Has your stepfamily ever told you that they are afraid of you? Don’t be surprised if they are terrified. Yes, I said ‘terrified’. No one will tell you that they are scared. In fact, they may act as if they tower over you and give you the impression that you are powerless. Have you seen this type of behavior by your stepchildren or the stepkids’ Mom? Maybe, you have complained that they only think of themselves or that they are completely narcissistic.
As some of you are shaking your heads, “yes!”, I want to challenge your thought process. Although you may be treated thoughtlessly by your stepfamily, I think they are scared. There is good reason to be frightened of all of us. We are new to the family. Even if the family has known us for awhile, once we move into the home, the dynamics change. We are permanent. That’s scary.
Here are some good reasons to fear all stepmothers:
- Think about your predecessors.
Our brains see the world through stories. We certainly are familiar with the fairy tales and the names of the women that have come before us. Lovely characters like Malificent, Lady Tremaine (Cinderella’s stepmother), Baroness Rodmilla De Ghent (from the movie, Ever After), and The Queen (Snow White). As soon as the word stepmother is spoken, deep fear sets in. Our history speaks for itself.
- We might take their Dad/Ex-Husband away.
It is normal for stepchildren to secretly fear that their stepmother would now be first in their father’s heart. Mom would worry that her children would be set aside. Who knows if Dad will spend all of his money on his new wife and forsake his ‘old’ family? These fears are reinforced by the media everyday. See #1.
- We might be lovable.
What if the children start to love their stepmother more than their mom? We all know that this will not happen, but the fear exists. Every mom shudders at the notion that there is another woman sitting in the wings. Once again, the media helps to reinforce this deep rooted fear. (Ever heard of Jerry Springer?)
All of these fears are legitimate and real. Here is what is happening. Your left brain is built to be comfortable with what it has seen in the past. It likes to see familiar story lines from our past experience. So, when the brain sees an unfamiliar tale, like Dad living with another woman, the brain sends out a signal. May Day! May Day! Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Our flight or fight system is set into motion. Our instinct is to push back and flee. We feel fear. We say mean things. We behave in unkind ways and, certainly, want to get life back to the way it used to look.
Don’t expect anyone to admit that they are scared. Your family members probably do not even realize that fear is driving their behavior. They just know that they want you to go away. They don’t know that their flight or fight systems have been triggered. They are feeling fear.
So, the next time you are frustrated by any member of your stepfamily, consider the possibility that they are scared of you. Try to counteract the fear with silence and/or extreme kindness. Bake cookies. Give them space with their loved ones so that the fear dissipates. It may seem counter intuitive, but give it a try.