Step-Mom to Bio-Mom: A Guide

Today I stumbled upon this article - 10 Brutal Truths About Being A Stepmom - and, being a stepmom myself, I will admit it is a pretty darn good list of the realities that go along with keeping the peace (and your sanity!) when you are struggling through the in’s and out’s of step-mommyhood. However, I was also a bit perturbed with the fact that we, as stepmoms, are always the ones that are presented with this demanding list of “hoops” that we should be jumping through to “calm the waters” in this tricky bio/step relationship - as if it's because we are suppose to try to stay out of the way and watch our every move.

There definitely needs to be a "playbook" for certain blended family situations, as the women on both sides of the step/bio relationship could use a little bit of coaching to tackle the giant amount of adversity that surrounds this kind of tricky relationship.

So I wrote my own “survival guide”, if you will, for the biomom (or “baby mama”, as we say in our home, if you believe, like I do, that our biomom is no more a mother than the next homeless man walking down the street). But even if you are a great biomom and get along great with your ex’s wife, it can’t hurt to have a fresh new perspective, right? I truly believe that the bio/step relationship can be a great one, but I do not think that the work needs to all be one-sided.

Ok, so let me jump back a few decades:

In high school I was the self-appointed “drive-thru queen” at a popular fast food restaurant in the tiny little redneck town where I grew up. On a daily basis, I shoved about a thousand orders through those automatic drive-thru windows, into the hands of the most varied categories of people that you could possibly see using such a tiny vantage point. Some were super pleasant. Some were super... uh... not. I was constantly dumbfounded by the lack of decency exhibited towards us by these hungry, hurried strangers. It was always intriguing to me how disrespectfully they would treat us as they zoomed through to pick up their baggies full of greasy carbs and gallon jugs of fatty milkshakes… I mean - we are handling your FOOD, people!... are you seriously too ignorant to make a connection there? Are you really about to consume something made by someone you just cussed out? I worked at a few different types of restaurants and have yet to experience one where I have not witnessed a scorned fry cook or a freshly-harassed waiter put something extremely disgusting - bugs, bodily fluids, dirty mop water, etc (and worse!) - into a rude customer’s food… Don’t be an idiot! You have no control on how your food is handled behind the kitchen doors. The last thing you want to do is piss off an underpaid, overworked, and most likely hungover member of the team that is preparing it, trust me!!

So - What could this possibly have to do with mothering? I'll tell ya--

Over my past four years as a stepmom, I have often connected my earlier food hustling experiences to my newly found life-struggles of dealing with our family's constant baby mama drama. Too often the baby mama will let her mental disorder get the best of her and intentionally cause a huge conflict with our household out of spite, or a desperate move for attention, or just plain ignorance. She disrespects me on audible phone conversations that are suppose to be between my husband and his child. She removes me on important emails that my husband sends to her with me copied. It’s as if she thinks that she can get rid of me with a simple click of a mouse. (Insert evil “Bwa ha ha!” laugh here.) It’s immature and amusing to me - and I will totally admit that the teenage girl in me gets a great deal of pleasure out of knowing that I get to her, no doubt. But the thing that I can’t wrap my mind around is how completely disconnected you would have to be to treat someone who cares for your CHILD with all of this calculated bitterness. Wake up girl!! The tiny human that you love most in this world is in my (oftentimes exclusive) care on a regular basis. You have zero influence over what happens to your child when he is with me. So why would you be so insulting and dismissive to someone who is in control of something that is so precious to you??

Now granted - I know what I am implying and I would never do harm or ill-will towards my step-child, but there are plenty of cases in this pitiful world where this is exactly the situation. Too often the step-child becomes the victim of their step-parent's frustrations and end up battered or worse. It's sickening but it IS reality. This is far from the case in our situation, obviously, but - has my irritation towards the baby mama caused me to exhibit unwarranted frustrations toward my step-child in the past? Definitely. Have I gotten irritated and raised my voice a little louder than I should have just because I see some of her horrible parenting displayed in his behavior? Yes, all of the time! There are many nights when I have laid down so ashamed of my misdirected frustrations towards him and asked God to help me control my anger by helping me to see that lots of his issues are not his fault. Some days before we pick him up to bring him to our house for a week, I will get so depressed and wonder how I am going to cope with this role for another week, - much less, the rest of my married life! It's not easy, this step-parenting stuff. 70% of the marriages of couples with blended families end in divorce. Proof that it can get extremely challenging. Step-mom's are humans too that usually had absolutely no clue what they were getting themselves into when they married into a family. They can read all of the "how to stepmom" books they can find but if the biomom is impossible to reason with, the whole situation can make a stepmom feel really disheartened. And I would think that the last thing a biomom might want in most situations is to have to have another woman introduced into her child's life.

So here are a few pointers I put together - a BioMom Guidebook, if you will - that I would LOVE for our baby mama to realize for the betterment of everyone involved in our situation- especially her and her child. Yes, these experiences are mostly centered around my own personal ultra-crazy baby mama drama and the unique relationship I have with my husband and my step-son, but I think all mothers in the bio/step relationship will be able to identify with a few of these situations. It is my sincere hope that most bio mothers are not as close-minded as the one I deal with and they will agree that it couldn’t hurt to consider the impact of following a few friendly guidelines from the stepmom's side of things for a change - even if you have to bite your lip while you read and consider them! 

Step-Mom to Bio-Mom: A Guide

1. Include the Step-Mother (for your own benefit).
Realize that the step-mother is in control of the situations in your ex’s house and thus, all of the things that you are trying to compromise on with your ex that relate to your child. So when you ask a favor of your ex, you are asking for her help as well. My husband and I have a great system when it comes to the requests of his baby mama:

-She asks him to do something.
-He texts/calls/emails me with the request.
-I easily persuade my husband to agree with my point of view. (wink, wink - “happy wife, happy life” ring a bell?)
-She gets whatever answer that I decided upon.

