What I’d do differently if I was a new Stepmom.
The following suggestions and insights are offered with the intention of saving future women, in the role of stepmom, lots of energy, time, heartache, rage, grief and stress in their relationships. I've written up a dozen things and all the other valuable, insightful and thoughtful suggestions some from sister SMOMS who’ve been a part of this site and/or who share our Mission. If you’d like to add your “Top 3 Things” to our ever-growing list, please click on the Submit link (at the bottom) and fill out the form.
Our goal? Our goal is to build a rich, varied and vast resource of Lessons Learned so our hard earned experiences will benefit others.
A Dozen SMOM Lessons Learned
By Cathryn Bond Doyle
Stepmom since 1996, 1 stepson, 5 at the time we met.
Preface to list: I’ve been carrying this list in my head for the past 2+ years. Just reviewing it, it dawns on me how much of what I would do differently is related to energetic, emotional and everyday boundaries--practical stuff. Hmmm? That surprised me at first, then I realized I was trying to think of things that could avoid traumas and the pain and rage that comes from being so “out of control.” Somewhere along the way, in my urgency and efforting to create the “Happy Blended family” fantasy, I lost my perspective and my sense of well-being, not to mention all the lost hours of connection with my beloved husband over one issue or another. My sense of justice (and in our case, the seeming lack of fairness and/or consequences for NOT doing the right thing) just gnawed at me and I couldn’t seem to let things go-like I would do now. (See my Smommentary-”DO you want to be right or happy?” for more about this.) Before becoming a stepmom in ’96 I traveled the US & UK, working with, and speaking to, thousands of people for 12 years in my career as a consultant to senior retail banking executives. With all my training and expertise in communications, I was still unprepared for the hostility, the unfairness and the persistent unwillingness to get along that I encountered when I became a stepmom.
It was the “best of times and the worst of times” all at the same time. Sadly, most of my sister Stepmoms on a Mission know just how that feels. So...since WE can’t go back and do things differently from the beginning, we’ve banded together to try to help new stepmoms (whether new to the role or just to the site). While some of these things may seem “over the top” or selfish to newbie stepmoms beginning their journey, our message is unanimous in one area...take care of yourself, your energy, your feelings, your dignity and your relationship with your beloved. If you have these things, at the end of the day, all the rest is really gravy! May you find things here of value to your situation. May you return whenever you need a boost and please, may you share your lessons learned along the way. With that in mind. Here’s is my list!
If I could have a “Do Over,” I would:
1. Ask my husband to refer to his ex-wife as his child’s Mom. This new title eliminates subtle reminders of their past connection.
2. Never send anything (clothes, toys, sports equipment, permission slips,etc) back to bio-mom’s house without being OK/prepared to never see it again.
3. Tell my beloved, NOT to show me or tell me about any details of communication from his ex-wife, since there’s a high risk it would upset me or cause us stress. I’d ask my husband to tell me the outcome of their discussions so I would stay informed of matters that impacted me and our household. This is hard at first-human curiosity and all, but is REALLY helpful to SMOM and bio-dad’s relationship!
4. Get a notarized letter, written by my husband, stating I have his permission to act on his behalf in regards to his child’s health, transportation to and from school and to represent him at school events. I’d laminate it and have copies made to gladly offer any official questioning my authority/role in the life of my skids. While this step takes little effort, money or time, it can save SMOMs great emotional stress if your role is ever questioned by school, sports, community officials.
5. Not shield my skid from his bio-mom’s words and actions. I’d share the facts, without editorializing (challenging and the right thing to do sometimes, cause these skids are children) then focus my attention on helping my skid cope with the consequences of her actions. Example: “Your mom is very upset that I’m going to go on the school field trip tomorrow. She’s told your Dad, she’s going in my place and is going to make trouble for us if we do not let her do this. I’m so sorry because I really wanted to go. Your Dad and I will do something else with your class as soon as it can be arranged. This way we can all still have a chance to do something fun with your class.” (This approach allows you to be honest with your skid (even when they may be hurt by the change), helps them deal with sudden changes and shows you’re willing to make an effort to help him feel better, even though he will clearly know you did not cause the change in plans.) Children sense the truth and the “un-truth” even if they don’t say anything. When bio-mom causes problems, we can model dealing with change without ever having to assign blame or judge anyone. It is a good life skill for skid and it will demonstrate your trustworthiness in even difficult situations.
6. Accept that the initial attitude of the bio-mom towards me is going to last and I’d adjust my actions accordingly so as not to put myself in her harm’s way. I’d be civil to her in public or in front of skid, but would not invest any energy trying to connect or convince her that we could all be a happy blended family. She will either be willing to get along for sake of her child...or not. I’d trust her initial attitude and behaviors. I’d accept it, instead of believing I could show her I was a worthy member of the parenting team and put all my energy into my family. Dealing with the rage, grief and pain that comes up in this circumstances is a very valuable use of time and money. Professionals, with stepfamily experiences are usually more supportive of the stepmothers. This is just what I’ve noticed in past 15 year. Things are happily changing but nevertheless, only get counsel from someone you feel truly understands your situation.
7. Be discerning and wise about the things I’d do for the skids, right from the start. I’d do everything I could to make them feel welcome and cared for. I’d do my best to be my consistent, true, kind self and bridle my natural enthusiasm to bond with them...giving them a chance to know me first. Also, I’d keep in mind that I’m NOT responsible for helping them heal from the divorce. It’s their Dad’s responsibility to do that, not mine. Even though it’s so natural to nurture and love kids, I’d hold back a bit more in the beginning; let them come to me for help or comfort or connection. If could be kind and loving but hold back on the extra stuff in the beginning, I think the skids would appreciate us more, instead of growing to view us as their maid servants, concierges, verbal punching bags and/or dispensable parental units, once the initial “Glow” is off our relationship- if it ever was there. This is very hard as most new SMOMS are so deeply in love and want to help their beloved and his kids. Most are so eager to get along and have a happy family but this enthusiasm can backfire-Big Time! Hold on to some of that enthusiastic life force so you can share it over the long term and teen years.
8. Discuss and discuss and discuss the new “house rules” with my beloved before living with skids. Finding agreement on these issues will save so much stress! Talk about things like table manners, personal hygiene, chores, social manners, disciplinary consequences because everyone grew up with different beliefs and experiences of what is right and wrong, good and bad, important and unnecessary. While house rules are bound to vary greatly between mom and dad’s households, differing cultural, religious and family upbringings will all be highlighted as skids live and grow-up in both homes. Spend some time on this- women are good at thinking this stuff through and it seems like there’s some kind of unspoken agreement that the woman in the house needs to be responsible for so many of these things. Make lists, talk about priorities, do everything you can, in advance, to find ways to agree on what is (and is not) going to be important enough to be upheld by your husband when his kids question or balk at it-which they inevitably will. This pre-living together exercise will save you countless arguments in your relationship. It will be an evolving process so it’s also important to find ways to handle disagreements between the 2 of you, behind the scenes. Ideally your skids will see you 2 as a united front, instead of the sadly all too common, “Your stepmom wants you to do X, I don’t really care but she’s insistent.” reply which is a total cop out on the dad’s part but is a common fear reaction if the Dad’s suffering from Divorce guilt. When you make your list of things that are important to you, go back over the list and separate it into two categories. First, “What you HAD to do as a child” and second, what you think and feel is absolutely necessary. If your beloved is willing to do the same and you can agree on common grounds for your new house rules-WOW, it’s going to save your family life so much stress. It’s a really good thing, if you can do it. Anything that you can agree about in advance saves stressful OJT (On the job training.)
9. Work deeply on my quest to “Take Nothing Personally” (“The Four Agreements” pages 47-61) while also choosing to take responsibility for myself, asserting my rights and expressing needs as a new wife and stepmother. I’d stand up for myself (risking rocking the boat) knowing that I have a right to feel safe and respect in my own home. I would not look to my husband to “stand up” for me with other people. If he did, terrific! But I would not look at it as a test of his love for me.” (See my relationship article about “Testing and Proving Love” for more on this topic.) His emotional situation is complex enough without my insecurities adding to his distress. As a grown woman, I’d look for ways to help myself whenever events upset, angered or scared me. In addition to seeking comfort from (and with) my beloved, I’d seek therapy, support groups and other sources of growth to use whatever occurred as a learning experience for my own healing and growth. I wouldn’t wait until I was devastated or overwhelmed to seek support. Two healthy, conscious, independent, loving human beings make a good strong team.
