This weekend is all about us moms. There will be flowers. Special messages at church. Maybe breakfast in bed. Or sweet gifts from our children.
But mingled with joy, normal life continues. For some of us, that means continued struggles with grief, or a child’s intense needs… or even with our spouses. For step moms among us, Mother’s Day is just another day that requires, as today’s guest describes, “awkwardly necessary” interactions with a former spouse.
How can a mom negotiate these with joy? Not get sucked in to resentment, frustration, and competition? My friend Diane Bailey shares 3 powerful principles to thrive as a step mom—this Mother’s Day, and for years to come.
I am a Step-Mom. Statistics suggest, that half of the families in America are step families. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?
What the statistic really means is that many of us find it awkwardly necessary to learn to interact with a former spouse. During these times insecurity, jealousy, and need for control come rearing their ugly heads, making trouble all around.
From where does jealously come? It roars wild and beastly at times between ex-wife and current wife like a primal instinct, genetically embedded in our DNA.
We smile and try to act polite while checking out each other’s clothing, and shoes, and hair and makeup. We try not to look – but we do – and emotions are hiding just under the top layer of epidermis, ready to bleed at the slightest poke.
We have to plan for birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, vacation and spring break together, and inadvertently there is a power struggle. And the money issue – there is always a money issue. Not that we have an issue about giving the children anything and everything they need, or, much of what they would like to have…Providing for the children is never an issue. So why does the issue of money become an issue at all? Power struggle.
That is how it is in a Stepfamily at times. It is a cupcake made of chocolate, salty tears and bitter herbs, topped with cream cheese icing and sprinkles. It looks all good and palatable until you have a mouthful; then it is difficult to swallow.
How do we deal with the strange dynamics of begin a stepmother without coming unglued; and, to work as a team for the best results for the children? Is this even possible?
Here are just a few suggestions to keep in mind when interacting with a former spouse and their children.
Remember, there is no such thing as a former parent, only former spouses.
I hear you, “ but you don’t know my ex-husband, or ex-wife.” Just because they were completely absent, or abusive, doesn’t remove the fact that they are the parent. Some are good parents, and sometimes the word, bad used to describe parent. But the parent part never changes. I know, I wish I could tell you something that would make you happier than this, but I live with this fact as well. But, stick with me, and we will get through this!
That means, as Step-moms, need to back up and remember that step-mom will never mean birth-mom. We can assist, we can encourage, and we can make suggestions – and we should be involved in some way. To be involved honors your husband and helps to nurture a relationship with the stepchildren. In the end, you have more of a position of an Aunt or close family friend.
Understand, that control is an illusion.
Okay, again, I’m not too crazy about this part. But it does not change the fact that it is true. I have had teens that proved this fact all too many times. They would feel the consequences for choose to break the rule was worth the fun they would have in rebelling against authority. Thank goodness, they reminded safe, for the most part.
If you are in a tug-of-war power struggle with the former spouse, there is only one answer: LET GO OF THE ROPE! Let your spouse and his former spouse deal with it. Let it be your calm demure and gentle smile that your man turns around and sees. There is no reason for you to get one hair out of place during the debate. Save your point of view until you get home. Then, as if seasoning it with salt, speak your ideas to your husband with love and a supportive attitude.
Do you want to be Right or in Relationship?
I know, we want both! I get that. But, whether the former spouse is a good parent or a bad parent, calling them out in front of everyone, or sending a tart email or phone call will only serve to shoot you in the foot. It will hurt your relationship with your stepchildren. The best way to love your spouse is to do what is best for his children. And that means, sometimes you just need to zip-it!
Diane W. Bailey is the author of, String of Pearls (BorderStone Press, 2011). String of Pearls shares how we can take our sorrows to Christ, and like a grain of sand in an oyster becomes a pearl, our sorrows become a testimony of Christ in our lives. Diane is married to Joseph and they share four children, two stepchildren and two birth children for each of them. They have three grandchildren who they call “Rewards for not resigning from parenthood.” A guest on numerous radio shows, she also shares her story, encouragement, and beautiful photos on her blog, Twitter and Facebook page.