Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stepmom Vs. BioMom: Yours Vs. Mine (Part II)

I understand the emotions Maleficent is trying to express to me, and from where they come.
I tell her that I can only imagine how difficult it must be to WANT to be there for Cinderella but to be limited physically by her current health problems.
"I know how involved you have always been. It must be killing you to not be able to help out this time."
She is crying. Her emotions are raw.
I don't like seeing anyone cry, least of all because of something that I've done whether the tears are justified in my eyes or not.
But still I am confused. What IS her point? Why is she calling me to tell me this!?? What is she hoping will happen?
I muster up every last bit of energy to ask in the most respectful tone I have,
"What is it that you are looking for from me? It sounds like you are telling asking me not to volunteer or help out. Is that it?"
Oh, no no, no... not at all! I'm glad you are there to help Cinderella, especially since I can't be. I know you care for her and I am grateful that she has you in her life.

And then she says it:

I guess... maybe... what I am asking is that since you were here for this play that...maybe... for the next one, you let me help out I-N-S-T-E-A-D.

And that's where I needed to stop her. RIGHT THERE.
"Why can't we both help out?," I ask.
Now it's my turn to talk.
My turn to explain that no matter what my personal feelings are towards her, she is and always will be Cinderella's Mommy.
"I have never tried to take your place. I don't want to be her Mommy. You are her Mommy and that's how it should be. I did not offer to volunteer in an attempt to exclude you. My volunteering has NOTHING to do with you, but is about me being there for Cinderella and for her school and for her teacher. Cinderella wanted me to help. SHE asked ME."
I reminded her that for nearly ten years I took a back seat and did NOT volunteer for Cinderella's school events in deference to HER. But that after ten years I felt we could move past that silliness and should ALL be able to be there for Cinderella.
I explained that I had originally ONLY volunteered to design the program because it afforded me the chance to be involved while remaining on the sidelines (a role Stepmoms often take). I did not offer to assist backstage because that had typically been her turf and I did not want to step on any toes.
(Essentially, I gave her first dibs but after it became apparent that she wasn't involved with this production and that they NEEDED more parental involvement, I stepped up and offered my services.)
"Maleficent, no matter what has transpired between us in the past, I'd like to think that we can ALL be there for Cinderella. Our personal feelings for one another have no place in this. Nor do they concern Cinderella."

I tried to reassure her while RESPECTFULLY letting her know I would not be backing down or backing off.
If Cinderella wants me to be there at her school events, I'm going to be there.
Maleficent understood and agreed with me.
(I think an entire fleet of angels must have gotten their wings yesterday to pull that one off!)
She told me she felt better after having spoken with me. She explained that part of her problem was not knowing whether I respected her as Cinderella's mother and that after speaking with me she now knows that I do.
(I DO respect the fact that she is Cinderella's mother, but I do NOT respect her AS a Mother. That's an important difference but one I did not feel needed to be expressed at that moment!)

The entire tone of our phone call was respectful, polite and low key. She did not come at me on the attack. Nor did I lash out in return.
We spoke.
We listened.
A resolution was reached, a barrier broken through.


15 comments:

Ann said...

I am so very proud of you. I've never been a stepmother, but I have been a stepdaughter. My stepfather ended up being one of the great influences in my life.

You my dear handled this quite well. Much better than I would have.

Big hug for you!

Teressa said...

You don't know what a service you've done by posting this. I may have to draw upon your wisdom sooner than I'd like: my 17-year-old daughter is dating a 24-year-old with a not-yet-2-year-old little girl. I think the relationship might become serious, and as strange as it may sound, me and my entire family approve because Jason is also "family"; he's my BIL's nephew.

Megan has already expressed concern about not wanting to take the place of the child's mom, as in "take over". She wants the mom, Vanessa, to understand that she respects her place. This is a lot for a 17-year-old to handle, and I'm not much help because MY stepkids were grown when I met Whatshisname.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You ROCK!

suchsimplepleasures said...

you handled it beautifully. with my step-kids mom, one can't carry on an intelligent conversation...civil, yes...intelligent...no. she is way too self involved. so, when we discuss her kids, it always comes around to how things effect her.
and...i totally get what you are saying...you respect the woman because she birthed cinderella abut, you don't respect the type of mother she is! i so get that...that is how i feel. when my step kids ask me if i like their mommy...i usually respond by saying..."how could i not like a woman who gave me her two beautiful children" and...the whole time i'm thinking...because, she is incapable of taking care of them!!
i love your blog!!

