“… even without meeting you, we think we know a few things about you.”
I read these words in the introduction to Kathi Lipp’s and Carol Boley’s new book, but I’m Not a Wicked Stepmother, and felt my shoulders tighten a little. Could they really understand? It feels like no one else does. Since I became a stepmom two and a half years ago, I often feel that I barely understand myself.
But then, they listed the things about me that they are sure they know … and guess what? They’re right:
- “You’re exhausted—not just physically but emotionally—from struggling to succeed in a job no one sets as a life goal.
- “You’re confused and angry as a result of trying to understand the entangled relationships of stepfamily life and feeling like your needs are secondary to those of everyone else in your stepfamily.
- “You’re lonely and and frustrated from being the outsider, not knowing established routines, traditions, and inside jokes in your own family.”
And the list went on. They do know me, I thought.
It’s not that I don’t love my husband and stepsons and the family we have formed. I do. More than you know. And it’s not that I am exhausted, confused, or lonely all the time, or even most of the time. I’m not. Truly. But when I am exhausted, confused, or lonely, and when it’s particularly because of my role as a stepmom, it’s nice to know that somebody—anybody—understands. Kathi’s and Carol’s book was an important reminder of that.
Though 1,300 new stepfamilies are formed each day, many reading this post are not among them. I understand that. But if you are—or even if you just know a stepmom or have one—then I would recommend this book as a way to help understand these important women in your lives.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Kathi and Carol about their lives as stepmoms. I wanted to share one answer from each them.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART OF TRANSITIONING FROM SINGLE WOMAN TO MARRIED WITH CHILDREN ALL IN ONE FELL SWOOP?
The hardest part for me was being the outsider in my own family, not knowing the intimate history, not knowing the inside jokes, not sharing the bond my husband and his child enjoyed. I also felt like I was living under a microscope, being constantly scrutinized by others, having my every move evaluated. Was I measuring up? Also tough—thrust into the role of mother, I had to “step in to” the life of a child with traits and habits already established, naturally enough, with no input from me. My husband and I set about to begin ever-so-gently to make some changes and work on setting in place new behavioral expectations (that we both agreed upon) while slowly establishing in our child’s mind that I was now in a position of authority. This was hard work—valuable and necessary, but hard.
I also missed being able to set my own schedule, including eating whatever I wanted for dinner whenever I wanted it!
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT GOT IN THE WAY OF BONDING FOR YOU AND YOUR STEPFAMILY?
Roger and I didn’t do a good job of establishing boundaries with his ex at first. She felt that she had to weigh in on every decision we made for the kids – including what we got them for Christmas. But one day, when she said that I needed to go back to work to afford private school for her son, Roger said, respectfully but firmly, “That is none of your business. That is not a decision that you have any input into. That is between me and my wife.”
After that, we learned two principles when it came to dealing with my step kids mom:
- Share just the facts. We never held back in information that she needed to know: their schedules, their health, their wellbeing. But when she asked questions about how we ran things at our home, we only gave the facts. It made it easier to not have to deal with her opinions of our parenting style (especially when we were still trying to figure it out!)
- I am not the go-between. My husband dealt with his ex, I dealt with mine. It is a landmine of emotions when you are dealing with someone else’s child. When I stepped aside and let my husband deal with the issues with his kids, with his ex, it took a lot of the judgement off of me and brought a lot of peace to our relationship.
AUTHORS: Kathi Lipp and Carol Boley
TITLE: But I’m NOT a Wicked Stepmother!: Secrets of Successful Blended Families
WHERE TO GET IT: Follow the link above to order it from Amazon.
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*This website uses “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Also, I received a complimentary preview copy of Kathi’s and Carol’s book, but any endorsements, reviews, or comments about the book are my own opinion and were not influenced by the authors.