Category: General

General
The Do’s and Don’ts of talking to your child about her period.

It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon. The kids are playing in the yard. Your husband is bbqing and you are enjoying your new couch with your girlfriend who’s visiting for the weekend. Sounds great.

Until your 11 year old daughter tells you “Mom, I have blood in my pants”.

Do you know how you’ll react? Will you stop breathing for a moment before calling your own mom for advice?

What should you say to your daughter on that fateful day? Have you thought about it much?

You can’t stop it, puberty is a part of life. We all go through it at one point or another and as parents it’s your job to help make the transition as smooth and painless as possible.

So here’s some do’s and don’ts of explaining puberty to your daughter, and preparing her for her monthly visitor.

First, what is it? It’s a cycle a woman’s body goes through shedding the lining of her uterus when she is not pregnant. This happens about once a month to then prepare the woman’s uterus for a baby. If a baby doesn’t come, it sheds it again in a month. Once a girls’ monthly happens, she can become pregnant. She can even become pregnant right before her first period if she has sex.

DO talk about it.

This is nothing to shy away from. It’s not anything to feel embarrassed about, or ashamed of. It’s a milestone in a girls life when she becomes a woman. She shouldn’t be afraid of it. She should be taught to embrace the changes and learn her body so she can feel comfortable during it’s changes. Most of all, so she respects her body, and herself, and expects others to respect her as well.

DON’T avoid the subject. DON’T just expect her to learn on her own.

So, when do you talk to her about it?

That’s really up to you and your daughter’s personality. Each girl is different, and your relationship with her will hopefully tell you the right time If you remain open to it . If she shows interest by bringing it up, dont steer her away, embrace the conversation. Be honest with her. It’s nature after all. If she doesn’t bring it up, you may want to take the lead when you know she’s around that age when it begins.

DO respect her privacy. It’s not an event that you will want to announce to her friends and family members. This is not a birth announcement or gender reveal. This is a very intense part of a girls life. You don’t want her to be embarrassed or feel humiliated.

DO teach her what to do to maintain her health and cleanliness. Teach her the difference in the products available for use during her period. There are health risks involved with the use of tampons for example, like toxic shock syndrome. It’s important for her to know the proper way to use them.

DON’T force her to use pads over tampons or vice versa. Let her decide.

DO teach her what is normal and what is not normal. She should know that cramping is normal during the days prior to her period starting each month, but they should subside. Her flow should be heavier at first then lighten up over the week. She should learn her body to be able to tell if something doesn’t feel right.

DO let her know that she can come to you if she feels like something isn’t right with her body. You want to make sure the lives of communication are open in case she needs medical attention. She will experience mood fluctuations due to hormones during this time and during her monthly visitor. She should be ready to feel those changes. Let her know that it could feel overwhelming at times and to come to you. Many teenagers experience depression and anxiety that can seem extreme, if this occurs, be sure you’re child knows you are there to listen to her without judgment. Teenagers can sometimes overreact, and in extreme cars, can lead to suicidal and even homicidal ideations. You don’t want you’re child to feel alone if she had those thoughts. Keep an open live off communication so she knows she can come to you. No matter what the issue is. She should not fear your reaction to her innermost conflicts if she chooses to express them. Hello her to find alternative ways of dealing with her emotions that are healthy

And finally, DO explain to her that if she chooses to become sexually active, she will be able to become pregnant. Ignoring this fact will not make it go away. A teenager who is sexually active needs to know how to be safe to prevent STDs and an unplanned pregnancy. Having a child as a teenager is a life changing decision, and one that is usually made under duress. It can affect the rest of her life. It’s important to discuss abstinence and birth control methods.

It’s your job as a parent to raise your child into adulthood as best you can to give her a good foundation to start her adult life. This is all part of the process. It’s also one of the most important things you can do to take your little girl and make her into a healthy and well adjusted woman.

Remember, love respect, and good open communication goes a long way. She will remember this time in her life and how you prepared her. She will also thank you one day.

cps, General
What exactly IS the definition of child abuse and neglect?

