I recently read a statistic that stepmothers have a much higher rate of depression and anxiety than mothers with only biological children. If you’re surprised at this, you’re not a stepmom. As an educator with over twenty years of experience, a mother experienced with having a special needs child, and a mother of three, nothing compared to the difficulty of being in the role of stepmother. The lack of respect, the perpetual blame that everything was my fault, the bias against me from my husband’s family, and the isolation I felt, had me reeling.
Society should be concerned about this because as many as 50% of women are involved in some type of step family relationship. One of the biggest contributors to the difficulty of this role is the relationship between the biological mother and the stepmother. If you are a stepmom that struggles with her relationship with her husband’s ex-wife, these tips will keep you from going insane.
The importance of taking care of your health can not be underestimated. Make exercise a MUST. You will need all the de-stressing you can get. Yoga, running, and strength training- yes. Wine chugging- not so much. Meditation can also help you learn to stay present and release some negative energy. Put your health as a priority so you can take care of others.
Take a moment and see things from the biomom’s view. You’re a mother figure that stepped into her baby cubs’ lives that she in which she had absolutely no say. Think she’s going to let that go unnoticed? Hell no. She wants to ensure that the care that her littles receive in her ex’s care is up to her standards. Many women hold onto feelings of hostility and anger post-divorce longer than men. This undoubtedly spills into how she feels about you. If he’s a jerk, so are you. When she is being overly intrusive, try to step back and look at her perspective that she may be wanting the best for her kiddos. When the anger sets in, let some of those little jabs at you go. She’s feeling insecure and you can rise above it.
Find support. Being a stepmother is a very isolating role. Many of our friends and family don’t understand the complexities of building a blended family. Find someone or even a therapist who will validate your feelings and allow you to vent. Find online support. With social media, it’s easy to find local support groups through MeetUp or a Facebook support group. You can vent all you want about the biomom and everyone will totally get you. Your husband should support you and ensure that your feelings are taken into consideration. Communicate with your spouse that it’s important that he not only support you at home and with the children but it is your hubby’s job to communicate with his ex-wife. He should reassure to his ex-wife that their children are being well cared for and then set up boundaries with her. He should be firm and respectful with her, and end all negative discussions.
Find the humor
When the demands and the stress all become too much, it can be difficult not to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes I would come to work and tell my co-workers about the antics of my stepchildren and they would laugh! I was appalled! But it actually helped me to see that perhaps my situation was not quite so dire. Maybe my life was a bit absurd. When I could stand back and see the absurdity in the stepchildren’s behavior (as well my own bio kids), I could let some of that shit go and laugh.
Respect the Bio-Mom
No matter what you think of the children’s mom or how she treats them, the kids are an extension of her. When you degrade her, you’re degrading them. When you talk about her flaws, they think it’s about them. Children have a unique ability to make everything about them. Always encourage a positive relationship with her no matter what. Always find the positive in every situation no matter your opinion. Every mother loves their children, no matter how badly she parents. Always come back to that. You may disagree with the way she disciplines or the way she parents, but your spouse should be the one to communicate with the biological mother to come up with a resolution. If bio-mom doesn’t want to be a team player, so be it. If her communication becomes nasty, simply remove yourself completely out of her lines of communication. Set healthy boundaries. If she is unwilling to cooperate, stay focused on your house and what happens in it. If she starts to dog on your spouse, then HE needs to set up boundaries and keep you out of it.
I do realize that these tricks seem too simple. However, simple doesn’t mean easy. Remember, we can NOT control others. We can only control OUR reactions to them. When you start to practice this, it will actually give you back some of your power. If you are struggling, reach out to support groups or a life coach to help you develop some healthy boundaries and strategies. At least you’ll be a step-monster in control of her emotions.