When the bio-mom makes it clear she isn’t interested in getting along with us, it’s time for a new strategy. The following is a revised compilation of several earlier posts to sum up a new outlook for this enraging and painful situation.
A new approach to dealing with the biological mother of your stepkids when she is hostile towards you and/or your husband.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge all the things Smoms and their husbands do in the attempt to, “Do the right thing.” Many of us share a sincere desire to be the best Stepmom we can be and to keep the best interests of the children as the most important factor in making decisions. Many of us can clearly look back and see that we’ve done the best we can and hopefully that’s something we can feel good about one day. Right now, many of us are presently “smarting” from the fact that trying to do the right thing wasn’t enough, isn’t enough. We are forced into a situation that includes a woman who is not willing to get along. This article is about an approach to deal with this horrific inherited situation in healthy ways.
We SMOMs understand that excruciating rage that comes from doing everything we’re supposed to do and having the bio-mom decide to not play by the rules. We’re indeed “out of control” and that sense of powerlessness can be absolutely enraging. Some of us even have bio-moms who left the marriage because they “gave their heart to another” and yet seem to be bitter that their now ex-husband’s found joy and happiness with another woman. This is an amazingly common situation for the women who find SMOMS.
The important thing to realize it that their behavior often defies logic. If it were logical, than it would have a logical answer. I believe the key lies in admitting to ourselves that we have NO control over the bio-mom’s actions and they KNOW that, use that and make choices for whatever emotional pay-off they need, often with little concern over their impact. Sometimes enjoying their negative impact.
Before creating an action plan for dealing with any situation, I believe it’s important to stop and give ourselves a chance to honor, feel, express, reflect upon, let in, etc the incredibly negative impact that some bio-moms choose to have on well-meaning ex-husbands and Stepmoms. For whatever reason, these bio-moms believe they’re justified for everything they do. They’ve been able to have this impact and for the most part, we’re powerless to stop them. My goodness, that’s hard to swallow!!
Many of the SMOMS I’ve worked with over the years are “pleasers” and “doers” and “achievers” from all walks of life. Most of the Stepmoms who choose to invest time in the support group, becoming clients and/or writing on the website are also bright women, in touch with their feelings AND willing to own their personal imperfections and vulnerabilities where blaming and counter-attacking is a tempting reaction to many attacks from the bio-mom.
What makes me proud of every SMOM is that we’re also still willing to pull ourselves up and try a new strategy or tactic with the humility to believe that this one tactic or approach might work. Certainly we’re inspired by the hope that one day the bio-mom will see the light. This would help us feel that all the time and energy was not wasted.
We all enter our husband’s life with the hope that we can make our families happy and healthy in spite of what we’ve heard about the bio-mom. Giving up on finding a way to get the bio-mom to go along can be harder when we’ve also strapped the happy family fantasy to her coattails. Giving up on her getting along with us can also feel that we’re losing our dreams. That’s sad and difficult. There just isn’t anything that can make that frustration, agony, anger, pain go away so let’s just give it some space here and sit with it for a moment because it’s very real and we’ve been trying so sincerely to heal things.
It has become clear to me, after 6 years of trying unsuccessfully myself to create the dream, that the key is not trying to engage the bio-mom successfully but disengaging successfully. Some bio-moms draw power and energy and even a twisted sense of pleasure from our actions and have made it clear that they’re not going to get along, follow any rules, do the right thing, do the best thing for their children, etc. What if we looked at how to create a life that had little, if any, interactions/involvements with the bio-mom?
What if we began to look at the problems that she’s creating as opportunities for us (and for our family), to develop good/great/effective coping skills with our husbands and the skids? For example, if she’s judgmental, teach the skids how judging is hurtful and that everyone has a right to their choice.
What if we focus on how to demonstrate our beliefs about life and model our lessons, be consistent, and resist the short-term urge to counter attack but show the skids anger releasing tactics when the pressure gets too high. We can begin to teach the skids that there’s more than one side to every story and look for opportunities that they can identify with. Another example: If two kids get into an argument and look to you for help, show them how to solve it and then interject,”This is an example of what’s happening with your Mom and your Dad-see how each of you believe you are right? See how there are two sides?”)
How different would it be if every time she said or did anything that was less than kind we all agreed to say something to our husbands like, “Sounds about right” and then moved on to the next thing? This would mean that her actions would no longer rob us of ANY MORE time or attention. How different would our days be with our husbands?
This means being conscious every time our attention goes to the bio-mom and her actions. Whenever that happens, we have to change the channel (like a remote for a TV), stop ourselves, make a buzzer sound if you notice it in each other, do whatever it takes. Make it a goal, a game, to refocus as much of your energy as possible away from the bio-mom and onto what you can control. At some level, we can/have found ourselves sort of obsessed with what they do and that’s how we lose our power.
According to “The Four Agreements” each time we review something someone has done to us we re-inflict the harm on ourselves. Boy that statement really got my attention! If we woke up with amnesia this morning about everything that the bio-mom has done, how differently would we feel about things?
I wrote an article, “That was then and this is now,” because I realized I was tired of carrying the impact of our years of trying and failing around with me. I believe SMOMS have the ability to turn this bitter bio-mom lemon into lemonade that can create miracles now and down the road as our skids become adults, able to see the truth and to see who is consistent. As adults, they can decide for themselves..or not. Which, by the way, is something ELSE we don’t have control over. Darn it! 😉
There’s wisdom in the concept of no longer trying to win over or convince another but to figure out how to be free of another, without strings so we can put the strength of our Love and our Will to a better purpose, one that we do have control over and that we will succeed.
How great to finally be disconnected from a source of toxic energy who actually seems to be thriving on our pain and anger?! At first, the bio-mom may step up her efforts to reconnect because our behavior has probably been very predictable and therefore controllable, in her mind. But if we can hold firm and refuse to engage as little as possible, they’ll eventually find another source or just fizzle, hopefully. These bio-moms aren’t going to fizzle as long as they are know they’re having negative impact on our marriages. Sad but often true.
In spite of what we may have thought, the answer is not in figuring them out. How many hours have we lost trying to figure it out?! Somehow we lose our power when we do that. The question is “How can we learn from what hasn’t worked? How can we accept it as valuable data so we can create a new strategy that will work without her participation? So many of us have worked so hard. Now we’re going to begin the “Working Smarter” phase of Smom-ing. It’s going to be an easier, wiser path. This is a key to freedom from the negative impact of a hostile bio-mom.
As we muster the courage to leave old patterns and pay-offs behind, accept the fact that not everyone follows the rules (and gets away with it). With this new awareness, we can create and choose growth choices that help us move closer to our goals and begin to see good things happen around us.
©2003 Cathryn Bond Doyle. All Rights Reserved.