Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms wrote in, Cathryn replied​.
Cathryn's Mailbox
2 Youngsters I can't control.

3 yr old SS crying all the time!

A bio-mom worried about new stepmom in her daughter's life- can we help?

About ready to throw in the towel!

About to become a step parent and am terrified!

Bio mom badmouthing me to my stepson & he repeats to me & my kids.

Bio-mom back & I'm hurt by her impact-what can I do?

Bio-mom doesn't want me present at any of my skids school events.

Bio-mom is online stalking & has issues w/ pictures of skids.

Bio-mom physically assaulted me & telling skids it was the other way around?

Bio-mom used me, I drew a line, she’s angry--now what?

BM doesn't want her kids, then does-what's going on?

Clarifying Mission Statement for SMOMS-revised

Dealing w/ bio-mom who doesn't want to get along with me?

Dealing w/ Deceased Bio Mom's Extended Family

Dealing with SD at my young age

DH finds out he has a daughter-I feel terrible

DH sets no Boundaries for SD20-what to do?

DH w/3 bio-kids not trying to bond w/ my 2 bio kids.

Do I love my ss? I don't know.

Does the BB help or hurt with issues?

Don't know where I went wrong

Ever Feel Like Leaving?

FDH feels guilty about leaving BM & allows her to excessively call/text/email him.

Feeling like invisible parent to stepson- help!

Feeling like the enemy in my own house: Teen SD

Feeling resentment towards my SS & can't connect

From BB- A Ritual for you & your beloved

From BB: Self-awareness can hurt...why is that?

Help w/situation that dad, biomom & skid all agree on but I don’t feel is best

Holiday traditions? Some ideas from sister SMOMS

How can I find the right balance & Boundaries?

How can I handle my SD8 who loves negative attention?

How do I cope w/DH's need for perfect family when I'm more realistic about it?

How do I deal with a lying SD, her bio-mom & the ex-step mom?

How do I deal with all the hurt and anger?

How do I help her understand that chores and rules don't mean that I don’t love her?

How do I stop SD from lying to me, DH, BM, and BM's boyfriend?

How to accept bio-mom's "bad" choices?

How to deal w/ unkind skids, ex-wife, MIL costing me my relationship?

how to deal w/SD choosing bio-mom for school play?

How to handle bio-mom who keeps asking for more $$$?

How to handle it when skids away Christmas Day?

How to help ss, when BM encourages him to lie?

How to help when bio-mom returns

How to let go of the single life I thought I saw going to live versus being SMOM?

How to make transition easier for skids?

how to step back in after stepping out?

Husband still feels guilty, his kids in their 30’s

I am frustrated with my skids 99% of the time...help!

I feel jealous of DH's ex & unheard by DH-Help!

I feel left out & sort of invisible w/ grown SD’s

I really love my FDH, but really wish his daughter didn't exist?

I want a better relationship w/ teen stepson

I want a Closer relationship w/ stepdaughter

I want my bed back

I would like to know how to change my attitude towards my new inherited family

I'm at the end of my tether... Stepchildren don't seem to like me.

If you're in the mood for SMOMS Pep Talk-read this!

Invested so much love, time, energy & $$...seems it's never enough

It's too much work- I need help from DH & Family!

Jealous of sister-in-law & Skids-what can I do?

Just jealous or maybe time to leave?

Local support stepmom groups???

My DH doesn't understand why my feelings are hurt

My husband stays at his mothers when he has his daughter for the night.

Need better coping skills but..how to do so…

No matter what I do, bio-mom still hostile. I feel hopeless & scared

Not a step mom yet but need some guidance

Open for your Questions in March 2015

Right now, I HATE being a Stepmom!!!

Self-Pity-it's an emotional numbing,energy draining tactic

Someone to talk to when things come up or whenever?

SS5 keeps throwing his BM in my face! Help!

Struggling w/ a jealous stepdaughter

Stubborn DH and sexually active teenage SS

teenage step daughter & car...Ugh!

the problem is my partner...why is he fighting my efforts?

