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CoMamas/Stepwives

Posted by on Oct. 15, 2014 at 11:53 AM
  • 42 Replies

 I was skimming over a website and found a tab for "resources". I came across this website:

http://www.comamas.com/

Then came across this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Stepwives-Steps-Ex-Wives-Step-Mothers-Struggle/dp/0743222466

Here is a piece I found that was written regarding the authors and the book. The book was written in 2002 so any factual information may be outdated at this point.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/jun/23/society

 

What say you? How do you feel about the term "CoMama" or "stepwives"?

 

Step this way

One was the wicked stepmother, the other a bitter ex-wife. They reveal how they buried their differences and wrote a book, Stepwives, a guide to peaceful co-parenting

Two out of five weddings, according to recent statistics, are remarriages for one or both parties. Which means when you're taking your shiny new partner 'for better or worse' you'll also be taking on someone else - the ex. If there are no children involved, some heavy-duty denial may do the trick. But if there are, you're entering the realms of stereotypes and fairytales: the martyrish first wife vs the wicked stepmother.

In the US a new movement has come up with a name for this relationship: stepwives. Lynne Oxhorn-Ringwood and Louise Oxhorn, who coined the phrase, are two such women. After years of acrimony they buried the hatchet for the sake of the children. And then they wrote a book about it.

Here's how they describe themselves: 'We are stepwives: the ex-wife and current wife of the same man, mother and stepmother to the same child, destined to drag each other through the happiest and saddest occasions life presents... We were two women who loathed each other, locked in an intense battle for power and position for over a decade... There seemed to be no way out.'

The stories in Stepwives will be familiar to anyone who has ever been involved in a rancorous step-family situation. From the outside they seem petty. But it's easy to imagine how they could be blown up into battles on the scale of major world conflicts - warranting hours of badmouthing by both parties. What about the time when the child, Evan, was staying at his father's and the mother called to tell the stepmother not to let him go out in the rain without a jacket. How insulting! said the step-mum. Do you honestly think that I am so stupid I wouldn't do that? Or the time when, having taken her stepson to a football match, the stepmother was invited to be 'team mum' and accepted. How could she do that? argued the mother. Was she trying to take over completely?

The day that Louise (the step) announced to Lynne (the ex) that she and Greg (the husband) were getting married was the worst day of Lynne's life - confirming not only that her husband and the family set-up she had always dreamed of had been lost for good, but that the hateful Louise was now in her life to stay. Similarly, Louise's wedding to Greg was, in her eyes, pretty much ruined by the fact that her cute little stepson, clearly anxious at the notion of betraying his mother, refused to take to the dance floor with her.

As anyone with experience of this situation will realise, it's the little things that mean so much. So, how did they learn to get along?

The key, you may not be surprised to hear, is empathy. The crunch point came when Louise arrived one day to pick up her new puppy, which Lynne had been babysitting for a week. Lynne looked down at her rival's shoes. They were exactly the same as hers. She was furious: not only was Louise married to her husband, gaining affection from her child, hanging around with all their old friends - a group that included members of Lynne's own family. Now she was even copying her sandals - literally stepping into her shoes. She snapped - and the proverbial shit hit the fan, with both women standing on the doorstep screaming at each other.

With time to reflect, however, Louise realised that if she felt nervous about leaving her dog with Lynne, a virtual stranger but for the shared baggage, how must Lynne feel about leaving her child with Louise every weekend? She discovered new depths of empathy within her, called to apologise, and the 'CoMamas' movement was born.

In a three-way conference call from LA, Lynne, 51, and Louise, 44, explain the tenets of the CoMama Association to me. Louise's voice is higher, almost girlish, with typically Californian inflexions. Lynne's voice is deeper, and she seems more wry and direct.

Lynne begins: 'The classic pitfall from the ex-wife's point of view is "ex-wife envy". They feel replaced, like a woman that they don't know and didn't choose has come in and taken over their lives, and they feel terrified that their children are going to love their stepmother more than they love them.'

On cue, Louise says: 'The other side of that equation is what we call "second-wife syndrome". You're in love with your husband and excited to have a new family, and you feel compared to his first wife. You don't like the fact that the wife is still around, and you feel jealous. It's such a territorial situation. For the ex-wife the territory is her children. For the stepmother the territory is her man.'

What Louise and Lynne suggest is that, given you're in each other's lives to stay, you find a way of communicating for the good of the children - and the book is full of practical suggestions for accomplishing this, even in the most antagonistic situations. 'The truly amazing thing about becoming comamas is that everyone tells us the kids feel better right away. And so many times you find that when stepwives start treating each other with respect they start to like each other.'

