Avoiding conflict as a stepmom in blended family situations is nearly impossible. Mixed up schedules and miscommunications can be quite the doozy on everyone. While things may not always be peachy, there are many ways to avoid conflict with the birth mother of your stepchild.
Let’s remember why we are all here: the kids. Our stepchildren and children are truly the only ones who suffer when it comes to parents fighting. Often, a child feels the need to choose sides with a parent, which can leave them feeling like they have offended the other parent or they are loved less.
How do I know all of this? Because I’ve been there and done that. I, too, was a child of divorce. My situation was no fairytale. Many of my experiences impacted me in ways I didn’t understand until I was an adult. In many cases, the emotions and memories have resurfaced as I’ve stepped into my role, which is why I choose to be an advocate for Nikolai and other children that are in a “shared” situation.
Ways to Avoid Conflict as a Stepmom
Stepping into this role, it’s important to understand how to diffuse tense situations. Avoiding conflict doesn’t mean admitting wrong. It means you are above the petty arguments that can occur when you are dealing with a high-conflict individual.
Obviously, we can’t hide away in a hole or roll over like a doormat, but there are a few strategies us stepmommas can use to deter too much interaction with a high-conflict birth mom.
Do Not Engage in the Crazy
If you know you have a high-conflict birth mom, do not engage in the craziness. In fact, I would caution you against engaging with her in any capacity. Not engaging is difficult; however, the less attention you give turbulent behavior, the more peace will be in the home and the more peace you will have.
If the ex wife is contacting you and trying to engage, block or ignore her attempts but do not respond. Keep your husband in the loop, so he can head off any additional conflict. Your husband should be the main point of contact when it comes to the child. There really shouldn’t be a reason for the stepmother to be negotiating with the ex wife.
Your husband’s first priority is his child, even at the expense of your feelings.
Stay Out of it
The discussions that occur between your husband and the mother of his child are none of your business. That’s a tough pill to swallow. What I really want you to understand is that, whatever is decided by the parents of the child is what is theoretically best.
As I said above, you should not be the main point of contact. Communicating with the birth mom is one thing, but if you are currently having these issues, you may want to suggest your husband take on that role.
The moment you insert yourself into the conversation, you are opening the doors for conflict. Frankly, you are stepping on another woman’s territory. While you may have the very best intentions, it could be perceived as otherwise, especially to a high-conflict birth mom.
Let the parents parent. It is your job as a Stepmother to be available to your stepchild and to be the ultimate support system for your husband. Speak with your husband before conflicting conversations come up so you and your husband remain a united front even in the face of conflict.
Whenever there is a potential for a disagreement on scheduling, my husband and I always discuss Plan A and Plan B. This sets the stage for compromise, which is also an incredible asset in a blended family scenario.
That point brings me to my next point… Be United.
Presenting your family as a united front is the more “advanced” step in turning the whole family into one unit – ex wife included. Really, this is such a simple, inclusive move that will benefit the children involved tremendously, but this is difficult to accomplish with a high-conflict birth mom.
Recently, I suggested to my husband that we all meet to discuss expectations as Nikolai entered middle school. It wasn’t that we needed her to help us, but appearing as a united front shows the kids that all of the parents are supportive 100% of the time – not just when it’s “our turn”.
We all met at a coffee shop (neutral zone) and discussed the expectations we had for him, which allowed him to voice his opinions and ask questions. We all reassured him that all of us are there for him in whatever he may need.
While this sounds like a bunch of hokey-jokey, it’s really one of the most important takeaways. Remaining positive doesn’t mean putting on a tap dance with puppies and rainbows. It means protecting your family unit against the negative.
Smacktalk about the birth mom or her family, unwilling to compromise or being negative in general can take a toll on your marriage and family.
Avoid saying anything negative about the birth mom, especially in front of the child. Speaking from experience, children remember hearing nasty comments about a parent. It affects the way the child views the other parent in the short term; however, as they grow older, that perspective flips and they will remember how nasty you spoke about another person.
After all, what Sally says about Susie says more about Sally than it does Susie. Remember that.
Stepmoms have such an influential role as a mother figure and as a wife. You have the power to set the tone of the marriage and provide a different perspective in times of conflict.
If you are dealing with someone who takes pleasure in making the simplest things difficult, know that there are so many others out there with the same issues. Sometimes, the best you can do is to not engage with the crazy and remain the ultimate supporter for your husband and stepchildren.
If you have any ideas that I may have missed, leave them in the comments below.