Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms wrote in, Cathryn replied​.
Cathryn's Mailbox
A- I love my partner, but I also wish his daughter didn't exist! (8/11)

A-About ready to throw in the towel! (4/12)

A-About to become a stepparent and am terrified!(5/12)

A-Are you in the mood for Stepmom's Pep Talk-read this! (3/15)

A-Clarifying Mission Statement for SMOMS. (11/11)

A-Do I love my stepson? Sometimes I don't know.(8/12)

A-Don't know where I went wrong. Please help me!(6/12)

A-Ever Feel Like Leaving? (5/11)

A-Feeling like invisible parent to stepson- help! (12/13)

A-Feeling like the enemy in my own house. Yes I have a teen stepdaughter.(5/15)

A-From BB: Self-awareness can hurt...why is that? (10/12)

A-Holiday traditions? Some ideas from sister SMOMS. (11/113)

A-How can I find the right balance & boundaries? (4/12)

A-How do I deal with all the hurt and anger? (1/12)

A-How to let go of the single life versus being stepmom?(8/15)

A-How to step back in after stepping out? (8/12)

A-I need some better coping skills and I'm open to new ideas.(7/16)

A-Invested so much love, time, energy & $$...seems it's never enough. (2/16)

A-It's too much work- I need help from my partner & Family!(7/12)

A-Not a step mom yet but need some guidance (7/12)

A-Right now, I HATE being a Stepmom!!! (10/13)

A-Self-Pity-an emotional numbing,energy draining tactic-find a new option. (7/15)

A-What about the rage! I "Lost it" last night. Help! (10/11)

A-What are reasonable expectations? (3/11)

A-When to call it quits? What to do? (3/12)

A-Why am I so jealous? What about my irrational fears? 7/15)

A-Why don't I matter in this stepfamily? (12/11)

B-Dealing with SD at my young age (7/15)

B-Feeling resentment towards my stepson and can't connect with him.(2/16)

B-How can I handle my stepdaughter(8) who loves negative attention? (8/12)

B-How do I deal with a bio-mom who doesn't want to get along with me? (9/13)

B-How do I handle my feelings when my stepchild stops saying I love you? (4/16)

B-How do I help her understand chores/rules don't mean that I don’t love her?(1/12)

B-How to help my stepson, when his mom encourages him to lie to us? (10/11)

B-How to make the transition between homes easier for stepkids?(12/17)

B-I am frustrated with my stepkids 99% of the! (5/14)

B-I feel left out and invisible with grown SDs (4/12)

B-I have issues with my teenage stepdaughter and the car...Ugh! (4/12)

B-I have two stepkids I can't control.(9/11)

B-I want a better relationship w/ teen stepson. (6/12)

B-I want a Closer relationship w/ stepdaughter (5/12)

B-I'm at the end of my tether... Stepchildren don't seem to like me. (12/11)

B-It feels like my 5-year old stepson throws his mom in my face! Help! (10/11)

B-Just jealous or maybe time to leave? (6/11)

B-My 3 yr old stepson seems to be crying all the time!(9/12)

B-My husband stays at his mothers when he has his daughter for the night. (10/12)

B-My stepdaughter chooses her bio-mom for school play-it upsets me. (6/11)

B-My stepkids don't recognize how much their dad does for them. (6/11)

B-Struggling w/ a jealous stepdaughter (3/12)

B-What to do about disrespectful 20 yr/old stepson? (4/11)

B-When your stepkids are away on Christmas Day. (12/12)

B-Why do things my stepkids say bother me so much? (11/11)

B-Why does my stepson idolize his bio-mom? (4/12)

B-Why does my stepson's rudeness bother me so much? (12/11)

C-Bio-mom assaulted me & told stepkids it was the other way around. (8/11)

C-Bio-mom back & I'm hurt by her impact-what can I do? (8/11)

C-Bio-mom doesn't want her kids, then does-what's going on? (8/11)

C-Bio-mom doesn't want me present at any of my skids school events.(8/15)

C-Bio-mom is badmouthing me to my stepson & he tells me and my kids.(6/16)

