Stepmom Central

Becoming BM - Update in Red
by pdxmum
June 29, 2011 at 12:42 AM

I wrote a post when I first started at CM that had to do with what I learned about being a BM once I dealt with a BM.  I always say that the best thing that happened to BF was me marrying DH and having to deal with a really awful BM.  

And the other day, it became really clear that a whole bunch of women on this forum are just SMs and have never been a BM.  At this point in my life, I think I am a pretty damn good BM.  Before SM divorced BF, we had made peace and had a really respectful relationship.  I bet she thought I was an angry crazy BM for awhile in the beginning.  Partially it was true but partially it was SM rationalizing her OW status.  I had to be an awful woman for her to feel OK about sleeping with a married man...

So, I ask those of you that are not BMs to imagine for a moment, what it would be like for you to have your beloved husband cheat on you and leave you for another woman.  That you divorce him and suddenly, after years of living a happy, intact family life, you have to pack your children up for days at a time to go live with their father and his new wife.  Maybe it goes well for your kids and maybe they hate her.  Doesn't  matter - imagine how it would feel for you to not tuck them in every night.  To suddenly not know everything about what they do every day.  To maybe hear about how fun SM is and how much they love DH.

Don't take this exercise lightly.  Really try to sit with what that might be like.

And please don't say it will never happen.  That would be the penultimate pinnacle of denial.  Many of you will be divorced within 10 years.

And then I would ask each of you who deal with a difficult BM, to attempt some empathy.  To try and change the lens you see her through and imagine her behaviors as just misunderstood by you and your DH.

I know some of you deal with certifiable.  This exercise can apply to you as well.  But most of you do not deal with crazy.  I do not believe for one moment that most ex-wives are crazy.  They might exhibit crazy behavior during intense emotional times, but they are not crazy.

Does attempting to walk a mile in BMs shoes change even the slightest bit your perception of some of her behaviors?


Forget the OW.  It really is irrelevant.  Forget your current BM for a moment.  This is really not about her, This is about you.  What I am suggesting is just for a moment, imagine the very real possibility that you and your DH divorce.  Maybe you want it, maybe he wants it.  Maybe it is for all the right reasons and the two of you just grew apart; maybe just one of you became unhappy.  Maybe it was done honorably, maybe one of you behaved poorly.

Just imagine that as a mother, you no longer share the raising of your children with a loving partner who is committed and interested in being on the same page as you.  Imagine that your children will experience things without you on a regular basis.  Think about how hard it is to come to agreement on issues with your DH currently when you are married, happy and in love.  Now imagine what it will be like if you divorce to reach consensus. 

Imagine the money stress.  Imagine suddenly having to go back to work, deal with your grief, find a new place to live, create a new budget with significantly less resources.

Imagine dating again.  That was my nightmare after being with BF for over 20 years!

Imagine how different your life will/would be if DH was no longer your loving husband.

I remember when I first married BF, his older sister started having children.  And I remember being so incredibly judgemental of her child rearing techniques.  I knew I would never do it the way she did and I knew I would handle things better and I knew I would be a better mother.  What do you think happened?  I faced the same challenges she did and handled many of them the same way.  You don't really know how you are going to handle a situation until you actually experience it.  So, try not to simply say "I would never handle it the way BM did".  Again, BM is pretty irrelevant to this exercise.

Empathy?  Compassion?  A bit of understanding? A different perspective? Less judgement? 

Just wondering of you find yourself shifting ever so slightly from the place some of you are stuck at with your personal situation.  What is that expression - "There but for the grace of god go I..."



  • truly.a.taurus
    June 29, 2011 at 1:12 AM
    I seriously could understand if i as the sm was the ow however i am not. I can say that i have made some mistskes but have learned from them. Bm is trying more with her kids and i am glad for them. I will continue to be the sm that does alot of things that she refuses to do. I no longer deal with her and am happy as a result. Sometimes both sm and bm should consider the other persons point of view. It really does take alot to deal with kids that arent yours. You can try to love them and actually might. As a bm that is ncp people need to realize when they act vindictive towards sm or dh that they may not respond in a rational way either and the kids see it all. Understanding by all adults is a must whether you are bm or sm or both. Also fyi using just before sm or bm seems as if the person trying to get their point across is attempting to dominish the others role IMO.
  • truly.a.taurus
    June 29, 2011 at 1:16 AM
    Forgot to add that this was a thought provoking post. Hopefully more people reply.
  • MommySabs
    June 29, 2011 at 1:35 AM

    This post is very thought provoking.  I am both bm and sm and for me this works the opposite I try not to act at all like bm when dealing with my ex.  My kids love their dad get along really well with his gf and as hard as it may be to be away from them I know that it is good for them and that they have a good relationship with their dad.  I leave the crap between he and I out of it it doesnt matter any more. 

    His gf was not the ow however (though there were plenty of those)  and I think I would have a much more difficult time being okay with the situation if an affair was the ultimate cause of our break up in our case it was a symptom. 