......Well, actually..... if I'm being completely truthful, there are usually discussions and sometimes heated arguments but the answer is 9 out of 10 times my decision. 10 out of 10 times it is a compromise between the two of us. No matter what, it will NEVER be a decision he would make on his own and here’s why - in most circumstances, whatever decision he makes affects me directly. She thinks he owes something on a bill for the child? - it’s OUR money he would use to pay her and I get consulted. She wants a few extra hours with the child on a certain weekend? - it is OUR family time that would have to be re-arranged so I get consulted. She needs help picking him up from school on a certain day of the week so she can attend night classes? - it will pull my husband from time spent with OUR family so I get consulted. What I don’t think my personal (endearing and oh-so adorable) baby mama realizes (or wants to admit) is that my husband and I have what she hasn't been able to achieve - a healthy striving relationship together. And with that comes mutual decision making, mutual agreements, mutual disagreements. We will always MUTUALLY agree on our family's contribution to whatever she might need.


As a team.

Unified in our decision.

(Get the point?)

When I am constantly disrespected and dismissed, it really hurts her chances of our "married team" deciding in her favor and she just makes it harder on herself. Her easiest MO would be to just go ahead and accept that I am part of her child's family and treat me with that amount of respect. Hell, she could even just cut to the chase and send the request directly to me! That would be the most efficient way. Do you know what would happen if my husband's ex would send just one text asking me for a favor? She'd get it.

Or she can continue to be stubborn - I just love getting to be karma some days.

2. Quit trying to downplay the step-mom's role in your child's life.

No - I didn't carry your child in my womb or endure the horrible pains of labor with him, but there are plenty of women out there who do give birth that are considered a "mother" merely because they could reproduce. I am, in a sense, his mother just as much as you are. I am the parent who (on half of the days of his life) dresses him in the morning, drives him to school, signs his notebooks from class, hangs his art proudly on my refrigerator, cuddles him when he gets hurt, prepares his dinners, bathes him, puts him into his jammies, reads him bedtime stories, says his prayers with him, kisses him goodnight, and lays beside him until he falls asleep. I sing with him, laugh with him, love on him, cheer for his accomplishments, and discipline him when he acts inappropriately. 

The definition of the verb mother in the dictionary is: "bring up (a child) with care and affection." Nailed it. That's me. And you, too! So let's just accept that. If my son had a step-mother in his life I would hate to have to share him too, but, being a child of divorce myself, I know that he would love her, look up to her and admire her as much as his father does. And I also remember when my bio-parents spoke badly about step-parents that I loved, I would think negatively on my parents, wondering why they would say such mean things about someone that I cared about. I was always too young to see any of their short-comings, and didn't realize until I was in my twenties who was actually at fault in some situations. And by then it didn't matter. And I still love them all now just as much as I always have. It's a special bond, the one that forms between you and the people who raise you. 

So - I won't talk badly about you and you don't talk badly about me, ok? Pinky swear? ;)

3. Appreciate the step-mother.
If your child has a step-mother in his life that cares for him and wants to get involved with his life, you should be SO THANKFUL for her!! So thankful that you know your child is being taken care of; that you don't have to be constantly worried they in an unfavorable environment. So thankful that your child has another good and loving woman that they can connect with. Another cheerleader. Another soul to bond with. So if you can see that she is trying and making an effort to be in your child's life, let yourself appreciate her... if only for a minute. I think anyone would agree that you can never have too much family or people who love you and care about how you are raised.

I am very aware that my step-son will always look to me for motherly guidance. He will study my behaviors all of his life as I (do my absolute best to) model how a strong Christian woman and wife should present herself. I will admit that it doesn't come as naturally to me to act motherly with him as it does with my bio son. And I find myself having to make an effort to be concerned with how I act around him, but I try every day that he is with our family to be a fair, honest, and loving individual towards him. My biological son is watching most of the time as well so that also helps. 

It is nearly impossible to care for someone else's child like your own, so if that is what she is trying to do, try to see the positive things this woman can create for your child, and even yourself.

4. Don't dismiss her opinions.
I know it is just her insecurities when our bio-mom dismisses my opinions with a rude "not your problem, not your decision, not your child" attitude, but it would do her good to think before she concludes that I am merely a useless bystander. As mentioned before, I help with every single decision that his father makes for him, large and small. More importantly, I influences these decisions based on the little boy that I have known and loved since he was 8 months old. Her child's problems are actually my problems and the decisions on how to handle them are (50%) my decision when he is in my household. And due to a woman's natural motherly instinct, a step-mom might even come up with a better solution than his own father could! Others that love him ask for and value my opinions about his life and behavior, and any of them would agree that I am a very valuable part of his life. 

I can totally understand how your child's step-mother may seem be intrusive from time to time, but I can guarantee that you'd rather have the one that cares over the one who does not. And although you may think you know the ultimate best for your child, it never hurts to have another opinion on things, especially if they come from a source with truly good intentions

5. Don't interfering with her marriage. 
I'm hoping this isn't as much a problem in most blended families as it is in mine. Your ex has moved on and is with someone else - possibly has children with that person. The two of you could not make things work for a reason - even with the sadness of knowing that if you didn't stay together you would have to give up being with your child 100% of the time. Don't try to figure out how the marriage is between them. Just stay out. Enough said.

That's all I got but hopefully it helps a bit. Let me know if you agree/disagree, are in the same boat, jumped from this boat a long time ago, or are just about to set sail -- and if you have any opinions and helpful hints of your own!

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