A Healthy Stepmother . . . cringes.

Just this morning, I was asking a friend who is recently divorced and remarried how the kids were adjusting. She said pretty well, but then expressed her concerns about her ex-husband’s wife who is an attorney and who is getting pretty involved in some of the decision-making as they work out the custody agreement and the parenting plan. As my friend talked, I felt myself cringing inside. It was clear to me that so many boundaries were being breached and that some of the language the stepmother was using were very inflammatory to the mother. It didn’t sound like it was headed in a good direction.

For another friend, it’s all reversed. The mother of the children breaches the boundaries. Just the other night, the father sat on our lawn and lamented that he didn’t have much say about which school his daughter attends, that he was left out of those decisions, and that he would have made a choice to send her somewhere else. Again, cringe. One parent making unilateral decisions without involving the other parent.

Last year, a woman came to my Awareness Through Movement® class. Over the course of many months, she made some comments about her father’s wife. At nearly 60 years of age, she was bitter and resentful of her stepmother and it showed in her voice and in her posture and the way she lived. She was Jekyll and Hyde. One moment she was pleasant and congenial, the next her whole face shifted and twisted and her throat tightened and she was enraged. When I sent out a flyer with a special coupon for stepmothers for individual lessons to honor my own mother who was a stepmother, she quit coming to class. I cringed when I thought of how heavy her burden, the one of hating her stepmother.

No matter which party in the stepfamily is breaching boundaries, I cringe. Surprised. Saddened. Concerned.

And then, I take a breath and go dig some weeds and contemplate my own boundaries and what is mine to tend to and what is someone else’s to tend.

I’d like to get past the cringe. I’d like to not be taken aback by another person’s behavior, but I am not there yet. I’d like to not worry about the kids I see and hear about. But, I am human, I’ve lived much of what they are going through. And, I feel sad.

Sadly, the stories of breached boundaries and transgressions seem even more prevalent. The stories make me want to join a revolution. A Healthy Human revolution. A revolution toward kindness and compassion, respect and integrity, and a returning to the nature of connections. Silly, I know. So many folks just can’t be bothered.

Excuse me, while I cringe!

2 thoughts on “A Healthy Stepmother . . . cringes.

  1. Kim,

    I read all of your posts but just haven’t been here to comment for awhile. My apologies for that… but I’m still here! 🙂

    I enjoyed this post because I see myself in it quite a bit. I find myself cringing quite a bit lately, sometimes at other’s interactions and sometimes at my own, unfortunately. I find myself cringing at other’s situations and decisions until I take a look at how I’ve handled myself in similar situations. Then I cringe at some of the poor decisions I’ve made.

    I’m almost 2 years in to my remarriage and we’ve dealt with all sorts of what I call “drama” in our blended family, but learning to deal with all of it without “cringing” has been my biggest challenge. I’ve very much a control freak and this has been (and continues to be) a huge test for me. I am now watching one of my friends about to get remarried and I’m cringing at the underlying hostility between the exes that I’m sure is about to boil over. I only can hope that I can relate what I’ve been through and hope she handles her situation with grace.

    I am also meeting with a friend today who is in the process of a nasty divorce with 3 small kids and I know that this time is so crucial to having un-strained relations in the future. Hopefully I can keep my “cringe factor” in check today. 🙂

    The key, I think, is to remember that we’ve all had those cringe-worthy moments in our own life and to react (as you did) to those cringe-worthy moments in others with grace, respect, and friendship.

    Thank you for continuing to be my voice of reason when I sometimes lose it myself. Always good to have other stepmothers to remind you of what’s important. 🙂


  2. Cringe-worthy . . . can I patent that phrase?? Love it because it so aptly describes the process.

    At it’s worst, the cringe is likely tainted with our judgment about what we, or someone else, has done and whether we , or they, have done it right. We do that, we expect ourselves to get things right.

    At it’s best, maybe the cringe is a cue for us to soften, back away, and take care of ourselves. We don’t get to control someone else, but we are in witness to them as you so eloquently point out.

    As for the control thing……I will only say that if you put any woman, and I mean ANY, into a stepfamily situation as the stepmother, she will come across as a control freak. The very nature of the situation is such that she will be seen as needing to have control. Regardless of who she is and what her nature is.

    Kristine, thanks for the comments and for so honestly describing what I think we all go through. And, I hope you have some great conversations with your friends . . .

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