When you find the person you want to spend your life with, very seldom do you take into account your in-laws. After all, you are marrying him not them, right? This mindset can be helpful or hurtful especially when you are co-parenting and your in-laws are on neutral ground. When I say neutral ground, I am referring to inclusion of family events and being amicable towards the biological mother despite knowing of the ongoing issues. In my family, if a person is a known source of issues for a family member, they are not invited or treated friendly. I know it sounds immature but it is what it is! Inclusion and being amicable towards the biological mother took a long time to come to terms with because I never understood it or agreed with it. For me, it was difficult to appreciate them as my in-laws when they failed to preserve our peace at a family function. At certain functions, I would alienate myself from them to avoid being the “problem.” I struggled to respect their decision, not despise the biological mom and enjoy myself at the function. Whew, that was a lot of work! As a result, these choices, if not all, allowed me to build resentment towards my in-laws and the biological mother.
What is the bigger problem? Some may believe that it’s okay for the biological mother to be there because she had been invited and is amicable with your in-laws. If we were co-parenting successfully, inclusion wouldn’t have been an issue for me at all. The fact that she would show up as if we were had become more disturbing than anything. Did I really expect my in-laws to ban the biological mother for the sake of my husband and I? Truthfully, yes! I would have preferred for them to wait until both sides were amicable before inviting the biological mother. I understand they made the decision based on her being my stepson’s mother. However, it created a false sense of reality for him because once the event was over, we went to back to business as usual with us barely speaking to his mother. Essentially, what was this really communicating to him?
The question remains: Is it okay for the in-laws to invite the biological mother to functions knowing that there are unresolved issues? Does the answer depend on the offenses of the mother and should it? Every family is different but by choosing to invite the biological mother, does that translate to your relative and his wife that you are not concerned about their feelings or situation? Can the actions of the in-laws be viewed as waving the white flag and choosing not to pick a side? I would love to hear another perspective on this.
When I became a custodial stepmom over 8 years ago, I was foolish enough to not have expectations. My stepson came to live with us when he was nearly 8 years old and one month before giving birth to our first child. I thought it would be a great bonding experience because although the boys had different mothers, the idea of “half brothers” would never be an option in our house. I didn’t have any initial concerns because I didn’t believe that my role would change from when he visited on the weekends besides helping with homework. However, you can call it naïve because I stepped knee deep into the role of being a martyr stepmother without a clue. To be clear, my husband never once asked me to do it but it was in my nature to take care of my stepson like he was my own. It didn’t bother me to take care of homework, doctor appointments, sports, after care, school shopping, etc until I became overwhelmed.
My husband had got promoted on his job a few months after my stepson moved with us so he started working more but I still had hopes that his mother would help. When he started school that year, I remember her bringing school clothes then it was reduced to a half pack of underwear. There were opportunities at school to be involved in that she missed and she was unavailable to help out with homework, doctor appointments, sports, after care, etc. It was a stressful time because I was learning to be a mom to two kids at the same time. I had no experience with being fully responsible for a child yet alone two so I was looking forward to the weekends where my stepson would visit with her. Sadly, the visits were not on the regular as we hoped. Naturally, there was a lot of resentment towards her because I expected her to be more involved as his mother and be a co-parent. As a result, the tension between us grew and she never did assume the responsibilities I had hoped she would. So my mind began to wonder…
Why wouldn’t his mother want to do the things she once did for him? Was it my fault? Was I a threat to her? Not in the physical as in bodily harm but as it relates to role and position. Do I simplify my efforts to put her at ease? Or do I continue at my maximum capacity and wait for her to catch up? I know I am naturally an over-achiever but is she accustomed to operating at her potential? Do I boldly exercise my strengths which highlights her weakness and insecurities? Or do I reduce yourself to her level of capacity? How do we find a common ground or will there always be an uneven seesaw in the relationship where one side is carrying the heavier load? Where do I dump the extra weight I willingly packed onto my shoulders? Do I trust releasing that much weight for the other side to hit the ground hard and fall off? What would be the benefit? For the sake of feeling free and lighter when I know she can’t handle the pressure?
