“Love your kids more than you hate your ex!” It should be a logical conclusion instead of a desperate plea, and yet, here we are.
Some stepmoms find themselves stuck in a co-parenting dynamic with an ex who won’t stop bad-mouthing the stepmom and/or her partner to the kids, the in-laws, online, or to anyone who will listen.
So, what’s a stepmom to do? Can you correct the bad-mouthing? Is it okay to share your own side of the story? Or does that reflect poorly on you?
Let’s dig into this frustrating and unfortunately all-too-common issue…
When the Ex Won’t Stop Bad-Mouthing You
Can you correct the bad-mouthing?
If your stepchild comes to you and tells you their other parent has shared something that you know to not be true that is reflecting poorly on you or your partner, then yes, you may correct the child. However, you must do so in a way that is respectful.
If it was me, I would respond, “I understand that’s how Mommy is feeling or understanding the situation, but your Daddy didn’t choose to leave your Mommy and have a new family. Unfortunately, sometimes marriages don’t last forever, and those people are happier and able to be better parents when they aren’t married to each other. Even though they aren’t married to each other anymore and your Daddy is now married to me, they both still love you so much.”
If my stepchild still seems unconvinced or uneasy, I might follow it up with a question on if Daddy has ever proven to be unkind or unfair to her and use that as validation of his values and character.
The focus of this rebuttal is not to damage the other parent’s reputation, but to clear the air about the truth in Dad’s home.
You don’t want to ignore your stepchildren’s reiteration of lies because your silence could be mistaken for acceptance or confirmation of what they’ve heard.
This is an invitation to correct but not to clear the air.
Is it okay to share your own side of the story?
This is not the excuse you’ve been waiting for to bad-mouth her back.
It’s imperative you maintain an air of maturity and impartiality. If your stepchildren feel comfortable addressing and discussing their concerns with you, it is because you’re a safe haven for them.
Don’t ruin that privilege by capitalizing on this moment for your own selfish gain.
It’s no secret that children of divorce have strong loyalty binds to both parents, which is why they so badly want to seek out the truth. Allow them to hear your truth without attacking the other parent, and your message will be received.
Attack the other parent in return, and it could backfire…
Could it reflect poorly on you?
I’ll put it out there as simply as I possibly can: what Mom says about you, says much more about Mom than it does about you… And vice versa.
If you take the bait, you’re just as guilty as she is. Let her actions stand on their own, and remain steadfast on the high road.
I once had a therapist who specializes in working with children of divorce tell me that when children hear something negative about one of their parents, it makes them think worse about the messenger instead of the parent.
So, if the ex is bad-mouthing your home, she’s actually the one who’s more likely to see an impact in trust and respect while her children become more defensive over your partner and your home.
So, what should you do when the ex bad-mouths you?
If the ex is trying to talk trash about you, your partner, or your family, correct the lies in a way that doesn’t point fingers at the mom, refuse to bad-mouth her in return, and remember that it’s all a much bigger reflection of her character than yours.
Life as a stepmom would be much simpler if the ex didn’t work against you. But even when you’re dealing with someone spreading lies and attempting to turn others against you, you can still choose to love and respect your family more than you hate the ex-wife.
P.S. Have you ever wondered why bio moms have so many shortcomings? I’ve figured it out!