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Thoughts?

Posted by on Apr. 22, 2013 at 3:09 PM
  • 16 Replies

Found this today on a local SM group I am a member of.  It sort of made me sad how absolute it made the inevitabilty of being an outsider was for a SM.  Maybe I am in denial, but I do feel like my daughters have true affection for DH and SSs have true affection for me.  Are we as close to our skids as we are to our bios?  Do they love me as much as they love DH or BM? My answer would be no and that is to be expected.

Anyway, would love some thoughts on this...


Help For The Childless Stepmom

Posted: 04/22/2013 12:10 pm

Are you a childless woman partnered with a man who has children? Over the past decade, I've worked with and received volumes of emails from childless (or child-free) women who are partnered with someone with children. Their lament is common and understandable:

"I never knew it would be this hard."

"I'm treated like a second class citizen."

"My opinions and observations aren't valued because I'm constantly being told that because I'm not a mother myself, I couldn't possibly understand how to raise kids."

"No matter how hard I've tried to be a part of my partner's life with his/her children, I continue to feel like an outsider."

The feeling of being an "outsider" and wondering if it will ever go away is almost universal for every childless stepmother I've worked with (and many stepmothers with children as well).

There are solutions to these feeling of alienation but they may be hard to embrace because we are surrounded by a culture that is addicted to happy endings and one that stubbornly refuses to let go of the "Brady Bunch" myth and the elusive "blended" family.

The reality is this: If you are a childless woman partnered with someone with children, you are an "outsider". There is a ready-made biological system already in place -- a system that came into existence years before you made your entrance.

I've yet to meet a stepchild who felt the same way about their stepmother as they did their biological parents, even when the biological parent was absent (through death or abandonment), unhealthy or extremely dysfunctional.

Despite the logic that this seems to defy, it is vital that anyone partnered with someone with children remember that the loyalty binds that children naturally feel towards their parents, especially their mothers, are real and enduring.

This is why feeling like an outsider in one's stepfamily system is to be expected. You feel like an outsider because in a very biological sense, you are.

It is a humbling position stepmothers and especially childless stepmothers find themselves in. It's hard to not take it personally when stepmothers show real and genuine care for their stepchildren only to have those feelings rejected or pushed away.

If you find yourself in this position, know that you are not alone! Even stepmothers with children feel like outsiders when they are with their partners and their children. The following five tips may will help quell the lonely feeling that stepmothers so often feel:

1. Accept that feeling like an outsider when your partner is with their children is normal and natural. Accept that this has a high probability of never changing. (Mavis Hetherington's longitudinal study shows that fewer than 20% of young adult stepchildren report feeling close to their stepmothers). Know that you are not alone, and find support in other childless stepmothers who understand and can validate your feelings.

2. Make sure that your partner understands your feelings. Ask them to make every attempt to include you in conversations and activities with their children. Make sure that your partner is making sure that their children are treating you with basic common courtesy and respect, as you are doing for them.

3. Don't take it personally. A stepkid's rejection, indifference or non-involvement with you isn't about you. This would most likely be happening to any partner their father chooses and is more a projection of the grief and lack of control they may feel about their parent's divorce and subsequent repartnering. Remember the power of the loyalty binds that children naturally have and their understandable desire to be close to their biological parents.

4. Stay connected to you. Make sure that self-care and self-love are cemented into the core of who you are. Know that your worth and value comes not from the approval of others, but your own strong sense of loving who you are. Make sure you are taking time each day for you, i.e. exercising, meditating, yoga, etc.

5. Focus on your partnership. Be aware that there is a high divorce rate for second marriages; approximately 67% of remarriages with children end in divorce. Why? One of the top stressors is the relationship with the children. Of course, biological parents have the highest responsibility for the needs of their children. But this does not mean they should allow the needs of the children to smother the relationship. Focusing on the marriage serves as a good model for children as to what is needed to maintain a healthy and happy long-term relationship. It also helps ensure that they will not have to go through a second divorce. Have date night once a week!

