Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Public catharsis

As if I'm not already far too addicted to steppie networking and blogging on the internet, I discovered the Stepfamily Letter Page recently.

It's brilliant, moving, and open in that it gives a voice to anyone who is part of a blended family. You can sense the raw emotion in the letters, whether joy, sorrow, anger or confusion. And the anonymity of it means that it could be anyone from the person who served you in Tesco yesterday to the Prime Minister.

I was totally inspired, and my early morning insomnia led me to write this - my letter to the BM, which was published remarkably quickly on the site!

She is the one person in my blended family scenario that I know I will never, ever get the chance to tell my side of the story to - firstly because she would never care enough to listen, and secondly, even if by some miracle she did care, she's incapable of listening to anyone else's point of view but her own. But to get it out there was incredibly cathartic and I felt something release as I sent the email off and crossed my fingers that it would be up there for other stepmums to read who are going through similar stuff with BMs and realise they're not alone. Since I've been a member of the wonderful worldwide community of step-parents, I've realised that my situation is by no means unique, which is sad, because it means there are an awful lot of innocent kids out there suffering the effects of divorce and parents who cannot move on from their vendettas against the ex.

At the same time, the Stepfamily Letter Project served also to remind me that we are all fallible and capable of making mistakes in our stepfamilies. Handling things clumsily, or getting territorial. And the kids are an inevitable casualty in one way or another, however well your blended family gets along, which is possibly why it's so darn hard for people to embrace the positive side of stepfamilies. They blossom from an initial tragedy. I have a hard time, for example, believing my DP when he tells me that it was worth going through all those horrendous times with BM, if it meant he got me at the end of it. Was it really worth it? Surely, he would rather have been happy first time around, had a simple uncomplicated family, not had to carry the guilt of his daughter growing up between two homes, not suffered years of marital abuse. I cannot help but feel that what we have is somehow inadequate for SD, because surely, the ideal is for the parents to stay together, and that is surely what she would wish for had she a magic lamp and a genie? I would disappear in a puff of smoke, wouldn't I? And so would her mum's partner of some years, I reckon. Bless her, she's a dear considerate little thing, and she knows that her parents are happier with different people now, but the cost to her has been dear and that cannot be denied. It shows on her little face.

"You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear" they say, but an ironic truth of life, unless you are one of the fortunate few who live a charmed life with barely a scrape, is that some of the best things in life can actually rise out of the ashes of the worst things. Perhaps this could be so of stepfamilies, dare I suggest?


  1. I read that letter earlier today and had a feeling it might be you. So glad you wrote your letter and it made you feel better. That is most important. I am working on mine. I think it is great therapy to say all of the things you would like to but know the time/chance will never present itself. Good for you, and of course you are worth it! Sounds like you have a very supportative hubby.

  2. I'm glad that writing that letter helped you. My therapist made me write one of those to our BM (but not send it obviously). He then made me follow it up with a letter of forgiveness - an acceptance of who she is and a tolerance and understanding of her mistakes in life and the fact that she is only human. Hmmmmm..... that letter was NOT so easy to write. But I do feel that writing it helped me to be more kind towards her. I can hear you laughing but try it anyway. You never know!!.....

  3. Funny you should say that belle mere, but I found that when I sat down with DP and discussed things I told him how I could empathise with BM's position - how it could be very hard for her to give her child up 2/3 weekends to a woman she doesn't know, the emotions and attachment of motherhood I'm sure are no less strong for her simply because in a practical sense, she is crap at it. I acknowledge that she loves her daughter. What I don't understand is why she cannot bear to believe that DP loves his child just as much as she does.

    Life of a Stepmama, my dear partner is wonderful in so many ways, and he is learning how to be more supportive of me when I struggle just as I am learning as I go in this situation. He does alright!

  4. When my husband would say things like "I'm so glad we are together", and "Meeting you was the best thing to happen to me" my self-doubt would creep in and I'd think "Really? You would rather have me as a second wife then have had your first marriage actually work??" And then I'd feel guilty about it on the part of the SS. But with time, I got to a point where I really believed him when he said it. I know what our life together is worth mentally and emotionally. And yeah, it's too bad that it came after a divorce and all that, but I think you are right - many good things come from sad times, loss, divorce. I think it makes us appreciate things in a way that other non-steppies never will. Thanx for the great post!