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Gisele Bundchen Stirs Up Stepmom Territory Angst

When it comes to stepchildren, moms and stepmoms draw fuzzy lines.

ByABC News via logo
April 3, 2009, 9:47 AM

April 3, 2009 — -- After two years of the world watching their every move, supermodel Gisele Bundchen and superstar quarterback Tom Brady tied the knot last month.

Bundchen opened up to Vanity Fair recently about the brand new marriage, but it was other comments about her husband's son, John Edward Thomas, that caught the attention of many readers.

"I understand that he has a mom and I respect that," Bundchen said of the son from Brady's previous relationship with actress Bridget Moynihan. "But, to me, it's not like because somebody else delivered him that's not my child. I feel it is, 100 percent."

The comment touched a nerve with many mothers who believed that, as a stepmother, she crossed a line.

"I think every mother's first reaction is, 'Whoa, whoa.' That is not something you should be saying," divorced mother Kathy Laviani told "Good Morning America. "There's that boundary. They are not yours. It's no disrespect but that is what they have to realize."

Since her divorce seven years ago, Laviani learned from personal experience what it can be like to be the biological mother of children being cared for by another woman.

"She's fallen in love with their dad," Laviani said. "She is going to redecorate the house. I'm picking up the pieces of our heart and trying to glue those pieces together."

Laviani can still recall her primal reaction to bumping into the stepmom, Brenda, with the kids.

"I still get emotional and teary-eyed about it because, wow, someone stepped into my role for an hour," she said. "I didn't want a step-woman in my life. I don't need a step-woman in my life."

Laviani said that even simple family rituals became unexpectedly tense.

"The first time she came to one of my son's Little League games, I remember I threw my hair in a ponytail and was in jeans and a sweatshirt that has the school logo on it, typical mom," she said. "There she shows up and she is in her nice attire, business suit, high heels, hair is done, makeup, and you look down and think, man, does she have to show up looking like this?"

But Brenda said stepmothers are misunderstood. Her version of the baseball game story is very different.

"I brought my dog with me and she started petting it. And I had just a short flash of sort of territorialness," she said. "I caught myself. Because I realized, at that moment, that's how she probably feels every time she sees the kids get in the car with me."

Brenda said her stepson Garrett wouldn't really talk to her for nearly a year, like many children that struggle with divided loyalties after a divorce.

Both women said the lessons over seven years have helped soften the strain.

"You're offering everything you have to a child that might reject you, that might not want you around," Brenda said. "So it's a leap of faith to be able to handle that type of a situation. So, my stepkids taught me that sometimes you just take a leap of faith and it'll work out."

Continue to the following page for tips for stepparents.