10. Use my creativity to invent and celebrate new family rituals and holidays and fun vacations with his kids whenever possible. Accepting we have virtually no control over the skids when they are at their bio-moms is one of the hardest emotional challenges we face with our beloved. It is so darn hard to see things happening that we can’t fix or change. However, we can channel some of that energy into coming up with activities that make fun and happy memories. These are intangible gifts NO ONE can take away from the skids. Therapists agree that children rarely remember daily life and yet most remember, with vivid details, the rituals, holiday celebrations and vacations they enjoyed growing up. (See Smommentary section for article about ways to connect with your skids. There are lots of ideas to trigger your creative juices.)
11. Do everything I could to help my husband, acknowledge and deal with his “Divorce guilt and/or Father Fears.” I’d suspend my judgments and my urge to get him to act and probe very gently to understand his fears so, together we could create new strategies so his ex-wife and kids are less able to manipulate him with fear tactics. This can be a very deeply sensitive issue and is often very hard for men to admit to themselves much less to us. They want to feel strong and solve problems so whenever they feel afraid they will often deny those feelings and take a hard, defensive, rationalized confrontation-avoiding, stance rather than to do what we feel is the right thing. When this happens, I’d do everything I could to resist the urge to judge him as weak or siding with HER (or skids) over me and I would look deeper and give his fears my compassion and love. Then I’d turn on my creative problem solving skills and figure out a way to help him deal with the threat/problem/issue together. This is a huge lesson learned and will heal and strengthen the relationship.
12. Lastly and MOST IMPORTANT...I’d make my connection with my beloved the Number ONE priority! I’d do everything I could to stay aware of our mutually agreed upon, over-arching goal of remaining loving, supportive, patient and compassionate with each other. Being a team that no one’s action can infiltrate would remain the most important thing. The kids and skids are top priority also, but never instead of being there for each other. I’d make staying emotionally connected (versus on opposite sides of the boxing ring”) more important than any issue of manners, rules about chores, discipline or responses to bio-mom actions. I’d look at our different perspectives and approaches has a powerful thing, not something to be avoided or argued about but something that makes us better as a team because we’d probably come up with a better idea working together. I’d make a pledge with my husband, that whenever we disagreed about how to handle things, we’d work together until we found a solution that we could both accept. When we felt the urge to withdraw out of anger or hurt, we’d agree to “push in the clutch” immediately, put all our cards on the table and work out a solution together because nothing is going to be more important than maintaining a solid loving connection. I’d constantly remind us both that we’re in a “Nobody’s right, Nobody’s wrong-we’re just different and so we’re going to keep at this until we find something we can both support” approach to marriage.
Lessons Learned-Part Two
Thanks to all our sister SMOMS for sharing their ideas! As you can see, they've used their Bulletin board screen names.
I've been on this BB for nearly a decade. My skids are young adults now. We've paid for college; we offered advice when asked; kept our mouths closed when not. My SD was a real pill as a teenager. My SS - thank goodness -- a bonafide benefit of marrying my wonderful husband. DH & I have a little boy together. When I saw BM (and stepdad) last month, we could actually give each other a warm hug.
I've learned a lot being a Smom. Its probably been the most maturing experience in my entire life maybe even more than career, marriage, having a child, seeing family health issues arise (although that certainly gives you better perspective on what really matters). These are some things I've learned through trial, error, fire, ice, storm and thanks to Cathryn and this wonderful BB.
1. My first and primary responsibility in this relationship is to be a wife -- that is Team #1.
2. I didn't create the problems (btwn DH and his ex; the skids, whomever); I’m not here to solve them.
3. I will take the time to identify only the most important things to get on my soapbox over; it took me a long time to figure out that, for me, it was being treated with dignity & respect in front of my child and in my home...that and please don't leave wet towels on the carpet in your bedroom. Let a lot of other stuff slide including what they eat, don't eat, how they chew, do or don't do their homework, etc...
4. I should definitely offer my skids that which they can't get from the other grown-ups in their lives. If you've got a speciality or an experience then do share. But you are best not to try to be everything to everyone.
5. Be open to accepting that other people are unlikely to change; its tough enough to change oneself -- how can you expect them to change unless they want to. Put your focus on self-care: how you process or handle tough people & experiences. Learn not to get stuck in raging mode over the imperfections of others.
6. Don't be your own worst enemy by revisiting, ruminating, and re-dredging up the infractions of others. Remember from the 4 Agreements: "don't take the poison others serve" -- Ali's Rule -- don't serve yourself their poison by thinking and rethinking that which happened in the past.
I've sat on this for a couple weeks. What would I do differently? I’ve been at this for almost 10 years & ya know, there’s nothing I would do differently. We’ve been in the pits of despair to wedded bliss to somewhere in between. Sometimes it was our own doing & sometimes it was completely out of our control. Every single thing we have gone thru has been with purpose. It was a lesson that my hubby, myself, the kids, or the ex needed to learn. Going thru all of it is exactly why we are where we currently are (which is wedded bliss for me and him & somewhere in between as a whole house at the present moment. We are in the middle of a custody change so... it's an adjustment). :) I will offer my interpretation of the lessons each of us went thru.
It's not about me (the wife). The issues the ex has would be with anyone he married, it's not me personally.
Waiting for the ex to be in a better mood or disposition to deal with things gets him nowhere.
Being a good parent does not mean he's becoming his past.
Happy wife = Happy Hubby = Happy kids ... in that order!
We HAVE to be a united front in front of the kids no matter what.
All you can do is give it your best & that's all you can do. (in the sense of there's not a lot of things we can change in visitation a couple days a month)
While I may love them as if they are my own kids, they are not & they do not want another mother.
You can only control yourself, what you say or how you react. Right or wrong, you can't change how things are done elsewhere.
It’s important for my hubby to have one on one time with the kids, which also gives me a much needed break. I don't have to be involved in everything they do.
I originally poo-poo'ed counseling but for whatever reason, it really gave me peace of mind that what I was going thru were not all my issues.
I may want better for everyone but I can't take their journey for them, even if it means watching them go thru something really tough.
Personal hobbies are cheap therapy!
While I can't account for how she feels or what she's learned, I think I'm safe in saying the following:
Allowing the kids to play the adults against each other makes things miserable on everyone.
She is the ex, she will always be the ex, & nothing but the ex.
Kids need boundaries & structure or they will get wildly out of control.
Moving the kids that far away while it gave her relief from the drama she was causing, really bit her in the butt in the long run. It's hard on the kids, they feel even more disconnected & she has no support system.
I would also like to think that she has learned that although she made my hubby out to be the bad guy in every situation, she really has it good when it comes to an ex & a stepmom. Her friends do NOT have the same luxury.
I'm not sure what they have learned & don't expect to for many years.
Married since Sept 22, 2006, mom of 2, smom of 4. These days, happy empty-nester and grandma (or Gi as Olivia calls me)
What would I have done differently? Learned more about Junior's special needs before getting the test. ADHD, LD, Socially delayed. It wouldn't have stopped the crisis that happened in 2007, but maybe there wouldn't have been as much drama and chaos that followed if I had known more and was able to draw on knowing more than nothing about how his challenges played into the new family dynamics. In addition...
1. I am the ONLY variable. Marrying a man with kids (and I brought two of mine own into our marriage) is like marrying a pre-existing condition. My husband's relationship with his ex-wife pre-existed before me. My husband's relationships with all four of his children pre-existed before me. Junior's issues pre-existed before me. When I realized this, I stepped way back. I didn't break anything; therefore it was not my job to try and fix anything or change anything. Accepting the reality of our situation (and not some "thing" that should be one way or another) helped me and my husband better manage and handle StepLife.
2. Setting boundaries benefits EVERYONE. The first boundary I set was a physical boundary - the master bedroom is off limits unless by express invitation. This, of course, came as a shock to Junior because he had been used to just "hanging out" is his dad's bedroom. The first time that Junior came in my bedroom and rearranged my dresser was the last. I did not offer a shrill ultimatum but instead explained to my husband why I needed the bedroom off limits to children and he agreed. The second boundary I set was an emotional boundary. My husband's ex-wife was used to using him as a sounding board for all her personal problems and relationship issues. She made the mistake of sucking up 30 minutes of his time. He made the mistake of allowing her to do it. Once again, no shrill ultimatum from me, just a conversation between me and my guy. I explained to him how that made me feel, where those feelings came from, and that his ex-wife (who initiated their divorce,) she no longer had that privilege and that as his wife, his emotional time belonged to me. Good thing my husband is not a block head. He got it. And he told me "You're right, I need to treat her like my EX-wife."
