Dear Step-Parent to my kids

I can only imagine what you have been told to allow you think it is ok to try to minimize & diminish my relationship with my children.

Unfortunately, this behavior continues to prove how much you have been manipulated into believing things about me that aren’t true.  While your opinion doesn’t matter to me, my children do matter to me.  What you and my ex say around my kids concerns me, what you two ‘subtly’ infer to around the kids doesn’t do anything other than minimize who these children are, the core of who they are as part of this family and as individuals. Building strong, healthy minded, rational, caring, independent children takes work, encouragement, and a strong sense of who they are as individuals.

While you are nearing 50, this are the first kids you have been around to assist in raising, you need to learn what your boundaries are. What is said around the kids does affect who they are. There are volumes of documented cases where kids are unable to believe in who they are because of the damage a parent/step-parent does by discouraging relationships with the other parent.

I suggest you do your homework, study the divorce agreement (don’t leave it to your spouse to give you their interpretation of the agreement).  Maybe take a parenting course, realize that these children HAVE a healthy established relationship with me. When you are around them, making ME seem bad only hurts them.  IF you are to be an effective step parent I suggest you consider what is important to the kids and not what is important to your spouse when it comes to the parent/child relationship.

While my ex and I are not together WE are still a family, YOU are the addition, you do have a responsibility to step lightly when dealing w/my children and me.  You are expendable, should my ex not be able to take care of our kids, they would be immediately in my custody.  Realize your position, you are the current spouse of my ex, you are the step-parent to my children, nothing else. You will never be their biological parent, you will never have them legally as ‘your kids’, but for now, you do have a responsibility to them as their current step-parent.  Make sure you are proud of the job you do – because if you don’t they will learn to resent both you and my ex-spouse all on their own.

Sincerely,
The parent of my 2 loving kids

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~ by Stepfamily Letter Project on May 12, 2011.

72 Responses to “Dear Step-Parent to my kids”

  1. I’m very sorry this woman says disrespectful things. That must hurt very deeply. And you’re right, subtly inferring anything disrespectful to the children is not in their best interest.

    You seem to be a rational, caring, and intelligent mom. I’d really encourage you to take a step backwards to see the otherside. Its hard, and it takes compassion and maturity- but in the end it may be worth it… if for no other reason than to be a more caring individual.

    I cant imagine being nearly 50, never having had children of my own, and still committing to be a Stepmom.

    I’m in my mid 20’s, without children “of my own”, and being a Stepmom to the sweetest boy in the world is still sometimes so hard on the emotions. I cannot afford to have my own children because most of our money is paid in Child Support to the ex wife. It breaks my heart.

    Do you know what its like to love someone, to sacrifice your time and dreams, to always come last and to always be told… “You’re not REALLY mom. You’re just an addition”?

    Perpetuating a sense of entitlement does not benefit the children either. Subtly telling the children “She is NOT your mom… you don’t have to listen to her” has been documented to cause damage to children as well. Instead, as the one who KNOWS your kids and whom you kids trust, it is your role to encourage them to have a healthy relationship with the Stepmom.

    Even if you don’t like her, she is still a woman with feelings and still an adult who probably sacrifices a lot for her family. Does she ever drive them anywhere? Does she cook for them? Is she kind to them?

    I will also say that you and your children are a family. If you remarry, your husband will be your family. Your ex husband created a new family with his new wife. In your eyes, she is “the addition” or “the replacement”… but in the eyes of your ex spouse, she is “the wife” and you are “the ex.” You cared for him once, respected him enough to try to build a family… try to respect his choice to move on. Maybe in doing so, you will be able to let go too.

    This is something that is hard to accept- but regardless of who left, the family bond is broken.

    The family dynamics in your ex husband’s home are NOT like yours. They are a “Blended Family” or “Stepfamily” and unless you have been a Stepmom… its so hard to understand what it is like for the other woman.

    Please remember, each time she sees your children, its a reminder that your ex loved you once. I bet she is thankful for those kids, like I’m thankful for my Stepson… still each day, I wonder… when is it MY turn?

    I pray each day brings healing for you. I’m sorry you’re hurting.

    • I am thankful for my kids, I expected my ex to marry quickly & to a well-to-do person. What I was blindsided by was the idea that ‘this is the new family to replace me’. I have been deceived by my ex, who grew up w/ a parent that had alienated the other parent from my ex & the sibling.

      I did not enter my gender as this is a non-gender issue. I have been alienated from my children, my ex’s spouse has joined in on the anger blindly w/ only a one sided story. There are HUGE legal ramification for being ignorant in dealing w/my children, and allowing the alienation.

      Normal people do not alienate the children from the parent, normal people realize that the most important people are the children & what is best for them…

      This step parent has been told by my ex that the they are a better parent than I am. Yet, never, has this person spent 5 minutes w/me & the kids to make their own decision. It is a control issue w/my ex.

  2. I did not get the impression this is a mom. But that’s only my interpretation of the letter. I would like to know though.

    I was told once by a judge during court,’the three of you are a family. Even in divorce, you are still a family’ so I guess it is up to each family how they see it.

    The letter was nicely written with a calm demeanor and the advice was very well given. Good job to both.

    I feel for you as I know how it feels to have someone undermine your relationship with your child with lies and mean words. And the only one it truely hurts in the end is the children.

  3. I see where it says from a Mom. Lol I didn’t see that at first. Sorry.

    • Where does this say I am a ‘mom’? I have been very careful to remain gender neutral. I might be a mom or a dad. Not sure this kind of behavior is gender specific.

  4. News flash: You are not still a family. Deal with it. SHE is his family, just like his children are. I’m also guessing you do not have custody, for you felt a need to vehemently point out that if something were to happen to your ex, the kids would go to you. I also have a feeling that at “almost 50″, your ex-husband’s wife completely understands her boundaries, and also understands the holier than thou perspective you have about raising your children. I would suggest treading carefully when speaking to your children about their father and stepmother, for I have a sneaking suspicion you are actually worst than they are.

  5. The more I read this website the more I sense it is a stepmother biased site when you read hostile responses to the legal mother’s perspective consistently.

    It’s a shame a divorced mother cannot share a difference of opinion on here without expecting stepmother agenda and vitriol in responses. The only posts that receive praise are from divorced mothers who make their children a free-for-all for the stepmother.

    Newsflash Bing: I would take your own advice and tread carefully on assuming who is or is not the source of problems for this family. It’s obvious bias and you obviously have work to do on yourself before doling out stepfamily counsel to a virtual stranger.

  6. Trust me, I’ve done this to the stepmothers too. No one is immune.
    I have sole legal and physical custody of my three children. My husband has sole legal and physical custody of his two children. There are very specific and serious reasons that lead to both of those decisions, well before my current husband and I met or married. My husband and I have two children together. I have no agenda, other than to call out sanctimonious rants for what they are.

  7. Interesting choice of words, specifically the word “sanctimonious” because that’s exactly how you are coming across with your persistent diatribe.

    People gain sole legal and physical custody as psychological and/or physical child abuser by manipulating the court system. I don’t hold anyone who holds these titles more credible than a non-resident and especially parents who use it as some sort of license to cyber bully without just cause.

    This is a site for emotional VENTING. It’s not here for you to pick apart the person needing a place to purge real or imagined emotional frustration. It’s here for all roles, stepmother and legal mother or both.

    What does seem obvious to me is you can’t respect the right to have a difference of opinion from your own or feelings for that matter. That indicates to me you have work to do on yourself, either as a stepmother or as a divorced mother, or both.

    Fellow stepmothers may allow you to beat up a legal mother posting without a raised eyebrow but I will not.

    Respect the right of all roles to vent here without your misplaced anger/frustration projected onto him/her…not just the ones you support because they are obviously the only ones you wish to understand.

  8. I agree with both Bing and Erin. Erin I understand what you are saying and agree with you about respecting the right to have a difference of opinion and clearly that’s mostly what this letter is, just an opinion. However, I do agree with Bing also because I don’t feel that the ex-wife, the father, and the kids are still a family. By her saying that the step mom is just an “addition” to the family, that sounds like she is being kind of dismissive of the new woman and her new role. EX-WIFE, EX, AND KIDS ARE NOT STILL A FAMILY.Ex-wife and kids are a family, and husband, kids, and new wife are a family. New wife/stepmother should know her boundaries, but ex-wife SHOULD NOT undermine the role of a step-parent because,to me, being a stepmother can be one of the most unrewarding jobs. New wife shouldn’t bad mouth mother to children but mother shouldn’t bad mouth new wife to children either! JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE THE BIO MOM DOESN’T MEAN YOU DESERVE MORE RESPECT THAN THE STEP MOM because in the end both of you are adults and you should want the children to respect ALL adults. I think all parents need to sit down and discuss these issues and maybe even attend family counseling together.

    • Parent counseling didn’t work, my ex lied, got caught lying, and then got worse & quit couseling. Never did my ex feel remorse for the treatment. NOW my ex IS aware of this behavior, that maybe, my ex wasn’t aware before, yet NOW it is a choice to alienate me. There is no accountability for this behavior in the court system.