Transitions and Coparenting Struggles

Trouble coping w/BF's newborn & ex.

Venting Guidelines- A Requested approach

What are reasonable expectations?

What are these letters?

What boundaries do I need to set with husband and sd?

What can we do about the rage! I "Lost it" last night. Help!

What to do about disrespectful 20 yr/old SS

What to do when Bio mom starts turning step daughter against me?

what to do when step child stops saying I love you?

When bio-mom sends stuff from life w/your DH?

When BM causes drama, how to prevent that impacting my relationship w/ the skids?

When to call it quits? What to do?

When winning more important to bio-mom than getting along

Why do things Skid's say bother me so & what to do?-Updated!

Why does it bother me that my skids don't recognize how much their father does for th

Why does my ss's rudeness bother me so?

Why does my stepson Idolize his bio-mom????

Why don't I matter in the family?

Why so jealous? What about irrational fears?

No matter what I do, bio-mom still hostile. I feel hopeless & scared
Hi Cathryn


I’ve been a stepmom for 5 years. I’ve been married to my husband for 2. I have two beautiful stepkids 8 and 9 years old a girl and a boy. I also have a beautiful biological son who is 1. My husband and I have made a great effort building our wonderful family relationships despite of the bio-mom saying I wasn't family and being negative about my husband. Despite of all that’s happened my stepkids love me and I love them too. There were difficult moments for them when they were younger as moving between two houses is tough. We have them 50% of the time, so one week with mom and one week with dad. 

They are so big now that they navigate great and are perfectly happy with how things are going. Bio-mom is struggling more and more with it and since my son was born she has become more difficult and behaving as if I am competition. I feel very sorry for that because I am not trying to take her place at all but I am trying to be a nice stepmom enjoying my stepkids too. 

In the summer everything culminated for her and she didn't want any communication with me at all, not that there was much....I never interfere with school decisions or other important things. I was trying to coordinate birthday gifts so we didn't buy the same stuff. I respected her decision of not having contact with me and I haven't had contact since. 

In October she had another conflict with my husband and she tried dragging me into the whole argument bringing back what had happened in the summer. I realized she was expecting an apology for something I didn't think needed it but I don't want to be part of their arguments so I decided to give her that apology and keep myself out of that equation. 

Now her conflicts with my husband are increasing and lately they had another one and again she tried dragging me into it. It didn't really work well as I have had zero contact and I am not involved in their discussions, just focusing on the 5 of us when we are together and doing what I can to make my stepkids feel welcome and being a family of 5. I am realizing that she is resenting it goes so well in our family. At times we see signs they like staying with us more,  at other times it is neutral. 

Now I can feel my anxiety is increasing because I am scared of her next step how she will try to blame me and I just want things to be ok and I feel really hopeless here. I cannot be a bad stepmom just so she feels more safe as a mom and I am not interested in taking her role but I feel no matter what I do she will pull me into this. I am taking it really hard and I feel so devastated because when I am so affected by her lying about stuff I did or things I do, I don't feel I can be there for my family the same way. 

I talked to my therapist about it and her solution was do less with the stepkids and leave it all to her.....but we share the kids 50% of the time and we still need to buy them clothes etc and make sure things for school events are ok.....we can't leave that to her because it will emphasize the negative stories she already says about us that we don't care as much as her and besides that is not me or my husband as people. I feel hopeless because no matter what I will be blamed by her and I need a way to develop a thicker skin but don't know how. I hope you can help me out.

By the way your website has helped me so much at times......I admire your work.

Best, Stepmom Feeling Hopeless and Scared

Cathryn’s Reply:

Dear Stepmom, 

I’ve read your letter three times and I want you to start by saying that I think you and your husband have been doing a wonderful job in ever increasingly stressful circumstances.  You’re doing so many things in respectful, kind, dare I say “right” ways trying to make your stepkids and their bio-mom feel comfortable.  This is a real gift to your stepkids.  It would be a gift to their bio-mom as well IF she were willing to receive it and get along.  

Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do to change the attitude of your stepkids’ bio-mom.  The realization that you can’t change her upsetting actions usually brings up all the upsetting feelings you’re experiencing now so it makes complete sense to me that you're feeling as you do. Her impact can also trigger our unresolved childhood traumas and put us in survival mode which is usually guided by the childhood strategies we needed as a kid. From this viewpoint, you going to feel at her mercy and vulnerable to her cruel, unfair, restrictive requests, actions and accusations. This is a painful horrible feeling. 

I’ve noticed that therapists without successful experience or training in how to help stepmoms whose stepkids have an adversarial bio-mom often give advice, like the suggestion you received, to back away, get smaller in our own life or give in to avoid bio-mom’s wrath—perhaps because it’s the only thing they can think of. Sadly these suggestions only reinforces our vulnerability and sometimes even our worst fear—that our presence is somehow the cause of the family stress. Reducing our involvement may be good advice if a stepmom is flaunting her role as stepmother, lashing out at her stepkids, trying to turn the stepkids away from their bio-mom or being disrespectful to the bio-mom.  However, that’s NOT you so based on what you have written, I see the solution to your situation differently than your therapist. 

I believe you will find relief and confidence and hope by changing the way you choose to look at this situation with your stepkids' bio-mom. What if you and your husband decide to view your stepkids’ bio-mom like severe weather that can pop up at anytime?  What if you begin to imagine her future threats as a bad storm approaching?  With a real storm, you know you can’t control it but you CAN prepare for and protect yourself from the storm in all kinds of creative ways? If you can embrace this metaphor, you’re likely to feel yourself stepping into your wise, very capable strong adult Self.

If you learned that a giant storm was approaching, the March 31, 2017 (today) woman you are today has all kinds of resources, skills and strengths to draw upon to take action to keep you and those you love safe. This weather situation can bring out the “mother bear” energy in women which is strong, kind and very powerful.  Can you feel the shift just thinking about this in your imagination? 

If you can decide to stop trying to change the bio-mom’s actions but instead mobilize all your adult strengths to deal with the approaching reality, I feel certain you’re going to feel a shift in your sense of safety and confidence.

When you’ve tried as hard as you have to get along as a respectful parenting ally and yet the bio-mom still behaves as your stepkids’ bio-mom is behaving, it’s an indication of HER issues, not yours.  Because the bio-moms have tremendous impact on a blended family, the effective goal needs to shift from trying to change her so everyone gets along, to trying to self-protect and contain the damages caused by her and to keep you, your husband and stepkids as un-impacted negatively as possible. 

From what you have written to me, you can do this immediately.  Preparing with your husband for any anticipated bad bio-mom weather storms can also reduce your anxiety, keep you two strong as a team and help your stepkids continue to see you two as a safe harbor. 

About your feelings from the past experiences: I do want to urge you to have a lot of compassion for the trauma you have already experienced. When we're doing everything we can and its still not working, it's going to bring up anger, fear and pain so please honor all those feelings.  Lots of self-care will be helpful.  Recognize that even if you face every future storm with great skill, the younger you’s have been unfairly treated, hurt, scared and naturally feel hopeless. The younger You's do not have an answers BUT YOU DO NOW!  It’s a time for lots of lovingkindness, empathy and encouragement  so those feelings can heal and the past experiences do not need to be repeated in the future. 

There are several articles on the member site that will expand on ways you can respond powerfully to future bio-mom challenges.  There are also many members, sister SMOMS, on the forums who understand how you feel and will offer you the empathy and ideas from their own journeys.  Any woman in the role of stepmom can access the articles and forums for free for a month.

I’m so sorry for the pain and terror this bio-mom has brought into your life. It can be difficult to accept an adversary in our lives who’s unwilling to get along so matter how kind or accommodating you are.  However, thankfully, you and your husband seem to have a strong connection and together you can find ways to contain her negative impact and fortify the joy and connection you share with your stepkids. 

May you find some relief and ideas in this reply.
Kind Regards, Cathryn
Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms on a Mission®
PO Box 7, Medford NJ 08055
609.206.2009
Cathryn@smoms.org