3. This is more of an observation. Stepfamilies, stepmoms in particular, go from crisis to crisis without doing the necessary work in-between. They don't work on their marriage, they don't work on themselves. They don't realize that it's not the other person, that it's mostly a faulty set of tapes that play incessantly in their own head. Taking responsibility for one's choices and decisions is hard, but it is the path to personal freedom. Blaming others, incessant complaining, and the constant making excuses is what keeps people trapped in the trauma of drama. And for some, it becomes an addiction. There are those who want to complain to hear themselves complain.
Well I am a future SMOM... but say I have been a SMOM for 3 years to 3 kids (ages 10, 7, and 5), and I have 1 bio daughter who is 9 months old. I am 26 years years old, so I am pretty new at some stuff, but I feel like these 3 years have been some of the toughest, and some of the greatest days of my life. I love my step children with all of my heart, and in my situation my SKIDS view me more as a mom to them then their own BM. FDH and I are currently fighting for custody. If I had to look back and do something differently what would I do, well here are a few things I would have changed:
- I would try not to get so emotionally involved, though that's easier said then done. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and show that things bother me. I think BM got a rise out of knowing that she bothered me.
- I would try to have a little more patience... because of the situation my skids are in with their BM, they are very needy... and though I love them with all my heart, sometimes that clinginess was very tough to deal with. The kids would act out in ways that I felt were not appropriate for a child, and DH would tell me that we need to cut them some slack because of the life they have to live (by acting out, simple things like attitudes... and not to just me, but their father as well... and not listening). I feel that I would have benefited myself if I just had a bit more patience.
- I would try to separate myself as much as I could from BM, and not involve myself.... I am the type of person that likes to be a part of everything... I don't want to be left out, and well sometimes, I need to realize that I don't need to be a part of everything.
Hello all, I'm 32, and I've been a Smom since 2008. I have two SS's ages 16 and 10 and two bio DD's ages 13 and 10. I have to admit there are quite a few things I would do differently. This marriage is so different than my first one, a second marriage though fulfilling has these differences that I think I fell into like land mines at times. There have been things that I never expected to be that different or that big of a deal, but because of it being a second marriage the dynamics just make it that way.
1. First off a smaller thing: I would not have started out so readily supplying my SS's with "things" like I do for my own DD's. I'm referring to the times that I bought DD's a shirt, so I felt this need to be fair and make sure I did the same for SS's. Same goes for everyday items, things that, yes the kids need, but it's what happens after that that frustrates me looking back. When it came time for me to encourage taking care of things, or things would come up missing and I would inquire... all the sudden I was the bad guy. I'm sorry, but with my DD's if things go missing, get ruined by careless treatment, I as a parent institute some form of consequence. DH on the other hand seeing his boys without their "things" would run out and replace them as if it was no big deal. I suppose it wasn't a big deal to him. He wasn't the one that bought the things that I did, took the time, literally handed the money over etc. I was in the mindset of "we" and in this instance he clearly was not. So, as time goes along and SS's complain that they don't have swimsuits, or pants, or shorts and I can think of the countless ones that I've bought (more than for my own girls) and DH is catering to their needs... I'm done with that. DH NEEDS to be responsible for providing their things and they need to go to DH for their things. Period. If they go missing after HE dealt with it, maybe he would support consequences and hold his children responsible for it. This is not to say that I will never buy them anything, of course I will, but when it comes to their needs... SS's NEED to go to DH and DH NEEDS to take care of that. I feel that it became whatever I've done had no value. Lends to resentment on my part. Sure it was "convenient" for DH and SS's for a while to use me like this, but no more.... and I WISH I had not been so willing to take on responsibility from the beginning. I wish I would have realized how unappreciated my efforts would be and how in this area we are not treated like partners but rather tools to be used. DH was caught with IF he didn't run out and provide something he was the "bad" guy. Sure it was easier to pawn it off on me. Overall I'm frustrated by everyone's participation in the dynamic of this issue, but ultimately I did and do have the power to change it. SS's have treated my contribution as expendable. I wish I would have contributed LESS.
2. The second thing, a bit larger thing: It goes hand in hand with the first issue, but is a larger issue of responsibility. I wish from the get go I would not have been willing to take on more responsibility with SS's. DH had his hands full when I first met him. BM was SUPER flaky. Their inconsistent life was not my normal at all. DH told me he was craving a consistent life and was struggling with so much inconsistency himself. After my entering the picture BM came back into the picture more and more. Overall I'm happy for the boys that she's in their life consistently, but the things that have transpired I'm angry about. When DH and BM BOTH had issues with OSS they were SOOOOoooooo willing to turn responsibility for him over to me. At the time I was willing to pick him up, drop him off, take him here and there because the idea was that he needed supervision. I foolishly thought we could work together. The moment OSS complained about it BM turned on me. The irony of the whole situation, our afternoons and things were actually fine. It was stressful to me because I was unsure and admittedly did not TRUST OSS. That lead me to recording our time in the car together so that there could be no lying later. I'm eternally grateful that I did that because bingo bango that's exactly what happened. It blew the wind out of SS's sails in terms of lying about me, yet BM has held on to me being "abusive" to OSS. I should have NEVER thought that we could work together. I should have never been willing to take responsibility like that for SS's. In an ideal world we could all work together and I feel I've done everything I can to work together. I was under the impression that all parents at least try to do good things for their children. I was so sadly mistaken as I've watched the manipulation of the situation. The undermining. I should have had NO part of it and been there in a supportive role to my husband.
3. The third thing, the biggest thing of all: BM. You know, I EXPECTED to have issues with the children. That part I expected and thought with time and relationship building we could work through things. I'm a SD myself. I have a Smom. WE worked through things, and sure it took YEARS, but we did it. I didn't like her from the get go, I was NOT thrilled to have her in my life. Fast forward, I love her. She's been there for me like it or not. Here's the thing... my mother was NOT in the picture at all. The dynamics were entirely different. Sure I didn't like it, but emotionally I had no where to run. Given the dynamic that I knew my own Smom has given me advice and I've learned that though well intentioned, it doesn't apply to MY dynamic as a Smom. It DID apply to hers, but quite frankly, she really doesn't know what it's like to have another parent involved and kids that go back and forth and what we deal with because of that. My Smom's bio son, his father wasn't involved in his life either... so it was just a different dynamic. I wish I would have known enough to NOT try to work WITH her so much, but to stay out of it. I wish I would have NOT wasted my time and efforts trying to include someone that I know is so important to my SS's, but does everything she can to mess with our plans, has disappointed her sons leaving DH and myself to clean up her messes... yet... fast forward a little bit, SS's are ok with her and she's the greatest mom ever. I should have not been so helpful... I should have NOT taken SS's to the doctor, made sure OSS had his blood pressure monitoring, got them caught up on their shots, did extra with them when BM flaked out on weekend after weekend, tried to console them when BM lied about her whereabouts, console them when BM refused to come to their birthday parties even when I offered to not be there. DH could have handled all that on his own and I could have been his supportive wife. SS's are fine with all that now, I'm still bitter. Why did I clean up her messes to be left sitting in the mess myself??? SS's don't appreciate it. DH does, but it hasn't changed the outcome. I'm trying "now" to go forward with what I feel I should have been doing all along. Be pleasant to BM, but that's pretty much it. I will no longer even try to work with her, as it doesn't matter what I do. I refuse to continue frustrating myself. DH is frustrated with me pulling back more, as it's less convenient for him. When BM flakes and or won't be responsible even on her time, I've been there to "fill in" yet there is no sense of that reality from SS's.
Ultimately the ONE thing I would do different and it applies to ALL of these situations.... be DH's WIFE. It's far more important than being a Smom to children who regularly reject me thanks to the loyalty bind they are put in. I don't want them in that position. I didn't choose to place them there. I wish I could make BM "behave" somehow, but that's so far beyond my control it's laughable. The only thing I can control is MY behavior. Time to behave like a wife. I know DH misses me as a more willing Smom, but it's just not possible. We have issues to work through in that sense with our marriage, but the reality is... we are married... I am his wife... he deserves my support and I deserve his respect as his wife. IF somehow I can be a Smom in a positive way, that's the bonus plan.
I think as women who are nurturers, we place so much stock in being the caregivers... naturally leaning toward the children. In a second marriage or a marriage that comes with children from previous relationships... our nurturing needs to be focused on fostering our marriages. It's hard enough. I would say DH and myself both have had that fantasy of one big happy family. Unfortunately I think in MOST of our situations we Smoms come to the reality of that not being the case much sooner than our DH's. We get used as scapegoats.
