As a stepmom and mom, I empathize with the challenges BM is confronted with when DH single handedly selects another woman to help care for her children.
Her feelings may range from concern over their emotional and physical wellbeing to fear of the kids wanting to spend more time with you and DH instead of with her.
Hooray for the rare humans that aren’t susceptible to the 7 deadly sins. I’m not one of them, and odds are your stepkids’ BM isn’t either.
As a stepmom, you greatly benefit from BM’s support.
Being rejected by your younger stepkids? All it takes is 1 positive comment from BM to nip that behavior. And all it takes to derail your efforts to bond with them is a single negative comment from BM.
Despite the power she has over your home life, she likely sees herself as a victim in this dynamic. It’s human nature. Even bullies identify as the victim when harassing their target.
Now that you have an understanding of her perspective, following are 3 strategies for improving your relationship with her.
1. Make Mom feel included:
Remind Mom it’s not out of sight, out of mind when the kids are with you and DH.
Initiate a craft project with the kids and help them make something for Mom. Tons of ideas can be found on this Pinterest board. Not into crafting? Make a scrapbook incorporating memories with their mom, or help them bake something special for Mom.
While in the middle of a custody battle, one client wanted BM to know she was going to continue being supportive of her relationship with the kids, while her and DH had temporary custody.
My client was uncomfortable addressing it directly, so she and SD made a photo calendar incorporating photos of her and BM.
When SD was reunited with BM, she greeted her enthusiastically and gave her this present. It was obvious SD had help completing the project, and SM was no longer mistaken for a threat.
2. Let the kids speak for you:
Far too often, kids unintentionally reveal BM’s criticisms of us. BM may not be in our home, but her words are coming out of the kids’ mouths.
Use this to your advantage by speaking kindly of BM to your stepkids. It’s very possible they will repeat your words back to her. Just keep it simple so details aren’t lost in translation.
3. Silence is deadly:
I know lots of stepmoms and stepmom coaches subscribe to the belief that no contact with BM is best. In some situations, I agree, but it comes with a price.
More times than not, our silence is misinterpreted as evidence to support BM’s biggest fears regarding our role. Every opportunity you have to connect, is an opportunity to disprove her fears.
Drop-offs and pick-ups being the most common windows of opportunity, but if face to face isn’t for you, ask her a question about the kids, showing you respect her role as their Mom, or send a text when DH is on his way to meet her with the kids.
A simple “They’re on their way. Hope you all have a great weekend.” makes it harder for her to paint you as the villain.
All of these strategies require you to be at your best. Even if she doesn’t outright reject you, it’s possible your efforts will be met with silence or passive-aggressive behavior. Your job is to stay high, and empathetic.
To succeed at this, you must practice extreme self-care and surround yourself with support from those who understand the challenges you face.
Want advice specific to your situation? Contact me to schedule a 1:1 coaching session.