Expecting Stepmoms: What You Need to Know About Babies and “Blending” by Wednesday Martin, PhD
The woman’s tone was urgent, almost anxious. She had called into a radio show I was doing to promote my book, “Stepmonster,” and I wished I had longer to talk to her about having what the experts call “a mutual child.” For the women I interviewed while writing my book, the issue of whether to have one (or more) kids together or not was often a deal-breaker.
“I decided I wasn’t going to marry Jack and take on his two girls—cute and lovable as they are— without us having a child together, too,” a woman I’ll call Laura told me, explaining, “What can I say, it just felt like having a baby of our own would sort of even things out.”
Laura is onto something important here. Stepfamilies are rife with power imbalances—imbalances that usually do not break a stepmother’s way. First of all, the simple fact of the matter is that when a man with kids repartners initially, he is almost certainly more connected and close with his kids than he is with his wife or life-partner-to-be. This can be an odd feeling if you’re not used to being with a man with kids, but is pretty much inevitable—and hopefully, something that will change. Indeed, over time, when things go well, the man with kids who divorces and repartners will transfer the site of intimacy and decision making from the dad-kids dyad to the husband-wife dyad. That is, he will cease seeking interpersonal satisfaction and nurturance from his kids and start getting it and giving it to you. But as any woman with stepkids knows, that process takes time (and might sometimes feel like it is going to involve drawing blood).