Time to focus on being wives. Should have been a bigger focus for me from the beginning. I guess I'm a bit of an "I can do it all" kind of woman. As I widow I appreciate the second chance at love so very much. I never intended to be in a second marriage. I miss that first marriage continuity. Having a second chance though, I'd do anything not to lose it... I know what that loss is like.
Blessings for good marriages!
Hi I am 34 years old and have been an smom for 9 years. SD is now 13. I do not have any children of my own but that may be a possibility one day.
The three things I would do differently is:
1. I would not try to "fix" SD. I tried so hard to supplement doing what BM was not in the beginning because I saw how it affected my SD. I tried to be affectionate, loving, guide her, support her etc. All of what BM was not and still is not doing to this day. This caused SD to resent me bc she wanted BM to do it and not me in turn acting out towards me. SD had said she could not understand why I can be like that and BM can’t. So me, being me made her resent all of what her mother is not but it was projected onto me bc I was the one who showed SD through my actions the deficit in BM towards SD. I realized I cannot save SD from the relationship that BM is creating. That is for them to workout btwn the two of them. BM is her mother: good, bad or indifferent. I cannot change who BM is for SD nor can I change what BM does. I have no control over it so the situation is what it is. I would have disengaged a lot sooner.
2.I would not take things so personal. I could not help but take things personal bc most kids I come in contact with love to hang out with me. SD...not so much..lol. I had to realize and accept that was a different dynamic. BM was feeding SD things that were untrue about both SD and DH and I let all of it get to me and interfere with me and DH's relationship. And in the end BM's words don't mean anything to me bc she is no one to me and can carry as much weight in my life as I allow. So I ended up saying " Who gives a flying fig whether BM or SD like me, what they say, think, etc" I am with DH not them bc I love DH. SD and BM are for him to manage and deal with not me. I redirected and refocused my energy.
3. I would let DH parent as he saw fit and not try and control his parenting. I was trying to control him bc I wanted him to parent how I saw fit. I needed to let him make mistakes. But I was allowing what BM and SD said and thought about us govern how much I pushed him. I felt like he needed to prove them wrong when all along he was learning just as much as I was and doing the best he could. Now he parents, he consults with me, but he parents no matter how I think it should be done he does it mistakes and all. How else will he learn to be a dad if he has no mistakes? How else would I have learned to be in the space I am now in as a smom had I not made mistakes? He is her dad and just like SD has to work out the relationship with BM, SD and DH have to work out their relationship as well. I relearned my position as his partner and biggest supporter not his director.
Circles of Karma
Great question... I love self reflection as a way to improve myself for the future
1) I would not go into this situation with such rose colored glasses. I thought my peaceful nature and optimism would 'conquer all' so to speak. Wrong! Being the one trying to bring it all together 'for the sake of SD' only caused ME to be hurt time and time again. My husband already knew the nature of his ex-wife and was 'like a duck' through it all, just letting her 2faced snottiness roll off his back. He was never sucked into a phony conversation masked with niceness only to lead to a backhanded insult. I SO WISH I would’ve been like that from the get go instead of being used, lied to, and made a fool of over the last 6 years by my SD and her Bm. Being a good person doesn't change a situation controlled by a selfish, uncaring, power tripping BM :/ and now she's rubbed off on SD, but that's another post...
2)I would NOT have gone SO out of my way to accommodate/ impress SD and her mom. Any time my husband was working and BM needed a 'sitter' I did my best to accommodate, even if it meant cutting plans short that <<I>> had! I just tried too hard to show SD that I care about her, only later to be taken for granted and advantage of. I fear that I may have contributed to SD's spoiled, self entitled attitude by going out of my way for her so much! (She's almost 12 by the way) and I'm truly dreading the teen years, yipes!
3) This is the big one... I would have gotten pregnant the spring after I got married as we originally planned. Having my son has brought so much meaning and light to my life, I definitely wish I had had him sooner! We thought we were doing the responsible thing by waiting to be more financially stable, if that's truly possible. Looking back we would have been fine, and having my own child has given me a much needed shift in perspective. If I had this perspective sooner I most likely wouldn't have made mistakes number 1 and 2 ... Or at least maybe it wouldn't have gotten to the point that I can't stand my Sd (turning into her manipulative mother!)
Ugh :/ How I love my Dear Son, and strong hubby!!! I thank goodness for these blessings.
I am 37 years old. I have been a smom for 8 1/2 years (9 in October). I am the custodial smom to SS16 and have been our whole marriage. I came into the marriage knowing that I would have SS full time. My SD13 lives 2,000 miles away with their mother. I am the biomom to my BS14. I was not married before, no contact with my BS's father. So I was a true single mother to my son. I made all decisions without any need for outside input. THIS is part of our problem I think.
I can only think of 1 thing that I would do differently: TALK ABOUT STEPFAMILY LIFE, PARENTING STRATEGIES, FINANCIAL ISSUES, AND WHAT IS EXPECTED BY ALL PARTIES BEFORE GETTING MARRIED!!!!
This is something we did not do. I guess we both just assumed it would all work out fine. We were both living in la-la land I guess. We both were full sole custody of our kids. So we dated with kids -- neither of us had "the other parent" to interfere. I guess while dating that seemed fine and we just glossed over all the potential issues that might crop up. We talked about NONE of this stuff before. Then once we got married and tried to officially merge our families it was a disaster. Even to this day almost 9 years later we still have huge parenting differences and expectations. Not that we would have gotten married anyway, but I really wish all this stuff had been talked about beforehand. It would have saved a lot of heartache.
I think in general I had a very skewed idea of what marriage was like. I assumed that everyone was like my parents. If my parents argued, we didn't know about it. They kept it under wraps when we were around. I guess I also thought marriage was going to be all rosey just like in movies and books. I know that seems silly and childish since I was 29 when we got married. But I had never lived with anyone before DH. I dated, but never longterm living together stuff. So I had NO IDEA.
I would suggest to others getting into the stepfamily life to talk it out. Learn to talk about things, don't be afraid to upset the applecart. Make sure you are heard and not feel like you are being walked on.
Hi! I am (almost) 29 and I have been an smom to my husband's children for a little over 2 years, and I have a DS6 and DH and I have a bio-son 18 months.
1) I would have talked about expectations with DH on the first date had I known what I was getting myself into! I think it is of the UTMOST importance to have that conversation about kids, money, ex's, and day to day life IMMEDIATELY!!
2) I wouldn't have opened myself up to my in-laws so much or so quickly. If I knew then what I know now and that everything I have ever done or said would be ultimately used against me...I would have kept them at an arms length.
3) I would have disengaged and stopped trying to be so many things to so many people and losing sight of taking care of myself in the process.
Thanks for the great question! Very insightful for sure
I have been a stepmom for three years. I was having so many problems with the bio mom that one night I was googling advice for stepparents and came across this forum. It has been a life changer! I have had many struggles in my stepmom journey from drama to the pressures of TTC my own bio. Well I have finally been blessed and I love my little girl to death!
I would love to go back in time and do things differently! For one I would not have engaged in bio mom's name calling, slander and drama. If I'd known she'd cyberstalk me I would have made all my social networking profiles private so that she could not get on my profiles and read my blogs/comments or see my pictures so that she could not send me mean messages. I would have blocked her. I would have stayed away from her blogs and not read the nasty stuff she wrote about me NOT KNOWING ME. The first time she found out DH had me as a girlfriend she sent him nasty text messages calling me names, and she didn't even know me! I would have ignored her existence completely.
I also would not have jumped in head first. My in-laws made me believe BM was a crappy mom. I felt like I had to step up and "save" my stepson and be a positive female figure in his life. Little did I know that BM really is a good mom and I'd been stepping on her toes and that also created a lot of friction between us.
I would have gotten myself into counseling and persuaded DH to do the same.
I would have put everything on the table and discussed things before marriage instead of waiting til after marriage to tell DH I had a problem with A,B,C.
While I cannot undo or redo things, the hard road made me a stronger person. I do fantasize about a perfect steplife in which me and BM got along and SS did not manipulate and hurt his father and that he was well behaved. But there is no perfect life or blended family. I chose to marry this man and I muddle through all the hardships because I love him.
1) I wish that I had never doubted myself or DH for a second. My judgement and instincts have been right the entire time.
