Hi my lovely friends! This week I have a blog post from my fellow step-mom friend, Caitlin McKitterick, that I am very excited to share with you.
Caitlin is a Canadian-based teacher, wife and stepmom of a four year old boy. On her blog www.bubblytobedtimestories.com
If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’re aware that stepmomming is no easy gig! The beginning of the stepmom journey can be especially difficult as you navigate your role and your blended family starts to settle into their new normal. Having been there myself and from talking to other stepmamas about their experiences, I’ve narrowed down 3 common mistakes new stepmoms tend to make and some tips on how to avoid them.
TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY
In the early stages of the stepmom journey, emotions and tensions are running high for everybody.
I know so many stepmoms, myself included, who took things way too personally when it came to events that occurred in their blended family.
It’s normal to feel discouraged when your stepchild is showing you resistance. It’s normal to feel left out of the strong bond that your spouse and your stepchild already share when you come into the picture. To feel unsure about the place that you have in your new partner’s family and insecure about your self-proclaimed label as the “second wife”.
As stepmoms, we can fall into an unhealthy cycle of self-blame when these emotions surface. We may start to feel like we are doing something wrong. We may feel hurt or personally attacked by actions made by a member of our blended family, even when they are not directed towards us whatsoever. We may become frustrated or defensive when thinking about or discussing these issues.
A big turning point for me in my stepmom journey was coming to the realization that it is not all about me! If my stepson wanted to play with his dad instead of me, it did not mean that I was not doing a good job as a stepmom or that he didn’t like me being around. It just meant that he was a 2-year-old kid who wanted to play with his dad – it was as simple as that!
Being mindful of these instances and recognizing when you are over-personalizing a situation is the first step in overcoming this cycle. Only then can you start to actively change these thinking patterns.
Reframing the situation is a strategy that massively helps with this, as it allows you to step back and look at things from a different perspective. Brainstorming all of the possible reasons for a person’s behaviour helps bring light to the fact that most probably, their actions had nothing to do with you.
For example, if you are feeling hurt that your stepchild is choosing dad over you lately, think about some alternative reasons they may be behaving this way. Has Dad recently been working a lot? Maybe your stepchild tends to be extra clingy to Dad close to transition days? By doing this, you will discover that probably none of these reasons have to do with you or your abilities as a stepmom!
Lastly, remember that others’ behaviour is not a reflection of you as a person or a stepmom. You are 100% in control of how you react and feel about all situations that involve you. This mindset shift is such a simple one, yet can make a world of a difference in your day-to-day stepfamily life.
As a new stepmom, you may be so busy focusing on supporting your spouse, trying to win over your stepchild/children, managing your new home, and keeping up with your usual responsibilities, that you start to neglect one of the most important people in your blended family: yourself.
Early on in my stepmom journey, I was so convinced that I needed to be around 24/7 on the days that my stepson was with us, in order for him to attach to me. I wanted my stepson to understand that we all lived in the house together, and that I wasn’t coming and going like I used to when my husband and I were dating.
I became so wrapped up in the idea of being the perfect mom and being there for everyone else, that I stopped doing things for myself. I stopped making plans with friends on our weekends with him and stopped going out for runs unless he was napping. I didn’t want to miss out on anything and wanted to make sure that we established our family unit as the three of us. This didn’t last long before I started to feel burnt out and started to crave doing the things that made me feel like myself: candle lit baths with a book, walks around my neighborhood listening to a podcast, long brunches with girlfriends.
The reality is, you have to take good care of yourself in order to show up for your family as your best stepmom self. Taking time for you everyday is so important. Coming to this realization was a real game changer for me. It improved my confidence as a stepmom, my mood and my overall sense of wellbeing. In order to avoid falling into this trap, make sure to set aside a few minutes to yourself every day. Whether it be a bath, journal time, a walk, an exercise class, a phone call with a friend, or an episode of Netflix with a glass of wine. Be kind to yourself and recognize the fact you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others.
EXPECTING INSTANT RESULTS
A final common mistake that many stepmoms make when beginning their blended family journey is believing that everything will fall into place right away.
I am certainly guilty of this! I had so many fantasies of how perfect everything would be once we all moved into the same house together. This was not the case! The early transition was definitely one of the hardest and most emotionally tolling experiences I’ve gone through. At the time, I didn’t have anyone in my life who had gone through something similar to warn me that my expectations were unrealistic or to fully empathize with me.
Transitions are hard. In ANY situation. Blending families is no exception.
The bottom line is, you can’t expect instant results! It will take time for everyone involved to get used to their new family situation. It will take time for your stepchild/stepchildren to become comfortable with you and for you to become comfortable with them.
In the moment, it may seem like things will never settle into a “normal”, but they will! It’s so important to be mindful of this and to tell yourself that it just takes time. Baby steps. Celebrate small triumphs and don’t expect a Brady Bunch scene the moment everyone unpacks their bags.
What are some of the mistakes that you’ve made as a new stepmom? How did you overcome them?