If you are accused of child abuse, what does that mean? When I was a child, it was common practice to get a spanking, or whopping. It was called discipline.

Now days, spanking your child can get your child taken away from you and suddenly you are labeled an abuser for trying to teach your child tight from wrong. Where do we draw the line? Do parents have to live in fear of disciplining their own child?

What about neglect? CPS often uses the term “neglectful supervision” to justify their reason for involvement in a family’s life. That’s a very elastic term, what does it mean? How do you tell the difference between neglect and simply poverty?

If a family cannot afford to get the child school supplies or new clothes are they really being neglectful?

Let’s take a look at what the experts and the law says is child abuse and neglect.

What exactly IS child abuse?

In defining child maltreatment, experts have focused on both broad parameters and specific types or subgroups of child abuse and neglect.

C. Henry Kempe and colleagues’ “battered child syndrome” identified physical injuries perpetrated on the child by caregivers.

Vincent Fontana’s “maltreatment syndrome” included neglect in the definition of child abuse.

The American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Standards Project defined child abuse as a non-accidental injury that “causes or creates a substantial risk of causing disfigurement, impairment of bodily functioning, or other serious physical injury.”

A group of professionals in child welfare defined “emotional neglect” as the “parent’s refusal to recognize and take action to ameliorate a child’s identified emotional disturbance.”

Another definition of child abuse includes sexual abuse as “the sexual misuse of a child for an adult’s own gratification without proper concern for the child’s psychosexual development.”

The federal government’s legal definition of child abuse and neglect comes under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (Public Law 100-294).

This included child physical and mental abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation, and neglect by a person responsible for the child’s health and welfare.

The Child Abuse Amendments of 1984 (Public Law 98-457) expanded the definition of child abuse and neglect to include “the withholding of medical treatment to an infant with a life threatening health condition or complication.”

The National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators’ definition of child abuse and neglect further defined child maltreatment in a broad level as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death or serious physical, sexual, or emotional harm or presents an imminent risk of serious harm to a person under age 18.”

Critics of the sometimes confusing, inconsistent, plethora of definitions of child abuse and neglect point out such problems as some are too narrow, others too inclusive, and the cross-cultural differences with respect to perceptions of child maltreatment and reporting of such.

The lack of uniformity in definitions and the resulting inconsistencies in their application reflect “the manifold perspectives on these acts, and the inchoate state of conceptualization.

Legislative history

The law was completely rewritten in the Child Abuse Prevention, Adoption and Family Services Act of 1988 (Public Law 100-294).

It was further amended by the Child Abuse Prevention Challenge Grants Reauthorization Act of 1989 (P.L. 101-126 and the Drug Free School Amendments of 1989 (Public Law 101-226).

The Community-Based Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Grants was a program that was originally authorized by Sections 402 to 409 of the Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1985 (Public Law 98-473).

The Child Abuse Prevention Challenge Grants Reauthorization Act of 1989 (Public Law 101-126) transferred the program to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, as amended.

A new Title III, Certain Preventive Services Regarding Children of Homeless Families or Families at Risk of Homelessness, was added to the Child Abuse and Neglect and Treatment Act by the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act Amendments of 1990 (Public Law 101-645).

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act was amended and reauthorized by the Child Abuse, Domestic Violence Adoption and Family Services Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-295), and amended by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act Amendmentsof 1992 (Public Law 102-586).

The Act was amended by the Older American Act Technical Amendments of 1993 (Public Law 103-171, 12/2/93) and the Human Services Amendments of 1994 (Public Law 103-252, 5/19/94).

CAPTA was further amended by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Amendments of 1996 (P.L. 104-235, 10/3/96), which amended Title I, replaced the Title II Community-Based Family Resource Centers program with a new Community-Based Family Resource and Support Program, and repealed Title III.

CAPTA was most recently amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-36, 6/25/03), which amended Title I and replaced Title II, Community-Based Family Resource and Support Program with Community-Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.