2) I am a teacher and have loved children from a young age. Building a relationship with SS11 has been very hard for me, because I was used to children warming right up to me and loving me from the start. Until I met SS, I had never met a child that didn't like me. I finally realized that, there is nothing I can do about this. BM does everything in her power to sabotage my relationship with SS because she is jealous and childlike. My relationship with SS should not be a threat to her, but it is. Anyway, I wish that I had not let myself get so eaten up with guilt (and trying to be better). I wish I had just stayed true to myself all along. This would have been so much more fun for SS and for us. I am back to being me and not caring about what she does/says. I am letting all that go. I just wish I had never grabbed on so, that I didn't have to let go. I would like to have the time back that I have wasted trying to fix SS's life, make things better for him, cried, been stressed out and been upset because of BM. I can't get that time back, but I can never ever let her have another second of my life unwillingly!
3)I wish that I never tried to reach out to BM. I should have remained more neutral and less involved. I was sincerely trying to help SS, but I should have let DH do it. When I reached out, I was still hoping that we could all get along enough to help SS. BM was very rude to me and it really only made things worse for a while. Lesson learned.
I am 21 years old and have been in the relationship for 2 years. I have a sweet SD who will be 3 soon. No bios...yet
1. I would have just been myself around SD. I tried way too hard to make her like me and put way too much thought into SDs words.
2. I would have gone to counseling a LONG time ago to work on the anger I was developing. I actually went once and felt stupid. It was a counselor at my college and after the first session all I could think about is how this probably sounds like such a trivial and childish problem.
3. I would have stopped worrying about SD. I put too much responsibility on myself. I did things for SD alone. Now I do things for me first, BF second and SD last. If I don't want to do it I won't.
My situation, smom for 8 years (SD was 2 when we met), 2 young bios with DH. I think we did a few things right when DH and I got together, we went to counseling even before we married to work out boundaries issues with BM. But that didn't prevent the future issues! Also, I realized right off the bat that BM was a crummy mother, and I knew that she did not put SD's best interests first. She had also treated DH like crap by cheating on him, etc. So I knew that I didn't want to know her and I met her once and was polite to her but avoided her like the plague after that because she made me sick and I knew we'd never have a good relationship. I spent all my energy on SD in the beginning, and we were very close and had a great relationship.
Things I'd do differently:
1) I never listened to anyone when they told me how difficult stepfamily life would be, I assumed it would be hard, but we'd work it out. I wanted to help my SD and I felt bad for my DH. I wish I had listened to all of those who told me to run the other way. There were stepparents who I judged when they told me "I wish my stepkid would just disappear", but eventually I came to have those same feelings. Now I get it, and I realize it is part of the stepfamily dynamic at times. This is way harder than I thought it would be.
2) I wish I had known that I would never be able to "save" my SD from her mom. From this forum I learned that SD will always want her mom (I saw this in her actions too), and that I will always be second best. Even if I'm teaching her things that will make her life glorious instead of difficult every day, what SD really wants is for her mom to love her. Her mom, who doesn't love or care for herself in a healthy way, who will probably never be able to love SD the way she wishes, who is in an abusive relationship and exposing SD to physical abuse, she has a very dark past and upbringing. She will not be able to be for SD what SD wants. But that is for them to work out, it's not something I can help with.
3) I realize now I need a very tough skin to be part of a stepfamily. My in-laws have been judgmental about my decisions, my relationship with DH, and my level of involvement with SD. Getting accused of abusing SD by BM was very upsetting (especially as I had very young bios at the time, one of whom was physically dependent on me). This spurred my decision to not have contact with SD again (DH sees her for his regular schedule at his sister's house and our kids see her regularly too). Me not having contact with SD and BM has been wonderful for me and my kids, I am so much less stressed out, and DH still gets to see her for his regular time. Dh isn't thrilled about it, but it's a compromise that we can both live with, so it's what we do. Honestly sometimes I love not having him around for the weekend so I can just hang out with the kids!
I stay with DH because we have 2 wonderful children who love him to pieces and he's a good dad. I do feel like being a stepfamily took a lot out of our marriage and a lot of joy and money from our lives. But it's a choice I made and it's not all bad. We do have a really nice family and as the kids have grown older things have gotten much easier and I've insulated myself much more from the BM drama. Sending hugs to all the smoms!
I've been with DH12 years married 8 years. Met his boys when they were 1 & 4. What would I do differently, first off never go on that first date with him, sorry that sounds harsh but single ladies don't date men with kids unless you love drama in your life.
1. I wouldn't take thing so personal, BM hates me but she hates me bc I'm married to her ex. I could be anyone and it wouldn't matter.
2. Let the small stuff go
3. Have DH stand up to BM sooner then he did - took him about 7 years to do it.
4. Get a good lawyer the first time around. you get what you pay for.
5. Take time for yourself and realize your feelings are true but it's not worth getting all upset over.
- Enjoy your Stepkids, they are only young once and this is what I do not regret, I've been a great stepmom and have a great relationship with my boys.
I'm a smom to 3 awesome boys!!! They are 7 and 5 year old twins. I've been with dh for going on 3 years now. We've been married for over a year.
1. The first thing I would do differently is not get so involved so early on. I feel like I jumped into this whole smom world instead of getting my feet wet first. I went from being a kidless single girl to a married fulltime smom of 3 in under a year. Now that I look back on it I think we should've dated longer and taken things slower.
2. I wasn't prepared to love these boys as much as I do. I feel like I get my heart broken by them in some way every day. It's nothing that they do intentionally, it's just life and how it goes. I didn't realize until now that a child could break your heart with a look or a word. I don't think I would change this but I would've better prepared myself for these experiences.
3. Don't sweat the small stuff. I spent a lot of time when I first became serious with dh, worrying about bm and all her drama. I've realized now that I put myself and dh through all of that for nothing. She was, is, and never will be worth all the fights and arguments that I put dh and myself through.
4. I'd have more faith in my dh and his feelings for me. I think the ex wife/husband will almost always make a play for their ex when they meet someone new. Most of the time I don't even think the ex really wants that person back because of their feelings for them, it seems to be mostly their ego talking. I should've realized that dh divorced bm for a reason and he's also with me for a reason and kept that in my head while going through all of that drama. P.S. the bm will most likely try to use the skids to accomplish her goal of getting dh back. She will talk to dh about how they should be a family and that they need to be together for their kids. Also she will probably put thoughts into the skids heads. Bm went so far as to ask the skids if they would like mommy and daddy to be married again. After that I wouldn't put anything past bm.
Just know that this will most likely be the hardest yet most rewarding experience of your life. It has been for me, but also if you don't think you are gonna be in it for the long haul just don't do it at all.
I feel like I am too new to all this to have properly learnt any lessons yet!! Have been a smom for about a year now - SD7, SD10, SS11.
Things I am continuing to learn...
1. Not take things so personally -skids are still so young and am sure some of what they do is driven by BM's brainwashing and is just plain nasty but some of it is just kids being kids.
2. Not to do everything for the skids because I feel I must to earn their respect as an adult. They will get there in their own time and recognize the choices FDH and I make for them to support them and be there for them - ok this might be pipe dream but I still hold out hope!!
3. FDH and I continue to have private time each day - just for us even when skids are with us OWE - we have done this from day 1 and is has been SO important
- I HAVE learned this group is invaluable and the best support EVER - thanks ladies
I'm 29 years old and have been a CP smom for 2 1/2 years to a 8 year old boy (he's been living in my home since he was 4 however). I would:
1. Not allowed my DH to put so much responsibility for SS on me. I let him put way too much on my plate and it lead to resentment that I'm struggling with now.
2. Stayed out of anything to do with BM. Though my DH gets busy, he has to communicate with her, I don't. Period.
3. I would not have put my SS first in our marriage for the first few years we were together. It lead to a distance between DH and I. Our foundation started out cracked because of it and we are paying for it now.
4. I would not join our finances. It causes a lot of resentment as well. I feel like all of our money goes to SS. I'm sorry, but he's not mine and some of my money should be able to go to something other than him.
I'm 25 years old and have been a smom for four years, with almost three of those years being full-time custodial. My DSS is 10 years old and the love of my life (besides my DH!). If I could pick anything to do differently, I would:
1. Realize that BM's relationship with DSS is HER responsibility. It wasn't my job to try to make certain she stayed connected to him if SHE wasn't trying to. Taking on responsibility for it helped HER out, but it stressed me out unnecessarily.
2. Recognize that BM's feeling towards me stemmed from HER life, not from what I was doing. She would have had a problem with anyone who DH married and nothing I could do would get her to a place where she was comfortable with me. She had to do that on her own and in her own time.
3. Realize that the stress I was causing myself by worrying about BM and her choices was only harming me. It was healthier for ME if I chose to look at her with kindness and think of her as a blessing in my life, rather than think of her as a pain that I had to put up with forever.
