Friday, February 11, 2011

Mom vs Stepmom (Arch Enemy or Nemesis?)

                                                                                                  {image from ulike}

I have a tenuous relationship with my children's stepmother, to put it politely.
But the bottom line is, she takes care of my kids.

As much as it kills me to admit it, I have to rely on her for a lot of the "every day" care of my children.

And often, I think I couldn't hate anyone more than this woman.  Like when my youngest child told me that stepmom told her she loves her more than her mother does.  Like when the kids tell me she makes fun of the clothes I've bought them.  I hate hearing my children call her "Mom", which was a request she made after she married their dad.

And just a few weeks ago, I gnashed my teeth when I found out she'd blocked my phone number from my children's cell phones.

But again, she is with my children A LOT.
Since my ex husband has physical custody in our situation, (we have joint legal custody) she is with my kids more than I am -- actually, even more than their dad is.  Stepmom is, in many ways, raising my kids, whether I like it or not.  And most of the time, I don't like it.  It gnaws at me and I don't approve of a lot of the things she says and does, but the wierd thing is, because she's a strong, financially stable, educated woman, and also because my ex husband is not the sharpest tool in the shed and has trouble keeping a full time job, I actually trust her to take care of my children even more than I trust him.  At the very least, however much she might hate me, I know she loves my kids.

One of my favorite articles comparing the arch enemy to a nemesis is called "The Importance of Being Hated", that first appeared in Equire Magazine by Chuck Klosterman.  With a little creativity, I've used many of his ideas and words here to illustrate the relationship between step mom and mom... 

"A Superhero usually has an Arch Enemy, but in a separate category, a Nemesis.  There is a big difference:
if you were to perish, your Arch Enemy would dance on your grave then date your husband.  You hate your Arch Enemy so much, it's embarrassing and you don't want your Arch Enemy to have the satisfaction of knowing they've affected you so strongly.  If you ever meet anyone who has the same name as your Arch Enemy, you immediately like her less.  Your Arch Enemy would push you and your kids under a bus, and never blink.

In some ways, you may kind of respect your nemesis, despite the fact that you despise her.  If your Nemesis invited you out for a glass of wine to "hash things out", you might accept.  If your Arch Enemy was trying to attack you, your Nemesis might even come to your defense.  (like when Godzilla and King Kong fought Mothra together).  You and your Nemesis will never be best friends and tell each other that.  Your Nemesis would feed your children if they were hungry (but would not feed you)."

I figure my kids' happiness and fate depends a lot on the two main women in their lives... me, and, as much as I sometimes hate to admit it, their stepmother.  They spend a lot of time with both of us.  And ultimately, more than I dislike her, I love them.

And they deserve for me to at least try to talk things out with Man Hands.

And so, stay tuned...

                                                                                                                    {image from 55 Secret}


  1. Sohpia: This post was excellent and what a great way to describe the step. In your case you are lucky that yours does care about your kids. Most of us aren't even that lucky. Man hands...LOL!

  2. Wow, sounds like a very courageous thing to do--good luck!

  3. we'll see if it's courageous or futile... I'm going early next week to meet with her and try to talk things out. It's been 8 years coming!

  4. There was nothing more heartbreaking during my divorce than feeling like my kids thought I was abandoning them...until I felt like my ex's girlfriend was becoming their new mommy. I have 50% custody, so don't have to worry about it as much as you do, but I feel for you. My ex's girlfriend doesn't have children of her own (and maybe your kids' step-manhands doesn't either?) and I think that makes a huge difference in how women in parenting roles treat each other.

    Thank you for sharing your story! Good luck!

  5. Manhands does not have kids actually, you are correct! Wish me luck... I am meeting her for dinner on Tuesday night next week to try to talk to her woman to woman. It's honestly the first time in the 8 years I've known her and I don't quite know what to expect. She's an aggressive and volatile woman and I'm not. I'm a "peace maker" to my own demise. But I've decided to try it my way, rather than to continue to battle her.

    I'll keep you posted.

    1. Please do keep us posted I was thinking about doing the same thing talking to her but all they do is put me down all the time Im really tired of being put down.

  6. I'm glad you have such a positive experience. My ex has custody of our child and he raises her with his girlfriend. I did not want to lose custody but it was out of my control. (Long story but he got temporary custody on a court technicality and I was unable to carry on the expensive fight to get her back.)

    They are not gracious at all. They "accidentally" forget that I have Mother's Day visits. They send me a Christmas card every year with their family picture on it. The stepmother refers to me as the "birthmother" and makes my daughter call her Mommy. I wish this could be over and it hurts to terribly. I'm not allowed to participate in her girl scouting or soccer or school activities. I've come close to signing over my rights before. It's so hard for some of us so be glad you can deal with it the way you do. Best of luck.

    1. Wow. With a "mother" like you, it is fortunate that these children have a stepmother who has shouldered the responsibility that you are obviously not woman enough to take. Trust me, she is their mommy, not you. Too bad they are not worth the "expense" you mention.

    2. Wow??? Are you a mother? And have you ever been in her shoes? Then shut up....a mother that has been pushed to the point of ALMOST signing her rights away has been through more than you could EVER imagine!!!

    3. I know how you feel I love my kids with all my heart but the stepmother is alot younger and I have alot of issues (depression) etc. they dont even want to be with me anymore, the stepmother was raised with a big family and money, I have no family and living on disabilty I wish I knew what to do I feel like Ive been stabbed in the heart. I feel like giving up ,if ther happy should I leave them alone?

  7. Janna, I ache for you. It's not always floating hearts and flowers form me. My writing has helped me deal with the scars that have healed over, but that will always be at the core of me as a mother.

    Stepmom, "Man Hands" as I refer to her constantly surprised me with her controlling behavior over my children and the cold things she says to me. Every time, it knocks me back and I feel like I am out of breath.

    Maybe it's the fact that time has gone by, almost 10 years now. And I have had to take on an attitude that boils down to "as long as my kids are okay I can handle it." It's not always pretty. I am a wreck quite a lot of the time in terms of my mood and I don't think I'll ever quite get over how unfair things can be.

    I am so sorry that you are forced into this position and I hope that not only does time heal the situation, but that soon your kids will see past what your ex and his girlfriend are doing.
    Kids are smart, and they came from you. That bond can be stretched thin, but I have found that they will come back to us. Emotionally, mentally, physically.

    I am seeing it finally after 10 years with my three children who are now 17, 13, and 10. (they were only 3, 5 and 9 when we made up our custody arrangement)

    I hope this helps you.

  8. Enjoyable blog. A small oversight though, it looks like you neglected to reference the CK Esquire : The Importance of Being Hated
    In this golden age of enmity, friends are for suckers. What you need are a pair of well-chosen foes.

    by Chuck Klosterman | Apr 01 '04

  9. I did neglect to credit the original idea and words... updates have been made.

    Chuck is one of my all time favorite writers.

  10. Sophia, your experience is all too common. If you have any interest in improving your relationship with her, or at least learning how to not get so bothered by her, please check out our blog at We're dedicated to bringing understanding to divorced moms and stepmoms. Good luck on your journey!

  11. Hi Sophia. I'm a full time step mom, (as well as raising my own daughter) and I have to say your kids step mom is very lucky to have you to work with in raising your kids. I wish my husband's ex was half as mature as you. All I want is respect and consideration. If you can put aside your own jealousy, as you have, and work with their other mom your kids can only benefit.

  12. Yes I agree. Im a full time stepmom to 2. A 9 yr old girl and 6 year old boy. They live with me and my soon to be husband. His ex has a husband and she is taking care of his 2 kids.She constantly bad mouth's me to his daughter. She has met me once,and in the 2 years ive been around, I can count on 1 hand how many times She has been around. Its very frustrating and unfair. I have 2 children I am trying to raise and I strongly feel like if you have a problem with the step parent, address them and not the children. It is a form of abuse and it can seriously affect the children in the future if you are trying to alienate another parent. My husband woks a lot, so its me and the kids at home. They finally have stability in their lives and after her mother left my step daughter failed the 1st grade,and After months of work and studying I've done with her she is now an A student on her way to third grade. Some mothers need to give us respect as women and human beings. we are not all bad. If she hates the fact that her ex has moved on and is happy,then fine, but don't express your hatred and dislike for me to your 9 year old daughter, she doesn't deserve it. My point in writing this is, There are some great Custodial step moms(full time) Out there. Please put yourself in our shoes. Just because there are some bad ones out there doesn't mean we are all like that. does anyone have any info on how to deal with their mom. I would love for my child to be able to visit her without the interrogation about whats gong on at our home. Thanks in Advance ladies.

  13. I am in a similar situation but very different at the same time. My boyfriend has two daughters and an exwife. Although we are not married we do live together and have a very stable relationship. I am in medical school so we are waiting for that to be finished before we get married. The custody is also shared 50/50. I know the exwife and respect her a lot, but we don't really talk as much as I wish we would. I love the girls unconditionally and have no kids of my own so they have become my first kids. In our house we don't ever speak bad about the mother, in reality we don't mention her, if the girls bring up the topic I always respond very positive, "mommy is nice, she loves you..." What hurts me is that she is the one that seems to talk bad about me when she has the girls. This has been going on forever. Every time he gets the girls and they tell her about their time with us and mention me I guess she gets jealous, I really don't know what she tells them but I know it's not good because the girls have told me that "mommy don't like you but know she does". I always feel like I'm walking on eggshells, although I wish they would call me something related to mom I ensure they call me by my name because this seems to upset the mom. One time we were playing a game and I told the girls they were my two little chicks and I was momma hen, the girls loved it. A week later when they came back, they told me that mommy said that only moms could be momma hen, that I had to be Stephen. I though this was ridiculous but just smiles at them and said ok. She has even told the girls that they can't talk to me on the phone and god knows what else. I don't even ask them what she says and what I know is because they tell me themselves. I wish she would be a little more open with me. She knows how much I care for her children and love them. It's also impossible for me to try and talk to her about these issues because the one time I tried she was very rude and told me I was nobody in this family. Any comments, suggestions??

  14. One more thing, when the girl tells me "mommy didn't like you but now she does" I feel the now she does part the baby makes up so I don't feel bad. She's very smart and in some way I think she realizes that the things her mom says are not nice or true.