CAPTA was reauthorized in 2010, as the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 2011 (Public Law 111-320)

This factsheet available for download by clicking here, is intended to help you better understand the Federal
definition of child abuse and neglect; learn about the different types of abuse and neglect, including human
trafficking; and recognize their signs and symptoms.

It also includes additional resources with information on how to effectively identify and report maltreatment and refer children who have been maltreated.

Federal legislation lays the groundwork for State laws
and Neglect and on child maltreatment by identifying a minimum set of systemwide laws, policies, and statutes that define actions or behaviors as child abuse and neglect.

Federal Law defines child abuse and neglect as, at a minimum,

any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or victims, fatalities, exploitation (including sexual abuse as determined under section 111), or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm” (42 U.S.C. 5101 note, § 3)

Additionally, it stipulates that “a child shall be considered a victim of ‘child abuse and neglect’ and of ‘sexual abuse’ if the child is identified, by a State or local agency employee of the State or locality involved, as being a victim of sex trafficking.

Most Federal and State child protection laws primarily refer to cases of harm to a child caused by parents or other caregivers; they generally do not include harm caused by other people, such as acquaintances or strangers.

Some State laws also include a child’s witnessing of domestic violence as a form of abuse or neglect.

For more information on State-specific laws pertaining to child abuse and neglect, see Child Welfare Information Gateway’s State Statutes Search page .

General
Child Abuse and Neglect in the Armed Services

Relatively little research has been done on child maltreatment in the armed services: the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. However, some data does indicate that child abuse and neglect is a serious problem in the military just as in civilian life.

According to NCANDS data, there were 16,673 reports of alleged child maltreatment in the military in 1996.

In 48 percent of the investigations, there were dispositions of substantiated maltreatment of children.

A breakdown of the type of child maltreatment victims found in the armed services follows:

* Forty-two percent were victims of neglect.
* Thirty-six percent were physical abuse victims.
* Fourteen percent were sexual abuse victims.
* Seventeen percent were victims of emotional maltreatment.

Child maltreatment in the armed services has been associated with military life itself and circumstances within, including substance abuse, disciplinary infractions, reassignment, field training, payroll problems, living abroad, foreign spouses, and intra-cultural problems.

John Miller reported that the most vulnerable population in the military for child maltreatment are young enlisted families who have been in the service for less than 3 years.

Within this group are “high-risk families, as in civilian life, characterized by “inexperience, immaturity, lack of social skills, and inability to cope with life’s stresses and problems.”

In a study of the types of child maltreatment in the armed services conducted at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, it was found that 7 percent of the cases were “disciplinary abuse.”

The term was first used in a study classifying types of child maltreatment among the civilian population, and descriptive of the typical pattern of the “military syndrome.”

The abusive parents were described as “rigid and unfeeling… the homes were spotless… abuse was centered upon any child who broke the rules and straps and sticks were used in place of hands.”

Although Family Advocacy Programs personnel in the armed services are required to report cases of child abuse and neglect to the child abuse registry in the state in which the victim lives, much like civilians, most child maltreatment in the military is believed to go unreported and, thus, remains a hidden tragedy

General, murder, news
CPS placed 18 month old child in his aunt’s care – now he’s dead

Two separate investigations will review Child Protective Services’ handling of a Dallas toddler’s case after the child was found dead Thursday in a landfill, a day after his aunt and caregiver reported him missing.

Police believe they found 18-month-old Cedrick Jackson’s remains Thursday morning in a landfill on the Garland-Rowlett line. The Dallas County medical examiner had yet to positively identify the remains or determine a cause of death as of Friday.

Authorities charged Sedrick Johnson, the 27-year-old boyfriend of the child’s aunt, with injury to a child causing serious bodily injury.

Johnson faces additional charges pending the medical examiner’s findings. The toddler had been living in a Lake Highlands apartment with Johnson and his aunt, Crystal Jackson, after CPS placed him in her care.

Johnson told police he had swaddled Cedrick in blankets — something he had been doing since May after the child “made a mess” with ketchup packets, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Johnson told police he unwrapped Cedrick after he heard the child making noises in his sleep. He said the toddler then vomited and became unresponsive. Johnson told police he left the child’s body in a dumpster in northeast Dallas after his CPR attempts failed.

