Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Me... the "interloper"...

A few years ago, I read and reviewed Stepmonster, a book by Dr. Wednesday Martin.  This book is about the experience of being a stepmother, a much maligned and misunderstood role in American society.  I must admit, Wednesday Martin's book really spoke to me on many levels, even though by the time I'd read it, I couldn't really call myself a stepmother.  After all, I have only met my husband's offspring once.  They disowned their father and have nothing to do with us.  It's been a very hurtful thing to have to go through, though I think I've finally reached a point at which I can look at it logically and realize that my husband's ex wife probably did us a solid by keeping her kids away from us.

Anyway, I am subscribed to Wednesday Martin's Facebook page and today she linked to a column written by Mary T. Kelly, M.A.  The article is about childless stepmoms and how they are often made to feel like an interloper by their stepchildren and everyone else in the world who wants to remind them that they have no idea what being a mother is like.  Adding further insult, they remind stepmothers that they are intruding on an established relationship based on biology.  As I read this article, I had to admit, I never really felt that much like an interloper because I was spared the experience of being an actual stepmother.  My husband's ex wife kept her kids from their father and me, so I never had to endure insults from them.  Of course, the ex did try to give me the interloper experience when she invited me to my father-in-law's house to spend Christmas with her.  But since I refused to take part in that fiasco, I haven't really felt like an actual stepmother.

The funny thing is, when I read that column, I honestly came away from it realizing that in many selfish ways, I was lucky.  The ex didn't actually mean to do me a favor; but in fact, she really did.  Keeping the kids from their dad was her idea of a punishment.  But what she doesn't realize is that keeping them away probably made it possible for her ex husband and me to have a great marriage.  We are tremendously compatible and without the stresses of trying to blend families, we've bonded very well.  Our lives are surprisingly drama free and peaceful, despite my occasional ranting on this blog.  We don't fight and we don't have to deal with step drama.  I should probably write the ex a thank you letter.

Mind you, I don't approve of parental alienation.  I think it's cruel and harmful, especially to the children involved, who are involuntarily enlisted to help a toxic parent fight a battle with the ex spouse/significant other.  What I'm really trying to say to all those out there who think it's appropriate to engage in parental alienation and have delicious thoughts of how it will hurt the other parent, is that parental alienation can sometimes actually be a blessing.  Because as hard as it is for your kids to bond with the stepparent who, if they play their cards right, can turn out to be a valuable ally, it's just as hard for the stepparent to bond with your kids.  Kelly writes in her column that 67% of remarriages with kids fail...  and I'm assuming she's referring especially to women who marry men with kids, since a lot of women who remarry end up replacing their kids' fathers with another man.  If that requirement to bond or even just co-exist is taken away, it makes things a lot easier... a lot simpler.  And the ex has just pushed us closer together, cementing our bond.

Ladies, if you really want to punish your ex, maybe you should let your kids hang out with their stepmother.  It's likely that the hell of trying to bond and blend may just be more strain than the marriage can handle.  Keeping them away is hurtful and mean, of course; but one day your kids will be curious about the other side and may seek out their long lost dad.  And their long lost dad may or may not want to have anything to do with them.  After all, dads and second wives are people too... and they have feelings.  Once everyone is an adult, the playing field is leveled somewhat.  I no longer feel like I have to do anything special to spare my husband's daughters' feelings because they are now grown women who need to be accountable for being hateful PAS zombies who act like jerks.  Do you want your kids to hurt when their long lost dad is as alienated from them as you made them toward him?  Is it really your goal to hurt your kids?

In my husband's ex wife's case, I don't think it really matters.  I think she just feels like she has to act on every feeling she has.  I don't think it ever even occurs to her that she's hurting anyone besides the people she thinks have done her wrong.  If her kids are hurt, it's just collateral damage that they'll have to get over, all for the "privilege" of calling her mom.  She thinks she's special and her kids are lucky to have her.  In reality, she's a toxic, extremely self-centered person who doesn't think of anyone but herself.  She makes a show of caring about what her kids want, but the reality is, if they don't want what she wants, they're SOL... just like anyone else who has dealings with her.

So yeah, I'm now kind of glad she kept the kids away from us.  I actually posted this on Wednesday Martin's page, after she tried to comfort me with the prospect that my husband's kids might want to reconnect.  Honestly, at this point, I'd rather they didn't.  Any contact with them means we have to have contact with their psycho mother.  And it's entirely likely that they are as fucked up as she is.

I suspect that this post might invite indignant comments from the peanut gallery.  If you feel the need to post about how selfish and wicked I am, go right ahead and tell me.  I've heard it all before.  I know the truth about what really happened in our situation, though, and I know that I'm not a bad person.  And what has happened to me and my husband isn't even personal, since the ex would have done this no matter who my husband married.  She doesn't know me and sadly, neither do her kids.  If they did know me, they might have a legitimate reason to hate me.  Or maybe they'd love me.  She couldn't take that risk, though, so she kept them away.  And that pretty much guarantees that one day they'll be back, if only to satisfy their curiosity or perhaps to punish their mother for some reason.



  1. In your case, it seems things truly worked out for the best, at least for you and for your marriage. The girls missed out on knowing a wonderful father, but it was through no fault of his. Sometimes a person just needs to know when to cut his or her losses, and your husband did. By the time the ex finished making accusation and bribing the girls to lie on her behalf, who knows where anyone would be, financially or otherwise?

    In the northern California town where I lived from the age of nine until I went off to college, in my particular circle, almost all the nuclear families were intact. I had one girl and two boys in my circle of friends of about twenty. It was like you had an actual formally designated social group. Everyone had their territory where they hung out during breaks and lunches. People were usually peripherally friendly with the groups whose territories were near theirs. It was a big school, and you couldn't be personally acquainted with everyone, but still, the set-up was odd. At least there was no gang activity to speak of. It was a pretty academic high school. The non-academic jocks and the girls who hung out with them were about the worst people there. I'm sure there were people who did drugs, but I don't think much of it made its way onto campus.

    Anyway, among the three kids I knew well with divorced parents, everything was relatively civil. The girl had more issues with her stepmother than the boys did with their stepfathers or stepmothers, but I don't think it ever reached the point of actual dislike, and certainly not hatred. It was just that she chose to live with her dad and stepmom because the school was much superior to the one she would have attended had she lived with her mother in the LA area. The father traveled, so sometimes the stepmother had to make decisions as to what she could or couldn't do. The stepmother, I thought, went out of her way to be fair, and always tried to help the girl reach one or the other biological parent by phone to get their permission to do whatever it was she wanted to do. If it was the mom who was reached, though, she would sometimes want the stepmother's input on why going to a particular event might be a good or bad idea, and the stepmmother told it to her straight. The girl would seethe for a day or two, then everything would be OK.

    Come to think of it, it wasn't totally unlike some of my conflicts with my two biological parents. Looking bck on the situation, I think the stepmother was a saint. I still keep in touch with the girl, and she has a good relationship with her stepmother now that the poor lady is no longer put in the position of being the bad cop.

  2. Thanks Alexis. I'm going to write my response in a post.


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