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Ex-wives and Their Children's Step-Mothers

Updated on October 6, 2014
Lisa HW profile image

"Lisa" , a "social sciences enthusiast" and Mom of three grown kids, writes from personal experience/exposure and/or past research

Why Bitterness May Not Be What It Seems

The role of stepmother has its own set of challenges, and one of the most daunting of those challenges can arise when there is conflict between ex-wives who seem bitter and new stepmothers. Understanding the possible causes of an ex-wife's apparent bitterness may help stepmothers and their husbands address the problem in a way that makes the lives of all involved more peaceful, pleasant, and productive in terms of the best interests of the children.

Dealing with the problem of a bitter ex-wife can require different approaches, depending on the degree and nature of the apparent bitterness. If the ex-wife is truly bitter and vengeful there are times when dealing with the problem can only be handled through the courts. There can be times when the ex-wife's bitterness may be the result of her misunderstanding the motives or intentions of their children's father and his wife, so sometimes trying to open better lines of communication may help.

There can be times, too, when what appears to be bitterness on the part of the ex-wife (and more importantly, the mother of the children from the first marriage) may actually be something quite different. Sometimes when a second wife (particularly one without children of her own) assumes that an ex-wife is acting out of bitterness and vengefulness the reason for the ex-wife's behavior may actually be much less malevolent than it may seem.

Many second-time-around couples want very much to be a family and include the children of the first marriage. Well-intended second wives want very much to become close to their husband's children as well. Second wives without children of their own may look forward to having stepchildren but may not understand the feelings mothers often have. Second wives with babies/toddlers from the present marriage may be torn between the love they have for their own child and the love they'd like to have for their husband's older children. The stepmother with children of her own from a previous marriage may have difficulty relating to children who are very different from her own. In the home of the married couple both partners usually and rightfully take the role of making the rules, so while stepmothers may be perfectly reasonable in expecting certain rules of the house to be followed, sometimes rules-of-the-house can conflict - in the children's eyes and sometimes in fact - with who has the right to tell children what they can and cannot do in general.

Mothers of children from first marriages are often delighted to be out of the first marriage, and many are delighted that the husband they hoped would find happiness after divorce has remarried. When women hate their first husbands they usually don't care if those husbands remarry; so regardless of the terms on which a first-marriage couple finds itself, bitterness because an ex-husband has a new wife may not be as common as the bitterness that comes if that new wife creates complications in the children's lives or in the relationship between them and their father.

Most normal, good, mothers are, by instinct, protective of their children and the bond between their children and them, as well as the children's bond with their father. It is normal and natural for mothers to expect their ex-husband's second wife to build a nice relationship with children, be a good role model, and define what the role of stepparent should be (and many mothers believe it is a very different role from that of parent). When mothers appear to be demonstrating bitterness it can be because they believe the stepmother is trying to overstep her bounds. Just as mother cats are ready to protect their kittens, mothers are usually inclined to exercise their maternal instincts if they think someone may be trying to overstep bounds, even when that's not what a stepmother intends to do.

Mothers, too, often believe that events such as school plays and parent-teacher meetings should be opportunities for mothers and fathers of the children to show children that Mom and Dad are still the ones who show up, as always. It's a matter of increasing children's sense of stability and showing them that, when it comes to their lives, parents don't need to be married to still act as Mom and Dad when the occasion calls for it.

Sometimes in their enthusiasm to take on a new role as "parent" stepmothers can forget that the role of stepmother and the role of mother are very different. In their well intentioned wish to include their husband's children, stepmothers can at times act as if they forget that one nuclear family cannot be broken up and reorganized to form a new one or additional one. Once a nuclear family is broken up it is no longer the traditional nuclear family. The only thing that can help children feel as if their nuclear family is separated but not broken completely is to show them that in at least a few ways their original nuclear family does, at times, share something like the school play or parents' night.

Mothers often believe that fathers should make sure they spend time alone with just the children, and sometimes fathers, in their wish to rebuild the family they once had with another wife, forget to spend time with just the children. Sometimes stepmothers may, in fact, have very different values when it comes to children, and it would be a rare mother who would not wish to assert her own values her own way without the interference of someone that neither she nor her children chose to have in their lives. Some mothers may actually like the idea of their children's seeing their father in a nice relationship and seeing an example of a good marriage. They may be completely comfortable with their children's having half-siblings too. What can make mothers uncomfortable, though, is having to deal with any issues the children have as a result of (sometimes) their emotional issues not being addressed quite appropriately by a father or stepmother who may not understand what the child is going through. While there are certainly fathers who have an excellent understanding of human nature and their own children, it is not at all uncommon for fathers to have less understanding of their children's emotional needs than their mothers do.

A well intentioned stepmother wrote on a parenting site that she tried to put her heavy stepchild on a strict diet during two-week stays at her home. Her belief was that the child's mother wasn't feeding the child healthy foods and encouraging exercise, so she wanted to "educate" the child during visits. There are times when, maybe, a stepmother may actually be more correct about what would be better for a child, but that isn't the point when it comes to whether or not the child's mother has a right to resent, and seem bitter over, someone who - regardless of whether they're correct or not - has no right to assert her own values or even good nutrition practices over a child who, quite naturally, believes he has one mother and one father only.

Second husbands may marry women who are not at all like the wives they divorced, so the chances of having different values and practices between an ex-wife and a second wife are pretty good. A traditional mother and a New Age stepmother are not going to have common ideas about the children, and no matter what a mother's beliefs are about children she will not want someone with very different beliefs having influence over them. Second wives sometimes began their relationship with their husband before a divorce was final (or even discussed). Ex-wives often believe (correctly or not) that the relationship caused or contributed to the demise of their relationship with their children's father. Even when that isn't the case or when ex-wives don't believe that, there is the issue that many people see anyone who is willing to allow a relationship with a married person to begin at all as 1) lacking character or strength and/or 2) as being willing to be in the position of being "the other woman". Either way, thinking of the second wife this way can make an ex-wife think she is not someone her children should be around.

Finally, unless people are extremely wealthy, living expenses can often create a strain for couples and for divorced individuals regardless of who has custody of children. Ex-husbands can have demands on their finances as a result of the divorce. Ex-wives can often struggle to meet the financial needs of providing for children as well. The fact that neither Dad nor Mom can really afford that new prom gown may not affect Mom's wish to make sure her daughter gets a new gown, like all her friends do, because mothers sometimes have a better understanding of how important some seemingly "frivolous" things can be. As a result, mothers sometimes feel the need to ask for assistance from the father of their child even if they prefer they didn't have to. A father's inability or unwillingness to help pay for something like a prom gown can make a mother feel that her child's father is more willing to deny something their daughter sees as so important, so the mother may exhibit some signs of anger or frustration that look like "bitterness".

While there is no doubt bitter ex-wives exist in this world, much of what appears to be bitterness may often not be that at all; and the way to try to deal with such apparent bitterness may be to try to understand it more. Sometimes understanding the root of a problem can provide a guide when it comes to how to deal with that problem.


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    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Love, thank you for that refreshing positive comment. It's too bad there aren't more people who will "stand up for the cause against bitterness". LOL Heck - as you may have seen above, a person can't even just say, "Not everyone is always bitter," without having a bunch of other people come back with their own bitter comments. LOL

      I'm not opposed to the occasional, well founded, and appropriate bitterness; but I do think too many people hang onto bitterness because they get something out of it, themselves - or else because they just aren't interested in trying to even imagine the other person's point of view. If we truly to "walk in someone else's shoes" we often discover they hurt.

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      Love 7 years ago

      Thought you might like a positive comment. My ex-husband and his partner come to some events together but we always attend parents' nights together. I can see that we might do that differently, however, under different living arrangements. They live 40 miles away and my children only visit once a fortnight or so. I'm sure things might be different if we all lived in the same community and they often stayed with them midweek - or certainly if they lived with him full-time. Then my husband's partner might take a greater interest in their schooling.

      That aside, I just feel very strongly that children need to learn about love. I have always wanted my children to understand the nature of unconditional love. When my marriage broke down, I was initially very angry with my ex-husband but, within a few days, I realised that it wouldn't do. If my children saw that I no longer loved him, I reasoned that they might no longer trust my unconditional love for them. I worked very hard, therefore, at loving my ex-husband in a new but equally un-conditional way, as the co-parent of our two children. This has worked well for us and my children absolutely understand that their parents still love one another as friends but that my husband loves his new partner as a partner.

      I think if you keep the focus on love at all times then there is no need for bitterness on any side. Sure people do bad things but that's what forgiveness is for. Life is too short for bitterness and a loving heart has no room for bitterness in it.

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      candice 7 years ago

      Hi Lisa,

      I agree with you it would be fair to say "not all children", i can also accept that "some children are happy their parents split up", valid points. But having worked in 7 high schools, 2 alternative education health camps for youth at risk i can honestly say in my experience professionally, the majority of kids that were abusing alcohol, drugs or having serious behaviour issues came from parents that were separated or divorced. A high percentage felt insecure about their future, to blame, unloved, abandoned, confused and suffering grief and loss, and when asked the "magic wand question - what would you wish for if you could wave a magic wand? they mainly answered "my parents to get back together again", those ages ranged between 7-15. The only time i heard feedback from youth which was very rarely, that they were happy their parents are not together, is mainly when they witnessed their father's abuse their mothers or themselves. the kids i have worked with dont usually struggle to advise "what they want" the art is trying to find a way to connect with them. Having also worked in a law firm in the past as a legal exec re family law, many "counsel for child" would say, they dont want to pick which parent to live with, they want them to stay together. Again i stress this is my limited professional experience, do not want to generalize. what i like about my country is that children have a voice in "broken home" situations, their opinions count, i also like that "the mother does not automatically get sole custody anymore" father's now have more rights and shared custody is very common now "which is viewed more as, in the best interest of the child". If parents have the maturity to convey to their children the positives of no longer being together which helps change their mindset or attitude, that would be great. i dont know if i have changed my mind about spending alone time with just parents and the child whether they are little or big events, what would that purpose be, if parents have significant others and contribute to the care and wellbeing of the child/children what is wrong with sending the message "we are the ext family"? lets face it for some situations "that is the reality",that's enough now of the professional feedback lol lastly a final note based on my personal experience for the ex's and step parents that dont get on, try harder to have an amicable relationship for the childrens sake, they never should feel they have to take sides, be disloyal or feel guilty, if we all respect each others role their should not be any insecurity, underdmining or animosity and lastly to the partners of the step parents, if you are not already, be fair to everyone involved, if you have baggage or unresolved feelings from a bad marriage break up, do your best to get them addressed, do not carry it into your new relationship, discuss expectations with ex and step parent then child/children that way everyone knows where they stand, dont be a crowd pleaser where you try to keep everyone happy, believe me "it doesnt work!" lol Lisa i have enjoyed your comments, i dont think really any comments posted are right or wrong we all have a choice, agree, disagree or agree to disagree lol

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      candice, thank you for sharing your own experience and thoughts in the discussion here. I imagine a lot of the issues you've run into are pretty similar to what a lot of other people in similar situations do.

      The thing that struck me most, in terms of my thinking I may have anything "additional" to add to your comment was mainly the last few lines of it (which I find absolutely valid concerns):

      "....i dont care what anybody says, the child or children always have a hope that their parents get back together again, little outings big outings, to me they are all the same, you have to think to yourself, if they enjoy mum and dad time all together 'what do they really think', i think they are thinking 'i wish it was like this all the time'.....".

      This is just personal opinion/pondering here at this point, but I think the valid concern you raise is worth some pondering). I'm not sure it's necessarily correct to assume that all children even want their parents back together, married. There are some (I know some) who were glad to see their parents split up. They probably wished their parents could be happily married, and only were glad they split up because they couldn't be; but they were glad because they'd seen (for longer than they would have liked to) how difficult it was for their parents to get along or be what people in love are supposed to be. Even with that, though, I can see how if the parents are getting along at a "small outing" a child could wish they could be together BUT not together the way they once were. I think that, in a case like that, addressing this may be a matter of parents helping children to understand that separated parents who get along are better than married parents who can't. With so many things in life, it is the parents (or at least the one parent) who helps define for a child what is going on around him, why, and all the aspects and facets there are to any situation. A lot of parents do leave children to define and process everything on their own and without some guidance; but the ideal thing is for parents to try to share with the child their own attempt at defining a situation, and then let the child decide whether he accepts that what his parents have tried to "establish" makes sense to him. Children tend to accept what makes sense to them. Just as so many (less reasonable, thinking, or even caring than you) commenters above have pointed out, there's a point where kids do have to accept how things are.

      I think, even if a child wished things could be the way they are on one of those outings, it's also possible to help the child realize, "This doesn't mean we'll ever get back together. It just means that means that once in awhile you get to have the two of us together, because we're both still your parents as always."

      Even when everything is wonderful with married parents, there are times when two parents together can actually irk kids. When my (now grown) kids, their father, and I are all together; I sometimes notice that (with their father's and my different personalities and yet also frequently shared thinking), even I notice that it kind of seems if our kids are having "parent thinking" and "parent personalities" coming at them from two directions. I don't mean when there are concerns or worries or even differing opinions. I mean when all is going great, and we're just being two parents and three kids all in the same place. LOL I can sense that one of our kids most likely could use a break from the two-together thing. My point is that all time with parents (even all good, quality, loving, and friendly time with parents) isn't necessarily "some big, idealistic, perfect, thing". There are realities and dynamics to that time that make it very real and very stable-feeling - but far from magical and perfect and "all happy all the time".

      Besides, kids generally understand the difference between "for this afternoon" and "forever". How many kids spend a day at grandmother's, living it up on treats and fun? They may hate to the see the day end, but most are also quite happy to return to the normal life. Many can easily understand that a fun/nice afternoon out is special but "that's it". If they don't/can't understand that there are those occasional times with both parents that aren't going to turn into something else, I'm not sure that continuing to talk to them about it, and continuing to let them see examples of that "post war peace in a different land" is not, by itself, helping them to adjust to a new and unchanging reality.

      This may be a bad example because I'm an adult; but a few weeks ago I had a party that involved having distant relatives come after not seeing them since a nephew was a baby. He's in college now, and when I saw him I felt like I was transported back 20 years in time because he looks (truly) like a "clone" of his father. Seeing this living, breathing, non-photograph, person right there made me feel lonely because he was the only one there (or in my life) who looked so much like "my real past". Everything and everyone else has changed or disappeared. Of course, the fact is this young man is not his father 20 years ago. He's a whole different person. Still, for me, it was a kind of lonely and longing feeling I had because I've never had anything like that happen in my life before. (Heck, I haven't ever had quite this much "past" until fairly recently either.) Anyway, after the first moments (and they last quite awhile) of feeling that weird longing and strange sense of being returned to the past, I told myself to knock it off and reminded myself that he's not his father (who remains alive but older somewhere in Thailand from what I hear).

      What I do know (and again, I know I'm an adult) is that if this nephew had been in my life all these years; that moment of strange longing and melancholy wouldn't have happened. I would have watched him grow gradually, rather than being hit in the face with a grown-up person who seemed to come out of nowhere but my past.

      Children are different from grown-ups in a lot of ways, of course; but they're also the same in a lot of ways. Individuals (adults or children) are also different, and so are situations and the people who share situations with us. I don't think there's necessarily one right or wrong on this particular concern. Still, my own opinion is that people often underestimate children, and too often make choices and form opinions based on what they think children will/do think, rather than either asking children about what they ARE thinking or how they think they may feel or think under some circumstances. Also, I think too many people don't realize the potential impact they (the parent) have to help form some of the ways a child sees one thing or another.

      If children aren't asked about what they think (and made to feel comfortable enough to be honest about it), nobody really knows. Nobody can address it. Nobody knows what they'll imagine or believe, and if a parent wants a child to have a solid understanding and grasp of things, that parent does need to first ask and then offer his own input and guidance. Children do believe trusted adults that they know have always been honest with them.

      Again, I'll use an example (at least first) of my own grown-up thinking; and that is that as a parent of grown kids, I have this thing that I'm perfectly able and comfortable in "letting them go" and not living under the same roof with them; as long as I hear their voice once in awhile and know they're OK. When too much times go on without hearing from them, I get this kind of anxious, unsettled, feeling that has to do with some kind of "invisible, psychic-pull, thing" a parent will always have toward her children.

      Maybe one of the only times I sense that kind of "mildly unsettled" thing was when I was three or four and would wait for my father to come home from work each day. I was absolutely happy to be with my mother, but soon after lunch I'd start asking, "When's Daddy coming home?" Sometimes I'd go take a nap to "make him come home faster". I loved being with her or him alone, but there was that "invisible

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      candice 7 years ago

      I have found this page to be very interesting, i have been with my partner for four years, he is divorced and has a 15 year old daughter, his ex has sole custody but in reality we have a shared custody arrangement. I have to be brutally honest, the first year of living with him was "hell" both he and his ex wife clearly had no boundaries for their daughter, she had no manners, respect, and dominated and manipulated her parents and other family members to get whatever she wanted. This was to be expected, it is textbook behaviour especially in this type of situation, afterall she was a child who was incredibly spoilt mainly because she was their only child and i believe the guilt they both had at having a failed marriage. This was not her fault at all. I allowed this behaviour to continue for about 6 months when i first moved in, then i gave my partner an ultimatum, implement some boundaries or we are "over". Because i come from a social work,counselling backgound i was able to suggest some strategies such as house rules, behaviour chart as well as boundaries for his ex wife such as a custody agreement so she could not use emotional blackmail etc my partner was totally accommadating to his ex wife and child on a rediculous scale. My reality is i never come first, and i knew that before moving in, i just didnt know how much. What amazed me was i pick his daughter up from school and drop her off when she visits, i mainly run our house and do the female checks such as have you had a shower? have you done your homework? have you done your chores? i have to say it "mummie things" because she spends just as much time here as she does her house and my partner works long hours. I can honestly say, i love his daughter now, we have had tough times, but she is a better kid for it, she has said many times she is glad she has rules at our house because she knows she is more resiliant, independant and gets rewarded for positive behaviour not negative. I was sad when she once said to me "i want to say i love you, but i feel i would be disloyal to my mum". My partner's ex and i are always polite but i know she will never let down her guard, i like to think i am always friendly, she is quite a bit older than me as is my partner but sometimes i think im more mature than them both lol initially i have been excluded from invites that have been extended to my partner from his ex inlaws, one year he and his ex took their daughter for a birthday dinner then the final straw for me was when i declined going to a concert my partner got his daughter, myself and his mother tickets to, then his ex mother in law asked if she could go, then his daughter asked if her mother could go lol her mother told her if she was invited to go she would bunk in with her mother, ex mother inlaw and their daughter lol my partner of course declined his ex from going but i think he knew he would have hell to pay if he allowed that to happen. His attitude use to be "why cant you just fit in? why do you have to be difficult by changing things? why do we have to have boundaries because you want them lol his firm belief use to be "any decisions regarding my daughter is between myself and her mother". I kindly reminded him, that it is my income that also contributes to his child support care and welfare, it is I that mainly looks after her when she is here, and had there have been no boundaries i wonder if his daughter would be the lovely, respectful and independant young lady she is now. My partner and i have had real trials because of this step parent situation, we are winning in terms of peace and harmony all around but i have to say at the cost of our once passionate relationship. I hope we can now work on that now. i never undermine my partner's ex to his daughter, to her but i do say "what happens at your house is your mother's decision, but what happens here is your father's and mine". Because my partner's daughter knows the boundaries she is more secure, hence we have a good relationship, i dont try to be her mother, she already has one, but i try to be a good influence and role model whilst she is with us as well as an orderly home. I would be lying if i said being a step mother is easy, i dont care what anybody says, the child or children always have a hope that their parents get back together again, little outings big outings, to me they are all the same, you have to think to yourself, if they enjoy mum and dad time all together "what do they really think", i think they are thinking "i wish it was like this all the time". I think the secret is boundaries for all parties, children, step parents and ex's. Once that is clearly defined everyone knows where they stand. not claiming to be an expert just sharing some of my experiences.

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      Brenda 7 years ago

      I am a 49 year old divorcee that has spent the last 15 years dating divorced men with children and I have seen a lot of disturbing behavior. Not only from ex-wives but from ex husbands. I don't think it's simply a matter of bitterness, it's self righteousness and downright selfishness. It takes a great deal of emotional maturity and selflessnesss to do what is really best for the children. Married parents have difficulty with their martial and parental relationships and responsibilities and they are loving, committed partners (hopefully)! That is not to say that healthy, positive relationships are not possible in seperated families but I am convinced that many people are just not capable and/or are not willing to take the huge amount of self inquiry, honesty and emotional effort required.

      Entitlement is a big issue - everyone has their own ideas of what they are entitled to - what their absolute rights are as a mother/father or step parent and their own idea of what is right for the children. I have yet to meet a mother who doesn't believe she knows better than her husband (or anyone else) what is right for her child. How is it that delivering a child automatically provides someone with all the knowledge they need to raise a child. It doesn't, but don't tell a mother that. Some mothers may be open to discuss a particular situation/scenario but I haven't seen much of that. One of my ex boyfriends ,ex wives was very open to discussion but she was the only exception. It is very difficult to reach agreement when parents have opposing ideas on how to raise a child. A mother who thinks a child should never be encouraged to do something a little scary,(ride a bike, climb the jungle gym) and the father that thinks the child should always be encourage to try new things; the mother that believes it is far more important for the girl to be with her mother than with her father. It is disgusting to see how many times the "what is best for the child" excuse is used for selfish reasons. How is it best for the child to spend Christmas with her practicing Jewish mother rather than her catholic father? And then there is the desire to be the "favored parent". Where would a three year old get the idea that her father doesn't give her mommy enough money? Why would a child feel like her father's girlfriend is the reason he can't travel on a Tuesday to be at his daughter's birthday party? It goes on and on. Father's are certainly not perfect but the underlying and socially widely accepted belief that mother's are more important to young children gives the mother an unreasonaable advantage and sense of control. And they often wield that control to undermine the father's relationship and remain the most important parent. Call it maternal instinct but that doesn't make it right. humans have many instincts that they must keep in-check and this is one of them. Often mothers who can't handle the step mom's "intrusion" are insecure and selfish. I am engaged to a man with a 6 year old daughter that lives a 2 hr plane ride away. I could write for pages about how the mom has made it difficult for dad to have a good relationship. And he is not the one who moved; he didn't meet me until he was seperated for 2 years and I have no desire to take over in the role of mom and have told her mom as much. When she was little she called me mom all the time - it was cute but I gently corrected her. It was also very cute to hear her tell folks this is my dad's girlfriend and lately my "almost step mom". She tells me "I love you" all the time "but not as much as my mom." I usually just ignore that or say "that's ok" but how wierd is that? Poor thing demonstrates in many ways how she has to show loyalty to her mom. I want to be a positive role model for her and have a loving relationship but boy does her mom make it difficult. Is she bitter? Maybe, she has had men her in life that she introduces to her daughter -she also tells her daughter they are part of her family but that I am not. It goes on and on. It is exhausting and sometimes it is difficult not to say negative things about her and to continue to love a child that sometimes parrots her mother. I do my best to seperate the mother from the child and love the child for who she is but the future is scary sometimes. I am not sure I have the energy and enough unconditional love to deal with her mother doing "what is best" for the child.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Why Bother, thanks for contributing to the discussion here. Actually my ex-husband and I are on the same page when it comes to whether or not we would want to bring in step-parents into our children's lives; so the fact that we haven't is really a chicken/egg kind of thing. Yes, I happen to think it complicated children's lives when step-parents are brought in; and if any of the parents/step-parents involved aren't as tuned into how children can feel it can create yet more complications and difficulties.

