A Cycle of Stepmom Frustration
If you have had any kind of adversarial relationship with your skid's bio-mom, you may identify with the following emotional process. I'm sharing my process in the hopes that it will trigger some "Ah Has" for you all. This is how it has been for me:
1. I would be positively creative and try to reach out or do something nice or show some respect for the bio-mom.
2. I would be rebuked or ignored or denied or she would imply or directly threaten some future pain when speaking with my husband and he would pressure me into "going along" out of fear. (Some call this emotional terrorism and I agree.)
3. My feelings would get hurt, tension would build with my husband and/or stepson, (Whom, by the way, I love as much as I know how to love a child.)
4. Things would happen and I would get drained until I felt like I couldn't go on, so I would withdraw from the situation as much as possible trying to create some sense of emotional safety which also often led to feeling isolated. I would spend time going over and over in my head, "If only she would just leave us alone. We are following the rules why won't she!"
5. After awhile and some rest, I would begin to hear that darn Rocky Music again and the planning and trying to win her over so we could all get along and be a happy blended family would begin again. "Maybe she'll be nicer if I stay out of public parental events for a year to give her time to adjust? (Which I did, but she wasn't.) "Maybe I'll make a quilt for her new baby, so she and her son will see we are supporting their newest blessing? (Which I did, letting my skid feel a part of the gift.) Maybe, maybe, maybe..
6. Go back to Step #1 and begin all over again. (God Bless us everyone!)
Is this the Eager-Beaver, slightly Pollyanna-like, Stepmom Cycle of frustration or what?!!!
Well, according to the books she should have felt respected (she didn't), she should have been willing to meet with me and talk and try to get along for the goodness and well-being of her child, (She didn't) and after I tried everything, that was supposed to work, people told me I shouldn't let her "get to me!" I heard that intellectually but I haven't seemed to be able to accept it. What's it going to take for me to GET IT INTO MY HEAD THAT SHE IS NOT GOING TO REACH OUT to create a bridge of kindness or cooperation? I've been asking myself for years, "Why do I keep putting myself in the position of being in the line of unwilling to get along, bio-mom terrorism?
I think I may have figured it out. Up until now, I've been unwilling to accept "What is," this reality because I haven't been able to bear the thought of many, many more years of the pain and stress of her actions. I now realize that I also have assumed (correctly or not) that if I stopped trying to win her over, things would get even worse or stay the same for many, many years. I've resisted giving up for this reason. I've repeatedly put myself out on a limb, thinking it was the only way to make things change. (As you can tell, I am a typical achiever so when in doubt, I try harder.)
Remember this scene in "When Harry Met Sally?" Carrie Fischer keeps going out with married men and Meg Ryan keeps telling her they are not going to leave their wives for her. About halfway through the movie, after yet another painful experience, Carrie says to Meg, "He's not going to leave her is he?" Meg looks at her and says resolutely, "Of course he's NOT!" And in that moment...Carrie got it!! Well, maybe, at last, I finally get it. "She doesn't care about her impact on us, does she?" Smoms, all together now, "NO she doesn't"
I'm wondering whether this is another phase for me or not. Am I at Stage 4 or have I stepped off the game board? Somehow it feels different this time. I'm beginning to see a different future and that brings me hope. Since forming "Stepmoms on a Mission" in March of 2000, I've spoken or emailed with hundreds of Stepmoms and the pain caused by the hostile bio-moms is just..., well, it is just beyond words, beyond our control, very real and and very, very hurtful.
What can we do differently? Well, I believe that awareness is the first step in creating change. Perhaps by becoming aware, we can catch ourselves and begin to do things differently. So many of my attempts to "get along" have actually (I see now) been my own "Distracting Strategies." I have not wanted to accept or admit what has been continually in my face for years. It has been too scary or sad to admit to myself...until now. The good news about all of this is that now I can create some new choices. I can gently catch myself, when I fall back into old behaviors. I can begin to act with more courage and willingness to stand up for myself and to comfort myself when something happens that hurts or angers me. It's a shift in intention and attention.
This is a growth choice and it feels like I'm on the verge of something better. If you're interested in understanding more about the differences between making fear choices and growth choices please see my column about that very subject. The sooner you can become more aware of your pattern, you can create more choices and make more changes to help yourself... as soon as possible.
©2003 Cathryn Bond Doyle. All Rights Reserved.