I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
November 2, 2011
From time to time, new stepmothers e-mail me and ask where they can find online resources for blended families. I used to wonder the same thing after I got married. Websites for stepmothers were few and far between, and either contained the kinds of stories that made you say, “Well, DUH” at the end of them, or featured forums filled with vitriolic complaints about the “bio mom” and the “brats” the stepmother was suddenly forced to deal with.
I soon began avoiding blended family sites like the plague– and I personally haven’t written a whole lot about my own blended family situation over the years because as you can imagine, it’s sensitive. For one thing, my stepdaughters have been adolescents throughout most of the time that I’ve been a blogger. The last thing they needed to deal with in addition to puberty was their stepmom giving the world her take on it. For another thing, they’re not my kids.
And this statement is key, even though it’s a hard one to make. They’re. Not. My. Kids. Even though I love them like they’re my kids, and care about their well-being as much as any parent could. Even though they’ve lived with us most of the time that I’ve been married. Even though they’ve followed (AND DESPISED) rules set by me. I am not, and never will be, their mom. They often do not need or want my parental take (publicly or privately) on how they are or should be living their lives.
And that’s okay. It has taken me years to be able to say it, but that’s okay.
I think that most stepmoms eventually realize this– and that’s why you won’t find a whole lot of stepmom blogs out there (and why you’ll often find yourself shuddering when you read the intimate details shared by some of the stepmoms that are online). If we suffer from finding ourselves smack dab in the middle of a touchy blended family situation that we did not create and do not control, we mostly do it in silence- if we’re smart. It’s the Stepmother Way.
But then someone like LeAnn Rimes comes along– and, well, see for yourself.
Here is LeAnn’s Twitter bio:
LeAnn. LeAnn, LeAnn, LeAnn.
From one stepmother to another? You are not a Bonus Mom.
If we want to get specific here, you’re actually the one that ended the relationship between the real mom and dad of those “adorable Rascals.” I feel pretty certain that you are a “bonus” that those boys could have done without.
Your war of words with your husband’s ex has been well-documented by the media and even though I know how irritating and unfair it can be when your stepchildren’s mother says something nasty about you, your best defense, if you really, truly care about the kids (and Gisele, I hope you’re listening too) is SILENCE.
Of course, in your defense, LeAnn, you’re hardly the first new stepmother to commit the dreaded ‘Bonus Mom’ faux pas. Now that my little ones are getting older, I’m starting to become acquainted with more and more new stepmoms, women who are giving me an uncomfortable case of deja vu because they’re right where I was ten years ago. They’re often the ones asking way too many questions during parent meetings, cheering way too loudly at soccer games, and baring way too much skin during children’s birthday parties. (I know it’s a new relationship and all, but uh. Just sayin.’) It’s hard for me to see them now because I remember doing some of the exact same things when I was in their shoes, and only now am I understanding why I got more than a few hostile glares at the time from other moms.
A stepmom is not a bonus mom.
My advice to LeAnn, to other new stepmoms, hell, to myself ten years ago, is to take the “wind beneath their wings” approach. Avoid conflict with the kids’ mom. Be ready and willing to take a step back at birthday parties and sports events. You do not need to prove to the world how much YOU CARE. Be there for the kids when they need you, but be willing to back off when they’re feeling conflicted, or when their mom is causing trouble, or when it’s creating problems in your own marriage. It might not be best for you and your feelings (and in a world where YOUR FEELINGS are EVERYTHING, I realize that this can be very hard to take), but if you really do want the best for the members of your blended family, you’ll do it for them.
You don’t have to be a bonus mom… or a mom-in-waiting… or an I-should-have-been-your-mom… to do it.
You can simply be a caring adult who provides support and love to the members of your family.
And while it’s not always optimal, it has got to be enough.
Top image via Yahoo! Yodel Studio/Flickr