      People have to hope that both parents and any step-parents involved are going to be sensitive to children's needs; and much of the time, all of none of those adults is. That includes mothers and fathers who aren't able to put their own children's needs first. In fact, much of the time it is the parent of the children - not the step-parent - who makes things harder by trying to re-capture (or capture) with a second spouse what they couldn't have, in terms of family, with the first one.

      People can pull off the step-parenting thing, of course; but the adults involved need to be exceptionally mature, well adjusted, and tuned into children's development and emotional needs. Since I wrote this Hub I've planned to one day write a Hub that points out all unfair and unreasonable things that are often expected of step-parents; so I'm not biased in favor of ex-wives. I'm biased in favor of not introducing more complications into children's lives; and I'm biased in favor of parents being grown-ups and trying to understand the other parent's/step-parent's point of view before jumping to conclusions about something like ex-wives being bitter (when, if they ARE bitter, it is often over the way children's fathers, wives, and girlfriends are complicating their children's life).

      I think a healthy "step situation" can be great for children. I have nothing against it in general. It's just that, as with so many things related to children; there are too many people who don't know what they're doing or don't care when it comes to children's childhoods, lives, and relationship with parents. So, my bias is against people who disregard what is best for their children (and sometimes that isn't staying married and it isn't staying single-and-divorced). It is always, however, understanding what children need from their parents and paying more than a shred of attention to what they do need. Long before I had any divorce within view in my own life, I talked with many, many, grown children of divorce who expressed what they found "rotten" about having a step-parent. For a college course, I researched the whole matter of divorce. I have plenty of opinions about what some mothers/ex-wives do, but that's not what this particular Hub, with this particular title, was about. I also have plenty of opinions about what some children of divorce think and do. Again, this Hub isn't about any of that. I'm sure that if/when I write about any of these things there will be people who are convinced that I'm biased in those too. If they know I'm divorced they'll be convinced it's because of that. If they don't know, they'll be convinced it's because I "don't really know what it's like".

      The funny thing about online writing (and a lot of other things in life) is that people will deem themselves armchair psychologists and imagine what someone else is thinking, based on some shred of information they "figure out" and then build a whole "psychiatric profile" on.

      No matter how you spin it, unless it's a case of an adoption (and I"m a an adoptive mother of one of my three kids), if a divorced father and step-mother call the children's mother their "biological mother" (and here's some armchair psychology that most children's mother will agree with) there's some subtle way they are hoping to, aiming to, or even subconciously/accidentally "trying" to undermine the role of the children's mother. Let's not try to fool people here. Everyone knows what's going on if a step-parent or divorced parent refers to the other parent as "biological". I can see using that if a child's parent has completely disappeared "from the scene" and the step-parent is a good, loving, parent to the child. If that parent is still kicking around somewhere, though, it is absolutely inappropriate and hostile to just do what everybody else does when referring to children's parents - call them "his mother" or "his father". Throwing in that "biological" when the parent is still in the child's life and when there's a step-parent is a sign that someone aims to diminish the role of the child's parent.

      I actually enjoy leaving some of the comments on here that have been left. They point out to readers some of the attitudes and beliefs that are "out there" when it comes to this issue. It's my way of not being biased.

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      Why Bother 7 years ago

      I just stumbled upon this while looking up information on stepparenting and couldn't help at least skimming through most of these responses. It really isn't until a long way in that you actually explain your situation. So, most of the "incorrect" guesses by others on here were right about you being an ex-wife yourself. Even though your kids were never in a stepparenting situation, you said you've imagined it when they were younger. So, as objectively as you try to look at this topic, being the ex-wife in this situation prevents you from realistically doing so. Being an ex-wife naturally puts you on the "side" of the ex-wife (in the most general of ways, you understand). Not that there's anything wrong with that, and you obviously have a right to your opinion. But it would have been nice to see that mentioned in your original posting (and not have you seem defensive about it when others mentioned your slant).

      Also, no one wants to be seen in a negative light, but if someone is acting bitter enough for others to perceive it as being bitter, then there has to be something to it. People don't usually randomly assign these things to others. (For example, if someone seems happy they are not usually described as being sad.)

      Oh, and the term biological mother is not an insult or a "downgrading," as you put it, but fact. No, it's not used in most cases, and it may be seen as cold, or clinical, but it shouldn't be seen as an insult. If you gave birth to your own child you are, in fact, that child's biological mother. :)

      No tomatoes, just observations :)

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      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      tara, thanks for commenting. Everyone to his own opinion. Sometimes "bias" is in the eye of the beholder, if the beholder expects everyone else to paint all pictures the color he thinks they ought to be painted. But, if "bias", like "beauty", is in the eye of the beholder, who's to argue...

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      tara 7 years ago

      Alarmingly biased. Bitter ex-wife? Really? Come on, way to paint everything with one brush.

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      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Anthea G, thank you again. :)

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      Anthea G 7 years ago

      Yet again Lisa your talk of doing what is best for the children inspires me. So often it's all about what's 'fair' for step parents. Get Over Yourselves! Quite a lot of the people answering here are all about their own best interests, not their step children's. Thanks again for your insightful and rational opinion.

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      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Annie, thank you for sharing this "angle" to the discussion. I have no doubt that it's true there's a big difference between a divorce that "just happens" and one that results from an affair, or even one that happens when one person suddenly leaves and finds a new "friend" sooner than the ex-wife and/or kids think seems appropriate. Maybe it comes from most people's feeling that if there are problems in a marriage both spouses should acknowledge it, try to think if there's a way things can be worked out, and then, if necessary, make a "clean break" with a "cleaner" divorce.

      I'd guess that for someone in your situation it may not even really (or at least solely) be the affair, itself; but the rest of the stuff that surrounded it. Essentially, you weren't just betrayed - you were mistreated and treated abusively on top of it.

      I have a situation in my life (from something that happened a long time ago but continued to affect my life and my kids' life today) that I remain extremely bitter about. It has nothing to do with any ex-husband or husband. It has everything to do with being mistreated and having people lie and refuse to acknowledge the truth, though. I've asked myself why I can't move on, and - right or wrong - what I know I need is to have the guilty party/parties acknowledge the truth (or at least have someone else un-Earth the truth, tell the guilty party/parties what that truth is, and let me know they made anyone involved face their own wrong-doing and know that others have seen what it is). (Well, that and the chance to cut a few people's eyes out with a blunt steak knife would make me feel better, but I'm not about to go to prison over these worms. LOL )

      I've asked myself why it's so important to me to have "whoever" acknowledge the truth, and I think it has to do with being angry that someone else would be so sleazy as to try to rob me of the reality to which I have a right. I've had lots of other people (not associated with the "crime") acknowledge the truth, but they don't count for me. I need that from the guilty party/parties. Ideally, I'd also like some compensation and justice; but my thing is if I can't get those, it wouldn't cost anyone a cent to at least give me that acknowledgment of the truth and of reality. Until I get that, I'll continue to feel like someone is "playing games" and treated me in a way that amounts to psychological abuse; and since I have enough self-esteem that I want to be out of a psychologically abusive situation, I know that's the only way I can get out and move on.

      I don't know if any of these thoughts apply to you, or are of any use, but I thought I'd offer my own experience dealing with some very real bitterness.

      Thanks again for sharing another perspective to this not-so-simple issue. :)

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      Annie 7 years ago


      Thank you very much for this thoughtful, well-written, intelligent, kind piece. I think many of the comments you received were not very reasonable or reasoned but I found them instructive and useful to read, so thank you also for leaving them here in the interests of open debate.

      Of course, I am not able to be totally unbiased as you may see in my story.

      I do think there is a big difference between a divorce when two people decide they no longer want to be married to each other (or even if only one decides they don't want to be married anymore) and a divorce where a third party is involved. In the first case there is usually a real and prolonged attempt to resolve the problems in the couple, whether that be drinking, drugs, incompatibility, lack of sex or whatever. After a while, one or both parties may arrive at the conclusion that the problem cannot be resolved, neither can it be lived with and so divorce become the only solution. I'm not saying that this is an easy conclusion to arrive at and I'm not underestimating the pain and heartbreak in this situation.

      However, when a third party is involved, and by this I mean an affair, most of the time huge effort goes into concealing and denying the problem. Lying and deceit become the norm and this causes even more intense pain. And depending on which type of divorce occurs this has a huge impact on the dynamic of the relationships subsequently.

      Two years ago I discovered that my ex was having an affair with his Phd student (18 years younger) and this was a tremendous shock to me. I had noticed that things had not been good between us for a couple of years but I had begged him over and over to talk about it as we had what I considered a wonderful relationship in the 18 years previously. He always denied that there was a problem, told me that I was paranoid (I actually came to believe this for a while !) and accused me of constantly wanting to have 'heavy' conversations.

      The discovery of the affair was a big shock to me as this girl had been a guest in our house, had joined the gym in our village (although she didn't live there) and starting running with my good friends.

      Because of the good marriage we had in the past and because of our 4 daughters (aged at the time 10 to 4) I told him I wanted to work on our marriage but that he had to end the affair. He agreed but continued the affair, just driving it further underground. It became quite sordid between them with short 20 minute trysts in the back of his car in a local carpark so that I wouldn't suspect anything. During this time our relationship deteriorated even further as he tormented me with various comments trying to 'push my buttons' and on one occasion physically hitting me causing a bruise on my hip that took several days to go away.

      I became very frightened and my physical and mental health suffered. I lost a lot of weight. I was a stay-at-home mum in a foreign country with no income or family support.

      He eventually moved out, telling everyone 'our marriage had huge problems before anyway' and 'yes, I had an affair but I broke up with her. Annie was just unable to forgive'. These are such lies that they devastated me. I now have firm irrefutable proof that the affair never stopped at any time and as for our marriage having problems, he not only never mentioned this fact to me but refused vehemently any discussion on the subject. He also told me soon after I found out, in a rare moment of honesty, that the affair had started as an once-off opportunity to have sex with a young woman but that it had then escalated out of his control.

      Anyway, just over a year ago, he moved into a house nearby and after a short period, they 'got back together' according to him and she moved in. We have arranged custody on a '2 weeks with me and 1 week with him, alternate weekends' basis. I found a new job that I love (incredible stroke of luck there) and, with the support of wonderful friends, am now building a new, good life.

      This is where I come to the bit relating to your article I found June a particularly difficult month as my ex and his gf came to all the children's end of school events. I am not able to communicate with them as it creates terrible stress in me. Everything the girls' father and I need to tell each other is done my email or text, at my request. They are telling everyone that I am 'bitter' that I can't 'move on' but most of our friends have sided with me they have almost no social life. The amount of time I spend with my children has reduced hugely partly because of the custody arrangements and partly because of me having to work full-time now. I totally respect my children's rights to have a good, positive relationship with their father and support this completely but I feel that I too have rights and I cannot cope with my exs twisted version of the truth. I have never said a bad word about either of them (well actually I did lose control once in the early days and told one of the girls once that she was a 'slut') but my priority is to have the best, most positive relationship with my daughters that I can.

      Last month I wasn't able to attend an important event because both ex and gf were attending and it was a small gathering and to be honest, the strain of attending all the previous events was starting to get to me. I don't know how to handle this situation. I really feel as if my ex is trying to 'replace' me in every way, his parents are very present in the girls lives but I feel sometimes alone, not having any family support here (they are great but just far away). As an example of the way my ex thinks, he believes that 'what you don't know doesn't hurt you' so having the affair is not the real wrong, it's the revealing of it by me that has caused the pain.

      Very recently I started dating a divorced man with 2 children. It's very early days so I haven't met his children and he hasn't met mine but it has made me think about how I would behave as a stepmom if this relationship goes any further. I think I would like to be like an extra aunt not a extra parent at all, whereby his children would be more special to me than my children's friends for example but not as special to me as my own. I have great relationships with my nieces and nephews but I think it's clear to everyone without causing any issues that I love my own children more. Also I would never go to an event that the children's mother would prefer me not to go to mainly because children sense these things very well and by not going I would be showing respect for their feelings and I think this would lead to a better relationship between us in the long term.

      Sorry for rambling on but I just wanted to give the point of view of an ex-wife considered 'bitter' by the ex-husband and new wife but who doesn't feel bitter, just unjustly treated.

      I know that everyone says that it's important to have a good relationship with my children's father but I cannot and so I have chosen to have no relationship rather than have a bad one. I hope I'm making the right choice. Can I just say that I have no interest in 'getting back' with my ex - too much harm has been caused - but I cannot be supportive or encouraging of my childrens relationship with this woman - the best I can be is neutral which I try to be but I would really like them to break up because of the influence this woman might have on my daughters (I forgot to say that this is the second marriage she has been involved in breaking up) If he were to meet another woman later, someone unconnected with end of our marriage then I would feel very differently about her.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      MRM, I'm not really qualified to make suggestions about your brother's situation. One thing does strike me about what you describe, and that's if you're 20 your younger brother must be a teen. I'm wondering if that may be part of the issue for your step-mother. If her kids are grown and working, maybe she doesn't feel able, at this point in her life, to (as she may be thinking of it) "take on a teen boy". I'm not particularly defending her (because obviously I don't really know the situation or any of the people involved); but in fairness to her, maybe it's something she just doesn't feel like she can do. It may have nothing to do with your brother, himself - maybe just his age?

      I wonder, too, if she and your father both kind of see kids' mothers as the ones who get them from childhood to adulthood, or as the ones they're closest to. A lot of people think that way, even fathers and even fathers who know they're important in their kids' lives.

      Or, another guess might be that she already feels overwhelmed having three grown kids still living at home. It's hard for a bunch of grown people to share a home, and maybe she doesn't want to say it (especially about her own kids who she probably doesn't want to hurt and most likely loves a whole lot). So, there's the chance that she may not want that kind of thing to get back to her own kids, and maybe she's just got whatever concerns (or tiredness) she has, is keeping the real concerns to herself (or between her and your father), and was feeling "panicked" or "pressured" by thinking about having yet someone else move in. I don't know how big their home is, but I'm picturing three grown kids with girlfriends/boyfriends and whatever else going on; and maybe, under different circumstances, the idea of your brother moving in may have been received completely differently. Maybe it's just a matter of his asking at a time when it's way too much for her (and maybe even your father). Maybe there are things going on between the grown kids, their mother, and/or your father; and that's something else they may not want to share with your brother or you (if only because they think it's personal business within the home).

      She was wrong name-call (and the rest), but when people are upset they fight; and when people fight they sometimes say things they shouldn't. In fact, some people say the meanest thing they can think of, out of anger.

      Something else is that maybe your father (and she) think if they don't let your brother live with them he'll do something else (like go to school, move back with your mother, or some other thing they think he ought to do)? If, by any chance, your brother and your mother weren't getting along (and that's normal for teens and their mother), maybe your father doesn't want to be those "open arms" that "encourage" your brother not to patch things up or get a job or go to school - whatever the issue may be). If that were the case, they aren't likely to tell your brother their reasons.

      I'm the parent of three grown kids, myself. What I do know is that there are times (no matter how old one's kids are) when a parent (and mother, especially) just cannot be candid about what the issues are, because the choice may be to say something that could hurt the son or daughter who may not deserve to be hurt. Most parents would never say anything that they know could truly hurt their child; and sometimes it's easier to let a child be angry at us than to hurt him.

      Since there are things parents can't ever explain to their grown kids, grown kids are often left to imagine what the "real motives" are (and that isn't good, because it often looks like the parent is betraying the child or doesn't love him enough). It's easy for all of us to think, "Just be honest. Just communicate. Then your kids won't make up stuff that isn't true about whether you love them or not." I can tell you that there can be times when being so absolutely brutally honest (and it could be all about her own kids and not about your brother at all) would hurt a grown child. Parents who have put their children through a divorce are often sick about having them go through that much, and the idea of saying something like, "Look, Teen Boy, my own kids are driving me to exhaustion right now; and I feel like I'll have a nervous breakdown if yet one more person moves in," is something most parents who feel they've hurt their kids once would want to do.

      Obviously, I'm making up scenarios that could be about as far from the real situation/truth as one could imagine; but my only suggestion to your brother and you would be to understand that things aren't always as they appear, especially when someone feels that someone who loves him has let him down. Fights and disagreements happen in families, and when people know, deep down, that there is love between the family members, families usually get past these incidents. The big thing may be not to try to be a "mind-reader" and just to go with the fact that, for now, there must be some good (and serious) reason your father can't let your brother stay there.

      Maybe, too, what made your father and step-mother as upset as they were was that they felt bad being put in the position of having no choice but to say "no" to your brother.

      For what it's worth (and I know my guesses and speculating here aren't much help at all), I hope it irons out soon for you. One thing about the relationship between grown kids and parents is that as kids' lives and maturity becomes more complicated, so can the relationships sometimes. We parents of grown kids sometimes just don't really know what to be doing a good part of the time. The one thing most of us share, though, is that the last thing we'd ever want to do is hurt our children.

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      MRM 7 years ago

      Hi Lisa

      Im a 20year old COD with a younger sibling and i would just like to say thankyou for this article. I've been doing quite a bit of research on this issue, and its nice to find an article that isn't in complete defence of stepmothers (or written by stepmothers) and to know that not all ex-wives are bitter and that children of divorce arent bitter and craving for their family to get back together. For years our family has worked perfectly for us - even though it wasnt your normal nuclear family. In the past few years since my father remarried though, it stopped working.

      My parents divorced 10 years ago. My father remarried a few years ago to a woman he had been dating for years. Up until the point they got married everything seemed to be going fine (at least there were no major hiccups) and my parents were very civil towards one another and always put us kids first. My mother has always been very aware of the issues that surround a 'blended family' and has spent years including my father's partner in activities that she thought appropriate (ie she was always invited over for drinks xmas mornings and to birthdays, graduations etc) yet she still understood when the kids just wanted to be with their two parents. (my mother has a long-term partner as well)

      This all changed and stopped working when my father remarried. All of a sudden (and it was quite sudden) my father stopped communicating with my mother, stopped working together with her in our interests (for important things like tuition, uniforms etc) and both he and my stepmother started calling her a 'bitter ex-wife' when she tried to discuss things that she viewed as extremely important to us kids. She did not (and never has) asked for them to be involved with things that are not directly related to the kids, nor has she involved herself in their life at all.

      About 6 months ago my younger brother moved out of home (he thought he was al grown up!) (I moved out a few years ago). At the time he was living half with my father and half with my mother. He has now decided that he wants to save money and would like to move back in but he wishes to live fulltime at my fathers house. My brother and I did not think this would be an issue as when my father got married to my stepmother I was living fulltime at my mothers house, as well as the fact her three children from her past marriage are living there fulltime. (they are older than my brother and work fulltime.) My brother understands that he would be moving in as an adult and has offered to pay rent/amenities etc (which her children do not pay nor have ever offered to) and do his fair share of the household cooking and cleaning however when we tried to discuss this first with our father alone and then with our father and stepmother, world war three erupted! :( It has gotten to the point where my brother needed me to help him talk to our father and stepmother together at a meeting, in which she yelled at us, called us ungrateful and nasty pieces of work and claimed that it would be too unfair on her if my brother were to live there full time. She went on to blame my mother for everything saying that this is all her fault adn that our mother is responsible for us kids and not her. During this time our father did not say one word in support of us.

      There is no real financial dis-incentive here either, as my father pays for 3/4 of everything (a fact that I know of) and that my brother will not need to be looked after in one iota. My stepmother is being completely unreasonable in not allowing my younger brother to live there. The only reason that he wishes to live there is that he and my father (used to) get along so well and the house is very close to all of his friends, sporting committments etc! My mother has offered to pay half of any expenses that may be inccurred (which we thought was very reasonable) yet both my stepmother (and my father) say that it is completely unfair to ask this of her even though her three children live in my dads house full time.

      Sorry to unload on you, but I would love to hear some advice on what you think we can do. My mother is doing all she can to support us but my stepmother refuses to talk to my mother and my father yells at her everytime she calls him to try and work out a solution. (And then she has the nerve to call me a nasty piece of work and my mother a bitter ex-wife and my brother spoilt when we try to fix the situation)

      My heart is breaking for my younger brother as he feels (as do I) that our father is choosing our stepmother and her children over his own flesh and blood. I'm scared that if this doesn't get fixed appropriately some serious long-term damage could be done to our whole-extended family. I'd love to hear some feedback on suggestions from anyone on what we can do, as neither my father nor stepmother are responding to my brothers and my rational arguments. Thankyou

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      The following comment was posted by "Mailynne", but I'm re-posting it because it contained a link (and posting links in comments is "clearly breaking the cardinal rule" of posting comments, which is that links not be posted. I did, however, think it's fair to post the criticism of the Hub:

      Mailynne "This article is clearly very biased and I am highly disappointed that the author is breaking the cardinal rule of writing, particularly on such a sensitive subject."

      My response to the above criticism: I've addressed the "bias" issue above, so there's no need to address it again.

      As for "cardinal rule of writing" - it depends on the kind of writing one is doing.

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      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      purpleflowers, thanks for contributing to the discussion here. It can be a pretty tricky situation a lot of the times, because sometimes mothers do "just sign over" their children to their father (for their own reasons), but sometimes fathers fight mothers (even good, deserving, mothers who wouldn't "sign over" their children; but all it takes is a few lies for a mother to lose custody in this day and age). Sometimes the mothers who choose to leave their children with their fathers do love their children and think they'll be better off. Other times, as with fathers, some mothers really don't love their children they way most mothers do.

      One of my (grown) kids is adopted, and I always wanted him to know that, of course, his birth mother wanted him and loved him. It was just that she didn't know how to be "the kind of a mother a baby needed" "because she didn't have a good mother, herself, who taught her how to know about taking care of children." I think children need to know that most of the time, even if a mother can't take care of her own children, she does love them. (Nobody has to add "in her own way".)

      I agree that it's wrong to tell other adults the mother doesn't love her child. What purpose does that serve? The step-mother and father already have custody. The mother is somewhere "out of the picture". Why even talk to about her to other people? Besides that just being, essentially, idle gossip; why take the chance someone will say something to the child?

