Interesting/Controversial Theory or Bull? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 11:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I've never really put much stock into nature vs. nurture. I was adopted one month after my birth. I lived in foster homes before I was adopted. The only bond I was ever able to have with my birth mother happened in the womb. I am infertile on some level. I have no "natural" (biological) children. I do have a 6 year old step daughter that I have raised since she was 2. She knows her mom but has only seen her three times in four years. I'm sure you all are familiar with our story and the recent complications we've run into. Because of all the recent frustrations I have sought out some outlets. I.E. parenting classes, anti-depressant for myself, and therapy.

I had originally scheduled an appt. with a local Christian therapist but my insurance decided they did not want to cover him. So I found another option. This man believes in group therapy because he does not want his patients to get attached to him. I've known people who have seen him for years and they rave about his practices all though they admit they are slightly unusual. I kept an open mind and made an appt. for an assessment last Saturday. So here is where I get to the part that was interesting and kind of controversial......

He says I should never have taken on the roll of being Angelica's mother. That I should have stayed a concerned and caring STEP mother. That I should have allowed Angelica's father to be a bigger part of her discipline and everyday activities. (He use to work 60+ hours a week and now he's in school full time so very often it is just Angelica and myself.) I agree to a point that I have essentially taken over most of the parenting BUT I am the one that is here more and it just naturally fell into place this way. However, I have made it a point to include Angelica in a lot of stuff so that she feels like an important part of our family and of our extended family. He says she should never have started calling me mom. That it will confuse her and blur the line. I felt like that was harsh. Not only do I enjoy being called "mom" but Angelica wants a mother. She needs a mother. She is the one who initiated calling me "mom". IF her mother had been in the picture I don't think I would have taken on all that I have because then there would have been a clear line. He recommended that further down the line I gradually have her call me something other than "mom". I refuse to do this. I feel like at six years old she would not understand. She would feel like I was abandoning her.

He then harshly told me that I'm not her mother. That I will never be able to replace her mother. That I will never be able to have the bond with her that she would have with her biological mom because bonding begins before birth. So I asked him if my adoptive parents should really even be considered my parents? He said no. He said they were a good healthy substitute but they are not your parents.

Now, like I said before...I have no biological children. I have no biological family in my life and I have never had them. I don't know what that connection is. I don't know what that bond is. I don't know what it feels like. I did have a very troubled childhood due to being adopted and some might say it was because of the bond that I lacked with my adoptive parents.

What do you think? Do you think there is a line? Considering my circumstances is he correct? Is Angelica going to hurt because she does not have that bond in her life? Am I never going to be good enough? I don't mean that in a pity party kind of way..I mean it in the way the psychiatrist described. Have I taken on a roll that I will never truly be able to fill? Could I potentially make things worse for Angelica by doing all that I do? I never thought of any of this. The only thing that has ever crossed my mind was if Bio Mom was around I would never have felt comfortable with taking on the roll of being her primary parent. I don't like the word "step mom" but is it a necessary word? Does it need to be defined for a child to have a healthy outcome? Is this going to be a fight? Are we going to struggle until Angelica reaches adulthood? I know that within myself I still struggle occasionally with not knowing anyone who is biologically connected to me. I did not truly feel stable until I was 19. At 19 the clouds cleared some and I was able to relax. Is history going to repeat itself? Is this fate to some extent? Am I meant to spend the rest of my life parenting a child who could, who does, hurt in ways similar to the way I did?

I feel like I have to become a better person. A stronger person. I almost feel like this is my destiny. Corny, I know. But it is all a little bit too ironic for it to be anything but fate.

Thoughts?
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#2 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 12:11 PM
 
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I think the counsellor is full of it, honestly. It's one thing to suggest not stepping right into a parental role when there's the biological parent there and you're stepping on her toes, or where the relationship is very new.

"Forcing" your stepdaughter into accepting you as a mother figure when it doesn't feel right for her would not be right. But if she's comfortable with that, then fine. And on a practical level, it's lovely to sit back and say that the 'biological' parent should do the extracurriculars and all discipline - I'd love to see how he would suggest spending 60-80 hours a week one on one with a child under those circumstances.