      AND the current spouse plays right into the same behavior. SO yes I do deserve respect, and this current spouse does not. BUT, I do maintain politeness, I do not display my disdain for the parent/new spouse in front of my children.

  9. I think every family defines “family” in their own way. Just as stepmothers define their family with children-not-their own, the legal mother (I don’t think there is a need to refer to someone by a former role held like ex-wife which suggests some lingering emotionally intimate connection in the present) defines her family the same way. If it helps her co-parent with the father of her children to think of him as “family” even after a divorce from him, I don’t see any harm in it.

    Just as stepchildren aren’t a stepmother’s actual children but you see many stepmothers refer to them as “their children”.

    It goes both ways. If you want respect for your right to define your family and relationships the way you see fit as a stepmother than the same courtesy is the legal mother’s as well. If she sees the father and/or his family as still being her family due to the biological connection via her children then there isn’t any more harm in it than a stepmother claiming children her own who aren’t legally hers.

    It seems to me stepmothers want certain considerations and respect for boundaries they are not willing to allow the mother of their stepchildren. Why is that?

    Legally stepmothers are a third party adult. If we are seeking to respect unofficial boundaries for the stepmother than the same should be true of the mother in the equation as well.

    So long as the mother is causing her children legitimate harm (and only those in that family situation know that with any certainty or a mental health professional whose treated that family) then why would you care how the mother defines her family? It’s no different than a stepmother doing it.

    Interestingly the stepmother is quick to point out legalities when it works for her but balks at it when someone points out when she’s assumed a position outside of her station with stepchildren.

    Respect starts with open and honest dialogue on forums such as this seeking to better understand the other’s legitimate perspective on both sides. If you cannot even do that here I can only imagine how much more difficult it is in traversing one’s own family life struggles with the other household.

  10. Erin, I appreciate your passion for the topic. Please note that this site was created with stepfamilies in mind. It was created by two stepmothers and is often shared within the stepmom community. That might account for why it often seems like stepmoms are the most frequent commenters.

    Something we ask for on this site is respect to see the other side. That’s one of the positive side effects of this site is that you can get a glimpse into how someone is feeling. Often, people who submit letters to the site are otherwise unable to say what’s really on their mind to the person or people they’ve written the letter to.

    I rarely ever assert my own views in the comments or on the letters, but I am on this one and on the comment string. One of the biggest reasons stepmoms become defensive and do submit comments to letters like these is because we don’t like being treated as or defined as second class citizens in our own homes. There are numerous people who will argue that stepmothers are nothing more than accessories that need to learn how to sit down, shut up, and stop interfering (or as it’s been pointed out a legal third party adult). Just as we ask that stepmothers see both sides of the coin, we also ask that biological mothers, ex-wives, etc. see the other side as well.

    Many, if not most, stepmothers try extremely hard to make their stepchildren feel loved and comfortable in the split household situation. They treat their stepchildren the best way they know how and are capable of doing. Most stepmothers are not trying to replace the mother but do love their stepchildren in a manner similar to how a biological mother can lover her children. Most stepmothers are not home-wrecking interlopers, rather women who are just trying to love and help these children because they are important to her partner.

    It is unfortunate that there are biological mothers, ex-wives, etc. that feel intimidated by those attempts to love the children and would rather argue with the stepmom than try to understand everyone is looking out for the best thing for the kids (aka: peace among all of the parents).

    — Stepfamily Letter Project Co-Creator, Erin

  11. I listen to and believe I understand both sides very well considering I’ve frequented and fully participated on stepfamily and stepmother forums for eleven years as a divorced mother. I know the ins and outs of the perspective of the stepmother and while empathize fully with the struggles of the role also believe stepmothers are as guilty of marginalizing the struggles of a divorced mother trying to raise shared children in a very complicated dynamic oftentimes logistically and psychologically.

    What I have observed in the last eleven years is more support for the stepmother role and her struggles for legitimacy in her role while simultaneously a double standard applied when it comes to the divorced mother role and struggles.

    Stepmothers verbalize and behave as though because they are not a legal parent they are due more unofficial consideration and respect for unofficial boundaries than that of the divorced mother with her own children. Many will go so far as to demonize her if she doesn’t satisfy that particular stepmothers agenda in the creation of her family by signing off on x, y or z position.

    It appears to me there is a tendency to make the divorced mother irrelevant in the lives of her children in the development and nurturing of the stepmother’s familial positioning. You see it in the responses on your website from stepmothers.

    I often walk away hearing the self-serving agenda when a divorced mother is “advised” on how she should approach raising her children in a very complicated parenting dynamic. Divorced mothers, too, are adapting and evolving as they traverse their role and to be told you are a subpar performing mother if you don’t behave and respond to the stepmother’s position in a particular way (as we see with the stepmother position there are no cookie cutter, this-is-the-only-right-way-to-raise-a-child-postdivorce templates for divorced parents). How to respond to the stepmother’s entrance and presence is as complicated for divorced mothers, and as varied, as the stepmother trying to figure out how to respectfully co-exist with the divorced mother. Do you really think the stepmother has a harder go of it? I don’t. I think they are equally difficult depending on the adults in the equation.

    Also, stepmothers have far more unofficial power in the situation than many want to let on in their influence of Dad and his behavior.

    You assume a divorced mother is intimidated when in reality it is quite possible there are other explanations for her behavior other than (fill-in-the-blank-emotional-deficiency-assigned-by-counterpart-stepmother) such as she simply has a different parenting style and vision for her children than the stepmother’s. You don’t think she has a right to raise her children the way she sees fit? Is she not allowed to have her own ideas of how to model a stepfamily outside of Dad’s (and SMs)?

    I don’t comment on stepmother laments on here because they have a right to purge their emotional frustration without blind criticism and so, too, should the stepmom.

    If that’s not the vision for this website then I’ll cease to participate. I assumed this was a website for all the familial roles of the blended family to read and contribute so we all possibly walk away with a better understanding of the heart and mind of each other. I suppose in my assuming I grossly missed the mark.

  12. “Be the change you want to see in the world”

    Erin, we welcome your participation. If you have a different perspective, please continue to voice it so we can learn the other side as well.

    -SFLP Erin

  13. “We must devise a system in which peace is more rewarding than war.”

    I feel this applies to the mother/stepmother one where both sides appear to have self-serving incentive to continue the war.

    Hopefully I’m not presenting myself as anything other than a person desiring respect and compassion for every human beings struggle to find contentment in their lives.

    I’ll say it again. Stepmothers are allowed to lament here without blind criticism and it would be refreshing if divorced mothers were allowed that same courtesy. Perhaps you would see more divorced parent/mother participation instead of alienation.

  14. Well it’s easy to say that you understand both sides but I don’t think you can truly understand unless you’ve been in both positions and even then situations vary. Also, I think what’s being left out of this equation is the FATHER because I don’t know if many bio/legal mothers know this but a lot of the times the father expects the stepmother to automatically “care for the children as if they were her own” and because she loves him she usually does or tries to the best she can.

  15. Wow! I feel like I started a brawl or something! Here’s the real truth. Parenting is hard. Divorce is hard. Step-parenting is hard. Step-families are hard, complicated and require a certain amount of trust from all parties. Raising children is hard, period, no matter what the circumstances. Stepmothers are ‘advised’ on how to parent, as are mothers, fathers, and stepfathers. A certain level of discord is present in every single parenting relationship, regardless of affiliation, status or desire for peace.

    Erin, it is clear you have your own agenda here. Either share it or don’t, I don’t really mind either way. It would be refreshing to read your own take on your family situation.

  16. I agree that most, if not all, problems between a divorced mother and a stepmother could be significantly mitigated by the father.

    However, I think both women also make choices which impact their level of resentment or inability to find contentment in the situation as well.

    As a divorced mother, I have the choice to either allow the other household to upset me or not to participate and react. It doesn’t matter how they behave because in the end I’m responsible for my level of contentment and peace in my life.

    It took me a long time to figure that one out because I thought I had no choice but to react raising a shared child with them.

    Stepmothers absolutely do have choices in the situation. In the end, it’s her responsibility to ensure her own peace and happiness in life, not her husband and certainly not stepchildren and/or their mother.

    I think both sides are basically confronted with the same type of problem in a complicated dynamic. I think we are in denial if we think we really have no choice in the matter and it’s someone else’s fault for our unhappiness or inability to develop/nurture our relationships with shared children.

    I don’t need to be a stepmother to know that to be true. I’ve read enough of them to know they face the same problem that divorced mothers do…feelings of helplessness, loss of control and vulnerability in some many very personal ways. Both experience it but it seems neither want to show the other respect or compassion for each other’s similar struggle.

    Why is that? Why, as women, are we unable to extend that simple courtesy to the other woman, the counterpart role?

  17. I’ll weigh in..I’m not a stepmom but I’m married to a stepfather and I see first hand his feelings. For more than have of my daughter’s life, she has been a stepchild. For 95% of my life, I have been a stepchild. I can honestly say, that I have raised my daughter to respect all adults and I know if her stepmom weighed in, she would say there has not been one time in their relationship that my daughter has ever disrespected her. She would never give me credit though.