      Parents who don't have custody of their children need to stay strong, stay active in the child's life, and refuse to be put in the background. It takes a extra work and extra thinking, but mothers who have anyone telling people she doesn't love her children (when she does) should make good and sure she speaks up for herself and makes sure the children, and as many adults as possible, know she does love her children.

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      purpleflowers 7 years ago

      I have often heard Step-Mothers on Parenting websites. Say only they are there Step-Childs Mother, and that the childs Biological Mother is not the Step-Childs Mother.

      Because the Step-Mom says the Step-Childs Biological Mother is not apart of the Step-Child life. Because the Step-Childs Biological Mother, has left it up to the Step-Childs Step-Mom and Biological Father to raise the Step-Mothers Step-Child.

      One Step-Mom told her Step-Child, your Biological Mother loves you.

      But the same step-Mom who told her Step-Child that her Biological Mother loves you. Then let other Parents know she feels her Step-Childs Biological Mothers does not love her her Step-Child.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      The Involved Step-Parent, thank you for contributing here. I'm not really sure there's anything we disagree about at all. I agree and acknowledge everything you've said about things like having struggles and aiming not to show it to the children (and everyone else). In fact, I agree with everything you've said here, appreciate the input, and think you seem like a step-mother who has "her head together".

      That's the thing. There are ex-wives who have their head together and step-mothers who do, as well. I may not have clearly enough defined the ex-wives who "seem bitter". (I guess it didn't occur to me to be more specific.) The people I had in mind when I used that phrase weren't just women who seemed miserable or grouchy in general, but women who acted with hostility and had their hostility misinterpreted as being "bitter about the divorce/remarriage/step-parent in general" when they may not be bitter about those things and are, instead, bitter and hostile because they believe their children are taking a backseat, the father isn't doing something they think he ought to do, and/or the step-mother may be over-stepping bounds the ex-wife think ought to be kept. Although I didn't think of this particular variety of misunderstood ex-wives, I guess you're right that there are ex-wives (or any number of other people who "seem bitter" but are really just stressed out and miserable in general). Also, there are people who may be bitter over difficult situations (money problems, for example) caused by divorce and/or re-marriage (whether that's the ex-wife who struggled or the second-marriage couple who does because of high-child support and maybe alimoney). This "not-hiding-your-stress" issue might be a Hub for another day.

      It think you, like I am, may be one of those people who really does care about children and really does aim to put their needs on high priority. Not everyone (not even kids' own parents, whether they be fathers or mothers) sees children's needs as as important as other people do. I think that inability to put aside one's own unhappiness or complaints and find a way to be a "team" with any adults in children's life is one of the biggest causes of hard feelings and lack of harmoney among parents, step-parents, and even the kids, themselves.

      With regard to the ex-wife who thinks you want to take her role, there are those too. There are also fathers who think their second wife ought to take on "more role" than, really, is fair to their second wife. (There are also mothers who resent their kids' grandparents for "involvement" and being close to the children, too.) In the marriage/divorce/remarriage situation, maybe the saying, "It takes all kinds," comes to mind more than in any other situation.

      (Also, I have no doubt there are plenty of step-mothers who don't have the "inferior opinion" at all. I do think if you read some of the step-mothers' opinions above, it seems that the some of the angrier and least reasonable ones have been the ones most "inspired" to post a comment.)

      The main point to my response here is that I pretty much agree with everything you've raised and think your contribution here offers solid sense to readers. So, thank you for being kind enough for sharing. I couldn't agree more that parents should be thankful for as many kind, supportive, adults as are in children's lives. I used to be baffled by people who seemed to resent that their children were close to grandparents. To me, if you love someone you're happy when someone else is kind to them or does something nice for them.

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      TheInvolvedStepParent 7 years ago

      Unlike some of the ex-wives, I don't find it ironic at all that all of the opposed comments are coming from step-mothers. It's too often that the step mothers’ opinions are appeared to be the inferior opinion...because we don’t know anything about how the ex-wife feels and about parenting right? Wrong…I lived with a single mother and not only saw her struggles, but was directly affected by it. Yes, I missed out on a lot of things, but hey I still was a happy kid. Now that I look back, I wish my father had a woman that encouraged the two of them to be active in our lives. The more the merrier.

      Lisa, it's great to understand where the other party is coming from, but for a mother to “seem” bitter towards the step-mother because of finance's etc…well I'll have to disagree with that, because it’s called life. There are married couples who struggle with finances for their child, and there are women who have to independently take care of their child without an ex to even complain to. We all have things in life that bother us, but that does not mean to let those problems show; and if another person even misinterprets an ex-wives attitude as being “bitter” than there must be some type of hostility that the other person see’s. All people should learn how to put aside their personal angers and handle “business”. If I was an ex-wife I could promise you that the new wife would never be able to know I am bothered by her being around my children. Until she treats my child disrespectfully or violently, the protective mother cat will be a sweet kitty to all.

      Someone mentioned earlier that it bothers her to know another woman is being a significant part of her child’s life. Does it bother a mother that a female teacher is a part of the child’s life 30hours a week. Some ex wives seem to forget that they’re not the only people who like children. I am a teacher and I like to influence all children’s lives inside and outside of school. I will go to my student’s soccer games and whatever. Statistically, there is a positive impact on the lives of children who know they are supported by many. My references: the classroom and Maslow’s Hierarchy. So if that means supporting the children’s needs outside of school, I will do it, and I will do it for ANY child. Not just my step child.

      My husband’s ex for some reason thinks that I want to take her role. When truth is, I am happy to not be the biological mother of the child. Sounds mean but I treat this child the way I would treat any other child, because they all need nurturing. Having several responsible adults in a child’s life is like heaven, if a step-mother wants to coach your child on a soccer team, so what? That means you raised a charming and irresistible child. Be thankful gosh.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Just a follow-up thought to the above, long, comment: It seems to me if step parents build the solid, genuine, kind of relationship with children that would be ideal; and that was based on something "real", rather than just based on a parent's being married to him/her; that relationship would remain solid even if the parent and step-parent were to divorce, or if the parent were to die.

      Yes, if the children no longer lived with the step-parent there would be no more telling them things like "no feet on the couch" or "recycling goes here" at home; but the more meaningful aspect of the relationship would most likely remain solid (and that's always good for children's sense-of-stability and sense of closeness with adults).

      A relationship built only the fact that one person married someone else isn't as likely to be whole and permanent, and, I'd think, would be more likely to fall apart if that marriage ended in divorce or death.

      I just think, whether it's a parent or step-parent, relationships with children need to be solid, permanent, and something the adult needs to put effort and thought into in order to make the relationship as solid and strong as possible.

      I guess I think that once adults decide to introduce the "step situation" into children's lives, then those adults need to figure a way to reduce the risk of a broken relationship (with the children) in the event of divorce or death. It seems to me the only way to do that is not to base the relationship with children on a marriage certificate. I don't think, though, it requires x amount of time with the step-parent to build the right/nice kind of relationship that is likely to last. We build and preserve close friendships with people we don't see for "x amount of time" each week all the time.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      BarbNJ, the response to this Hub has surprised me too, as far as personal-experience input goes. If I can include a hint of humor (sort of) here, I think you're right about the advantages of not having your children's father (and a wife) nearby. :) In all seriousness, it's unfortunate he doesn't make the extra efforts to remain involved in their lives, even if it has to be over phone and Internet really often and regularly.

      From what I seen (and heard), it seems to me your sister's situation is a pretty common one. In fairness to a lot of those fathers who seem only to start to think about "being a parent" when they have a second wife in the picture, I think a lot of men don't see men in much of a parenting/child-rearing capacity and instead think women are the primary ones when it comes to nurturing/parenting. So, I'm guessing, maybe, one reason they want a second wife in the first place is to start that "new family". Or something else that may happen is they don't think much about trying to be a parent at all until that second-wife shows up, knows how important fathers are, and may even encourage these guys to become more involved in their children's lives. We so often hear, "If you love someone you don't want to come between them and the people they love." and "Trying to get people away from the people they love is a sign of abuse." So I'm guessing a lot of second wives are thinking along these lines (rightfully) and encourage fathers who didn't seem to know enough to even try to get involved before.

      Your words, "not just hand it over to the Step Mom...", I think, pretty much sums up a lot of what happens.

      In fairness to a lot of the second wives, I think a lot of these guys often expect them to take on more of a mothering role/responsibility (or at least too soon in some cases) than is really fair to the second wife.

      Then again, in fairness to those fathers who seem to do that, I'd guess that for those who had previously been very close to their children, there's a serious sense of grief and loss to be separated from them. So, if some guy tries to fill the "miserable days" (after being separated from the child he loves, worries about, and can't see daily), I can see how (particularly, men being men) they may try to "brighten up their days" by socializing. Then, I'm guessing, once they get into a serious relationship again, maybe they start to see the potential of being "a family man" again. In a way, if some men do this, it's almost understandable (kind of aiming to make the most of a less-than-ideal situation). Then again, of course, there are the fathers who show no interest during their first marriage but then "decide" they're interested once they start to worry that a divorce will get in the way of them being a father to the only children they have.

      With regard to the issue of fathers learning to parent better, my own belief is it would be ideal (and right) if a father knows he's not the "most natural" as far as being a parent goes. The trouble is a lot of fathers don't realize how little they know (some mothers, too, of course, but I think it's more often fathers); so they don't realize that by aiming to "claim" their right as a parent by taking on a larger role, they're actually placing their children in the position of being under the care of the less skilled parent for more time.

      On the one hand, a father has that "right" (and responsibility, ideally) to expect to be a 50/50 parent. On the other hand, there are those times when some fathers really aren't all that skilled (particularly when it comes to things like emotional support, or even common sense). So, to me, (again, ideally) I can see times when maybe children would be better off without more "input" from fathers than SOME fathers really ought to have; but even the court system doesn't seem to give a hoot about how skilled/bonded children are with one parent or another, as long as the parent isn't abusive or negligent.

      In fairness to the court system, it does seem reasonable and that the government not get involved with the "details" of which parent does what better; and that it not try to take away from one parent because a stranger in the The System judges one thing or another. In the "reality of families", not having a judge just tell one parent isn't the most skilled in the world, and limiting his "say" creates major problems for all involved.

      With regard to your sister (or people in her situation), if I just allow myself to go on nothing but my personal opinion, I'd still go with the thing that, in cases when the mother isn't "in a coma" or dead, the role of the step-mother should primarily, and ideally, be one of a "special, but different, kind of relationship" (while still keeping in mind that the second wife is going to have a right to make some rules of her own house as one of the heads-of-the-household).

      I didn't want "seem to negative" earlier in these postings by bringing up the possibility that fathers and second wives may divorce. In fact, the divorce rate among divorced people from second marriages is far, far, higher than from first marriages. (Third marriages are even worse.) On the one hand; on the other, I don't think people can live their lives with the idea that someone may get a divorce or die, but I do think some awareness of either of those possibilities doesn't hurt either.

      I, personally, don't think it's the best thing for the children to have "two mothers" and a mostly absent (even if only emotionally) father. I think that just makes an already complicated and challenging situation more so. Besides, the whole thing about what's best for children is that it's ideal to have two loving parents and remain close to them. What's even the point of bringing in "an extra mother" if the father is going to "delegate" his responsibilities. I really don't think that's fair to the second wife either.

      I adopted one of my children from infancy, and he's over 30 now; so I've had decades to give serious thought to the matter of whether kids feel more stable with "one mother/one father at one time". To me, having a nice relationship with some special adult is always a nice thing for children; but as far as "two mothers" go (with one in some "sort-of peripheral" role), I don't think that's what kids want or need. And I know (this one is just my opinion) that kids need to see who is who clearly defined and have that "who is who" interact with them in accordance with whatever has been defined. It's also not just my opinion that one kind-of-absent parent is never a good thing, no matter who is married, not married, or otherwise. It's generally accepted (by experts) that the ideal thing is to have two good parents. Having one good parent isn't as ideal but can be almost as good. I don't happen to think that throwing in an extra "for no apparent reason" (in view of the fact that the father is primarily "absent" makes much sense to anyone, including the children.

      One reason kids (even grown ones) get resentful is that one parent "steps back" and lets, or expects, the step-parent to do more parenting than the kids think s/he ought to. I think then you have the step-parent who thinks s/he has "rotten" step-kids and blames both parents (or bad luck) for the fact that they are.

      To me, ideally, kids need one good mother and one good father. Ideally, the step-mother relationship should be "its own special thing" (depending on things like the ages of the kids, the situation, etc.)

      Right or wrong, if I were in your sister's situation I'd do whatever I could to get the court (or someone) to work things in a way that reduced the children's time with their step-mother if their father wasn't going to be around, step up to the plate, and be a real father to them. (I mean - why not just drag the "neighbor-lady down the street" into the mix if the father's relationship with his kids isn't going to be the "main point"?)

      As far as belittling anyone goes, it's never good for the kids or productive for anyone to be belittling anyone else (in front of the kids, in particular). Here again, it's just my opinion, but I don't t

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      BarbNJ 7 years ago

      Can't believe how long this topic has been going on! Guess it shows the timeless nature of the subject. Personal experiences certainly seem to create biased attitudes throughout, but not surprising. I have my own as well. My children's Dad has pretty much abandoned our children, and I so wish he had chosen to be a part of their lives. He has remarried and does not live close at all, so if he was involved, we would be involved in a cross county custody arrangement. That would be terribly difficult for me, but I know what it would mean to our children to have their father in their lives. I really hate to think of the long term consequences of an absent Dad and do feel fortunate that they have a wonderful Step-Dad, but still..... When I read all the problems between ex-spouses, though, I have to admit there is a small part of me that is relieved that I am not going through what so many of the writers are experiencing. However, my sister is going through hell with her ex-husband and new spouse. One of the previous writer's talked about a ex who had limited visitation and was more interested in his social life until he remarried and now they want the children half time, are critical of Mom's every move and decision. That sounds like my sister's situation exactly. What is the best for the children in this situation, to spend more time at Dad's, but not really with Dad? Dad was not interested in taking on the role of everyday parenting until he remarried. Step Mom is parenting the children... not Dad. Obviously this is hard on my sister, but she wants to do what is best for the children. Do the children need two Moms or a Mom and Dad? And of course, it does cause my sister to be bitter about Dad leaving everything to her and now belittling everything she does in favor of how he and his new wife believe the children should be raised. With so many divorces, what will happen if Dad divorces... the kids will be back without Dad again? Don't Dad's have a responsibility to learn how to parent if they want equal custody rights? Not necessarily overnight if that was not their role in the marriage, but not just hand it over to the Step Mom to take on that role. This is so confusing, to separate what is truly and only in the children's best interests from the lingering hurt and bitterness left over from divorce. Your comments would be appreciated. By the way, I think your beginning of the Hub offered some straightforward unbiased thoughts on the issues so many of us are facing today.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      sunshine step-mommy, I hate to say this, but if she's as unstable as your husband thinks, I'm not sure any amount of reason or "trying to communicate" would work. (If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that unreasonable people aren't going to be reasonable. )

      On the one hand, maybe the mother is unstable (which might also explain why she isn't with someone else). On the other hand, I think a lot of times ex-spouses (or soon-to-be ex-spouses) are a little quick to assume the other one is unstable. So, on that point, I think (if I were in your situation) I'd let the "unstable" thing go for now. It almost doesn't matter why she's doing what she. What matters is that's she's apparently causing some trouble between you and your step-daughter.

      I don't know if I'm right or wrong in thinking this, but I think it's up to your husband to speak up (even if that means asking her if she'd go with him and the child) to a counselor "to see if we can iron out some of what's creating the child's 'cooler' behavior these days". I think he needs to be the one to "get something going" (even if not with a shared counseling session or two) to try to get the mother's cooperation in "just not doing/saying anything that will create distance" in his/your family, and between his child and her "other" family.

      Other than trying to approach the mother by saying, "Let's start clean, and try to cooperate on at least this much, for the sake of the child and her sense of stability in both parents' homes," I can't really think of anything else I'd do (in that situation).

      I suppose you could try either talking to her, or else writing a nice letter to her "in the interest of the child's feeling comfortable, happy, and relaxed" (but I don't know if she's even that reasonable). I wonder if it might help if you used the "angle", "This isn't about him and you, or him and me, or even me and you - it's about both of us wanting to do what's right for her," whether that might "fly".

      Then again, if she's going to be anything close to hostile, I don't think you should be placed in the position of being on the receiving end of her hostility. I guess I'm thinking it depends on who - you or your husband - stands a better chance of having a calm conversation with her about the child.

      This is why I think, ideally, if he could set up an appointment with a counselor, it might help; because even if only he goes by himself, the counselor might then ask to talk with the child, her mother, and/or you. Everyone could make it clear to everyone else that the counseling was only to get some tips on how to handle a situation that's not looking very good right now, rather than "getting counseling in general".

      I don't know for sure if the counselor would do this, but I'm picturing maybe asking the child's mother something like, "What are you doing to encourage the healthy relationship between x and your daughter?" Maybe it would help, too, if your husband made it clear what he was looking to accomplish with a counselor.

      (Of course, a seven-year-old isn't all that likely to climb up into someone's lap anyway, so one thing that could be behind some of the changes (at least in some ways) is your step-daughter's age. Also, I'm honestly not trying to "turn things around" and "put the blame on you" (at all); but there's the chance that if your step-daughter, being older now, is saying anything to her mother about anything she doesn't like that's going on (maybe her father not being there at one time or another, for example), she's old enough now to feel guilty in front of her mother (who would know what she's saying) and you.

      That's another thing you might try (if it's at all something you could do, in view of the mother's behavior) - you could try just talking openly and casually with your step-daughter, and asking her if there's anything bothering her. Or, you (or your husband) could ask the child's mother if the child is expressing being unhappy at his house in any way.

      It would be a very normal thing if your step-daughter isn't happy that her father isn't at things like plays, so there's the chance it's him (or even the situation, even if she understands why he can't be there) she's not happy with - not you. Your step-daughter may not want to be open if she's not happy that it's only you there "from your family". She may not want to hurt your feelings. Kids that age are old enough not to want to hurt people's feelings, but too young to know that adults are "tougher" than that. :)

      Children three years old are often "in love" with special adults in their life. It's almost the "height" of when they absolutely adore special adults. At four and five they still love being with those special adults, but by the time they're seven they often learn to be more reserved with their affection. If, by any chance, someone like your mother may be kind of expecting her to still be like she was at three, that might make her uncomfortable enough to be "particularly reserved" when she's around her. (I'm not suggesting this is the case - just throwing out wild possibilities. :) ) I'm also not trying to second-guess you in your suspicion that the mother may be creating distance between you and the child. Again, just throwing out guesses. :)

      I don't know... These are my best guesses.

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      sunshine step-mommy 7 years ago

      An edit to my posting: step daughter used to crawl up on my moms lap and cuddle openly, show affection, give hugs, and now it seems uncomfortable for her to give that affection to my side of the family...what could make that change?


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      sunshine step-mommy 7 years ago

      Hi Lisa,

      your article brought about some great points and I agree that each party to the divided family needs to be mature enough to effectively raise a child. My situation is: i met my husband when my stepdaughter was 3, now 7, and she and i developed a friendship while her father and i grew very much in love. For the first year his ex was nice to me, at least to my face, then when my husband went out of town she refused to let me see her on his weekends and didn't even let me talk to her on the phone. I really missed her and my husband(then boyfriend)was gone for almost 2 months. She said it wasn't my job to care for her and that i was overstepping my bounds. Like your article said "...mothers are usually inclined to exercise their maternal instincts if they think someone may be trying to overstep bounds, even when that's not what a stepmother intends to do". Ever since then she has switched from nice to 'catty' and mean, pretty much giving me zero acknowledgement when i answer the phone and she's just plain mean to both my husband and I.

      So, now, 4 years into the relationship and nearly 2 yrs married, she is still the same and I have been nothing but a loving stepmother to her daughter. Wouldn't she be nice to me, or even be grateful for that? i just don't understand. My husband says she is emotionally unstable and generally unhappy because she is alone and unmarried.

      I just don't know what to do. I see that my step daughter gets 'uneasy' around my side of the family when she used to crawl up on my moms lap and cuddle her. I wonder if she's getting fed garbage from her mother--maybe she's telling her not to get close to my side. I also wonder why she seems uneasy when we (me, my mom, my stepdaughter, & her grandmother or mother)see her at her school plays. After the play we usually all bump into each other at her classroom entrance, and I always get ignored from them. i asked my stepdaughter if its uncomfortable for her that we go see her plays and she said no, so I'm not sure what the answer is and what I should do. I love her very much and we have a great relationship. I love showing her my support and I go to her plays in lieu of her father who travels for work and often misses the plays (i take pictures for him).

      Well so far, what do you think? How can I make it so that the natural mother is more accepting of my role in her daughters life?

      Thanks :)

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      momtomm, thank you for sharing your experience from the "ex-wife/mother" point of view. As you've seen, the comment on this Hub have, at least the first bunch of them, came from step-mothers.

      I think sometimes a lot of the problems/bad feelings stem from the way the father handles things on the whole. (Not to blame all fathers for all bitter ex-wives, or even angry step-mothers; because, as I've kept trying to say about, all situations/individuals can be different).

      For what it's worth (and based on a lot of the comments above, apparently a lot of people think it isn't worth much of anything), my personal opinion is that there's a lot sense and sound reasoning in your belief that things might be different if the relationship had blossomed over time (and the other circumstances you mentioned).

      When it comes down to it, unless you were guilty of abuse or neglect, even if you were doing all kinds of things some people may consider "the wrong way of doing things" (and I"m not suggesting you are, by any means); it wouldn't be anyone's business but yours, your children's and your ex-husband's. What he complains about to his wife is his business, but I don't think your children should even know about either of their criticisms of you. If he's the one sharing this "information" with you (rather than your kids), it would seem he's just someone who doesn't "get it" when it comes to how interested you can be expected to be in her criticisms.

      As far as whether you're alone in thinking your ex-husband's wife has no right to be judgmental, what comes to my mind is that anyone who knows social workers who work in state Child Services agencies probably knows that even when there is an investigation into what parents are doing; the law expects state social workers to draw the line when it comes to "lifestyle". In other words, even the government aims (or tries to aim) not to infringe on parents' right to raise their children their own way (provided neither parent is abusive or negligent).

      As far as I'm concerned, if government works aren't allowed to interfere with lifestyles they may not really think much of, certainly "Fred's wife" should have a similar respect for the relationship between children and both of their parents. As you mentioned with the "blossoming relationship" remark, over time a more solid, deeper, relationship between steps and children may (or may not) kick in and change some of how things are done among the three adults.

      It is just unfortunate that, as you mentioned, ago, anger, jealousy, and self-righteousness can get in the way as often as they do (whether that's with either parents or step-parents). I can't help but think that whenever someone is guilt of that kind of thing (no matter who it is), he/she lacks sufficient parental/maternal instinct to prevent him/her from being more reasonable and objective.