I also think it's spectacularly pointless to sit around and dissect how a family has evolved over time based on static, completely biologically determined theories.

Interesting, too, how on the one hand he's telling you that you're not (and shouldn't be) her mother, but at the same time is engaging (in relation to you) in traditional old 'blame the mother' psychology.

Just my opinion....
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#3 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 02:50 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mammastar2 View Post
I also think it's spectacularly pointless to sit around and dissect how a family has evolved over time based on static, completely biologically determined theories.

Interesting, too, how on the one hand he's telling you that you're not (and shouldn't be) her mother, but at the same time is engaging (in relation to you) in traditional old 'blame the mother' psychology.
Beautifully well put mammastar2.

The fact that he doesn’t met with anyone on an individual bases because he’s afraid they might get attached is just weird. In fact all his theories on life and family in my opinion are bull. I showed this post to my dh who is adopted and he couldn’t believe that a therapist would encourage such callous attitude towards children. He is so grateful to his parents for adopting him and giving him a life that his birth parents obviously couldn’t. He has never once has a desire to find bp, not because he feels anything negative towards them but because he has parents and they have given him everything he needs.

To sit back and say you shouldn’t get involved with a child that needs love and compassion is very damaging. What kind of society would we be if we all subscribed to his form of parenting? Your dsd will question her self worth because of her mom’s lack of involvement, but hopefully as she grows into adulthood your active participation will show her that she was special enough for you to want to take on the roll of mother.

I would hate for my dss to feel that I didn’t care for him because I sat back and took a passive role in his life. I believe he would feel left out and not a part of my family if I didn’t treat him just like I treat his siblings. If we act with indifference then we get indifference.
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#4 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 03:32 PM
 
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I do agree with *some* of what he says. I do think it can do more harm than good to try to replace a parent who is still in the picture (even if, by "in the picture" we mean once a year or only via snail mail or whatever).

However I wholeheartedly disagree with his opinion on adoption, including step-parent adoptions. I think a child that is allowed to grieve naturally the loss of their biological parent can very much be able to fully bond with another parent.

There are a lot of reasons why one might not bond with an adoptive parent and they can range from early trauma, reluctance to trust in the child, problems with the adoptive parent, parenting methods that do not promote attachment, etc. There is just no way to say what went wrong, if anything, for you. There are plenty of biological families who feel the same way, including mine. I think a lot more of it has to do with attachment-promoting behaviors between parent and child and less to do with whether that child was adopted or biological.

But I think the doctor has totally blurred the line when he starts comparing adoption to step-parenting. I am an adoptive parent and a step-parent and I can tell you that the two are NOTHING alike. At least not in my experience.

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#5 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 04:10 PM
 
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Be her Mommy and don't worry about it. He makes a point that one cannot replace a biological mother. Probably true. But you can still be a Mommy and that is what your daughter needs. Do not let him bully you.
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#6 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 04:18 PM
 
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He sounds like an idiot to me. I am just saying.

Seriously, what does it matter whether you give birth to a child? If you are there day by day you are the MOM. I would lose this therapist and find another.

You do not deserve to be told anything "harshly."

~gargirl
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#7 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 04:21 PM
 
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I think the therapist is subscribing to some outdated AP philosophies.

When (most mainstream) people nowadays talk about AP parenting and how it is based on outdated concepts, I believe they are referring to the philosophy that your therapist is espousing.

That philosphy is that, somewhat like a baby goose, the bonding and imprinting process happens during pregnancy and then shortly after birth and if anything interrupts it, the lifetime bond suffers.

Actually bonding of humans to their babies is MUCH more complex than that and is something that takes place over time. There are many things that are deterimental to bonding - pregnancy complications, lack of or inability to breastfeed, NICU time, birth complications, having the baby in a nursery instead of in the room, and so on. But since bonding is a complex and long-term process parents and babies are able to overcome many of these things.

I don't know the guy personally and maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about, but that seems to be the place he's coming from.

And, you are not her mother... but you seem to be a strong and positive female role model in her life. It seems to me (a totally ignorant person) that there is a big gray area, where on one end you are providing a somewhat emotionally distant role model, and on the other end you are acting as her mother. Honestly, I don't think any one person has the answer as to whether you are misguided by being involved to that extent. Probably only you and stepdaughter understand all of the complexities here.