    If mom and child are family. Child, dad and stepmom are family. Who is the child’s family? We are all their family regardless of who is divorced, who is married or who had custody. We might not see the ex as the family but the child sure does. I think a lot of the brick wall I have hit with being in the biomom/custodial parent role is that there will forever be a link between my exhusband and I. He is no longer my husband but he will forever be my daughter’s father and with that being said, we are family. We are her family.

    When I hear of stepmom’s being upset that they don’t get the credit, they have no legal rights, but they do everything, I blame the fathers. They shouldn’t put it on their wives to do everything. I accept that in each household most ‘mom’s’ regardless of biology does the ‘mom’ duties. So when my daughter is with her father, I can accept that her stepmother is picking her up, brushing her hair, buying her clothes, fixing her dinner because that is how it is in my household. I do the ‘mom’ things my husband does the ‘dad’ things.. I think that is why we don’t see more stepfathers complaining because they arent given a role that gives no legal reward in the end. I do hope to one day thank my daughter’s stepmom for being the mom and dad in their house, because without her I do believe my child would never eat. However, I do like to receive credit as well. My child is an excellent student, is always prepared, is very well mannerEd and most importantly is given the freedom to love her father’s family without worry that I will flip a lid… But I wont ever get credit.. Who’s keeping score anyway?

    • This is a very mature and understanding post and as a step mum I commend you for writing this.

      I have tried for a long time to get to know my step children’s mother but she will not have any of it. I look after these children as if they were my own and love and nurture them to best of my ability. I would say from the very start the children view me as the ‘provider’ I do the cooking, cleaning, organise them for swimming, karate and all manner of activities. I have not minded this in the slightest and I do my best with them as my partner has multiple sclerosis and he struggles from time to time.

      I am not asking to have a pat On the back and a ‘well done’ because I do it for the children. My stepson has just started saying he loves me and that as any step parent is a wonderful thing to hear and I cherish it.

      I could moan about that we get sometimes daily calls from the children’s mother trying to antagonise my partner, abusive text messages about how fat I am and how she enjoys being rude and bullying me and carry on with a more woe is me attitude but I’m not. The only thing I get annoyed about is that I actually respect the mum, the children tell me all the time their mum doesn’t like me and I’ve calmly explained to them that that’s ok if that’s what she feels but my priority is my relationship with you guys. I tell the children in circumstances that need it that I respect the decisions Of their mum but she throws it back in my face, in that instance what’s your next move?

      The only problem I have at the moment is my step daughter who doesn’t like me telling her off, my ways of telling off are to make the children think about their behaviour at that time, I never shout at them (that’s up to their dad if he wants to do that) I might not be a their biological parent but I have a home that adults and children respect regardless of if their my family or not and since rules and discipline have become a part of the household the children know where they stand.

      My step children often make the mistake of talking about me in front of their mum and she lets rip into a full blown argument with them and screens in their faces when they’ve dared to mention my existence. In these situations I feel sorry that she doesn’t see that she is hurting her children’s feelings.

      We’re not all wicked step mums you know, we do our best to keep your children safe and warm and love them to the best of our ability. I can appreciate being a mum is difficult and I’m glad to say I will have my chance of experiencing this but you try being a step parent, its not that easy.

  18. Amommyanexwife,

    That was beautifully put: you are ALL her family. You will always be a crucial, connected, and loving Parent. So will the Father. As long as the CHILD wants it, feels good about it, etc. so will the Stepparents.

    What I think some legal mothers miss (not necessarily saying you) is that Daddy and Mommy are no longer a family.

    Biomoms LOVE to say that the Stepmom has “NO LEGAL RIGHTS.” But really, what legal rights does the Biomom have to the husband?

    Someone above said, “If it helps her co-parent with the father of her children to think of him as “family” even after a divorce from him, I don’t see any harm in it.”

    But there IS harm when women act like they still have a right to be emotionally tied to someone else’s husband. LEGALLY “divorce absolute” means that there is no bond remaining between former husband and wife. The ex wife has no more LEGAL right to her ex’s life than the Stepmom has to the ex wife’s new husband’s.

    The only legal connection is the mother to the child (and visa versa) and the father to the child (and visa versa).

    When asked to at school, my SS drew a beautiful picture of Dh, myself, and our two cats on one side of the page, himself smiling in the middle, and his mom and half brother on the otherside of the page.

    Across the top it said in First Grade handwriting,
    “I’m thankfull for my too familys”

    The spelling was off- but its beautiful. He gets it. He tells us all the time he is lucky to have two families, because some kids only have one. Why can’t the biomoms understand the way a little child can?

  19. Bing: the only “agenda” I have participating here is to level the playing field of roles represented in response to this particular poster since I feel she received neither compassion nor respect for her right to speak her mind on a website meant for it.

    My family story is irrelevant in that effort since I’m at a place of acceptance and relative peace with it.

    Please stop projecting onto me and other here.

  20. A Stepmom: interesting perspective. I would however caution anyone trying to tell someone else how to define their relationships regardless of legal binds or laws otherwise you are making a strong argument a stepparent isn’t family to a stepchild either having no legal tie to the child.

    Rather, I think we all are allowed to define and develop our relationships the way we see fit depending on the adult/child players.

    Emotionally “bonds” are a complicated thing and aren’t really defined by legalities. Quite a few stepparents would be quick to tell you that with meaning relationships with their stepchildren and many former spouses would absolutely defend the notion there is still a significant connection to each other sharing a child together.]

    There are many who would be quick to dismiss and deny they have any connection.

    It varies.

    Also, a child is taught how to view a stepfamily by how the adults model one. Either both households have the same model or they differ. But in the end, the child has one cumulative family living in different households much like extended relatives are all “family” living geographically all over the map.

  21. Amommyandexwife, I ADORE your last line “Who’s keeping score anyway?”. I think that sums this entire thread of comments up beautifully. And it’s an admirable attitude that we ALL should have, mom or stepmom. We do what we do because it’s the right thing for the children, not because we’re getting points or credit for it. I live by that mantra as a stepmom every day…I know I will never get “credit” or possibly even thanked for the sacrifices I make for my stepkids, but I do it anyway because I love those kids and even if I didn’t it’s the right thing to do.

    Erin, you are very articulate and you have a lot of great points. I completely agree with you that both sides need to be represented and heard here.

    Speaking as a stepmom, I will fully admit to knee-jerk reactions to some of the posts/comments by bio-moms here, or as you prefer the term legal mothers. I haven’t commented much, but I definitely feel defensive and upset when I read posts such as the original one here….mostly because I can see my own stepkid’s mom writing and saying such things among others, when the truth couldn’t be farther from what’s written here.

    My biggest problem with my SK’s mother is her attitude that SHE is the most important parent of all in our complicated equation…forget about me as the stepmom or their stepdad, my SK’s mom likes to think that she and her opinion about the children are more important than their father and his opinion. She has proven this over and over and OVER, in both her actions and her words, Mommy is the REAL parent that you LIVE with and you VISIT Daddy half the time. Her relentless campaign to be “more important” than Dad in their lives, to be the primary decision-maker about everything even though they share custody 50-50 in ALL ways, really wears on me. I’m not even sure if she’s aware of it. It may just be so ingrained in her, like it is in much of our society, that moms are more worthy than dads, that she doesn’t even notice what she’s doing. But despite the fact that my husband faced an uphill court battle of more than 2 years just to get awarded 50-50 and joint managing conservatorship in court, he still has to fight every day to be a REAL PARENT in their lives and not just a glorified babysitter they spend half their time with. You know what’s really sad about it all, too, is that he was their primary caretaker from infanthood on—their mother’s career was so important when they were babies/toddlers/preschoolers that she traveled more often than she was home. It was all on him. And yet he had to fight for two years in the court system and spend oodles of thousands of dollars just to get more than what’s usually doled out to fathers here in our state (EOW and Wednesday evenings, with mom being primary). Only to turn around and be treated by their mother as if his opinion and rights of a father are trumped by her ownership of a vagina.

    All that to say, that’s the bias I’m coming from. Dealing with that day in and day out has definitely colored my feelings…and that’s not even going into my feelings or role as a stepmom…so yes, I’ll admit that some of the postings by legal mothers here PISS me OFF.

    Regardless of how any of us define “family”, reading in the above post that the stepmom, and by extension all stepmoms, are expendable additions….ouch. Erin, you spoke of the marginilizing of mothers, but I don’t think it GETS any more marginilizing than to tell someone she’s expendable.

    I say all that to point out that we all have a bias from which we come–our of our own experiences taint our reactions to the words written here. I think it’s quite likely that this site gets more traffic from stepmoms than legal mothers because of its prominence and frequent mention in stepmom discussion forums. I also think it’s quite likely that there are many, MANY stepmoms who feel safe speaking up here and other anonymous forums who wouldn’t dare to do so in real life. I for one have never confronted my SK’s mom for her behavior, nor will I ever–that’s not my place to do so–but if I have a safe place to react to what someone else says that hits a similar nerve, I’m more likely to say something. Does that make sense?