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      momtomm 7 years ago

      I find it very ironic that some of the the most bitter-sounding comments on this hub are coming from step-moms... I feel as though the situation which Lisa describes in her own experience is my ideal, something which I've held myself to, in recognizing the importance of a father in the children's lives. Their father, unfortunately, has other ideas.

      My ex-h and I separated 5 years ago, divorced last May, and he is now married (3 mos) and expecting a new baby next week. He and the step-mom got together in Jan 2009. Our children have always lived with me, their father did not even ask for joint custody. He has remained a part of their lives, but with other personal activities and relationships occupying most of his time. He spent one night/week with the children, with the understanding that if something came up i.e. a date, the kids would not be coming over. Although my ex-h and I were very good friends at first, the quality of our friendship deteriorated over time, and is leading to a breakdown in communication which is affecting the kids. That is the hard part for me- clearly good communication benefits both parent/child relationships, and to see it disappearing because of another person makes me think that the new step-mom truly can't have the kid's best interests at heart. I find it interesting to note that the new step-mom, who has 1 child from a previous marriage, has a terrible relationship with her ex-husband.

      My ex-husband and his new wife are now claiming that I do everything wrong, am controlling, and that they know what's best for my children. I am constantly hearing from the ex-h and stepmother that it's best for their new family if i agree to have the children spend half of the time at their house. Everytime they come home from a sleepover, I hear that the new step-mom has been criticizing and second guessing all of my decisions.

      Am I alone in thinking that she has no right to be judgmental? I respect her role as step-mother, but I also believe that there many types of step-mothers. It would be different if the children had grown up with her in their lives (the children are 7 and 9 and have lived exclusively with me for the past 5 years), if I was not around, or if it was a well-established relationship that had blossomed naturally over time. In my opinion, not only is it within my right to be controlling (I have to watch out for their best interests), it is my responsibility. I'm sure she is a great person, and a great mother to her own child, but how can she (and he, who has had only a passing interest in his children for the past 5 years) possibly know what is best?

      Regarding the bitterness and moving on? ... I would love nothing more than to never speak to him again and to stop forcing the civility. I recognize that communication is key in raising healthy, well-adjusted children and am willing to make the sacrifice for the children's sake. My belief is not shared- or possibility ego, anger, jealousy and a self-righteous attitude is getting in the way, and it kills me that my children will be the ones to suffer the consequences.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Sarah, thank you for contributing. A lot of the response to this Hub surprised me; because I didn't think it was such a controversial thing to say 1) that all ex-wives don't happen to be bitter (even if some are) and 2) that it's nice for the children to, at least once every so often, have a chance to be with just their own two parents (at events that aren't particularly special, like the occasional baseball practice - not something like graduations).

      I think you're right that the strong, negative, response seems to come from step-mothers (and in fairness to at least some of them, probably because they're dealing with difficult situations and maybe even bitter ex-wives). :)

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      Sarah 7 years ago

      I understand clearly Lisa point of view. A lot of people do not realize the children welfare and mind set on things is more important that the ex wife, step mother or father...Children tends to get confused quickly....The idea of the step mom not taking part in certain events is clearly understood....because of broken up homes most of the time is the cause of children becoming violent....We tend to forget about the children in the whole process of the drama that may occur between ex wife, step mom and father....

      I do not see nothing wrong in both the ex-wife and father going to the children events together without the step mom....The step mom has her part to play according to the situation. Lisa is right...we should try to keep the children from being confused....

      For those who disagree with Lisa....I believe most of you all are step mom's and is clearly offended...However that is Lisa opinion and I believe Lisa opinion is right.

      Step moms needs to know and understand their place as a step mom...I agree with Tasha as well when she mentioned the false pretense step mom's...their are so many out there...

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      tasha 7 years ago

      There are good step moms and there are bad step mom but there are step mom who also comes under FALSE PRETENSE....most of the time the step mom finds it hard or difficult to accept or like the their child....

      Yes some times the ex-wife is bitter but some times the cause of that is because the step mom was the cause of the ending of their marriage....There are step mom who pretends to like the child or children in front of family and friends

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      SweetiePie, as I mentioned above, my ex-husband and I have been of the "wait-until-the-kids-are-older-if-then" school of thought; and I generally agree that a divorce is challenging enough to children's sense of stability without adding complications. 10 or 15 years really does fly by, and there can be a whole lot of "individual future" left once the children are grown.

      I had my own "personal thing", when I had to divorce, that we may have to be a "separated family", but we would not be a "broken family". Of course, families have no choice but to go through the court system for a divorce; and, oh brother, does the court system, itself, ever pose horrendous challenges to anyone aiming not to let his/her family become "broken". So for me, it took all the energy and thought I had to minimize the sense of "broken family" and maximize the sense of "separated family but not broken people in it" for my kids. We just didn't need more people "from the outside" adding "pull" from another direction.

      Still, all situations are different. I can see how someone who may have been married or "linked up" with a real "basket-case" as their child's other parent may want to offer the child a "real" family environment and an example of what healthy relationships and adults are supposed to be. One big risk, though, is that most of us thought we had a healthy relationship and forever one when we married the first time around. Things change. Life happens - and what seemed like a healthy relationship "goes South". The divorce rate for second and third marriages is far, far, higher than for first marriages.

      From a selfish standpoint, when I had no children myself I wouldn't have wanted to marry someone who already had them with someone else. I wanted my children to be "firsts" for their father. Once I had my own children I wouldn't have wanted to marry someone else who had his own young children, because I wouldn't have wanted to be "shared" by my children. I wanted all my focus on just being their mother. I have three and making sure all three had enough individual attention (as well as family-time) was already quite a bit.

      So, for me, the thing of not even considering getting re-married until the children were older really worked and made the most sense. Still, people and situations are so individual and different, I know that what worked for me and my ex-husband may not work for someone in a very different situation.

      I think step-mothers, who have no idea of what they're getting into (or who see all the romance of a happy family) can get a bad deal and an unfair situation; whether they get a husband who essentially ignores his first set of children (and makes them and their mother angry about that), or one who does the very natural thing of putting his children first (in which case the step-mother and second marriage take a backseat).

      I, personally, would not have married a guy who was willing to bring even a kind and capable step-mother in over his children; because I wouldn't want to marry a guy who didn't feel the same about his own children as I feel about mine.

      Still, though, I know there are situations that are different from the "standard", "close-mother/close-father" one, and that may mean the children benefit from a step-situation. So even while I pretty much agree with your belief about re-marrying with children, I do know there are times when even a good rule has to be broken. (I just think, though, people have to be very, very, careful about breaking it; and they need to be particularly sensitive to the children's needs.)

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion here. I know I go long on the responses to comments on this Hub, but I think it's a discussion worth "delving into" (including some of the "opposite" comments this Hub seemed to originally attract :) ).

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Maybe the ex-wife is not bitter at all, and she just it irritated having to deal with the ex-husband and his wife, especially if she was mature enough to forgo re-marriage until her kids were older. I tend to feel more sympathy for the ex-wife if the husband was just in a mad dash to get married after a divorce. Seriously, divorcees with kids should remain single until their children turn eighteen. It is pretty selfish of the ex-husband to wed and bed a new wife when his first marriage did not work out, and he probably has certain relationship issues that will be repeated in this second relationship. Maybe people are just afraid of being single and going it on their own, but what it comes down to is our society puts way too much emphasis on coupling up.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Jeannette, you have my regards and tremendous respect for your work in the military. Needless to say, that's quite a sacrifice and challenge for any parent (married, divorced, or otherwise).

      My ex-husband and I were, shall we say, "quite awkward" (to say the least) for years following our awfully ugly divorce, which was full of misunderstanding and nastiness. Essentially, we didn't speak except for one person calling the children at the other one's house, asking for the child, and saying, "Hold on." As the children got a little older and had more and more school events, the ice thawed; and I was kind of the one who "took the chance" and took some step toward gradual thawing. Before then, I think he may have been more uncomfortable than I was. I think if I hadn't taken a couple of gradual steps toward talking again it wouldn't have happened; and it had been long enough that I really just wanted more "normal-ness" between us (if for nobody but our children).

      Today he and I are good friends; and even if we couldn't offer our children two married parents, it's nice to at least be able to offer them parents who are friends.

      It's difficult for a stranger (me) to make guesses about how you could handle things; but based on only knowing what you said (and my own approach), I think I'd write the ex-husband a nice letter and express what you said about your being glad you're both moving on, you know his new wife is nice, but you are concerned that not being with your child(ren) could potentially affect the quality of your relationship with him. Maybe you could mention that you don't see it as a "her versus you" thing - only that you're concerned about not being geographically close. Worst case, your ex-husband may send a "cool" response or no response. Best case, he and/or the wife may send a nicer one. I don't think communicating can ever be a bad thing (even if you're the only one who writes). Your concerns as a mother are valid and understandable; and I don't think it would hurt to include that your relationship with your son is all you care about.

      With experience being in the military, you must already have some "tricks" for keeping close with your child. I was a non-custodial parent for a while (although I didn't have any new wives to deal with). I just refused to "step down" and let anyone else act as my children's mother. I made sure we talked and IM'd each day (often more than once), saw them regularly, prepared special meals for them (I know you can't do that all that time with the distance), and did everything I could think of to stay in touch (or send things regularly, even small things or food or little envelopes with a note and candy in them, etc.). I made sure we really kept talking - not just a "hi" and "how was school", but really having talks about values, life, etc. My children are now grown, and there's never been any time when we haven't been as super-close as always.

      I suppose if your ex-husband is an unreasonable sort who doesn't understand how mothers are, he may take a letter "the wrong way" in some way; but since you're not on great terms anyway, I almost wonder what difference it would make if the letter didn't sit well with him. Most of the time, even the thickest ice will thaw just a little if someone takes a little step here or there to try to make things a little less icy.

      My ex-husband and I pretty much say nothing about anything that went on in the early years following the divorce. I've occasionally mentioned something like, "There was a lot of misunderstanding and awfulness, and nobody liked any of what was happening." We're both very committed to doing what's right for even our grown children; but we aren't friends now only because of them. In the beginning, though, we were only cordial and cooperative for the children. Nobody pretended otherwise.

      So, I guess, my vote would be to go ahead and approach the situation, focusing only your on your own relationship with your son, which is normal and understandable to all but the most gigantic of idiots. Your son is your son. You have parental rights and a right to make parental decisions (unless, for some reason, you gave up that right or had it taken away - which I don't think is your situation). I'd think that reassuring him that you're pleased your son's new step-mother will be nice to him and that you'll do your part to support your son's relationship with her can't possibly go too far wrong. (Unless your ex-husband is one of those gigantic idiots, which some ex-husbands can be. LOL). Maybe you could suggest working out some decision-plan with regard to the day-to-day decisions he and the step-mother will be involved in, and those larger or more "impact-ful" decisions. I guess I'm thinking in terms of decisions like "can he go to Freddy's house this afternoon" (theirs) versus "should he have toy guns" or "should he watch violent movies" (yours and his fathers, ideally). I'd think if you and the ex-husband are too awkward talking in person, you could suggest working out a "decision plan" through something like e.mails back and forth. Maybe if you communicate with the ex-husband first you could then ask if he thinks it would be a good idea for you to be in touch with his new wife (just with regard to your son). Maybe, if having talking and getting along is really challenging, you could all agree to communicate only until things get too tense - and then take a break. (I did that with my teen son when he and I weren't getting along, and it worked; because neither of us wanted to fight and agreeing to stop conversations when things started to get tense gave us a chance to experience "neutral" conversation again until time resolved some of the issues we tended to argue about.)

      I don't know if any of these thoughts are at all helpful (hope they may be); but I really do believe it's always better to at least try to begin talking, a little at a time, just to make things better for all involved (particularly the child).

      I know that I, personally, have not had to deal with a step-mother in my children's life; but if you were to read some of my other Hubs (related to how "The System" destroys people) you'd see that my ex-husband and I had a lot of real ugly water under the bridge (and most of it flowed in my direction). In the beginning it took a lot for me to be able to set aside a lot of what had gone on and take those first steps; but I was thinking of my children having a reasonably normal life/situation, and I thought, "If I don't do it nobody will." In the beginning, my ex-husband and I only talked about the children. Eventually, we "expanded" to talk about "safe" things, like old tv shows that made us both laugh. Somehow, laughing together (either about funny things the children did, funny things that went on in the school events, or old tv shows) kind of signaled that the cold war and awkwardness that first followed it were over, and we could communicate normally.

      People have all kinds of ideas about what divorced/remarried people should/shouldn't do; but most people agree that it's always better when both parents can cooperate and support the other's relationship (and the step-parent's relationship) with the child/ren. I think most of the time, having that one thing everyone can agree on is the first step. I have no idea if I'm right in saying this or not; but I think if I were in the situation I'd just be honest, say that I don't want to over-step bounds at all, but that I did have new concerns about preserving my own relationship with my child now. If it's really tricky maybe you could even suggest that all three of you have a visit or two with a counselor together "because the situation is new and it's always a good idea to start off on a good foot".

      Jeannette, best wishes for your continued new beginning and strong relationship with your son, as well as with the new, special adult in his life. (If there's one thing I learned, first-hand, it is that the right relationship between mother and child(ren) isn't shaken very easily.)

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      Jeannette 7 years ago

      Thank you for writing this article. My ex-husband and myself are still not on talking terms but I found out through my son that he had gotten married. I am totally okay with that and have no issues with the fact that he has moved on. I have in fact done the same. What bothered me was the fact that I am in the military and can not be close to my son (because I am more than a short drive away he lives in FL and I in AK). It bothers me to know that this woman is going to have a more influential part of my sons life than myself. The only thing I want is what is best for my son, I know that she treats him well and that she will love him, which I am sure that she already does. My fear is that when I get stationed closer and will be present for more of my child life if she already "thinks" that she is mom (and my son's father agrees) and can have a say in what goes on in my childs life. I feel that is for my ex-husband and I for decide not her. I have never met her but how do you go about stating and hearing the intentions without over stepping the boundaries? DO I even say anything since my ex-husband and I are not in the greatest of terms? Your article has helped a lot, but I don't know how or if I approach the situation.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      C.E. Grant, thank you for commenting. My perceptions are based both on conversations with people who have their own complaints/perceptions of their own step situations, particularly grown kids with step-parents.

      I don't really think, though, that this Hub is so much about how others see stepmothers (because although this isn't what the Hub is about, I think there's a lot of "unfairness" and unreasonable expectations that "get put on" step-mothers (or step-fathers) by parents who, themselves, can seem to overlook the unique and powerful bond that exists between parents and their children (at least when things are the way they're supposed to be). I do think if people did a better job of defining "step-parent" as another kind of special, unique, and important relationship (rather than as "bringing in another parent that everyone expects to "just be another parent"), there wouldn't be "StepLand" at all. There would, instead, be incorporating the apparently increasingly common role of step-parent into "the rest of the world" in a way that wouldn't mean trying to get "the wrong puzzle piece" into the big picture (and would, instead, mean those "puzzle pieces" having their own, unique, place in that picture). What a lot of angry readers here seem to have misinterpreted is that this Hub (and even those people I've known who have their complaints about the step-situation) aren't "against" step-parents. To the contrary, my own perception is that step-parents deserve better than to be "peripheral people expected to have an equally central role". It may be a subtle difference, but I think step-parents should be "central" people with their own, unique, role/place. The role of step-parent deserves its own, unique, definition - just the way the roles of grandparent, sibling, or aunt do (provided the situation isn't one of those not one in which the negligent parents disappear and leave a family member to raise their children and take on the role of parent).

      My children (now grown) have been raised without step-parents because my ex-husband and I agree that neither of us would be willing to share our parenting role with someone the other picked out, and that neither of us would want the other to be expected to share that role either. We happened to believe that it isn't that big a deal not to get involved in a second marriage while the children were still young enough that issues associated with parenting/visiting young children would exist. (Before any readers start trying to figure out how to throw rotten eggs over the Internet, I'm not saying I am against second-marriage/step-parents when it's right for the people involved. I'm saying it would not have been right for my ex-husband and me because we feel our bond with our children, and our commitment to preserve/protect their relationship with the other parent, with our children is something only he and I can have toward them in "equal degrees"; so for us, bringing in a step-parent and expecting them to remain "in second place" wouldn't be fair to that second spouse (and may not have even been a realistic expectation). So for us, personally, it wouldn't have worked or been what we wanted. I suppose if my children had a "bad father" or a "bad mother" (or a dead other parent) my ex-husband and I would have felt differently, because we would have thought our children would benefit by having a step-parent who was "a good parent". For us, with our kids having two "good" parents with a strong bond with the children, a step-parent would have just been a "complication".

      If my ex-husband had re-married I would have, of course, wanted my children to have a good relationship with the step-mother; but, for example, if it were someone who thought their watching violent tv was fine when I was as opposed to it as I was, there would have been problems; and I wouldn't have cared a whit about "factoring in" the second wife's opinion when it came to my children. My ex-husband has expressed a similar sentiment. (We may not have been very good at being married to each other, but we're plenty compatible when it comes to our thinking about being parents to our shared children.)

      Now that my own children are grown, if they did get a step-mother at this point I'd still question the lack of respect calling me "their biological mother" would seem to indicate; and if I were to become a step-mother tomorrow it is, I would hope, my respect for my own bond with my children that would help me know how to set boundaries on my role as step-mother. I would not marry someone who didn't share my thinking about respective roles in step situations; because it would cause serious problems in the second marriage.

      I don't think my ex-husband and I are all that unusual in our feelings toward our own roles in our children's lives. It's how it often is in "the larger world" (as opposed to StepLand). I don't think that "innocent" people who just happen to marry someone with children should be living in their own "land" (frought with "special" challenges that may not exist if everyone truly understood and acknowledged that the bond parents have with the children they've been with since birth (or infant adoption) isn't one that will be equal with someone else, and isn't the same kind they're going to form with someone else's children.) I really think the only way to tear down the walls that mark the borders of StepLand is for more people to stop allowing step-parenting to remain in "second-place" or "next-best-thing" situation and instead find ways to define the role of step-parent in a way that doesn't conflict with the very nature of the bond between parents and children when things are as they should be. I think the role of step-parents could be better elevated to a primary role in children's lives (as compared to a secondary role) by giving step-parents' role that unique definition all its own).

      There's room for lots of Number 1's in children's lives (Number 1 Mom, Number 1 Dad, Number 1 Grandparent, etc.). If step-parents had a better-defined, unique, role they would be "Number 1 Step-Parent". As things are now, they're often in some kind of ill defined, "sort-of-parent/sometimes-parent-sort-of" role at the bottom of the "parent-figure totem pole". I don't think anyone should ever live at the bottom of any totem pole; and I think children may be more likely to question any authority of someone living at the bottom of a parent totem pole.

      No matter what our situation is (related to marriage or just life in general), we all have challenges that are unique and specific to our individual circumstances. I don't think step-parents are any different; but I don't see myself as "looking into StepLand". I see myself more as "looking around the larger world and recognizing that some parents, more than others, feel extremely protective of their relationship with their own children." I would imagine that as long as all three/four adults involved in a step situation share a similar attitude with regard to their own relationship with their children; there may be less chance the step-parent will become an "ill-fitting puzzle piece" who ends up living "on the edges of the larger world" and among similarly isolated "outcasts". I would think, however, that odds of having children's two parents and one or two step-parents share an equal degree of "valuing" the parent/child relationship the whole "puzzle-picture" may never be properly fit together and completed. If my children (even when they were young) found themselves with a step-mother who had similar thinking to me and their father (with regard to parents' roles versus step-parents' roles), I would have welcomed the presence of another good role model and special adult in my children's lives. I know, too, though, that while all people are individuals and think/feel differently; if I married someone with children older than about two I would have missed the "bonding opportunity" I had with my own children and could not form the identical kind of bond with step-children that I have with my own children, no matter how much I may like or care about a second husband's childr

    • C.E. Grant profile image

      C.E. Grant 7 years ago from StepLand's Sunny Side

      I am intrigued by the perceptions that you have ventured here.

      Some of the positions that you offer here are quite different from what I have seen & experienced, feet-on-the-ground, in StepLand & in my work as a globally acknowledged expert & authour on the blended/step dynamic.

      Your writing is impeccable. I like your style.

      Your work here on StepLand is quite eye-opening for me. You have helped me to see how others might see stepmommies from the outside, looking into StepLand.

      I am very grateful to you, Lisa! Keep writing!

      Warm regards...C.E. Grant

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Mr-M thanks for sharing your thoughts. I can see how being on both sides of the equation might help someone be more objective. Looking back at my own words (before the link), I guess the reason I used, "less objective", was a matter of differentiating between someone who has had no "personal involvement" in a "step-related" situation and someone who has. I guess, by "less objective," I meant "not removed from" - and looking at it now, I can see how was a careless choice of words.

      At the same time, though, another way to look at the "involved-versus-removed" thing is that it can, at times, be hard to remove the "history-colored glasses" and view things completely clearly and without "tint". (So, I'm not sure "less objective" is completely wrong either. Maybe "both-more-and-less-objective" would have been better; or else, "less removed".) In view of the fact that my "less objective" is in the comments section, I'm not able to change it at this point, even if I wanted to.

      I do appreciate lots of viewpoints (although I appreciate the reasonable ones more than the ones that just call me "crazy" - I'll admit). I agree that discussions that include more viewpoints offer more.

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      Mister-M 8 years ago

      While I appreciate the link, I was curious as to why you couched your reference to it as "less than objective?" Does it get any more objective than a father of two and step to two whose partner is a mother to two and step to two? (Say that three times fast!)

      It's one opinion in an internet full of them, but I would hardly call a person on BOTH sides of the equation "less than objective." Frankly, in my less than objective opinion, it makes me more objective.

