Stepparent Methodology

Ok, I promised myself I wasn’t going to “go there” very often and write about being a stepparent and what stepparenting is like with my SS’s mom, but I just need to get this off my chest.

Imagine, if you will, that you are about a foot away from a brick wall. There is a circle about the level of your head. Now, take your head and bash it repeatedly in the circle until you have a headache. That’s level one. Keep beating it until you have a mild concussion. That’s level two. Then keep beating it until the brick wall finally wins and you crumble to the ground unconscious.

That is about the closest illustration I can come up with in terms of what it is like for my family to deal with my husband’s ex.  Without going into the ins and outs, allow me one simple example.

She writes:

I cannot learn anything from YOU in the midst of the dynamic we have. You cannot learn anything from ME in the midst of the dynamic we have. That is sad. We are J’s parents for life. I can learn from other parents, but not from J’s dad. You can learn from other parents, but not from J’s mom. This is sad, and I want to change it. I have attended stepfamily classes, coparenting therapy, and read books and followed formulas. I have learned how to interact with other people a lot better, but not with you. I still suck at interacting with you. Are you interested in having a better relationship with me? If so, what can I do to help make that happen?

On the surface, this might seem like a perfectly reasonable email. Maybe even downright introspective and self-aware. The problem? The line right in the middle that says, “I have attended stepfamily classes, coparenting therapy, and read books and followed formulas.” That right there says it all. She has attended stepfamily classes, yet is not a stepmother nor in a blended family. Why would a divorced mother be attending stepparenting classes? Why would she be attending coparenting therapy alone? It seems to me, that any counseling that involves two people on equal footing, such as a marriage, or parents (together or divorced), it is rather important for BOTH parties to be seeing the same person.

It dawned on me why she is doing this as well as writing about it in the emails. 1) She wants to be an expert. Attending stepparenting classes now gives her the false understanding and sense of empathy that she has ANY clue whatsoever what it is like to be me, the stepmom, as well as what it is like to run a blended household with multiple children. 2) Attending co-parenting therapy by herself gives her the ability to present her one-sided story to a therapist so she can be affirmed in her efforts. She is all about affirmation and feeling good about herself. 3) For documentation. As with all things, the most important thing she can do, and needs to do it seems for self-preservation, is say that she “did all she could” and be able to show concrete proof so she can wash her hands of any accountability. That is always her MO. Research something to death. Decide on a conclusion. Find a way for it not to be about anything she has done or is doing. Then beat people over the head with her ideas or how its on them to do something until they crumble into submission to her superior ways.

And this isn’t even scratching the surface on the “followed formulas” comment. Followed WHAT formulas? This is exactly how I know she is full of it because pretty much any stepmom (and sane divorced mother who isn’t even a stepmom) will tell you that formulas are ridiculous, idealistic nonsensical notions that don’t even come close to touching on reality. If you want to know what it is like to specifically stepparent your child, THEN ASK THE STEPMOM who is stepmothering. If you want to know what its like to blend the stepchild with the other children, ASK. I guarantee you that nothing taught in a class comes close to what it is really like. I know so.

I, too, have read stepparenting, co-parenting, divorced mothers, divorced fathers, child psychology, blah, blah, blah, psychobabble books. I am in community with a Dr. Expert on those subjects. My best friends include divorced mothers and stepmothers. My two best friends are one divorced mother who is remarried and a stepmother and a stepmother with three biological children of her own. I am constantly consulting with people who leave and breath single parenthood and stepparenthood on a DAILY basis. Even these people, including the psychologist, think SS’s mother is one of the most ridiculous and insulting people they’ve ever encountered.

How else do I know she’s full of it? Because if she were actually interested in finding out what it is really like, and listening to other stepmoms and divorced moms, then a number of them would have told her how insulting, condescending and INTRUSIVE she is to our family. Just to make sure I’m not insane, unreasonable, or reading a situation wrong, I’ve sent emails she’s written to therapists, other divorced moms who have never remarried and who deal with a stepmother, other stepmothers, and a friend of mine who is a child of divorce and did the whole two household thing with stepparents.  I talk through scenarios we deal with and conversations that have been had. My husband and I are transparent with how we’ve dealt, or not dealt, with the emails and situation. We never, ever want to be the one-sided folks who are only seeing something through our own filters. One can’t learn that way. But 9 times out of 10, my original thoughts and conclusions are validated.

The only thing my husband and I have been able to do is ignore her most of the time. She doesn’t co-parent. She is incapable. It is impossible to have a relationship with anyone who doesn’t trust, is arrogant, and can’t humble herself to admit she knows absolutely NOTHING about our life in our home. But yet, all she does is go on about how much she understands because of classes and therapy.




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