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Mother Bear Syndrome?

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musiclovingmom posted 7/21/2013 17:59 PM

My daughter is with her dad 1/2 the time. His new wife brought 3 children to their marriage. Her youngest is a girl a couple years older than my daughter. The new wife is forever hounding my ex's family about favoring my daughter and complaining that her daughter is not treated equally.
This year, my ex did not have a birthday party for my daughter. They went to the zoo in a neighboring city as a family and called that her birthday. It was not her idea, but she didn't complain (she knows better). Today, they are having a rather large birthday party - involving not only immediate family, but also extended family and friends- for her daughter. Recently, the new wife made an intricate, personalized quilt for her daughter, but not mine. Also, new wife's fb page has several pictures of the new baby with her daughter with captions bragging about 'big sister', but none of my daughter (who is also big sister).
Am I justified in being upset about this or am I having a case of mother bear syndrome?

SI Staff posted 7/22/2013 07:20 AM


Take2 posted 7/22/2013 07:31 AM

Well that would upset me! There certainly are difficulties in blending families: overcompensation is just one, and favoritism (real or imagined) is another.

If you have a cooperative and non-combattive relationship with the X maybe you can point out the recent realities of favoritism...? Otherwise, I think all you can do here though is support your DD, and validate her feelings.

...and Mother Bear Syndrome - not a syndrome. It's nature's way of making sure our offspring survive and thrive -it's Job 1.

caregiver9000 posted 7/22/2013 10:06 AM


It would bother me too! I don't have any experience like this, but I know that pointing it out to my ex would be like "criticism" and THAT never goes over well...

It sucks when the children are hurting and we can DO nothing to make it better. Lots of hugs and cuddles and sympathy for her. She will know she is special to you.

hoya96 posted 7/22/2013 11:46 AM

I think it's probably both - you're justified in feeling upset because you're a mama bear (aren't we all?)

I understand how you feel - my ex's new wife (the OW) has 3 children (so that's SIX children in their blended family) and my children are aware that her children are treated differently. It's heartbreaking when they tell me how her children receive such and such or her kids get to do xyz. It's always framed (at least, from what the kids' report) with some rationalization, ie "oh, we got tickets to do this, but unfortunately that's your mom's weekend", etc, but my kids are old enough that they're starting to connect the dots.

I listen with empathy, validate their feelings, and do everything I can to make them feel like they are the center of my world. My new husband does not have children, and we will not be having any of our own, so I hope that my home and the love and support they receive here helps.

It's a hard situation. I'm sorry.

Snapdragon posted 7/22/2013 12:22 PM

Years ago, my niece and nephew were faced with this situation. Their dad's wife had 3 kids that were the most favored kids. It was blatant and their dad did NOTHING to correct the situation. It went on to cause long term issues. My niece doesn't talk to her dad at all anymore. My nephew talks to his dad a little but they aren't close.

It used to rip my sister's heart out to see her children treated so badly. But she couldn't do anything about it. Later, when the kids were old enough to have some say in it they stopped visiting. Sad. Really sad.

whatdoto posted 7/22/2013 13:27 PM

My DS went through that with his dad. His dad had remarried, she brought in a son, and they had a daughter. For years, daughter would get big parties and presents (daughter and DS birthdays are 7 days apart).

I recall DS coming home from dads saying daughter got a trampoline, he got $20.

Once DS turn about 13 I made it his decision if he wanted to see his dad. I never talked "bad" about dad.

To this day, DS, who is now 29, rarely talks to his dad, and it's been that way for many years.

I allowed DS to have whatever relationship they could have on their own. I didn't take any part of it.

MLM, kids will sort it out in the end. Mine did and he's okay with it.

why2008 posted 7/22/2013 13:33 PM

Is there any way you can speak to your ex about this?

musiclovingmom posted 7/22/2013 14:26 PM

He and I do have a very good relationship - when his new wife is not around. If she is there, he pretends like I do not exist because if he pays me the slightest bit of attention, they fight later. Anyway. I do intend to say something to him. Just wanted to step back, calm down and make sure I'm not just over-reacting. My daughter is only 5, and if she has noticed, she hasn't said anything yet. I grew up with a very strained (almost non-existent) relationship with my father and I really don't want that for her. It isn't her fault that I made the choices I did with him. So, I'm trying to fend things off early, as they show up, rather than waiting until the damage is already done.

why2008 posted 7/23/2013 10:19 AM

What a relief it is to hear that you have a good relationship with him.

I can tell you as a parent to a 9 and 6 year old that birthday parties are super important to them and they measure EVERYTHING that a sibling gets. Maybe the step-mom thinks your daughter gets two parties so she doesn't have to do as much?

Just a thought... maybe you might want to bring up a "friend" has two daughters that constantly measure everything that the other gets and you wonder if that you want to acknowledge and mitigate that dynamic ASAP? I don't know what to tell you, this is a tough one.

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