According to Mary T. Kelly, a psychotherapist specializing in stepfamily/stepcouple issues, childless stepmoms climb a particularly steep road when they partner with a man who has children.
Ms. Kelly says she’s received an avalanche of email from women who say they knew it would be hard, but they are “treated like a second-class citizen.” Says one: “My opinions and observations aren’t valued because I’m constantly being told that because I’m not a mother myself, I couldn’t possibly understand how to raise kids.” Says another: “No matter how hard I’ve tried to be a part of my partner’s life with his/her children, I continue to feel like an outsider.” According to Ms. Kelly the feeling of being an outsider is nearly universal and, no, it does not go away. A stepmothers, particularly childless a stepmother, feels like “an outsider because in a very biological sense, you are.” One study shows that fewer than 20 percent of the adult stepchildren feel close to their stepmothers.
Ms. Kelly offers five considerations for stepmothers:
> Feeling like an outsider with the stepchildren is normal and it usually does not change.
> The partner must understand the stepmother’s feelings.
> “Don’t take it personally.”
> Do not loose a sense of self-worth.
> Remember the marriage. The failure for second marriages is high, and of those about 67 percent are with children.
Mrs. Kelly says stepmothers must face the music: “Being a childless stepmother is a difficult role. Be easy on yourself and your stepchildren and make conscious efforts to drop that rope between your fantasies and the realities of stepfamily life. As you let go, you will feel more empowered and liberated.”
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