When I divorced my Ex Husband 19 years ago, my Mama Bear mentality went into overdrive. I was convinced that I was the only person who could love and protect Elle. Add to that my need to prove - I'm a good Mom even if I did divorce the father of my child....... My mantra became - Cross my kid - I'll make your life a living HELL!
Divorced Mom = Mama Bear on steroids! GRRR!!!
It's not just Divorced Moms, Divorced Dad's pretty much fall into the same trap when protecting their young. Add to that a new Spouse - some Step Kids..........Holy Cow! Your dosage of steroids just quadrupled when it comes to protecting your kid.
While the Mama/Papa Bear mentality can be unbearable to the outside world - inside a second marriage it can spell disaster in a rather short order. Especially if both Spouses have grown accustomed to the mentality as NORMAL.
How do I know? Well both my Hubby and I came into our marriage fully loaded for battle to make sure our respective kid(s) didn't get screwed or treated unfairly. This was my Hubby's second attempt at blending a family and it didn't go so well the first time! He was left with PTSD from the failed blending - creating an atmosphere of distrust from the get go when it came to me and the kiddos.
With a Mama Bear mentality your mind automatically shifts 100% of the relationship success between your Spouse and your kid - on your Hubby! He's the adult after all and you tell yourself your kid is just a kid and deserves a 100% free pass given everything they've "been" through. It's the one time you tell yourself it's ok to advocate zero responsibility.
The fallacy of that thinking is kids are extremely smart and savvy. Doesn't take them long to realize - poke the Mama Bear - Step Dad gets the wrath of Mom. Or if a kid does something wrong - changing the subject matter by giving the parents a juicer problem - say a Step Sibling misbehaving??? As Frank from House of Cards says - "When you're fresh meat, kill and throw them something fresher."
So how do you handle the Mama/Papa Bear mentality so it doesn't self destruct your marriage?
- Admit to yourself and your partner that you have an incredibly strong Mama/Papa Bear mentality from your respective divorces. Acknowledgement is key here - you can't manage it if no one thinks it's a problem. Trust me.
- STOP AND THINK before jumping in to rescue your kid. Nothing builds animosity more in a blended family then a Parent coming to Little Ricky's defense regardless of the facts. Instead breathe through your nose and take a step back. Often times your Spouse and/or your Step Kids along with your kid will work out a peaceful solution on their own. If your kid knows you won't be jumping in every time a hair on their head is out of place they are more likely to work on a solution. If the situation is escalating - calmly enter with a non-judgmental tone. No room for accusations or blame here. Be apart of a peaceful resolution and in the process help build relationships not tear others down.
- GIVE YOUR SPOUSE A BREAK - we all make mistakes as a parents! Parents screw up from time to time. When you make a mistake - you don't say to your kid - it's ok to treat me with complete disrespect because I screwed up! So don't send that message to your kids about their relationship with your Spouse. Remind your kids just like them - adults are not perfect - everyone deserves a break including a Step Parent.
- Parenting is a balancing act - guidance tempered with love. A big hang up for Step Parents is parenting without the love component. It doesn't work. Don't set your Spouse up for failure by putting them in the position of caring for your kids for long periods time and/or responsible for disciplining them if it's not there. It sets their relationship up for permanent failure.
It's not your job as a parent to always sugar coat, defend or excuse the behavior of your child just because you got a divorce. Turning a blind eye or having a deaf ear is just as harmful. Yes, your kid did not ask for a divorce, gaining a Step Parent and Step Siblings, but life doesn't always go the way we planned despite our best efforts.
Our real job as a Mama Bear on steroids is teaching our kids that Curve Balls are gonna come their way - no matter what! When they come you don't curl up in a corner of the dugout crying life is unfair. You face them head on - working your butt off until you can hit them out of the park!