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getout's picture

I have been dealing with my bitch of a stepdaughter for 6 years now. I have bent over backward, I have desperately tried to be her friend, I have even at times put my bio kids on the back burner to "win" her over by giving her more of my time and more of me. Fast forward 6 years. My husband who was totally unsupportive up until now has finally decided to tell her that if she is unable to respect me, then she is no longer welcome here. So guess what? We haven't heard from her since.

In order to begin a healing process, I decided to read a book called "Stepmonster". The book is the step-bitch bible. It says and acknowledges all of the feelings that we as step mothers have and are not allowed to talk about.

I found this book after reading the following article on psychology today as I was Googling, "Why are step daughters so jealous" and this article came up.

The Real Reason Children (and Adults) Hate their Stepmothers

Why we shouldn't blame stepmom when his kids reject her

Published on October 15, 2009 by Wednesday Martin, Ph.D. in Stepmonster

Put the blame on Mame.

That sums up how many of the women with stepchildren I interviewed for my book, Stepmonster, felt about the stepmother role. They told me:

• "The kids are hostile and rejecting no matter what I do. I know it's not their fault. But it's as if I'm not supposed to have any feelings about it, let alone discuss them."
• "I can't do anything right--if I buy them a present, they think I'm buying their love and if I don't, I'm cold and unloving."
• "My husband doesn't have many rules--so I look super strict and mean if I ask them not to eat with their hands!"
• "Their mother says unkind things about me and calls every half hour while they're here. So it's hard to build a relationship with them."

These women were no whiners--most had been trying to get stepmothering right for years, and all began their stepmothering journeys committed to forging a great relationship with his kids, whatever it took.

But they're correct that there are external forces, most beyond a stepmother's control, that may undermine her good intentions and best efforts with his children. These factors include loyalty binds, a child's jealousy and resentment, the Ex Factor, permissive parenting, cultural expectations about women and children, and a phenomenon called conflict by proxy.

In spite of such obstacles, there is a widely-held notion that "If she's kind, they'll warm right up to her." "Just remember," one "expert" advised in an online article, "You'll get back what you give. Keep loving them."

In this formula, the only good or successful stepmother is one who is embraced by her stepkids. Here's why that standard is so off the mark--and why kids of all ages really dislike their stepmothers.

Loyalty binds. Many stepkids--and adult stepkids--suspect that liking stepmom would be a betrayal of mom. So they keep her at arm's length--or worse. And there's nothing she can do about that. Only mom can release them from the torturous loyalty bind and pave the way to a healthy stepmom/stepchild relationship, by saying, "I wish you'd give Jenny a chance. I won't be upset." Too often, no such permission is given.

When there is a loyalty bind, nothing's worse than stepmom bending over backwards to win the kids over. Drs. Larry Ganong and Marilyn Coleman found that such stepchildren and adult stepchildren are especially rejecting of a stepmother they find warm and appealing, as she elicits tremendously conflicted feelings.

Possessiveness and jealousy. Children may become remarkably close to their parents post-divorce, and used to having mom and dad "all to myself." Adult children may develop an intense, peer-like relationship with a single parent, making adjustment to a stepparent tough. With a preadolescent or adolescent girl, possessiveness and jealousy will pose an even bigger problem, psychologist Mavis Hetherington found. In her Virginia Longitudinal Study of families who divorced and remarried, preteen and teen girls especially described the stepparent as an interloper in their world and an obstacle to intimacy with mom or dad. A stepmother may encounter particularly fierce resistance from a teen girl, both because she is close to her father, and because teen girls tend to model the feelings and attitudes of their mothers.

The Ex Factor. While there are exceptions, an ex-wife generally poses more challenges for the stepmom/stepchild relationship than an ex-husband, stepfamily experts Constance Ahrons, Anne C. Bernstein, and Mavis Hetherington found. Why? Mom's more likely to be the primary parent, and to have a strong agenda about what goes on in her ex's household. The stronger the ex's agenda, researchers found, the more involvement across households--and opportunities for conflict. And high conflict situations between two linked households lead to greater resentment of the stepparent, who feels more expendable and less loved by the child than a parent. In addition, Hetherington found that ex-wives feel more anger, and feel it for longer, than ex-husbands. Stepkids pick up on these feelings--and often act them out on mom's behalf. Translation: stepmom loses this draw due to gender.

Permissive parenting. Research consistently shows that children do best with authoritative parenting--high levels of warmth and high levels of control. But post-divorce, permissive parenting (high warmth, low control) frequently prevails. Why? Mom is likely to have primary custody, and if she's single, that can mean a lot of work and stress. She might let the little things--and then the not so little things--go. Dad likely fears that if he angers his ex or the kids, he won't see them as much, and feels guilty that the kids went through a divorce. And so an "Always ‘Yes' Dad" is born. Against the backdrop of permissive parenting, stepmom's normal expectations about manners, scheduling and respect may seem draconian, rigid, and "unfair." And kids with permissive parents understandably don't have much sense that it's wrong to be rude to an expendable-seeming and "overreaching" (in their view) stepparent. This ticks off stepmom, who then seems even less likable and fun to her stepchild.

Next time: How conflict by proxy, cultural expectations, and stereotypes stack the deck against well-meaning stepmothers. And some tips for dealing with it.

___End of article___

I would highly suggest reading the book Stepmonster. There is a Kindle addition for about $11.00 and you can download the kindle app on an IPhone, or Android. This book has delivered the peace that I needed and set me free.

GhostWhoCooksDinner's picture

I agree- very helpful book!! Even more so if you can share it with your SO. It can help him see that you're really not a mean, evil whiner; that all (or most) of us steps are dealing with this crap.

itsmylifetoo's picture

I read this book! It was amazing, I shared much of it with my SO and we discussed a was very helpful in helping him understand that it was not just me, the consequences of his Disney Dad, always the yes man parenting style, and the impact that the lack of boundaries with crazy BM was having on our relationship, all of our children, and the overall function of our household. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is involved in a step situation.

memphismama's picture

Thanks all! Been on the stepparent merry-go-round for eight years now and wondering what the heck I was gonna do when the last remaining ounces of my fight-the-good-fight juices ran out. Headed to the book store today, and if I have to make a tape to play to hubby while he sleeps, I will!

willitgetbetter's picture

I have been reading books. I am grateful for your suggestion! Imagine living with SK who lost their mom and she was not nice or so I have been told by her own family members. She is a saint. The can never betray her and its like living with a ghost. Their divorce was awful. She moved out of state and took the kids. MH didnt have the money after child support and her parents had a lot and still do. Definitely a rough road. My children treat my husband with so much respect and I am grateful. MH is a good man.