      Excellent discussion. Lots of viewpoints and more than a little "dander" - which makes any discussion like this intriguing.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Trista, what a pleasure to get a comment from someone reasonable. LOL I agree that it isn't about whether the ex-wife likes the new wife or not (provided the new wife isn't someone who does obviously socially unacceptable things, like be drunk when the children are around). I don't think the ex-wife should try to make things harder for the new wife, and I think if a mother really wants what's healthiest for her kids she won't. There's one situation that I can see as an exception (if I think back to when my kids were little and imagine them having a step-mother). Any time children are spending time at someone else's house there's the chance there will be differences of what kids should do. I had inlaws who, in my opinion, were careless with young children. I didn't want to leave my kids there because I didn't want them, for example, in canoes (three kids to one adult); and I didn't want them out in the rural, mosquito-ridden yard without shirts or mosquito repellent. That meant that I wouldn't take up the inlaws on invitations to have the kids visit, and it meant even when I was there with the kids there were occasional "debates" and assertions (on my part) that I didn't care who did what, I didn't want whatever going on when it came to my kids. That wasn't about inlaws (who I liked, and who I wanted my kids to have a nice relationship with) or a step-mother or whoever else. It was about someone else thinking they had a right to second-guess what I did, as my kids' mother; and even, if given the chance, doing things behind my back. To me, every mother and father have a right to decide how things will be done with their kids. If the mother and father don't agree they need to find a way to reach some agreement/compromise. To me, as a mother, where I would think a step-parent had every "right" to make rules would be related only to behavior that goes in his/her home. Who does or doesn't put their feet on the couch, who puts their dishes in the dishwasher, etc. - those are things everyone has a right to "establish" in his/her own home. As a mother, what I wouldn't want is for someone else to decide that even if I don't want my kids watching violent movies, for example, they'll be allowed to do it in someone else's home. I only bring my "mother's perspective" as a way to share how it feels to be a mother and what kind of things are likely to bother most mothers. Speaking only as a mother, I think a lot of other mothers (and fathers) would agree with me when I say I wouldn't care if it were "another woman" (step-mother), inlaws, my children's aunts or grandparents, teachers, or anyone else when it comes to the fact that I don't want anyone else "stepping on my toes" as my own kids' mother. That's not saying I did't want people telling them how to behave when they're at their house or school; but when it came to "parenting basics" I wasn't about to share with anyone but their father. Had there been a step-mother, I would have wanted them to have a special relationship with her (as they did with their grandparents and aunts and uncles); and I would have done what I could to promote that. The irony (and difficulty) is that, as you mentioned, second wives "aren't going anywhere" (hopefully) and ex-wives need to accept that; there's no normal, good, mother in the world who is willing to "go away" when it comes to her own children either.

      As far as bonding with the children goes, I'm an adoptive mother to one of my children. Bonding happens when we have nice time together with a child, and when we're someone they can trust and someone who cares for them. It takes time to bond, but bonding happens whenever children have a special adult they like being with and who treats them with respect. Talking together and having things to laugh about are what children often value most. Most little kids don't care so much what activity they're doing with an adult. They just like being with an adult they like to be with.

      With regard to what children "should" call step-parents, here's a link to a pretty good discussion:

      Here's a link to a somewhat less "objective" discussion:

      The link I included mentions that it may be easier for toddlers to start calling a stepmother, "mom" (and I didn't read it closely enough to figure out if they mean when the mother has died or not). My input here is only my own opinion (nothing else), but I'd be a little a more concerned with letting the baby call someone anything that has "mom" in it than I would the older kids. The older kids know who their mother is. Here's what I base my comment on with regard to a toddler:

      When my brother was two my mother was hospitalized for seven months (Tuberculosis). My sister was twelve, and I was six. Our maternal aunt came to the house and watched us each day as our father worked. We visited our mother each week, standing outside the hospital and with her talking out her first-floor window. We talked to her on the phone each day. My brother was four or five when he would talk about how he had "three mothers". He'd say, "I had one mother, and she went away. Then I got another mother. Now I have you for my mother." My brother was, by no means, a "slow" little kid; and our mother was about as good, loving, and bonded as any mother could ever be. Still, my little brother had been confused. Nobody called my aunt anything but "Ruthie", although she did bring her own daughter to the house each day, and she called her mother, "Mum". My point is that younger children can sometimes get a little confused. I have no opinion (and no right to one) with regard to what your step-children call you; but I just thought I'd tell that story because it's a good example of a young child becoming confused.

      With my adopted son, even though he was placed as an infant it took three years to have the adoption finalized. Because I wasn't sure I'd really be able to adopt him, he learned to call me by a shorted version of my first name. Once the adoption was finalized it didn't take long before he switched to calling me "Mummy". Nobody could be more bonded than he and I have been from the start. My point is that it doesn't take the "label", "Mommy", to build a bond. Again, I'm only sharing these personal experiences because they came to mind when thinking about what children call people.

      Maybe a reader will see your comment and offer a better response. The only reason I'm responding is, to be honest, this Hub doesn't get comments more than every few weeks; so I didn't want to leave your comment without any response.

      Congratulations, and best wishes, on your new, ready-made, family.

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      Trista C 8 years ago

      What i just read made me think in one part i understand that the real mother would be upset about a new woman in the kids lives she should also get use to it because the step mom isnt going anywhere.All she is doing is amking it harder for the kids to not like the new step mom. I am going to be a step mom as im engaged to a wonderful man who has 3 children-

      a 6 year old boy, 4 year old girl and a 18 month old girl. His ex wife is still in the picture but doesnt like me. I spend time with the children alot as we get this 4 days a week and she gets them three. She doesnt understand hy the kids keep saying well we did this at dads and tristas. and sometimes they call my mommy Trista is that wrong?? I don't see it is because i am around the children and love them. There father does not have a problem with it. Does anyone ahve any suggestions on how to deal with his ex?? and what kind of activites i can do with the kids so i can bond with them more??

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      You (and anybody else) are, of course, free to think what is here is "ignorant". Everyone has a right to his/her own opinions.

      As far as "this is only my opinion" or "isn't this swell" goes, did I ever say either of those things? No. Did I say I was "just a happily married woman" or "a married woman"? No. Those are things YOU are reading into what it is written here.

      I have said I am not a mental-health professional. This piece has been written based on research, interviews, and - yes - my own expertise/experience as a mother of three children, as well as my own experience as the child of two wonderful parents to whom I was equally bonded. Since it was written on HubPages, rather than in, say, a newspaper or magazine, I wrote it with a more casual style than I use when writing something professionally. HubPages is my hobby writing.

      I do write in a way that often comes across as authoritative. That's my writing tone and style, especially on subjects that aren't "fluffy". With "fluff" I make it a point to come across more folksy, but not with serious subjects. I don't candy-coat my tone for the purpose of making readers who may like a little more sweetness added in order not to find something objectionable. Besides, look at how often words like "may be" or "some" are used. These are not statements about "everyone". These are statements that reflect things the reader is presumed will ask, herself, about the people in her own situation. It's the same as if I wrote on "what causes cancer" and said something like, "Sometimes smoking" or "contaminants in the environment may causes cancer" (etc.) Do you see, "Well, I'm no expert, but here's my opinion.." in articles you read in newspapers and magazines, by writers?????

      As I have stated in above comments, if anyone wants to single out any one idea I have presented here, and debate/question what is wrong with each, isolated, idea; I would be more than happy, willing, and able to present back-up to any point I have made. That's not what people commenting are doing, though. As you notice, they are mostly step-mothers, many of whom call mothers "biological mothers", and many of whom just seem to have some inexplicable difficulty in accepting the one, simple, premise that AT LEAST SOMETIMES when an ex-wife/mother seems bitter there's the chance she isn't being "bitter" about the ex-husband but has legitimate, maternal, instincts toward her children. That still leaves room for any step-mother to keep thinking the ex-wife she's dealing is bitter.

      Sometimes the myopic view is held by someone who is in a situation - not by someone who writes about it, as an objective observer.

      As far as being open to changing my "stance" goes, first, it isn't just my "stance", alone. Second, tone or no tone, this article isn't intended to take stance - only bring out some of the concerns of mothers and of children. Third, no, I'm not open to changing anything I've said because someone (often someone who comes across to others as pretty unreasonable or bitter, herself) adds a comment here that I'm supposed to just go with.

      This Hub was not written on "blind opinion", and, no, I don't have a "good friend" who is an ex-wife.

      I'm well aware that I have no need to defend myself or my writing in response to some of the many emotional and unreasonable reactions to a piece of writing that, if someone "gets it", isn't about some big, controversial, new, ideas.

      Still, here's the thing: If someone attacks what I say, insults me, or implies that any ideas offered here are not sound; they aren't going to get away with it and then just say, "don't bother defending yourself". All attackers would very much like the object of their attack not to defend himself, wouldn't they... So, now there's your comment (which I didn't even have to approve here if I didn't want to have objecting opinions on here), and my response to it. Readers can decide which of us is more reasonable.

      By the way, you still have not taken me up on my earlier offer to address any specific points that you believe are objectionable or incorrect. I, personally, don't really feel like spending a lot more time on this one Hub; but I made the offer two weeks ago, and today's comment is all you offered.

    • profile image

      christylcsw 8 years ago

      By and large, your opinions are just plain ignorant as evident in your "well-this-is-just-my-opinion" and your polyanna "isn't-it-just-swell-that-we-can-all-have-our different-opinions-on-this" angle. Which by the way, is manipulative. You claim to be a professional writer so you should know better. "Why Bitterness May Not Be What It Seems" does not read as a piece written from the perspective of one happily married woman's opinion. You wrote this piece as if you are some kind of expert on the subject. Your words in the original piece are demonstrative and take on an air of experience of some sort. Not once do you say "well, I am no expert, but this is what I think...." It is really misleading and sort of infuriating, which is one explanation for aaaaaall of the commenters observation of what this really is...your biased opinion. And if you admit you have no personal experience in the mental health field, or either being a step-mother or having had one, then why the piece to begin with? My guess is the passion in your insistence in clinging to your myopic views of step-parent/ex-wives and thier families and then irresponsibly generalizing it is some other biased a good friend who is an ex-wife? Pathetic.

      What is also irritating is you seem to have no capacity to take what most of the commenters here on your own blog are saying and rethink your stance. The complicated topic of divorce is not one for blind opinion. So instead of defending yourself please do more reading. Or just leave the "opinions" to the real experts: people who work in the field, or have been through this and actually know what they are talking about.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      justina, thanks for sharing your situation. This Hub is really about "normal, caring" mothers; and the only real point of it is to say that not all ex-wives/mothers are bitter. It isn't about expecting step-mothers to cater to mothers' feelings either. Neither is it to say that all mothers are wonderful. (One of my children is an adopted child, and he wasn't adopted because he had a wonderful and capable birth mother, believe me. My other two children are children I had myself, so I know that the bond I have had with all three has come from nurturing them and being with them - not from having given birth to two of them.)

      This Hub, though, is about the normal situation when a mother and father are married, the child is raised by his married parents until they divorce, there is the normal parent/child bond/relationship between both parents and the child, and then the father re-marries.

      The mother you mention is not a normal mother. There may be plenty more like her, but even so, that kind of mother is still not the norm. The mother you describe obviously doesn't have the normal maternal instincts to protect her child and to safeguard/encourage her child's relationship with both his own parents (in other words, with her, as well as his father).

      As I've mentioned above, this Hub is not about step-mothers at all. It's about ex-wives/mothers. It doesn't imply that step-mothers don't have legitimate issues of their own, or that they should be disregarded. They just don't happen to be the focus of this Hub.

      So, having (hopefully) clarified that this Hub doesn't focus on bizarre, bad, mothers like the one you described; I hope you see there's no real reason to be angry. (Maybe I should have used the word, "normal", more often than I did, but I assumed using it meant it would be implied throughout.) :)

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      justina 8 years ago

      Ok, so seriously, I am a step parent. And this article makes it sound like the step parent has to be the one who has to consider all the feelings of the biological parent. But what if the biological mother has had nothing to do with the child for almost a year. And for the past 3 years, I have been the one who has been there for the child in every situation. But now the biological mom ( I use the term 'mom" loosely) wants to see and have time with the child. Am I supposed to act like I haven't been the mom the whole time while she was out partying. For years I encouraged her to grow up and take a role in her son's life and she never did. She hasn't grown up yet, she is still looking for an excuse not to see him. Why should I cater to her feelings? Maybe she should cater to mine. I feelings and when she tried to belittle all the time and effort I put in as mom while she was out drinking and sleeping around, it makes me a little angry to read article like this that say I should consider her feelings, and mine are irreverent.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      JLR, thanks for commenting. I don't think too many people would ever disagree that the children's feelings are what need to come first.

      I'm not defending someone I don't know, and obviously I have no idea why your husband's ex-wife mentioned that; but my immediate thought was that maybe she just wanted you to know she has no "designs" on your husband. :) When there's a new marriage that takes place it's potentially awkward for any of the people involved, and there's always the chance one person may say something that someone else's doesn't quite understand. If, by any chance, she was trying, in her own awkward way, to let you know she didn't plan to be a problem for you, she probably couldn't find words to answer your question that didn't sound all wrong. Again, I'm not defending what I don't know was innocent - but there is that chance (at least based on only what you included here).

      By the way (I hope you can sense my light humor here, although what I'm adding is true), many mothers who have not placed their children out for adoption prefer not to be called, "biological mothers". :) Mothers usually consider themselves "mothers".

      In all seriousness, congratulations on your new marriage. Best wishes for a great relationship with your husband's children.

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      JLR 8 years ago

      I am a step-mother. A few weeks ago, my husband's ex made it a point to tell me that she was the one who left the marriage. Now, what does that have to do with the children? When I asked her just that question, of course she had no answer. There comes a point when the biological mother needs to realize that the situation is not about her feelings. It is about the children. If a step-mother can see this, why can't the mother? Frankly, I really don't care that hurts her feelings because another woman is part of her children's lives. She should have thought about that when she left the marriage.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      christyicsw, thanks for contributing.

      I don't mind if my not having training in this specific area shows. I've never pretended otherwise. This Hub is based on research and a lot of exposure to people in the divorce/step-child situations. While I have no doubt that there are things I haven't learned in a formal training situation; respectfully, there are often times when I'm not all that impressed by some of the things that ARE taught (often by, and to, people who, themselves, may never have personal experience or what I see as a sufficient understanding of human nature or children). For example, the Legal profession learns that the "way it's done" is a non-custodial parent visits on Wednesday and on the weekend - end of story, in many cases. The Teaching profession often has beliefs, or just incentives, to encourage the medication of kids who may not actually have a condition warranting it. The Medical profession often learns to hand out prescriptions rather than having the time, inclination, or understanding to encourage a patient to help professionals get to to the root of some symptoms and aim to address that, rather than medicate it.

      Also, as you mentioned, yourself, professionals in an area like this get most of their real-life experience on people who are looking for someone's help/guidance - not the people who have the maturity, common sense, and drive to work things out on their own.

      I'm not "against" different professions, and I don't underestimate or discount the value of training; but training, alone, is not always a guarantee of "knowing better" with regard to all things. Sometimes, being outside of a specific area and only talking to other people outside that area yields something very different from "conventional wisdom". That's neither here nor there, though. The real issue is whether there is any bad information in this Hub.

      Here are the messages here:

      -that not all ex-wives/mothers are bitter, even if they appear to be acting as if they are.

      -that child like to spend time with each parent, alone; that they like to spend time with both parents together; and that they like/benefit from spending special time alone or with others with other special adults.

      -that an occasional, not-all-the-important event (like one of many baseball practices or dance lessons, for example) with only the two parents presents is nice for a child.

      -that a second marriage shouldn't mean that absolutely all hope of ever having time alone with one parent or both parents "for the rest time".

      -that two parents showing up at that baseball practice one afternoon here or there can show a child that parents can be in the same place together and not fight, and that (as they probably told him) they are "still his parents" and "that part won't change".

      -that if everyone involved would try to understand the others better there would be less dislike and misunderstanding among the adults - always better for the child.

      -that step-mothers can and should be a "special other person" in a child's life, but that the mother/child bond - when it's what it's supposed to be and when the mother is alive - is unique and powerful and will always be very different from any other relationship children have.

      -This Hub has never been about people who don't fall within the "normal" range when it comes to level of emotional maturity. It's about people who are mature, caring, and concerned about their children but who may not understand the issues of the other adults in the "equation" as well as they could.

      If there is anything anyone wishes to debate about the above points I'd welcome it. If I've overlooked some message in this Hub, or if I'm sending some message I didn't meant to send, I'd be more than willing to discuss/debate/offer "back-up" resources any specific points.

      Sometimes people who know their children's other parent is a good, loving, parent choose not to bring in step-parents (at least while the children are young) because they have a good understanding of the types of complications that can occur with blending families. I'm not suggesting that's what everyone should do, or that's right for people in all circumstances; but it could point out that a lot of the most selfless parents' children will never have step-parents at all.

      I don't want to sound obnoxious here (because I've suggested everyone who reads here ought to do more than just ask themselves whether any of it makes any sense to them); but sometimes a person's experiences and exposure to people or up-and-close-and-personal familiarity with other people's situations can be the very thing that helps them see things about a situation that make them think, "That's not a situation I'd ever let myself or my kids be in, if I can help it." In other words, the fact that my kids have no step-parents is no accident.

      In any case, I do welcome specific, opposing, ideas here; and am more than willing to clarify, expand, or back-up any points in this Hub. Although I haven't detailed my whole background and life in my profile (to maintain my own privacy), I can say that I'm quite capable of "getting it", provided someone state specifically what it is he believes I don't get, explains it, and backs up opposing points with more than a generalization that I'm incapable of "getting it". A generalized "you're-not-capable-of-getting-it" is based on assumptions. A general disagreement with even part of this Hub isn't legitimate if it is doesn't come with specific points of dispute and explanations as to why the opposing point-of-view is the correct one.

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      christylcsw 8 years ago

      Lisa Lisa Lisa. Your page is food for fodder, true. But your lack of personal experience, training and work in the field is obvious. Until one works in this field and/or has experience as an actual step-parent and perhaps having step-parents as a kid (or all three), one really does not have the capacity to "get it." Well said Gina.

      But I do like your message of parents needing to work together for the sake of the children. Unfortunatley, in my experience in my practice too many parents are either incapable or unwilling to put their child's needs first. Many parents are righteously indignant thinking that what they are doing IS putting the children's needs first when the real dispute is about power, control, money, hurt feelings, etc. that have nothing to do with the kids. The kids suffer terribly which is heartbreaking (and have lifelong effects btw). Of course, I only get the ones who usually have this problem. I am sure there are plenty of divorced/divorcing parents out there who do it the right way and have children that fare far better than the ones in therapy so young.

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      christylcsw 8 years ago

      Lisa Lisa Lisa. Your page is food for fodder, true. But your lack of personal experience, training and work in the field is obvious. Until one works in this field and/or has experience as an actual step-parent and perhaps having step-parents as a kid (or all three), one really does not have the capacity to "get it." Well said Gina.

      But I do like your message of parents needing to work together for the sake of the children. Unfortunatley, in my experience in my practice too many parents are either incapable or unwilling to put their child's needs first. Many parents are righteously indignant thinking that what they are doing IS putting the children's needs first when the real dispute is about power, control, money, hurt feelings, etc. that have nothing to do with the kids. The kids suffer terribly which is heartbreaking (and have lifelong effects btw). Of course, I only get the ones who usually have this problem. I am sure there are plenty of divorced/divorcing parents out there who do it the right way and have children that fare far better than the ones in therapy so young.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Have Been There, thanks for sharing your own experiences. From what I've heard, your situation is one shared by a whole lot of people.

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      Have been there 8 years ago


      I am seeing that most every comment on here comes from the step parent and disagrees with you. I am not sure if these step parents have had children of their own or not, but let me just put my comment on here quickly.

      My son's father and I divorced and remained friends, until the step mom came along. Obviously, I was not a bitter ex, since I ended th erelationship and we had remained friends. He met another women with no children. She decided to do what I see alot of step parents without children do...try to over step her role, as a mther that is going to out the red flags up and you move into defensive mode. She signed up as team mother for my son's first tee ball games, before anyone was even offered or asked, my ex had to get her to rescind the offer so that other mothers (including myself) could be offered the opportunity. She called the school,signed up before me to do activities, insisted on going to school parenting meetings, did all his school projects that went to the fathers home and basically took over all duties at the fathers house with him (this caused huge problems between all of us, and ofcourse the father was at fault also, but he claims it was just too much of a fight to deal with, she was always jealous)...this all happened UNTIL they had children. Once they had children (two) my son was pushed more and more on the back burner, then the fights were over everything my son did wrong. She went from being overly involved to not having the time for him and accusing his father of loving him more than their children. They ended up divorcing after 10 years and him and my son came home to find all of their things packed and out front.

      Funny thing is now he is getting remarried again and she has called me because she does not know how to deal with this other women doing to her what she did to me FOR YEARS. I honestly did not know what to tell her, and kind of thought, what goes around comes around unfortunately.

      Alot of times it seems the stepmother feels she needs to prove herself. And alot of times it is the stepmom who has no children that does not understaind what it really feels like to have children and that fierce protective instinct you get as a mother....when you have your own, you do not want someone else to overstep their boundaries. I did not want to reconcile with my ex, I wanted my son to have a good life. It was not his choice to be born in to a relationship that has failed and he should not have to suffer unnecessarily because of it. If anyone should make the sacrifice it should be his parents. And if a stepparent cannot make sacrifices for the child then they should not get married to the person who has the child, unfortunately that is what parenting is, sometimes sacrificing your wants.

      I am remarried and my husband NEVER steps on my son's fathers toes. He allows us to talk things through and if there is a conference at the school he encourages us to attend together, thinks it is ridiculous that we would all take off work to sit in the room, just so we can show WE are the ones together, the children know that, they live it every day, the only ones that need to seem to prove it is the step parent to the ex or to the teachers? In the end, we are his parents and make the final decision.

      On a final note, as you can see my son's 1st stepmother was not permanent and they do not see each other or communicate at all now, however I am still here and always will be. That is always in the back of every mothers mind when the step parent is trying to relay her beliefs and values onto a child that may not necessarily be in their life forever.


    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Gina, thanks for taking the time to contribute (and I do consider it a contribution). I particularly appreciate that your comment is a whole lot more reasonable than a lot of the others. (LOL)

      I don't disagree with anything you say. I'm starting to wonder about my wording in the Hub, though, because it does seem that readers keep thinking I'm saying adults should never be with kids at the same time. I'm not. I agree with what you've said. My only assertion is that there should be those occasional times (that are not big events, like graduations) when kids get to just have time with their own two parents. (The occasional baseball practice, the occasional dance class, etc.)

      I wholeheartedly agree that there is no excuse for adults not finding a way to set aside their "issues" and get along for the children's sake (as well as, as you say, being a role model of what a sensible, reasonable, adult ought to act like in a sometimes complex situation).

      Thanks again for contributing. :)

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      Gina 8 years ago

      I have been reading this article and the responses and have figured out what the problem is. And Lisa it's just not you, I have seen several counselors and such give advice on divorce situations that have never been a step-child or even a step-parent and I think that is great that you have not had to experience those things. But you do not have the experience in that area to truly know how divorce works on people. What is taught in school for counseling divorced parents is out-dated. If you want a good functioning divorced family and the children to know that they are loved by everyone and that all the parents (including step-parents) can get along and show they are there for them, then all the parents (including step-parents) needs to take the children out together. The two families in the same place, at the same time, socializing together. And don't tell me it's not possible, because I know it is. There is no excuse for a mother or a step-mother not to get along. It's called being good role models for your children, showing them that even if you get divorced, you can still get along with each other.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      autumn, thanks for contributing your own experience. Your remarks immediately brought to my mind a similar situations with my own kids and my (own) mother. My mother was wonderful and had a super-close relationship with my kids. She'd often remember, if the kids asked her something, to say, "Ask your mother"; but sometimes, just because they had such a good relationship (and I was very happy about that and certainly didn't have a shred of envy), it was just kind of natural that someone who had such a close relationship with them didn't think to "step back".