Being a childless stepmother is a difficult role. Be easy on yourself and your stepchildren and make conscious efforts to drop that rope between your fantasies and the realities of stepfamily life. As you let go, you will feel more empowered and liberated.

What you cannot enforce, do not command.
Sophocles (496 BC - 406 BC)
by on Apr. 22, 2013 at 3:09 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Leigh84
by Gold Member on Apr. 22, 2013 at 3:16 PM
That's interesting I guess it depends on the individuals sitch. DH and I were married for 7 yrs before my son was born. I never felt like an outsider though. I felt both SS's always accepted me. I know their feelings for their own mom are different than their feelings towards me but I understood that going into the marriage. I know where I stand w/them and I'm fine w/that.
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whatIknownow
by Emerald Member on Apr. 22, 2013 at 3:18 PM
1 mom liked this

I think my stepkids have true affection for me, and my kids have true affection for my DH, their stepfather.

But of course there is some degree of outsideness. 

I dont think "being an outsider" means you can't be close to the kids and  have a good relationship with them. it just means, their relationship with their biological parents will be different. Unconditional. It's ok for a stepparent and stepchild to have a cordial, warm, caring relationship that is simply not as strong or unconditional as a bioparent/biochild relationship would be. Why is this an issue?

One point in particular:


3. Don't take it personally. A stepkid's rejection, indifference or non-involvement with you isn't about you. This would most likely be happening to any partner their father chooses and is more a projection of the grief and lack of control they may feel about their parent's divorce and subsequent repartnering. Remember the power of the loyalty binds that children naturally have and their understandable desire to be close to their biological parents.


Why does it have to be seen as "rejection," when a stepchild does not feel the same way about Dad's wife as he feels about Dad? Why is the focus on rejection (the stepchild's feelings not being as strong for the SM as they are for dad or mom), rather than on being glad the stepchild likes you at all? If he just *likes* you, take it and run, and be glad about that, instead of bemoaning a relationship that isn't.

saywhat2102
by Gold Member on Apr. 22, 2013 at 3:21 PM
Eh..I'm a csm so I do not feel like an outsider at all.
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Mommyof5247
by on Apr. 22, 2013 at 3:34 PM
I agree with this.
I'm CSM, have my own children & my stepkids & I are close but I also understand that they love their mom very much & may feel differently about me at different times as they grow up.

My "outsider" feelings came from being used to being in control with my own children at all times (little input from BD or XH). I had to step back & did not have the final say...some things were just not my issue to deal with, I had to be more of a support person than "a mom".
Once I wrapped my head around that, things became less stressful depending on the situation.


Quoting whatIknownow:

I think my stepkids have true affection for me, and my kids have true affection for my DH, their stepfather.

But of course there is some degree of outsideness. 

I dont think "being an outsider" means you can't be close to the kids and  have a good relationship with them. it just means, their relationship with their biological parents will be different. Unconditional. It's ok for a stepparent and stepchild to have a cordial, warm, caring relationship that is simply not as strong or unconditional as a bioparent/biochild relationship would be. Why is this an issue?

One point in particular:


3. Don't take it personally. A stepkid's rejection, indifference or non-involvement with you isn't about you. This would most likely be happening to any partner their father chooses and is more a projection of the grief and lack of control they may feel about their parent's divorce and subsequent repartnering. Remember the power of the loyalty binds that children naturally have and their understandable desire to be close to their biological parents.


Why does it have to be seen as "rejection," when a stepchild does not feel the same way about Dad's wife as he feels about Dad? Why is the focus on rejection (the stepchild's feelings not being as strong for the SM as they are for dad or mom), rather than on being glad the stepchild likes you at all? If he just *likes* you, take it and run, and be glad about that, instead of bemoaning a relationship that isn't.