Let's face it, they've got something in common - even if it's only the same taste in men.

Men, incidentally, get off pretty lightly in this book. Louise and Lynne point out that an alliance between his ex and his current partner may be a man's worst nightmare. His attitude can make or break the relationship, either by fanning the flames of jealousy or by helping shape a civilised relationship. Either way, say Lynne and Louise, 'Sometimes it's hard for women to remember that men also have feelings and that it's often difficult for them to express themselves.' Aaaah. It's time to dig into those reserves of empathy again.

So far, so idyllic. But is the idea that relationships can be turned around just a self-help fantasy? Chartered psychologist Kathleen Cox says it depends on the circumstances: 'The classic behaviour patterns between ex-wives and new partners depend on how the [new] relationship started. If the second wife ousts the first wife then that's generally not going to be good.'

Her comment certainly rings true when I talk to Lucy White, 34, full-time mother to five children aged between two and 16. Her husband started an affair three weeks after the birth of her last child, and left the family home to live with his new partner three months later. They now have a child of their own. And there is little disguising the way Lucy feels about her 'stepwife': 'I'd never do anything to try to improve relations with her - over my dead body.

'In an ideal world it would be nice to think like that, but, unfortunately, when you've been hurt in that way, you don't forget. If there hadn't been a third party in the beginning I would probably say you have to let go and accept that there is someone new. If he left her and met someone else I wouldn't have a problem with that.'

Lucy admits that the children themselves have nothing against the woman - 'They just say she's a nice lady.' Yet she cannot believe that anything the stepmother does is sincere. 'She has tried to involve herself through her own insecurity. I think she's being very manipulative. She's trying to present herself as this wonderful girlfriend, putting her arms around the children so my husband thinks, "Isn't my girlfriend great?" But I think she doesn't want to leave them on their own together. I think she's jealous of their relationship.'

This theory may not be so very far-fetched, says Sarah Fahy, manager of Herts and Essex Family Mediation Service and a mediator and counsellor. 'The step-parent isn't necessarily trying to please the child, but trying to please their new partner. There's an expectation in a lot of dads that his children will like the new partner because he likes her.' However, Fahy also says: 'Eventually a mother who is angry about her children's contact with her ex's new partner will concede that there's nothing she can do about it. She has got to get used to the idea, and the quicker she does the easier it will be for the children. The painful thing for children is the divided loyalty, and feeling that they have to decide who they love best.'

So where do stories like this leave the CoMama movement? Are Louise and Lynne simply a blip? Not necessarily, says Kathleen Cox. 'Good relationships can happen between - how can I put this? - mature people. Then it's often quite businesslike.'

That's the way Peppe Duncan decided to play it when she met her partner's ex, Maria, and the mother of his child, Anthony. Peppe, 33, a childminder, says the evolution of their relationship happened naturally. 'The first time I saw her I was introduced and I thought, what a pretty woman. But I didn't feel threatened by her. She made me feel I had no need to be threatened - she wasn't flirtatious, she was just direct, firm and straight. Nothing else.'

The two women inadvertently adhered to a number of the guidelines issued in Stepwives: they put the children first, they treated each other with respect, they set limits and boundaries, they had realistic expectations, they communicated with each other and they organised consistently.

Peppe explains: 'We would have Anthony for the weekends and she'd come round and pick him up and have a polite conversation - "Was he good?", "Is his bag packed?", that kind of thing. And she always said, "Thank you for looking after my son."

'If we met on the street we just said hello and goodbye, and nothing else. We never talked about my partner. Her interest was "my son". I don't think she was jealous, because I never took over his mother's place. She was always the first. I was just there to look after him at weekends. Anthony is very passionate about his mum.'

Now that Anthony is 23, the two women have fewer causes to meet. But they remain civil, although, as Peppe says, 'I don't phone her every week to say hello, because then it could get sticky.'

This is something Louise and Lynne agree on. The Stepwives programme is not intended to forge a poignant friendship. The goal is simply to enable yourselves to co-parent decently, for which some form of relationship is necessary - even if it's just polite communication by text message. From the child's point of view, this has to be better than the alternative.

'You wouldn't believe how many children have two dinners on a Sunday,' Kathleen Cox says. 'The step-mum says, "I'm the nurturing mother. You must eat at my house." The ex-wife says, "Poor thing, haven't they fed you?" So they have another dinner. And the child just shuts up and gets on with it.'

