This post is for the stepmoms, bonus moms, or women who have fallen in love with a man who brings children from a prior relationship, along with a HCBM, into their new life together. First of all, you are not alone.
Being in a blended family can be confusing. It’s hard to understand all of the dynamics at play. Navigating the minefield of co-parenting sometimes seems like an impossible feat. I found it difficult enough co-parenting with my older children’s father when he was still alive, but even that did not adequately prepare me for what it would be like to have my partner’s ex disrupt our lives on an ongoing basis.
I have turned to other blogs for support, seeking out women who have traveled this path successfully. Some have helpful advice. Others simply share their experiences in an effort to connect with women going through something similar. After all, there’s a lot we can learn from each other.
According to a post on Step Momming, the term HCBM is being unfairly overused.
It is increasingly difficult to scroll through stepmom support groups and not see mention of HCBM, high-conflict bio mom. Some divorced women truly are high-conflict, no doubt about it. But others are just petty, or they’re moody. Then you have the control freaks (takes one to know one – I’m the biggest control freak out there!), and others just really struggle with change.
Unless she has physically assaulted you, vindictively falsely reported you to authorities, alienated her ex-partner, or some other very offensive behavior that has been highly intense or repetitive, she may not actually be worthy of the term “high-conflict bio mom.”Kristen, author of What If High-Conflict Bio Mom Isn’t Actually High-Conflict?
Having read this post I had to reevaluate whether or not I could continue to use this term in reference to my partner’s ex. Do I really have a HCBM in my life? Absolutely.
The details of the latest drama are irrelevant. I am wise enough to understand that the only person I have control over is myself. We can’t change others but we can adjust our reactions to them.
Although my partner and I have been together for nearly 6 years, I am still struggling to find coping mechanisms to deal with our situation. Whenever the HCBM kicks off and causes a disruption, I try to practice self-care. I remind myself to focus on my own life: my interests, hobbies, work and friends. I do not want to waste my energy or give away my power by thinking about whatever drama is erupting or allowing her to upset me.
There are things I wish I could say to her and every other HCBM spreading negativity. I would request that they:
- Stop the drama. There is no need to continually overreact to minor problems or situations. Being bored is no excuse. Find a new hobby, call a friend, or focus on personal development.
- Stop involving children in adult business. It’s inappropriate and damaging. Besides, bad mouthing backfires.
- Take responsibility for yourself and how you treat others. Sometimes people get stuck in a victim mentality. It becomes a pattern, a way of life to slip into a “poor me” attitude. It’s disempowering to go through life in this manner. I’m not referring to people who have suffered genuine adversity and hardship. I’m referring to people who chronically portray themselves as victims, even when the opposite is true.
- Remember: children grow up. One day they will gain maturity and try to deconstruct their conflicted childhoods through the eyes of an adult. The stories they’ve been fed by an angry, bitter or jealous parent will be weighed up against other factors, such as memories of their own. Does the version of reality they were encouraged to believe as children match up with what was actually happening? Time will tell.
- Stop undermining the other parent and interfering with their new household. The separated couple often takes their previous dynamic into their coparenting relationship. It’s unrealistic to expect them to agree on everything. If the rules differ in the two households the children will adapt.
- Relinquish some control. Dad has an equal right to make decisions about the children’s education, health, and spiritual guidance as well as their physical appearance (haircuts, ear piercings, etc.) HCBM’s do not have exclusive rights to their children.
- Stop lying, twisting reality, and misrepresenting dad and/ or his new wife or partner to the children or anyone else. It is unhealthy to continually disrespect and demean the other parent. A child has a right to love and value both parents.
- Put the children first. This includes children that are not related to you (otherwise known as step-siblings. They matter too). It is completely unacceptable to create stress and disrupt every birthday, holiday, vacation, or special occasion.
- Accept Boundaries. If a line has been drawn, do not overstep it.
- Apologize– Acknowledge the extent of the harm caused by your actions. If you have behaved unreasonably, unfairly, or even maliciously, and would like to pave the road to peace, you need to first apologize.
- History has a way of repeating itself. The best way of ensuring that children grow up to be happy and healthy is to model it for them. By engaging in constant conflict, they will learn that life is one long, painful battle. Learning how to peacefully resolve conflict is in their best interest. The future starts now.
I discovered a video by Master Stepfamily Coach, Naja Hall which offers helpful advice to both stepmoms and biological moms. She is the founder of Blended and Black. Her work involves assisting “individuals, coparents, stepparents and families towards peace, balance, and renewed happiness.” I’m sharing it here so others may benefit from her insights too.
One last resource I’d like to share is Being a Stepparent: What You Need to Know to Make It Work. This path is not for the faint-hearted. It requires courage to love children who are not biologically related to you, who may resent or even reject you. I have had to adjust my expectations about how my bio and bonus children relate to each other and to me and my partner. Every family has difficult periods and that is amplified for patchwork families.
It helps to remember that every day is a fresh start. Being in a blended family provides a lot of scope for growth. Learning to let go, dig deep, and rise above are not easy tasks, but they will transform you into a stronger, more resilient person. At the heart of our story is love. We love all six of our children and want the best for them. We love each other and hope that this second chance we’ve been given will benefit all.
Today happens to be Stepmother’s Day. Wishing all of you strong women a day filled with peace, joy, and appreciation! I hope you are properly honored by your family for your contributions and the love that you graciously share. ♥
Feature Photo “No Drama” Credit: Thomas Bormans