Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Stepmom

In the movie, Stepmom, we see Julia Roberts experience so much of the trauma stepmothers go through as they try to enter into the new family, intergate into the new family, as the try to BLEND. She didn't know the routines, was sabotaged on every front by her stepchildren, and felt completely incompetent as the female adult in the home.

Then mom stops by to pick up the kids only to notice the wreck and suddenly the children are cherubs, the mess is all the stepmom's fault, and mom says smugly, "I'll take it from here."

For stepmothers, it seems that all the good they do is diminished while any minor mistake she makes is magnified as if she were an evil harpy. Let's face it, stepmoms are often in a tough position. What's a stepmother to do?

First, stepmothers must be farmers at early spring, not late fall. Think of your family as a constant tilling and planting operation. Harvest will not come for a good long while. Yes, this calls for patience, but patience has never been a bad idea.

Second, stepmothers must affirm their own victories because no one else is going to. Although that might be overstated for some, for others it isn't. A stepmother must be confident that the good she did was actually good, even if she gets no immediate credit for her actions.

Finally, stepmothers must be consistent. When a stepmother is consistently good, she slowly wears away the objections that stepchildren hold against her. She must remove these objections through her actions. Eventually, she will usually succeed. Worst case, she has been good.

Stepmoms, you've got a noble work ahead of you. Hats off to you.


Randy'sgirl said...

I would like to add my thoughts on being a stepmom. We have six children in our house from 11 years old down to 10 months. Two of these children are from my husbands former marriage and he has joint custody. My husband and I have had many, many talks about the difference of feelings between blood children and step children. I believed at the beginning of our relationship that I would love all the children the same. It became clear very quickly that this was not the case and most likely never would be. Don't get me wrong, I would lay down my life for those two little boys as quickly as I would for my own! There is something to say for genetics though.

As for the discussion about stepmoms having to just do it because they need to for the childrens sake and most likely no one will notice is so true. Quite often, no seems to notice what I do for my stepsons except their mother. The only reason she notices is because of her fear of where her relationship stands with them with me in the picture now. Luckily, she hasn't made this a huge issue yet. I have tried to see this from her perspective and sympathise with her fear. Then on the other hand I wish that she truly knew how loved, respected, and cared for those boys are when they are with me. This is not the case is SO many stepmom-stepchild relationships. Perhaps we all know someone that was treated very wrongly by a step-parent. In conclusion of my thoughts, I do wish others knew how difficult it is to be a stepmom. I think the movie Stepmom was sweet and also unrealistic. One, because most women don't have the character that it would take to walk through that story the way it was presented.

Fajita said...

randy's girl,

Thanks for the input. You are correct that the movie was a tad bit rosey in places. It's Hollywood, what can I tell you?

You sound like you ave made some trrific growth in accepting the realities of your situation. Acceptance is key!

dwatson said...

Being a stepmom is amazing - in awesome ways and awful ways, too. I have two step sons just a bit younger than my own two boys. I love them like crazy, and I know they love me, but I also know their mother has consistently let them know of her dislike for me. She has told them very directly not to let me touch them, kiss them, etc. So they battle with wanting to express their love for me with wanting to please their mother. As much as it hurts, I quietly let them withhold their affection knowing someday they will grow up and feel safe loving me openly.
My own boys have a stepmom who lives 1800 miles away so I don't know her or have a relationship with her. I do know that if ever given the opportunity, I would welcome her into my family and thank her for what part she played in my children's lives!

Fajita said...

dwatson, wow! What restraint. Your honor for your stepchildren's mother is remarkable, and will be well worth it.

mom24 said...

