Step-Parent Alienation


Featured on Big Blended Family.

I’m proud of my family, and despite some nervousness to “come out” as a mom who peacefully co-parents with my ex and his new wife, I began revealing my co-parenting status by including my ex and Molly, my children’s step-mom, in not only school stuff and family stuff, but also shopping, doctor’s appointments, and birthday parties. We parent as a team and we are all four committed to our children. We talk daily, and we are even having professional family pictures together in two weeks! I understand that we are not the norm, but I hope that one day cohesive blended families will prevail over the bitterness.

My stance on my blended family has been met with resistance from those who feel threatened by step-parents. People have expressed shock and dismay at my openness, or they at least radiate general discomfort. Apparently, I should be jealous, annoyed or infuriated. But I’m not. I refuse to be. That’s not right for my life or anyone in our blended family. Some feel that I am weak for forgiving and parenting with my ex and his wife, but I feel that forgiveness signifies strength not weakness.

As a parenting team of four (me and my husband, my ex and his wife), we show up for the girls as much as possible. If there is a school function or something else important for the girls, we all try to be there. Molly and I even both attend doctor appointments together with the girls, and we both speak, which makes the doctors and nurses extremely uncomfortable. I have noticed that when the step-parent and biological parent are side by side, others in the vicinity act strange. Easy, relaxed conversation shuts down. The questions running through people’s minds must be drowning out all social sensibility.

How can the dad and step-dad be standing there acting like this is normal?

Is the mom annoyed that the step-mom is here?

Which one should I talk to? Or should I avoid them both?

Once they’ve gotten to know us better, people we know have admitted thinking these things.

We had an event for one of the girls recently. My ex-husband was invited, and when he walked into my front yard and joined the crowd, everyone suddenly treated my husband differently. They spoke more to my ex-husband, because he is dad. My husband felt alienated and insignificant, like he was just the step-dad.

This really bothers me. My husband is not my daughters’ biological father, but he is one of the dads in their lives. He helps with homework, he holds them when they cry, he talks them through issues that worry them, he plays games with them, picks them up from school and shows up for them all around.

Had the girls’ step-mom, Molly attended the get-together, I think the same sort of dynamic would have unfolded. This is the societal alienation that stepparents encounter, and then there’s the intentional alienation that can be waged like a war when there’s an ex whose angry about feeling replaced, or feeling their role is somehow being threatened. Interestingly, society is MUCH more comfortable with that than they are supporting of exes who get along. It’s sort of like this:

If the mom isn’t going to alienate the step-mom, I’m going to do it for her.

More on Parental Alienation on Her View From Home.

Resources for those suffering from Parental Alienation on Her View From Home.

Have you discovered that the steps in your family are alienated at times? What do you think is the solution? How can we teach society to treat us as equals?

Trish Eklund is taking a nontraditional approach to parenting children after divorce and remarriage. Raising her two daughters of ten and fourteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife, they consult one another on all parenting decisions. Trish has been featured on, and She is a regular writer on, writer and co-editor for Her View From Omaha. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, and Pinterest.


6 thoughts on “Step-Parent Alienation

  1. I’ll never forget the deer in headlights look that my youngest sons teacher gave to his mom and I when we BOTH walked in the classroom together before his Christmas program. She suddenly looked a bit uncomfortable, and she kept looking at her and then me over and over as if she wasn’t sure who she should talk to. Little did she know, my husband and I actually picked her up and she rode in our vehicle to and from the program because she was having car trouble. I totally understand this. Thanks for posting!

  2. I can relate, definitely. In certain situations (like school), I have to be very specific to introduce myself as step-mom because the bio-mom isn’t permitted unsupervised contact with the kids. But not everyone knows that, and I’ve had people stop sharing information with me as soon as they hear “step”. It’s what we’re used to in society. I sincerely hope that with more families acting like yours, and forums like this spreading the word, things will change.

  3. When my daughter was in elementary school, she had “room dads” one year – her friend’s dad and stepdad. The family was open about their relationships and the kids were happy and well-adjusted. We are all friends to this day, and I’m continually impressed with their commitment to make it all work. Unfortunately, this will not be the case with my fiance’s ex, but a girl can hope and leave the door open.

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