C-Bio-mom used me, I drew a line, she’s angry--now what? (9/11)

C-How to accept bio-mom's "bad" choices? (6/11)

C-How to deal when bio-mom returns into the picture. (1/16)

C-How to handle bio-mom who keeps asking for more $$$? (9/12)

C-No matter what I do, bio-mom still hostile. I feel hopeless and scared.(3/17)

C-What to do when bio-mom turns my stepdaughter against me? (9/16)

C-When bio-mom sends stuff from life w/your partner-what to do? (5/11)

D-How do I cope w/DH's need for perfect family? I'm more realistic. (4/12)

D-Husband still has divorce guilt and his kids are in their 30’s--ugh! (10/14)

D-I think the problem is my partner. Why is he fighting my efforts?(6/15)

D-My partner doesn't understand why my feelings are hurt. (7/11)

D-My partner feels divorce guilt so lets his ex interrupt outlives (6/18)

D-My partner w/3 bio-kids is not trying to bond w/ my 2 kids.(8/11)

D-Partner sets no Boundaries for SD20-what to do? (8/11)

E-A bio-mom worried about her daughter's new Stepmom. Will we help? (2/12)

E-Bio-mom is online stalking and has issues w/ pictures of stepkids. (6/12)

E-Dealing w/ Deceased Bio Mom's Extended Family (5/12)

E-Dealing w/ unkind stepkids, ex-wife, MIL costing me my relationship? (2/12)

E-Help w/situation that dad, biomom & stepkids all agree on but not me! (3/11)

E-How do I change my attitude towards my new inherited family? (4/12)

E-How do I stop SD from lying to me, DH, BM, and BM's boyfriend? (8/12)

E-How to deal with a lying stepdaughter, her bio-mom & ex-stepmom? (1/12)

E-I feel jealous of my partner's ex & unheard by my partner. (10/11)

E-I want my bed back! (5/11)

E-Jealous of sister-in-law and my stepkids. What can I do? (8/12)

E-My partner found out he has a daughter-I feel terrible (10/12)

E-Stubborn partner and sexually active teenage SS (8/12)

E-Transitions and Coparenting Struggles (3/16)

E-Trouble coping w/BF's newborn and his ex-spouse. (7/12)

E-What boundaries do I need to set with husband and stepdaughter? (11/11)

E-When BM causes drama, how to preserve my relationship w/ stepkids?(6/12)

B-I have two stepkids I can't control.(9/11)
Hi Cathryn,

I stumbled across your site in an effort to get some serious help! My situation is this (if you have a while to read it all) Last year I reconnected with an old friend on facebook.  He told me he had two small boys (then they were 1 and 2) and that their mother was a horrible person who used hard drugs (Crack being only one of them) as well as prostituted herself for drug money.  He said he wanted to leave and bring the boys with him, but that she wouldn't let the boys leave, and if he tried to leave with them she'd have him arrested for kidnapping.  So he decided that the best thing to do would be to leave, and eventually she would call him crying to come get the boys because she couldn't handle the burden of children anymore.  I should also state that these 2 boys are her 5th and 6th children.  She has none of them in her custody.

He came down here to Florida from New Hampshire so that we could: A) give a relationship a try. and B) allow her to mess up enough so that we could rescue the boys.  Every day he was here, he called her and asked her to let us come get the kids and have custody of them.  She would not allow it.  Then not even 2 months later (right at tax time) she called us and said that if we give her our tax refund, we could go get the boys and take them for 6 months.  We jumped at the chance.  We knew that once we got them here, we could go to the courts and get custody.  We wrote up a paper that she had to sign, and one of the things was that she had the right to come visit as long as she gave appropriate notice.  

As suspected, the calls came fewer and fewer, until April when she called us and said she'd be coming to visit the following day.  We reluctantly agreed, on the basis that she could not take the kids overnight, and she could under no circumstances stay here with us.  She brought her new "boyfriend" along with her.  They came, saw the boys for an hour or so - asked if they could take them for a ride which we refused because they were both drunk and high (at 9am!) but did agree to let them take the kids for a walk around the block.  We followed closely behind, but did not allow them to see us!  We also took the license plate number of their car "just in case".  

