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I just had an epiphany! Re: Disengaging

ldvilen's picture

Why can’t disengaging be looked as more as disengaging from the role of SM vs. disengaging from a person or group?

For the first time in quite a while, I took a look-see at a general advice site re: blended families.  OMG!  It was bad-horrific, is all I can say.  I was reading things like:

  • From a teacher: “I have seen so many jealous or insecure step-mothers that it is very common. Step-fathers usually have other problems. meanwhile, I've often had the male parent start complaining about his new wife-even 10 years later, but he can't afford to divorce the 2nd or third wife- he feels that all step-mothers are the same.”
  • In reference to a bio-dad starting to date: “Warn your daughter to never eat an apple stepmom has had her hands on.”
  • Also in reference to a bio-dad starting to date: “Make sure your child's bunny is safe in its cage. Just sayin.”
  • “It’s just bizarre that current girlfriends and current wives feel they can dictate terms of a partner's relationship with his children and former wife.”
  • My stepmom always talked my dad out of spending time with us or doing things with us. (Due to her own insecurities) He went along with what she said.”  Of course, none of this was dad’s doings. . . it was all SM.  She sprinkles mind-control dust on his cereal every morning and keeps him, an able-bodied male, from seeing his children.
  •  “With the rise of divorce vacays, more parents are going to great lengths to show their kids that relationships can still be meaningful even if they don't work out as planned.”  Maybe I just didn’t see it, but there was absolutely nothing in this article about taking into consideration how a SO or new spouse might feel.

That made me think, “You know, when it comes to disengaging from step-kids, it’s a lot harder, because these are your husband’s children.  You want to support your husband of course and you genuinely care for his children.”  But, now that I’ve gotten a reality check on how most pretty much see every SM as not only evil, but worthless.  I think there is plenty of evidence out there now for step-moms to disengage from being a SM just because of the hideous negativity and stereotyping and bias and sexism that comes along with that role.  Quite truly, you could be the kindest, sweetest person in the world, and once that SM label is slapped on you, which occurs as soon as you get seriously involved with a man with children, you will be thought of as no better than an evil witch waiting in the wings with a red apple.

I know some people have asked when you are disengaging what are you disengaging from?  SO, I’m going to take that epiphany I just had and mull it over--looking at disengaging as not disengaging from SKs, which sounds harsher, but rather looking at disengaging as DISENGAGING FROM THE ROLE OF SM.   

I do hang out with my adult SKs and grand SKs and my DH sometimes.  But, in the future, I’m not so sure.  It bothers me that so many SMs are treated so unequally, despite all the work and, yes, sacrificing they do, and all for someone else’s children.  I can see myself someday just telling my DH, I love you dearly but when it comes to the role of SM, I’m done.  I don’t want anything more to do with this role.  You can see your children and grand-children whenever you want to, but as much as I still care for them, leave me out. 

Saying I’m disengaging from the SM role/ label not only sounds better but is more accurate than saying I’m disengaging from SKs.  Because I realize now my biggest issue isn’t really with his children.  It is with how SMs are treated and thought of in general.  That’s what I want to disengage from.  Others’ thoughts?

FYI--Here’s a good link to an article called “Signs it’s time for a stepmother to disengage”:

Good quote from the article:  “Disengagement is not an act of desperation, and you don’t have to be on your last nerve to give it a try. Emotionally healthy women who are committed to their partners often eventually realize that disengagement is their best bet for lasting happiness.”

tog redux's picture

I was lucky, I guess, DH never expected me to be anything but kind and respectful to his son. I wasn't asked to parent or be "stepmom" at all. I don't think SS would refer to me as his stepmother, which is fine. 

I also don't expect him to treat me with anything but civility either, so it goes both ways. I'm always confused when people on here expect their skids to send them birthday cards, etc.  I don't get that. 

hereiam's picture

Yeah, I really don't get the birthday thing. And, I really don't get women who complain that their step kids don't acknowledge their anniversary. What?

ndc's picture

I would be hurt if skids didn't acknowledge my birthday. We live in the same house as a family of sorts (50/50 custody) and celebrate the birthday of every member of the household. If they can acknowledge each other's birthdays, their father's birthday and the dog's birthday, they can and should acknowledge mine - and they do.  Anniversaries are different - I don't expect anyone but DH to acknowledge that.

tog redux's picture

When he visited, DH reminded him and they got me a gift together. He was happy to celebrate it then. Now he's 19 and lives with BM. I absolutely do not expect him to send me a text or even have a vague idea when my birthday is - sorry if that was confusing, I meant ADULT skids.

