Sunday, April 28, 2013

"None of your business..."

Today's post is especially for stepparents... especially stepmoms.  I don't really consider myself a stepmom anymore, but I think this issue will resonate with people who marry someone with kids.

Yesterday, I posted about RfM and certain posters who get treated like "sages".  One poster in particular likes to talk about how she used to work with family courts and therefore considers herself an authority on dysfunctional families as they pertain to divorce.  This poster was recently called out for lacking empathy.  I have to agree with that assessment.

One day, long before I started this blog, I was posting about my husband's situation with his ex wife and how she was causing so much havoc in our lives.  The resident family court "sage" on RfM basically posted her "credentials", then proceeded to tell me that I "didn't have a dog in the fight".  My husband's issues with his kids were solely between him and his ex-wife and I needed to "butt out" because it was none of my business.  I was also told the same thing by my husband's stepmother.

Okay.  First off, when I married my husband, I became his wife.  And the issues pertaining to him and his ex wife and ex kids started to affect me personally.  I certainly think I had a right to an opinion when the issues affecting my husband and his ex wife started to affect my life.  The ex had opinions about me and our lifestyle.  She had no trouble expressing them and told my husband that she was "glad" that they had everything in writing so I wouldn't try to keep him from supporting his family.  She even expected me to spend the holidays with her after she invited herself to my in-laws' house.  Why is she afforded a right to an opinion and I'm not?  Is it just because she gave birth?  I think that's bullshit.

But let's just say for argument's sake that I really should have butted out and had no right to have an opinion.  In that case, then no one in my husband's family had any right to expect anything of me regarding my husband's relationship with his kids and his ex.  If the stepkids were not my business, then there should have been no expectation that I would have any responsibilities toward them.  It should have been perfectly fine that I skipped the ex's holiday bash with the in-laws because clearly I wasn't considered a family member with feelings and a functioning brain.  The ex made it clear that she thought of me as an interloper who needed to be put in my place.  I was expected to show up and, most importantly, shut up.  Sorry, but life doesn't work that way, at least not in my world.

If the stepkids aren't my business, then no one should expect me to love them as I would love my own kids, had I been afforded the opportunity to have them.  If I am not allowed to have an opinion, then I should not be expected to have to interact with my husband's ex wife and kids at all.  My life should be completely separate from theirs.

But, in fact, many people do expect stepmothers to love their stepchildren as if they themselves gave birth to them.  They also expect them not to have an opinion and not to step on the mom's toes.  There's an inherent cloud of guilt that surrounds being a second wife and stepmother and I think that's why so many women end up being on the receiving end of disrespect from family members.  No one wants to be thought of as a "wicked stepmother".  Stepmothers are often expected to take whatever abuse their stepkids hurl at them, all the while accepting the stereotype that they are homewreckers who broke up a "happy family".

News flash-- I didn't break up my husband's marriage; but even if I had, it couldn't have been a happy union.  I think it's incorrect to blame the other woman when a man has an affair because the other woman isn't the one who made a commitment.  It's generally impossible for a woman to literally "steal" another woman's husband or boyfriend.  He had to come along willingly, for whatever reason.  Besides, in my husband's case, the ex was the one carrying on.  She had shacked up with her current victim before their divorce.  You can't tell me they weren't having sex.

In our situation, the ex basically got what she seemed to want.  She got plenty of child support every month and my husband let her raise their daughters as she saw fit.  I think she wanted him to fight with her more, though.  She claimed she didn't want to cause issues for us, but she did.  When she tried to force me to spend the holidays with her at my in-laws' house, she tried to involve me in what she had made clear was "none of my business".  When I sidestepped her attempt to involve me, she didn't like it.  Evidently, I had no right, even though it was made clear that I wasn't part of their lives anyway and wouldn't have a meaningful role in their upbringing.  But--- I am an adult and I have seen the end results of a lot of the ex's decisions.  I have seen a lot of innocent people get burned in the wake of her bad decisions.  I think I have every right to protect myself from that.  Indeed, I have a responsibility to myself to protect myself and my future from the ex and certainly I had the right to sidestep being exposed to her abuse.  The fact that she happened to have kids with my husband is irrelevant.