    Lots of good stuff here. I love reading what you wrote, Erin, despite any discomfort it may have given me as a stepmom it’s clear you’ve given this a lot of rational thought and you’re not just shooting from the “But I’m the MOOOOTTTTHHHEEERRR” gun. I appreciate mothers like you who really take the time to think through the issues and try to look at all sides.

  22. I’m both a mom and a stepmom. The letter starts with this: “I can only imagine what you have been told to allow you think it is ok to try to minimize & diminish my relationship with my children.

    Unfortunately, this behavior continues to prove how much you have been manipulated into believing things about me that aren’t true.”

    After my 19 year marriage ended, one of the things that bothered me the most were the lies my ex was telling to the other woman (yes, there was another woman) and what he was saying to our children about me.

    This bothered me until I realized that it didn’t really matter what he said about me because my actions and who I am at my core flew in the face of the words he chose to use.

    One of the things I remember my youngest daughter saying was, “dad said we’d be better off living with him and K because they are more “stable.” What? I thought to myself, “you’ve got to be kidding me.”

    This is the subtle manipulation I experienced as a divorced mother with two teenage daughters. I understand the letter writer’s anger.

    I also understand that as long as she lives her life as her true authentic self, it really won’t matter what her ex and his new wife think or say about her. Her kids will know the difference.

    Warmly,
    Peggy Nolan
    The Stepmom’s Toolbox

  23. W: It might surprise you to learn that I’m a non-resident mother who has dealt with the same court battles, if not worse, court battling for parenting time as your husband for twelve years.

    Malicious parenting is not solely the behavior of mothers but typically of either hurt and very angry adults or pathological ones.

    I don’t get a sense from the original poster she is a malicious mother but a hurt and frustrated one. I understand why a mother or a father would be angry and/or hurt after a divorce where you never imagined losing ANY control over the raising of your own offspring. That is not a struggle of a stepparent and one easily dismissed as difficult and complicated emotionally by stepparents.

    I think legal parents should be protective, and yes, even territorial over their children because it’s their responsibility to ensure their children’s survival and ultimate well-being cared for. It’s instinctual for most parents (not all) and a good sign of a good parent. I think our species wants to behave as though we are not mammals and deny those feelings as “bad”.

    Stepparents really should not be the primary parents although I admit there are many who become primary caregiver for a multitude of reasons. The legal parents should be primary and stepparent(s) auxiliary or a “bonus” since they bear no real legal responsibility/accountability for how they behave as a “parent”.

    I believe everyone in a stepfamily deserves respect and compassion for their respective familial roles, responsibilities and struggles. We all have them. I don’t think anyone has a rougher go of it unless you are in a truly pathological situation where it is legitimately one-sided.

    I think the truth of it is somewhere in between one person bearing all fault and responsibility for conflict. It typically takes two for conflict and discontent to be possible.

    I no longer need the opinion of the other household to feel valued as a parent or legitimate/relevant. What I needed was to figure out how I defined a good parent, be it and own all my strengths and weaknesses as one. I legally fight only when it serves my child, and I certainly check my motivations before moving full speed ahead in any fight with the other parent to my child because more times than not, there is rarely a good war or a bad peace when it comes to the child ultimately thrust in the middle of it. If they aren’t in the court room then they are dealing with high conflict parents emotionally in their respective households and this is RARELY ever serving their best interests no matter how we justify it as adults.

  24. Erin,

    That is a very nice concept regarding family. Each family IS different, and it takes ALL of the members working together and desiring the same thing for it to happen. Moreover, if the other members of the situation agreed with her concept of “family”- then what is her issue?

    By your definition, the children’s family would include the Stepmom, stepchildren, and other members. However, by the author’s definition, her family is only the two biological parents and the children.

    “While my ex and I are not together WE are still a family, YOU are the addition”

    There is a DEFINITE distinction.

    What is uncomfortable to imagine is that the father and new wife have merged their lives. We’re all familiar with the idea of “two becoming one.” A marriage that has a foundation of love and respect has two partners working together. I’m sorry but that ideal does not only apply to the first wife.

    Honestly, in order for a spouse to give their all to a marriage- they have to be 100% present.

    The issue is SHE is defining EVERYONE’s roles… and is apparently unhappy as the new wife and ex are not aligning with HER definition. Somehow women think their ability to give birth automatically trumps all.

    The biological mother who wrote this states: “YOU are the addition… You are expendable… You are the current spouse of my ex, you are the step-parent to my children, nothing else.”

    Its clear she is fostering resentment that will hurt the children she cares about just as much as the resentment she feels the other house is harboring will.

    • A Stepmom: I REALLY LOVE YOUR COMMENT because you are absolutely right! Like I had mentioned in an earlier comment, the ex-wife is being dismissive of the new wife and refusing to respect her new role in the family. By saying “YOU are the addition… You are expendable… You are the current spouse of my ex, you are the step-parent to my children, nothing else.” she mind as well had just came out and said “You’re not essential to MY children and their lives, you’re just there to be there!” To say that the new wife is “expendable” is just plain old cold, disrespectful, and inconsiderate because although the bio-mom may have to struggle with these “new adjustments” as fair as raising her kids, at least she knows her kids; she knows what they like and don’t like; she knows what they’re allergic to; she knows how to keep her children happy; or at least she should know all of these things. But the new wife/step mom has to LEARN all of these things and so much more for the first time as well as know how to adjust to them herself and “find her NEW identity”.I find it extremely thoughtless of ANYONE not just the bio mom, to say that the step mother is expendable.

      • The reality of it though is a stepparent is necessary. The only thing keeping them connected to stepchildren is the success of their marriage which isn’t a reliable anchor considering the statistics. A stepparent can and do disappear from stepchildren’s lives as easily as they came into them.

        That’s reality. While I understand why harping on it is offensive it is what the legal parents have to consider when bringing one into the fold as an “equal” because quite frankly there’s nothing equal about the stepparent role when it lacks enforceable responsibility.

        You are not essential. The legal parents are essential.

        One hopes that the stepparent isn’t a transient role. One hopes the stepparent role is a permanent fixture in the child’s life and a meaningful relationship is developed and nurtured with the stepchildren that works for everyone. One hopes the children respect and love the stepparent as a unique and separate role of that of the parents and they eventually choose to maintain the rest of their lives.

        It’s the same hope we have for legal parents fulfilling their role and responsibilities.

        The difference is legal parents, regardless of marital success or failure, mood or whim or convenience are still legally held accountable for their decisions with their children.

        That is simply not true for stepparents and it is why many approach the role as an expendable one. Legally, it is. Relationally, it can be.

      • typo:…is unnecessary.

      • So tell me, if there was a divorced mother of two that was a drugatic and constantly beats her children and then there was her ex’s new wife(stepmother) who takes care of the drugatic’s children and provides for the children even though she’s not a “legal parent” who’s more essential to those children’s lives in this case? Just because “legal parents” are required by law to take care of their children that doesn’t mean that all of them do. There are many stepparents out there that do more for their stepchildren than the bio parents do for them. The legal system doesn’t know every event that goes on in a bio parents household. A man can have “legal rights” to his children and even come off as a very intelligent person in court but behind closed doors he can rape, molest, or even beat his children. Is that type of person essential for a child’s life even if the legal system considers him a legal parent? Like I said before EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT.

      • Jessie, please re read the letter – I made it clear the new spouse has a responsibility to be respectful to my kids. Degrading me, speaking down to me, and guarding me from my kids says something about who the new spouse is. Treatment of me, must be respectful in order to allow my ex & my children feel good about who they are as people. This new spouse has no children of their own, is almost 50, and has married my ex & is helping to raise my kids. That is a daunting responsibility for experienced parents, so to understand the childrens mind one must really take the job of being the step parent seriously.
        Realize that I am a man, my ex is my ex-wife, she is the one allowing this behavior, if not encouraging it.
        My children are the only thing that concerns me.

        the parent to my children.

  25. I’m with Peggy. When my husband and I divorced, he spread rumors about me all over town AND lied to our children about the reasons that we split up. His girlfriend was also fed all of his lies and later discovered the trth. I lived my life with integrity, held my head high and four years later, my 14-year old son looked and me and said, “I know that everything that Dad said about you was a lie.” Bottom line: it doesn’t matter what your ex and his new wife say, do or think about you. Work on your relationship with your children independent of what’s going on in the other house.

    Additionally, it is important for all parents and stepparents to only speak kindly of the other parent to the children (even if they suck at being a parent). Remember when you insult the other parent, you are insulting half of your child’s DNA.

    @Erin, participating in stepmother forums as a divorced mother is only going to cause you extreme amounts of frustration! I was a divorced single mom and am now a stepmom and I can tell you that being a divorced single mom is MUCH easier. Being a BioStep and participating in both BioMom and StepMom forums, my experience is that the stepmom formus can be more “biting” and critical. There ‘s alot of hurt on the stepmom side, especially when people say things like “you are expendable” and “you are the addition”. There are so many more diplomatic ways to approach a stepmom, even one you don’t like.

    I will admit to playing the evil and controlling biomom, and will tell you that as a stepmother, I’m now being paid back in spades for my bad behavior (I can hear my mother saying “Karma’s a bitch”).