Internal and independent reviews will likely examine why Cedrick was placed in the home of Johnson, who has a criminal history in Dallas County.

The child’s mother, Dishundra Thomas, had allowed Cedrick to stay with Jackson. The arrangement by CPS was not against her will, Thomas said.

However, CPS would not knowingly place a child in a home with an adult who has a criminal history, said Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Johnson was charged with child abandonment in 2010 after police said he left his infant daughter alone in an apartment while he propositioned an undercover officer who he believed was a prostitute, according to court records.

He pleaded guilty in 2011 and was sentenced to four years of probation. Johnson later violated that probation and was sentenced to eight months in state jail in 2016.

Under normal circumstances, CPS officials conduct a criminal background check on each adult in a home being considered for child placement, Gonzales said. She didn’t provide details on Cedrick’s case Friday, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

The Department of Family and Protective Service’s Office of Child Safety will conduct an independent review of CPS’ handling of Cedrick’s case, Gonzales said. It’s not clear when either investigation will complete.

The Office of Child Safety will issue a report detailing its findings when the investigation is complete, but Gonzales said the office would need the approval of the Dallas County district attorney’s office and law enforcement before releasing the report publicly.

Johnson was still in the Dallas County jail as of Friday evening, with bail set at $503,000.

Vigil in boy’s honor

Friday evening, mourners gathered under a pavilion at Lake Highlands Recreation Center for a community vigil in Cedrick’s memory, where Dishundra Thomas, the boy’s mother, briefly addressed the crowd of about 100 before breaking down, inconsolable. Another read a prepared statement that was barely comprehensible through her tears.

“Baby C.J. was the sweetest little baby in the world,” his mother said. “He meant everything to us. He didn’t deserve anything that happened to him.”

Eventually family members had to escort her away, as she sobbed and screamed, “I want him back!”

The gathering included several families with small children, carrying blue and white balloons, one in the shape of a giant C. Some wore blue T-shirts with an image of Cedrick’s face and the words, “Rest in Heaven.” One woman carried a handmade poster reading “Our Beloved CJ” with photos of the boy.

Linus Walton of Wylie, an acquaintance of the boy’s uncle, spoke as well, saying “He brought people, as we see right now, together. C.J. was loved. His life was not in vain.”

Finally, as the sun began to set, the crowd moved to an open grassy area, where Cedrick’s grand-aunt, Benita Arterberry of Mesquite, said the gesture was symbolic of a soul being commended to God.

“Father, we know that into each life a little rain must fall, and today is a storm,” she said, as the crowd sent their balloons skyward. “We are so grateful to have had him for the time that we did.”

drug abuse, families, family, financial, funding, General, government, home, money, news
This is why Trump’s recommendation to replace SNAP FOOD STAMPS with food boxes is a bad idea… and its not really about the food or the money.

And when it was my turn, there was nobody left to speak up for me…

I know this isn’t normally in line with my blog topic of Foster Care but it does relate to the interest of families all across our country.

So, please take a moment and help me get this message out.

I am going to tell you why i believe President Trumps’ idea to replace SNAP food stamps with boxes of food is a REALLY BAD IDEA.

But before i do, i have drafted a petition to President Trump on this issue that i am asking you to sign. I need 100,000 signatures in 30 days for it to reach the white house.

So even if you do not agree with me to sign the petition, please at least share my post, or the link to the petition, so it gets passed around. someone else might feel as strongly as I do on the topic and might want to include their signature. Thank you.

I’ve created this petition asking President Trump not to replace food stamps with boxes of food.

I must reach a goal of 100,000 signatures so that my petition makes it to the white house.

Even if you don’t agree with the current program of SNAP FOOD BENEFITS, that’s okay. This is about much more than that. If you value your FREEDOMS AS AMERICAN CITIZENS, please take a moment.

SNAP food stamps are NOT just for people who do not work. In fact, most employees of Walmart are on food stamps…(and incidentally spend them at Walmart…hrmmm).