My question for the therapist would be... does he feel that adoptive parents should also discourage their adopted children from calling them "mom" and "dad"? After all, they are a replacement and not the real thing, by his logic. So what's the difference? If he feels they should call them mom and dad, I don't see what the difference is in your situation, if biomom is truly not around. If he feels they should NOT call them mom and dad, then quite frankly I think he's full of crapola, personally.

Not sure if this helps any. Good luck mama. You can only do the best you can do.
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#8 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 04:38 PM
 
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I think the counsellor is full of it, honestly.
:

The more people to love a child, the better. "Roles" be damned. All the kids care about is love.
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#9 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 05:31 PM
 
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Why are you listening to his crap, he sounds like a weirdo? I would forget everything he said and start fresh with a professional.
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#10 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 06:28 PM
 
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I would look for a different counsellor. One who wants to support you, not start out in the very first session telling you he thinks you're doing everything wrong.

Plus I think his ideas are b.s. I started calling my stepdad "Dad" when I was 9. I still saw my biodad, once in awhile (once a month maybe?). There is no confusion in my mind about who is who. A step parent who is in your life every day IS a parent, there is no way around that, biological or not. I think I would have been a very hurt little girl if my stepdad had kept me (and my brother) at arm's length and not been an active part of our lives.

No, he wasn't perfect. But he loved my mom and he wanted to do right by us kids and he did the best he could and I love him for it. I think any kid would rather have a step parent who loves them than a step parent who only tolerates them.

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#11 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 06:48 PM
 
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I think the guy is a quack! That little girl loves you and if she calls you mom then good! I would never take that away from her. He makes it sound like this little girl has no place in the world unless it's with her bio-mom!!!
I think if I was not able to be with my kidsfor any reason, I would hope that they would have someone like you their lives who cared enough to take that position in their lives!!
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#12 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 06:59 PM
 
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That's all just weird.

DH moved in with us when ds1 was nine. They'd known each other for a year. DS1 calls dh "James", not dad, as "dad" was his bio-dad for a long time (we didn't split until ds1 was seven, because I'm not too bright sometimes). However, ds1 considers us his parents. He's said so more than once, and that's how he refers to us when talking about us as a pair. His bio-dad is just not in the picture...he last saw him on Christmas Eve for a couple of hours (at his aunt's/my ex's sister). Before that, it was Christmas Eve, 2005, for a couple of hours. My ex isn't one to miss a free meal. He doesn't talk to ds1 by phone.

I'm sorry - but any counsellor who thinks that kind of "bond" is more important than everything dh has done (carrying ds1 six blocks when he hurt his ankle, helping him with homework, volunteering as a Cub Scout leader, hugging/kissing him goodnight, teaching him to ride a bike, walking him to and from school while I was at work, etc.) is nuts. Yes - I think the biological bond is special - but lots of other bonds are special, too.

My aunt was adopted (so was my dad). She went and found her birth parents. When she told them who she was, her 'mom' said, "what are you doing here? We didn't want you when you were born, so what makes you think we want you now?" and shut the door in her face. What does your counsellor think of that? Is that her "real" parent? I don't think so.

(I'm not slamming birth moms, either - my SIL was also adopted, and when she met her birth mom, it was totally different. They're not really close, but her mom was really glad to know she'd grown up happy, as she'd never wanted to give her up.)

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#13 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 07:10 PM
 
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I don't like his theories. Or his attitude. Or his approach. I would find a new counselor, because I think that one is full of crap.

Your stepdaughter is lucky to have a stepmother like you who has stepped up to the plate, so to speak, as her mother. You didn't ask her to call you mom, she did it because she feels like you ARE her mother. You are alone with her so much that you have to discipline her and act like a parent toward her -- it sounds like you act as more of a parent to her than her father does, considering how much time he is away from home. So basically, without you, she would pretty much be parentless a lot of the time. I think you are doing a great job at giving her someone she can look up to, someone she can think of as a mother, and someone who takes care of her needs, emotional and physical. Don't let that counselor make you feel guilty for being so involved in her life.
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#14 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 07:43 PM
 
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Don't feel bad for having picked this guy, and having been told that he's an 'expert.' Sadly, there are a lot of so-called experts who aren't all they're cracked up to be, who make a living off of families in difficulty!

