Why do stepmoms often feel like such outsiders?
Easy. Because they are.
Non-stepmoms can’t understand this concept. But a lot of stepmoms know exactly what I’m talking about.
- The kids walk into the house and ignore you
- You answer the phone and they say “Is dad there?” – No “Hi, how are you?”
- You’re sitting on the couch next to your spouse, but the kids only say goodnight to him
- Your stepchild offers to get his dad a drink while in the kitchen, completely ignoring the fact that you might be thirsty too
You’ve never been so ignored and felt so insignificant in your life. Welcome to the stepfamily.
Why is this such a common occurrence in stepfamilies?
There are a couple of possible reasons:
- There’s a common conflict in step families. Blood bonds vs. love and/or marriage.
- Its unintentional; kids don’t even realize they’re doing it. And this I know from personal experience.
It’s true. I have a stepmom that I love. And I didn’t realize it until I was an adult, but I never included her. I would always call out for dad, address dad, ask for dad, and not even notice that I was ignoring her. If someone would have pointed it out to me, I’m sure I would have been shocked, as shocked as I was when I realized it as an adult, and I would have made more of an effort.
I’m sure it felt awfully personal to her, but it wasn’t.
And then there’s bond conflicts.
Did you know that a person receiving a new organ has to be put on special medications so their body doesn’t reject it?
There’s a natural tendency for the body to reject what’s foreign. Same thing applies in stepfamilies, and it sucks.
Home is supposed to be the one place you feel safe. The one place you can relax and let the worries of the world fall away. But that can’t happen when you’re stuck with a dynamic that has you feeling like a stranger in your own home. Ignored. Treated like a maid. Surrounded by draining, negative energy from a teenager that didn’t come from your womb.
Take your pick of scenarios.
What to do?
- Stop feeling like a freak or thinking it’s your fault. Acknowledge that, unfortunately, it’s a normal occurrence in stepfamilies. It’s not personal.
- Your husband’s support is vital. He can’t force his kids to like you, but he can demand they treat you with respect (see #3). He can also verbalize his appreciation for you and show you in little ways that you matter to him and to the family.
- Create some house rules around common courtesy and basic manners (hello/bye/thank you).
- If the kids already have an active mom, even if you don’t agree with her parenting, focus more on being a wife and less on trying to “mother” your stepchildren. You can still nurture and show love, but remember that they already have a mom.
- Let the kids set pace of relationship. The harder you try to get love from them, the harder they’ll resist. Let the relationships evolve naturally and remember it can take years to form a bond.
- Invite your friends or family over for holidays. You’ll feel like you have somebody on your team and will be more comfortable being yourself.
- Create a kid-free zone where you can escape from the awkwardness and decompress.
© 2012 Jenna Korf All Rights Reserved