Mrs. H said...

"I DO respect the fact that she is Cinderella's mother, but I do NOT respect her AS a Mother."

WOW, WOW, WOW.

I don't think I could have found better words myself!!! That is the most perfect way to put how so many of us feel. That is exactly it!

Good for you for standing your ground. I think one of the hardest things for non-custodial mothers to deal with is the idea that their children's Stepmothers want to be involved.

clevergirl said...

There is hope after all! I hope you two can continue to communicate so well. You handled it beautifully.

And I second Mrs. H - well put!

Anonymous said...

I've never commented on your site before but today I had to. I am a full-time stepmother. My stepdaughter is 13 and my husband has custody. Her mother is vindictive, bitter, unreliable, irresponsible ... and now has advanced cancer. It's a fine line my husband and I walk b/c cancer or not, her priorities (her wants, her needs, her desires) have not changed her and my stepdaughter suffers. I do not want to be J's Mom but most days I AM the only Mom she has. Her mother loves her but love isn't enough when your kid is the only one at the event without a Mom or waiting for the ride that never shows. It's not about us, it's about the kids. I've been saying for years that I respect the FACT that she is her mother but I will NEVER respect her as a mother. She lost the right that respect when she told the custody evaluator that she had used her children as a weapon against the "injustices" their father had done to her and she would continue to use them as a weapon. Sadly, my stepson is just like her and has chosen to be with her. I will, however, FIGHT TO THE END for J to have a normal life. Long comment, sorry, but you write my life every day and this time I had to comment. Thanks for showing the world that we stepmom's are not evil and that we do care, sometimes more than the bio mom.

Bleu said...

Well done stepmama! You found the *perfect* words. Respectful, understanding, but you stood firm too. Reminds me of the one time my SD asked me "are you and my mom friends?" It was all I could do not to scream "ABSOLUTELY NOT, I would never be friends with HER!"

haha..

but instead said "well, a friend is someone that you know really well and spend time with, I don't know your mommy well and I don't spend time with her."

Its knowing when to shut up, and when to smooth things over that makes a successful stepparent. Well..that's just one of the things. Great job!!!!!!!!

Yolanda Elvira said...

ummm..... wow.

i hope that when the time comes (oh, and it will) that i have the balls, guts, and heart. maybe i'll have the "you're the mommy" conversation early. maybe i can have shirts made. hers can say mom, mine will say step mom. you know, for the birthdays and school events. hey, that's cute.

i haven't met the biomom yet. maybe i'll bring the shirts to our first meeting.

Stepmama Drama said...

I'm so glad you are such a great example to us all! It gives me hope. Seriously. I just want that breakthrough.

daionara said...

You're so good. After the crap that woman has pulled (that you have blogged about), you are so good!

I'm a step daughter. It was enough of an influence in my life that I decided long before I started seriously dating that I did NOT want to be a step mother. Situations like this would be a disaster for me.

geekmommy said...

HUGE applause and major kudos!!

You are an amazing communicator, and I think Cinderella is terribly lucky to have you in her life - as is Maleficent - who obviously doesn't appreciate how lucky she is to have someone like you in her daughter's life.

Way to go - glad I checked back for the resolution on this one! :)

Kat said...

I've been reading your blog for a really long time, and I usually comment with something sarcastic to lighten the mood - but girl...I commend at how you handled the Yours vs. Mine situation! Such grace and maturity. Good for you. And, Cinderella.

Mister-M said...

Yes, the trials and tribulations. Dealing with a combative ex when it comes to the children seems to be a never-ending cycle of chaos.

Kudos to you for maintaining decorum during your communications with the family.

The Psycho Ex-Wife

Wicked Stepmom said...

Thank you all so much for your words of encouragement and support. I am always one to avoid conflict and, well... am a big CHICKEN SHIT when dealing face-to-face, so even if I *wanted* to confront Maleficent, I probably wouldn't have been able to pull it off.

My blood-pressure was up and my face was flushed for HOURS after our phone call. As proud as I was at myself, it still rattled me.

Can you say "wuss?" Yeah, I knew that you could. ;)

The Stepmom said...

Thank you, Wicked Stepmom. I like your post so much, I just had to blog about it. I truly enjoy your perspective as a stepmom and mom.