The CoMamas Association website is: http://www.comamas.com/

Stepwives: 10 Steps to Help Ex-Wives and Stepmothers End the Struggle and Put the Kids First is published by Fireside Books ($13, available through Amazon.co.uk.)

 

halloween jason maskhalloween witch with copy

by on Oct. 15, 2014 at 11:53 AM
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Replies (1-10):
momof2ex1
by Ruby Member on Oct. 15, 2014 at 12:06 PM
My opinion is that while I found myself nodding in agreement to some items, I found myself also shaking my head in disagreement just as equally.

And the stepwife term is ridiculous. I think it is demeaning to each of the women and I would not want to be associated with the term. I am not my ex's wife's stepwife.

The idea is nice. It's just not always possible. But it gives some good insight in to the thoughts and emotions of two 'normal' women and the roles they play.

Many of us here are not in a normal situation or one that aligns with this article and book. I think that is why we are here.

I also think that the mom/ex-wife emphasizes too much on insecurity and control. Which are normal feelings. But it's not the end all be all of why conflict begins. That may have been true for HER but doesn't necessarily mean it's true for all women.

The stepmom/wife emphasizes too much on trying to be perfect. While I can't speak for that role whether that is true or not, I don't get the impression from those that regularly post here that perfection is what instigates conflict.

I do agree that while mom/ex wife is struggling with control over her children and detachment from being 'the mom', the stepmom/wife is struggling with the territorial boundaries over the man. I read that a lot.

I cannot imagine in what world SM and I will ever be friends. There is too much conflict there even when conflict is low or non existent, SM and I do well when we are seperate and living our own lives, staying out of each other's way. I personally have enjoyed the peace and freedom that parallel parenting has brought to our situation and I wouldn't want to try to correct that now. We only have 5 more years. Sure, we may both be called grandma one day but I don't think that relationship with grandkids is dependent on our relationship with each other. We can co-exist peacefully, seperately from each other.
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whatIknownow
by on Oct. 15, 2014 at 12:11 PM

This happened in my sitch.  The kids were supposed to have dinner here on Sundays. They were to have dinner with Mom on friday, and return here on sunday to have dinner here (she had EOWE). But she was dissatisfied with that plan and wanted to have dinner with them on Sunday before bringing them home, and so she would take them out for "lunch" at 4 pm, thereby sneaking her "dinner" in on sunday.

It was so dumb.

The kids would sit at the dinner table and obviously they weren't hungry at all. So, we just didn't make a big deal out of it. They could eat, or they could just nibble or just sit there socializing with us. It was still an enjoyable family time around the table while the rest of us ate. We knew they had already had dinner (well, lunch at 4 pm) so, we just considered it dinner-table-time rather than "dinner" per se.

But yeah... these battles.... sometimes I look back at all the silly battles -- some won, some lost ---  and think, what on earth were we fighting these battles for.....

Quoting momof2ex1:

 

'You wouldn't believe how many children have two dinners on a Sunday,' Kathleen Cox says. 'The step-mum says, "I'm the nurturing mother. You must eat at my house." The ex-wife says, "Poor thing, haven't they fed you?" So they have another dinner. And the child just shuts up and gets on with it.'


momof2ex1
by Ruby Member on Oct. 15, 2014 at 12:14 PM
In addition: I am respectful all day long to many women that I work with. Not a lot of them I even like or actually respect as co-workers. But I remain professional and respectful always. I do not believe that I would ever like SM if I just happen to meet her on the street. We are not similar in any form - except taste in men. Something I never even considered until I read that article.
From a completely biased point of view, the woman cannot keep a friend to save her life. She is estranged from every member of her family. She has extremely high conflict with her ex and his fiancé. She is estranged from most members of my ex's family. She isn't an easy person to get along with. This gives me relief when I compare the two of us. WE have conflict and we have both perpetuated that over the years. But I at least have excellent familial bonds. I have lots of close friends. I am civil and friendly to my ex in laws and other extended family. This makes me recognize that it's not just me she can't get along with. She can't get along with anyone.
Which is why I believe our situation is completely different. It would not matter if my ex had been married to a saint - she will have conflict with anyone no matter who it is.
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ManicAttack
by on Oct. 15, 2014 at 12:18 PM

If the kids were only with BM EOWE, why would it be a problem for them to have dinner with her on Sunday?  Why would the kids even have to sit at the dinner table?  Couldn't your DH have time with them after you guys finished dinner?  