    You are correct in that the relationship between mothers and stepmothers is a complicated dynamic. You are also correct that most women do not afford the other woman common courtesy or understanding (hence the need for books like “No One’s the Bitch”). I certainly welcome your opinion here and hope that you’ll stay. This project was created by stepmothers, but is open to all. I think having more biomoms commenting helps stepmoms to see the other side of coin (even if they don’t like it).

    Best,
    Brigette Lemos-Norman
    Step in the Blender (www.stepintheblender.com)

  26. Please re-read this letter. I made it clear that the step parent must know both sides and be proud of what they do, or it could backfire.
    As the parent to my children, I:
    a. adore my kids
    b. knew that the ex would remarry & expected another person in our family.
    c. have an amazingly healthy, positive, kind, supportive relationship w/my kids, when I am ‘allowed’ by my ex to talk w/them. (I follow the guidelines to the agreement although my ex doesn’t)
    d. am dedicated to all aspect of the children’s lives, school, dr. appts, friends, activities, daily talks – thoughts & fears etc.
    e. NEVER EVER, discuss the horrible treatment I have encountered by my ex or the current spouse.

    I expected my ex to be sensitive to the perils of divorce & alienation, I expected my ex (as a product of a horribly alienated relationship w/ the father, & now who doesn’t speak w/the mother) I figured this wouldn’t happen to us & our kids. I believed in the dual dedication to our kids.

    However, I have been told by my ex (paraphrased for gender protection) ‘my new spouse is a better parent than you ever were’. Legally – my ex’s word vs. mine. no legal recourse on that.

    So yes I am bitter when I my kids don’t get to talk w/me. It’s both their right & mine. Yes, I despise my ex for putting our kids through this w/o any good reason. I am a clean, upstanding, dedicated, honest person who believes in the value of creating a positive loving environment for our children. I would love to be able to get my ex to understand the value of creating a healthy relationship between us all. YET, now my ex has created an illusion of ‘the perfect family’ and made it clear to our kids that I am both an annoyance & a disturbance in their life.

    I do suspect my ex telling the current spouse that they will be the ‘new parent’. So my letter was to warn the step parent how important it is to be very careful how the kids & the other bio-parent are treated.

    Thanks for the responses.

    My kids Parent!

  27. I spent 11 years on stepmother forums and didn’t find it at all intimidating or an unpleasant experience. I think it really depends on if you choose wisely on which ones to invest your time for optimal benefit.

    I learned a great deal from them. I didn’t have anywhere near the personal growth I needed as a divorced mother constantly commiserating with them instead of my counterpart. There wasn’t a difference of opinion to analyze and cause introspection in the same way.

    I think the difficulty or ease is so varied and really depends on all the adults in a situation.

    I could tell you that hands down my experience as a non-resident, divorced mother is more difficult to bear than any garden variety stepmother’s role…well, that is unless that stepmother is dealing with the same level of pathology or worse than I do in my particular dynamic.

    Stepmother experiences range on the spectrum from difficult to easy as vastly as any other role depending on so many factors that it’s rather ridiculous trying to assert one blended family role is more difficult than another.

    And frankly I don’t care at this point…I’ve learned I have far more personal power to influence any level of hostility or experience of it simply by changing how I respond to it (or, not).

    I’ve found there is very little to fight over if my sole focus is on my relationship with my child and her genuinely only her interests minus considerations of mine in there.

    I’m not terribly interested in karma or anything else that’s emotionally invested in my child’s father and his spouse. I wish them well no matter how they behave because quite frankly it’s not relevant to my life anymore the more my child develops and becomes her own person enough to think for herself.

    I own my own shit. They own theirs and it’s not for me to decide what is or is not their shit in her eyes. That’s between them. And whatever I own…is solely between her and I.

    I keep them out of my relationship and I stay out of theirs with her.

    I model a stepfamily differently for her than they do. She’s fortunate to bear witness to a difference and be able to choose for herself what will be right for her and whatever family she creates.

    I do think stepmoms have a vested interest in advising and telling legal mothers how they should approach the blended family model and oftentimes it is just as self-serving as a legal mother being territorial with her kid. It’s the same difference IMHO and it would be refreshing for stepmoms to own it instead of waxing poetic about some sort of selfless love toward the child in comparison to the child’s mother.

    • Erin’s reference to pathology is spot on!  Unfortunately, mental illness can arise in any one of the players in this dynamic. 

      In our case,  both kids’ therapists (one for SS and another one for SD) have observed their mom’s behavior toward the kid and, based on those observations, begun teaching each kid age-appropriate techniques to defend themselves from their mom. Meanwhile, their dad/my husband and I also have a couples counselor who advises us about dealing with her volatility and agression to properly balance my husband’s paternal duties and the health of our marriage. Sometimes it seems as if the only person NOT in therapy is the one who is sending all the rest of the family into it!

      I read with envy of extended stepfamilies without pathology because you at least have hope of a rapprochement one day. 

      • Exactly. Key word is “hope”. When you are hopeful and the other household legitimately is pathological in their behavior because they aren’t capable of anything else it is crazy making for those in response to it.

        When I stopped hoping and started accepting it wasn’t going to change is when I was liberated from the insanity.

  28. @Mykidsparent: Don’t ever expect him to treat you as his children’s mother after the break-up of the intimate adult relationship. I don’t know why, with some men, this happens but they do actively try and replace the mother of their child with the new spouse and no matter how much you litigate you will not gain ground in changing this attitude by him.

    The most you can do is work on your relationship with your child(ren) and simply make his opinion of you as a mother irrelevant. He’s not going to treat you with the respect you deserve as his child(ren)’s mother. And his wife will squeal with glee for this kind of loyality by him so don’t expect much from her either. It’s about fulfilling their agenda to develop a family separate of you…making sure you are not any kind of variable in it even though your children will be a much-needed variable to complete the happy union.

    Don’t expect anything but this from them. Seriously. Let it go or you will be miserable for years hoping for it to change.

    ((Hugs)) wish I had something more hopeful to offer but this type of father isn’t capable of being a respectful and healthy post-divorce co-parent.

    Good luck to you.

  29. Erin — I think you’re on to something that many stepmoms don’t want to admit to themselves: that no matter how much they love their stepkids and do things for their stepkids, they are not legally responsible for the kids and therefore have a less ‘responsible’ role when it comes to legal matters.

    There is an up and coming trend with some Stepmoms to ‘step back.’ It sometimes takes the “I’m not legally responsible for this child” epiphany to get a stepmom to step back and let Mom and Dad be responsible for the child. There are numerous conversations in the stepmomosphere about disengaging or stepping back and if it’s a good solution to the resentment we (stepmoms) often feel.

    (SFLP Erin)

    • Please understand I’m not trying to boil down a stepparent’s value to legalities. I was simply trying to explain why some approach the stepparent role with the attitude it is extraneous in comparison to the legal parents’ position. Why some legal parents don’t view or treat the stepparent as an equal.

      It has nothing to do with viewing the marriage as less than the first one. It deserves the respect that any marriage is entitled. That doesn’t translate to mean because you are married you have all the rights and responsibilities bestowed on you as an INDIVIDUAL when it comes to stepchildren and should be treated like an individual who does have those legal responsibilities.

      I listen to stepmother discuss respect for their marriage but they combine respect for marriage to mean respect for their right to be an equal parent to stepchildren. If the other legal parent doesn’t subscribe to that blended family philosophy then they are being disrespectful of the marriage.

      I disagree wholeheartedly with the “throwing the baby out with the bath water” approach to a resolution and/or compromise between the homes.

      I can respect, and do, that the father of my firstborn child is remarried. I respect she is his wife and has certain entitlements as his wife and as the other authority over the household (house as a homeowner in concert with him). I do NOT, however, respect her assertion she is my child’s mother, other mother or any other euphemism trying to elevate herself above her station with my child(ren) as a stepmother.

      And since I don’t tolerate the latter, the charge is levied at me I’m disrespecting boundaries of the former.

      We all go round and round on this one as though they are one in the same and they aren’t. Mothers want respect when it comes to their parenthood with their children. Wives want respect when it comes to their husband and household. The problem is how one views one’s “household” domain and rights.

      That is where the fight starts and ends with stepchildren between stepmothers and mothers IMHO. If both women could figure out where one’s rights end and another’s begin…I think you would see less hostility and angst.

      I think it all honestly boils down to being territorial on both sides. Divorced mothers are not more guilty of defending it than stepmothers.

      I don’t think stepmothers should disengage or back off of their territory. I think women need to figure out and respect the rights of each other. Mom’s children are in stepmom’s territory…while I realize they are Dad’s children too, it still boils down to feeling a sense of responsibility as the mother no matter where the child is at any given time.

      It’s a clashing of territory where both women are right about their claim. How do you resolve that without demanding one give up what is rightfully theirs to defend at the other’s expense? Both are right. Stepmoms argue Dad gets to trump Mom in her household…and that gives her license to disregard the rights and feelings of the mother.

      Until, the mother returns the favor and traipses all over Stepmom’s rightful territory and feelings because “she can”.

