I’m soon to be married, but have already assumed the role of Stepmom. I’m ashamed of the feelings I’m having with my 5 yr old step son. His mother says awful things about me and my bio-kids. I’m so uncomfortable about this. How can I stop this?
Things like: I’m fat, a terrible mother, that my kids are stealing my stepson’s dad away from him, that my kids have different dads because I’m a whore (my children have the same father).
She also questions him as to whether I discipline my stepson in our home, spank my children, yell, etc. I want to address this with her, but she refuses to meet me in person and my fiancé says it will only make things escalate and to just ignore it.
I have tried, but his son talks about the things she says all the time. I’ve listened and explained they are mean and hurtful, but have never said anything rude about her. When he brings them up at inappropriate times or constantly though, I feel resentment towards him like he’s saying it to just be mean.
I also get angry with my fiancé, even though this isn’t his fault but for not trying to make her stop even though he obviously can’t. How should I address this with everyone involved?
Thank you in advance for any help you can offer,
An uncomfortable Stepmom
Hi there, I’d like to start out by telling you how sorry I am that the bio-mom is causing you all so much distress. At SMOMS.org we have 3 terms for bio-moms: kind, civil and hostile. Having a hostile bio-mom is sadly one thing most of us Stepmoms on a Mission (SMOMS) have in common. I’ve very glad you found us and I will give you some ideas to consider so you can feel better and minimize her negative impact on all of you. Given our time constraints here in this mailbox, I’m going to give you a couple of links to read some articles to support your quest—to fell better and more empowered in a difficult situation.
Wow, there is so much to say here.
1. I think your DH (soon to be husband) is right about not trying to speak with her about her behavior. I totally understand the urge to address it with her. While this may not be what you want to hear now, it comes from 13 years of trying to get my DH to speak up until I finally realized that he was right all along. What we’ve learned over the last 20 years is that when bio-moms use their own children as emotional trojan-horses to create stress for their ex-husband and new partner, they are sadly not the kind of person likely to honor your request for civil behavior.
There are a few reason why she may be doing what she’s doing. Happily, there are a lot of articles, mailbox letters and essays the site you can review about this situation. If you want to post about this on the general forum or the forum for SMOMS with Narcissistically behaving Bio-moms, you’ll get lots of compassion and support.
If you’re not a Guest Member yet, please register for a free month and you will then have access to all the articles. Most of the things I’ve mentioned are available to the public. Whether she is narcissistic, troubled, or just plain mean, I whole-heartedly believe that your power and well-being lies in learning now to handle her actions in an empowered way with your DH, stepson and bio-kids.
2. Your stepson is 5, mine was too when he came into my life. At this point, he is looking for ways to get his mother’s attention and love. Her actions are showing you a LOT about her. This poor little boy is being used by her at his own detriment.
Please see my article, “The Loyalty Wars” for more about this dynamic.
3. By understanding that he is a victim of her cruel manipulations, it may be easier to handle his words as if they are just pleas for YOUR attention. Yes, most of these kids are willing to do anything to get their bio-mom’s attention AND any kind of attention. I know how cruel their words can be AND I have seen how we can shift our attitude and change their actions.
In a nutshell, stop listening to the actual words and instead start seeing his words as poison pills he is spitting out of his emotional body while looking for your attention.
Begin to respond to his words with a calm, non-reactive demeanor. This gets easier as you practice it. I found it easier to imagine how I would respond if someone else’s kid said those words to me.
Example: Skid: You’re fat
SMOM-Take 1: “Ouch, that hurts my feelings stepson! Why would you want to hurt my feelings? “ Look him in the eye with curiosity. There is a reason.
SMOM-Take 2: “You think so?” and just look at him with interest.
SMOM-Take 3: “Calling someone fat is a hurtful word. In this house we don’t use hurtful words without consequences. Also if we do, we apologize.” Matter of fact.
SMOM-Take 4: Choose to ignore him as this is one way to get his attention. If he asks why you are not replying to him, you can explain.
As a child, he is being extorted by his bio-mom and it feels like life or death to this little boy. Teaching him that you are not going to take his words personally is a chance of you to step into your adult self. When we do this, we can be compassionate for the conflict he is facing with his baby brain not knowing any other way to behave.
His words are intended to hurt you and your relationship. Iffy want to get a copy of “The Four Agreements” it could be a chance to teach everyone in your new family the impact of words. Your stepson is going to need your help is handling his inner torment.
Another approach: As a 5 year old, he doesn’t know what else to do, other than say words. His bio-mom is going to ask him what he did. She is likely to grill him for details. You can also help him express any words he feels he needs to say to you, by having a private ritual where you two sit together at the beginning of each visit. With a pen and paper, you ask him what he would like to tell you from being at his mother’s house. You can then write them down and read them back to him with a very adult-like (in his mind) seriousness. He will soak up your attention. He will fear getting in trouble but if you assure him he is free to share..at this time.
Whatever he says, write it down and keep saying, “Anything else?” Keep writing it down without any commentary.
Once he has got to all out of his system, review the details, reading them all back to him but this time correcting any mistaken information- for his information as it feels necessary. The experience will bring a couple of reactions based on his wit and intellect. What I can tell you is that it will bring great relief for him emotionally.
Once you two are finished, you have a few options. You can close a notebook and put it away until next time. You can fold it up and put it in your pocket telling him you will keep these thoughts to yourself, ripping them up or burning them later. You can also choose to rip them up WITH him, showing him that his words are not going to stick around the house but he has done his job giving them to you. This is less attractive option if he is likely to tell his bio-mom. Use your judgment. Kids love rituals and this time with him, honoring his dilemma, will make a huge impact on him. At least it has with my skid and many others using this approach.
4. In terms of feeling ashamed of your feelings. Most of use SMOMS can relate to this as well. Please see my article about this very topic for a lot of ideas.
Link to the article, Honoring versus Shaming our feelings.
Also, we’re not used to 5 year olds being so disrespectful to adults. The child within us is hurt when people are mean to us. The more you can learn about the situation your stepson is under, the more you can stay in your adult self, out of compassion for his intensely rule situation. Our beliefs about how kids behave all get challenged by our stepkids with hostile bio-moms. There are a bunch of article about why it makes us so angry on the site. Please check them out so you will realize you aren’t doing anything wrong, you are just being treated in a way that is poking at some of your emotional wounds. Looking into this in more detail will give you to a chance to learn more about yourself and more ways to take care of yourself.
This situation is so sad AND when you begin to turn it around, claiming your power and using new skills to disarm her impact, you an your family will begin to feel a new strength together.
Wishing you a lot of new ideas so you can feel less at her mercy and more capable of helping all the kids in your family while staying close to your soon to be husband. Congrats on your upcoming marriage.
Hoping this is helpful, Cathryn
PS You may also want to read my article about “Emotional Callousing” to get another perspective of what your fiancé is going thru on his side of this difficult situation.
Cathryn Bond Doyle