4. Release my anger towards her sooner about not taking care of DSS and getting him when she was supposed to. While it meant that I had to take on full responsibility for him while she partied, it also meant that I have a great bond with him that can never be taken away. When I stopped thinking of her as shirking her responsibility and started thinking of her as having blessed me with my child, I found that most of my frustration towards her dissipated.
5.This one to me is the most important thing I would do differently: Because of my job (as a CPS worker), I often see parents (unfortunately, because of the dynamics of the population we serve, it is mostly mothers) at their worst. It gets really easy to "judge" a parent as "bad" or "good" because of their choices and this is the same thing that I got into with BM. Sometimes we find that a person who had a child wasn't ready to be a parent and didn't necessarily WANT to be a parent. That doesn't mean they don't love the child or that they are a bad person. Parenting is a hard job that isn't for everyone. It doesn't make someone bad that they don't want to take the job on. It makes them human. If I could go back, I would realize earlier on that she was doing the best she could with what she was given from HER upbringing. And HER best is all that anyone could ask.
I'm 28 years old and have been an "unofficial" stepmom for 2 years. FDH and I are getting married next spring. I have two stepdaughters, ages 5 and 12. There are numerous things that I would do differently, if I could. They do say hindsight is 20/20!
1. Co-parenting. I definitely wish this was something FDH and I had sat down and discussed, right from the beginning. FDH and I have very different parenting styles: he is very laid back and I am more strict. I had rules that I felt were important to put in place, that he didn't necessarily agree with. It took some time and some heated arguments but we've learned to blend our parenting styles. He can see more things from my point of view - that although the rules may be strict in his eyes, he knows I need to feel that I'm still partly in charge of our house and in a crazy SMOM life, I need to have a little control somewhere.
2. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries! This is a HUGE thing for us, something we're just learning to deal with now. I jumped in head-first when we became a blended family, and boy did my heart get schmucked! My feelings got hurt and FDH told me to back off a little and not to try so hard. About a year later, FDH thought I was being a little aloof and distant (I was disengaging) and became angry, wanting me to become more engaged. I told him that I was trying to do the best I can, but had NO idea what he expected from me! We both realized that we needed to sit down and discuss exactly what my SMOM role was, how involved he'd like me to be and where the boundaries were.
3. Not to take things so personally. Once I realized this mantra, my feelings weren't hurt nearly so much. I read book after book on being a stepmother (StepMonster and Single Girls Guide To Marrying A Man, His Kids And His Ex Wife have been fantastic) and it's really opened my eyes to how not every bump in the road is about ME - it's just a reflection of the situation itself. The skids would still have some feelings of resentment no matter who their father married and BM would still despise someone else if I wasn't in the picture. Hand in hand with that, was to talk to other people who had children the same age: sometimes it wasn't anything to do with me or the divorce, but just a normal reaction for any child. That's helped a lot as one stepdaughter approaches her teenage years.
The biggest thing that gets me through the rough SMOM patches? FDH is an amazing man, a loving father and the best thing to ever happen to me. He is worth it, without a doubt.
A very close second is having such a great support group like this! It's so relieving to come to a place and never been judged for feeling the way you feel because everyone is going through it too. I've got some invaluable advice from these ladies and am eternally grateful!
I am 50 years old, widowed with 2 bio kids girl 18 boy 16 engaged to dad with 2 kids 19 girl and 16 boy.
Three things that I would definitely do differently would be:
1.to not take things so personally. everything that would go wrong I would try to fix that took a toll on me
2.I would not get involved so much in my kids’ relationship with my fiancÚs kids’ unless it was physical (which it never was) It really affected my relationship with his kids and with mine and it also affected their relationship with each other. This one is a big change that I would make. It was hard for me to sit back and watch his kids not include mine in stuff, being that they were so close in age. I resented that and I should have just stayed out of it
3.I would have done would be to build our relationship from the beginning, focus more on us. I was so worried about the kids being good that I put us on the back burner and I would blame the kid issues we had on the fact that we had problems and it really started with our problems with our relationship. A big thing that I have learned that problems with family would not seem so big if my fiancÚ and I were more stable. Which again was because we did not focus on us.
So I feel these are all big issues and blending families is not easy at all. I hope that all of this hard work will pay off, and the everyday sadness will get easier and we all kind find a happy balance.
I have delayed writing on this post because its made me do a lot of thinking. I am 55 years old and have a BS who is 21, and a SD, 17. SO took custody of SD when she was 8 because of BM's neglect. We all moved in together when BS was 13 and SD was 11. SD and BM always thought that SD would go back to BM when BM got her life together. That never happened, although their belief that SD's living arrangements were temporary definitely shaped our family dynamics, and was a major instigator in the problems we have had over the years. I was not aware of that belief until a few years after SD moved in, and in hindsight, it explains why SD, SO, and I have had so many difficulties. SD, thinking she was leaving at anytime (her friends would write in her yearbook, every year, "so sorry you're moving, I'm going to miss you", and then she would be back). SD never felt it necessary to bond with anyone in the family, and year after year, BM would never get her life together enough (like having a job and a place to live), and let SD down.
This is what I would do differently:
1. Not believe that I can fix everything. I can't fix SO's and SD's relationship nor can I fix them. They are who they are, and its up to them to get along or not.
2. Not bad talk about BM to SD. Yup, I broke the golden rule, and I'm not proud of it. The woman is everything I worked not to be, and when I think of her, disgust comes to mind. I let it get the best of me. I should have been better than that, and its something I will always be sorry for, no excuses.
3. Not believe that by just my existence, being a role model of a woman who can be successful in her careers and be self sufficient financially and personally would have more influence with SD than a loser of a BM. When I write this I sound so full of myself, but I really believed it. Shame on me - I should have known better.
All of this either blows my self-confidence to Hades, or puts me in my place (probably both).
Things I would do differently....as a soon-to-be SMOM of SD 11.
1. I would not spend MY money to buy SD clothes. In the beginning, I took Sd shopping for new clothes, and it was fun, so I continued. Well, I have been the only one to buy her clothes for the past three years. I think everyone got used to me buying for SD that they stopped all together. Now, I look back at all the money I spent on her and I kind of regret it. I'm glad SD enjoys the clothes, but it's not really my job. FDH should have done it. I made the mistake of insisting on the beginning shopping trips cause it was one of the only things I could think of that would be fun for us to do together, but looking back, it should just be a special occasion type of thing.
2. I would try to see more things from FDH point of view, and take care of our relationship. I am so wrapped up in my own insecurities, drama with BM, etc. that I barely have enough energy to focus on anything else. Maybe if I tried to focus on my relationship with FDH, I would have less energy to wrap up in drama, etc.
3. I would not go to relatives or (certain) friends for advice. My parents, and other people who have no idea what dynamics are at work, have given me horrible advice. I wish I would have found this site earlier! Only go to people who know your situation, and have sound advice to give. If anything the advice my parents and friends have given me has only driven a wedge between FHD and me.
4.One thing that I definitely would NOT do differently is counseling. Every time we leave the office, we feel great about our relationship and our future together.
SMOM since 2007, age 40, 2 skids (SS12 and SD19), no kids.
1) The biggest thing I learned is to VENT and SEEK ADVICE HERE on this site instead of sharing or venting with DH. DH is my best friend in the whole world, and we share EVERYTHING together. But I learned after a few mistakes that venting my SMOM frustrations with him is a terrible idea, and most SMOM situations aren't ideal to share with him. DH just can't possibly understand a SMOM situation because these are his own kids, and doesn't view them the way that I do. Plus, I learned that I don't need to put extra stress on him with my frustrations. He's got enough trying to manage two families ... his "ex-family" and his current family with me. Likewise, I can't possibly imagine his situation.
2) The next biggest thing I learned is to not VENT or SEEK ADVICE from my own family. They have never been in a "step" situation, and can't possibly relate to it. They are great people and try their best, but just haven't had the experience of being in the "step" position to really get it. Also, I found it better to just NOT share SMOM frustrations because it taints their view on my step-family. It's just not healthy. So, I come HERE to vent and seek advice.