  30. @Jesse: I can’t directly reply to you so I’ll just do it down here to your question, “If one of the parents is a drug addict and beats their children but the same-sex stepparent becomes primary caregiver is the stepparent ‘essential'”?

    My answer to that is still “no” because the child still have the other legal parent who is suppose to be handling custodial responsibilities, not their spouse.

    At no time have I ever delegated my parental duties to my spouse or encouraged him to be parental because that’s MY responsibility. His role is stepparent which is in support of my caregiving and financial efforts to raise a child that isn’t his…he provides ME emotional support in that effort but at no time does he assume my responsiblities ever, much less as primary in my household.

    I would say the stepparent who has taken on this responsibility needs to look to the legal-parent-spouse who abdicated his responsibilities in his household to the point she is the primary caregiver to the point she thinks she’s essential like a legal parent.

    Also, why hasn’t the father sought to terminate in court the unfit, abusive mother’s rights and his wife adopted the child?

    Unofficial assumption of a legal parent’s rights and responsibilities does not a parent make. You cannot earn your way into being the parent or essential unless you take on all the responsibilities that come with the title IMHO. It’s actually irrelevant what you think of the other legal parent’s fitness until a court of law terminates that parent’s legal rights and responsibilities.

    Until then…I still maintain the stepparent is extraneous if there is at least one legal parent doing their job and if both aren’t doing it then why on earth would you stay married to someone who behaves that way as a parent?

    • Erin I respect your opinion, however, I feel you’re completely missing my point. You’re only looking at everything from a “legal” perspective. LEGAL PARENTS ARE NOT SAINTS. Children need to be loved and cared for and not all “legal parents” are capable of providing that to children; but if a step parent is capable of loving and caring for those children whether they are required to or not than they are in fact essential. WHO EVER PROVIDES AND TAKES CARE OF THE CHILDREN, WHETHER IT BE THE BIO PARENTS OR THE STEP PARENTS, IS ESSENTIAL BECAUSE IT’S NOT ABOUT WHO’S “LEGALLY” REQUIRED TO TAKE CARE OF THEM, BUT RATHER WHO ACTUALLY DOES TAKE CARE OF THEM. The important thing is that the children get what they need and whether you want to believe this or not, sometimes step parents can provide better for their step kids than the bio parents can, whether it’s their responsibility or not. Even if there is still one legal parent left, that doesn’t mean that they can or know how to care for their children by themselves. Not every situation is like yours nor is everyone like you. I honestly feel that you just don’t want to accept the fact that there are BAD PARENTS out there. Some children are better off without their legal parents…EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT.

      • I accept there are parents out there that are not fit to be parents. The problem with making parenting responsibilities a free-for-all to any adult feeling a maternal or paternal itch absent legal responsibility is the concern there’s no accountability and continuity of care when that itch is gone. There is no way of knowing which stepparent would willingly stick around if the marriage to one of the legal parents fails and which ones would cut bait regardless of any dependency created and nurtured with their stepchildren. And since both types have been a reality, I find it a bit disconcerting to gamble with children’s needs this way.

        If a legal parent is truly unfit then I find it highly suspect and negligent to keep that legal parent legally accountable for the child(ren) if there is a fit adult to take over those enforceable responsibilities.

        I personally don’t find third party adults “essential” while children are minors and need custodial guardians legally accountable for basic care needs being met.

        Adult stepchildren will determine who is/was psychologically essential but not as easily manipulated minors who don’t get to choose where they live and what overall relationships they can/cannot choose/create/nurture.

  31. I think there is a good point here. Dad’s often delegate their responsibilities to their spouse. Mom’s typically are not delegating.

    This is what I used to get hung up on in the early years of my divorce. I never aske for help and couldn’t understand why my child’s father was having his girlfriend do pick ups and drop offs and bath time and dinner and homework, then started the phone calls and the emails from his girlfriend, doing his coparenting for him because he was ‘working’. I was forced to ‘coparent’ with his new girlfriend instead of the father of my child. She felt frustrated because I wasn’t wanting to talk to her or even acknowledge her. If my daughters father was too busy to be her father and spend
    Time with her, I felt like she just needed to be left at home. This was a girlfriend, not a wife … They didn’t live together but she had picked up 90% of his duties as a parent.

    Now that they are married and she has taken a little step back (court ordered) it doesn’t bother me that she cares for my child while
    My ex isn’t home. She got tired of doing everything so she kind of took a step back even further. She picks up my daughter ever weekend for visitation and I don’t mind anymore. I just learned to accept it.

    I really do think though that when there is a lot of animosity between the mom’s it steams from the dad’s delegating. Mom never wanted to give up her duties as mom and stepmom is trying to help the man she loves… And then there is the fine line of boundaries and how to delicately dance around them to make all happy and at peace. As long as the kids are happy and I mean really happy. Not miserable because life’s not fair but just doing well… Then the boundaries can be driven by the kids.

  32. I’m not a fan of children leading and defining boundaries between households. I think that’s a parental responsibility. My child isn’t going to tell me what my household boundaries should be in relation to her father and/or his wife and I don’t expect it of their household.

    I do, however, had hoped respect for unofficial, fairly universal boundaries to be respected between two women who should know better. Example: Mom doesn’t call up stepmom’s husband for personal life advice, walk into her home without her consent under the guise it’s for her children and so on. Stepmom doesn’t appropriate the title “Mom” or any euphemism of it, she doesn’t willfully and grossly behave in a way toward Mom’s children that knowingly would alienate/upset Mom and so on.

    Common sense. Most rational human beings know where the natural boundaries are with respect to someone else’s husband and children.

    Why this observance goes completely out the window and rationalized away is beyond me? Actually, it’s not. I know why it happens. Both women are in a territorial pissing contest waxing self-righteous while doing it.

    It’s the behavior of high school teen girls and it’s sad to witness in grown women.

  33. Most loving parents do not consider anyone with whom their child has formed an attachment – teachers, pediatricians, neighbors, etc. Surely SM deserves a minimal level of respect and attempts at some empathy, based on the time and efforts she has invested in your child. In both my professional as well as my personal life, it has been my experience that non-custodial parents are frequently hypercritical of the way that others raise or care for their children. Of course it’s hurtful and frustrating to the adult(s)
    on the recieving end – but much, much worse for the child(ren) stuck in the middle. Your child did not make any of the choices leading up to your present circumstances. If you lead by example (and stop making subtle and not so subtle jabs yourself) look towards your own future and acknowledge the family that your child’s father
    has chosen, I suspect that things moving forward will be easier. More importantly, it will be a healthier family situation for your child.

    • Perhaps non-residential parents (most are legal custodians, so they are “custodial”) are, on average, “hypercritical” because they lost their children based on some loosely defined idea of who should and should not be the adult raising their child.

      Why on earth should a third party adult have more time, influence and right to raise another person’s child freely?

      It’s been my experience when someone asserts some kind of professional credential as a means to elevate their biased argument they are the least credible.

  34. I wish Bio Moms understood that:

    1) Building yourself up to be God and the one and only important person in your Child’s life will destroy your relationship with your child…it is not healthy, shatter the child’s self image and destroy any chance of a healthy relationship…proof? I am not only a stepmom, I am the result of parental alienation when I was little. I am watching it right now, and no amount of therapy or “time” will reverse that.

    2) We understand that Bio Moms are the BIOMOMS….just like their dad is their Dad, we work hard in cultivating that relationship WITH BOTH PARENTS AND STEPPARENTS..I know I do because I know what it does to a Kid’s self worth..

    3) I adore my stepkids…I refuse to let them put their mother down in front of me….I take them to sports, meetings, attend games, defend when they do something stupid. Wipe faces, lay out clothes, have midnight talks, take them to breakfast on Birthday mornings. I let them know that I am proud of them and that I love them. I watch movies, take on girls day out… I help with homework, listen when they vent and get upset when they have the ‘tude. A mom keeps on loving even when they are not lovable. I wish Bio Mom can do all this, but that is not so. She refuses to acknowledge and the negativity and selfishness seeps through her veins..the children are a means to an end so she isolates, manipulates and discards. It breaks my heart…but if that is what she wants to do in her home, that is her choice. The abuse will not follow the children when they are here. If she feels “threatened” then she can do something about it and actually spend qaulity emotionally healthy time with her children…in fact I pray for it everyday.

    4) Someone commented here that the children belong with BOTH families….YES, YES, YES! The Father, their Stepmother and the kids are a family…so are the Mother and SKIDS as well as a host of grandparents (more gifts!) cousins, Aunts, Uncles and friends.

