Stepfamily Talk: Stepmom in Mom’s Territory?
Stepfamilies: How to Deal with Stepmom who is Stepping into Mom’s Territory
My problem is my ex-husband’s new wife. She is stepping on my toes as a mother. She takes my daughter to appointments with the doctor, dentist, and school without ever checking in with me. She’s 21 years old and I’m 28. My daughter spends one week with me and one week with her dad and stepmom, per court order.
To make matters worse, my ex refuses to speak with me unless the stepmom is present. We don’t get along well and I’m worried the tension between us is going to hurt our daughter. At the same time, I really can’t tolerate the stepmom’s behavior.
This is a very tough situation. I wouldn’t tolerate the stepmom’s behavior, either. However, I think it’s critical to communicate with your ex and his wife in a way that’s polite, respectful and empathic. You might even try calling the stepmom directly and thanking her for taking so much interest in your daughter. You could ask to meet with her to discuss how you two can work together.
Jann Blackstone-Ford, co-author of Ex-Etiquette for Parents: “Good Behavior After a Divorce or Separation,” says that your ex and his new wife are operating under the old school divorce premise: there’s a “Dad” front and a “Mom” front. In this case, Dad has an ally, his new wife, who probably thinks she’s doing the right thing “running a tight ship, taking his child into her heart, and there’s no reason to even talk to the child’s mother,” she says.
But with 50/50 custody arrangements, this premise doesn’t work. “The biological parents and stepparents must work together,” she says. Blackstone-Ford suggests you talk to your ex and his wife, state the problem and offer solutions. “So much of the time, people who are upset just state what the other does, but has no suggestion for change. And that creates a power struggle,” she says. “You should suggest that you, your ex and his wife go to mediation to discuss possible solutions,” Blackstone-Ford says.
Of course, it’s possible that your ex and his wife will refuse to talk to you or cooperate with you. It might be a good idea to share some resources with them. Ask them politely and respectfully if they’d be willing to read some articles, books or interviews (If they won’t talk to you, email them!). Be sure to mention that you’d like them to do this because you believe it’s in the best interest of your daughter.
Here are a few resources for you, your ex, and his wife:
www.stepfamilytalkradio.com: Click on How This Stepmom Learned to Get Along With her Husband’s Ex”
You might also send a polite note to your daughter’s school, dentist, and doctor explaining that your daughter has two parents and a stepparent. Give all the adults’ names and describe your custody arrangement. Let your ex know you are doing this and give him the opportunity to help you write the letter.