The obvious solution would be for both sides to share the load to balance the seesaw. If one side continually handles the heavier side, they enable the other side to not do their part. As I’m looking back, the adults (us) did a terrible job in communicating the transition my stepson would have to face. We never set boundaries, expectations and really thought it would naturally work out. I regret not doing that because it led to countless arguments, tension and anger for years. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we took one responsibility at a time from our plate and placed it onto hers? As she managed that, we could add another and so forth until the seesaw was level. We understand now that both sides that are willing to manage the load together will find balance, peace and a stronger relationship.
I found myself looking at my contribution as a stepmother to measure what I was bringing to the table. I always found the analogy of the half empty/half full glass of milk to be interesting so I applied it to my co-parenting situation.
To answer the question whether the glass is half empty or half full depends on the perspective of the one holding the glass. One parent may feel that he/she is doing everything possible for the sake of the child but in reality they are not pouring enough milk (time, money, resources) into the glass to nourish their child. We can describe their parenting level as the glass being half empty. Another parent may actually be doing everything possible to nourish the child and pours all of their milk (time, money and resources) to fill up the child. Their parenting level can be described as the glass being half full. Theoretically, each effort adds more milk to the cup in hopes of filling it to the brim. It seems unfair to have one parent do more than the other, right? I argue it’s all about your perspective. If both parents are lucky, they will see an overflow of what they poured into that child which then can be used to help others. How would you describe your parenting style?
As parents, we believe that we are doing all that we could to pour the right things into our child so that one day we can be proud to show off our accomplishment: a smart, respectable, mature, responsible, talented young person ready to take on the world. However, I challenge every parent to reconsider what else they may have poured into their child(ren). While you may have paid for sports or music lessons, have you also allowed the drama and negativity of your co-parenting to seep in? Is your child(ren) aware of the ongoing battle over him/her? Are they able to communicate this to you or do they internalize it? As co-parents, we must be mindful of what we pour into our children because if not, we can cause more damage which will result in expensive therapy now or later.
I’ve always struggled with
unforgiveness no matter the size of the offense. It’s deep rooted in me. I
would put grown adults on “time out” unbeknownst to them for something I had
not forgiven them for. It was my problem not theirs. So I began to wonder…..
How do you
forgive others who aren’t truly sorry? How do you overcome forgiving others
when they are unaware of their offense? How do you overcome forgiving others
when they don’t understand the depth of your pain? How do you overcome
forgiving others when they are unapologetic? More importantly, how do you
forgive yourself? How can you move forward with the person you forgave? Do you
stop all interactions until the feelings pass? What if they are family or even
a spouse or child? It’s much easier to forgive them, right? Does forgiving mean
that you are weak? Does forgiving mean that you allow the same opportunity for
another offense to occur? Are you supposed to resist the urge to speak your
mind and destroy them with your venomous words if you have truly forgiven them?
Is this a sign you are on the road to forgiveness when you choose not to
unleash hell on them? What does forgiveness even look like? It’s an ongoing
behavior that must be consistent with that statement without pretense. Are some
people more unforgiving than others? Does it depend on your upbringing? Is it a
For years, this was a sore spot for me and honestly, it still is.
Too many times, I confused forgiveness with being soft or passive out of fear
of the offenses continuing. In retrospect, I would say my upbringing had alot
to do with how I chose to forgive others. In my family, we held grudges for so
long that people often forgot what they were originally mad about and instead
of dropping the matter altogether, the cycle continued for years. I knew it was
unhealthy to hold these grudges but my pride wouldn’t allow me to give
in. Every now and again, the BM (Biological Mom) needed grace and I was
ruthless in withholding it. I had been scarred pretty early on in my stepmom
journey so it took very little effort to spark an outburst. The few times when
I tried to convince myself that I had actually committed the act of forgiveness,
I would find myself in a situation that proved to me how wrong I was. I would
hear people say that forgiveness is for you and by doing so, it would free the
burden in your heart. After a while, I decided that forgiving BM took too much
effort and I would never learn the lesson. Eventually, I began to look at forgiveness
in a practical way because as humans, we all mess up and will continue until
the end of time. Everyone has at least one thing in their life they just can’t
get right. Just think about how draining it would it be to have someone
constantly holding that over your head. Get the point? Choose to forgive over
and over if you have to. It’s not a one time thing and then you’re done.
Forgiveness takes daily discipline.
Unforgiveness freezes time while forgiveness allows the sun to
rise daily and the moon to take its place. Whether you choose to hold onto
grudges or forgive with no expectations, only you can decide how to use your