Dear Sister Stepmoms on a Mission,
According to a Pew Research Center report cited in the June 2011 issue of Parenting Magazine, nearly one in four American families is a stepfamily, and the majority report they are pretty happy with their arrangements. While that’s fabulous news for them, it still leaves a good portion of America’s stepfamilies (or around 12% of American households) living with the challenging (and painful) dynamics of trying to build a new life, while doing whatever they can to deal with the leftover traumas of their old life and often an uncooperative ex-spouse.
Although the number of stepmothers out there may be on the rise, and with that greater societal acceptance and awareness of the importance that the adults involved should find a workable relationship for the benefit of the children, there are still divorced parents who are unwilling to “get along” in spite of the body of proof which shows how important these newly formed “alliances” are for the happiness and well-being of everyone involved…most especially their own children.
This reality makes the presence and intention of SMOMS (and smoms.org) even more important. When Stepmoms on a Mission was born (2000) it was to serve women who wanted to take the “high road” on a complex and often excruciating journey with the man they love. It was created as a pathway that strengthens us so that rather than falling into the bouts of rage, despair, bitterness and devastating pain that we can face in our blended family situations, we will find the energy to feel all those feelings and come out the other side, ready to take action that will help us heal, grow and become wiser and wiser.
The site always has (and will have) a very loud ring of hope and encouragement for all the women who participate. Back in the early days, we believed that if we just kept our thoughts positive and our feelings honored, we could keep moving forward and use creativity, compassion and patience to eventually win over anyone in our world resistant to the idea of getting along. (See Smommentary-”The Cycle of a frustrated Stepmom” for more). Over the last few years, I’ve had to realize that some people are intractable and unwilling to put aside their anger, jealousy and narcissism…even for their own children and this makes it even more important that Smoms.org remains a lifeline to help refuel our energy which can be so easily drained by others.
While it’s sometimes very tempting to simply rant about the injustices most of us face, it’s rarely a productive use of time and energy IF we stop there. We know it’s very important to get clear on, and vent about, our feelings before we can move into problem solving mode. We’ve found that good things begin to happen (and change) whenever we’re ready take the next step of emotional processing. That step is asking ourselves and each other, “what am I really feeling? what triggered me in this situation? what can I do differently to meet my needs? and what can I learn to become emotionally stronger and wiser?” This strategy has worked well for us. Again, there is no timetable for anyone’s personal process. We are all in different places emotionally. Everyone has their own timetable. Our vent first, feel understood, get tons of compassion, feel more like your old self again, now “what’s next?” process has worked well since 2000. We hope you’ll reap the benefits as well.
While the “happy blended family fantasy” is a common and shared vision for most of us when we begin our Stepmom journey, we now know that sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t, no matter how hard we try! This is a hard truth to accept. When things work out-wonderful! When they don’t, sadly we’re faced with deeply felt grief and the challenge of creating a new dream-one that is possible, one that’s built around the people who do want to share a happy life together.
There are usually ways to become happy in whatever situations we find ourselves and this belief is the strength of the bond we sister SMOMS share. Our shared healing and wisdom transcends all socioeconomic categories. It’s our different backgrounds and our shared experiences that bring new insights, ah ha’s and solutions to each other. It’s one of our greatest assets as a group! We help each other (and future smoms) as we fill the BB with new choices and options for action, reminders and ideas for self-care, creative problem solving tactics and constant over-flowing streams of soothing, heart-healing compassionate support. This is all good, no terrific stuff and from what many of you told me in your emails over the years, this is still unique to our site.
I’ve been changed by the events of the past 15 years, dramatically so in the past 4 years. My vision for what it means to be a Stepmom on a Mission has evolved and over the coming months and years, I want to share newly learned lessons, beliefs, choices and insights with you all.
Going forward on this bulletin board, may I ask the following of you as we pursue our mutual goal of learning how to “heal and deal” with whatever situations we face in our complex role as Stepmoms on a Mission?:
1. Will you put the focus of your posts on YOUR feelings, YOUR experiences, YOUR search for understanding and YOUR needs so we can all band together in the common goal of supporting YOUR process? There is no time pressure to move from the venting your feelings stage to being ready to take action to help yourself or your situation. That is YOUR call completely. Depending on your situation, you may need weeks or dozens of posts before you feel known and understood by someone here. That’s AOK. You’ll know it when you feel it and when you’re ready for ideas and insights…we’ll be here for that as well.
2. When you reply to others, will you keep in mind the difference between Honesty vs Truth? A friend of mine taught me the difference between the two. They said that telling the truth is relating the facts and being honest is relaying the facts AND doing so in a way that takes the other person’s feelings into consideration. To me, this is a critical distinction. Keeping this distinction in mind may help us all choose our words more effectively and create the greatest positive impact. A line that works well when there’s a disagreement is, “I see it differently and here’s why”? This can reduce defensiveness and open people to new options and outlooks.
3. About “venting.” If you need a good rant, (and we’ve all needed that from time to time) please just include in the title of your thread, “This is a vent…” This will give clear notice before anyone starts to read your post. As far as guidelines for venting, below is from a post I wrote to address my concern about language and intention while venting.
From another post: When you’re on this BB sharing your feelings about someone who’s impacted you negatively, please use words that you would be OK hearing from your adorable 8-10 year old child or skid. NO, I’m not saying you’re limited to their vocabulary, not at all. It’s just that if they said, whatever you’re writing, you’d be OK with it, feeling it was appropriate. When in doubt, use this as a way to calibrate your choices. Certainly the wordless symbols people like to use for strong feelings are another effective way to express yourself. Bunny’s Fry-pan is also good!
For Example, “I think this person is a despicable, cruel, narcissistic, sociopathic, self-centered, borderline, bi-polar, lying lazybones whom I hate, detest, despise and distrust.” That’s OK. And while you’re not going to hear an 8 year old say whatever we might say here at SMOMS the point is that all those words are good descriptive words that express feelings and give readers a darn good idea of what the writer is feeling.
When you write about what happens to you, how you feel about it and look for help in what you can learn, understand and do about it going forward, you are 100% in line with our goals. Recapping our SMOMS goal: Women empowering women to improve the quality of our emotional lives and helping each other become wiser, stronger and more able to be our truly loving magnificent selves as we deal with the uncontrollable, unpredictable and often unfair impact and actions of some very challenging and difficult people we’ve “inherited” in our lives as Stepmoms.
The work we’re doing, as we navigate stormy and deep waters is PhD level personal growth material. It’s not for everyone. I’m glad you’ve found Stepmoms on a Mission. You being here makes a difference to everyone else here. Who knows who will need your support and who will be able to support you on your journey. It’s a special place filled with special women like you. Welcome! Please let me hear from you if you have ideas and/or comments for ways we can improve the value of our site.
Most Sincerely Yours, Cathryn