3) I learned that DH is only capable of providing the "dad" view on life and manners and such to the SKIDS. There's a world of "mom" things that "dads" just don't comprehend. And those are the things that I soon found out that I need to fill-in with that "mom" perspective because I'm the female. These "mom" things are the subtle things, mostly manners, eating etiquette and routine hygiene things. "Moms" seem to generally provide this nurturing guidance, instruction and enforcement. At first this would drive me completely nuts because DH didn't say anything when the skids were acting and eating like animals at the dinner table, were failing to wash their hands, didn't have clean fingernails and a clean face, didn't take routine showers, didn't wear fresh clothes every day ... just to name a few. It frustrated me at first, but soon realized that DH (dads in general) just isn't programmed to recognize these things. So, for my sanity and the benefit of the skids, I took the role of providing the "mom" perspective when the skids are at our house. (but in our case, BM isn't providing the normal "mom" guidance on these things as she should be, which amplifies these poor behaviors, but that's par for the course for her).
4) for good measure: Just as important for my own sanity --> I learned that it is OK that I allow the natural process to happen when building a relationship with the skids and that it's OK to do it my own pace, and that it's OK allow it to progress only to the level of my own comfort. DH had to learn that too, not sure he still really "gets it", but he's accepted it. I learned that it is normal to not instantly become a motherly figure to the skids. And, learned that I'm not required to LOVE the skids. Sure, I care about them, but LOVE them ... even after 5 years, I don't feel love for them. DH has a tough time to understand this because he naturally loves them. I guess to sum up this one, I learned that all these feelings that I have about my relationship with the skids is NORMAL and that this doesn't make me a bad SMOM.
DH and I have been together for 3 years. Married last October. We have a 1 yr old daughter together. SS is 5 and we have him 50/50. I am just as much of a parent to SS as his Mom and Dad are.
I've been thinking about this for a few days now. Everything I think I would change, I end up changing my mind because the results would probably be different. I am very happy at where I am at right now. I am happy at where my family is too.
So just the one thing I would change is:
I would not have been so trusting and allowed a too friendly relationship with BM to have happened. I should have created boundaries from the beginning. I shouldn't have been foolish enough to believe that BM's actions would always solely be in the best interest of SS. At least half of her actions have to do with her needing to be in control.
I should not have allowed her in my home. I should not have allowed her to call or text DH or myself multiple times a day. I should not have stepped in and helped her when she needed it. I should not have allowed her to say any negative things to me about DH. I feel really guilty for that. It was disloyal of me.
I have identified the boundaries that I and my family need, and I'm always trying to keep them in place. I'm happier for it, but I'm still dealing with the anger that I feel towards BM. I've realized that she's just SS's mom, not a sister wife or a family member. This is my family and she is not a part of it. She is just a part of SS's life and family.
I am 31 and have been a SMOM for three years. We are CP to SD6. BM lives in another State but sees SD relatively regularly.
What would I have done differently? I've been unsure how to answer that question but today SD answered it for me. 'You know History' she said, 'mistakes are learning'. She's right, mistakes are learning. And no one (NO ONE) deals with more learning curves than a SMOM.
So my answer is this - if I had my time again I would have cut myself more slack. This role doesn't come with a rule book. Mistakes are part of the process. And if you don't make them, then you'll never learn what works for you, your partner and your skid(s).
Almost a 10 year veteran Stepmom now. In a family that runs smoothly and kids that are happy and well blended. The relationship with BM went from volatile (screaming profanities at me in front of the children, huge court battle, general insane behavior) to cordial. Parenting went from in your face hostile as we all tried to enforce co-parenting to peaceful co-existence by parallel parenting. My pieces of advice may not be for all, but they've made a world of difference to this family. And I'm going to be bad and give 5 lessons...sorry I really tried to keep it to 3!
1. Sometimes a bully is just a bully and you have to stand your ground. Trying to keep BM happy, and not step on toes in some cases just feeds the monster and you have to work harder to keep her happier and back off further to avoid her toes. At some point you have to stop letting someone else's reactions dictate your actions. Be as involved in your SKs lives as you are comfortable, love them, support their activities, and (especially for young SKs) don't let the fear of BMs reactions make you less involved than your heart longs to be. This course of action can stir the pot in the short run, but for me, in the long run, it allowed me to attend their events, love them dearly, and create a family unit that allows the kids to have "two moms". They have thrived, and over time, the bully backed down. (Possibly because the kids were soon going to be able to see the behavior for what it was!)
2. Don't try to change what you can't. If BMs rules don't match your rules, or if her ideals don't match your family ideals...kids are resilient. They quickly understand "two homes, two rules". They know they can't scream inside, but outside is fine. They know they can eat candy for breakfast there, but here it's cereal. And they know WHY. You can't make BM behave the way you want her to...so stop beating your head on that wall. Explain why you have a rule (like nutrition at meals), expose them to your opinions, and as they grow they will take parts of both worlds and make it their own. Do the best where you can, and don't fuss over what you can't change.
3. Get a court order. The best of relationships break down over time. Some break immediately. And not having a court order allows the kids to be used a pawns and hostages.
4. Dads are just as important to kids as Moms. Believe it! We have 50/50 because we fought from the beginning that kids need their Dads just as much as they need their moms. Don't fall for the age old wisdom that Mom is better when kids are sick, or Mom is what's needed when kids are sad. An involved dad is a dad who is with his kids in good times and bad. And the child learns to lean on both parents. So get a court order, and stick to it. This gives stability to both the parents (no hostage threats!) and the children (who learn that life happens under the care of both parents, and Moms and Dads are equally good at taking care of kids).
5. And most important to me...Have each other's backs. Always. I have my DH's back and he always has mine. I don't go around him to try to get something, and he always always always puts our family first. DH backs me with the kids, backs me against BM, backs me against his family if need be. I have his back too. If the two captains of this ship aren't secure, the ship is in trouble. Set limits, live by them, and take really good care of each other. Remember this is all about love, not war!
My two cents
I am on year 4 of my SMOM life and have learned a few things on my way:
1) Be consistent - Regardless of how crazy BM is, how difficult the children behave, or anything else.... BE CONSISTENT. In the long run, its the best practice for everyone involved.
2) Don’t take it personal! - If BM absolutely despises you... remember this... It isn’t you, its your position as "new wife". Also, the kids will show their loyalty to their mother no matter how much they like you. If it comes to picking sides. They will ALWAYS pick their mother. ITS NOT ABOUT YOU. It’s about your position as "new stepmom".
3) Keep a united front - The most important thing you can do for your new family is to keep a united front between your DH and yourself. You need to be on the same page. Communicate, communicate and communicate some more. Have a plan for situations and be on the same page with discipline and consequences. If the children see you are on the same page, there is less confrontation in the home.
I love reading all of your stories. We all seem to have the same idea about what we would differently. As I am still learning, I know some things that I would definitely change.
1. Not jumping head first trying to be the best SMOM out there. BM is looney tune, and doesn't care as much as she should so I took over the role as being the motherly figure in his life. BF needed to step up, and be more of a dad. Allow myself to feel what I needed to feel so I wouldn’t resent the child later on.
2. Sit down and talk to my bf about what my boundaries would be as a FSMOM and NOT HIS MOTHER. I don't have any children right now because I chose to protect myself from anything like that ever happening. BF and BM are the parents who made that decision, not me so they need to be responsible for their decisions.
3. Not taking everything so personal. My future MIL will only care about me when I give her a grandchild, and until then I needed to take a step back and ignore her. MIL will also be self absorbed in her own infidelities so if she can lie to her husband and son then she will most likely not be honest with me ever. I am a great person, and have a wonderful man that loves me so that is all that matters. Having my FMIL like me doesn't need to affect me, at all.
4. Accept that BM is a looney tune, and ignore everything that she says/does/writes, etc. I spent a lot of time letting her inside my head, and mess with my relationship. Wasting my time thinking about her and my BF's past just caused me grief, heartache, stress, and lots of headaches that were not necessary.
I wish that we could have a happy blended family, and that everything would be Brady Bunch-esque but this family will not be like that. I'm going to worry about my family, my dog children, and my relationship with my BF. And thats it!!
A lot is easier said then done though! Bla!
I have been with my man for 5 years, and we're getting married this September. My stepson is 12, about to be 13. If I had to do it differently, I also would not have gotten involved with a man who has a child and a crazy ex wife. Red flag, Hello?!?! However, I truly believe we are supposed to be together, SO I would not have tried so hard to entertain my stepson and would have put that energy into my relationship. I wouldn't have let my fiance's BS with his ex wife infiltrate our relationship so much. I wouldn't have tried to "fix" things (seems like a common consensus here) and I most certainly would not have reached out to BM to help things run smoother.
With that being said, I have learned so much about myself and relationships throughout this experience so far. I've learned this forum is absolutely the BEST and I am so grateful when I read posts that are so similar to my situation it could have been written by me! I've learned that I could be the most kick ass role model and show him the best time he's ever had, but I will ALWAYS be number 3 (mom, dad, then me), which is made clear when he says things like "you're not my mom" or "you're not my stepmom yet" I've learned to focus first and foremost on your relationship in front of you, because that is what matters the most!
