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 time...help! (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-It feels like my 5-year old stepson throws his mom in my face! Help! (10/11)
Hi Cathryn,

My stepson's mom has been out of the picture for 2 months now and she's not going to be seeing him anytime soon according to the court.
She is a pathological liar.
And her lies are obvious.
She was never with him when she did have parenting time and he will tell you that. She has a different boyfriend every couple of months and lives with them!
She is always jumping around from place to place and job to job.
When she did see him she would dress him in clothes that were 2 sizes too small and it wasn't just because she was sending him to us, it was all the time and I know because I can see her facebook pictures.

My husband told me that she used to have a drug problem...not that she does now that I know of but the way she acts makes me wonder.
She also has a daughter who she doesn't even see!
Her daughter lives in another state with the mother’s parents.
She never sees her and yet she wants to fight us for him.
My stepson would tell us that he was not allowed to talk about what went on at her house and had to keep secrets from us.
We told him that it didn't matter to us because we know what we do with him and that is what is important.
Even though inside I am screaming and dying to know what she is really doing.
I have always treated him like gold...I also punish him just like his father does.

But I am always doing fun things with him and doing things with him that he has never got to do before.
He tells me how fun they are and how nice I am and how much he loves me and in the next sentence he tells me that "my mommy does this" "my mommy said that" "my mommy cut her hand one time".

And it is always right after I do something with him or when we are on our way to do something.
He even tells me that these are things that his mom would never do or has never done.
I know how terrible she is but he doesn't and he doesn't need to know right now.

I am banking on the fact that someday he will realize all of this but right now he is only 5. And it is getting harder and harder to keep my cool.

I find myself walking away from him as soon as he starts the "my mommy..." all the time now.

I can't take it any more and I know that she will always be his mother but she hasn't even seen him for 2 months or even tried to! And I am the one who takes care of him!

So I am stuck here in this situation and I'm at my wits end with treating him so good when all he does is disrespect me and throw his mom in my face.

Everyone tells me how well I am doing with him and how he has never had anyone to care for him they way I do...everyone except him!

 I say thanks and how I know how it is to be a divorced child with a deadbeat parent (dad in my case) and that this is how I would want my stepmom to treat me. But inside I am going crazy! HELP!!! Brittany

CATHRN’S REPLY:

Hi Brittany,

Boy oh Boy can I identify with you and your feelings. I had a very similar situation, only the bio-mom was in town and we shared 50-50% custody. He was 5 when he came into my life. I really understand what you’re feeling. I’m excited that you wrote to me and eager to share what I learned in hopes it will save you countless hours of frustration and hurt feelings.

Let’s talk about your line, “I'm at my wits end with treating him so good when all he does is disrespect me and throw his mom in my face.”

Can you open yourself to the possibility that it is BECAUSE you are treating him so well(making him feel so safe), that he feels he HAS to bring his mom into his reality, at the moment he’s having so much fun with you? Some part of him, thinks of her when he is feeling so loved by you. He doesn’t have lots of resources to draw on. He knows how he feels with you and parts of him know he doesn’t have that with her. You remind him of the Mom he wishes he had and if you can be enthusiastic with him, he feels better about being happy with you. This is not conscious on his part, but the feelings and emotional needs will compel people to act, even when they don’t understand why. He’s bringing her up in conversation to meet his needs.

Can you consider that the reason he’s bringing up his bio-mom with you is because he is looking TO YOU for approval and enthusiasm? He wants you to be happy with who he is and it is like a child bringing all his favorite toys to school or to Grandpa’s house. It is a desire for your reaction.

Yes, I know he is only 5. Again, this is not a conscious thing, it’s a human nature kind of compulsion when a child has been deprived of his bio-mom’s unconditional love in the first 3-5 years.

When he brings her up, he might as well be saying, “My teacher cut stars of out paper today.” “My puppy brought me a sock this morning.” “My bike has new handlebars and no training wheels.” He’s looking for you to give him an enthusiastic response (here comes the part you may not have seen yet) because he wants to feel good about something that HE brings to the conversation with you. He’s looking to assuage the unconscious pain of not having a mother like YOU. If you can be excited for him, in the moment, it gives him permission to not feel so badly.

Now you may be thinking this is all huey, but hang in here with me because I have seen it time and time again with kids in the 4-10 age group.

Try this and see for yourself:

Next time he says anything about his Mom, smile directly back at him (if you can) and say something like, “How about that!” or “Isn’t that something!” and watch him beam!!! In that moment he doesn’t know what he’s doing but he knows how good it feels to bask in your happy acknowledgement of whatever he is saying.

Does this make any sense at all to you?

I remember when I learned this. I had just received my engagement ring (3 round stones) I was thrilled with it and when my ss saw it, he smiled and looked at me enthusiastically and said, “My mommy’s ring has 27 diamonds in it!” I took a breath, remembered my mission, smiled and said, “She must really love it, like I love mine.”

He said nonchalantly, “I don’t know” and went on to his next topic happy as could be. I kept my attention on whatever he was saying (because that was always my goal with him-to be present with him) and had the chance to do this 2-3 more times in that same conversation. It was almost like he was now bringing her up so I could feed some deep emotional need he had. (I’ve since learned much more about this.)

It was a shocker but it worked over and over again. I was so relieved to see his actions really had nothing to do with me. hey weren’t an attack. I could see that I was helping HIM, but giving him my enthusiastic acknowledgment and that made it easy to do. I was able to stop making it about her, and realized this dear little boy was just trying to help himself feel better without really understanding wy he felt badly in the first place.

I didn’t need to explain. I just gave him more love and attention. I no longer “framed” him bringing her up in conversation as a disrespectful thing, I saw it as a reflection of him coming to me (yes me) for lovingkindness. It was something I did for him, almost always without stress for the rest of his life. He’ll be 20 next week.

Have you read the book, “The drama of the gifted Child” by Alice Miller? I feel it would be a worthwhile use of your time. It is going to help you (tremendously) AND it is going to give you lots of awareness of how to help this little boy in ways that no one was able to help you when you were little. You can both heal as you learn more about what’s triggering your feelings...and his.

The difference is that you are now conscious of your feelings and have the intelligence and skills and support and willingness to do something about it. You are going to have the chance to be his hero, and your own hero. It is a profoundly powerful book that will help you both, if it feels right for you to embark on this healing journey.

Your little stepson doesn’t know he is hurting you yet. His world is all about him. Virtually everything he does is a call for love, attention and safety (physical and emotional). He is a lucky boy to be loved by you!!!

If this sparks more questions, write to me again and we can go “one more round”. If you wish.

There is so much healing that can take place when we are willing to see what’s really going on, deep down under the wounds. I wish you and your ss, lots of love and healing together.

Take Care, Cathryn
Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms on a Mission®
PO Box 7, Medford NJ 08055
609.206.2009
Cathryn@smoms.org