Feelings... not entitled to have as a SM? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 21 Old 06-18-2008, 02:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So, this has been bothering me a little, so I figured I'd put it here to hopefully get some perspective on it.


Some back story... My DP's Mom shows HUGE favoritism towards her other grandchildren from her daughter. DSD is usually an after thought and you can just tell. She was supposed to take all three grandkids to get a portrait done of them, but then decided to go without DSD... now there is like a shrine of the other two on the wall... no joke.. 8 pictures, all 8x10 taking up an entire wall... she has ONE picture of DSD in the house.

Anyway... DP and I are moving out this weekend... obviously we are taking DSD's bed with us because we bought it and it's her's. Well, DP's Mom has visitation with the other two grandkids and has them one weekend a month... she is very upset we are taking the bed and giving us the sob story that the other two will have no place to sleep now.

Of course no mention that she won't see DSD as much, or even acknowledge if for some crazy reason we did give her the bed, where would DSD sleep?


Anyway, when we dropped DSD off at her Mom's last night, this subject came up as we were keeping her posted as to when we were moving and such. It got bumped up to this weekend as their is discord in the house with us taking the bed and not paying rent for FOUR days.

At the mention of the bed and the other kids DSD's Mom started in how the favoritism for the other two always bugged her and how it's really sad. I agreed and said that it really bothers me too!

She got all defensive and took a step back and sort of glared at me, saying, "You? Well, how do you think I feel? I'M the MOTHER!"

Like what was that? I never said she wasn't entitled to feel upset about the situation... I was agreeing with her that it is messed up and that it hurts me too. Why did she need to act like I'm not entitled to feel that way because I'm not the bio-mom? I found it to be pretty hurtful.

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#2 of 21 Old 06-18-2008, 04:47 PM
 
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When someone's reaction seems WAY out of proportion to what you just said, I believe that, in general, it means there is more to the story than you know. What I mean is that DSD's mom probaby has some baggage (I don't use that term judgementally, whatever feelings she is holding onto might be very justified) surrounding the issue and something that you said just triggered those feelings. So, it's not necessarily a reaction to you, it is a reaction to something that she is feeling, something that may not even be related to you. Maybe she has some baggage with your DP's mom that she can't resolve because she doesn't have a relationship with her anymore.... maybe she has some similar issue from her childhood that was really painful... maybe she's stressed out about your move or someone was rude to her in the grocery store... who knows. You just happened to be there when those feelings came up, so you were the one who they were directed at.

I work with a lot of parents and sometimes I say something pretty innocent that is met with a reaction just short of an explosion... I don't take it personally anymore, and so I am able to sort of poke around the issue and examine it gently, and more often than not I discover there was some issue that I was totally unaware of, something that usually had absolutely nothing to do with me, that caused the big reaction.

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#3 of 21 Old 06-18-2008, 05:21 PM
 
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Even though you & she share a common experience with your MIL, it is likely way too early in the picture for her to be comfortable chatting with you about it. I'm guessing she's not at the place yet where she wants to have much in common with you. She may get there with time, or she may never get there.

Similarly, something about your DP that bothers you may have bothered her too...but you don't necessarily want validation of those feelings from her. Like if you vented about your DP snoring or hogging the blankets, you probably wouldn't love it if she piped in right away with "I know!"

I wouldn't take what she said too personally. I would try and keep my conversations with her fairly neutral, hi, how are you, did you get your hair cut, etc
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#4 of 21 Old 06-18-2008, 07:01 PM
 
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Some back story... My DP's Mom shows HUGE favoritism towards her other grandchildren from her daughter. DSD is usually an after thought and you can just tell. She was supposed to take all three grandkids to get a portrait done of them, but then decided to go without DSD... now there is like a shrine of the other two on the wall... no joke.. 8 pictures, all 8x10 taking up an entire wall... she has ONE picture of DSD in the house.
You could be talking about my Father-in-Law and how he acts towards my son verses how he acts towards his "real" grandchild, my stepdaughter. He's got a shrine, too and it's updated monthly. He's got one picture of my son on the wall. It's from four years ago.