Posted on the NEW CafeMom Mobile
newstepmom61811
by on Apr. 22, 2013 at 3:34 PM
1 mom liked this

I think for the truly CHILDLESS SM. The one who will never have kids with DH, this hits the nail on the head. Totally different dynamic when it's only SM on the "outside". I think when you have a CSM in a his/hers/and possibly ours case the power structure is different. There are 4 of a very tight biological family in my house and then...me...granted, they are VERY good and loving to me, affectionate of me...but there are bonds among the 4 I will forever NOT be a part of, including with my husband. We will never bond over a child of our own, I will never bond with kids over being a mother to them or even as much as providing them a sibling...I think for the truly childless it is a place only another childless SM can understand. I don't think you get it either if you go in knowing in some eventuality you and DH will have children, it just changes your frame of reference. I went in knowing the ONLY fitting in I will ever do is the marital tie...and that doesn't bond  you to kids of a family not your own very well...I think this nails the feelings...

newstepmom61811
by on Apr. 22, 2013 at 3:41 PM
1 mom liked this

 But neither of you understand this from the truly permanently childless perspective...it is a very unique and permanent outsidedness...You always will have a connnections and bonding and "fitting in" with your own children, no outsidedness there...As a childless woman, my future forever is to be slightly on the outside of my family. They love me, are kind, but I am always the addition, hopefully permanent to DH, but not guaranteed so, and could always be subtracted to be alone by myself, DH would not feel that pain, he is on the inside, the kids are always his...his family never goes away. I watch my P's and Q's in the house more than I would if I had an army of my own bios to love and support me...if strife happens, I am on the outside, kids and DH are a united front, there is unconditional love, loyalty, devotion there that even at times trumps reason. No support of my own bios. I am on my own. It is different when you have no biology of your own in the house, even in the best of circumstances. I am the last hired...first that could be fired if you will...


Quoting Mommyof5247:

I agree with this.
I'm CSM, have my own children & my stepkids & I are close but I also understand that they love their mom very much & may feel differently about me at different times as they grow up.

My "outsider" feelings came from being used to being in control with my own children at all times (little input from BD or XH). I had to step back & did not have the final say...some things were just not my issue to deal with, I had to be more of a support person than "a mom".
Once I wrapped my head around that, things became less stressful depending on the situation.


Quoting whatIknownow:

I think my stepkids have true affection for me, and my kids have true affection for my DH, their stepfather.

But of course there is some degree of outsideness. 

I dont think "being an outsider" means you can't be close to the kids and  have a good relationship with them. it just means, their relationship with their biological parents will be different. Unconditional. It's ok for a stepparent and stepchild to have a cordial, warm, caring relationship that is simply not as strong or unconditional as a bioparent/biochild relationship would be. Why is this an issue?

One point in particular:

 

3. Don't take it personally. A stepkid's rejection, indifference or non-involvement with you isn't about you. This would most likely be happening to any partner their father chooses and is more a projection of the grief and lack of control they may feel about their parent's divorce and subsequent repartnering. Remember the power of the loyalty binds that children naturally have and their understandable desire to be close to their biological parents.

 

Why does it have to be seen as "rejection," when a stepchild does not feel the same way about Dad's wife as he feels about Dad? Why is the focus on rejection (the stepchild's feelings not being as strong for the SM as they are for dad or mom), rather than on being glad the stepchild likes you at all? If he just *likes* you, take it and run, and be glad about that, instead of bemoaning a relationship that isn't.


 

pdxmum
by Ruby Member on Apr. 22, 2013 at 3:43 PM


Thank you.  Your response clarified for me why I was reacting the way I was.  The title and most of the article are geared towards "childless SMs" but then tosses in SMs in general.

So when the author started including SMs in general, I reacted and lost site of the main point of the article.  And the main point of the article has to do with being a childless SM, something I do not have experience with.

When she tossed out this statement:

"Even stepmothers with children feel like outsiders when they are with their partners and their children"

I lost the points she was trying to make and started arguing with myself since I did not feel like an outsider when I am with DH and SSs.

She should have stuck to her original premise instead of trying to include all SMs.

I can debate her points till the cows come home from my own perspective...