Once, we had a narrow escape from a psychologist with a good reputation who wanted to make a binding recommendation as to custody and access for my two stepkids on the basis of one half hour meeting with the children with each parent, to assess which one was the better parent. No stepparent participation, and dh was not allowed to take the retainer agreement out of her office to read it at home and see what he thought. : She had a good reputation but she was awful. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut, and if someone feels off, they are, regardless of their prior reputation.

If you look for another counsellor, some good buzzwords to assess whether their approach will be useful can be to ask if they follow a "solution-oriented" or a "cognitive" approach. In my experience, these counsellors are often more inclined to just accept the situation you're starting from, and assist you to identify ways to move forward positively, identify and alter behaviors and thought patterns that aren't helping you, and so on.
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#15 of 22 Old 02-05-2007, 08:16 PM
 
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I think he's a whacko. And he sounds like a bad therapist. He's already setting up "rules", denying your reality, telling you what to do. He sounds controlling. His rules sound pretty specific and you can bet he doesn't have good research to back them all up. And if he's this way on this issue, you can bet he'll be pretty much the same on other issues.

You could ask at the working mother's forum if any therapists can look over this post and say what they think.

Now, I should mention that I don't think I've read your previous posts; if I have I'm not connecting them with you at the moment.

But does regular bonding begin before birth? For a lot of mothers, yes. Not for all. Does that mean that bonding can't just start up later? I think it's extremely clear that bonding can start later. Will the bond be different? First of all, each mother/child bond is different even when you're talking about birth mothers. So yeah, the bond will probably be different for non-bio-moms. For some the difference will be minute, for others it will be significant.

A pre-birth bond with mom is great, but there are more important things. What if the mother is toxic? Much better to have a later bond with a mother figure who is healthy and loving. This "therapist's" elevation of the bio-mother bond is artificial, and it's just his personal trip. It's not 100% baseless, but the conclusions that he comes to are useless and false.

A good therapist may say a few things that surprise you, but they will usually ring true. You will not go home saying "Nah, that can't be..." while feeling sorta guilty and wrong, or a similar variation on that.
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#16 of 22 Old 02-06-2007, 03:13 AM
 
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I think it depends on 1) the age of the child when the loss occured, and 2) how "permanent" the loss is.

If the bio parent is in the picture, then I think being called "Mom" is a gray area/slippery slope to trouble kind of thing. Especially if it wasn't the child's idea.

I think in cases where the bio parent isn't in the picture at all, whether due to death or abandonment, AND the child was really young when it happened (like under four), I think calling the step-mom "Mom" is a really special chance to have that relationship in dc's life. I think the child and the step-mom both really need to want that though.

If the child was older when the loss occured - even if it is a permanent loss like death - I think respecting the fact that the child had a mother, and even if she is dead, she is still that child's mother is really important. My mom died when I was 14. Aunt and uncle got custody of us. Aunt once introduced me as her daughter. I came unglued. Just because my mother is dead doesn't make me not her daughter. I have two parents. They just so happen both to be dead, but that doesn't change the fact that I was their child.

I appreciate that the OP's situation is totally different; I just wanted to toss out there that if the child remembers a positive relationship with the bio parent, calling anyone else Mom or Dad may be very unsettling for the child. It would have made me feel painfully disloyal, and ungrateful for who they were and what they'd done for me.

Given that the OP's dd is young, and wants to call her mom, I think it is ok. I think she is lucky to have a close and loving relationship like that. But since bio mom is around a few times a year, I can see where trouble could crop up eventually.

Regarding the therapist, I think he is out there. Having lost my parents at a young age, and finding new loving adult relationships to help me along - well, I think you can choose new family. I did. And I love them and they support me and my kids call them Grammy and Gramps.... and now I am crying.
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#17 of 22 Old 02-06-2007, 01:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for making all of these points for me!

