Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Always in the Unwanted Spotlight

About half of my blog posts could be titled "Contradictions," or some variation thereof.

The contradiction du jour is that it's not all about me, but still, it keeps being all about me! Stepmoms would prefer less be about us, as a matter of fact.

There's a view from most stepkids, moms of our stepkids, and even in-laws that we think everything is all about us. That we're self-centered, focused on destroying others, and want all the money, our husband's to ourselves, and to forget the kids for eternity. This list could be triple in length, but I'll stop there. Everyone has heard someone describe their stepmom in that way. Dr. Wednesday Martin did research on perceptions of stepmoms and found that nearly all stepmoms are viewed as pure evil, with vindictive motives of the bad characters in horror movies and Grimm (which, are quite similar...). (StepMonster, 2009)

Most of us are not actually that kind of fabled evil stepmom. We're everyday evil stepmoms, where we just function as people, and in response to most things we do as people, are slapped with the evil stepmom label. We fantasize about how easy it would be to become actually evil, and occasionally we think of borderline evil plans, and then we laugh, shake our heads, and silently pray for our family situation to get better. But the reality is, being someone's second mom just makes you the target of all possible hate and anger from so many people.

And that's how in the end, apparently it is all about me. It is the case that somehow nearly everything wrong with my stepdaughter's life has something to do with me. Her parents, the ones with the bad marriage and the choice of partners, can't really be to blame...It's really that the existence of me is to blame for most everything, but particularly bad moods. I must have caused those, and it was probably something I said. Somehow everything I say causes most things. Our house may be completely fine, but if I did something... usually something a stepparent, one who has taken care of her for 7 years would do...I have officially ruined her life for the weekend and possibly months.

In regular families, as many have assured me, teenaged girls can be this way with their own parents. But us stepmoms know that unfortunately, many stepkids have a unique situation where they get to forgive their parents quite quickly and aim that pure hatred at an easier target with less power. That's my case, because she knows that being nasty to her parents will just get her in worse trouble. The worst part is....She's not just an angry teenager. She can simply tell any member of her family her typical teenaged angst against me, and they don't assume she's a teenager (just like they didn't assume she's just a kid when she did the same thing every year before). They actually believe I did or said or was as horrible as she claims. Will an angry teenaged girl also tell the same people and kids about the other good things I did? Nope. So they get only the dirt, and think, "Well of course that poor child is unhappy- Her stepmom is so horrible to her!"

Beyond her, her mom still believes that I am the root of all things wrong. So, years later, I know that there is way too much focus on me, way too much insistence that I cause my husband to do or think the way he does like he's a puppet, and that I somehow cause all these unhappy things. No, no- it's not all me. I know it's not all me. I'm completely confused on why I'm the cause of so many things, but I guess according to the kids' mom...I am the center of all bad things. Aim the spotlight. My husband is just to the right of that spotlight, but not really in it.

And then beyond that, there's their extended family. Throughout the years, even members outside of the stepkid and mom unit reason that all choices, well, the ones they disagree with, must have come from me. I can't tell you how many random things I've heard, later through the grapevine, were attributed to me- which was always a blatant distortion of the facts, completely leaving my husband's free will and parenting out of the story. Sometimes it was because the kids were the source of the information, and other times assumptions were made on top of facts. My poor husband...I seem to control his every movement.

It's very curious, to me, how much I seem to be involved.

I really would prefer to be seen as what I am in everything regarding the kids: Secondary to my husband. I am not the leader, but I am a partner. I support him. My husband, when it involves the kids, is the one who decides and chooses. Things I do and say, as I've written here before, are results of many events prior and decisions and discussions he and I have had together. Unlike my stepdaughter's assessment, it is not "all because of her"- where the "her" is me, in complete disgust.

Well, actually, yes, some things are all because of me. As a matter of fact, we wouldn't visit extended family half as much as we do if it weren't for my financial contributions and family planning. Trips that I dread, but know we must do on behalf of the kids and the family, I make happen. We wouldn't have a home, because my husband could not maintain a mortgage on his own. She wouldn't have so many of the things and furniture she and our family have. We wouldn't have all the pets, we wouldn't have the money to do nearly all of the activities and trips that we do, and she wouldn't have an even bigger family that takes care of her like their own. She wouldn't have had someone that took care of her for years when her dad worked longer hours, further from home.

There's a number of other things, but yeah, that's what I'll take the actual credit for. The rest of it is exaggerated, misunderstood, or not even about me. If it's not all about me, then I'd like everyone else to stop making too many things all about me.

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