In the never-ending Mom vs. Stepmom Battle, both get women a bad rap. Moms are often seen as overbearing, manipulative and controlling. They can be labeled as nosy or jealous. Stepmoms are harshly judged by their age, appearance, and parental experience. A stepmom might be thought of as merely a trophy, arm candy or a home wrecker.
The truth is that both women are human beings who are doing the best they can do with what they have. They’re likely lashing out at each other in an effort to protect themselves from feelings of inadequacy, intimidation, frustration and fear. It’s not easy to coexist in a bi-nuclear family, and underlying competition and past grievances only add to the drama.
Although conflict is uncomfortable, it presents an important opportunity for healing and growth. As a mom, you can narrow the Mom/Stepmom Divide by following a few steps…
- Accept the reality of your children’s stepmother. You might not like her, but she’s part of your children’s family. She’s probably not going to go away anytime soon, and the harder you resist her, the more she and your ex will bond over the struggle. Take a deep breath, unclench your fists and accept the fact that she exists in your life.
- Adjust your attitude. You have the option to choose to view her in a negative or positive light. She might be the reason your marriage ended, but she’s also a dedicated participant on your parenting team. Search for qualities you can applaud and practice gratitude. As Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Can you migrate from an attitude of animosity to one of appreciation?
- Reach out. If you want to embark on a more productive relationship with her, you’ll have to step outside your comfort zone and make the first move. Why you? Because chances are good that she’s terrified of you. You don’t like her. You’re The Mom. You share a history with her man, and there is walking talking proof that you had a sexual relationship with him as well. She might never admit it, but these facts ignite some deep insecurity within her. Extend your hand. Send a non-threatening email. Invite her for coffee.
- Communicate. The walls between you aren’t going to move themselves. Honest communication is the best way to determine appropriate boundaries and minimize future conflict. If you can each open your heart and share your emotional struggles, that’s wonderful. If not, take a business-like approach. Explain any concerns, requests and expectations you have. If you want to be the one to take your daughter for her first manicure, say so. Discuss productive ways for the two of you to coexist in your children’s lives.
- Communicate some more. You don’t have to become friends, but it’s a good idea to check in once in a while or discuss issues as they occur. If she unintentionally stepped on your toes, let her know so it won’t happen again. If she helped your child study for a test that he aced, tell her how much you appreciate her dedication.
A civil and productive Mom/Stepmom relationship will lead to better relations throughout the family. If Mom and Stepmom become cooperative allies, children will feel less torn between the two sides, and they will have decreased opportunities to play those sides against each other. Dad will also experience less stress if he’s not absorbing shrapnel from his previous and present partners. And moms and stepmoms can each feel a little more secure in their prospective roles in the family.