      In fact, I'm not sure that it wouldn't seem weird to children if someone to whom they're so close every once in a while seemed to "hold back" and "act differently". So, someone like mother didn't feel right suddenly being more stand-off-ish toward the children. I did occasionally feel "pushed to the side"; but when it's the grandmother you just understand why it's happening, and when the visit is over everyone goes home. (If parents live with grandparents it can be a longer-lasting issue, but that wasn't the case with us.)

      I'd think that with the mother/father/step-mother situation it could potentially be a little more muddied for the children; because their father has been teamed up with both women, and because they often do have their time with just their father and step-mother in their home (rightfully, of course). As with a grandmother, it's great if they have their great relationship with their step-mother; but then if the mother is present too, the mother is reasonable in not "being thrilled" to feel pushed aside or to be concerned that the situation could undermine her authority or "equal authority" with the children's father. Since it IS (ideally) important the children (at least occasionally, if not often) enjoy time with all three adults in the equation at the same time, most people wouldn't want to end all "group time". Offering that occasional "own-parents-only" time would help balance off the "all-three-together" time and potentially help children (especially young ones) from seeing an altered role for their mother. I'm not suggesting this happens in all situations, by any means; but I would think (and this is only my opinion at this point) there could be the possibility that without care to preserve the role of the mother in the children's eyes, the message could be sent that the mother is only "the one" (for lack of a more appropriate choice of words) when the father and his wife aren't around. I don't necessarily think that three adults at one time sends a "bad message", by itself. I just think (again, nothing more than my opinion) that "balancing off" that "one good message" (of "shared-ness") with another "good message" of "mom and dad and nobody else" is a healthier approach. Young children DO sometimes get a little confused in situations, like when a grandmother takes care of them most of the time, and they start to "see her" as their mother. Teens do pay attention to which adults are more likely to let them get away with stuff, and which adults have the most respected authority.

      I can't help but believe (and again, only my opinion and I'm not pretending otherwise) that giving children the occasional reminder that they have two parents, focused on them, and working as a team when it comes to them, and of equal authority and closeness; has to help children see that while marriages sometimes end their relationship with the parents, and the role of their parents, doesn't have to change.

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      autumn 8 years ago

      I am a mother of four children, two from my first marriage and two from my second marriage. I have joint custody with my ex-husband and it hasn't been easy. His new wife has tried to take over the mothering portion of the relationship when we have sports practices, parent/teacher conferences and such. It has gotten to the point that when she sees me with one of my children, she grabs them from me, and 'takes over' (pulling them away from me, ordering them around, taking them to their coach and introducing them as their 'mother', etc.) I was a little hesitant at first about all of us attending these events together, but agreed. I thought that I would give it a chance. After seeing how she 'takes over' when the kids are with me, I have had to change my opinion. I feel that when a step-mother is as controlling as she is, then they should be left out of the equation. When the mother is attending an event, the 'controlling' step-mother should step back and let the mother be just that, a mother. If that can't be done, then the step-mother shouldn't be able to attend if she can't respect the mothers wishes. It causes too much conflict and in most cases, the two 'mothers' will fight in front of the children to take ownership of the situation. I understand that being a step parent can be hard, but so can being the parent and trying to make the best choices for their kids health and safety. When the child is around their mother, then it should be assumed that she has responsiblity for them until they leave her side and is back in their father and step-mothers care. My husband is a step-father, and has seen what I have been through with their step-mother and agrees that if he were in the situation where he was going to be at the same place with their father, he would step back and their father take over, because in the end, that's their father, and he's not trying to replace him.

      So, with all of this said, I would like to say that while sometimes going to family events with 'all' of the family may work for some people, it DEFINITELY does not work for others...I agree with Lisa in saying that the children having JUST their mother and father with them at some occasions is healthier for them, no tension from the 'other' parent, and everyone in the end is going to these occasions for the kids and not to spite the other parent, or keep an eye on them....if there's a trust issue in the relationship and you can't trust your husband to go with his ex-wife to a ballgame, then there are more underlying issues that need to be addressed.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      opinion duck, thanks for contributing. I agree that divorce presents a new set of problems, and I think the court system commits what amounts to crimes against parents and children with their lack of respect for the roles and importance of both parents in the well-being of children.

      I can't say I agree that in most divorces it's a matter of marriage being taken too lightly. Young people getting married usually take their marriage very seriously, but the trouble is there can be facets to their personalities that won't be revealed unless/until certain types/degrees of serious stresses/circumstances occur. Differences in the ways people handle things can cause couples to grow distant. Something else that happens is one person is absolutely miserable, and the other person can't keep a marriage whole by him/herself.

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      opinion duck 8 years ago

      Really, the problem is divorce.

      Once a marriage fails, you are forced into a government system and we all know how government can really do much right.

      Everyone spends all the time and money on the wedding but the real cost and time is when the marriage fails. Marraige is taken too lightly and children are brought into this world without a lot of thought about taking care of them.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Aya, thank you for the non-hostile comment. :) As you may have noticed, this Hub has become one on which I approach comments with "fear and trepidation". :) It's a good thing rotten tomatoes can't be thrown over the Internet. My keyboard would be loaded with them. :)

      It would be humorous if the matter weren't such a serious one.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks

      Lisa HW, I enjoyed reading this well-balanced treatment of a difficult subject. I've never been in any of the situations you described, but I know lots of people who have been.

      The problem, as I see it, stems from the fact that mating and child rearing are separate functions, even though there is historically a causal relation between mating and having children.

      People are confused because they expect the parent's mate to play the role of co-parent. If this happens, it undercuts the other parent.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      AnnaSa, thanks for sharing your own difficult experience. It's refreshing to read a comment written by someone who seems completely reasonable. :) (As you noticed, a lot of the comments here aren't all that "objective". :) ).

      You're right that the article does assume emotional maturity, and I know that emotional maturity isn't necessarily something people always have. What has always amazed me about misunderstandings (among any people in all kinds of situations, not necessarily just the divorce/re-marriage situation) is how easy it is for even emotionally mature people to misinterpret someone else's motives, or else to misjudge how a situation (particularly with children) should be handled. You're right. It's complicated.

      I'm not someone who thinks "all ex-wives/mothers - good; all step-mothers - bad". :) I know a lot of step-parents step into really difficult situations and get a lot of "junk" that nobody should have to take. This Hub wasn't about them, though. It did assume a certain amount of emotional maturity simply because when people aren't emotionally mature and act like "evil lunatics" that's a matter for the family therapist or psychiatrist - not me.

      Again, as you say, it's all complicated. Hopefully, your grown step-children may one day actually come to realize some of the realities in their own situation.

      Again, thanks for contributing your reasonable remarks to this Hub which has obviously pushed a lot of buttons in a lot of people less cool-headed than you are. :)

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      AnneSa 8 years ago

      Wow, Lisa, you've really taken a lot of stick for your article!! I came across it as I "searched" for articles on stepmothers/stepchildren relationships as I do find it a very complex and interesting subject. I am a stepmother to 2 adult stepchildren albeit a long distance one. I met their father 17 years ago when he had been divorced for 3 years and we now have 3 children of our own. I would generally describe my relationship with my stepchildren as full of underlying resentment. We no longer live in the same country as them but in the first few years of our relationship we did and it was totally fraught. We believe that my husband's ex-wife poisoned the children with her bitterness, and we know that she shared a lot of information/opinions with them which should not have been shared with children. After all these years, I have now told my husband that I can no longer be expected to make an effort towards his 2 children as I feel they are now adults and as much as I believe things were not easy for them as children as they lived with a lot of tension, I feel that I still come under undeserved criticism from them and that they treat me with a certain hostility. I personally have never attended parents' evenings at their school or school events, which my husband and his ex-wife did although not as any kind of show of "togetherness" but rather that they both had a personal interest in their children. I never felt it my place to do so and I don't believe the children would have wanted or expected my presence. Anyway, I would just like to share that I also finished reading your article believing that you must belong to the "ex-wife" camp so it's interesting to read that that's not the case. I do believe that your article does assume emotional maturity on the part of all adults involved as another poster states. However, I always enjoy reading any article on this subject. Oh, why does it all have to be so complicated.....

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Mandi, you have a right to your opinion, and I'm happy to post your comments. This article is not intended to be advice. It is, as I have explained repeatedly above, intended to point out that (while there are, I'm sure, ex-wives who are bitter and horrible and every bit as evil as anyone thinks they are) that not all ex-wives' difficult behavior comes from what the fathers of their children and second wives believe it does.

      If the difficult ex-wife you have to deal with is just bitter and "evil" then this article does not apply to her or you. I don't understand why people continue to take the over-simplified view that this Hub states that no ex-wife could possibly be bitter and rotten. It doesn't. It states that not all are.

      I haven't shared much in terms of my personal background/experience because this is in the Internet, and I have reasons to want to maintain some privacy for myself and others. I'm not a family therapist and don't pretend to be. I've shared that I have three grown kids, and that there has never been a step situation for them. Sometimes, though, it is from the standpoint of not being all mired in the emotions of a challenging situation that a person can remain more objective.

      As I've said repeatedly, this Hub is not about ex-wives who ARE bitter and nasty just because they're jerks, and it's not about ex-husbands and second wives. It's about the fact that there are SOME ex-wives who may appear bitter when, in fact, the root of their unpleasant behavior comes from something other than pure nastiness.

      I don't happen to agree with a whole lot of the absolutely criminal treatment with which courts (including their "expert" GAL's and other so-called "professionals") often disregard the non-custodial parent and the relationship he (sometimes she) has with his children. That's another issue for another time.

      I'm the first to tell anyone, "Don't just take my word for it," and I give credit to readers for considering what has been presented here and thinking for themselves. At the same time, anyone who has not misinterpreted the message of this Hub; and anyone who is willing to at least consider the possibility that there are some seemingly bitter ex-wives may actually have "legitimate" reasons for "getting her back up"; isn't going to like what has been presented here very much. Whether or not it's foolishness is up to readers to decide, and I'm appreciative of having the chance to post the reactions of so many second wives so that readers can evaluate those as well.

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      Mandi 8 years ago

      Is she a doctor? She can't be... All step-parents should know this. She stated she does not have an ex and her husband does not have an ex. They do not have a family where step-children are involved. Clearly, she has no idea. When my stepson comes to my home he looks at me as a mother figure. I shower him, put him to bed, teach him to clean up his mess, etc... This is what is typically a role of the mother. If anybody here has a brain in their head, I would not read her advice. You have to live it, to understand it. She also has no idea what it is like to live with a bitter ex-wife. Try going to court for visitation for your son, for no reason at all. Foolishness, that's what the words she types on this page are. Pure foolishness.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      christicsw, your first comment kind of makes me smile because if anyone were to read most things I write anywhere they were see that I lean toward the "verbal" as far as numbers of words go. It means nothing than that I write and type quickly and find words come easily. Since I'm not a step-mother, and since my own children aren't in a situation to have a step-mother, there are no nerves to touch.

      Some step-kids (grown ones) I've talked with have said they never had any fantasy that parents would get back together. In fact, they were glad their unhappy parents "finally" divorced. I think, too, that kids are capable of understanding the truth if parents present it properly and make it clear that the occasional time that includes only the child and his own two parents does not mean anyone is getting back together. Again, the suggestion here was not to exclude step-parents from the important things - only to give children that occasional, say, baseball game with only his own two parents attending. I can't help but wonder if, in fact, children who have parents "put that one need first" (again, just occasionally and certainly not as part of the usual routine) maybe there would be fewer fantasies about parents' getting back together. After all, when someone is allowed a brief visit to a "past world" he may well be less likely to mourn over its complete and permanent destruction.

      I don't believe the simple "putting the kids' needs first" just enough to throw them that bone once in a while sends any message other than that they can trust their parents to show (and not just say) that they both still love the child(ren) as they always have; and that they are both still his/their parents. When children can trust their parents to understand that their simple need for the occasional reminder that the world they knew has not become completely eradicated to the point where they can't even have an occasional "visit" to it, they may be more likely to trust what parents say when they also point out that such "visits" don't mean a return to the old way of life.

      Parents who choose to do this would be making a choice, based on what they believed was their child. Whether or not any guilt factored is would depend on the parents and the situation.

      I don't think it's appropriate to "imagine onto" a situation either children's fantasies or parents' guilt, because no two situations or people are alike. Again, the recommendation was not that parents keep attending things as they always did in the past, but only to go to the occasional "less important" thing (school parents meeting, baseball practice or game, etc.) at the same time.

      It's always interesting to me when people refer to parents as "bio parents". Most people refer to the adults involved in a second-marriage situation as "parents and step-parent(s)". Whenever someone uses "bio parents" it seems to imply that they do not recognize that in most cases (where a step-child was not adopted as an infant, for example; or when a parent has died) the step-parent relationship (while, ideally, a wonderful one) is not equal to children's relationship with their own parents (even when their own parents have "issues" of one sort or another).

      I don't understand why it seems so many readers are incapable of sorting out what has been suggested here and what hasn't. The simple act of occasionally going to some not-so-important event without the step-parent doesn't seem like such a big deal to me. With regard to "putting the child's needs first" - why not, when it's a need that is so simple and so easily filled with the rare or occasional parents-only event. Nobody suggests parents put the child's needs first and stay together or don't marry again. What has been suggested here is a small thing and doesn't have to be a big thing. I notice that it seems to be all step-mothers who have had difficulty with ideas presented. I'd venture to say that that's where nerves are being hit and buttons being pushed on this Hub.

      When parents have common sense and communicate honestly and effectively with children, they know how to make sure no wrong messages are sent. Most kids are delighted to have some time with just one parent by themselves, and delighted to have some time with just their two parents and nobody else. That doesn't exclude all other times with other combinations of parents/step-parents, and it is not the suggestion here that step-parents not attend important events. My own personal belief is that if a step-parent misses a Wednesday afternoon baseball and only Mom and Dad happen to be there, it isn't going to send any message beyond "Susie is busy today" and, of course, that once in a while Mom and Dad can be at the same activity (without the step-parent) without it being Earth-shattering.

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      christylcsw 8 years ago

      Mary: Looking at the looooong response from Lisa you touched a nerve. And as a family therapist (and step mother) I agree with parents who continue to attend games, family functions, etc., together are only prolonging a child's fantasy of the two reuniting. It is a poor choice, and often the impetus is the guilt on the parent's part and an attempt to compensate for what they think the child is missing out on because of their breakup. But this is putting THEIR needs first. The child needs to move on and see the reality of the situation. Encouraging the child's fantasy and hopes of a reunion is unhealthy. And by the way....what message do you think it is sending the child by not having the step-parents attend? Just my two cents.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      oftheplains, thanks. I do appreciate anyone taking the time to comment. The point of this Hub is not to address the issues of people who, like your husband's ex-wife, appear to be "mental case/abusers" who slap their child in the face (and whatever else). It is not to say that all ex-wives (or husbands or step-mothers) are absolutely wonderful, well adjusted, people. The aim was to point out that - when the people involved are normal, well adjusted, reasonable, people there are times when some behavior could appear otherwise, simply because it can be misinterpreted or misunderstood.

      With regard to the point about your step-daughter wanting you to attend things: The point of this Hub was never to say that step-children don't want their step-parents to attend things. It was to point out that sometimes some children do long for a little "just us" time with their own two parents. Again, the intent was to address well adjusted people (and they are a reality and do exist) who happen to make up the "group" of husband, wife, ex-wife/mother and any children.

      Regardless of who the people are or what situation they're in (separate from divorces and second marriages), there are always times when generally well adjusted people can seem unreasonable or otherwise "off" when, in fact, the problem is that others do don't understand their real motives or reasons for seemingly bad behavior. Saying that this type of misunderstanding can occur among well adjusted, reasonable, people is not saying anything - one way or another - about people who are "mental cases" or have personalilty problems.

      For every divorce that happens because one partner is "out of their mind" or "horrible", there are other divorces that happen between two normal, well adjusted, people who want to do what's right for the children (and after the anger passes, who want the other to build a happy, new, life). There are also times when two reasonable, well adjusted, divorced people may discover that a second spouse is actually the one who may be a little unreasonable (look at a few of the comments above, and see how many look like they're interested in anything but what they want). Again, this Hub addressed only those times when the people who divorced are generally normal, reasonable, people; but may look less than reasonable because they're misunderstood. It doesn't address second-spouses/step-parents at all, beyond acknowledging that they are the ones who have to deal with what may only look like a "bitter ex-wife/mother".

      Because your experience is apparently from the viewpoint of someone who has to deal with a "mental case/child abuser" it may seem bizarre to you to imagine that not everyone in the world, and not all ex-wives/mothers, are like that person. There's nothing at all bizarre about mature, reasonable, people (even when they've gone through a divorce and all the anger and misunderstanding that surrounds it).

      If I had written a Hub, "Why a pain in your chest doesn't necessarily mean a heart attack"; and then mentioned how indigestion, respiratory infection, or muscle pulls can cause pains the chest, nobody would accuse me of being "biased". If I further clarified (either in the article or comments), "This doesn't mean your chest pain is not a heart attack either, so please see a doctor if you have chest pain," the article on all the other things that can cause chest pains would essentially be "it's own article, addressing it's own subject". Would it be "one dimensional"? Sure, but that's the point of writing about one aspect of something. My aim was not to write an "encyclopedia of all bad things that happen after divorce/remarriage". It was to point out that not all "bitterness" is always what it may appear to be.

      If I write an article, "25 pretty pink flowers", I'm not going to include all the ugly pink flowers there may be in the world because my article is not about the ugly pink flowers.

      It surprises me that so many of the second wives/step-mothers above are resistant to considering the idea that the children's mother may be being misunderstood; or that someone like you, who obviously is dealing with the "mental case/abuser" mother, would think she represents all first wives and mothers. It seems to me that the bias and one dimensional approach is coming at me in the form of comments. :)

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      oftheplains 8 years ago

      This article does not sound like it is based in very much reality or real experience. It's true that experiences vary, but what is described here sounds really strange and as someone else wrote, pretty much non exsistent. My 12 year old step daughter is hurt if I even hint that I might not be able to make it to her play or school event (sometimes I would rather not attend because her bio mom is so hostile and it just wears me out). Her mother travels all week (against the advice of my step daughters therapist), slaps her in the face when angry, is too tired to spend time with her when she is home from traveling, and bad mouths my husband and I which traumatizes my step daughter emotionally. Her extreme hostility and vindictiveness have nothing to do with concern for my step daughters well being. It is about control, and just being a bitter woman for reasons specific to her own life and having nothing to do with me, my husband or my step daughter. It's also about money. This is a biological mother who uses, abuses and manipulates her daughter to get what she wants for herself, and who bullies, punishes and lashes out at anyone who she feels stands in the way of getting what she wants. Anyway, I too feel that this article is biased and one dimensional. It actually sounds a little bizarre to me.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Stargazer, I have joked (both on here and off) that when I get the e.mail that says a comment has been left on this particular Hub, I approach with "trepidation". :) I know everyone will not like everything anyone ever writes, but the vitriol that has pretty much been all that this Hub has brought has really surprised me. I think your comment may make me cry. :) (not quite - but close) This Hub has been on here quite some time, and while I do respect that others won't always agree with what any of us says, I've never quite understood why this Hub has so often been met with so much misinterpretation/misunderstanding.

      It's nice to know that I (along with those grown children of divorced parents) am not the only one who thinks the occasional couple of hours with one's own two parents isn't much for a kid to hope for.

      Thank you for your kind words.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Stargazer, I have joked (both on here and off) that when I get the e.mail that says a comment has been left on this particular Hub, I approach with "trepidation". :) I know everyone will not like everything anyone ever writes, but the vitriol that has pretty much been all that this Hub has brought has really surprised me. I think your comment may make me cry. :) (not quite - but close) This Hub has been on here quite some time, and while I do respect that others won't always agree with what any of us says, I've never quite understood why this Hub has so often been met with so much misinterpretation/misunderstanding.

      It's nice to know that I (along with those grown children of divorced parents) am not the only one who thinks the occasional couple of hours with one's own two parents isn't much for a kid to hope for.

      Thank you for your kind words.

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      Stargazer 8 years ago

      It seems I am the only one who sees this -- but personally, Lisa, I think your article was extremely well written and fair! You've made it inordinately clear you were speaking about special school events to which kids of a certain age only wanted their two parents present. Overwhelmingly, the step moms seemed to want to ignore that their step children sometimes just want to have their own parents present. They seemed to insist that the children learn to deal with reality, and expect the children to adapt. You, bless your heart, repeatedly stated the focus should be on the kids who had undergone their parents' divorce, what a child could easily experience as a traumatic event, rather than on what the step moms wanted, or perceived to be the only family.

      Like you, I've heard many of the kids of a divorce say they just wanted to have some "me time" with their parents. Those kids weren't denying that one or each of their parents had remarried. They also knew their parents had "moved on" to new relationships. But they, just like parents of intact families, wanted their own parents to see what they had achieved, or what they had become. For example, my nephew, son of my sister and her ex-husband, was pleased as could be to have both his parents attend his Social Studies Fair where he won the first prize. My sister later said she felt as if he was trying to communicate, "See, some good came from each of your genes." I think it's more likely he just enjoyed having each of them to himself for a couple of hours while each of their new spouses did other things with the rest of the kids. Then again, maybe he just wanted to be in a situation in which he wasn't compared to the rest of his siblings because his work had already been compared to the rest of his classmates. In any case, I doubt it caused the spin-off families undue harm.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Ashley Joy, thanks for taking the comment. If there were a prize to be given out for "First Comment That Doesn't Seem to Wish There Were A Way to Throw Some Rotten Tomatoes As Well" - Your comment would win that prize. :)

      Congratulations on your upcoming marriage. Chances are a lot of matters with the ex-wife may smooth out over time. (Hopefully, anyway..... :) )

    • Ashley Joy profile image

      Ashley Joy 8 years ago

      Very well written hub. I am getting remarried in a couple of months and am currently dealing with his bitter ex-wife. It is tough to make her see I do not want to replace her and only want the best for her children.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 8 years ago from Massachusetts

      meh2cents, as you may be able to understand if you've read the comments here, it's always with a little trepidation that I return to this hub to see a new comment. :)

      The fact that you are NOT a "bitter ex-wife and mother" kind of makes my point exactly; and the original point of this hub was that not all ex-wives and mothers are unreasonable, bitter, trolls who don't care about what's right for the children and/or want the ex-husband back. I never said that there is no such thing as a "bitter ex-wife and mother" (and apparently, your husband's ex-wife is one). I just wanted to make the point that not all ex-wives are bitter, and that sometimes even if they appear to be, it may not be what it appears.

