Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Custodial Stepmothering and The Mama Bear Syndrome

I'm one of the lucky stepmoms in that I got in my stepkid's life when he was very very young. Thanks to that I got to know him as a young toddler and to develop a relationship with him. Due to the fact that his biological mother had no involvement in his upbringing, I became the mother in his life. That's how hubby wanted it and I was fine with that. I love kids. I love most all kids. It's harder when it's someone else's kid that you are raising, though. It's not fair to assume a stepparent SHOULD love thier stepchild or even like them, as long as they treat them with fairness and respect that's really all that you can ask. I, however, fell in love with my stepson. To be honest, I would probably not given hubby the time of day when he asked me out for the 500th time if he had not had my adorable little 3 yr old stepson bouncing around him at the time.

Unfortunately in our country a lot of times the biological mother is granted custody based mostly on the fact that she is the mother, not that she would provide the best home for the child. Fathers get screwed in our system a lot of times. Hubby and his ex didn't go through the court, but if they had he still would likely have won based on his ex wanting to move the children back to her home country, but you never know... especially in the south. Judges here do have a biased towards the mother, but it IS getting better. Still, if a mother does not have custody, it is typically b/c of something the mother did or did not do.

It seems that some custodial stepmoms will develop a sort of "mama bear syndrome" towards our stepkids. I'm one of those stepmoms. I have gotten extremely protective of my stepson... more so than of even my biological children... based on his past. I get VERY protective of him because he has been through so much at such a young age already. I feel like it's my duty as his stepmom to protect him even from his biological mother because of the damage she's already done.

In our case, her visits and contact has been so inconsistant his whole life, he really doesn't know who she is. Her name makes him clam up and he will act like a different child for days after talking to her.. and talking about her changes his demeanor completely. It's hard for him.. he doesn't know why she makes him feel that way. He's very young for his age and doesn't understand at all what is going on. Hubby and I both try to explain little bits of it too him, but he just doesn't understand and we really don't expect him to. He's so little and just wants to feel like he is normal and that he has parents that love him and that he is part of the family. He is. He's our family and we're his.

One thing is we want him to be told everything in a healthy way. We take him to a psychologist, but getting him into counseling is a priority.. he needs a safe environment to be able to talk about everything with someone other than us. He has had some questions already... when I was pregnant with my daughter, Bailey, he would ask about babies and mommies... and he asked me if he came from my tummy. I told him that he did not.. that he came from his biomom's tummy, but that doesn't matter because babies don't always come from the mommy that takes care of them's tummy. He needed the reassurance that I love him no matter where he came from and I wanted to make sure he had that. He asked about it again and didn't seem to understand, but that's okay... he will. That was a really hard conversation because you really don't know how much they can handle at a time, but the information given seemed to be okay for the time being.

The really weird thing about our situation is that his exwife has custody of their other son together. "john" is a year younger than "Alan", but they were only together for one year and really don't know each other that well. "Alan" has asked occasionally if "John" is his cousin. That was an eye opener for us... we immediately corrected him and Hubby and I talked about it afterwards.... we knew the relationship was confusing, but we never thought he didn't know that "John" was his brother. We have photos of "John" in his room and all through the house and we talk about him with the children, but we do see how he would think that because of the distance and that they only see each other once a year. That's confusing for a little guy and I guess in his mind a cousin would make more sense... b/c in his mind his brother is "Michael" b/c "Michael" lives with him and is with him all the time and they are very very close. "Alan" sees his actual cousins more than he does "John".

Anyways, what I'm trying to say is that because of all of this I get more protective of him. I love him very much and want nothing but the best for him... It's hard to look at the situation and realize that at some point he's going to be hurt and angry and probably resentful of his biological mother for what he will see as her abandoning him (and he wouldn't be wrong to feel that way... she did). He might have some anger toward his father for allowing it. He might blame hubby for her leaving him. No matter what, he's going to be affected and IS affected by the fact that she left and we're seeing it more and more.. and that just makes my mama bear come out and want to protect him even more.

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