I received an email from a step-mom a couple of weeks ago. Let’s call her Dedicated Step-mom. She has been with her partner for two years. His two children are 10 and 11. He has been apart from his ex for ten years, and there was no infidelity, no abuse, and no messy break-up. Dedicated Step-Mom could really relate to a previous post I wrote called Step-Parent Alienation. She thinks there is some step-parent alienation happening from the bio-mom’s household. They can go long periods–months even, when everything can go great and they can share wonderful family time together. They will go for a weekend visit with their mother, and the eldest stepchild will either not even acknowledge her SM or she will tell her father, “I just don’t like her.” Dedicated Step-mom and her partner think that the bio-mom is telling the children poisonous things about their step-mom.
Dedicated Step-mom said that there has never really been contact between herself and her stepchildren’s bio-mom throughout the entire relationship. She has never been sure how to go about this, as the only time she has been brought up between her partner and his ex, the ex made threats against Dedicated Step-Mom, which can deter anyone from initiating a relationship. Bio-mom has never shown interest in meeting or speaking to SM, and if she would be open to it, SM would agree. BM has also disappeared for a few months in the past, which also makes it difficult for Dedicated Step-Mom to understand.
Dedicated Step-Mom would like some advice on how to approach her stepchildren’s’ bio-mom about opening communication between the two of them. Suggestions are welcome.
First of all I must state that you are a wonderful champion and parent for those children, and you should be very proud of yourself! It takes a patient compromising person to even entertain the idea of starting a working relationship with someone who shows no interest in reciprocation, and this is often how great working relationships start, with the compromise of one person. I am sure not everyone will agree with me, and that’s okay, not everyone has a strong working relationship with their children’s step-mom.
•Lose all expectations. Do not expect her to shoot you down and do not expect for her to greet you with open arms and a smile either. Try not to expect anything. Think of her as a business associate you are meeting about a possible business deal that you require to run smoothly.
•Thinking along the lines of treating her as a business associate, lose all of the personal stuff. Drop off all of that personal luggage at the airport and leave it there. One thing about dealing with the other biological parent is that most of what you have probably heard from your partner is negative and only one side of the story, so try to insert an invisible filter into your brain and leave it out of your parenting relationship, because it has absolutely nothing to do with those children. The past relationship emotional crap will only tarnish your relationship.
•Be polite, and do not take anything personally. NOTHING. If she rolls her eyes, it is her problem, not yours. One thing to remember is that she is more than likely going through some issues of her own, obviously or she would have let go of her ex completely ten years ago. She can be mean to you all day long, but you can choose how to react to her and you do not have to engage her. Being mean back to her will not resolve anything, and it will not teach her anything. Of course if things escalate, there may be no other choice but to give up. Only you know how much you can handle.
•Instead of getting angry, try to remember that we are all here to learn. Life is a big school. Not all of us are on the same level. Would you be angry with a 1rst grader for not comprehending algebra? Probably not. Someone who has not experienced your exact life experiences can’t possibly understand your perspective, so getting angry at someone for being incapable of seeing things from your point of view is like expecting a donkey to know what it’s like to be a gorilla.
I think you should make an attempt to either call your stepchildren’s bio-mom or email her. Ask her if she is free for a cup of coffee or a cocktail in the near future. If she turns you down, wait a couple of months and then ask again. Don’t ever give up! I hope this helps!
Other writers and readers, please feel free to leave advice for Dedicated Step-Mom!
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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.