  35. Erin,
    You make several good points. By the simple act visiting this site, you are exhibiting a commendable attempt at better understanding the perspective of SP’s. As my name indicates, I am by no means unbiased – I suspect that many who visit this site would find neutrality regarding subject of their children ellusive.
    I would like to first clarify that I was referring to the most extreme cases, where parents have lost their custodial rights due to a pattern of making poor choices, without regard for the child’s well-being or even the obvious consequences of their own actions. Most people find it ridiculous for a parent who has lost custody due to criminal neglect or abuse to criticize haircuts, clothes, etc. chosen by a foster parent during supervised visitation. Yet it tends to be the rule, rather than exception. Clearly, I failed to spell that out in the previous comment. While it is glaring in those extreme cases, it often takes subtle forms in cases of joint custody.
    Any non-custodial parent would naturally be defensive if they believed their custodial arrangement to be due circumstances beyond their control.
    I also want to make clear that I find it reprehensible for either parent to intentionally exclude the other from active participation in the child’s life.
    Regardless the circumstances – however justified one might feel – the ability to separate one’s own insecurities and emotional needs is crucial to making decisions based on the best interest of the child.
    I suspect that most of us who visit this site do so because we want to give our children the very best life possible, and most of us have some room to grow.
    Last, I firmly stand by my belief that no loving adult with whom the child has formed an emotional bond is expendable.

    • Excellent analogy between a non-“custodial” parent (meaning, no legal custody) and a foster parent.

      However, and unfortunately, many non-“residential” parents find they lost their right to truly raise their child against their will and solely due to a divorce. There are many ways this happens, be it a gender-biased state of jurisdiction over the divorce or the other parent (mother or father) legally manipulated their way into being the residential parent…that don’t fall into the category of a parent who should have or wanted anything less than to be front and center in the raising of their child.

      Adding salt to that already gaping wound, in walks a stepparent full of a sense of entitlement and lucky enough to reside in the residential home of a stepchild.

      Are there well-meaning residential stepparents out there? Absolutely. However there are a good number of residential stepparents that justify overstepping their bounds trying to best the same-sex legal parent in the other home and who manipulate vulnerable children into believing that stepparent is more “parent” to the child than their actual parent.

      There are emotionally abusive stepparents who don’t think twice about trying to influence the affections the child has for their natural parent (fit parent) in trying to develop and nurture their own relationship. The foundation of such a relationship is meant to be developed and nurtured at the EXPENSE of the child’s relationship with the same-sex legal parent.

      That is my personal framework from which I interpret the messages of other roles in the family and especially that of stepparents. I wish I didn’t have this prejudice but in 12 years I haven’t read too many stepparents who challenge the beliefs and values I have when it comes to blended family modeling.

      So, I continue to read hoping I’ll stumble on some original perspective that doesn’t contain a self-serving objective when counseling legal parents on how to bring the stepparents into the fold or the best way to be inclusive without losing the integrity of each role’s unique position.

  36. StepmomM. Why do you generalize that all BMs should understand. What about those of us that DO understand but just wish the SM would understand the same. I am very understanding to my situation. I knew my ex would have a wife and I prepared for that mentally. I’m only 1 person but I think what can be so upsetting to some readers is that this situation is not cookie cutter by any means. I deal with a lady that refuses to allow my daughter to even acknowledge that I exist in her home but I still owe her gratitude for caring for my child. She is the one that manipulates and says ugly things about me but I still put on a smile and go with the flow because thats what my child needs from me. I know my child is hurting when she is told to call me by my first name, not mommy so I got my daughter a therapist. But I would only hurt my child to turn around and tell her ‘you call me whatever you want when you are there just ignore her, I’m your mommy no matter what’. That would put my child in the middle and could land her in hot water for disrespecting her stepmom in her home. So I would never put her in that situation.

    Not all biomom’s are territorial. I know from my perspective and other friends of mine, we knew what we were doing in asking for a divorce so how can we balk at it when our ex’s remarry. YES some biomom’s are overly territorial but some are not. Some appreciate knowing their children are cared for by a woman because no offence to men, but in my situation my ex didn’t bathe my daughter or feed her dinner because it slipped his mind. I know now for certain she is getting all of those things.

    I also know that no one can ruin my relationship with my child but me and I would say that my very best advice to biomom’s is not to worry about your child loving someone else more. If you are ther for your child and you show them unconditional love and allow them the freedom to love their father and his family, you will never lose your child. But I would also say that not all stepmom’s are as caring or loving. I was physically and mentally abused by a woman that hated my mom. Until my dad woke up and realize what was going on, we had to indure it every other weekend and during the summer for weeks on end. I could have let my experience damage my feelings about my daughter having another woman in her life but I can’t punish this stepmom for something another did. I know my daughter is much happier knowing it’s ok to love everyone but I also know that the alienation attempts that take place at her father’s are going to be the reason their relationship eventually strains. I won’t even get involved there.

    What I wish is that biomom’s can come to this site and have feelings too. We are important too.
    And just because we do have feelings doesn’t mean it’s directed at anyone that is reading, it’s only directed at the person the letter is intended for. Everyone’s situation is different and not all biomom’s are as misunderstanding of a stepmom’s feelings.

    I do understand this site was formed by stepmom’s but we are all in a stepFAMILY. If not then the website might want to point out that biomom’s are not welcome.

    I enjoy reading the letters because I like to see the different perspectives and it helps me when situations arise. How something i do might effect a step’person’ that is in my life.

  37. There are moments when I believe that my ex’s spouse has shown some dignity. What I have noticed is that my ex’s spouse has gotten caught up with what has been said to the them. What I know for sure, is that the new spouse has been told that they are a better parent than I could ever be, also that they will be the new parent to replace me. I don’t blame the new spouse for the illusion they have been fed, but I don’t believe in disrespecting my role in my kids life, nor my kids desire to be a part of mine.

    I believe that by spending time to really be sure what the role of a step-parent is, that you will be surprised to learn how much my kids and I do maintain a special bond no matter what my ex tries to do to thwart it. To blindly be an accomplice to this abuse is negligent.

    This new spouse can be the peacemaker, but has been given a whole story that isn’t even true. I know this marriage will end, once my ex is done using this person.

    Anyway – Thank you for your comments, your thoughts. I suggest you all really re-reading the letter. This was a letter for my kids, addressed to the step-parent to give them the opportunity to learn how to love my kids enough to see what is best for them.

    By the way, I am a male, my ex is my ex-wife.
    Thanks for the comments.

    • I’ve used the exact same verbiage “accomplice” although her participation didn’t stem from innocent ignorance.

      It sounds like the stepfather in your situation has been grossly misled and I feel nothing but compassion for the position he’s now in…for you, it’s my prayer the mother is unsuccessful in her alienation attempts and one day wakes up to realize she’s emotionally abusing her children.

      • Erin,
        Thank you! I appreciate your thoughts. I too hope she wakes up. She was a victim of the same alienation – I thought she would be more sensitive & avoid this pattern.
        I too pray for her. I mostly pray for my kids. They are the true victims & I pray they are able to get past this through positive therapy.

  38. The parent: I geniunely hope that for your situation improves and am sorry that you and your children have had to endure such heartache and frustration. I also agree wholeheartedly that the SF you refer to bears full responsibility for acting as a “blind accomplice.” By acknowledging that you bear the unshakeable responsibility of being a parent to your children you are making a conscious choice to put the interests of your children first and I hope that your ex recognizes your efforts sooner, rather than later. Your initial post touched a very sore nerve “We are still a family, YOU are the addition.” Perhaps the reason that nerve is such a sore one is that it’s so true. My spouse and I invest tremendous amounts of
    time, energy, and money to ensure that our
    respective children and stepchildren are able to
    have daily contact and frequent visitation with
    their BP’s. Short of criminal action, nothing that either parent living outside our home could do
    would change our belief that our children and
    stepchildren deserve the our best efforts with
    regards to time and contact with their parents.
    Erin: Forgive me if I’ve misinterpreted your comment – foster parents do have legal custody, but it is generally temporary. If your comment was intended to be as snarky as it read, you must not realize that loving a child to whom you bear no legal claim is actually quite a terrifying prospect.

    • I wasn’t being snarky. I know foster parents have temporary legal guardianship. Your knee-jerk perception I was being snarky responding with agreement/compliment is part of the problem. The lens of bias which causes so many misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict.

  39. Thank you, SFLP, for creating this forum. I am well aware that baggage has contributed to the often jaded view that I have. Site such as this one offer me a chance to see the other side. Nothing is more important to me than our family. Our knowledge – that two BP’s who have consistently shown by their own actions that their selfish and impulsive desires are consistently paramount to anyone’s definition of family (residential or custodial) – have power and control over our children and their futures is terrifying. Our firm belief that doing so is in their best interest makes situation tolerable.
    The BP with whom my spouse co-parents has always been accepting of me in SC’s life. Oddly, it has always been my relationship with my spouse that BP that been the source of friction from the beginning. It was said BP who left their marriage 1st and who re-married 1st – I.E. Infidelity on the part of my spouse is not the issue. Few behaviors are quite as grating to me as any parent using (or creating) their children as a tool for manipulation.
    Your website has brought me comfort and helped me to empathize, thank you.
    BM&SM

  40. “While my ex and I are not together WE are still a family, YOU are the addition, you do have a responsibility to step lightly when dealing w/my children and me. You are expendable, should my ex not be able to take care of our kids, they would be immediately in my custody. Realize your position, you are the current spouse of my ex, you are the step-parent to my children, nothing else. You will never be their biological parent, you will never have them legally as ‘your kids’, but for now, you do have a responsibility to them as their current step-parent. Make sure you are proud of the job you do – because if you don’t they will learn to resent both you and my ex-spouse all on their own.”

