Thursday, November 8, 2012

I've Come to a Realization about Detachment

I’ve been putting lots of effort into my relationship with my stepdaughter lately. Last week I spent extra time with her reading books, playing dolls, and baking cupcakes. (This was of on top of my normal stepmama workload: cutting up her food, cleaning her juice spills, trying to get her to eat one more bite of broccoli, helping her in the bathroom, getting her dressed, and, well, you get the idea.)

In the end, every game, every project turned into a devotion to her mother. “These pictures are going to be for my Mama!” “I’m going to tell my Mama about how we went to the park!” “These cupcakes are going to be for my Mama!”

Then one evening she proceeded to tell me over and over again, “I love you, but I love my Mama more than you. I love her more than you.”

Is this surprising? No. Is it normal? Completely. Does it still sting and annoy the heck out of me?


I've decided it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate my level of detachment. According to The Ups and Downs of Becoming an Insta-Parent, “Detachment is often the best decision when a woman realises her input is neither recognised nor welcome . . . Detachment can range from detaching from issues dealing with the ex-wife to not enforcing rules with stepkids to complete non-involvement."

Julie W. describes detachment as, "an art. You must say, “I disagree with what you are doing, but I respect your right to do it. I am washing my hands of this situation, and you, as a parent, must deal with the natural consequences.”

However you go about it, detachment isn't easy. With our family of origin we didn’t have to give a second thought about what we said, who we said it to, or what family conversations or situations we got involved with. But learning to navigate “detached” family relationships doesn’t come instinctively. We have to plan when to speak up and when to keep quiet. We must calculate our comfort levels of detachment and involvement, of love and distance.

This week I'll be thinking about how I want to to renegotiate my stepmom-stepkid relationship. More next post.

1 comment:

  1. Again, I am a parent, not a step-parent. I think it must be incredibly hard to pour your heart, soul and love into a child who isn't biologically yours and then have them say "I love my mother more than you". As a parent - you could tell her "It's a different kind of love. Not more or less, just different".
    There's always the chance that her dad and you may separate... then you won't BE the step-parent. But the mother will always be the mother. These lines are tough.