Stepmoms sound off on their tough task

January 31, 2006 — Leave a comment

Salt Lake Tribune

Qualified, bona fide stepmothers stepped up to answer last week’s question: Can stepmothers ever step over the hurdles of their titles? I may be the psychologist, but here are the experts.

Lynn Nicholas joined the establishment of her husband and his three teenagers when she was a spry and experienced 60-year-old. But, even age and wisdom didn’t prepare her. “Even though I had three children of my own, I didn’t realize what I was about to undertake. If the marital bond isn’t strong . . . the presence of stepchildren in the house can destroy your marriage.”

The one question I have about the fairy tales touting the wickedness of the evil stepmothers is where in the world is Dad? Is it that he feels too guilty or sad to step in and step up to the task at hand? It’s common for stepmothers to feel that the “wife” part of their new family takes a backseat to their role as stepmother, aka disciplinarian. Was remarriage some kind of trick so that Dad can once again play the role of the silent hero?

Stepmother Sophia wrote: “I have been the rule maker and the one who asks my husband to discuss situations and problems with his children. So, yes, I am the ‘bad guy’ and he is the ‘good guy’ (as if being the stepmother wasn’t bad enough to separate me). I know that my husband must feel some guilt about the divorce . . . I also know that when he sees his three teenagers he sees his babies, [while] I see disrespectful, rude, and inconsiderate people.”

One Salt Lake stepmom commented that “it’s a thankless job . . . No matter what you do; bio mom will paint you as the enemy and try to position the children against you. Divorced dads are often looking for a new woman to come in and do all the difficult parenting so that they can be the ‘nice dad.’ . . . Stepmothering will never be the joyous experience mothering is. In fact, in my experience, it has very little to do with mothering and more with biting your tongue and trying to get along with people you never really chose to live with.”

One 21-year resident stepmother, Annie Linn, shares that “patience, counting to 10 [or 100], supporting [her] husband, keeping low expectations, maintaining a sense of humor, and forgiveness, all added up to a positive step-relationship.”

Now, I must add that Eleanor Muth strongly disagreed with my remarks stating the difficulties for today’s stepmothers: “I am fortunate to hear my three stepchildren say, ‘We cannot imagine our lives without you; we love you!’ “

I’ve only seriously dated one man with children. When introduced to his 9-year-old son, I was greeted with “Hey ‘a, Lizard!” My spineless boyfriend’s response? “Sorry, Liz. I hope you don’t mind too much if he calls you that?” My response? “Next??!”

Come on men, rise to the occasion and do your job so your sweetheart isn’t cast in a negative role.

And, step on it!

(639)

Dr. Liz Hale

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