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Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We by Wednesday Martin

Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We by Wednesday Martin

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A groundbreaking and truly stepmother-centered way of understanding the tensions that seem to define relations between women and their stepchildren

Half of all women in the United States will live with or marry a man with children. And what woman with stepchildren has not—in order to defuse the often overwhelming challenges of the role—referred to herself as a "stepmonster"?
As Hope Edelman does in her book for motherless daughters, Wednesday Martin’s empowering and original Stepmonster unlocks the emotional mysteries of why stepmothers think and feel and act the way they do. Martin draws upon her own experience as a stepmother, interviews with other stepmothers and stepchildren, and fascinating insights from literature, anthropology, psychology, and evolutionary biology to reveal the little-understood realities of this most demanding role.
Stepmonster illuminates the harrowing process of becoming a stepmother, considers the myths and realities of being married to a man with children, counteracts the cultural notion that stepmothers are solely responsible for the challenges they encounter, identifies the "Five Step-Dilemmas That Create Conflict," and considers the emotional and social challenges men with children face when they remarry.
Finally, in an unexpected twist, Martin shows why the myth of the Wicked Stepmother is our single best tool for understanding who real stepmothers are and how they feel.
A groundbreaking and truly stepmother-centered way of understanding the tensions that seem to define relations between women and their stepchildren

Half of all women in the United States will live with or marry a man with children. And what woman with stepchildren has not—in order to defuse the often overwhelming challenges of the role—referred to herself as a "stepmonster"?
As Hope Edelman does in her book for motherless daughters, Wednesday Martin’s empowering and original Stepmonster unlocks the emotional mysteries of why stepmothers think and feel and act the way they do. Martin draws upon her own experience as a stepmother, interviews with other stepmothers and stepchildren, and fascinating insights from literature, anthropology, psychology, and evolutionary biology to reveal the little-understood realities of this most demanding role.
Stepmonster illuminates the harrowing process of becoming a stepmother, considers the myths and realities of being married to a man with children, counteracts the cultural notion that stepmothers are solely responsible for the challenges they encounter, identifies the "Five Step-Dilemmas That Create Conflict," and considers the emotional and social challenges men with children face when they remarry.
Finally, in an unexpected twist, Martin shows why the myth of the Wicked Stepmother is our single best tool for understanding who real stepmothers are and how they feel.

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Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on Apr 15, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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12/03/2014

 
5
Him
Understanding Your Husband 
If you have stepchildren
o any age, the most importantperson in your lie is your husband. He is, quite simply, the personwho in large part determines your happiness — or misery — in yourstep-situation. His actions and attitudes will dictate whether yourquality o steplie will be extraordinarily stressul, basically tolerable,or even enjoyable, despite the inevitable di fculties and bumps alongthe way. Specifcally, more than even you yoursel, your husband is theperson who will set the course o stepchild-stepmother relations, orgood or or bad. By making it clear to you and his kids (whether they are our or orty) that your marriage is a priority or him, by backing you up in ront o the kids i you have a disagreement with them (eveni he disagrees with you in private later), and by showing them that you are loved, cherished, and here to stay, your husband can model orhis children an expectation that they are to treat you with civility andrespect at the very least. Belinda, age fty-eight, is a retired stock ana-lyst and stepmother o two. She told me what it is like to have a hus-band who is clear and without conict about discipline and makinghis partnership with his wie a priority: “My husband was always onmy side. Always. We were a team, and his kids knew it. The kids neverdid anything at-out rotten to me. No rogs in my bed, nothing likethat. But i they gave me any lip or anything, he would turn to themand say, ‘That is
not 
how you treat Belinda. Now apologize.’ I didn’thave a lot o the fghts that my girlriends who married men with kids
 
102 •
remarriage realities
had to have, thanks to him drawing the line like that, early on andevery time.Your husband is utterly instrumental in enabling you to overcomethe usual obstacles, such as your stepchildren’s sense o divided loyalty,their resentment o you, and their anger that Dad has moved on. Withhim frmly in your corner, the two o you can even blunt the otherwiseinsuperable impact o an uncooperative and undermining biologicalmother. In the words o Sally, a retired psychotherapist and stepmothero two adults, “Dan always said, ‘We come frst. I we’re not solid, eve-ry thing alls apart.’ Yes, it was really stressul when his ex was goingcrazy and calling us at midnight, and when his kids were going nutsand shopliting and being angry at me and you name it. But I alwaysknew Dan was in my corner and what his priorities were. I’m lucky, Iknow.”Belinda and Sally know they are exceptions and say as much. In act,all too oten the ather who divorces and remarries is anything butfrmly in his wie’s camp. Conicted, he may carom rom corner tocorner, now backing up his kids in their anger at his wie, now deend-ing his choice to marry her. These conicts are largely played out in hishead and rarely communicated, but eeling torn between his wie andhis children is nearly universal among dads who re-partner ater deathor divorce.The truth is, this primary inner conict may well be the best lensthrough which to view and understand your husband. Until he re-solves this conusion, his dual role (at once your husband and theirather) may well determine his actions, drain his energy, and colorhis — and your — happiness. The men I spoke with also described eel-ing conicted about their obligations to two sets o children — eithertheir biological children rom two unions, or their biological childrenand their stepchildren. Men are especially prone to lingering, evendebilitating guilt ater their divorces. I they are stepathers themselves,they struggle with the same role ambiguity that plagues stepmoth-ers. Finally, while stepmothers oten eel misunderstood, mistreated, judged, and “set up” in their role, the men married to them oten eelparalyzed, earul, and unable to do anything right.
004539_Martin_Book_APP.indb 1022/20/2009 2:08:12 PM

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