I failed to realize that JUST because he is a doctor does not mean that I have to take his word seriously. What he said upset me and while on some levels I could see his point, on others I thought he was way off base and it made me question a lot. He assumed things and made snap judgments. I think I took his "bond" lecture so seriously because in all honesty I really don't know if I'm missing that. Since I've never given birth and I was not raised by someone who gave birth to me I really can't say what that bond is. He really confused me because I don't have a reference point.

I am concerned that down the road there will be issues because I am not Angelica's bio mom. Considering that her bio mom is always lurking in the background, she will pop up again at some point. Angelica already says things like, "I'd go live with her but...Insert excuse here" "I don't love you anymore" "you're not my mom". I've never forced her to call me "mom". It has always been her choice and if she chooses to call me something else that is fine. Whenever she "takes her love away" I always reiterate that there is nothing she can do or say that will stop me from loving her. That I will always be here for her and I will never leave her. Sometimes, I think she tells me she does not love me anymore JUST to hear me say "that's okay but I love you."

I met her dad when I was barely 19. I was more mature than the average 19 year old but in no way was I ready to be a parent. It just kind of happened. I fell in love with her dad first and then I fell in love with her. I took on the role of being her primary caregiver because of her dad's work schedule. Over time it evolved into me doing everything a mother would do. There are times where I can be distant and things sometimes feel a little forced (mostly when she is making me see red). I do my best every day. I'm trying to do better.

I realize that I am young and still new to all of this. Sometimes I just do not have very much self confidence. I guess I need to learn to take a deep breath. I am trying to do what is right for my family and for myself. I feel like maybe I've lost touch with some of who I am because I've allowed myself to be so consumed with being a parent that it may have actually messed with my ability to be a good role model. I need to remember that I have nothing to prove to anyone.

I don't really want there to be a line. I don't want her to feel separate or different. I canceled my first group meeting today and I told the therapist that I can appreciate some of his view points but a larger part of me disagrees. That I did not feel I would be able to benefit from the therapy if he could not take the time to hear me out. I told him that I need to find something that works for us.

So anyway, I apologize for being such a drama queen in my original post. My fingers were moving faster than my brain waves I guess. I just need to take a deep breath. Thanks for being here for me.
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#18 of 22 Old 02-06-2007, 03:22 PM
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I am very glad to hear that you are not going to be continuing therapy with this man. I also think you need to report him to whatever professional society he is accountable to, because I think he is allowing his personal experiences to colour his practice, which is unprofessional and dangerous. Telling you that your parents were not your parents because they did not make you by meeting egg and sperm? Give me a freakin break. Adoptive parents everywhere would be raging at that comment.

On a more personal note, I am a stepmom, and in a few months I will be an adoptive parent to my stepson. He has decided, at 7 yo, that he wants to call me mom after the adoption. It's not my decision to make, he was never pressured to do it. It's up to him what he calls me. I called my Dad "Ra" (a family nickname) until he married my mom when I was 8, he's been called Dad ever since. He came into my life (and my mom's) when I was 5&1/2 and was in the role of Dad pretty much from the beginning. Biology be damned, that man IS MY FATHER. HE was one who coached my softball team, HE was the one who never missed a school concert, a play I was in. HE was the one who helped me through my first broken heart, and HE was the one who walked me down the aisle. He is one who my children call "Grampy"...not the man who participated in my conception and walked away without a backward glance.

Be proud of your role in Angelica's life, Earthy Joys. You CHOSE to be her parent, and that says a lot. You are a mother in my eyes.
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#19 of 22 Old 02-08-2007, 12:41 AM
 
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Whenever she "takes her love away" I always reiterate that there is nothing she can do or say that will stop me from loving her. That I will always be here for her and I will never leave her. Sometimes, I think she tells me she does not love me anymore JUST to hear me say "that's okay but I love you."

THAT's what a mom IS . You're doing a great job & good for you for standing up for yourself with this guy. I'd tell you that I think he's full of crap-ola, but I think you already understand that.
My boys have a dad that's not their bio-father, but I would never say he should have stayed on the sidelines because he wasn't around for their conception. That would just be hurtful for all of us, and would solve nothing : He is their father in every way that really counts. I put very little stock in biological attachment. It's nothing compared to the day in and day out love and devotion that it takes to be a parent.
(I have to say that I mean no disrespect to bio moms who have children raised by adoptive parents, but I think what really matters is what you do on a daily basis, not how "related" you are to your kids)
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#20 of 22 Old 02-08-2007, 02:08 AM
 
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Aww : What a beautiful post.