While here - she told us that she no longer wanted custody of the boys, and that she would not be trying to take them from us! We were elated!   They left - and a few weeks later we got a phone call from a Michigan jail from her.  She had been arrested in MI after a long path of burglary, theft, and heavy drug use.  She had 9 felony charges on her, including grand theft auto (the car they came to FL in was stolen!) Somehow she managed to pin 90% of it on her "boyfriend" so she was only charged with Home Invasion in the end.  She will not be released until November, and she may be extradited to another state after that.  

Anyway the reason I bored you with all of that is because not to long after her visit, the boys (with no coaxing from myself or my fiance) started calling me "mom".  I have no children of my own, and I have taken on the roll of mom with them.  I truly could not love them anymore if I had given birth to them.  Now of course I don't know what the future holds, I have no clue if their bio-mom will try to come back once she is released from jail, and that will be a whole other issue, but in the mean time I am the only mom they know.

They are 2 and 3 years old, they are mostly well behaved children, but I - for the life of me - cannot make them listen to me.  They ignore EVERYTHING I say, and the only time they listen is when I yell!! I hate yelling, and before they came into my life I cannot remember the last time I had to yell in my life!  They can be hitting or kicking, or running where they shouldn't be I always start by asking nicely once, then a little firmer, then I tell them to "do it now" then ultimately after 2 or 3 minutes of simply speaking in different 'tones of voice' I end up yelling.  They do not even acknowledge that I've spoken until I yell, and then I can yell til I am blue in the face and nothing gets resolved until I am putting them in time out!  Time out doesn't work either - immediately when they come out (which for the older one can be quite a while - the time out rule here is 10 seconds of sitting quietly... and sometimes that can take 10 minutes or more!) but as soon as I let them out they are right back to what they got in trouble for!  Sometimes I feel like all I do is yell and punish and that makes me just feel horrible!

The other big issue is that the bio-mom did absolutely 100% nothing in the way of teaching these children. My fiance did all he could for them, but he had to work 10 or 12 hours a day 7 days a week because she refused to work!! The older one does not pronounce more than 5 words correctly, and cannot even say his own name.  He will be 4 years old in January, and will be going to school next year.  This is an issue because he is so behind where he should be! I work with him daily giving him encouragement and praise, Sign Language seems to help him a bit (I studied it for 4 years so I'm using it as a learning tool for the boys) The younger one knows 5 or 10 words!  I do work with them - but they get discouraged after 2 or 3 minutes and start crying and screaming that they want to stop!  What can I do???

I'm really at a loss here, I love them, and I want to be the best mom I can be for them, but if they don't listen - how can I help them? When my fiance speaks to them - or tells them what to do - they do it immediately! No whining (usually) and no questions asked!  He works between 10 and 12 hours a day, which I know he did with her as well - but we do not argue like he did with her, there are never any fights here so the boys are in a much better environment than they were before.  And he is working so hard so that I don't have to do more than my 2 hour a day work from home job, so I can be a mother to the boys.  

I'm sorry to have written so much, I'm sure you are tired of reading this by now, but I am so grateful for any advice you can give me! I'm lost - and I don't know where to turn.  

Thank you so much for listening to me (reading me?) I hope to hear back from you!  Have a perfect day!! Carolyn


Hi Carolyn, I'm glad to hear from you and get your letter so no worries about the length of it or taking my time. I’m sorry you had to wait so long for a response. Between Hurricane Irene and then my Dad having a stroke on 9/1 (he’s AOK now-happily) I’m a bit behind. So, let’s turn the focus to you and your situation.

Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to help you too much on your situation. I’m not a child development expert. I bet a lot of SMOM-Moms on the site will be able to give you all kinds of good ideas about how to help the boys in their learning process. I do have an idea about the yelling. It occurs to me that they may have been trained to do things, only when they were yelled at. From what you’ve shared about their bio-mom-they may have learned that yelling is the sign of when it's time to do things. (I know this may seem odd but think about it from their little brain perspective.)