      With all due respect to Maggie, though (and, of course, you have your right to agree with her, and I respect that too), she twisted things, misinterpreted things, imagined I meant things I didn't say, and generally kind of missed the whole point of the hub and misinterpreted a whole bunch of things. This isn't a insult to Maggie. I'm guessing she and I just may be people on "two different wavelengths", which is usually the problem when there is such misinterpretation and misunderstanding in communications. (I mean, she even made up a whole scenario about my having some ex-husband who "has moved on" with a new woman! If I were in a situation like that I probably would have mentioned it, in view of the topic.)

      I appreciate all comments, though. It's always nice that people take the time.

      I agree with you that mothers should appreciate it when their children have a nice step-mother who can be a nice addition to their lives.

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      meh2cents 8 years ago

      I agree with Maggie all the way. I am the Ex-wife and Step-mother. And as a mother of two, I am pleased and blessed to have another female who can show my children love. And I have been blessed with two step children whom I dearly love. Even though all four children live with me and my husband, I wish my husbands ex-wife would try to be more thoughtful for their children and deal with her bitterness without hurting the kids. I belive ALL kids need unconditional love, who cares where it comes from. Love is the greatest gift we can share, and reguardless of how she feels I will continue to love her children completely and unconditionally. And feel if she weren't so bitter and jealous she could enjoy the beauty of parenting.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      netraine, thanks for the comment. It's through all kinds of comments (not just any that may agree, which on this hub certainly aren't very present) that readers get to read all opinions/sides to any issue.

      The hub was not intended to say anything about step-mothers at all. Just as there are wonderful fathers and fathers who are jerks, and wonderful mothers but also mothers who are jerks, there are wonderful step-mothers and step-mothers who may be jerks. Having said that, I really believe that a good part of the time nobody involved is really a "jerk". A good part of the time, it can just be a matter of nobody involved truly understanding the side and feelings of the others. Saying that "all ex-wives or mothers are not bitter and horrible" is not saying that "all step-mothers are" or that "some ex-wives are not". It's simply saying, "These are the legitimate concerns of SOME ex-wives/mothers, and they have nothing to do with bitterness or wanting the husband divorced back".

      I disagree that if "Step-Mom, Mary" doesn't show up at one of the "less significant" events (like the occasional Little League practice or routine game, or the Wednesday afternoon dance class) it is says anything about "Mary" at all. As I stated previously, I have not suggested that step-parents not attend the bigger events, like school plays, dance recitals, or All Star games). I don't think that giving children that OCCASIONAL (not "regular") time to have just their own two parents has to send a message that parents may back together. Children often known better, and many are actually happy their unhappy parents have separated. Making sure they don't misread the situation can be as simple as simply letting them know that divorced parents occasionally end up in the same place at the same time (without a spouse), and that doesn't mean they're getting back together. Children who are not raised by parents who "belittle" others don't generally see things as simple and ordinary as "Mary" not happening to always be there as "belittling Mary". Sometimes "belittling" is the soul of the person who feels belittled (not always, of course, but sometimes).

      All rules are not alike. I agree that a step-mother certainly has the right to expect the "no shoes on the couch" kind of rules to be followed by all. I don't happen to believe that step-mothers have a right to try to impose something like their distaste for black rock jerseys on a step-child. I do think such things belong to the child's father and mother.

      With every respect for the differing opinions of others, when I get e.mails that comments on this particular hub have been made, I have to kind of laugh at the way I "approach with a touch of fear and trepidation". :) Nothing I've ever written has received so many angry comments. :) One day I may write about the challenges of step-mothers or of second-time-married fathers - if I dare :).

      The perceived "bitterness" of ex-wives/mothers (whether it is genuinine bitterness or only perceived) is generally an issue when perceived by the ex-husband and his second wife. Saying that sometimes SOME ex-wive's perceived "bitterness" may not really be bitterness at all isn't "blaming step-mothers for when things go wrong". All it's saying is that sometimes the ex-wife/mother's real "issues" (not related bitterness) can often be misunderstood.

      In divorce/re-marriage situations people who are mature enough to want/be able to step back and try to understand the very legitimate "issues" of any of the others may not be all that common. Understanding the legitimate "side" of other people's concerns/challenges (no matter which "version" of "other" anyone is) is a good thing (particularly when the aim of adults is to BE adults, step back from themselves a little, and at least TRY to do what will create a more harmonious, understanding, situation (if for nobody else but the children's sake). When things go wrong, or just seem wrong, one of the best ways for adults to make things better or even right is to try to understand one another.

      The fact that this hub only addressed SOME ex-wives/mothers (who aren't bitter, the way some think they are) doesn't mean it implies that step-mothers and fathers of the children don't also have their own "legitimate" challenges/concerns. They just weren't the focus of this particular piece of writing.

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      netraine 9 years ago

      I find this opinion and article to be extremely biased as well. The author seems to place a lot of blame on the stepmother and say that if things don't go well, then tough luck. I am a stepparent, and I do not have children of my own. However, I found many of your comments and suggestions appalling.

      When our stepson comes into our home, that is my home. Yes, I do expect him to engage in certain rules. Also, I strongly disagree that the father and mother should attend school events while the stepparent stays home. This confuses the child greatly. It places the idea into the child's head that there may be a possiblility that mom and dad will get back together, even when there is no realistic possibility of that happening. Further, this action belittles the stepparent in the child's eyes and shows that they are not as important in the family unit.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      This isn't very polite, but it doesn't sound like she's necessarily a bitter ex-wife. She just sounds like an irresponsible jerk. :) I don't have experience with any of those things you mention, and I'm guessing other people who do may have offer ideas.

      In the meantime, I'm going to take a stab at what I'd do with that kind of situation (just in case nobody else with experience sees your comment in the near future).

      Not sending enough clothes, not sending medication, not wanting to make sure the kids' father knows they've been sick (so watch out for certain things), and not understanding that the child's father has a right to want to discuss the child's ADHD, are not the usual behaviors of a "normal" mother. "Normal" mothers with normal maternal instincts are more often "guilty" of sending too many clothes to cover all possible weather events, maybe seeming to make pests of themselves by over-talking or over-writing notes about health problems, and making sure anyone dealing with their child understands something like the child's ADHD as completely as possible (and is willing to try to do what is right for such a child).

      I'm not sure an attorney would say the above things are something to go to court over, but I'm wondering if your husband asked his attorney to write a polite letter to the ex-wife (copies to her attorney), pointing out an acceptable level of cooperation, may help. Maybe she's just too stupid to realize, or maybe she's just too irresponsible to know any better.

      I'm wondering if getting in writing something like, "These x number of things are creating problems for the children and their father during visits, and we're requesting that you simply do the following, which would be in the best interest of the children:" Then a clear, concise, and polite list of what is being requested could follow. If it works, great. If it doesn't, and if your husband did want to try to make an issue later in court, it could be said that she has been notified in writing with these reasonable requests and, for some reason, has refused to cooperate.

      Reminding her in writing that the child's father should be able to ask questions about the child without having screaming (particularly in front of the children) may be something that could go in this "low key, polite, but no-nonsense" letter too. (If your husband can't get an attorney, maybe he could write a polite, reasonable, letter himself - and keep copies in case he needs them later.)

      I'm sure someone will see this as "judgmental" of me, but I don't think any "regular" (normal) mother would even consider giving up custody of her children in order to go to school. I suppose I can almost sort of understand that she may have "run that idea" by the children before talking more about it, but having the idea at all makes me wonder about such a mother.

      I can see that requests for switching around holiday plans can be inconvenient and aggravating; but I don't necessarily see requesting changes as doing anything that would detract from the child's sense of stability. Stability is something children need all year long; but at that same time, I almost wonder if changing holiday plans would do little more than throw off the child for that day. Holidays have a way of throwing off even "non-ADHD" kids; but, to me, in the scheme of the rest of the issues, I don't think the holiday requests is as "main an issue" as the others.

      Isn't there some way everybody could discuss who wants the children at which relatives houses, at their houses, and for what events; and then find some way to sort of work things out? Couldn't such a conversation be approached from the standpoint of, "Look, the kids enjoy such-and-such and such-and-such. Can't we figure a way to be fair to everyone involved - but then just stick with that?" I see the holiday issue as a separate thing from the other, more routine, problems.

      One thing your husband may want to consider is making it clear that if she doesn't make some effort to be more responsible and cooperative (for the sake of the children, and only when that's truly the legitimate issue at stake) he will file for custody of the children on the grounds that she appears to be attempting to "infringe on his rights as a parent" (and THAT, I do know, is something the courts frown on). Of course, he and you have to be prepared to really do that if that's going to be the threat.

      I suspect there's a chance that a lot of attorneys would say, "We can't get involved with lifestyle choices" with regard to the R entertainment. The US courts and legal system can be very aware of "lifestyle differences" and reluctant to involve themselves in some things.

      If the mother is unaware of the sense in rating some things "R", maybe that, too, could be mentioned in a letter as an "extra" thought, separate from the more clear-cut "right" requests for enough clothing and medication.

      Something else is that maybe the mother is not capable of being organized enough to make sure the kids have what they need. Another way to work around that would be to keep a few sets of clothing at your house (either ask the mother to send spares that can be left, or pick up a couple of necessities to keep at the house. You could also ask that some medication be sent and kept at your house (and maybe an attorney would be effective at having that kind of request complied with, in view of what the issue is).

      In fairness to the mother, there's the chance she's assuming that the child's father is happy to be with the children; and would have no problem with her being later than planned to pick up them. To me, if she were having them ready for him to pick them up for visits, that would be more of an issue. I know there may be times when people plan to go somewhere after the children leave; but the other side to that (in my opinion) is that visitation is pretty much too structured an arrangement for any parent, and couples who are able to work together on a less formal arrangement are probably happier.

      The above ideas are things I've offered based on the idea that your husband has already tried the "friendly discussion" route to no avail. I suppose, if it were I, I'd start with my own friendly and polite letter (copies secretly to the attorneys involved); trying to explain the problems some of the issues are causing. If that didn't work, I'd then ask an attorney to send one. From there, the attorney could advise about any next steps.

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      TheStepMother 9 years ago

      I have a question about dealing with the bitter ex wife. My new husband's ex, and the mother of his children, causes problems, without fail, every weekend we have them. These problems are as follows:

      45 minutes late picking them up, forgetting to send rx meds for the child with ADHD, not informing us one child has been sick and is on rx meds and why, not sending proper clothing in suitcase, no jacket, shoes, enough clean clothes, etc., screaming at my husband when he asks questions about the ADHD child's doctor visits. constantly requesting changes in holiday visitation scheduling (the ADHD child's Dr. says he needs stability and routine), allowing the children (under 10) to watch R rated movies and play R rated video games, asking us to take custody of the children for 2 0r 3 years while she goes back to school for another degree, telling the children this will be happening before confirming it with us, then changing her mind because she still wants to claim the children on her income taxes, the list goes on. HELP!

      Can anyone who has experienced these problems offer any advice or help? We're going out of our minds here dealing with this woman. Is mediation an option we should look into? Any suggestions on where to look? Is any of this covered by the courts, do we need to go that route again?

      Thanks in advance,


    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      It surprises me that there are so many people who seem to have difficulty understanding that there can be such a thing as healthy, well adjusted, moving-on, people (both spouses and any step-parents) who may simple like to do something (every once in a great while) to do something that's just kind of nice (and that just may be helpful) to the children. The world is full of well adjusted, mature, objective-thinking, adults who would not worry that the occasional hour here or there would mean anything other than doing something for the sake of the children.

      This hub was not aimed at all the people who can't step outside of their own emotions and insecurities and move on after divorce. It was about those ex-mothers who have more than moved on and who may be seen as "bitter" when they're just not.

      Yes, any idea of two parents going to some relatively small-importance school or after school activity (again, not something like graduations or dance recitals) is a childish one. That's because it is what children often wish they could have once in a while. Giving children who may need to have that occasional hour here or there what many wish they could have is not the childish thing. It is the mature thing. Mature, sensible, intelligent, parents would be able to give their child that much without allowing it (or the child's wish for them to be together all the time, which often passes anyway) to turn into anything bigger, anything that should be reason of concern to anyone, or anything even remotely linked to "not moving on".

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      Jasmine 9 years ago

      I wrote a book on step-parenting. I was very passionate about the subject a few years ago. Quite simply, an ex wife who has a problem with the new wife attending functions - has not moved on. My husbands ex-wife still clings to the notion they are a nuclear family, even after seven years. No-body speaks to each other and the child has been harmed greatly by her mothers bitterness. I have tried for the child's sake and wanted harmony but I ended up having to create boundaries. In the end she was told not to telephone my home or come to our front door. Co-parenting with someone with such bitterness is out of the question. The woman I speak of is a professional, highly paid career woman and should know better. Consequently, the father and his child do not see a lot of each other and we are happily living in another town far away from conflict and bitterness.

      So - ex wives take a note: If you want the father of your child to be involved in their lives and attend soccer matches I strongly advise you be on your best behaviour and accept the fact he has re-married and do the best you can to get along with the woman who is actually helping you care for your child. If you cannot do this then be prepared for him to walk away from conflict with you. So, to put it bluntly, stop being childish about school functions or ultimately your inability to move on will cause a wedge between your child and his father. And if you truly love your child you will put their happiness above your own hurt and respect the fact your ex-husband has a new wife (I know this may be hard) but in the long run it will be easier as you will have well balanced happy children and hey - maybe you might meet someone lovely too.


    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      MH, someone previously brought up the issue of other children from the second marriage; and I addressed that in my response. No, I certainly don't advocate father's doing what you said in your comment and going to "hang out" with the other children. You make it sound like my hub suggests fathers take off every few nights and live at the other house. Anyone who is objective enough to read the hub without adding exaggerated intent of it will see that's no what I suggest at all.

      The comment about whether step-fathers can "teach a child to ride a bike" is another comment that "imagines onto" the hub nothing I ever suggested at all. The hub is not about being "anti-step-parent relationship". It also isn't about whether step-parents have their own version of challenges and incidents of being misunderstood.

      The first marriage ends (and most people from first marriages are well aware that those marriages are dead long before the divorce papers are signed). There is a difference, however, between a first marriage being dead (and even the ex-spouses hating one another at heart) and whether or not the relationship between children and their parents is dead along with it. That's the challenge of these situations - helping kids know their parents "are still their parents" and "still feel the same toward them" within the context of a divorce.

      If the father has custody and the mother visits the home, then obviously it would be nicer for the children to have a chance to visit with their mother; but if there is supervised visiting, then that's not a "normal" situation and anything I've suggested wouldn't apply. My hub was aimed at "normal, loving" parents - not parents who have supervised visitation for some reason.

      Because the hub did not cover every possible scenario there can ever be in life, that doesn't mean that any number of things were not thought out. What is not included in the hub doesn't necessarily indicate "not well thought out". Whether or not a step-parent "is allowed" to teach a child to ride a bike has nothing to do with my point about ex-spouses appearing bitter when they may not be, or about children liking to have their parents to themselves once in a while (and I don't happen to think that giving them that - once in a while - is a bad idea).

      Keep in mind (and go back over what I said previously) that I'm not suggesting step-parents miss the big events. I've suggested that a good way of letting children have a little time with their parent is to use the less important events (like the occasional baseball practice or "together" watching of the dance class) as a way to do that. What message it would send with regard to the stabillity of the family just may be this: That parents can divorce but still give their children the occasional time with just them, together, without it being a giant "third rail" kind of thing; and that new families can then be built without making children feel as if their original family structure (or as if the idea that they have one kind of relationship with their two own parents) are dirty words.

      I disagree with whoever said the idea of putting what children want ahead of the marriage is ridiculous. There are times (not, of course, on the big issues, like where to live) when what parents do is put what their children want ahead of what they, themselves, want. Good, loving, parents don't see doing that as putting it "ahead of the marriage". They see doing something that may be good for the child as a shared parenting effort; and shared efforts and decisions usually contribute to the good will and friendship of all involved (married or not).

      Someone else on here said that all COD wish they could be with both parents. All children love time with both parents. Spending an hour and a half at a baseball practice every few weeks really shouldn't be seen as threat to a second marriage; so if parents show up as a "team" every once in a while, as a way to give the child a nice couple of hours, that's not "putting what the child wants ahead of the marriage". It's considering what any child may just kind of need every once in a while, and deciding that (even if the child can't have both parents together all the time) the occasional hour and a half just may be better than nothing.

      Again, and as always, I really do appreciate the differing opinions. I do, however, have to point out when someone disagrees with something that I didn't say or didn't mean. Writing online means being prepared for the "you're an idiot" comments; but the good side of many comments is that do give the writer a chance to further clarify. If, after clarification, someone still disagrees that's what makes things interesting. I just don't want people disagreeing or calling "ridiculous" things that I neither said nor meant.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Maggie, I don't happen to be in the situation you describe. My kids have no step-parents and neither their father nor I have to worry about second marriages.

      I'm not suggesting anyone pretend anything, and if someone has difficulty grasping the idea that it is possible to do some little thing that may be good for the children without pretending things are anything aren't, it is their difficulty being able to sort out the differences (or at least the implications of what I've said).

      As I stated in the original hub, it isn't often a matter of an ex-wife "clinging to the idea of a ideal marriage". Again, it's possible for people to do something they think is good for the children without "clinging" to anything other than the wish to do something that just may be healthy for their children. If someone doesn't agree it's healthy, that's, of course, that person's opinion and he has a right to it. I have no problem with someone's disagreeing with the idea of that particular idea, although I do stand by it.

      The "peripheral" comments, however, are just plain incorrect. You assumed I'm an ex-wife with kids who have a step-mother. Wrong. You've assumed that what I meant was people "need to pretend", and that it is not, and never was, what I meant. You assumed that I don't think family gatherings that include all the adults involved aren't positive. Wrong again. That's not what I think at all. You've assumed I suggest making the step mother "invisible" - again, nothing could be farther from what I've said in the hub or in any of the comments that follow it.

      There are two main points to the hub. One is that what may look like "bitterness" on the part of some ex-wives may actually have nothing to do with bitterness and may, instead, simply be associated with the mother/child bond that is unique. Or, even if someone acts bitter, there is SOMETIMES a justified reason for anger. The other point is that the parent/child does not change (unless a parent does something to diminish it); and that children have needs with regard to attention from their parents. Acknowledging those needs by occasionally "throwing the child a bone" and letting him have the OCCASIONAL baseball practice or parents' day at school with just his own parents doesn't have to mean more than just giving him that much (maybe every few months) once in a while.

      It's a nice thing to do, and it could mean a lot to a lot of children. It shouldn't be seen as a big, giant, horrible, deal that everyone has to feel insecure about and that everyone has to feel threatened by.

      There are many parents who would believe that doing such a thing is in the best interest of the children. Other people don't believe that. The world is full of differing opinions; although I am confident that if anyone truly understands my points it is unlikely anyone would find anything seriously wrong with parents doing such a thing. If someone "imagines onto" what I've said things like "pretending the marriage is fine" (even though that's not what I said), then, of course, they will disagree with what I've said.

      I do - really - appreciate that people take the time to add their views, though. Having lots of different viewpoints on display is a great way to shed sunlight on an issue like this. :)

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      MH 9 years ago

      I have to agree, that this is horrible advice to give to anyone in a step situation.

      Putting what a child wants above a marriage is a ridiculous notion.

      After a divorce, a child still has both their parents, but those parents are not a solid unit any longer. And, yes, what if there are half siblings that come along? Is Dad supposed to pat them on the head and say "Bye now, I am going to hang out with my other kids and their Mom and leave your Mom here alone."

      What does that say to those children about the stability of their family?

      What if Dad has custody and Mom has visitation? What if step-mom is mom in her home, and that is where the child spends 95% of the time? If she is raising the child 95% of the time is she supposed to pretend like she really has no say over the child for plays and choir concerts?

      What about step-dads? Are they allowed to possibly teach step kids how to ride their bokes, but not allowed to go to a bike race the step child is in... since that should be time his step child spends with his wife and her ex-husband alone?

      Completely ridiculous and not very well thought out.

      P.S. I am both a biological mother (three times over) a custodial step-mother AND TTC a child with my husband, so, I see this from all the angles. I would never tell my ex husband he couldn't bring his SO to my children's events anymore than I would sit out for my step daughter's events.

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      Maggie 9 years ago

      So what you are saying with your reply is that the parents still need to pretend that they are an intact family because it is best for the children?

      I am a COD, and I think your advice is entirely skewed and reeks of an ex wife who is not happy that her ex husband moved on and insisted on having a life with another woman, and dared to include that woman in family gathers. If this is how you feel, I can understand both the ex and his wife wanting to make sure there was nothing there to give you any indication that you were anything other than the mother of his child, and an ex wife.

      If this is not your situation, you are to be commended for voicing the view of such a woman.

      A healthy woman will not cling to the ideals of a marriage that is no longer. There are other, healthier methods to make sure the best interests of the child are met other than to make the step mom an invisible family member and promote the falsehood that nothing has changed and we are all still a happy family.

      What wretched advice to help a blended family.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Allie, the intent of my article is to point out that children often appreciate "just me" with their two "own" parents once in a while; in addition to all the other "just me" times they can have with any combination of adults. The "companion" to "just me" (alone) time with parents in various combinations is "just us" time (just the siblings of the original family with parents in various combinations).

      While, as above comments show, people have different opinions on matters related to the divorced family/step-family issue, mine is that children benefit from time with all those various combinations of people. I do think it's very important that children have at least some time with their parent and step-parent too. Having one-on-one time with just the step-parent is another thing that children (and step-parents) can enjoy/appreciate/benefit from.

      I don't think the children of the divorce should ever be treated "differently". I think that all children should be treated "individually". In the case of a parent who has a first "set" of children and then adds to their family a later relationship, I think all the children need their individual times with parents. I don't think too many people would disagree with me when I say I don't think a parent should EVER divide up her two "sets" of children and say, "Today, I'm just taking 'Set 1' out to lunch." (!!) What a horrible thing that would be. Each individual child, though, does benefit from individual time with one parent, both parents, a parent and a step-parent, both parents and both step-parents (and then on to other-relative combinations); and if parents deal with children on an individual basis, who the "other parent" in any scenario is doesn't really matter.

      There's only so much free time to spend with any one child in any week, even if one-on-one time is kept as simple as a trip to the store followed by a stop at for ice cream or as simple as working together on a special project. My intent was not to imply that five nights a week should be spent taking five different children out alone, and that weekend days should be broken up into two-hour segments in order to give as many children as possible that "just me" time. The main thought is that making it a point to give children those different combinations of individual time occasionally, but often enough that it isn't a "rare luxury" (or a secret wish never fulfilled), goes a long way.

