Stepmonster

Reaching to the core of the stepmother experience

If your Ex were dating Cam or LeAnn...Ex-Wife/Stepmother Conflict

Fair warning to Cam and LeAnn: Beware the Mommy Tiger!!

Ready for your popular culture fix? A big piece splashed across the pages of this week's Star reports that Alex Rodriguez--okay, A-Rod--is getting cozy with Cameron Diaz again (they broke up for a while this fall but are back together now), recently bringing her on vacation with him and his two young kids. And his ex-wife, we're told, is not happy about it. In fact, she is allegedly spitting mad. Then there's the story--brewing for several months--of the animosity between LeAnn Rimes and Brandi Glanville (the ex-wife of LeAnn's now-official-fiance Eddie Cibrian) which frequently bursts aflame on Twitter.

As a woman married to a man who has 1) kids and 2) an ex-wife, and having written a stepmother-centric book on stepfamily life, my first impulse might be to feel for the stepmamas in these situations. But as a mother and occasional mommy tiger myself (you do NOT want to be that elderly gentleman at Starbucks who gave my three-year-old the hairy eyeball for coughing in his vicinity the other day, trust me), and having researched and written about wife/ex-wife resentment for the last several years, I have another take on what makes the Mommy Tiger rage--and how to tame her.

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On this topic, one wishes LeAnn would lay off the passive-aggressive, self-canonizing tweets, as if she were St. Stepmom. Sure, it was Eddie Cibrian's choice to have an extramarital affair and leave his wife. We can't blame LeAnn for his call. But do he and LeAnn actually expect his ex Brandi to NOT be angry about this public humiliation and its emotional half-life? Particularly when LeAnn steps on her turf and her toes with frequent tweets about how she loves Cibrian's kids like they're her own, referring to them in print and via Twitter as "my boys," and publicly cataloguing her 20K Christmas purchases for them? How can a mom NOT be infuriated when she finds out via Twitter that one of her children has wound up in the emergency room for stitches during a weekend with Dad and Stepmom, neither of whom bothered to phone her about the injury? There's trying hard to avoid the stereotype of the wicked stepmother by being loving, welcoming and warm toward the kids--and then there's provocation. As I often tell the women with stepchildren who are in touch with me about the challenges they face, when you poke the mommy tiger, you will get clawed and bitten. You might just get devoured.

LeAnn's very public acts of alleged support for her fiance and his kids (she recently joined the PTA at the kids' school, for example) might well be read by the children's mother as something else again--insensitive and even aggressive encroachments onto mom's own territory. Her acts also beg the questions, When is a stepmom being good and when is she trying too hard? And when is she rubbing her husband's ex's nose in it?  Sometimes a stepmother with the best intentions will enrage a mother/ex-wife by "overreaching" and encroaching on mom's role and relationship with her kids, while dad passively fades into the woodwork, presuming as he does that kid stuff is "woman stuff." It would seem that's what's going on here. Except perhaps for the "unintentional" part.

Meanwhile we have A-Rod's ex, Cynthia Scurtis (who has a Master's degree in psychology), allegedly fed up that their kids vacationed with him--and Cameron Diaz. "CAMERON IS MADLY IN LOVE WITH ALEX--AND HIS DAUGHTERS!" an insider tells Star. A "source" further states that it's the parade of women the notorious Yankees stud is subjecting the kids to, not any one of them in particular, that has Cynthia ticked. "First Madonna, then Kate Hudson, now Cameron--Cynthia is sick of having all these different women hanging around the girls," according to, you guessed it, "a source." Can't really fault Cynthia for that, if she did actually say it (I do retain an awareness that Star is not The New York Times when it comes to fact-checking and accuracy of quotes). Cynthia Scurtis probably got a better settlement than many ex-wives, but she truly is Everywoman in one respect. It is really, really hard to share one's kids with ANYONE who is sleeping with the guy who fathered them. Especially when she looks as good in a bikini as Cameron does. Maternal feelings are primal and powerful and protective and yes, sometimes they are petty.

Beyond having been cheated on and dumped, what are the roots of ex-wife resentment? What makes an ex-wife infuriated and irrationally nasty toward the stepmother of her children, even when that woman didn't break up her marriage? Why does she undermine your relationship with her kids and do everything in her power to make your life hell? Hint: it's not really about money. I write about where Mommy Tiger is coming from--and what you can do if your husband's ex has it out for the two of you--in the current, second-year anniversary double edition of StepMom Magazine.

 

 

Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., is the author of the book Stepmonster.

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