I want to tell all the stepmoms out there that they certainly do have the right to have an opinion, especially if anyone expects them to do anything for their stepkids.  Moreover, you are a human being who has a brain and feelings and you have the right to expect a certain level of respect from other people as a fellow human being.  Maybe your stepkids don't respect you.  The way I see it, respect is a two way street.  If they don't respect you, then you shouldn't be expected to love them or do anything for them.  Because, as I'm sure it's been pointed out to you, they are none of your business.  ;-)  So enjoy it.  If the ex or the stepchildren tell you your opinion is meaningless; you don't have a horse in the race or a dog in the fight; it's none of your business; or you knew what you were signing up for; feel free to divorce yourself completely from anything having to do with your stepchildren, if that's what you'd rather do.

Of course, a lot of stepmothers are perfectly nice women who do want to be involved in their husband's kids' lives.  And that's fine, too, especially if the relationship is mutually desired.  But don't let anyone tell you that they aren't your business as they also tell you you have to love or care about them.  That's ridiculous.  They can't have it both ways.  You are not an emotional punching bag.  It's hard enough to be a stepparent, particularly a stepmother, without someone "helpfully" telling you that issues that affect your life are none of your business.

When I pointed out to the sage RfM poster that this step shit was affecting my life, too, she sort of backpedaled a bit and agreed somewhat, even as she maintained that I still didn't have a "dog in the fight".  All I was doing with my post was venting a bit and, I suppose, looking for some validation and support.  Stepmothers rarely get much of either.  I notice that when a woman with kids marries a new man, people admire the man for taking on daddy duties.  But if a woman marries a man with kids, she must have been somehow responsible for the divorce and "knew what she was getting into".  Granted, a woman who marries a guy with kids is an adult with choices, whereas the minor children have no choices.  But that doesn't mean the stepmom knows what she's getting into.  Every situation is different and most human beings deserve at least a basic level of empathy and respect.  Besides, I was 30 when I married my husband ten years ago.  How many people my age are out there who don't have some kind of past?

Bottom line... if it affects your life, it certainly is your business.  And if anyone expects you to do anything or feel anything for your stepchildren, you do have a right to an opinion.  And you deserve basic respect and empathy, especially if anything is expected of you.  I'm very fortunate in that my husband gets it and doesn't expect me to kowtow to his ex or his ex kids... or anyone else, for that matter.    

7 comments:

  1. i know wich poster at RFM to whom you refer if her name starts with the letter A. I didn't know of A's court background, but she's such an expert on everything else, it stnds to reason that she would feel qualified to dispense court orders via an online forum.

    Rxpectations where steps are concerned viary considerably depending upon the kids' ages, the father's level of involvement (whether or not by choice), the cusotidy arrangement, and the degree to which the exes can civilly communicate.

    my mom told me of an iEP meeting she attended for the bilological parents and stepmother of a ten-year-old boy. mother didn't work. Dad was a chef. The stepmother was a teacher, albeit of high school busness subjects, but she recognized that something wasn't quite right with the boy's literacy, and typed up a leter initiating a referral, which was signed by both parents. The stepmother sat between the biological parents, my mom said, and if anything started to become contentious betweeen the parents, the stepmother was able to immediately diffuse the situation. As it ended up, the kid's learning disability was borderline. The school psych didn't want to place the kid in a special program and offer him help through resource. As special ed.administrator, my mom overruled him and said that if the dad and stepmom were willing to take a day off work and travel all the way to the Sacramento area for the goodof the child, and to put aside their petty differences for the same reason, borderline was close enough to be classified as having a mild reading disability and to receive help through the resource specialist program. she told the psych that,, furhtermore, these people were not going to go away. They would be back every year or sooner with the same request, so the district may as well meet their demands right then, especially since they weren't asking for that much. My mom really appreciated the stepmom's role in initiating the referral and in keeping things calm.

