It’s every girl’s dream…advice from Mary Ann-Part 1
27 Jun 2016
By Mary Ann Lawson, Psychologist
In my over 30 years of counseling experience I have never heard a little girl say, “when I grow up I want to be a stepmother!”. And yet, there are literally millions of women in the United States today who have taken on that “role”. I suspect many of us (yes, I am a Blended (step) mother) sometimes feel ambivalent about that designation as a part of our identity and that all of us struggle with the expectations, anxieties, and frustrations that accompany this. I coined the term “Stepmess” over 25 years ago when I assumed the “role” to describe the overwhelming upheaval that occurs in families as they transform into a new family system. A great deal of “mess” is involved in the myriad of emotions, the diverse expectations of each family member, and the changes that will be required to reorganize roles, transform relationships, and heal the wounds that are inevitably present from the divorce, death, or other loss that has preceded this forming of a Blended (step) family.
Whew!! Just the introduction is exhausting! I will be writing periodically from the perspective of a therapist who has worked with families in transition for over 30 years as well as from the perspective of a Blended (step) mother who has carried that title for over 25 years. For starters, I offer four suggestions:
- Remember everyone (both spouses, ex-spouses, children, and even pets!) have experienced significant losses prior to the formation of the Blended (step) family. Everyone in the mix has been hurt. Be kind.
- The marriage remains the primary relationship in the family. That is especially tough when the parenting relationship preceded the marriage. There are mixed loyalties, leftover feelings of guilt, and awkward new “roles” to traverse. Prioritize the marriage, do not undermine each other, and make sure the children get to be children.
- Children can only benefit (adults, too) from more people who love them. Set jealousies and competition aside.
- Good parenting is good parenting, no matter who offers it. Children benefit from and number of GOOD parents!
I will address each of these points in blogs in the months to come. I don’t know that we want Blended (step) mothering to be the goal for our daughters, but I do know that we need to work as individuals, families, and a society to make the women who fill that space feel cherished and that the family members can be blessed by it. Our goal must be for Blended Families to become healthy families in which Blended Mothers can celebrate their role.
Mary Ann Lawson