I know that most of the time people like to hear about how well my family gets along. I also actually receive many private messages asking for advice, especially from step-moms asking how they can approach their bio moms. I am currently working on a series of articles on how to improve the relationship with your BM, but in the meantime, I thought it might be encouraging to hear that we DO fight sometimes.
The last BIG fight between Molly and I was a few months ago. Usually when Molly and I fight, there are other things going on behind the scenes that contribute to it. There was so much going on at this time. Our teenager had been acting up. Someone had hurt one of our children, and we were undergoing a situation dealing with the court. I had been missing work to deal with that, and other things had also been happening. My daughter had been acting out, not turning in homework, self-harming, and not making healthy choices. We were also having my other daughter tested for many things, so we had more than enough going on. In the midst of all of this, Molly’s daughter had surgery, she had been sick. As if that was not enough, I received a call from a former colleague from the ER, from where I used to work. My father was in the emergency room. I was told he was not breathing well on his own, and the doctor who was telling me that news was someone I knew and respected, so if he was telling me that I had better hurry. By the time I had reached the ER, my father was intubated. A nurse I used to work with, who is one of the best nurses in Omaha, held onto my dad’s hand until I walked into the room and took it from her. He was heavily sedated, so he had no memory of me or of being intubated. I worried at the time that he would be angry at me. He had always told me that he had never wanted extreme measures. I was worried about missing work. I was worried about my daughters. On top of that we had to clean my dad’s apartment, do his shopping, and spend lots of time at the hospital.
All of the things going on during that week created the perfect storm for stress. Molly and I were both getting very little to no sleep, and we were both extremely worried about the girls. Our teenager was challenging us almost daily it seemed. Every day it felt like something new popped up for either their household or ours. It was day three of my father being in the hospital. The worst part was that he was still so sick, and I was waiting to find out if he was being discharged. He had been extubated for a of couple of days, but his lab work was still far from normal, and they did not want to discharge him. I was just hearing the news when Molly had called me.
She had called to tell me an idea she had about getting rid of a toxic friend that our teenager was friends with at the time. Let me make the point here that this friend was not in any way a bad person, she was just the wrong person for our daughter at that point in our daughter’s life, and our daughter was just as bad for her. They fed off of their negativity and this was one of those situations when all of us parents had different opinions of what needed to happen in order to reach the same results. We all wanted the same thing–to distance the two girls from one another, but my fears were that if we told them they were forbidden from one another they would sneak around. I remember sneaking around very well. Sneaking around is dangerous. Sneaking around could create environments where we had no clue where she was, what she was doing, who she was doing it with, and she could get hurt. Molly’s fear was if we did not just sever all ties something really bad was going to happen, which was also possible. This friendship was clearly toxic, that was without question. My thought was to show our daughter that through behavior. We had already had two in-person parenting meetings about our teen’s behavior, and since those meetings her behavior had escalated. We needed to act soon.
They moved my dad from ICU, I went back to work, and he started to decline again. My youngest was having issues at school, and my oldest was having other issues. I was at work, and I had received a call from the hospital that my dad’s labs were declining. I felt horribly guilty for not being at the hospital with my dad, but I was afraid if I left the office I would lose my job. The school nurse called to say my youngest was sick in her office. I called Molly and she offered to go pick up Cami. I think it was their day, but I can’t remember for sure, to leave work. We normally just do what has to be done regardless of what day it happens to be. We just do what has to be done. She picked her up. I was supposed to leave early to go visit my father, and Molly called me while I was at the hospital.
When Molly called in late afternoon, the doctor had just come into the room to discuss keeping my father another night, I was being pressured from my place of employment to go back to work, and I was extremely worried about my father. Molly was dealing with equal stressors in her life. She told me that she thought that the two girls were bad influences on one another and that they should both be forbidden from seeing one another. I felt that forbidding the friendship completely would backfire and that it would only drive them to sneak around and could create a more dangerous environment. I thought that since she was starting her first year in high school the next year she would drift apart from her anyway, and that if we would just focus on the behavior instead of the person we could find another reason to keep them apart until the new school year. Honestly, I am unable at this point to remember every detail about that day of what we both said to one another. I’m sure there was way more to it than what I can remember. I am sure I did not convey what I want to say very well. All I remember is that she tried to tell me her point, I tried to tell her mine, neither of us were getting our points across, the nurse came back into my dad’s room. His blood pressure was rising. My temper reached its limit and I should have told her that I was not feeling up to talking. I did not choose the adult option. I chose the immature option. I hung up on her.
Yeah, I did that. It was not my best moment. I was a real asshole.
What had happened:
- When I had called Molly about Cami being in the nurses office, I had forgotten to ask her if she could pick her up. I assumed she could do it, and that hurt her feelings. (I felt horrible about this when I realized I had just assumed without asking. I am usually really good about this stuff.)
- My assumptions fed her assumptions.
- Assumptions turn to anger.
- Anger turned to resentment.
- She felt used.
- I felt unheard.
- She felt unheard.
- I hung up on her, she felt like she was cut off.
How we fixed it:
- She wrote me an email telling me how she felt.
- I responded with an email.
- She called me.
- We both talked.
- We both listened.
- We have both talked and listened since that last fight.
Have you had big fights with your child’s step-mom or bio-mom? Did you resolve the issue? If so, how?
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.