P.S. I've learned I can't wait to give advice to prospective stepmoms! I WISH someone had given me ANY advice!!!!!
I have not been on as much as I was about 3 years ago and I always check in here and there. I feel like I am in such a dark/impossible place with the whole situation that I feel I would never do this again if I knew what I know now... to think of what I would change, I can't even, it overwhelms me. I know that is not the point but it is how I feel right now. Things have been really good for awhile and I have not posted in so long but there is always fall back and I am in that spot right now. Just needed to get it out. Thanks Ladies you are all sooo great.
SMOM age 29, SD9, DS 4 months. Been married to DH since 2009, together since 2007.
1. I wouldn't fight DH's battles. I was the one who pushed for primary custody of SD bc I truly believe it is best for her to be raised by us, however, I don't know if DH would of done this on his own. Looking back, I think I was really thinking that SD would be best raised by me, and quite frankly, that isn't my job. So now, here we are with SD M-F, and I spend most of my time wishing she weren't here. I was also the one who dug up most of the dirt on BM and who put together all of the custody papers for the custody battle. I put so much pressure on myself to get "it all" and I was such a nervous wreck that I became extremely resentful of SD and the situation, which is ultimately not fair to the child.
2. I wouldn't sweat the small stuff. I'm a big worrier by nature, but I absolutely dwell on things sometimes. During my whole pregnancy, I dwelled on the custody battle, I dwelled on how much I hate being a smom, I dwelled on how I didn't want my SD near DS bc she comes from BM, I dwelled on how I didn't want my DS to be exposed to all of this dysfunction, etc. etc. I still worry and dwell a lot, although it has gotten a lot better now that I'm no longer pregnant! But had I known how much this whole situation was going to affect my anxiety and my ocd, I may have thought twice about whether or not I'm the kind of person who is strong enough to deal with being a smom.
3. I wouldn't try to pick up all the pieces that BM left behind. Yes, she is a horrible person. Yes, she is unfit to be a mother. Yes, I have a very strong opinion about her. But at the end of the day, I can't fix all of her flaws. I tried for a really long time to do all the things that SHE should’ve been doing. And I again became extremely resentful bc here I was raising someone else's kid, to be smacked in the face with a custody battle in the middle of my first pregnancy. My DH also became quite accustomed to me doing everything and I began to feel taken advantage of. So I stepped way back and disengaged, and I think this was hard for me and probably confusing to SD. I wish I had just been a good role model and a buddy from the getgo, instead of pseudo-mom, role model, buddy, housekeeper, homework helper, manners teacher, etc. etc.
I think had I known what I know now and had I found that balance initially, our entire situation would be 100% different. I'm not sure if it would be better or worse, but now I'm left trying to find happiness with the situation, and it is really hard sometimes. SD is a great kid, but the situation as a whole is really tough. I wouldn't wish it on anybody
Hi! I'm 27 and have been SMOM to SD6 (7 next week) for about 3.5 years. I have been with DH for 5, but the first 1.5 years of our relationship, SD was in Mexico with BM while BM was getting her papers.
The things I would have done differently:
1. Encourage DH to bring SD back from Mexico as soon as possible rather than waiting for BM to be able to come legally. We now know that SD was subjected to a lot of neglect that left her emotionally scared and with untreated Urinary Tract Infections. DH was aware of what was going on to an extent, but was too afraid of BM to 'rock the boat' so to speak. We can both see now that if he had brought SD back right away, she would not have been subjected to a lot of the trauma she experienced.
2. We would never have tried to work out an out of court custody agreement with BM, but rather would have gone to court immediately. Our efforts in trying to work together would work until SD was back with BM who would then turn angry and violent toward DH in front of SD in order to get her way. Poor SD was put in the middle and DH was put in the position of agreeing with whatever BM was asking for at the moment in order to make sure SD wasn't further emotionally scarred. If we would have had a court ordered agreement from the start, SD would have had a lot more security. As it happened, there was no real schedule until we did go to court. Instead SD would be with us whenever BM agreed to it and wouldn't allow SD to go to the preschool we had enrolled her in but instead, enrolled her in a head start program in a really bad part of town. A court order fixed all of that and if we would have understood that from the beginning, SD would have been better off. On those same lines, every time we filed for a change, DH would go to BM, explain what the papers filed actually meant and try to come to an agreement. Every time, she would refuse to work with him.
3. I would have finished my education sooner and been better with money. There were many times that I dropped classes or put things off because of SD or DHs needs. If I had to do it over again, I would have put more priority on my education and career. Now I'm struggling to finish my last few classes and in a dead end position at work. Things are tight financially and that puts a lot of stress on me. If I would have finished school and gotten a better paying job sooner, things would have been easier on all of us.
Hi! New to SMOMS but have been a smom for 3 years to three CP skids and one NCP skid. Here are the things I would do differently:
1) Not move in as quickly with my SO without a firm commitment. We moved in together after 7 months. I had spent some time with his skids but boy is it different when you actually live with them! And now we're constantly arguing about when/if we're going to get married and when/if we'll have our own children. I told him these were things I needed when we starting becoming serious and he said he wanted it too...but now it seems like it'll never happen. I think it's become the whole “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” thing, or at least I think that's how the saying goes.
2) I would've disengaged from the very beginning. My heart's been broken too many times by the kids and their father.
3) I would've become friends with the CP skids' BM right away instead of trying to be friends with her now after my SO has poisoned my mind against her. Maybe that way the things she does/says wouldn't be nearly as bad as they are. She's not a b**** on purpose, she's just has a princess mentality. We could've probably gotten along well enough where I wouldn't want to punch her in the nose when she makes her requests.
I’ve been in this relationship for 10 years and have a SD14.
Wow, it seems like this list changes every six months or so, because while DH and I have maintained a steady family dynamic, BM has not. (That's another story/soap opera altogether!)
For right now, these are the three things I would do differently (and they echo many of the things already said):
1. Before BM, whenever I would meet toxic, narcissistic people like her, I would immediately do the smart thing and write them out of my life and then RUN in the opposite direction! I didn't have that choice with BM, so I went against my usual instincts and did a couple of things wrong in the process: I fought back (that kept the drama going), and then I tried to negotiate (she mistook my kindness for weakness and stabbed me in the back several times). The single best thing I have done when dealing with BM is to become invisible 99.9% of the time. At first, that felt like giving up. Now I recognize it for what it really is: self-preservation. On the rare occasion that I do interact with BM, I do one of two things: I am cordial if she is cordial in return, and I stand up for myself if she feels the need to "attack." I make it a point to never lose my cool, especially since her "attacks" tend to happen when SD is in close proximity. What I show SD is that I am willing
to be nice, but there is a line that cannot be crossed, and when it is, I will stand up for myself with my dignity and class intact.
2. I wish that I would have found this website, and support like it, much sooner. In the beginning, I felt that as a strong, confident woman, I could navigate this crazy situation on my own. WRONG! This dynamic is so unpredictable, and so unique to us SMOMS, that there is no earthly way to deal with it alone. SMOMS with hostile BMs are on a very precarious tightrope, trying to walk the fine line of being supportive and still staying true to themselves. It is so easy to lose your balance and "fall" from that tightrope, and with that fall comes feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, anger, sadness, fear, and oftentimes the feeling that we are seriously losing our minds! Without the support of people who truly understand our situation, we become lost and all of our relationships suffer as a consequence.
3. I'm still working on this one: I wish to find a way to get BM out of my head space. For me, that is the final frontier! I've become so accustomed to musing about this woman and her antics that it is almost like breathing. Now, I have to undo ten years of this way of thinking, and that is proving to be very difficult, especially since it isn't like BM is choosing to remove herself from our radar. I've accepted that BM will not change, I've accepted that SD is now old enough to stand on her own two feet when it comes to BM (with our support, if SD needs it), but it is still a knee-jerk reaction to have this woman at the back of my mind. If I hadn't allowed her there in the first place, she wouldn't be fully moved in by now. Evicting her will be my biggest challenge yet, and I am definitely up for that challenge, but if you can avoid getting to this point-- do it! Make memories of your own, continue to do whatever it is that makes you happy (be it hobbies, mani/pedis,
exercise/sports, nature activities, etc.), and in general make your life about YOU, your family, and do whatever it takes to push BM out of your mind. If you can make that a habit now, it will be a lot easier in the long run!
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