About not being allowed to have feelings because your're "just a Stepmother", I don't know what to say about that except for,

I pray for the day Family Court recognizes that CHILDREN have rights, parents only have PRIVILEGES.  Only then, will I know my child is safe.
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#5 of 21 Old 06-18-2008, 11:23 PM
 
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I'm sorry you ran up against this. No fun at all!

My stock advice to any SM dealing with a defensive mom is this: don't give her an opening. Your DP should do all the updating of circumstances, etc. When SS's mom asks me about almost anything, I refer her to DP. She's exquisitely defensive and territorial to a degree that has led to some insane incidents in our early years of blending that still make me gag a little when I think of them.

When you're dealing with that kind of thing (as Aricha said, it's almost certainly related to feelings that have little to nothing to do with you), you absolutely cannot predict what will push a button, so no matter how minor or innocent anything may seem (as your recent conversation with her was), it could lead to a confrontation. Don't set your self up for a war of egos with her, which is what I did, albeit 100% unknowingly. DP and I now make parenting decisions together just like we always have, but he presents them to her alone, as HIS decisions, never ours. It all works much, much better! It took some time to figure it all out, and ultimately it really shouldn't be our job to protect her ego, but that's how it happened and I'll take peace over perfection any day of the week.

Good luck! And watch out! A pregnancy and a new baby tend to bring out some wacky feelings in a shared custody situation, so you may see more of this over the next year.

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#6 of 21 Old 06-18-2008, 11:54 PM
 
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Good luck! And watch out! A pregnancy and a new baby tend to bring out some wacky feelings in a shared custody situation, so you may see more of this over the next year.

ITA with everyone above.

I really agree about the new baby stuff, too. We have major issues with every new addition as we are now.

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#7 of 21 Old 06-19-2008, 09:45 AM
 
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I agree, too.

I would stick to talking about the weather. Maybe someday, you'll be able to connect a little better.

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#8 of 21 Old 06-19-2008, 04:19 PM
 
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I find it best not to have any relationship with my husband's ex-wife. We have spoke on the phone maybe once or twice about issues with the children but for the most part we don't talk or interact, we have proven that's the best route to go. That still doesn't prevent her from saying unkind things about me to the SS's though, even though when they are here we act like she doesn't even exist.

As far as favoritism, I know all about that. My parents favor my 2 neices and my nephew and even my neices brother (who is not even biologically related to us) over my daughter and son and they don't care who knows it. It hurts really bad and I know just what your going through. My parents have pictures of all the grandkids everyone around their house and I don't think they have one of our kids, even though we give them updated pictures. It's just something that we have to deal with, and we know that our children are better off without them.
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#9 of 21 Old 06-19-2008, 05:43 PM
 
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Similarly, something about your DP that bothers you may have bothered her too...but you don't necessarily want validation of those feelings from her. Like if you vented about your DP snoring or hogging the blankets, you probably wouldn't love it if she piped in right away with "I know!"
(that's kkj.) That's a really good way of putting it.

JSMa, it sounds like she felt you overstepped and were speaking in a proprietary sort of way. What you said probably would have startled me, too. I tend to be careful about that even with friends we're with all the time, and to whose kids I feel like an aunt -- even if I find something about one of the kids' situations to be painful to watch, or I'm worried about one of them, I'll say something like, "That must be so hard, it looks like it's just so [hurtful, difficult, whatever] -- I mean even I find it hard to watch sometimes." It keeps it clear that she's the mom, I'm the friend-of-family. And really if I didn't know my friends so well I probably wouldn't even go that far.

It may be a little difficult to understand until after you have your child. But I suspect that after that, you won't really want people you don't know well -- people you don't feel to be part of your family -- talking protectively of your child as if he's theirs.

Just take it slowly, and reduce your expectations -- a lot. I recall that a month or so ago you were hoping that you'd all be like one big happy family, although blended families seldom work that way, and you're really not part of the mom's family. It sounds like she was starting to soften up a bit if she was willing to talk family matters to you. It may be a long time before you're friends, and being careful about boundaries can help ease things along, especially if she's willing to tread lightly too.

