One major cause of Stepmom stress is when a skid's bio-mom doesn't seem to care about:
1. Doing the right thing for her kid(s).
2. Doing the right thing in terms of kindness or polite or even fair behavior.
3. Figuring out ways to get along with her ex or us for everyone's well being.
If faced with this situation, we need to figure out ways to protect OURSELVES, preserve our relationships with our husbands and keep our hearts open (instead of numb or hardened) in an environment where an "enemy" is actually able to enter our lives...and in some cases even our home.
After trying and failing to create a positive relationship with my stepson's mom, I woke-up and realized that I had been treating her as a "Not-yet Ally." I've been considering her a future friend. I felt I had failed and needed to keep trying to help her see how great it would be for all of us if the two of us could get along. What I finally realized is that SHE DOESN'T CARE and she is NOT a future Ally.
Being Allies has been MY dream, MY wishes for us, MY hope based on all kinds of logic and well-intentioned reasons. It's not her dream. So, what to do? We need to figure out how to help ourselves instead of giving that power to our beloved or their ex-wives. Ideally, how wonderful if we could look at whatever they do and think, "Sounds about right for her!" then let it go, stop thinking about whatever happened and move on with our lives.
Why would this approach be good for us? Because this relationship isn't about being fair, it isn't illegal for them to hurt us and/or their kids emotionally. We can only do what we can do. One thing we can do is realize that after we've sincerely tried to get along, it's time to stop that behavior and remain loyal to our own value system. I keep referencing and rereading pages 47-61 in The Four Agreements about not taking things personally. Occasionally, I've been able to imagine how different my life would be if I let go of my "Happy Blended Family Fantasy" vision and decide to give no meaning and significance to her actions. It's a sad feeling AND a very liberating one as well. The mere ending of the pain is a welcome relief, depending on how much baloney has been occurring.
Several Smoms have had upsetting situations with the bio-moms talking with our husbands or us. Well, this is an opportunity for a new tactic to help us. How great would it be to decide that whenever a bio-mom interacts with either of us, we could pause and think to ourselves?
"Sounds about right, I am NOT going to pay attention or fret whatever is happening because that is their reality, their choice and I have learned that my anger or hurt is NOT going to change a thing. It will just upset me. So, I am just going to ignore this, stay busy doing something I enjoy (for me it is reading or quilting) and I will talk with him when he gets back or off the phone."
Realistic or not, can you imagine for a moment how freeing that would be for us? Can you imagine the relief our husbands would feel knowing we're not going to get upset every time his ex-wife called or talked with him? How many precious hours of peace and joy have we lost arguing or feeling upset about what the ex has done or said? Without some kind of self-nurturing strategy, being a stepmom can feel like living with the knowledge that an emotional terrorist could strike at any time with no way to stop it, predict it or resolve it!
As we can begin to look at their behavior as, "sad, unkind, not personal, certainly not cooperative and just not very nice...for whatever reason" and hold onto our own joyful state of mind, they can strike whenever they want and we're not longer affected. That is emotional freedom.
I realize that I may be dreaming or delusional in a whole new way but I don't think so. One thing we CAN control is what we decide to think about and give our attention to. The hook for most of us is that WE are trying to do the right thing and yet their actions indicate they are not conecerned with doing the right thing. It doesn't seem fair. Sometimes it isn't fair. It's like we're playing the same game but with two sets of rules. In this game, we have no authority to call them on their fouls and they never get called for a penalty while getting away with so, so much!
Certainly it's sad when someone chooses to be mean. I don't understand how people can live with themselves when consciously choosing to use their power or authority to hurt others. It is, however, a massive learning opportunity in dealing with rage and hurt. We can turn this around by gaining valuable life skills (anger processing, self-care, creative problem solving skills) that can benefit us in many ways. I hope that you all will help me develop this approach and support this possibility so we can help each other accept and adapt to living with, "An Enemy among us." I believe that the hope and the happiness of our daily lives depends on shifting OUR outlook, not theirs. Once we reach out in a few ways and a few times and they make it clear they do not want to get along, we can change our goals and begin to "Heal and Deal" with this situation.
The natural reaction, when we're angry or in pain, is to numb, blame or lash out. However that's a temporary numbing and will probably not resolve our feelings or the situation. While it's tempting to talk to others about what they do, it's important to have a safe place to vent the true and real feelings we have so we can move into the, "what am I going to do now?" phase. What I wish for all SMOMS and for this website is that we help each other by validating the feelings, looking for ways to improve self care and then begin to create new choices for US. It means we need to consciously choose to go beyond the phase of frustration and support each other and ourselves in accepting what we can and can't change. At this point of conscious choice, we can turn our attention to creating a plan for our own protection, healing and happiness. With this focus, we are no longer giving power away to the bio-mom, our skids or, for that matter to our husbands. (Our SMOMS Serenity Prayer was written to help us remember this process.)
In the midst of practicing this approach myself, I felt a wave of grief over the loss of the vision I had for our two families. Many of my attempts to create a good relationship with the bio-mom and to make us a happy blended family were distractions to avoid admitting I had failed and feeling this deep grief. Imagine my surprise when I woke up one day and realized that the very efforts I was making to "win her over" (so we could all get along) or to convince my husband to "stand up for us" were actually creating more and more wounds for me. I realized it was up to me to stop this vicious cycle.
We have the skills to process the feelings as they occur. We do have control over our choices to accept or not accept what is, for now. Yes we can try new tactics. As one of my coaches always says, "Nothing changes until you do." I believe we can find our way out of the bio-moms' realm of terror and begin to spend more time enjoying time with the men we love and the skids who are willing to be loved. Just the thought of this makes me want to cry and rejoice simultaneously.
©2003 Cathryn Bond Doyle. All Rights Reserved.