For many families it is the difference between going HUNGRY OR having the ability to cook a real, heathy meal with meat and vegetables.

I’M NOT DEBATING WHETHER OR NOT SNAP IS necessary, or for who, or how much or for how long.

I do not even receive SNAP benefits, by the way .

I want to discuss the IMPLICATIONS of what The POTUS has proposed.

Trump wants to replace food stamps with boxes of government food.

THINK ABOUT THAT.

The government issued boxes of food Trump Is proposing for the future….

the bread lines of the past.

Once a month, poor families well be given their share of whatever food the GOVERNMENT THINKS they should get to eat.

Bread lines.

Is this how things should be done in a “free” country? or is this ONE STEP CLOSER to repeating history?

This is AMERICA, LAND OF THE FREE, which includes the freedom to choose what we eat, when we eat, and how much.

AMERICA is NOT A COMMUNIST COUNTRY … government issued food boxes is one more freedom removed targeting the poor.

THAT’S A BIG DEAL.

There are too many ways the government can save money and make reforms to programs including SNAP food benefits

Please sign and pass along my petition at this site.

I need 100,000 signatures.

Thank you.

THOSE WHO DO NOT REMEMBER HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT.

HITLER WAS ELECTED. REMEMBER?


slide_5

drug abuse, families, family, financial, funding, General, government, home, money, news
This is why Trump’s recommendation to replace SNAP FOOD STAMPS with food boxes is a bad idea… and its not really about the food or the money.

And when it was my turn, there was nobody left to speak up for me…

I know this isn’t normally in line with my blog topic of Foster Care but it does relate to the interest of families all across our country.

So, please take a moment and help me get this message out.

I am going to tell you why i believe President Trumps’ idea to replace SNAP food stamps with boxes of food is a REALLY BAD IDEA.

But before i do, i have drafted a petition to President Trump on this issue that i am asking you to sign. I need 100,000 signatures in 30 days for it to reach the white house.

So even if you do not agree with me to sign the petition, please at least share my post, or the link to the petition, so it gets passed around. someone else might feel as strongly as I do on the topic and might want to include their signature. Thank you.

I’ve created this petition asking President Trump not to replace food stamps with boxes of food.

I must reach a goal of 100,000 signatures so that my petition makes it to the white house.

Even if you don’t agree with the current program of SNAP FOOD BENEFITS, that’s okay. This is about much more than that. If you value your FREEDOMS AS AMERICAN CITIZENS, please take a moment.

SNAP food stamps are NOT just for people who do not work. In fact, most employees of Walmart are on food stamps…(and incidentally spend them at Walmart…hrmmm).

For many families it is the difference between going HUNGRY OR having the ability to cook a real, heathy meal with meat and vegetables.

I’M NOT DEBATING WHETHER OR NOT SNAP IS necessary, or for who, or how much or for how long.

I do not even receive SNAP benefits, by the way .

I want to discuss the IMPLICATIONS of what The POTUS has proposed.

Trump wants to replace food stamps with boxes of government food.

THINK ABOUT THAT.

The government issued boxes of food Trump Is proposing for the future….

the bread lines of the past.

Once a month, poor families well be given their share of whatever food the GOVERNMENT THINKS they should get to eat.

Bread lines.

Is this how things should be done in a “free” country? or is this ONE STEP CLOSER to repeating history?

This is AMERICA, LAND OF THE FREE, which includes the freedom to choose what we eat, when we eat, and how much.

AMERICA is NOT A COMMUNIST COUNTRY … government issued food boxes is one more freedom removed targeting the poor.

THAT’S A BIG DEAL.

There are too many ways the government can save money and make reforms to programs including SNAP food benefits

Please sign and pass along my petition at this site.

I need 100,000 signatures.

Thank you.

THOSE WHO DO NOT REMEMBER HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT.