Finally -- of course you're entitled to have feelings. But it's not always wise to share with everyone. You've walked yourself into a complex situation and the realities there are what they are. True of any marriage but esp true of blended-family marriages, I think.
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#10 of 21 Old 06-20-2008, 09:13 AM
 
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It doesn't mean you're insensitive or a bad woman. But it might have been a pinch for ex-wife. You have her former life. Her former in-laws, her former husband, joint custody with her daughter, and telling her you had maternal feelings may have completely made her feel replaced and superfluous.

I would apologize anyway, and bond with her when she talks about Grandma (or things like that) by saying

"Oh, I have noticed it too, I am completely on your side, it is so true! Golly, I don't know how you do it, I feel for you. You have much more patience than I ever could!"

That will make her feel important and respected.
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#11 of 21 Old 06-20-2008, 09:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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It doesn't mean you're insensitive or a bad woman. But it might have been a pinch for ex-wife. You have her former life. Her former in-laws, her former husband, joint custody with her daughter, and telling her you had maternal feelings may have completely made her feel replaced and superfluous.

I would apologize anyway, and bond with her when she talks about Grandma (or things like that) by saying

"Oh, I have noticed it too, I am completely on your side, it is so true! Golly, I don't know how you do it, I feel for you. You have much more patience than I ever could!"

That will make her feel important and respected.

I am sorry but I most certainly can have no sympathy for that woman, and I don't feel I should have to guard my feelings... if she wanted this life, she should have kept it.

SHE is the one that threw it away. She had an affair for a year behind my DP's back and kicked him out... too bad too sad for her... she made her bed, and I'm not going to tip toe around it because she may be feeling loss or regret for what she did.


Furthermore... I have known DP's parents longer than her... I dated him years ago and have know them for 10 years. I likely know them better than her... so for her to get upset over the fact that I have a history there too? Oh well... that's how it is. I have dealt with them before her and longer than her, and now again.

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#12 of 21 Old 06-20-2008, 09:31 AM
 
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I am sorry but I most certainly can have no sympathy for that woman, and I don't feel I should have to guard my feelings... if she wanted this life, she should have kept it.

SHE is the one that threw it away. She had an affair for a year behind my DP's back and kicked him out... too bad too sad for her... she made her bed, and I'm not going to tip toe around it because she may be feeling loss or regret for what she did.


Furthermore... I have known DP's parents longer than her... I dated him years ago and have know them for 10 years. I likely know them better than her... so for her to get upset over the fact that I have a history there too? Oh well... that's how it is. I have dealt with them before her and longer than her, and now again.
Never said she was an angel. And clearly, she made some very bad choices. But don't you think for the sake of DSD that being extra-careful to this woman's feelings (rational or not) is worth it? For the sake of peace and DSD's needs, I might hide feelings from this woman. Heck, I would hide them for MY sake, since she sounds like a bit of a rattle snake. Do you really want drama with her that you can otherwise easily avoid? I know you are upset, but you are sounding territorial over how long you've known DP's family, and that's the same mistake she's making with her daughter. Who cares who's known the in-laws longer? I think you are hurt by her snapping at you, but don't be. It's a reflection on her, not you, and you can learn from this to avoid future incidents. Keeping civil and perhaps distant, rising above her snitty comments, will pay off.

PS, maybe when Grandma complains about the bed, you should just tell it like is, calm cool and casual, even cheerful.

"I know you favor the other grandkids over this one, but the bed is still hers and she needs a place to sleep in her new room, of course! But I can perhaps go to IKEA with you to help you pick out a new bed."

That will stun her, and yes, maybe cause melodramatic outcries of denial. Then you can say,

"Well, I'm not the only one who notices. Your son has, ex-wife, and yes, DSD. It's fairly obvious, since you only have one photo of DSD in the house and countless pictures in the shrine to the others. Well, anyway, I have to go, call me when you're ready for IKEA."

Hang up and she'll have to stew over it and come to terms.
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#13 of 21 Old 06-20-2008, 09:40 AM - Thread Starter
 
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That is the thing... I am perfectly civil to her for DSD's sake. I never talk badly about her Mother in front of her and handle drop-offs cordially. I wouldn't think agreeing with her about DP's parents would set her off. *shrugs*


And, I suppose I am defensive about my time in the family as well, as she likes to try to put me down as someone new even though she knows full well I'm not as her and DP met soon after our break up and she knows all about me, and they even fought about me in their marriage as DP had pictures of me and my enagement ring and he refused to let it go...


