- Family and Parenting
Blended Families—Me and the Other Mother
Today's blended families
Today blended families have a completely different feel and dynamic than 30 years ago. Some dads are given custody, much more so than 30 years ago. Some parents have joint custody where the kids are divided between homes each week. That can’t be easy. But one thing remains the same: the relationship between the mother and step-mother.
I guess it is sad that it always seems to be an adversarial relationship. After all you both love the kids, you both care. The thing is one used to be the wife and now is the ex-wife, while the other is the new wife or life partner. What has to happen is for emotions and insecurities to be taken out of the equation as much as possible so that rationally the well being of the children can be taken into account. This is easier said than done.
My blended kids
Tug of War with Kids
What typically happens is that there are hurt feelings and broken relationships/broken trust involved and these things get taken out on the kids. The children become pawns used to retaliate and hurt the other parent as much as possible. Usually the kids don’t know they are being used and manipulated, and if they do know they allow it for the sake of their relationship with the parent. For many years my ex wasn’t involved in my girls lives and when he did show up it was inflict digs and cuts toward me. But the girls wanted a relationship with him badly enough that they helped him hurt me. I understand that they loved their father and I can forgive them that. That didn’t make it hurt less.
My husband’s ex was much more reasonable and understanding. She wanted to visit the kids but didn’t want to raise them, so she was more than happy to let me do that. However when they visited with her, she resented them calling me “Mom”. These sweet kids came to me one day and explained that if they called me by my name (instead of Mom) in front of their mom it was because they didn’t want to hurt her feelings. They were worried that I would be offended. Those two had a lot on the ball. Many times kids aren’t aware of what will and won’t hurt feelings or bruise egos. They tend to stumble into faux pas without malice.
Egos at Play
Isn’t this where the problems lie? With our egos. As moms, we really must put aside egos and titles, labels and names, for the sake of the kids we love and are trying to raise into adulthood. Adult children will be able to divine where there were loved and allowed to grow and where they weren’t. Children, not so much.
What Would Jesus Do?
The best thing I ever did was to consider what would I want if I was their mom. My relationship with my husband’s ex became tons better when I did for her what I would have wanted to be done if that were me. When we began homeschooling, I sent her updates on their grades and their courses. When we created a “Family Magazine” she got the first copy in the mail. I sent regular and periodical photos of events the kids were involved in. Whenever they needed or wanted they called her to have conversations. She so appreciated the effort that she became my best advocate and cheerleader when times got hard financially and emotionally. I know if that were me and those were my kids, I would want to know how they were doing and see photos of things I was missing.
Do you get along with your spouse's ex?
Act or React
I remember reading somewhere that we are not required to love everyone. We can’t really help how we feel about people, but we can help how we act and react to them. The Bible doesn’t even require us to love everyone but to act in loving ways. If I have any success story to share it would be the turn around I experienced when I stopped judging and began acting in a loving way toward my husband’s ex and the mother of my precious step-kids.