HITLER WAS ELECTED. REMEMBER?


slide_5

family, General
The Last Wind

I wanted to run to you that day, In May.. … to follow you into the last wind. But I knew It wasn’t time for me to go… yet. It was YOUR name that was called into a new beginning…not mine.. So I wait…. Remembering.. another time, once before… when I would run to you. I was always full of smiles. My arms waved frantically to you in alliegence…I couldn’t wait. YOU WERE ALWAYS THERE I knew you would embrace me with your tenderness and you would always make me laugh with your silly wiles. Those were the innocent times… before my travels led me be too far away to come back home… I remember how you always waited with your arms outstretched, and your knees bent in an irresponsible crouch..you were always full of smiles. YOU WERE ALWAYS THERE You would catch me and my laughter and spin us around .. You made my ten year olds’ wishes come true in your magical arms … around and around.. yes, I remember … you always gave me love and so much happiness. Those were the innocent times … before I learned too many truths to believe… Before I lost so much hope, that I stopped making wishes… I would always run to you, Daddy, from the plane…. and find you there, waiting… YOU WERE ALWAYS THERE I would run to you now if I could, into the last wind… In memory of my father, Jack T. Akin Sr. who passed into another beginning on May 10, 2010.

family, General
The Last Wind

I wanted to run to you that day, In May.. … to follow you into the last wind. But I knew It wasn’t time for me to go… yet. It was YOUR name that was called into a new beginning…not mine.. So I wait…. Remembering.. another time, once before… when I would run to you. I was always full of smiles. My arms waved frantically to you in alliegence…I couldn’t wait. YOU WERE ALWAYS THERE I knew you would embrace me with your tenderness and you would always make me laugh with your silly wiles. Those were the innocent times… before my travels led me be too far away to come back home… I remember how you always waited with your arms outstretched, and your knees bent in an irresponsible crouch..you were always full of smiles. YOU WERE ALWAYS THERE You would catch me and my laughter and spin us around .. You made my ten year olds’ wishes come true in your magical arms … around and around.. yes, I remember … you always gave me love and so much happiness. Those were the innocent times … before I learned too many truths to believe… Before I lost so much hope, that I stopped making wishes… I would always run to you, Daddy, from the plane…. and find you there, waiting… YOU WERE ALWAYS THERE I would run to you now if I could, into the last wind… In memory of my father, Jack T. Akin Sr. who passed into another beginning on May 10, 2010.

child, children, cps, families, General, love
Taming the Mommy Tiger

This article from StepMom Magazine is too good to not re-post. In the arena of parental alienation, I have been doing my research into many areas, including blended families.

One of the most common issues I see presented is the battle between a stepparent and the natural parent.

This article has great insight, by Wednesday Martin, Ph.D. 

Taming the Mommy TigerOne of the most common questions I hear from women who marry or partner with men who have kids is,

What should they call me?”

While there’s no one right answer, I do concur with the overwhelming majority of experts and women in the trenches who know from first-hand experience that there is, in a broad sense, to which there are rare exceptions, a wrong one: Mom. Or mommy. Or mother. You get the idea.

I’m not big on oversimplified advice—there’s way too much of it out there for stepmothers in books, which tend to gloss over the point of view of the woman with stepchildren, as if she’s got no right to have one. That’s just wrong, and that’s why I wrote a book from a stepmother-centric perspective. But when it comes to this particular issue, unless the planets are aligned just so (and we’ll get to that, to the factors that might make it easy and OK for his kids to call you and think of you as mom), it is best for all parties if you acknowledge the specialness of your bond with his kids of any age by coming up with a word other than mom to define it.

“Hey!” you’re thinking, “That’s not fair! I’m just like a mom. I do lots of heavy lifting. I do X, Y and even Z for those kids!! And she’s (fill-in-the-blank with neglectful, or a terrible mother or unloving and selfish and disinterested in  her kids, or even an alcoholic/drug addict/liar).

So, why is she the only one to be called mom?

Does just giving birth to them make her the only mother?

Yep, it does.

Whether we like it or think it’s right or wrong, we will likely be able save ourselves a lot of grief and aggravation by acknowledging a simple truth. In our society, motherhood is romanticized and idealized, and mothers—no matter how bad—are put on a pedestal by the world in general and by their kids in particular.

