put that time and energy into building a relationship with their stepchildren. You don’t need to worry about what the bio mom thinks of you. (Although I know this can be difficult!) Truly, the important thing is what your stepkids think of you, not their mom.
This is my opinion, of course. And I'm sure that there are some stepmoms who have great communication with their kid's bio mom. What do you think? How much information sharing with the bio mom do you feel is appropriate? Have you had any bad experiences? Good ones? I’d love to hear what you have to say.
* I’m all for answering questions that the bio mom asks you (reactive communication), and I certainly support proactive communication in any case that would involve ensuring the safety of the child.