Quoting newstepmom61811:

I think for the truly CHILDLESS SM. The one who will never have kids with DH, this hits the nail on the head. Totally different dynamic when it's only SM on the "outside". I think when you have a CSM in a his/hers/and possibly ours case the power structure is different. There are 4 of a very tight biological family in my house and then...me...granted, they are VERY good and loving to me, affectionate of me...but there are bonds among the 4 I will forever NOT be a part of, including with my husband. We will never bond over a child of our own, I will never bond with kids over being a mother to them or even as much as providing them a sibling...I think for the truly childless it is a place only another childless SM can understand. I don't think you get it either if you go in knowing in some eventuality you and DH will have children, it just changes your frame of reference. I went in knowing the ONLY fitting in I will ever do is the marital tie...and that doesn't bond  you to kids of a family not your own very well...I think this nails the feelings...



pdxmum
by Ruby Member on Apr. 22, 2013 at 3:47 PM


Yeah, the more I read the article, the less I liked it.  Like newstepmom said, many of her points hit home for truly childless SMs, but the author got too broad with her statements.  It has some relevance to me as a SM with children, but her spin is off.

And then she started making realities (the relationship with a bio is different than a step) into negatives.  Sort of along the same lines of teaching children is a tragedy as opposed to just another part of life.  That is when she lost me.

Quoting whatIknownow:

I think my stepkids have true affection for me, and my kids have true affection for my DH, their stepfather.

But of course there is some degree of outsideness. 

I dont think "being an outsider" means you can't be close to the kids and  have a good relationship with them. it just means, their relationship with their biological parents will be different. Unconditional. It's ok for a stepparent and stepchild to have a cordial, warm, caring relationship that is simply not as strong or unconditional as a bioparent/biochild relationship would be. Why is this an issue?

One point in particular:


3. Don't take it personally. A stepkid's rejection, indifference or non-involvement with you isn't about you. This would most likely be happening to any partner their father chooses and is more a projection of the grief and lack of control they may feel about their parent's divorce and subsequent repartnering. Remember the power of the loyalty binds that children naturally have and their understandable desire to be close to their biological parents.


Why does it have to be seen as "rejection," when a stepchild does not feel the same way about Dad's wife as he feels about Dad? Why is the focus on rejection (the stepchild's feelings not being as strong for the SM as they are for dad or mom), rather than on being glad the stepchild likes you at all? If he just *likes* you, take it and run, and be glad about that, instead of bemoaning a relationship that isn't.



newstepmom61811
by on Apr. 22, 2013 at 4:00 PM
1 mom liked this

 She makes the point that even SMs with children feel like outsiders when they are with their partners and their kids...NOTICE when the kids are around...even SMs with their own can feel the pressures...the kids being their remind you of bonds that DH has that you are not a part of...see SMs with their own have a buffer to even it out...they have bonds of their own with their own DH is not a part of...he may thus better understand SM and it evens up the power structure in the house...When you are alone and you sit back and watch your DH bonding with not "your" kids but "his" kids, it can be tough and when you're a CSM carrying A LOT of work and maybe doing little bonding of your own it can feel very suffocating in a way...always there, always a reminder of hard you work and how you're still on the periphery...it takes ACTIVELY remembering that they are kids, with parents, biology, wired to love their parents, also wired to love and appreciate caretakers, so you adjust to survive, you don't take "leftover love" but you take a different kind of non-biological love, the consistent ever present caretakers love and just know, you're the adult, the things that feel like slights aren't, they're kids, they do love you, do the best they can, you choose to continually actively love them. I firmly believe love is an action, not a feeling. So I wake up every morning, loving my SKs because I choose to, they grow on me every day, we build a history together every day that bonds us together, they are innocent kids and didn't deserve to have mom flake on them...And I actively work too to take care of myself, SMing is only a part of who I am...keeping that balance is key.


Quoting pdxmum:

 

Thank you.  Your response clarified for me why I was reacting the way I was.  The title and most of the article are geared towards "childless SMs" but then tosses in SMs in general.

So when the author started including SMs in general, I reacted and lost site of the main point of the article.  And the main point of the article has to do with being a childless SM, something I do not have experience with.

