Monday, August 22, 2011

The Kids’ Mother...aka The Ex...

A stepmum recently asked whether I might allow her to place some of her posts on my site. As I love this stepmom's positive approach to her role, and believe that she has something truly worthwhile to share, I was more than happy to comply and trust that YOU will enjoy Christy's post as much as I have. 

Your guy's relationship with his ex-wife will either be o.k. or it won't! My husband and his ex-wife have had their ups and downs but time is healing things. I have now been in this family for over 5 years and can tell you that it's become a lot smoother than it used to be. This is probably one of the trickiest areas of StepMomdom - how to relate to the kids' mother. Here's the deal! You will never replace her and why would you want to? Don't want that for yourself, don't even try! Heck put the shoe on the other foot. You birthed these babies and so, o.k., things didn't work out too well between you and their father. And as a result now, for part of the time, some other woman whom you do not know and whom you did not choose, is partially in charge of tending to your children ... how scary is that?

Because I was a child of divorce and have stepparents myself, I knew from personal experience that it was very important to these kids that I never ‘bash’ their mother. First of all it's like bringing a knife to a gunfight ... you just ain't gonna win! Second, they already had to deal with the stress of a divorce and now they have to face with an unknown entity ... a potential StepMom. Do they really need the added complication of StepMom setting up against their mother? I think not, most especially if their mother and father don't always get along (and in our case they didn't). Give em' a break already!

I'm not sure how the kids' mother felt at first about me coming along. The kids would tell us not so nice things from time to time – things that they said came from their mother, but I would always take this with a grain of salt. Kids often project their own feelings when they lack the confidence to say what's on their mind. I knew that some of the things they told us their mother had said, she probably hadn't...these things were often just so mean. I gave the lady more credit than that. I would work on ways to neutralize the comments and soften them ... defuse the negativity, if you will. For example: "Mom says that we're on the way out and that Dad will soon start a new family with you". Whilst to me it was pretty transparent that this was nothing more than a child's normal fear of rejection and replacement, I said something like: ”Well, I'm sure you must have misunderstood what your mom said. She'd never say something as hurtful and as untrue as that, I'll bet”. So I built their mom up and at the same time offered them the reassurance they were obviously craving.

I also made sure whenever possible that, when in her presence, I made an attempt to speak to her and, to her credit, she has always been civil to me. As I’ve already mentioned, in our family ... and I do include the kids' mother in that definition, time has done what time does. The kids' mother and I have moved on to comparing kid stories. At sports functions things have progressed from us being on one side of the field and her on the other to all of us sitting together. There are good natured ribbings like when the kids’ team lose a game, "Glad you have them tonight . .. good luck with that!" Later, after we had our baby, again to her credit, the kids' mother approached me at a team dinner and coo cooed our baby, which of course is a nice gesture. It was really funny because during this prolonged conversation between me and their mother the girls kept looking over ... watching as I handed the baby over to their mother. My husband also kept watching ... we shared a beer by the swimming pool and just had a nice time. One of our girls who is not known for keeping anything to herself said later: “That was the weirdest time of my life!” I said: “But isn't it nice to all get along?” The girls both agreed it was.

Not too long ago the kids' maternal grandfather passed away. My husband and I both attended his service because it was the right thing to do. Upon dismissal, when the kids' mother walked by, we at first kind of awkwardly didn't know whether to shake hand or what, but instead gave each other a big ole sustained hug. It was nice! She needed it and these things are just so good for the kids to see and they promote the notion that we are family ... all of us.

There are still times when the kids' mother may do something I don't completely agree with or understand and I'm sure she'd say the same about me. But we have respect and tolerance for one another. When the kids look back at their childhood, I hope they’ll forget the little nit picky disagreements their parents had at times and that what they will remember is that we tried the very best we knew in coming together and giving them the best possible life we could.

Lessons Learned

• · When it comes to the Ex ... put the shoe on the other foot whenever possible. She is, after all, another woman. It's not hard to figure out how she might feel about something.

• · Always do your best to build her up in her children's eyes. This shouldn't be because on the big cosmic grade card of life you need the points ... it's about these young people's psyche. Their Mother is part of them - if you tear her down you tear them down. So no matter what transpired in the past, be the adult and find a way to build her up to her children. When they are older they will never forget you for doing this. Never!

• · Don't ‘villanize’ their mother. Even during moments when their dad or other family members might be saying something negative, do not chime in. It isn't mature of you and the kids not only won't appreciate it, they'll never forget it and it will simply reflect poorly upon you, not their mother.

• · Be a team. All of you. As the kids get older you're going to need to be!

(c) Christy Stocks


About the author: 
Christy, who lives in the Midwest, is the married mother of four active kids, ranging in age from 18 months to 19 years. Three of of the children are her stepchildren, one is her biological child. She has a degree in Psychology and a Masters in Education and has spent over 16 years working in the Human Resources field. When Christy isn't chasing after the kids she enjoys gardening, cooking, reading, decorating, antiquing, piddling around the house and writing. She started a blog this summer, in which she shares some of her experiences as a stepmother and the lessons she has learnt in the process. To visit Christy's blog, go to Goodstepmom.com

For more ideas on how to better understand your role as a stepparent, explore how to best deal with your or your partner's 'ex', create a better relationship with your stepchildren and/or to address the tricky area of discipline in your stepfamily, why not grab Sonja's Step By Step Series Special ?


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