    Your letter sounded quite reasonable until this last paragraph. And it speaks volumes. So ANOTHER WOMAN is actually raising your children. Hmmmmm, how did that happen? A judge gave custody to your ex? You want the other woman to know her position? Perhaps you should know yours. You gave birth to humans and failed to care for them through the age of adulthood. You are hardly in any place to dictate to the woman who is actually raising YOUR children what her responsibilities are. Apparently you have none yourself.

    • Apparently read and learn is still not reading and learning. OP has already stated that he is a man and is speaking of his ex wife’s current husband.

      • Thank you KY!
        This new spouse has and will believe my ex, until the truth of my ex’s lies come out.
        Yes I am a man. My ex is a women & her new husband is a man.

        My only real request is to respect he childrens feelings. To follow the laws of the divorce agreement, which state that we are to create a HARMONIOUS environment when addressing the other parent. Apparently he hasn’t read that part. I can handle my self, but my children are victims of a cruel environment when I come up, either in conversation, letters, email’s, gifts…. How is a child supposed to feel about themselves when, a parent they love is being verbally abused? They feel bad, they doubt themselves & their self-worth.

        I only want my kids to be happy, healthy, healthy in mind & feel secure. This behavior will take that away from them.

        Thanks for the support.

        My kids parent.

      • It just kills me. Both parents cannot have FULL custody and I would never think that just because one parent is not a custodial parent, means they were the bad parent. I am the custodial parent because there can only be one custodial parent. My ex wasn’t a bad parent, he didnt ‘lose’ custody, I was just awarded the name because I was always the primary caregiver. I know a lot of men that do have custodial rights because they were the stay at home dad or the kids wanted to be with dad full time because of their relationship. I also have a friend who gave custodial rights to her ex husband because her child was a boy and the father and son relationship was very important to her … But she isn’t a bad mom. She gets judged for her decision but she honestly did what she felt was best for her child. I just get real annoyed when people assume because a woman doesn’t have custody of their children automatically means they were not doing their job… and you aren’t even a woman! Lol

        I really feel for you. My child goes through this constantly at her dad’s and what her dad refuses to see is that he isn’t ruining my relationship with my daughter, he is hurting her emotionally. She suffers because she just wants to love everyone but doesn’t feel like she can when she is with them and she comes home exhausted from having to hide her feelings and change her emotions for four days a month.

        I hope things turn around for your kids. Just keep loving them. They will know you always did in the end.

  41. Wow. I’m a stepmom, and I’ll come out and confess/admit that discovering the letter writer was actually a male speaking to a stepfather, completely changed my perspective on this entire letter. It’s really given me food for thought about how my own biases and experiences played into how I perceived the message of this letter. To be very honest, I do in a way see my stepkid’s stepfather as an expendable addition. Maybe that’s circumstantial particular to our situation, because I know his wife, the BM, has a long history of cheating on every partner she’s ever had (I’ve seen the proof of multiple affairs while married to my husband, and she admitted to him years ago that she’s cheated in every relationship). She’s on her third marriage, and I have witnessed fights that give evidence it’s not as gloriously happy-ever-after as I’m sure she envisioned when she cheated on my husband and tore her family apart to be with this guy. I’m certain they are on the rocks and we have long questioned how long the guy will be in my stepkids’ life. We sincerely hope for a long time, because they love him and his kids and he’s a good stepdad. We’re glad they have him. But we worry about the fall-out for those poor kids should she decide to “upgrade” once again.

    As for myself it really rankled to assume that the writer was a mother saying stepmoms are expendable. I’ve given this a lot of thought and I’m really fascinated at looking at my own colored perceptions. Why in my own initial perception are stepdads expendable but not stepmoms? It also gives me a lot of food for thought about how gender plays into the discussions produced by this letter. Had we known from the very beginning of the writer’s gender, would there be 63 comments on this thread? Would it have touched a nerve as deeply as it obviously did with a lot of people on both sides of the fence? I think there is definitely a female-territory subtext going on here that is difficult to explain and uncomfortable to confront.

    It’s also really interesting to consider that some commenters who assumed the writer was a woman jumped straight to “you lost custody of your children–what did you do wrong” while I’m certain that if they’d known the writer was a father they’d have never even asked that question. Fathers don’t have to “lose” custody like mothers do—in my state at least they are generally not even granted primary without a protracted court battle and unmitigated proof the mother is unfit. That in itself makes me terribly sad for the many wonderful dads out there who have to fight just to get “standard” visitation which in my state is Wednesday nights and EOW. My own husband had to fight tooth and nail in court just to get 50-50 and joint managing conservatorship (no one has primary) when he had in fact been their primary caretaker since they were infants. It’s so disheartening.

  42. I agree with W although as a non-residential mother I identify moreso with a divorced father than I do with mothers.

    I’m sadden this website has chosen for its vision to truncate these kinds of open (and dare I presume, productive) dialogue because it might be misperceived as value judgments on any particular role or elicit defensiveness under the guise of “it’s criticism, not encouragement”.

    I find it encouraging so many of us want to evolve and better understand each other. I don’t think it gets more encouraging than that: sincere effort represented by all roles here.

    I see the fruits of these kinds of efforts playing out in how I choose to approach divorced parenting even today because the more we see each other as human the more humane we will treat each other.

    Divorced mothers aren’t evil. Stepmothers aren’t evil. Divorced fathers aren’t evil. Stepfathers aren’t evil. We are simply human beings doing the best we can with a very complicated dynamic even in the best of situations, and even moreso, in the worst .

    I’ve ordered Stepmom Magazine to better understand. You know what I’ve learned? Our struggles, that of BM and SM, really aren’t that different. Our fears, concerns and ultimately responses to blending really parallel each other, if not intersect multiple times. The articles written for stepmoms are very useful for me as a divorced mother learning to cope with feelings of helplessness, loss of control (believe it or not we experience it too), how to cope with anger (righteous or not) and so on.

    Learning to traverse this rugged landscape where there aren’t specific maps for your particular blendy circumstance…no template because it’s uniquely yours. Stepmoms are not the only role who experience it.

    I’m sad to read some consider it bad manners to enter into and nurture the development of open and honest dialogue I believe could pave the way for more real empathy instead of superfluous and perfunctory “I feel your pain”. Sure…that kind of feedback is certainly needed at appropriate times but there are other forms of encouragement through empowerment that comes from taking someone from the familiar to the unfamiliar opening doors of the mind/heart that were locked before coming here.

    I’m glad at one of these threads wasn’t devoid of growth and better understanding.

  43. Erin — as the person who sees every comment that is submitted to the site, I stand by the decision to publish the comments that offer help and understanding. I do not see any value in publishing comments where someone is clearly unleashing their own vitriol on the letter writer or other comments.

  44. not arguing you don’t have a right to your definitions and value judgments.

  45. Hello, I’m both a BM of 3 & an SM of 3.

    What I have taken away from the letter and this lovely robust discussion is that the language we use is more revealing than the thoughtful arguments. We are trying so hard to understand our situations and ourselves and this is commendable.

    But the words which keep recurring are:

    Boundaries, territory, legal mother, entitlements, authority, legal responsibility and who has the right to use the title of “mother” and its associated status.

    These are all words to do power, control, ownership and glory.

    Over what? This is the question for each of us.

    I discovered this website last Friday night, I was seeking some cure for my distress after my stepchildren arrived to visit for the weekend with some usual behaviours. I don’t know how it happened, but the 6yo and the 3yo refused to use my name or go near me and said they weren’t allowed to call me anything and kept repeating, “I don’t remember her” and “Who are you?”. After a while they got on with playing and acting normally and knowing me.

    After reading all the comments here, I began to see that in my situation the
    children themselves are considered the territory and the property by their mother. Now my husband and I need to work out what to do with this new boundary on the next visit between his children and myself and within our marriage and blended family which includes my three kids. And then I realised that the new boundary had been drawn between my husband and I, and neatly
    cut off the “addition” or me.

    It is largely irrevelant why the mother is choosing to do this through the children, but it does feel like their mother hasn’t given up on the nuclear family image and her ex husband. It does confuse me though because she rejected and left him.

    Anyway, I seem to instinctively know to whom a child is attached, and it is usually to a reliable, loving adult, and it is the child who does the attaching, not the adult or the law. (I don’t think the law represents justice let alone psychological health!)

    For the parents who go on about the legal responsibilities of biological parents, those rights and responsibilities can be relinquished and the child adopted. Adoptive parents are equal to biological parents in the eyes of the law. There are no divine or immutable rights over a child, just the opportunity to serve his or her best interests with love and effort.

  46. UPDATE -10/2/11 Post Mediation
    Not much has changed, my ex and the new spouse are keeping the kids from me as much as they can, despite KNOWING that they are responsible to keep up the communication. SO we agreed to nothing in Mediation (yes shocking), we are headed to court in a few months, and I suspect my ex will continue to lie as much a was done in Mediation. Even my ex’s lawyer was a bit surprised when he realized what was happening.

    Ok – if you have questions let me know – Thanks for all the comments.

    My Kids Parent!

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