Really.. I think both her and I are rather cordial and diplomatic under the circumstances and history I suppose...

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#14 of 21 Old 06-20-2008, 09:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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PS, maybe when Grandma complains about the bed, you should just tell it like is, calm cool and casual, even cheerful.

"I know you favor the other grandkids over this one, but the bed is still hers and she needs a place to sleep in her new room, of course! But I can perhaps go to IKEA with you to help you pick out a new bed."

That will stun her, and yes, maybe cause melodramatic outcries of denial. Then you can say,

"Well, I'm not the only one who notices. Your son has, ex-wife, and yes, DSD. It's fairly obvious, since you only have one photo of DSD in the house and countless pictures in the shrine to the others. Well, anyway, I have to go, call me when you're ready for IKEA."

Hang up and she'll have to stew over it and come to terms.

*giggles* That is funny. That would never go well with her. And she isn't even talking to us right now anyway. Currently we live with her... we are moving out today and tomorrow.

She is really angry with us and not speaking to us because we are moving and taking the bed, and we didn't pay rent for FOUR DAYS. Our rent is due on the 16th, which was Monday... but as we were moving all this week and barely there, we really did not think it fair to pay for a full month's rent when we are moving! She is being really petty and ridiculous.

They even shut off our fan and air conditioner in the ATTIC when I'm pregnant!!! Real nice people at times...

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#15 of 21 Old 06-20-2008, 11:08 AM
 
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My advice? I know it's hard when she gets territorial and pulls rank on you like that. But honestly, in our case I just figure I have to coddle her a bit to help her with her emotions, and so I pull rank on her behalf. I say things like, "It must be so hard for you to be away from them" as if DH and I don't count. I even told her a book I wanted to read DSS and told her that if she had wanted to do that one to let me know and I'd pick another. I figure, hey, there's lots of books, and that little dance of deference to her feelings creates goodwill, which makes my life better. Works like a charm. Not always easy, but works like a charm.

Don't forget that even though you're focused on feeling outranked in DSD's life, your DF's ex feels outranked too. She's very jealous of your relationship (and was even during her marriage!) and is likely now very jealous of your pregnancy. Show some mercy.

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#16 of 21 Old 06-20-2008, 04:48 PM
 
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I am sorry but I most certainly can have no sympathy for that woman, and I don't feel I should have to guard my feelings... if she wanted this life, she should have kept it.

SHE is the one that threw it away. She had an affair for a year behind my DP's back and kicked him out... too bad too sad for her... she made her bed, and I'm not going to tip toe around it because she may be feeling loss or regret for what she did.

Furthermore... I have known DP's parents longer than her... I dated him years ago and have know them for 10 years. I likely know them better than her... so for her to get upset over the fact that I have a history there too? Oh well... that's how it is. I have dealt with them before her and longer than her, and now again.
JSMa...the fact is you will never know what happened in their marriage, or why they're really divorced. You have your DP's story, and I'm sure that's how he feels it went. I've heard many "why we broke up/divorced" stories from men I've been involved with or married to, and I have yet to hear one that didn't change, years down the line. Sometimes a little, sometimes radically. I've also known a woman in your situation -- a highschool girlfriend to a guy who married, had a child with, and divorced another woman, and then married the hs girlfriend. I knew all of them, which is how I know that some of the things the guy told the old girlfriend about the marriage and his exwife...eh, not so accurate. A long way of saying that it's loyal of you to side with your DP when it comes to how his marriage went, but...probably a bad idea to base your view of his ex on it, especially if it feeds a fighting mood. I'd stick to how things actually are between the two of you.

I doubt she cares that you have a history with his parents; it sounds like she was upset about how you spoke regarding her daughter, not his parents.
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#17 of 21 Old 06-21-2008, 10:23 AM
 
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She is really angry with us and not speaking to us because we are moving and taking the bed, and we didn't pay rent for FOUR DAYS.
OH MY GOD, you didn't pay rent for those four days? You're an evil, evil person!

