Breaking the Mold

One day recently I took my son to violin lessons.  It happened that my step kids’ mom had planned my step daughter’s lesson on the same day.  We actually arranged it that way so we could both meet the teacher and see how lessons together would work.

That in and of itself is already shocking to other people in step families. I guarantee it. It gets weirder. We basically get along and talk almost daily. There are lulls. There are rough times where I’m sure neither of us wants to deal with the other. There are days where the kids are driving us crazy and we’d probably *like* to confide in one another more but the trust just isn’t quite there between a mom and stepmom.

She and I both happen to be into crafting. She knits and creates some beautiful pieces of other materials as well, while also making homemade remedies. I create a lot of clay crafts, mostly geek oriented, but usually just anything that pops into my brain. We have worked a couple craft fairs now where we happened to be at the same one. We didn’t intend to sign up together, but it worked out that way. And at one we were even right across the aisle from each other for our booth setup.

At the second one when we were directly across a small aisle from each other, I suggested to her that we should direct people over to each other’s booths. She happened to have some knitted gloves that matched some earrings I had made and vice versa. I told her everyone loves a gimmick and honestly if you’re just open with customers and tell them your little story and the fact that you’re a mom and stepmom duo who happen to be working sort of together, they find it fascinating.

Why in this day and age do people find women getting along to be fascinating, I wonder? Women in general are not expected to get along. That’s why terms like “catty” and “bitchy” exist. They are hardly ever applied to men. Men are “bros”. They get along no matter what, even if a woman tries to get in the way – bros before hoes. But women are expected to fight among one another, be in constant competition, and generally be sneaky behind each other’s backs even while claiming to be friends to someone’s face.

Have I met people like this? Yes. Have I been in friendships like this? Yes. But as I’ve gotten older and started choosing quality people in my life, this problem has occurred far less often. And men were just as often the perpetrators of this behavior as women were, in my experience.

In the world of step families, the women are expected to hate each other. It goes so far as to make others uncomfortable when they don’t. I got along with my ex husband’s first wife. Not always, but we mostly had an understanding. That situation could be intense and wasn’t always my favorite dynamic to deal with since I fall hard for friends and lovers equally. I’d like to think once I give someone my loyalty that I have the same in return automatically. The relationship between mom and stepmom in that family was very up and down, in part a lot thanks to my ex husband.

I’d love to help change the stereotype that moms and stepmoms are not supposed to be friends. Yes, there is a level of trust there, but unless the marriage ended in an affair that involved the stepmom, these two women have no reason not to trust or like each other. After all, they fell for the same guy at some point. That right there is something huge in common. They are now raising the same kids. That draws them together or pushes them apart, based on how you want to look at the situation. I’ve found in my current step family that not only do I and my fiance’s ex wife look an awfully lot alike, we also have many of the same interests and even parenting styles for some issues.

Even if you feel you have nothing in common with your partner’s ex or you don’t feel you want to be friends, there are still ways to cultivate a friendly attitude and peace within your own home. One of the first and foremost things to focus on is your own attitude. I’ve found that when I focus on the positive things about the other person, any person you have the potential to be in conflict with, it helps you to be more positive when issues do arise. If your mind is already in a positive place about the person, it helps you to stay there.

Positive also begins with our expectations. Someone once told me that expectations are future disappointments. Going into an interaction with the mom or stepmom and not having an expectation of the turnout but simply allowing it to unfold will help as well. If you walk out with something positive, great. If the interaction was less than desirable, well…you hadn’t hoped for anything so that’s okay and you live to explore other opportunities another day.

So many things have changed for our generation. Step parents used to be much more common as parents who were literally stepping in because of the death of a spouse. Divorce and remarriage was not as common as it is today. Today the parents are both alive and well. There are step parents, step grandparents, step siblings…all bringing their own set of complications to the table. If these things have changed, surely we can work toward a more positive view on the mom/stepmom relationship. Surely we can continue to work, grow, and change toward a more positive stereotype for ourselves as women and most importantly mothers of all types. And, as with any change, it starts with ourselves first.

 

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