It’s no secret that the relationship between mother and stepmother gets a nasty reputation. Movies, televisions shows and gossip magazines are infiltrated with visions of mutual hatred and situations of tension, jealousy and revenge. But is this an accurate picture? And more importantly, if negative interactions do exist, are there ways to overcome them?
No One’s the Bitch: A Ten-Step Plan For The Mother And Stepmother Relationship looks deeply into this topic. The book goes over 10 steps for mom’s and stepmom’s to follow if their mutual goal is to reduce tension, increase communication and to improve their relationship overall.
A main criticism of this book is that these steps would not be realistic if you are in the middle of a high-conflict, parallel parenting situation. I agree wholeheartedly with this view, but I do still think that this book is a good way to give you new perspectives and to help you see the role you may be playing in the relationship. While it’s not likely that all mom / stepmom relationships will turn out as friendly as the authors’, I do recommend this book if you are early on in your relationship or struggling with knowing how to make repairs.
The 10 Steps
Survey the Landscape (And Get Your Bearings)
Taking the time to understand the forces behind each woman and their own unique perspectives is the first step in moving forward. Each person has found themselves in a situation that they certainly didn’t dream about growing up. Having to share parenting responsibilities with another woman is foreign enough without the fact that you don’t know them and you didn’t choose to have them in you life. Gaining an understanding of their viewpoint and how they may be feeling can help you to view the situation with more empathy.
Own Your Own Crap (What, Me? A Dark Side?)
After learning more about the underlying feelings and gaining a better understanding of what you are up against, you can’t help but wonder what your own role is. Looking honestly at your actions and thoughts can be difficult but it’s something that you have to face eventually. Wanting to “look good”, playing the victim or mentally critiquing everything from her clothes to her taste in music doesn’t help you to improve the relationship.
Imagine the Benefits (Dreams Pull You Forward)
Taking a good look at the benefits of an improved relationship can help you to keep moving forward during misunderstandings or conflict. Creating a healthier family for the kids is right at top, but there is also the benefit of reducing tension, improving communication between the homes and having better access into the life your child is living when they are away from your home.
Take Action (Stretching, Inside and Out)
When you have a difficult relationship, even the smallest step can feel like running a marathon in the beginning. Making eye contact or holding a friendly conversation may feel like a leap at first. It can be scary to extend an olive branch when you are expecting rejection. And, lets be honest, sometimes it’s easier to go on hating someone than it is to do the work it takes to see them in a different light. This step addresses the inner shift you need to make along with the outward changes.
Collaborate (Lighten Your Load – and Hers)
Opening the door of communication allows for both homes to work together. This could be setting ground rules to create consistency between homes, allowing for the stepmom to call the mom for her opinion on a specific situation, or to give one or both households help during times of stress. While the collaboration helps the children by creating clear rules and expectations, it also helps the parents by creating a back up for issues or concerns.
Be Accountable (No One Else to Blame)
Taking accountability for mistakes or mishaps will be a vital part in repairing a damaged relationship and keeping a repaired one healthy. The ability to highlight your mistakes will also help you to continue your personal growth that is occurring in these steps and it will help you to avoid the same situations in the future.
Communicate (Or, Why Aren’t You a Mind Reader?)
This step begins with a choice of intent in your communications – “You can communicate to foster harmony between you and the step-mother or ex-wife in your life, or you can communicate to try to gain the upper hand”. Choosing to communicate from a place of collaboration and while keeping an openness and neutrality will garner a much different outcome than if you communicate with hostility or criticism. Understanding that you have a choice in how each communication goes is an important step in improving interactions.
Regroup (Dust Off Your Pants When You Fall Down)
Even with the best intentions, killer communication skills and positive interactions under your belt, there are going to be times of conflict. Misunderstandings will occur, boundaries will be crossed and there is no way around that truth. The challenge is being able to pull yourself back together after a situation and get back on the path of working towards a positive relationship. Letting go of resentments and refusing to gossip or hold a grudge is difficult but necessary.
Strengthen (Bringing out the Best in the Kids)
When there are two homes working together to focus on the children and to invest in their well-being, the kids have a great strength behind them. When both homes can support the children’s interests and passions they will be better equipped to succeed. This partnership of supporting the kids is even more important in the presence of bigger issues such as mental health concerns, academic problems, bullying or drug use.
Celebrate and Acknowledge (Anytime is Springtime)
Creating a positive relationship with the mom or step-mom in your life can be very difficult and the road may be long. During times of discouragement, it’s important to recognize all of the work that has been done and the changes you’ve made to this point. There will always be more work to do, but acknowledging the areas of success can give you strength to continue on your journey.
No One’s the Bitch: A Ten-Step Plan for The Mother and Stepmother Relationship, By: Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine.