Stepmother Isabel: “Look down the road to her wedding. I’m in a room alone with her, fixing her veil, fluffing her dress, telling her no women has ever looked so beautiful. And my fear is she’ll think ” I wish my mom were here.”
Biomother Jackie: “And my fear is…she won’t”
Quote from the movie script Stepmom (1998)
Being a Stepmom is a tumultuous role. From one day to the next she can be loved, hated, tolerated and shamed. She may think her partner has her back only to find she is stabbed in the heart.
All stepfamilies experience the emotional rollercoaster ride of trying to figure out how all the pieces of family life fit together.
With twice as much written about Stepmothers than Stepfathers, one would think a solution could be found to help Stepmothers get off this rollercoaster.
I find however that one problem with a lot of the stepmother advice is it tells a stepmother “What to do and don’t do” but it does not help her understand WHY she says and does the things that she says and does.
It is crucial that a stepmother increases her awareness of what motivates her to behave a certain way towards her partner, her stepchildren, the ex-spouse and her biological children when things are going well and when she is experiencing conflict. This can be accomplished by understanding your perceptions of your stepmother role.
One of the best books I found on stepmothers is written by Dr. Elizabeth Church titled “Understanding Stepmothers” published by Harper Perennial Canada 2004.
Dr. Church researched and identified 5 models of stepmother:
- The Nuclear Model
- The Biological Model
- The Retreat Model
- The Couple Model
- The Extended Model
In my e-book “Stepfamily Struggles: Stepfamily Strategies” I synthesized this portion of Dr. Church’s work and created a chart as a quick and easy way to help stepmothers start to identify her role.
Here’s a snapshot of this chart…
In order for a stepmother to avoid being stabbed in her heart, she needs to be armed with information that helps her to understand where her heart is…
It may be with the stepchildren but can just as easily be only for her partner or it could be for the entire extended family including the ex-spouse.
When she understands why she says and does the things she does and recognize how she might be contributing to family conflict (instead of putting all the blame on her partner, the stepchildren or ex-spouse) she will be in more control of her actions and reactions and has the ability to improve her relationships.
This is how Stepparent and Conflict Management Coaching aligns so beautifully. It increased self awareness while at the same time empowers the stepmother to create the change she wants to help bring her the peace she is striving to achieve.
And perhaps more importantly, she will also learn to be more forgiving of herself once she understands how “normal” she really is.