  • pdxmum
    by pdxmum
    June 29, 2011 at 1:55 AM
    As I read these two replies, I wish I had not focused on an OW. It is hard being away from your children even if there wasn't an OW. It just so happened there was for me. Marriages end for many reasons, none easy. Focus on that part...
  • sissy4444
    June 29, 2011 at 1:57 AM

    am both a bm and sm...and know exactly what you mean!

  • sissy4444
    June 29, 2011 at 1:59 AM

     but i was not the OW

    they were divorced for 6 years before we got married (2 when we got together) and their divorce was actually caused because she cheated, not him, and she's told me that (well that was the end result, they both will tell you that they should never have gotten married)

  • MaxNMakennasMom
    June 29, 2011 at 2:27 AM
    Great post. I agree that you shouldn't have focused on the OW part, but that was your experience and that has to make things exceptionally hard. It was hard for me, and I had a mutual, very amicable divorce. This post has a lot to do with why I don't really criticize BM, and also why I will NEVER overstep my boundaries as SM.
  • tawana12
    June 29, 2011 at 2:43 AM

    I think that sometimes it's hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone who on the outside behaves and says things that give the impression that they don't care about their kids or the relationship they have with the OP.  In some ways it's almost like trying to sympathize with someone who robbed you, stole from you, raped you or attacked you. It's hard to sympathize with that person in the middle of the attack/assault and in the aftermath when you are left to pick up the pieces and deal.

    BM has said some things about me that have hurt, but what hurts more than that is what she has said and done to her own child that makes me so angry at her.  She has used my SS repeatedly to get back at DH and seeing the effects of that is heartbreaking because my SS now resents his mother in many ways. I just don't know how to sympathize with a person that does that.

    In spite of what I'm saying, I do agree that SMs (childless ones especially) need to think about things from the perspective of the BM because no woman has a child with the expectation of having to "share" them with another household somewhere down the line.  I think that we also have to remember not to always take it so personally because sometimes people do things subconsciously and this has very little to do with us. I know that BM would behave the way that she does towards SS, myself and DH even if we were different people. 

  • chanizen
    June 29, 2011 at 5:10 AM
    Great post.

    I was an sm first and had a friend with a truly awful divorce story. When my ex and I divorced, I decided that I would do everything in my power to make sure dd was not the pawn in a power struggle.

    I have one of the most amicable relationships on record with my ex. I truly think he is a nice guy, just not the guy for me.

    When I remarried, I was expecting dh's relationship with bm to be similar. It seemed to be. It was not. I definitely made my share of "overstepping" mistakes.

    However, I was not prepared for how bm might say one thing and do something completely different. Over time, it became more and more apparent.

    I think that some of it is normal sm/ bm conflict. Some is dh not managing her well. And some is mental disorder (she has OCD and anxiety issues and some issues with false memories).

    It can be hard to deal with. In some ways, had I known the depth of her disorder, I would have treated her differently. I do have empathy for her. I am glad that I do not have to deal with mental disorder myself. I can't imagine what it would feel like to believe that I had done something awful and need to fix it.

    I think bm tries to do what is right for the kids. It is hard for me to know when she is behaving maliciously vs behaving in a disordered way. There have been elements of both. But I do feel sympathy for a lot of her troubles.
  • AmyB118
    by AmyB118
    June 29, 2011 at 7:29 AM

    Thanks....I am both, but I suck at following directions so I read it anyway :)

    At the end you say "Does attempting to walk a mile in BMs shoes change even the slightest bit your perception of some of her behaviors?"

    That's what  happened to me a few years ago, w/the help of some great moms right here on CM.  BM and I have a few things in "common" however I address mine and she is in denial.  For a very long time I felt superior to her.  I forgot that people allowed me to get better in my own time and I wasn't doing that for her.

    I spent a lot of time mentally ticking off what a better mom I was, how the SSs would have been had WE raised them, how I wouldn't have done the things she did to try to sever DH's relationship w/them if the shoe were on the other foot.

    Then I realized "there but for the grace of God go I".  I doubt that I would be in the same condition as BM since we are different enough that our basic value system is 180 dgrs from each other.  BUT.....I could be her.....MY DD could be SSs and some other woman could be thinking the same damn thing about me.

    I thought "Shit - I got no compassion" Oh hell yeah, I want people to show ME compassion, but I guess I get to pick and choose who I give it to.  This will get me the "You holier than thou biotch" reply from some but so be it. 

    I started to practice some things that I try to practice on random humans on BM and think of her as a person w/a problem.  I found out that I don't have to like her, I don't have to like the way she raised her sons, but it's not necessarily wrong because I wouldn't have done it that way.  I firmly believe that BM would be a different sort of person if she'd make some pretty important changes in her every day life.  But that's her choice.....

    Anyway - Today I have compassion for her.  I no longer pick her apart every chance I get.  Oh she stil pisses me off upon occasion and I still think "damn!" when we have to interact w/her and I don't want to, but I still try to show her compassion.  It's the least I can do.

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