ETA: Nor do I send him anything on his birthday. 

hereiam's picture

That is really what I have done for the last 23 years, as I have never considered myself a step mom, and only refer to DH's daughter as SD on this site for convenience. I have never disengaged from her, personally, I just never took on the role of  "step mom". I had rules for my household, but not rules for her, as DH's daughter, if you know what I mean. I have those same rules for my niece, or any other kid who is in my home. DH took care of her needs, so I didn't need to be "mom" when she was with us.

I don't dislike my SD, just because she is DH's daughter (like the stereotypical evil stepmother). I don't love her, just because she is DH's daughter. She's just DH's daughter. And, as far as she is concerned, I am just her dad's wife, and I am fine with that. We respect each other's roles in my DH's life.

There are women who hate their step kids, women who should have never married a man with kids. That wasn't me. That wasn't a lot of us, but we all get the label of evil stepmother, anyway.

tog redux's picture

Yes, this is me exactly.  I never saw myself in a parenting role and neither did DH. I don't think of myself as a stepmother, and while SS likes me, I don't think he thinks of me that way, either (I tried an experiment last time he came over with a friend - waited to see how he'd introduce me, and gah, he didn't, I had to do it or DH had to do it.  I said, "I'm SS's Dad's wife").

While I do think society stereotypes stepmothers, I also think the expectations of the stepmother play a part in it too - women who expect to be accepted and loved like another parent seem to be the most let down by the whole experience.  And let's be fair, some stepmothers deserve the evil stepmother label.

ldvilen's picture

See, I don't think that many SMs “expect to be accepted and loved like another parent.”  I'd think of that as more of a bio-myth.  Although, there certainly are some, and there certainly are true Evil SMs, just as there are true Evil coaches or parents or such.  

I think what most SMs are looking for is some kind of reciprocation (not tit for tat, but something) and respect for the role as dad’s wife.  I think that is what most SMs are looking for.  But, like someone said above, “We all get the label of evil stepmother, anyway.” 

Expectations can vary, but I don’t think any SM should be seen as asking too much for excepting some sort of reciprocation and some sort of respect as dad’s wife.  And, for me, if I can’t get at least that, then I done with the role and label of SM.

shellpell's picture

I thought SS would be a "bonus" ha when we were dating, but quickly the rose colored glasses came off. I decided to disengage soon after our wedding and disengaged even more after the little a-hole tried to hurt my toddler when he was a baby. I don't do ANYTHING with or for him. No birthdays, no holidays, no gifts. It's easy since BM wants all of the holidays and DH doesn't object. I'm not his stepmom, I'm his father's wife. And my kids aren't his siblings, they are his dad's other kids. IDGAF about people wringing their hands about sibling bonds. We are long distance anyway. Our two are being raised much differently than SS, whose every material wish is granted and who runs BMs house. I have no obligation to ss other than to provide supervision and food on the rare occasions I have to watch him solo. I thank my lucky stars everyday that we are long distance and I pray for BMs health.

Mountains's picture

Since my DH adults kids were in their 40’s when we married, I never took in the SM role.  My DH though thought we could be a family of rainbow and unicorns without stopping to see the resentment from his kids.  Over the years as I disengaged more and more, the DH took it was not wanting a unified family.  News flash:  your first family was ripe with strife so trying to make the second family picture perfect is the impossible dream.  

I would like his kids to seem to give a crap about him but unless it’s in their terms it won’t happen.  I think their terms include me as a  

Evil3's picture

I know what you mean and I think that's great to disengage from the role rather than the person if the person isn't working relentlessly to get rid of you. My SD30 is pure evil and I could go on and on about the things she's done to me to get rid of me. When DD19 (also DH's DD) was born, SD wanted DH to prove his love for her by divorcing me and throwing me and our infant out. SD started shunning me at age 15 and continued to shun me for over seven years while living with me full time. It is in a case like this that I disengaged from the person.

Siemprematahari's picture

disengaging from the role of SM

I'm feeling this OP. You worded this perfectly! No entertaining or playing the SM role but simply disengaging. I stay in my lane of H's wife and the kids remain in theirs.

I hear that!

ldvilen's picture

Thank you, and others!

CLove's picture

I love SD13, and we have a great bond, we enjoy each others company, we do things together separately from DH, she is sweet and kind. She tells me and others that I am like a second mom to her.

All that being said, lately I have been wanting to disengage from her, ie the Step mother "role", of paying for her and doing for her. I am constantly reminding myself and BEING REMINDED that she is not my kid, she is Toxic Trolls kid. Feral Forgers little sister, whom she always calls "mini me" although they are so different.

Its probably because Toxic Troll has taken more of an interest, and been more active in her life, has started "checking in" (spying? IDK), and tells Munchkin "you are my favorite child". And she likes telling me things about her mother.

So, Im only 5.5 years in. And things are great. Yet I feel myself starting to WANT to withdraw. Now I feel a bit better - I am more comfortable withdrawing from the role, rather than the person.