Dr. Laura Schlesinger always advises her clients that they should never marry a person with children. She advises that divorced parents should focus should on the children and there is not room for another person. She also argues that there will always be resentments on all sides. Maybe, she is right.
The other day, I heard Dr. Schlesinger tell a client that the stepmother has no meaningful role in the family. She said that in the eyes of the children, a stepmother is not a benefit to the family. In fact, children only feel resentment for the time that a stepparent spends with the parent that they miss. Maybe, she is right.
I could argue for all of us that feel we have played meaningful roles in our stepchildren’s lives. The truth is that the divorce rate among remarried people with children hovers at the 75% mark. Any argument that I could make is dismissed by the statistics. I am now left to ask, “Now, what?” to those of us who have made the leap into step parenthood. Assuming we have no acceptable role, what should we do?
What if we provide a soft place to land? A soft place to land is created when we watch from a distance and compile objective insights and observations. We remain silent on controversial issues. We allow critical one-on-one time with the parents and their children. We never bad-mouth. A soft place to land is an innocuous place, almost making us invisible. If a child wants to ask us a question or talk about anything, we provide a soft place to land. The magic is that we never tell or judge.
If we can provide a soft place to land for our children, we can certainly find a soft place to land for ourselves. I could be wrong, but I think we forget about our own landing pad. Do you have a place in your home that is strictly yours? What I mean is that it is decorated in a way that you like? It can be one piece of furniture or one nook, but it is yours. Do you have that friend that you can tell everything to? It is that friend that provides the magic for you. They never tell or judge.
Last, but not least, can we give our partner a soft place to land? Again, please feel free to tell me if I am wrong, but I think this is the hardest place to create. Our partners really live in a hard, tough place. They are torn by many camps: their overwhelming concern for the children, their old life that they need to live in everyday and the new life where they need to live everyday. How does anyone do that? Meanwhile, we can feel a ton of frustration and it is natural to want to take it out on our partner. If we can overcome that behavior for just one second (take a breath), let’s give our partners a soft place to land. Let’s give them the same magic by never telling or judging.
So, Dr. Schlesinger, I understand what you are saying. The fact is that you have the statistics on your side. But, maybe, just maybe, the role of a stepparent cannot be seen because it is magic.
Quotes from the Tao~
The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
The soft overcomes the hard.
The slow overcomes the fast.
Let your workings remain a mystery.
Just show people the results.