I find that everday being a stepmother is a blessing. Sometimes a blessing in disguise but a blessing no doubt. I am the step mother to three wonderful kids. I brought into the equation one wonderful kid myself. We have had our ups and downs "blending" but none of us are worse for the ware. I love all of my kids. My three step children are still recovering from the physical and emotional absence of thier biological mother as my child is recovering from the absence of her biological father. We just deal with what comes our way on a day to day basis. All of our children are allowed to express thier feelings in our home and feel safe doing so. Sometime my husband and I don't like the feelings the kids express but we deal with them. The kids understand this so they feel free to share more with us. All we require is that you share feelings in a respectful way. We don't allow name calling in our home. We also put past events in the past. At our family meetings (which we hold regularly) you can only bring up current things. Blending is a long slow process but it's definately worth it. Stepmom is a cute movie but its not really realistic. Hats off to stepfamilies everywhere. Few have what it takes to cut it here in Stepville.

Fajita said...

Mom24 from "Stepville,"

Excellent words. My favorite part about what you said was that allow feelings to be expressed. The mere fact that there is emotional space for that kind of openness in your family says a lot.

There is often the temptation to take negative emotions felt by someone else and personalize them and interpret them as blame and accusation. It appears you have found a way to bypass that initial assumption. That saves you much grief. Nice work.

Laia said...

I just watched Stepmom last week and loved the first half hour or so. I was thinking to myself it was one of the more accurate portrayals of the realities of step-family lives the I've seen depicted in movies.

As the film went on, though, I started to feel irritated and impatient. The stepmom was such an angel. Biomom was such a bitch. I don't think the lines are so clearly drawn in real life! I am both a biomom and a stepmom. There are a lot of players in the mix, with my stepson's biomom and my own child's stepmom. In addition, there is my current husband, my former partner and bio-mom's new partner. All these people are individual characters with human strengths and weaknesses, including myself. When there are difficulties, usually a number of people have contributed to the mess.

Two more comments about the movie:

1. Although biomom got the blame for the tension in the relationship, a lot of the responsibility belongs on the shoulders of the father, who did very little to manage the whole situation. I also thought he was unfair to his new partner, treating her almost as an unpaid babysitter. He was glad to have her picking up his kids, covering for their mom, and basically handling their daily lives. But when it came time to discuss big issues in the children's lives, he would go to meet with their mother alone, not including his partner, who was really functioning much like a parent.

2. Stepmom deserves sainthood for the extent to which she shared her life with the former wife. Christmas at the exes? Not happening in my book, even if she's terminally ill!

This step-life we have chosen is not an easy one. I have excellent (though not trouble-free) relationship with my former spouse & his new wife. I do not feel threatened by another woman loving my son, and I honor the place she has in his life. We have an easy relationship and even jokingly call each other sister, because of a shared resemblence.

My husband and his former wife fight like cats and dogs, frequently go back to court, don't trust each other, etc. The responsibility for this is shared; I can't blame her for all their difficulties. Sometimes I even side with her, which pisses off my husband. Despite my occasional siding with her, our relationship hasn't been great because of all the general tension that exists. It's starting to slowly improve, though. For example, after 5 years, she has suddenly started asking me "how are you?" when she calls our house. It used to be that when I answered the phone, she would only say "can I talk to Sean?" Small steps is what it's about.

Good luck to everyone!

Fajita said...

Laia said that small steps ia what it is all about. Wise words for anyone.

tamiluvsnorm said...

although the movie ends up on a good note, i did not like the major premise making the Bio-mom as the monster, when in fact her husband and his live in destroyed their family...hello???
I do think the role of step mom is difficult. Often blame comes when its not deserved. However, if that step mom helped break up the family she deserves the anger and resentment she gets.
Most step moms are just wonderful people stepping into a role...and as women we just reach out and love and can get hurt. It hard to deal with, and I've been helped alot just deliniating the differences between the expectations of an "original family" vs a stepfamily.

Fajita said...

Yes, the movie cannot cover all of the varieties offered in divorce and remarriage situtations. It does a good job on a few.

I would contend that no deserves resentment. I know I am not actually touching life in "the real world" when I say that, but one wrong does not deserve another. It feels like it does, but it doesn't.