It reminds me of when I was training my lab puppy (20 years ago). All day long I worked with him to teach him the command, “Come” and “sit”. At the end of the day when my then husband came home, I was very excited to show him what we’d learned. We went out into the back yard. He stepped back away from the puppy, me happy on the side lines hpping for a successful show and tell. My then husband kept backing away from the puppy, then smiled and said, “Come” and the puppy joyfully rambled over...TO ME! LOL Yes, I realized, in that moment that he thought the command meant “go to the nice lady anytime I hear that word Come.”

Your skids have potentially soaked up A LOT of harsh, ugly energy with their bio-mom and her circumstances and even though they can’t tell you about it and don’t understand it and can’t use words to describe it-they felt it and have had to make some sense out of it-to survive their babyhood. With that it occurs to me that you might try to teach them a NEW way to respond to you-in a game format. What about starting to whisper enthusiastically? It could intrique them and it will step you outside of the power struggle you're in right now.

There's a book by Thomas Whelan (?) called “1,2,3, Magic” or “Magic 1,2,3” that worked very very well for us. Your skids are at a perfect age for this non-yelling, non-power-struggling behavior tactic. You may want to check that out and see if it feels right for you.

Carolyn, your fiance is a very, very lucky guy that you are willing to take on such a huge role. You're giving him a priceless gift and saving him tremendous amounts of money, time, energy and anxiety. I'm glad to hear that you're still eager for the challenges.

Now I want to offer you a suggestion that may sting a bit. It's not intended to. It's not about right or wrong, it's just my opinion from what I've noticed over the last 11 years. Just something to think about. It concerns them calling you “Mom.” Are you open to having them call you something else? I understand wanting to have a nick name, a term of connection, yet after 11 years of hearing about how this can backfire for SMOMS and their skids, I share this other option with you...have them call you something that is unigue to you. Something that can co-reside and never conflict with their bio-mom’s role in their lives. It can be a special name, a nickname for you, anything that connects you to them in a unique way. It will be a name that will show them there is room for you and their mom in their hearts, lives and minds.

Why? Because even though you're raising them, you are not their mom. I believe you in saying you couldn’t love them more (as another mother by marriage, I understand this feeling myself) yet I’ve heard enough SMOMS who've become bio-moms say that this is untrue. There is another level of love. It's also a bio-chemical connection that a mother and child have that is invisible, timeless and powerful beyond words. They are young, they have had a rocky first 2 years, they have a small vocabulary, they are being loved and cared for by you and they are going to love you for that, at this age anyway. They will go along with whatever name your choose, if you are happy with it.

Given all that, please consider giving your relationship a new connection that can last forever, with or without the bio-mom. My gut feels strongly about this for you. There's no shame or embarrassment in not being their bio-mom or not being called MOM. There are many potential heartaches involved in them calling YOU mom and then having their bio-mom enter the picture. There are a few SMOMS on the site BB who are healing and dealing with this pain right now. I hope you will write more on this on the BB so they can offer you their feeling about it.

There’s a book you may want to read. It’s called “Drama of the Gifted Child” by Dr. Alice Miller. It's a life transforming little book and it will give you insights into what’s happening in their little minds and how to help them as their “enlightened Witness,” as she calls it. You may also want to get a small punching bag-with all their energy, it's a useful tool for releasing any back-up energy. A 1 or 2 minute session at the punching bag might be a more effective “time-out” than the classic sitting. Just a thought.

I’m hoping that you will get lots and lots of support and ideas for ways to help their education and behavior from other SMOM-Moms on the site. There are many SMOMS who are teachers and experts in this field of child development and I hope they will jump in as well.

I'm not sure if this is helpful, but I hope so. Welcome to the group. If you want to reply or keep this dialogue going, just write back (via email) and we'll continue. Otherwise, I’ll look forward to seeing you on the BB. You’ve taken on a tremendous challenge. I am thrilled to hear that you and your fiance are handling this together. Congrats on your upcoming marriage.

All the Best, Cathryn
Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms on a Mission®
PO Box 7, Medford NJ 08055