The Insightful, Laser-Like Eyes of Stepmoms

A great fantasy surrounding divorce with children is that everyone is fine.

Those of us who marry into divorce with children situations are sometimes the first to notice that things are any thing but “fine”.  In some ways, we are the canary in the coal mine- out ahead, sensing danger long before anyone else.

I remember when my stepson was 4 years old.  He would throw things at his father and mentally break down at least 5-6 times per day- completely out of control.  He also was not able to show any interest in learning certain skills.  Initially, I was concerned, but did not say too much.

Sure enough, as soon as he tried to begin kindergarten, one red flag after another was witnessed by his school and he was held back.  Even after being held back, he struggled with behavioral and learning issues.

Could all of this occurred had his family of origin remained intact? Of course.

But, what was interesting is that I was the first to notice these issues, and I do not think that the stepmom being the first to notice is in any way uncommon.  In fact, Barbara Waterman in her book on adoptive, foster, and stepmothers cites a study which examined young boys having problems in schools.  The study showed that in fact, in divorced families, it was often the stepmother who FIRST brought concerns to everyone’s attention.

Too often, the prevailing fantasy of everyone being “just fine” in divorce clouds the judgment of the actual parents- the ones who should be most in tune with any difficulties associated with their children.

So where does that leave us as stepmoms?  Unfortunately, I think we are still left in no man’s land.  Rather than being embraced as aware, insightful, perhaps objective witnesses, for the stepchildren in our lives, we are often viewed with suscipion and disdain if we dare to bring up any concerns.

I know, when I have talked to my stepson’s teachers, it usually takes a good 4 to 5 months before they are open to really hearing what I have to say.  Let’s just be very blunt that there is no gushing, no open arms from his teachers, until they get to know him and the situation.  Until then, I am viewed as the stepmom first, someone to be regarded with suspicion.

Waterman makes a good point  in her book- rather than overlooking and disregarding the input from “other mothers” (step, adoptive, or foster) our society and institutions should value our insightful, laser-like eyes.

We do see things, and unblinded by the parental block of “My gosh, I have already put my children through a divorce, and I absolutely can’t handle it if they are in any way affected, so I am just going to pretend they are fine”, we may be invaluable resources for our stepchildren and their continued development.  If only, we are listened to….

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8 thoughts on “The Insightful, Laser-Like Eyes of Stepmoms

  1. Been there – got the t-shirt for this multiple times. I was, and still am to a large extent, the one the children “confide” in. My stepson told me in 4th grade that he couldn’t understand anything he read – I told my husband and we got him to Huntington to be tested. After extensive courses at Huntington through the summer, his grades improved, his outlook improved and 4 years later, he now makes straight A’s. This flew under all of our radars because he could read the words just fine when he was called upon in class to read aloud. The only way any of us were able to get him help was because I talk to the children. Not just talking for talking sakes – I talk to them and listen to what they say which helps me to ask the “right” questions.

    My stepdaughter exhibited signes of ADHD – for YEARS I kept telling my husband that her behavior was extreme. It tooks me years to convince him that while the types of behavior she engaged in was “normal” for the age group – it was the severity and frequency of the behavior that was outside of “normal”. She was finally tested for ADHD and anxiety and tested off the charts for both. With routine therapy and medication she has struggled to overcome major hurdles at home and at school and will probably struggle with this into her adult life. Life will not be easy for her; but hopefully it will be easier than it would have otherwise been.

    • I love your explanation about your stepdaughter. That is such a key point that everyone misses- the behaviors may be “normal”, but they are extreme, and this in no way helps the child. I know your stepchildren’s lives have been transformed by your presence, care, and time. It’s funny because I have often been in the same situation as far as being the one adult in their lives who TALKS to the children- such a simple, but important thing.

  2. Ignoring the stepmom is aided by poisoning parenting, for example, the children’s biological mother hurrying to tell the children’s teachers false things about me and the children’s father so that we are especially not heard. And the ones hurt by that? The kids, of course.

    I agree there is a level of clarity in stepmom’s views of the children and their behavior. It has been something I haven’t been able to put into words before, though, so thank you for this post.

    • So sorry you have had to go through this. It has absolutely amazed me how biological mothers get a “free pass” and always the assumption that they are doing everything in the best possible interest, while stepmoms are viewed with suspicion. It’s too bad, because we can be an invaluable asset to the children.

    • Oh my gosh! It never ceases to surprise me the stories that narcissists create. What I find even more surprising in how they expect everyone to believe these stories, simply because its convenient and ego-boosting for the narcissist’s self-image.

    • That is such a tricky situation to rise above. It is insulting and frustrating and the worst part is, if you play into it, you end up looking just as bad. As infuriating as it is, the only reasonable thing to do of course is to “turn the other cheek” so to speak. Not at all satifying, and unfortunately necessary for the kids. It is moments like those that make step-parenting so difficult!!

  3. Pingback: The Perpetuated the Myth of the Evil Step Mom (ESM) | Daily Rumblings

  4. Pingback: The Perpetuated Myth of the Evil Step Mom (ESM) | Daily Rumblings

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