Bio-mom back & I'm hurt by her impact-what can I do?
I don't even know where to begin. I’m so hurt, confused and angry about being a stepmom. There’s so much going on and I feel so helpless. Sorry if I skip around or make it confusing, it's a confusing and messed up situation. I’ve been a stepmom for 4 1/2 years to a now 7½ year old stepson (I'll call him "T"). My husband kicked out his ex-wife (due to her drinking problem) when my stepson was only about 8 months. When he kicked her out she only took her clothes and makeup and never even attempted to have a relationship with T. When my husband and I first got together, she was no where in the picture. I think the first year and a half we were together she contacted my husband 2 maybe 3 times to see how T was. A couple month's after my T turned 4, we had our first son "E" together. At this point, my relationship with my T was great. We had no issues. After our E was born my husband and I became engaged, the only problem was he and his ex were still legally married.
He filed for divorce and nothing has ever been the same since. His ex made the divorce difficult, accusing him of keeping her from T and other things. She would tell T the same thing and she even came to our house once and when she heard T call me mommy she said "No I'm your mommy she is just your brother's mommy." That's when T starting telling me he hated me (at 4 years old) and his brother (because his mom said that's not really his brother). I then started to give him some space, thinking that's what he needed since he now had his mom back (which wasn't really her choice obviously, the only reason she decided to be a "mom" was to try and look good in court during the divorce.).
Because I gave him space and didn't know what else to do, my husband's brother's wife started calling me a bad stepmom among other things. This really put me down because I loved (and still do) my stepson, I just had no idea whatsoever how to handle what was happening. Ever since those 2 events, I have kept my distance. Looking back I didn’t do it intentionally, I thought he didn't want me around. I grew apart from T while getting so close with E and my now 4 month old son J. My husband was granted primary physical custody with joint legal custody. She had parenting time Tuesdays after school until Friday after school. (Even though she was mandated by the court to undergo a psych eval and it said she had a personality disorder and lacked basic parenting skills.)
There were many times for various reasons she would not have her visitation with T (excuses such as she had no gas to pick him up or drop him off, he was ill, etc.). Things were ok during this time other than he missed a lot of school in her care, hardly ate when he was with her, and she didn't give him his ADHD medication. Meanwhile when she would do that stupid stuff, it made me mad because I had no idea how a mother could do that do her child and there was nothing I could do to prevent it.
Once she even drove drunk with T in the backseat and went in the ditch. My husband called CPS on her but they would not do anything because it was an ex against an ex. Around this time my mother-in-law even started to become friends with her which really did not make me feel good! My mother-in-law spent more time with her than she ever has with me! At 5 1/2 years old T also started having bowel movements in his underwear and still has them every now and then after he sees his mom. In February of this year, T's mom had a baby girl. Then about 2 months later T's mom and her boyfriend split, she went to a domestic abuse shelter (although there was no proof she or the baby were abused) and would keep T there with her on her days. This made me mad because T has a good home with us that he could have stayed at instead of staying at the shelter with her. Well one night she snuck out of the shelter with both T and the baby, got drunk, drove with them in the car, got pulled over and CPS was called.
CPS did not take the kids from her right away. It was about 2 months later she got an apartment, threw a party with the kids presents, got drunk, CPS made a routine check up visit and took the kids. This has been going on for about 3 months now and since then T and I have gotten closer, he now tells me he loves me and asks to do things with me. Now today my husband had a hearing in court with CPS and her to see what was going on. I went with him to support him (this is the first time I went to court with him) and right away she came up to me and made a scene saying I need to respect her because her son lives in my house and I have issues.
All that hurt me so bad. I have spent 4 1/2 years caring for and raising her child because she can't and she has no gratitude! As soon as we got home I talked to T and told him I loved him and he said he knew and that made me feel good. T and I are getting better.
My question: How do I deal with his mom especially when she says such hurtful things to me and can't even admit that she has caused T a lot of pain and she needs help? Sometimes I think leaving my husband is the only way but I love him and T so much and when she's not around life is wonderful! How do I handle her? How do I deal with the stress she causes T, myself and my husband? Please help, I really need advice. I have cried myself to sleep many times because of all the things she has done to T, my husband and myself and I don't want to cry any more! Please help! Sincerely, T’s Stepmom
Dear T’s Stepmom,
Wow, you really have been through a lot of upsetting experiences and I’m glad that you found us so we can support you. It is SOOOO hard when we are forced to interact with a woman who is not interested in getting along or in doing what we think, is in the best interest of her own children.
There is so much to say so I’m going to suggestion some reading to add to, and elaborate on, the few things I’ll say in this reply. Please read them, when you have a few moments. I know that is going to be a challenge with all you’ve got going on!
Please read a few of the Smommentaries on the site. They are essays I’ve written over the years. A few that come to mind are, “Feeling powerless?”, “Do you want to be right or happy?” “Dealing with a hostile bio-mom” and “guarding vs Hardening our heart.” Check out the others in case there is something else that might offer you some ideas and support for the jolting you’ve been through.
Please join our Bulletin Board, if you haven’t yet, so you can get the support and compassion that will fuel you to “hang in there” as long as you want to. This is hard stuff you’re dealing with and sharing it with women who’ve been there, like you will give you an almost unexplainable boost...along with many helpful ideas. It’s free so please join us.