Sometimes, you may have noticed, the more problems the mother has, the more fiercely protective of and attached and irrationally loyal to her the kids are. It can make your head spin, especially if you know you’re a better parent than she is. Whoa, there, Step-mom!

There’s a reason step-family experts—from the National Step-family Resource Center to the last book you picked up—are virtually unanimous in their advice,

“Don’t try to replace their mother, and don’t ask them to call you mom.”

While you’re at it, when they ask to call you mom, as flattering as it is, as much of a victory as it feels like, as much as you feel you earned it and deserve it, your life will probably be a whole lot easier in the long run if you point out,

“I love you very much, but let’s think of something else for you to call me, since you already have a mom.”

Again, there are exceptions, but they are few and far between.

Why are the experts and so many of the women who have been there such killjoys about the kids calling you mommy?

Because they know what they’re talking about. First, there’s the reality of the loyalty bind—a feeling that kids get, often because their moms
encourage it—that loving or even liking you is a betrayal of her. They
suspect that bonding with you will actually cause their bond with her to wither and die. What could be scarier for these kids than loving you and calling you mom, mommy or any variant of The Mother? Sometimes, kids feel and fear this even without their moms doing what too many moms do— badmouth you and your marriage.

If there’s anything that provokes a woman with stepchildren, it’s a mom who doesn’t want her kids to get too close to dad’s new wife—and tries to assure it won’t happen by telling lies or saying inappropriate and undermining things about their step-mom.

“If it weren’t for her, your dad and I would still be together,” such women might say to their kids. Or, “You don’t have to listen to her or be nice to her. She’s not in charge of you.”

If there is anything that provokes a mother, it’s the feeling that someone— someone married to her ex-husband in particular, whether she instigated the divorce or not—is competing with her for her child’s affection. “I love them like they’re my own,” you might say to her in a conversation, trying to set her at ease. But the words have the opposite effect, making mom feel encroached upon and threatened.

But why? As I researched my book, “Stepmonster,” I reviewed what sociologists and anthropologists had to say about stepmothering worldwide and about wife/ex-wife conflict across cultures. What quickly became clear was the following simple truth: In our society in particular, many women find the idea of sharing their children with another motherlike figure incredibly threatening to their core identity and their very sense of self. And when they have to do it, they lose it.

Many are the stories of crazy exes and vengeful biomoms (can we please just call them moms or mothers?) who undermine the stepmother/stepchild relationship as if their very lives depend upon it.

Why are these women so angry, so dead set on keeping their kids from bonding with stepmom? Sociologists Linda Nielsen of Wake Forest University, Stephanie Coontz of Evergreen University and the Council on Contemporary Families tell us that, unlike many Caribbean, Native American, and Pacific Island cultures—where children have a number of parent-like figures who care for them and may have several mother-like “aunties” who look after them in all senses, such as feeding, clothing and even disciplining them—middle and upper-middle class Caucasian American women are dramatically more likely to have been raised in a “one-mother only mentality.”

That means these women have been taught from an early age that mothering means one woman and one woman only doing the heavy lifting mostly, if not entirely, on her own. They are less likely, in a broad statistical sense, to have had fictive kin, aunties and even extended family involved in their upbringing. In their view, mothering comes from one person, and one person alone—period.

This exclusive, exclusionary view of mothering is deeply ingrained for many of us and results in a mindset that there can be only one mother. Further implied is that if one mother isn’t doing it all on her own, she’s a bad one. And being a bad mother, in our culture, makes you a bad woman and a bad person. There’s no separating those categories in our thinking.

Coontz, Nielsen and other sociologists point out that Caribbean, Pacific Island, Native American and African American children are more likely to have “allomaternal” and “allopaternal” figures in their lives—“aunties” and “uncles” who contribute to their well-being in numerous ways. They also tell us this is likely to be the case in immigrant and lower-income groups, where extended family living arrangements and a belief that “it takes a village” prevail. In contrast, for many of us in the U.S., it’s nuclear family bonds uber-alles.

