I have been in the lives of my stepchildren for six years, four of those years their stepmom. I feel like the relationship between myself and their biological mother is almost non-existent. It’s not a bad relationship, but it’s not the greatest either. I feel that I have made many efforts to talk with her and many times I am simply ignored and my kind gestures are dismissed. I really want to strengthen this relationship because I feel that it’s important for the kids to see that all of their parents can work together. My husband and I have been working towards a better co-parenting relationship, but it is difficult when one side is much more willing than the other. How can I strengthen a relationship when I feel like I’m the only one that wants to improve it?
Sincerely, Hopeful Stepmom
Hopeful Step-mom also shared a few private tidbits that she did not wish to make public. It is based on those things that I drew the following conclusions. Bio-mom stopped showing up for things for her children, especially if SM was going to be present. There were no big fights, no cheating, no catastrophic events breaking up the marriage here. Step-mom did not cause the break-up. Keep in mind that I am no expert and this is only my personal opinion, which this step-mom asked for, purely based on my relationship with my daughters’ step-mom.
As for your kids’ bio mom, these are some of my observations as an outsider looking in. It appears that you have your life together, and she does not appear to have the same order to her life. It sounds like it is hard for her to provide a stable environment for her kids. I think she wants to, but she is unsure how. It seems like maybe her parenting example from her parents was not the best, so really she had no one to learn from. It sounds like her instability overflows into everything. It is promising that she has recently been trying. When anyone is having a tough time, the last thing you want is to be around someone who you think has it all together. All of this behavior ignoring you, avoiding you, being rude, etc is because you are a huge threat in her mind. You are everything she wants to be, but she does not know how to be. This I think is where the resentment comes from.
I do think there are some things you can do.
- It was mentioned that efforts on your part are dismissed and ignored. The first thing I think you should do is lose all expectations. Every single one. Don’t even expect a hello. If you do something for her, do not do it for something in return. Do it because you want to do it. No more, no less. When you expect nothing, you will not be disappointed.
- Next try praising her. Tell her how great the kids are doing in school and that you know it is all because of her. Build her up. Does she deserve it based upon her negative behavior? Probably not, and that is why you should try it. Build her up to the kids too and it will get to her second-hand. Even when it seems there is nothing to praise her about, FIND something positive. There is always something!
- You can not make another person do anything, we all know that all too well. The only person we can change is ourselves. So that is a good place to start. If efforts are ignored, I would really pay attention to how you approach her, when you approach her, and how she responds. Watch her body language. You might even pick up a book on body language and how to read people. Learn how to pick up on nonverbal cues. This might help you to figure out exactly what is making her uncomfortable. It might be something totally fixable.
- Once you slowly become more comfortable around her, you may get to the point where you can just ask her what is bothering her. It took us quite a while to get there, but we did get there!
- One thing to keep in mind when dealing with anyone else in a relationship that feels one-sided. Think of life as one giant classroom, and we are all here to learn. Not everyone is on the same grade-level as everyone else. You would not be upset with a third-grader for not understanding fifth grade English, so how would someone possibly be able to understand your point of view without living through your experiences? They are incapable.
- Try to also remember that there may be things that she is dealing with that you are unaware of. Not am excuse, just keep it in mind.
- To build a relationship with bio-mom it will be just that–building, one step at a time.
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 www.playground-magazine.com, and www.bigblendedfamily.com. She is a regular writer on www.herviewfromhome.com, writer and co-editor for Her View From Omaha. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, and Pinterest.