      In the case of your example of the mother who remarries and has additional children, I think all of her children need that "just me" time. Giving each of them that would mean treating them all the same. In the case of "just me" time with the mother and child's father at something like a parent-teacher's meeting/school function, I think such occasions of getting together with the ex-spouse are rare enough that "later" children would simply see the sense in their old sibling's own father being the one to attend, just as their own father would attend their more routine school events (or some things like Little League games). (Graduations and big events would be different, of course.)

      If that mother keeps in mind that none of her children (each as much hers as the any of the others) should be treated differently, but that all should have their individual needs/personalities/situations addressed, then it becomes clear that there are times when any one, individual, child will have something that's "just theirs" going on (good or bad). Am I suggesting that COD always be treated differently? Not in the least. If a parent acknowledges each child's individuality, though, there will always be times when any child (regardless of parents, step-parents, or siblings) will be treated differently in a specific situation.

      The later children of that mother have their mother and father to be together and spend time with them (individually and as a group) together. The main thought of this hub is to advocate for the COD, who may get to feel "treated less differently" if - just once in a while - they had a couple of hours here or there with THEIR own two parents. If they never get to have that, ever again, that may be the thing that makes them feel different from other kids (in their own family and elsewhere). Just a little such time can go a long way in letting a child know he will not forever be denied it. This isn't to say, though, that COD (or any other set of siblings) should ever be generally treated differently in day-to-day life.

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      Allie 9 years ago

      I was curious about the "just me time". Does that apply to children of intact familys as well or only COD's? The COD can only have "just me time" with the biological parents? But not a biological parent and a step parent?

      If the mother remarries and has more children, does the first COD still have to have the "just me time"? Does the COD always have to be treated differently when new nuclear families are created?

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Maggie, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Different ways of thinking are what make the world go around; and it isn't for me know which of us is right. I do, though, stand by what I said (in part, because I do have a different view, but also in part because some points were "extrapolated" from things I didn't say.

      First, there is no "whitewashing" intended. The piece was intended to point out that what may appear to some people as "bitter" behavior in some ex-wives may not be. It doesn't attempt to address the genuinely bad behavior of some ex-wives, and it doesn't attempt to address fathers at all. In all relationships in this world there are times when one person's behavior appears to be one thing, when it really is something else; and much of the time a lot of unnecessary understanding and resentment occurs as a result.

      As far as fathers not showing protective behavior goes, I didn't address fathers; so I didn't say they don't do that. Many do. Many fathers, however, are not the same as mothers are. Many women, like a lot of female animals in the animal kingdom, do have that extra instinct to protect their children (like a mother cat does). Again, I'm not saying no fathers have that instinct. Some do. Not all do, however, and in SOME cases even those who do MAY not have quite as fierce an instinct as SOME mothers do. Again, though, this piece was not about fathers at all.

      In a lot of divorces nobody understands the "poor anybody else". The fact that I chose to address the issue of how easy it can be to misinterpret an ex-wive's motives/feelings is, granted, only one part of "the story"; but I never claimed to be addressing "all the misunderstanding in all of life". :)

      I do disagree that a few parent-teacher conferences with both parents present "perpetuates the myth that they are still a happy family". Parents who communicate well with their children are not likely to have their motives misunderstood by children. Children are not stupid. They know the difference between "my two parents behaving like my two parents" and "my two parents must be getting back together because they're being civil at this school function". Parents shouldn't be afraid to spend any "shared" time with children. No relationship is supposed to be that tense and "off limits", and the reality is that parents are the child's parents. Many divorce people are very able to separate their role of shared parenting with the ex-spouse and any former spousal relationship.

      Besides, after a couple of such "shared" situations the children would figure out how things work. Many people don't believe that parents must act like enemies in order to drive home the point to the children that their original family is a separated one.

      When a divorce happens the marriage is "no more"; but the reality is that both parents remain the parents of any children from that marriage. That original, particular, family unit may be "no more"; but children usually continue to feel the same as always about both parents (unless one or both parents does/do something to change that). I happen to believe that parents can't tell their children, "We can't stay married, but we'll always be the same parents we've always been"; but then turn around and set limits that mean children can't ever be with both parents at the same time (unless, of course, a third party is present).

      There are a lot of "realities" in a divorce situation, and one of them is that all adults involved should put aside their own feelings and do what is right for the children. Another one is that it is never a bad thing to try to understand the other people's feelings in the situation. Most parents would tell you, too, that the term, "biological parent", is generally used in cases when a child has been placed for adoption; and that just because an ex-spouse gets married that does not automatically "downgrade" a parent's "title" from "parent" to "biological parent".

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      Maggie 9 years ago

      The idea that the child needs to spend time with just their parents after a divorce is absurd. It does not acurately reflect the reality of their life - that their parents are divorced, and are not getting back together. Most CODs - and I am one - will tell you that their fondest wish is for mom and dad to be together again. Having seperate outings where it is just the child and parents promotes the idea that they are a seperate, still intact family, and negates the idea that is reality - that there are now two families, each containing a biological parent who loves the child, and that there may be one or two stepparents who also love the child.

      I also found this to be extraordinarily geared towards defending the whole negative set of actions that generally cause problems between a divorced couple as no one understanding the poor mother. What, the father is not hurt? The father is not exhibiting behavior that is just him being protective, not wanting other men around his child?

      This is merely a whitewash to excuse the bad behavior of women who are divorced as nothing more than normal and natural and something to be excused and allowed.

      When a divorce happens, the family is no more. There are two parents, and however many children. EVERYONE needs to find a way to accept the new reality, and this article gives a lot of "reasons" as to why the mother in the scenario should not be expected to accept the new lifestyle.

      Parents can be good, committed parents who spend quality time with their kids and still be divorced without perpetuating the myth that they are still a happy family.

      This whole article does nothing but handicap all those involved and give a free pass to the mother, no matter how poorly she may choose to behave.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Jackie, thanks for the comment. Differing opinions are what make things interesting. :) It was never my intent to create the impression for the children that the step-mother's presence is ever a problem - to the contrary. I certainly don't think encouraging respect for the step-mother or their relationship with her are tied in to letting kids have some time with just their mother, just their father, or sometimes just both. Arrangements about who goes where with whom and when which combination of people will spend time together should not be something people "get emotional" over. My opinion is that all adults should do what is best for the children (which is encouraging postiive relationships with all adults involved but which is also recognizing that it is a rare child who doesn't want/need time with just each parent and/or at least the occasional time with just their own two parents (if the parents can be adult about it).

      In a lot of cases the ex-wife would like nothing better than not to spend time with her kids' father, so it isn't about what ex-wives want. In divorce situations the adults (ideally - although it doesn't always happen) should remove themselves from what they, personally, prefer; and do what meets the needs of children.

      This hub did not suggest banning step-parents from all events - just giving children the occasional time with just their own, two, parents. School meetings and events are logical opportunities for this, because it gives the parents a "legitimate" and shared reason to be in the same place at the same time (their child) without leading to children to think they'd be together under other circumstances.

      This hub approach doesn't have to encourage disrespect at all, and it isn't likely to cause confusion. Children know the difference between their parents and other treasured adults who do things for/with them. Most kids manage to have great relationships with their grandparents, for example, without being confused. Children with married parents love having time alone with one parent. That doesn't take away from their relationship with the other parent. Why would having such "just me with them" time cause any problems with their relationship with a step-parent? "Just me" time with a step-parent can be a nice thing for children too.

      The simple respect for the unique relationship between each child and each of his own two parents (assuming those two parents are loving, normal, parents; but sometimes even when they're not) is not something that should be viewed as a threat by step-parents. It's a reality (an unpleasant one for a lot of ex-spouses and their new partners); and it should be possible to acknowledge that reality for the child(ren) without doing damage to any of the adults' new worlds.

      Ask anyone you know (who had a normal, loving, relationship with his parents) whether he loved spending time with each parent alone, and whether he absolutely loved some "just me" time with both parents but no siblings; and see how much he enjoyed such time. Ask anyone who felt they didn't get enough of that kind of time with his parents whether he always kind of longed for it.

      It is entirely possible that the information in this hub is "not appropriate". It has been offered as a viewpoint that is, while unpopular perhaps, often overlooked by adults dealing with the "step" situation. I would invite anyone to, as I said, ask people to think back to their own childhoods; or else ask people who have grown up with step-parents their thoughts. Ask grown children of divorced parents what they wish they had as they were growing up.

      Experts dealing with children of divorce will generally advise adults to aim to remove themselves from their own "issues" with the other parent and do what is best for the children. I, personally, do have bias; but it is in favor of the children. When adults must thrust children into a divorce situation (or when they choose to have children when they're single and then marry later), it wouldn't kill them (and in fact it's what they should do) to put aside their own wants and preferences and - once in a while at least - let children have a little bit of the kind of time they want/need from their own, two, parents. If a parent has a child who they honestly know does not want or need any time with his own parent alone, or with his two parents together on a rare occasion; then, of course, it would be different. The trouble is that children often don't even express their longing to have that kind of time with parents even when they have married parents.

      It was never my intent to suggest that step parents should not attend big functions, like graduations or weddings. It's the smaller, less "crucial", events (like parents' day at school, the occasional baseball game) that are good opportunities to let a child have "just me and them" time.

      It isn't about which adult has "just as much right" (although some people would agree that there are times when, lots of time with the child or not, a step-parent does not have "just as much right"). It's about what each and every child ought to have a right to - and, yes, I do happen to believe (based on kids I've known; and based on what I know is important to children in general) that each child ought to have a right to have "just me" time with each parent alone, and with both parents together. Unfortunately, children of divorce may have to settle for that occasional parents' day at school or occasional baseball game; and that isn't enough. It is, though, better than nothing.

      Acknowledging the reality of the bond between children and their two biological parents (when those parents are normal, loving, parents), and acknowledging children's needs for certain types of affection from, and time with, them is not bias against step-parents; and it isn't saying there aren't some wonderful step-parents and wonderful relationships between kids and step-parents.

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      Jackie 9 years ago

      This is an incredibly biased opinion. While I don't discount all of the information provided, I believe this presents information that generally speaking is not appropriate information. I am sorry but if the ex-wife wants functions together with the husband and the children only, too bad. If the kids spend just as much time with the step mother who helps with home work, and guitar, and skating, the step mother has a right to be at the functions too. This is the reality for many. The nuclear family is split into separate homes. It isn't proper to demonstrate to the children that the presence of the step mother is a problem. This mentality leads to disrespect by the children, and may also cause them confusion if they see the step parent as a parental figure to whom they turn to in times of need.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Sorry, Andrea. I straightened out the problem.

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      Andrea 9 years ago

      I wrote a few days ago and wanted to share your feedback with my husband. How Can I locate it?

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      I know how difficult relationships can be. I was very close to someone who took teenage foster girls in after her husband died. She didn't want to be alone in the house, had a decent home to offer, and was feeling very pleased about feeling she could do something good in this world. When different girls would come to stay reality hit.

      As you must know, teenagers who have been placed in foster care are either there because they've been neglected or abused, or else because they've gotten "out of control" with the fighting with the parents, acting up, etc. Some of them, more than others, had "good hearts" and tried to do well; but even then, so many of them stole other people's belongings, used drugs, fought with people, etc.

      The woman who was the foster mother learned, though, that if she accepted them as they were and gradually tried to introduce more acceptable behavior after she had earned their trust (and friendship), they were more willing to listen to her views and "go with the program".

      Of course, some of them continued their questionable behavior when they were out of the house, hid what they were doing, and behaved acceptably and even admirably in the house - but that was better than what they been doing when they were placed in foster care. This woman used to say how as long as they got along well in the home, went to school, didn't fight, and weren't high or drunk all the time she knew that may be all she could hope to accomplish. What often happened as a result of her approach, though, was that many of them would try very hard to get along and do what was right; and most of them thought very highly of her for her "understanding" and kindness.

      It wasn't easy for her to just kind of know they lied a good part of the time, and it wasn't easy for her to come around to accept that (for example) if they were on the pill and didn't want to have any babies that was as good as she could hope for (since some of them had quite a wild past). It wasn't easy for her to have to overlook what she never would/could have overlooked in her own children (but, then again, her own children were not troubled, angry, people).

      By learning to overlook some things she preferred not to overlook, however, she was able to gradually build that good relationship with girls who had, before then, not had any older person they'd listen to. She grew to really care about each girl, and most of the girls grew very attached to her.

      It does take a lot of energy to have a pretense of getting along by always trying to remember what topics to stay away from, but I think it takes more energy to fight. What I've always found is that by starting with that tense mood of not hitting any third-rail topics in conversation, gradually the tension eases and it's more natural to just "tuck away" those touchy subjects.

      As I said before, I don't feel I have a right to an opinion at all (and yet I keep giving one :) ), but there is one thing I think about. As a mother of three grown children, one of whom I adopted from infancy, I know one thing: There is no way I could marry someone with grown kids now (or teenagers) and love them (at least not in the first several years, if ever). I would hope we could all like one another, and I'd hope that over time we'd grow to be close (the way any friends or inlaws can become close). I can see how over years and years the people involved could end up loving one another.

      I think, though, it's too much to expect to love one's stepchildren (if they're not babies or the littlest of kids); and it just seems to me that "liking" or "caring about" may be the most anyone can expect for a good, long, time. To me, though, that should be good enough for all involved. The love we have for the children we raise from infancy grows out of the fact that we're nurturing them and with them. (For me, it made no difference that I didn't give birth to one of them. It's the same, but he was infant when I got him.)

      Most people say that when kids get past that "know all" age of early twenties, when they're just getting used to be adults, they tend to get closer to the parents again. They mature and get past that thing they're in at 20/22 years old. My daughter is close to her father and me, and she's a really decent girl, but she drives us both nuts with worry over some of things she does (and I don't fool myself into believing she isn't hiding a few things that go on either "so I won't worry").

      Best wishes. I know it isn't easy. (When my son was 17 or 18, and we were going through our "disagreements" I couldn't imagine it ever ending - but it did.)

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      Andrea 9 years ago

      Thanks for your thoughtful response. Yes, i have often thought that I am dealing with what alot of parents deal with, except I didn't get the perks of knowing them as babies... My husband and I do joke about it, that although they are so resistant to seeing me as a step mother, I am getting all the bruntthat a parent gets( as is he) of kids that age. I think I will set those two clear "rules" if we are able to get to that point. I think I have held my tongue so as to not be labelled the bitch, which it is inevitable anyway. I have tried many times to clear up any misunderstandings in the past, but the youngest one has not been interested, but then apologizes, I say lets start clean, as you put it, knowing that the misunderstandings will rear their head again but hoping that maybe we can have some healing from strating clean. But the uncleared issues continue to fester. It is difficult not being the parent, because I let my husband lead on this, and although I made suggestions, we went with his way. He also sees now, how his lack of clarity and communication about the changes that happened made things more difficult. I never thought about that I would ever be challenged in this way, never thought about what it would be like to have step kids, was happy about it at first even though I knew it wouldn't all be easy, I figured the most of them are adults. In regard to the relating, agree to disagree comment. We don't argue or fight or anything like that. Except for the unsolicited adviceabout child rearing which I correct, my step son has been very friendly for the last 1 1/2. All the while as it came out lately, that he cannot stand to be around me. Of course he can't, it takes alot of energy to be dishonest,and accept the changes too. I guess that I am saying that for me it takes more energy to have a pretense of what I would consider falseness, I am just not interested in relating this way. I have set the bar for him that if he wants to relate with me , then we need to sit down and have a conversation about the real issues. I don't mention the detals of the incident becasue they are only a reflection of the first few years we had together. I guess the pointto this all as I read over my lenghty discourse, is that I had been able to stay in my heart about all this for so long, really understanding alot of why what was happening was happening, but I am not on my heart now, I am not sure I can be that way again, and that saddens me. It is the curse of the step parent, because you can love them anyway, even if you don't care to anymore.

      thanks again

      I am going to reread some of what you wrote.

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      I don't think it's my place to have an opinion about your specific situation, so please know that I'm reluctant to even offer any thoughts at all. Since you asked, though, one thing did strike me; and that it that teenagers and young adults can be, in general, difficult people. At 19 someone is kind of old to be taunting littler siblings, but a lot of teenagers will do it. (A lot of immature fathers who think things are funny will taunt a little kid too.) If the 19-year-old is "a little on the young side" (immature) that could be part of it. When they get angry or upset with parents and tell (what seems to parents like) lies, sometimes they aren't intentionally lying. Sometimes they actually believe what they're saying.

      A PBS special on the teenager brain (and how the prefrontal cortex is not fully matured until "early to mid twenties") noted how teenagers actually perceive things differently. If a parent says some "innocent" thing a teenager may take it it as meaning something else.

      Young people in their early 20's tend to think they know better than parents, and, as you as know, they have opinions about everything. To make it worse, they don't really know why parents do certain things; and they don't ask either. I can't help but wonder if the "evaluating your parenting" thing is their just being their age and having all "the infinite wisdom and expertise" that being that age brings.

      I don't know the level of betrayal that occurred (if they physically did anything to your child that's a whole separate matter). If it was a verbal betrayal, though, and based only on the information you offered (again, keeping in mind that this is only an opinion of a "nobody"), I think I'd handle it this way:

      First, I'd make it clear to everyone involved that I wasn't going to tolerate people that old taunting my child. I'd also tell everyone involved that I wasn't in the market for anyone's criticism, so criticism had to stop.

      I'd probably let everyone know that I wanted to "just start clean from now on", though, and I don't think I'd expect any apologies from anyone.

      I would, however, talk to each stepchild, starting with the problem one. I'd ask him if he really believes what he said and why he believes it. From there, I'd try to straighten out any misunderstandings or misconceptions he has. Even if I couldn't reach "being friends" with him, I'd try to set up an "agree to disagree" type of arrangement, and agree for the time-being to stay away from any "hot button" issues "for the sake of the family".

      (I went through a rough spot with one of my own sons, and since neither of us wanted to be arguing all the time we agree not to discuss the things that got us arguing. That left us talking only about "neutral" things and not "really communicating" - but it gave us time to relate in a non-hostile way, and over time (once he grew a little more mature) we gradually returned to being able to have normal communication. It just seemed that we couldn't go from fighting to being "all friends" without having that time to be "less than ideal but at least not fighting".)

      I'd probably also talk individually with the others and try to straighten out any misunderstandings, set up the same kind of agreement, and generally tell them all that if we all "dial it down some" we could probably come out better in the end.

      It would seem to me that if you make the "don't harrass the little one" rule, and the "keep your criticism to yourself" rule, those aren't too much to ask. I'd probably remind them that expecting those two, basic, things isn't asking to much; and I'd probably calmly explain to them how their little brother sees them as adults, and how damaging it can be for a little kid to have adults be mean to him.

      I think most people (kids, young adults, adults) want a good family relationship; and I think most will cooperate if requested to refrain from a couple of things just to make the family environment more pleasant for everyone. I know, though, there are emotionally troubled people who aren't interested in such "teamwork", and I suppose if the stepchildren are that troubled then you would be reasonable to limit your time with them.

      Again, I'm very uncomfortable offering any opinion on any of this; but then again, I didn't want to leave the question without a response.

      There is one other thing I think may be worth mentioning: I've noticed in my own life how young people seem so much younger as I get older. For example, before I had a child of fifteen myself I thought fifteen was "pretty grown up", and I had all kinds of ideas about what should be expected of them. Once my own kids passed that age I realized how young fifteen is. While I once had opinions about what the parents of fifteen year olds should do, I started to understand why those parents didn't do what I had once thought they should.

      It's the same with twenty-year-olds. When you're thirty-five or forty twenty seems older than it does when you're fifty. Since you had a baby four years ago I'm assuming there's a good chance you're not fifty yet. I'm not defending any bad actions of step-kids who are as old as yours are, but the older we get, the more we realize how absolutely immature and ridiculous twenty-year-olds or twenty-two-year olds can be. I guess my point is that I can't help but wonder if you're dealing with some of the criticisms and challenges that any parent of kids that age often deals with.

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      andrea 9 years ago

      I am a child/family therapist, and a step-mother of 5 adult children. One of the children was a teen and lived with me from 17-19 years of age. My husband and I had a baby when the youngest of the first group of kids was 19. It has been a very challenging road. I knew all the catch all srep-parent traps to some degree, but somehow, being decent and treating all my husband's kids with love and respect just garnered me more resentment. Before we were married, and before we had a child the road was much easier. My husband was the parent "in Charge" and didn't want to sit down with the son who lived with us, and have agreements, and house rules stated. His sone was away at boarding school, and so definitley needed some lessons on taking responsibility for himself. As time has gone on, I just foound out he has been telling lies about me, which explains why two of the other kids have turned on me after being very relational, and grateful saying they see how I encourage their father to be more present with them. So most recently we experience a betrayal from my step-son and daughter. My husband held his ground, and is being firm about what they need to do to make amends. I am after 4 years, out of energy for putting attention on my relationship with them, I have experienced so much criticism for every move I make, they even evaluate my mothering of their little brother, who they aren;t even around to see. Is it ok for me just to take a break from it all. While my husband isn't going to let them off the hook, he does of course want a reconcilliation. But the truth is that the straw broke the camels back for me, and I am over it. Alos, they have been mean to my baby, taunting him until he cried and then laughing at hi, I just don;'t want them around him if they cannot clear their resentment. I don't think I can help them with whatever it is they need to clear. I don't want to relate with them for a while at least, and I feel that after years of being so open and available, that thus is healthy. What do you think? I am also concerned for my son, I don't want him to look up to people who are emotionally abusive to him



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      Lisa HW 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Smirking Cat, thanks for the comment. Objective (and even critical) remarks make any hub have more substance.

      Agreed that it presumes a reasonable degree of emotional maturity on the part of all involved - but I don't necessarly see that as "slant". There is emotional immaturity in all walks of life, and this article was not intended to address dealing with the unbalanced. It is common for articles that are aimed at a general audience to address the issues of people who don't have extreme emotional issues.

      The intent was, in fact, to point out the misunderstandings and misinterpretations that can occur between even mature, well intentioned, people; and to point out the "legitimate" side of each part of the equation.

      Your choice to call the children's mother the "biological mother" leads me to wonder if you are thinking of stepmothers who adopt their husband's children because the children's mother has had parental rights terminated or has voluntarily signed away parental rights. Most people choose to use the terms, "mother" and "stepmother" to describe the two different relationships in the more usual situations of marriage/divorce/remarriage. Obviously, if you're talking about those more unusual cases where the mother no longer has parental rights then you're not talking about a mother who is stable and emotionally whole.

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      The Smirking Cat 9 years ago

      This is written with the slant that the biological mother is mature enough and secure enough to genuinely wish her ex-husband well in his life without her, and to not feel jealousy about the stepmother. That is so rare as to be practically non-existent!