You handled that so well, I'm amazed at how eloquent and diplomatic you were when you fired him

No drama queening at all.
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#21 of 22 Old 02-11-2007, 06:06 PM
 
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Coming in late, and I don't know any of the OP's background outside of this thread ... just wanted to share my own take on the issue of step-mothering and the parent-child bond.

I met my husband when he was a newly divorcing single father to a 3yo boy. His ex-wife loved her son, but loved her career more. Which is to say, she is a good mother but has never been the primary caregiver. They share legal custody, but my stepson has always lived with his father and me, seeing his mother regularly but not frequently. I'm not judging, I'm just explaining the situation.

I fell in love with my husband and my stepson more or less at the same time. But I was young (24) and knew very little about kids and parenting. I grew into my role as a stepmother gradually. It was several years before DH trusted me enough to let me become the primary on-the-scene day-in-day-out parent to his son. I was grateful for the time to grow into that role.

When my stepson was 12 years old, DH and I had a baby of our own. I spent my entire pregnancy telling myself that I would love both my boys the same. It took me maybe 3 hours of motherhood to realize at the core of my soul that while I could love and treat them EQUALLY, I could not love them both in the same WAY. So yes, in my experience, the step-mothering bond and the bio-mothering bond feel different to this stepmomma and momma.

Would I ever, ever, for any reason, EVER say this to either of my boys? Good heavens, NO!!! It could only be hurtful and destructive. They both call me "mom" and call each other "brother," and I see no point in giving either of them a reason to doubt that status.

More to the point, does a difference in the essence or feeling of my bond to each child really affect my parenting of either child? No, I don't think it does. Love is not a warm fuzzy feeling of the heart. Love is actions. Love is doing the hard thing for the sake of your child's well-being. My ability to love both my boys in this manner has nothing to do with our respective DNA and everything to do with the choices I make day in and day out, for each of them.

My stepson is now 17 years old, about to graduate high school and leave home for college. He doesn't remember a time when I wasn't in his life. He sees me as one of three parents whose love for him is beyond question. I have always made it clear to him that while it doesn't matter what he calls me ("...just don't call me late for supper!" is our inside joke), he is my kid in every sense except the legal and the genetic -- neither of which amounts to a hill of beans at the end of the day.

I have had profound influence on his character development -- he converted to my religion in his teens, shares many of my political views and cultural tastes, and quite regularly seeks my advice or input on whatever issues he is dealing with. I proofread his term papers, cook his breakfast at 5:30 every weekday, nag at him to walk the dog and clean his room, have long philosophical discussions with him when he's in the mood, keep my mouth shut when he's crabby, draw the line and hold firm when necessary, give him my car keys for a Friday night date. When he totaled that car in a careless and scary accident three weeks ago, I was the first person on the scene to reach him and give him a big hug and tell him the car didn't matter, thank G-d he was okay. And after the accident, I was the one who persisted with encouraging him to fill out job applications so he could start earning money to pay the increase in his insurance premiums. I AM HIS MOTHER. One of two, in fact, and he knows he's damn lucky to have us both.

If a so-called family expert who had never met my stepson and had barely laid eyes on me told me what he told the OP, I'd chuckle, walk out, and never look back. I know it is WHOLE lot easier to be confident of what I am doing when the bulk of my stepmothering years are behind me and the kid has turned out very well, thank you. I know I am exceedingly fortunate to have "inherited" a happy and healthy kid from a largely amicable divorce of two reasonably sane and very devoted bio-parents. My situation is beyond ideal. Most step-mothers are not so lucky.
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#22 of 22 Old 02-12-2007, 04:41 PM
 
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You cannot "replace" the childs (natural) mother, nor should you try.

But you can love the child with all your heart and treat her as a full and complete member of your family.

If you love her as your child, then that's what she is to you.

Only she can decide who is her "real" Mommy.
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