25 May The Number #1 Question
“Laura, could I ask you a question?” the woman attending my event asked apprehensively.
“Of course,” I replied, hoping my smile would ease her anxiety.
“I don’t want to offend you,” she responded. Now I was curious.
“I don’t offend easily. You don’t last long in ministry if you are easily wounded,” I chuckled. “Go ahead—ask anything.”
“What I want to know is why does my child’s stepmom think she’s another mom to my child?” her voice inquired. “Why when she married my ex-husband, did she automatically think that it made her a mother to my children? I truly don’t understand. It’s hurtful. And I sincerely want to understand why,” she earnestly continued.
“My children have a mother, I carried them in my body. I birthed them. Why does she believe that they want, need, or should have another mother?” Her eyes filled with tears.
“I want my kids to get along with her and have a great relationship. I know it’s easier for them if they have peace in the other home. I genuinely don’t hate her or wish evil against her. I just want her to stop attempting to be another mother.”
“I don’t want to hurt my kids. So, if I’m wrong, I’m willing to hear it. I can tell you aren’t afraid to speak the hard stuff, so I’m ready. Tell me the truth. Is it me?”
I immediately hugged her. I knew she needed it.
“No, my precious sister, you aren’t wrong.” I assured her. “That’s not the word for it. You are struggling because your kids have a new parental figure in their lives. And it’s a HUGE transition that you didn’t see coming after a divorce”.
“Let me explain,” I tenderly answered.
We sat down and I helped her understand stepfamily dynamics, and the changes that were happening. The great news is she was teachable. She was willing to hear and consider what she might be doing that is making the situation worse.
Here’s insight for stepmoms and biological moms who desire to live in peace with each other. I’m not saying you must become friends, companions, colleagues, or admirers of each other.
I am saying it’s for moms and stepmoms who might not like each other, or the situation, but they care about the kids enough to learn a peaceful coexistence for the sake of the kids.
If that isn’t your goal, then this article isn’t for you.
If the two women will embrace the other woman’s role, feelings, concerns and pain with a willingness to create peace it will go a LONG way to calm the stress.
Tips to deescalate the tension:
- YOU can NOT control the other persons actions, but you CAN control how you respond. You do not need to respond to every argument you are invited to attend. Walk away.
- We only do things because we GET something out of it. If an action doesn’t provide a feeling we like (it might be subconscious), we stop doing it. I encourage moms and stepmoms to stop calling each other “high conflict” even on social media because it merely stirs the pot. It makes one woman “feel good” to bash the other one.
- It takes two to dance the tango. If you are dealing with a high conflict ex-wife, or stepmom, step away. It’s your ex/husband’s job to deal with the women in his life. Don’t throw gasoline on the fire. If your response is “He won’t deal with it” THEN you know the root of the problem. It’s him—not her. That’s a marriage problem not a stepmom/mom problem.
- Respect the other women’s role. If mom says it’s hurtful for stepmom to post pictures of her child on social media with a caption, “Isn’t my/our son adorable” and you as the stepmom continue to do it, you are the problem—not her. If stepmom says, “Joshua wants me at his soccer game, but his mother gets mad if I’m there” then mom needs to stop with the attitude.
- Ask yourself: Do I want to be part of the solution or part of the problem. If mom or stepmom intentionally throws gasoline on a fire just to prove her point, it’s time to ask yourself why. WHAT AM I GETTING OUT OF THIS? Why do I focus more on retaliation than my home and my marriage?
- Human nature: It feels good to talk badly about the people we don’t like, or those who hurt us. When we push someone down, it makes us feel better. Ask yourself, “why do I need to do that to feel better about myself?”
- Focus on what you can control. If a pie is cut into 8 slices, and I’m only responsible and control one slice, I need to focus on the one slice that’s mine. Our human nature tends to focus on the other 7 pieces that the other person is controlling.
- Don’t expect the other women to respond as you would. Did you buy a Christmas present for her, only to have it thrown in the trash? Just use it as a lesson that she doesn’t want a gift from you. Don’t brew or slam her on social media.
- Decide on your legacy. What do you want your children, stepchildren, family, friends, extended stepfamily, and others to remember about you? That you were the bitter ex-wife who was always clawing at the stepmom? That you were the wicked selfish stepmom who had to have things her way? That you created walls or you built bridges?
- Ask God for the strength and trust Him with the results. Being in a healthy coparenting situation requires an extreme amount of patience, forgiveness, humility, compassion, and resolve. I don’t possess any of those things on my own strength. Maybe you do, but I don’t. I needed Jesus to heal the hurts before I could do the first 9 steps mentioned here.
Today, take one baby step forward. Here’s a prayer if you are seeking God’s help.
“Lord, I don’t want to be a quarrelsome, contemptible, miserable, spiteful, woman. That’s not how I want to live, or die, or be remembered. I want to bring peace into the midst of conflict. That’s what it means to be a peacemaker. Not a doormat, but a conduit of calm. Teach me how to let go of what I can’t control. Teach me to be content even when things are not going as I would like. Teach me to forgive those who have wounded me and set healthy boundaries with them if they continue. I don’t want to live in this stepfamily drama and chaos anymore. Show me my part in it and then teach me how to change. I’m listening. I’m willing to become willing. Amen.
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