That is a dumb battle.

Quoting whatIknownow:

This happened in my sitch.  The kids were supposed to have dinner here on Sundays. They were to have dinner with Mom on friday, and return here on sunday to have dinner here (she had EOWE). But she was dissatisfied with that plan and wanted to have dinner with them on Sunday before bringing them home, and so she would take them out for "lunch" at 4 pm, thereby sneaking her "dinner" in on sunday.

It was so dumb.

The kids would sit at the dinner table and obviously they weren't hungry at all. So, we just didn't make a big deal out of it. They could eat, or they could just nibble or just sit there socializing with us. It was still an enjoyable family time around the table while the rest of us ate. We knew they had already had dinner (well, lunch at 4 pm) so, we just considered it dinner-table-time rather than "dinner" per se.

But yeah... these battles.... sometimes I look back at all the silly battles -- some won, some lost ---  and think, what on earth were we fighting these battles for.....

Quoting momof2ex1:

 

'You wouldn't believe how many children have two dinners on a Sunday,' Kathleen Cox says. 'The step-mum says, "I'm the nurturing mother. You must eat at my house." The ex-wife says, "Poor thing, haven't they fed you?" So they have another dinner. And the child just shuts up and gets on with it.'



Jillian17
by on Oct. 15, 2014 at 12:23 PM
2 moms liked this

I liked the article...although there are so many different scenarios that this couldnt be a "one size fits all" approach. Would it be great to get a long with BM and SM for the sake of the children? Absolutely! But I dont think there is a need to be buddy/buddy. 

BM hates me. She believes I was the OW. She wants to pretend I dont exist. And thats her right. So when I go to events for skids, I make myself invisible to her. I dont say hello, Im not all over the skids, I stay in the background while supporting my skids at the same time. She's never complained about me overstepping or being too involved. Im right at "the line" when it comes to involvment with my skids, but I never step over it. 

With SM, I am friendly. We chit chat when we are in the same place or if I am FaceTiming my kids while they are with her. My kids are only with their Dad 24 hours a month (after not seeing him for 2 years, he decided to start taking visitation in Feb). I know him well enough to know that SM is taking care of my kids while they are there. They've confirmed this as well. So I am happy & thankful she is there. She knows her place and doesnt try to pretend she is anything other than a 24 hour a month stepmom. She's more like the cool chick that takes DD shopping!

So I've never been in the sitch there the BM/SM in my life is a loony. I think we all are happy with our roles. I dont know how I would be if either were the in your face crazy kind of BM/SM. I think it would be easier for me if BM was like that as opposed to SM. 

whatIknownow
by on Oct. 15, 2014 at 12:31 PM

It wouldn't have been. That's my point. Dh should have let her have sunday dinner since she essentially ended up having it anyway.

But, they enjoyed sitting with us at the dinner table. We didnt' "make" them. They wanted to sit with us. It was family time and they enjoyed that. The kids sitting with us wasnt' part of the battle. Even if they had dinner with mom, they would have come home and sat with us.

Quoting ManicAttack:

If the kids were only with BM EOWE, why would it be a problem for them to have dinner with her on Sunday?  Why would the kids even have to sit at the dinner table?  Couldn't your DH have time with them after you guys finished dinner?  

That is a dumb battle.

Quoting whatIknownow:

This happened in my sitch.  The kids were supposed to have dinner here on Sundays. They were to have dinner with Mom on friday, and return here on sunday to have dinner here (she had EOWE). But she was dissatisfied with that plan and wanted to have dinner with them on Sunday before bringing them home, and so she would take them out for "lunch" at 4 pm, thereby sneaking her "dinner" in on sunday.

It was so dumb.

The kids would sit at the dinner table and obviously they weren't hungry at all. So, we just didn't make a big deal out of it. They could eat, or they could just nibble or just sit there socializing with us. It was still an enjoyable family time around the table while the rest of us ate. We knew they had already had dinner (well, lunch at 4 pm) so, we just considered it dinner-table-time rather than "dinner" per se.

But yeah... these battles.... sometimes I look back at all the silly battles -- some won, some lost ---  and think, what on earth were we fighting these battles for.....

Quoting momof2ex1:

 

'You wouldn't believe how many children have two dinners on a Sunday,' Kathleen Cox says. 'The step-mum says, "I'm the nurturing mother. You must eat at my house." The ex-wife says, "Poor thing, haven't they fed you?" So they have another dinner. And the child just shuts up and gets on with it.'




whatIknownow
by on Oct. 15, 2014 at 12:36 PM

This sort of applies to my sitch too. My stepkids' mother has no friends (according to SS), and her family is dysfunctional (don't get along, this one isnt' speaking to that one, etc.).

I guess there are just some people who are like that. Very high conflict.... very easily dissatisfied, making personal relationships difficult.

Quoting momof2ex1: In addition: I am respectful all day long to many women that I work with. Not a lot of them I even like or actually respect as co-workers. But I remain professional and respectful always. I do not believe that I would ever like SM if I just happen to meet her on the street. We are not similar in any form - except taste in men. Something I never even considered until I read that article. From a completely biased point of view, the woman cannot keep a friend to save her life. She is estranged from every member of her family. She has extremely high conflict with her ex and his fiancé. She is estranged from most members of my ex's family. She isn't an easy person to get along with. This gives me relief when I compare the two of us. WE have conflict and we have both perpetuated that over the years. But I at least have excellent familial bonds. I have lots of close friends. I am civil and friendly to my ex in laws and other extended family. This makes me recognize that it's not just me she can't get along with. She can't get along with anyone. Which is why I believe our situation is completely different. It would not matter if my ex had been married to a saint - she will have conflict with anyone no matter who it is.


JustOneAndDone
by on Oct. 15, 2014 at 12:42 PM

That was so smart of you.  I wish more people would see this.  It's stupid to fight - was mom being sneaky and manipulative?  Yes..... is it worth fighting over?  Wasting time talking about it with you spouse?  Spending time and money to go to court?  No........ 

People think I'm crazy for "letting" my ex get by with the crap he pulls.  But I've learned I've got one life - it's short - and you can't change crazy - so best to just learn to deal with it and work around it.

Quoting whatIknownow:

This happened in my sitch.  The kids were supposed to have dinner here on Sundays. They were to have dinner with Mom on friday, and return here on sunday to have dinner here (she had EOWE). But she was dissatisfied with that plan and wanted to have dinner with them on Sunday before bringing them home, and so she would take them out for "lunch" at 4 pm, thereby sneaking her "dinner" in on sunday.

It was so dumb.

The kids would sit at the dinner table and obviously they weren't hungry at all. So, we just didn't make a big deal out of it. They could eat, or they could just nibble or just sit there socializing with us. It was still an enjoyable family time around the table while the rest of us ate. We knew they had already had dinner (well, lunch at 4 pm) so, we just considered it dinner-table-time rather than "dinner" per se.

But yeah... these battles.... sometimes I look back at all the silly battles -- some won, some lost ---  and think, what on earth were we fighting these battles for.....

Quoting momof2ex1:

 

'You wouldn't believe how many children have two dinners on a Sunday,' Kathleen Cox says. 'The step-mum says, "I'm the nurturing mother. You must eat at my house." The ex-wife says, "Poor thing, haven't they fed you?" So they have another dinner. And the child just shuts up and gets on with it.'



Tinkerbellmama
by Platinum Member on Oct. 15, 2014 at 12:43 PM
2 moms liked this

I don't want to be a co-mama or step-wife, I don't like either of those terms.

I am my husband's wife, and my SD's SM. 

jules2boys
by Platinum Member on Oct. 15, 2014 at 12:57 PM

I read this book (Stepwives) back in the beginning of all this mess.  It actually helped me but perhaps not in the way it was supposed to?  LOL  It gave me new perspective for how SM may/may not be thinking, it gave me some idea on what it may be like for a SM as I didn't have a clue then (and was still angry and bitter with them both at that time, so perspective from anywhere was bound to help me. ;) ).   Now, I didn't read it as a 'bible', but as an idea, a thought, a possibility... perspective.  It ultimately didn't fit our situation but there were parts that were helpful, if nothing else, then just changing MY mind, changing MY perspective (right or wrong), since I'm the only one I can control in this situation.   This was one of 3 or 4 books I read during that time.  I really wanted to give a copy of this one to SM at that time too... I even bought her a copy, but ultimately decided NOT to share it as it wasn't my place (even though it's suggested in the book that it would be a good idea), so I donated both copies, eventually, to the library.  :) 

I think, in some situations, this is a good guide, but certainly not all situations, and BOTH homes must be willing/able to work together for this to work really well.  I was not wiling to be a stepwife as that would still tie me to 'marriage' with XH, not just the mother of his children, and mother of his children is the only tie I really wanted/needed with XH.  (well, some of his children, but when I read the book they didn't have any yet) 

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