The ironic thing about working on your relationship with the mom or stepmom in your life is that the harder you're working at improving things between you, the less outside support you have. Just when you need it most, the cheerleaders have vacated the sidelines and are already waiting in their cars to exit the clogged parking lot, while you're huffing and puffing, just trying to make it to the halfway mark of the marathon.
Case in point: our book has ten steps you can take to go from craptacular conflict to cooperative communion. They vaguely mirror the hero's (or in our case, heroine's) journey. You start out trying to get the lay of the land. You honestly assess what weaknesses or unhelpful qualities you're bringing to the situation so you can know what to compensate for. You daydream about where you're ultimately trying to go...
And then, you take action.
The second half of the book focuses on refinements, the fine-turning that's necessary when you're making major changes. You get the chance to work on collaboration, accountability, communication and finally, regrouping to regain your sanity.
At the very end of your journey, you come out the other side a changed person. Perhaps a little worse for the rough-and-tumble wear, but with a new set of skills under your belt, and all the benefits that come from developing a big picture, such as foresight, resilience, and renewed confidence.
If all goes as planned, both families are strengthened and supported. There are new connections between both "sides" and reasons to celebrate what you've achieved.
But friends and family alike will question your efforts on your journey, all the way to the end.
At first, they'll wonder why you're trying to get along with "that bitch," that woman who's made your life hell, or maybe, just particularly more difficult. They'll see your attempts to forge a bridge between you two as foolhardy, unrealistic, overly vulnerable, dangerously ceding control. They might inwardly think you're a sucker, or somehow getting off on setting yourself up to be the victim again.
This is not what we need when we're already on shaky ground!
It takes courage to reach out to the other side. It takes a sense of purpose and flexibility, hard work and perserverance. And yes, it can take enormous vulnerability. But maybe most of all, it takes the motivation to create a stronger family nest for the children, whether they're "yours" or not. We know many stepmothers who fiercely love their step-children....
Most naysaying friends and family are only trying to protect you from getting hurt and being disappointed. That's understandable and in its own way, commendable. But changing their tune only at the very end -- after you're created something successful, brave and unusual, is kind of like showing up only at the finish line to cheer on the 26-mile marathoner.
Our hope is that as cooperative, loving divorced- and step-families become more common, we develop a new language and perspective on this issue. And especially, a foundation of cultural support.
Wouldn't that be so cool to be surrounded by women who've already done this? Who know the ins and outs? Who can peg where you are on your journey and say, Yes, they totally understand some of the challenges. Who can say, Here's what's coming up... and Hang in there, things are just about to get better?
There are millions and millions of divorced- and step-family units out there, limping along.
ALL those women can't be bitches - now - can they?!
© 2008 Jennifer Newcomb Marine All Rights Reserved