A Healthy Stepmother . . . considers the odds.

So, I was cruising around the internet while my husband was out camping with the big dog and I was home with the little dog focused on updating my website and other general tasks that modern stepmothers do. It’s been a few weeks since I was over at Stepmother’s Milk, but tonight I noticed that there’s a comment on a post about Stepmoms Dealing with Moms and one commenter said she found the post offensive.

My first reaction was to laugh and think to myself, welcome to the world of a stepmother trying to find where she fits, only this was a mom reading a stepmom’s site. The reason this mom didn’t like the post was because she couldn’t see where she fit, in my opinion. It wasn’t written with her in mind. It was written for stepmothers who struggle in their relationship with their husband’s ex-wife.

So, I sat back and pondered the offended woman’s comments in the larger context of the cultural stories we’re telling ourselves about each other. Don’t you think, like I do . . . that there are good mothers and sorta-attentive mothers and overly-involved mothers and neglectful mothers and even some bad mothers? And, aren’t there good fathers and sorta-attentive fathers and overly-involved fathers and neglectful fathers and even some bad fathers?

And, aren’t there good kids and overly people-pleasing kids and slothful kids and even some acting out kids? Even good stepmothers and sorta-attentive stepmothers and overly-involved stepmothers and neglectful stepmothers and even some bad stepmothers? We could keep going down the list of roles and job titles and find good teachers and not-so-good teachers, good doctors and bad doctors. And on and on and on.

My point is that not all stepmothers are mean or jealous. Not all mothers are horrible and angry. Not all ex-husbands are deadbeat, hurtful, or resentful. And no group is ever homogenous. I think it behooves all of us to quit spreading stereotypes. Stereotypes about stepmothers, mothers, and fathers are as bad as racial, ethnic, and gender stereotypes. We are slowly educating ourselves that those seemingly broader social stereotypes are not appropriate but we continue living as if the Evil Stepmother or the Jaded Ex-Wife stereotypes are true.

No one is ever any one thing.

6 thoughts on “A Healthy Stepmother . . . considers the odds.

  1. You are 100% right. Society seems to be slanted towards being more accepting of the evil stepparent than of the evil parent, which is what’s frustrating.

  2. A, I’m frustrated right along with you. And, I’m frustrated that we’re accepting of evil-ness in any form. I don’t mean that in terms of good versus evil, rather that our unhealthy ways of treating one another cause great pain.

    And, while “no one is ever any one thing” is true, so is it also true that . . . every one holds every thing.

  3. So true. And to the 1st comment, I think that just makes the whole situation way worse. Sadly.

    A wise man once told me ‘we all do things in the best way we know how’

    And I sincerely believe that. We’re not one of us perfect. And when we try to be, it’s very hard and depressing and frustrating. But it does help me understand a lot of the people in the universe to remind myself we’re not perfect. We’re people. And people make mistakes. That’s why we’re people and not Gods!

    Thanks for this blog post – it really made me think.

  4. Welcome, ladyjustine……thanks for reading and commenting. I looked over your blog and will go back there and read some more. Having spent 8 vacations in the Lake District with another stepmother friend, it’s such a “homecoming” to read your words and have their cadence come back to me. I’m not from there, I’m from here, but love, love, love your part of the world.

    Agreed 100%, we’re doing the best we can given the circumstances we are in.

  5. Ah, glad you appreciate the rainy country! I’m moving to France, but the North is my home and always will be.

    Sometimes it’s very difficult to keep saying people do the best they can when they’re usually quite hopeless, but it keeps me from getting too angry at my step-son’s biological mum. She does the best she can, and whilst that maybe isn’t very good compared to my expectations and mothering behaviour (he lives with us for many reasons) she needs my support more than my condemnation. Must remember this! I need this as a motto imprinted on my image of her when dealing with the flak from her ‘mothering’!!

  6. As frustrating as another person’s behavior can be, I’m pretty convinced I’ve saved my sanity by using that mantra to work through more than one “moment” when otherwise I’d have collapsed into judgmental and condemning thoughts and words. And, the day my stepson told me that he needed me to say hello to his mom even if I didn’t feel like it . . . well, that helped me get clear REALLY fast. It’s not about her, it’s about him. He needs me to behave in a certain way, no matter what is going on. He wasn’t asking me to fake it, he was asking me to be civil. . . . lessons from kids…..thank goodness because they can be inspirational. I later had the guts to ask my own father to stop making disparaging remarks about my mother who’s been gone for years and years.

    And, the work I do, the Feldenkrais Method, has convinced me that most often behavior isn’t about choice until there is a REAL choice. Most of the time, however, the person acts and reacts in a habitual pattern, one that served them at least at one point in time and that is very ingrained. It takes a huge effort to pay attention, increase awareness, and stop the self from behaving that way again. It’s only when the “option” has a chance of being as easy and simple as the habitual that there is indeed a choice. Indeed, when fear and anxiety of a new thing are present, it’s nearly impossible to just waltz in and “choose.” That’s why when I hear people say, “well, just choose and you can change that,” I sort of want to go crazy. This could be an even longer discussion and maybe worth a blog post.

    Thank you Justine, this is the conversation I’ve been longing to have. I wish you well in keeping that mantra front and center. 😉

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