And they turned off your fan and air conditioner in the attic when you're pregnant? Honestly, I don't think I'd let them anywhere near any of my children, step or bio.

I pray for the day Family Court recognizes that CHILDREN have rights, parents only have PRIVILEGES.  Only then, will I know my child is safe.
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#18 of 21 Old 06-21-2008, 10:53 AM
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my advice would be to have a little sympathy. you obviously sound very bitter and angry. forget about the marriage, forget about anything else but that she is a mother. sometimes people get too caught up in ancient history and when they can't just for a moment forget that the ways the history is affecting their present lives things get even WORSE.

have they always favored the other girls? if that is the case then this woman (who sounds like she's got some emotional baggage and maybe isn't dealing with it well but who is probably a decent human being) had to deal with that during her pregnancy and the birth of her child. that leaves deep wounds. perhaps the grandparents feel favor for the other children because they like their mother better. there's a certain amount of guilt over being the reason that grandma and grandpa don't like the kids as much as other grands. "how do you think i feel, i'm the mother" makes perfect sense in that context. when she was vulnerable and pregnant and holding "the worlds most perfect infant ever in creation" there were people buzzing around making their general disappointment with her known and she knew there would be problems. that is an experience you have not had. i have, and let met tell you it sucks! it leaves a mark.

i have a baby with a man with whom his other baby mamma and i have a long history. he had an affair. he left. he came back and then left. all back and forth between the two of us. i have to say that no marriage (without serious addiction and or psychotic mental illness issues) ever ended just because of one person. it took me a long long time to understand the hand i had in the disillusion of our relationship and it has taken my family a little longer to do the same. that resistance to the idea that we were just two people who screwed up and one person happened to be a little "worse" about it has been a serious impediment to our success as a blended family. a people have started to come 'round there's been less tension at visits and people say fewer bonehead things.

i totally know what you mean about the pics. my ils love by eldest. they have him over for the weekend and were so excited to finally have a grandchild. when dh and i had a baby they never spoke of him any differently but there are 3x as many pics of baby than of older ds in the house. here's the kicker, both of their kids are adopted! i married their son. why isn't that good enough for them? of course, maybe it's just easier to "catch" the little one on film.
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#19 of 21 Old 06-21-2008, 07:50 PM
 
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For some reason this has been reminding me of a time early-ish in my time as a step-mother... I was living with my now-husband, not yet mearried, pregnant with our first baby together, and a few months into being part of the custody situation. My husband's ex was not particularly happy about my presence in her life and in her daughter's life, but it had gotten to a point that we were no longer letting her pretend I didn't exist.

It had been recommended by a doctor that my step-daughter have some minor-ish surgery... something the doctors thought of as routine, but since she was only 1 1/2, it obviously was something that both parents were stressed about. Naturally, I hadn't been present at and doctor's appointments, hadn't been to the specialist, and had certainly not been part of the discussion or decision about the surgery. However, I wanted to be there with my husband while she was in surgery... I wanted to support my step-daughter, but I also felt like my husband needed someone with him. I knew it would be rough for him waiting outside the operating room, especially if the only other person there was someone who he didn't like that much and who wouldn't really talk to him anyway. But I felt like it would be respectful to "clear it" with my step-daughter's mom first, because I also didn't want to add extra stress for her as she waited for her daughter to get out of surgery.

I felt like I had to be careful of her feelings, not seem like I was overstepping, watch how I phrased it... I figured if I told her that I want to be there to support my step-daughter during and after surgery, she would most certainly reply that my step-daughter would have her mother and father and that my presence certainly wasn't going to be any more supportive or necessary.

So as not to step on mom's toes or insinuate that I was anything close to as important as she is in her daughter's life, I finally decided to let her know that I wanted to be there to support my husband during the wait. She was shocked that I was so cold toward her daughter and that I didn't feel that my step-daughter would need support after such a scary event, that my husband is an adult who can take care of himself but her daughter is just a toddler who will be looking to the adults for reassurance...