Why do so many ex-wives go nuts when their exes remarry and their kids get a stepmother? In large part, it may be because they are programmed to do this.

Understanding this might help those of us with stepchildren understand how an otherwise sane-seeming, high-functioning woman is capable of demonizing us in irrational ways. It takes hard work and commitment to overcome this social programming, and our collective hats should be off to the mothers who manage it. As for those who don’t, we will do everyone a good turn, perhaps most especially ourselves and our step kids, if we use this knowledge to avoid provoking the mommy tiger by insisting on our “right” to be called mom and to share what she considers to be her exclusive mom privileges.

These often include parent-teacher conferences, doctor’s appointments and conversations with kids about topics like reproduction, sex and drugs. In all of these areas, ask yourself just how dreadful it really is to have to concede to her irrational-seeming wishes you just stay away or remain uninvolved.

As many therapists and stepfamily coaches ask their clients,

“Do you really want to go to every parent-teacher conference? If it provokes your husband’s ex so tremendously, might it be wise to sit back?”

Sadly,our well-intentioned impulses to be involved in his children’s lives might be read by mom, owing to her social programming, as territorial and aggressive.

Does that mean you have to skip the Winter Sing, the graduation or the gymnastics meet every time, be excluded and shut out? No way. But if there is a high conflict situation with a Mommy Tiger, it makes sense to ask yourself exactly which battles are worth having and when it might be more fun to skip the science fair and go out for a night with friends.

And then there are those rare exceptions. I know a few—and perhaps you do, too—women whose step kids call them mom and who have a highly involved, maternal relationship with the kids. Here’s the planetary alignment that might favor a kid calling you mom and thinking of you as one or another one, without blowback:

1. His or her mother is out of the picture. Not as in deceased. A child whose mother has passed away will likely need to preserve her memory and her name—mother—just for her, no matter how badly that child may want and need mothering from you. But out of touch and out of sight for almost all of the time might make it easier and less
fraught for you to take on a mom role and name. Remember, though, although she may be out of sight and out of touch, she may not be out of mind.

2. He or she is young enough and open enough to forming an attachment so the mommy thing will not inspire tremendous ambivalence or confusion.

3. His or her mother actually encourages a warm, closer relationship between you and her child—and means it.

One woman I interviewed—I’ll call her Sarah—was nine months pregnant when her husband, never reliable, left her. He came back when the baby was 3 months old and left again three months later.

Sarah knew her ex, given his yearslong pattern of abandoning her and others, would never be part of her child’s life. She also found out that
a court was very likely to support her barring contact should it come to that. So, when Sarah eventually decided to remarry, she and her partner thought long and hard about what her 2-year-old girl should call her stepfather. Given all of the factors, they settled on daddy.

However, they decided her new husband’s son Zach—whose mom was
sufficiently unreliable and irresponsible to have lost custody of him—had a mom, however imperfect. Having and being a mommy, Sarah and her husband knew, is uniquely fraught in our culture. And they suspected that letting Zach call Sarah mommy might cause problems—resentments, confusion or ambivalence—down the line. They were probably right.

And five years later, Zach and Sarah, whom he calls Sarry—a variation on mommy that is different enough from it to set everyone at ease—are doing just fine.

“In our society in particular, many women find the idea of sharing their children with  another  mother-like figure incredibly threatening to their core identity and their very sense of self. And when they have to do it, they lose it.”

© 2011 StepMom Magazine
Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., is a social researcher and the author of Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do (2009).
She is a regular contributor to Psychology Today
(http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stepmonster)
and blogs for the Huffington Post and on her own web site
(www.wednesdaymartin.com).
She has appeared as a stepparenting expert on NPR, the BBC Newshour, Fox News and NBC Weekend Today, and was a regular contributor to the New York Post’s parenting page.
Stepmonster was a finalist in the parenting category of the 2010 “Books for a Better Life” award.
A stepmother for a decade, Wednesday lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.
Her stepdaughters are young adults.