Please read some pages of a book entitled, “The Four Agreements.” If you can’t buy it, read pages 47-61 while in the book store. It is the chapter about how to “take nothing personally.” Please do what you can to read that, as it will address a major aspect of what’s causing your so much pain and anger.
Please read the post I just wrote about Blame (Why so tempting and what’re the options?) as this will help you find ways to channel some of the energy that you’re also feeling right now. Getting you well, giving you an emotional boost and helping you feel more like yourself is my first priority. There’s a lot of emotional energy swarming around you and the resources I just gave you will help you find ways to manage all your feelings and energy in new ways.
Also, please read the Lessons Learned Page (under “Get Help now”) for dozens and dozens of suggestions from veteran stepmoms wanting to help you with the most important tips they’ve learned first hand.
From this point forward, I’m going to refer the T’s bio-mom as a Hostile Bio-mom. This is a term used to differentiate her from civil and kind bio-moms-FYI.
For whatever reasons, the divorce and your marriage triggered her into action and she’s shown you (repeatedly) that she’s willing to damage her son emotionally (see “the Loyalty wars essay for more on this) all so she can feel better. She’s done a few things to show you and your husband that she’s more concerned about her issues than her kids safety and well-being. This is noteworthy. As upsetting as it is that she is NOT willing to appreciate you or be grateful--this is “what is” with her and wishing her to be different is a dead-end. I’m so sorry to sound pessimistic. being a SMOM (that’s you now too-a StepMomOnaMission) has eroded my Pollyanna glasses and has actually saved me from being the easy target I used to be for mean people. You didn’t do anything wrong wanting her to be different or to appreciate you. It’s just that she appears to be a hostile bio-mom who’s not going to give you what you want.
The sooner you can find a way to accept that this is who she is choosing to be, the better for you and your husband. By surrendering to this reality, you’ll be giving yourself a gift and saving yourself lots of hurt feelings and lost hours of thinking about how to change her. If you can, accept this sad but true reality. Yes, it’s hard to let in that some people are so self-centered and unkind to their kids. It really is infuriating! Sadly, no amount of getting upset about her actions is going to change what she does! When you really let that truth in, you can begin to find new ways to use your time and energy to protect yourself, your skid (stepkid) and your relationship with your husband.
About your MIL and Sister in law and what anyone says about how you’re doing; it stinks that they’re criticizing you and I’m sorry they’ve hurt your feelings. This is another place where you can begin to practice the goal, “Take nothing personally.” Most of us have read those pages dozens of times and are still working on it, however, it can be helpful as you’re realizing how eager some people are to judge us. When people judge us, it hurts us. You’re going to have a chance to thicken up your skin to spare your feelings. (See my article about judging others-cbdoyle.com for more on this.) There’s a book title out there, “What you think of me is none of my business.” That’s another mantra you may want to practice when others jump in with their unsolicited judgments. Again, I’m so sorry because I know how much it hurts to be trying your best and having others criticize you.
I’m glad to hear that you and T are getting closer again. What she did to her son is terribly hurtful and confusing to him and hopefully your connection is strong enough to weather these past difficult times. It sounds like you share a strong loving connection with him and that’s going to be very important as the years go by.
You ask, “How do I handle her?” My first reaction is to NOT handle her as best as you can. I would let your husband interact with her so you can keep your attention on your kids and T. They need you and this is a place where your time and attention is valuable, worthwhile, impactful and where there is a chance for you to have a real influence. It is also a place where you are going to receive love in exchange for all your giving. Every time she comes into your mind, pretend you are using an imaginary remote and change the channel of your thoughts so you can give your attention to the ones around you. While we can’t change the past, giving your love and attention to the ones your love (and who love you) will make a huge difference in how you experience the situation.
Finally, let’s talk about you for a moment. You’ve been trying your best, you’ve been giving a lot of time, energy and love to T. His mother (and others) have hurt your feelings and caused you a lot of stress and pain. You can’t un-do the wounds, but you can tend to them very lovingly and gently and supportively. Please do what you can to keep your focus on what you need right now. Much of the written material will help your mind better understand what may have happened and why. While this can be helpful, there is still the matter of your feelings.
Please be tender with yourself. Watch your own thoughts to make sure you’re not judging yourself. For example, you pulled away from T, because you were doing what you felt was best and because he was lashing out. You did your best at the time. One of the other Four Agreements is “Do your best!” This is all we can ask of ourselves on any given day, right?!
An idea: Give yourself tons and tons of appreciation for all that you’ve done for T. No kidding. Say to yourself, “I’ve been terrific, patient, loving and generous to “my T.” I really appreciate how hard I’ve tried to make him feel happy and loved.” Try saying this out loud a few times a day. Try it now………..one more time with gusto!….LOL.
Please treat yourself with lovingkindness as you heal from the shrapnel of the past. When you’re ready, know you can get wiser, stronger and more aware of new options and insights through reading and sharing with other stepmoms on the BB. There’s a whole bunch of women on this site who’ve been through much (and some more) of what you’re experiencing and you’re welcome to join us.
I hope there’s something here and in your reading to help you on the next part of your stepmom journey. Best Wishes, Cathryn