When she tossed out this statement:

"Even stepmothers with children feel like outsiders when they are with their partners and their children"

I lost the points she was trying to make and started arguing with myself since I did not feel like an outsider when I am with DH and SSs.

She should have stuck to her original premise instead of trying to include all SMs.

I can debate her points till the cows come home from my own perspective...

Quoting newstepmom61811:

I think for the truly CHILDLESS SM. The one who will never have kids with DH, this hits the nail on the head. Totally different dynamic when it's only SM on the "outside". I think when you have a CSM in a his/hers/and possibly ours case the power structure is different. There are 4 of a very tight biological family in my house and then...me...granted, they are VERY good and loving to me, affectionate of me...but there are bonds among the 4 I will forever NOT be a part of, including with my husband. We will never bond over a child of our own, I will never bond with kids over being a mother to them or even as much as providing them a sibling...I think for the truly childless it is a place only another childless SM can understand. I don't think you get it either if you go in knowing in some eventuality you and DH will have children, it just changes your frame of reference. I went in knowing the ONLY fitting in I will ever do is the marital tie...and that doesn't bond  you to kids of a family not your own very well...I think this nails the feelings...

 

 


 

Mommyof5247
by on Apr. 22, 2013 at 4:57 PM
1 mom liked this
You're absolutely right. I could never know how that would feel & maybe shouldn't have commented on an article about SMs without biokids.

But, on the other hand, I see you as a SM without kids as having a special position of your own. Especially with your DH. And that's kind of how I interpretted what WIKN touched on....why focus on the relationship that isn't there? Focus on the greatness of the relationship that is. Either way I now feel like I'm being insensitive either way :P


Quoting newstepmom61811:

 But neither of you understand this from the truly permanently childless perspective...it is a very unique and permanent outsidedness...You always will have a connnections and bonding and "fitting in" with your own children, no outsidedness there...As a childless woman, my future forever is to be slightly on the outside of my family. They love me, are kind, but I am always the addition, hopefully permanent to DH, but not guaranteed so, and could always be subtracted to be alone by myself, DH would not feel that pain, he is on the inside, the kids are always his...his family never goes away. I watch my P's and Q's in the house more than I would if I had an army of my own bios to love and support me...if strife happens, I am on the outside, kids and DH are a united front, there is unconditional love, loyalty, devotion there that even at times trumps reason. No support of my own bios. I am on my own. It is different when you have no biology of your own in the house, even in the best of circumstances. I am the last hired...first that could be fired if you will...




Quoting Mommyof5247:

I agree with this.
I'm CSM, have my own children & my stepkids & I are close but I also understand that they love their mom very much & may feel differently about me at different times as they grow up.

My "outsider" feelings came from being used to being in control with my own children at all times (little input from BD or XH). I had to step back & did not have the final say...some things were just not my issue to deal with, I had to be more of a support person than "a mom".
Once I wrapped my head around that, things became less stressful depending on the situation.



Quoting whatIknownow:


I think my stepkids have true affection for me, and my kids have true affection for my DH, their stepfather.


But of course there is some degree of outsideness. 


I dont think "being an outsider" means you can't be close to the kids and  have a good relationship with them. it just means, their relationship with their biological parents will be different. Unconditional. It's ok for a stepparent and stepchild to have a cordial, warm, caring relationship that is simply not as strong or unconditional as a bioparent/biochild relationship would be. Why is this an issue?


One point in particular:


 


3. Don't take it personally. A stepkid's rejection, indifference or non-involvement with you isn't about you. This would most likely be happening to any partner their father chooses and is more a projection of the grief and lack of control they may feel about their parent's divorce and subsequent repartnering. Remember the power of the loyalty binds that children naturally have and their understandable desire to be close to their biological parents.


 


Why does it have to be seen as "rejection," when a stepchild does not feel the same way about Dad's wife as he feels about Dad? Why is the focus on rejection (the stepchild's feelings not being as strong for the SM as they are for dad or mom), rather than on being glad the stepchild likes you at all? If he just *likes* you, take it and run, and be glad about that, instead of bemoaning a relationship that isn't.




 

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