It really doesn't matter what you say. If someone wants to find fault, they will find fault. I have absolutely no doubt that if I'd said I wanted to support my step-daughter she would have responded as I had predicted and been shocked at my audacity. She didn't like me, didn't like that I was part of her life, didn't like that I got to hang out with and play with her daughter... whatever I said would have pissed her off. As others said, the best thing to do is to limit your communication, at least early on. I would take her reaction as a sign that she is still bitter/threatened/worried/whatever and that you should just limit your interactions as much as possible.../ try again later, and if she reacts badly again, just realize that she is still not ready. And that is about her, not about you... she'll be ready (or not) on her own schedule.

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#20 of 21 Old 06-21-2008, 08:13 PM
 
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Originally Posted by JSMa View Post
So, this has been bothering me a little, so I figured I'd put it here to hopefully get some perspective on it.


Some back story... My DP's Mom shows HUGE favoritism towards her other grandchildren from her daughter. DSD is usually an after thought and you can just tell. She was supposed to take all three grandkids to get a portrait done of them, but then decided to go without DSD... now there is like a shrine of the other two on the wall... no joke.. 8 pictures, all 8x10 taking up an entire wall... she has ONE picture of DSD in the house.

Anyway... DP and I are moving out this weekend... obviously we are taking DSD's bed with us because we bought it and it's her's. Well, DP's Mom has visitation with the other two grandkids and has them one weekend a month... she is very upset we are taking the bed and giving us the sob story that the other two will have no place to sleep now.

Of course no mention that she won't see DSD as much, or even acknowledge if for some crazy reason we did give her the bed, where would DSD sleep?


Anyway, when we dropped DSD off at her Mom's last night, this subject came up as we were keeping her posted as to when we were moving and such. It got bumped up to this weekend as their is discord in the house with us taking the bed and not paying rent for FOUR days.

At the mention of the bed and the other kids DSD's Mom started in how the favoritism for the other two always bugged her and how it's really sad. I agreed and said that it really bothers me too!

She got all defensive and took a step back and sort of glared at me, saying, "You? Well, how do you think I feel? I'M the MOTHER!"

Like what was that? I never said she wasn't entitled to feel upset about the situation... I was agreeing with her that it is messed up and that it hurts me too. Why did she need to act like I'm not entitled to feel that way because I'm not the bio-mom? I found it to be pretty hurtful.
Just another perspective:

If someone tells me something about my kid, I automatically get defensive. If my mom (who I litterally hate anyway : ) tells me something about my kid like, "She has another tooth coming in" I KNOW!! It's MY kid....I know. Thanks. Now shut up.

Or As I'm reaching for the powder during a diaper change (on really hot days, I use powder...sue me) my mom pipes up and says, "I put powder on her when it's really hot...." I KNOW!!! That's what I'm doing!

Maybe it's a boundary thing. Maybe it's just a mommy thing. Maybe it's because i hate my mother. ....But I get completely defensive when someone tells me something about my kid or tells me to do/not do something with my kid, just more so with my mom

Maybe she didn't mean to offend you, that's all I'm saying. She probably didn't mean it the way you took it. If someone told me, "It really made me sad when that lady said dd was ugly." I'd probably say something exactly along the lines of what your dsd's mom said...."Well yeah! I know...she's my kid...." :
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#21 of 21 Old 06-22-2008, 12:02 AM
 
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Originally Posted by aricha View Post
It really doesn't matter what you say. If someone wants to find fault, they will find fault.
That's it in a nutshell. I've been in a variety of step situations. My husband's ex-wife despises me and I can do/say no right. OTOH, my kids former SM and I got along famously. Occasionally, one of us got angry at the other, but in general, we gave each other the benefit of the doubt. The new SM-to-be (third SM for my kids; their dad is quite the serial monogamist) dislikes me for some unknown reason (truly unknown since ex-h and I have been divorced for going on a dozen years and have no ill-feelings toward each other anymore), so we'll be doing that fun game (the whole mom vs. sm thang that I love so dearly .

If I had my druthers...eh, never mind. Wish in one hand and all that. It's best, as a SM, to keep one's mouth shut. It's best, as a mom, to communicate directly with the dad. 'Nuf said.

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