This is the second installment of my conversation with Brigette Lemos-Norman of In The Blender. Our conversation stems from the one we had on The Stepmom Connection which aired live on March 16, 2011. Because the audio didn’t record correctly, we’re cross-blogging our conversation so you can join in, too.
The second stepmom taboo topic we discussed was:“If I knew what I was getting into, I would have never married you.”
This phrase is taboo for a reason. Once you say something like this, it’s out there. If you are going to tell your spouse this, you’ve got to be prepared to really sit down and work through things.
Having said that, I don’t believe it is wrong or atypical for any stepmom to think it especially during a heightened time of stress. It’s what you “do” with that thought that matters.
Thinking that “if I knew what I was getting into, I would have never married you” DOES NOT mean that you ARE going to leave the marriage. It’s simply an admission to the fact that you never thought it would be this tough.
Truly, I don’t think any woman marries a man with children focused on the rough spots ahead. Personally, I thought I was really ahead of the game when I married my husband and we merged our six kids. We had read every book on stepfamily life that we could get our hands on and taken some stepfamily bible studies at our Church. We were so blinded by the love bug we would chuckle after reading a book or attending a class saying “that stuff will never happen to us. I’m so glad that our kids all get along and that they all love and approve of us.”
Well something happened on that yellow brick road to the land of make believe. Somewhere between the day we said “I do” and about six months into the marriage a little thing I like to call REALITY hit our stepfamily! It’s when the truth that my husband and I were together and a very united front and that neither of us would ever again be with our children’s other parent really hit our kids. And their grief became unanticipated stress on us, as stepparents and as a stepcouple.
It was in those moments that we ran back to the materials we devoured before marriage and realized all the stuff we were going through was so typical of a stepfamily. That knowledge and preparation was key. So while I’ve never said those words “If I knew what I was getting into, I would have never married you” to my husband I have said “I never knew this would be so challenging. I really thought my love for you and my love of being a mom would make things easy.”
Often times, I believe our husband’s see the pain that we, as their wife and the stepmom of their children, may be in at the hands of the situation. This can wear on our husbands and they often feel guilty about “putting us” in stressful situations when it’s not their fault. The stress comes from the reality of stepfamily dynamics. One stepmom in the chat room shared “my husband carried that guilt–that my life would have been better if I hadn’t gotten involved (with him). We’re far beyond that now, but it took a lot of work.”
Saying that taboo phrase out loud to our husband may only serve to make them feel worse. Yes, it’s taboo for a reason. Mostly because saying it out loud won’t do much good. But thinking it and sharing with your positive minded stepmom friends can help you feel that you are not alone. And may help you to know you are not the only one who thinks that the job of stepmom is much harder and different than what you anticipated and there isn’t’ anything “Taboo” about that!
How do you feel about the idea of sharing some topics with your positive minded stepmom friends vs. your spouse?
Be sure to check out Brigette’s companion blog post on In The Blender
Brigette Lemos-Norman was my guest on The StepMom Connection Wednesday. While we had a great conversation, the technology didn’t cooperate and only half of our interview was taped. Therefore instead of leaving half a chat in the archives, I made the decision to pull the show. Bridgette and I decided to cross blog the topic so you can get in on the whole conversation.
The first taboo topic we discussed was: “I fell in love with my husband, not my stepkids”.
When you say “I do” to a man with children, you say “I do” to his children too. But while you are committing to caring for your stepchildren, you may not love those children in the same immediate, unconditional love that you feel for your own biological children or even for nieces and nephews that you have been involved with since birth.
Often times, stepmoms feel guilty when they don’t feel deep love for their stepkids. There is no cookie cutter way to love a stepchild. And the reality of stepfamily life is that the stepchild drives the relationship with their stepmother. If the child embraces you and the relationship flows easily then the love typically flow easily. If the stepchild puts up a wall either because they just don’t want to accept that dad is with another woman or perhaps their mom is not giving them “permission” to accept their stepmom, you can feel left in the cold.
One stepmom in the chat room during the show shared “I thought being a step mom would be easy… but so much depends on the bio mom and how she is with the children and what she imparts to them regarding the step mom.” We know these to be very true words.
Love and trust are given without question to a birth/adoptive parent but a stepchild chooses whether to love and trust their stepmom and to what extent. That choice impacts the relationship between a stepmom and stepchild.
Also, I think it’s fair to say that stepmoms can love their stepkids but not always like their behavior. And when a stepmom says she doesn’t love her stepkids, that doesn’t mean she is not going to take care of them, or treat them well or parent them to the best of her ability. It means she is being real about her feelings. While we are commanded to love one another under God, we also know that love can take many different forms and have different levels of feelings.
I feel it is so important for our community of stepmothers is to be careful not to judge one another. I think the reason that so many stepmoms feel guilty about saying what they are feeling is that they don’t want to validate that “evil stepmom” persona that the media has created.
You are not an evil stepmom if you don’t love your stepkids.
You are an honest stepmom.
It takes time for love to grow. If you are committed to your relationship with your stepkids and their dad, if you are committed to treating them with love and kindness then you are doing what you need to do.
Each stepmom has her own journey, and while you may not agree with how another stepmom feels and/or what she says, be cautious not to judge her character. Every woman is different and until we walk in her shoes (her past and her present), we don’t truly understand her. Because that is impossible to do, it isn’t fair to judge or criticize her emotions and actions. Disagreeing with someone’s words or actions is different than judging their character. The former makes for healthy discussion while the later fuels unnecessary discontent.
Only when we can all feel comfortable sharing our true feelings with one another can we remove the “taboo” label on topics and truly deal with our frustrations and work past them. You can feel isolated and lonely as a stepmom when you think you are the only one struggling with a certain topic. Knowing there are others out there that share your same struggles can be very comforting and encouraging.
What are your thoughts on loving your stepkids? Loving one stepchild more/differently than another? Do you feel this is a touchy topic in the stepmom community?
Make sure to visit Brigette’s companion piece at her blog InTheBlender
Next “Taboo” Topic that some stepmoms think but may not speak: “If I would have known what I was getting into, I would have never married you.”