    Sometimes there's a perception that if a person is a stepmother, she is a home-wrecker, when such may not even be close to the case, as the divorce may have preceded the case by a year or more. It's funny how that same stigma doesn't automatically apply to men who marry divorced women with kids. You stated something earlier about how such men are often seen as heroes.

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  2. No, actually the poster I'm referring to has a name that starts with S.

    I think it's really great when parents and stepparents can work together for the good of the child. I would hazard a guess that most step situations aren't as severely dysfunctional as ours has been. On the other hand, as I haven't been allowed contact with my husband's kids, it's really more like I never was a stepmother. Unfortunately, while I don't think our situation is the norm, it happens pretty commonly. A lot of times, people think the stepmother is the one to blame for it.

    I get a lot of hits on this blog coming from people who have step issues, especially stepmoms. People forget that stepmoms are people too and deserve basic respect. No one should expect them to have responsibility for their stepkids without authority.

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  3. The responsibility/authority thing is key. How can any adult, stepparent or otherwise, be responsible for a child and ensure his safety even for an interval as short as ten minutes if the kid is not required to take direction from the adult? It can't happen. Furthermore, any adult, stepparent or otherwise, has every right to stop any child from doing anything that might cause damage to the adult's home, or personal property,

    Regarding the poster in question, I'm guessing middle initial Q.

    Too often the RFM board is like the corridor of a typical high school, with relative popularity ranking, and with the less popular occasionally being stuffed into lockers or shoved into trash cans. I wish both the popular -- who effectively have the power to put a stop to such fawning -- and those who treat the popular as rock stars and cheerleaders, could take a step back and view themselves and the situation as some others see them.

    The poster whose name begins with the letter A put me off more than anything with one particular post. the topic of the thread was visiting psychics. "A" said that a particular woman told the psychic she was returning to college as a middle-aged woman to obtain the degree she never got because she married and had children so young. The psychic told the woman something to the effect of, "I hope the field you're studying doesn't involve much math or science, because you do not have the intellectual capaacity for it." then A said something similar. The psychic allegedly responded to a with, "You have BO limitations. "A" asked for clarification (I see a limitation right there, but that's just silly me, not some esteemed psychic)and the psychic repeated, "I SAID you have NO limitations. There are no limits to that of which you were capable."

    Even if this story were true, which I highly doubt, I would not be telling it about myself because A( it's highly self-aggrandizing; and B) this person was a freaking psychic, not an esteemed diagnostic specialist with educational psychologist credentials and career advisement training as well. It was just a GD psychic. "A" went on to tell just how much she believed this psychic to be "the real deal."

    A poster whose name I cannot recall, and who may have been posting anonymously, bless his or her soul, commented something to the effect of, "Don't take the advice too seriously. You're not quite as bright as you think."

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    1. Yeah, I think you know who I'm writing about.

      I didn't see the thread about the psychic. I do think it's funny, though, that someone left her that comment.

      Psychics are interesting. I do think a handful of them could be legit. But I would be embarrassed to tell a story in a way that indicates that I think they are legit.

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  4. I meant "NO" rather than "BO," although, for all I know, perhaps "A", or even "SQ" has body odor, so it may have been a Freudian slip.

    My eyes have been very inflamed with this cold, and I have medicinal gel with steroids (Tobradex) in them, as I have all weekend. I've been going around typing more gibberish than usual with my lack of visual acuity.

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  5. P.S. If I had a child, and the child had a stepmother, I would certainly want the stepmother to protect my child from harm if the need arose, regardles of who did or didn't have a dog in the race or fight or whatever one might choose to call it.

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    1. Alexis, I don't wish steplife on anyone, but I have the feeling that if you ever had kids and they ended up with a stepmother, the stepmom would be fortunate. You have a good head on your shoulders. Of course, sometimes stepmothers really can be difficult and "wicked". I would hope that the father of your kids would choose the next wife as wisely as he did the first.

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