Every family, whether it is a blended family or not, has its challenges. Every stepmum has her struggles. It is important to remember that if you are having a tough time right now, you are not alone.
Your struggles are normal. Those difficult feelings you feel are normal. And feeling overwhelmed or not knowing what to do next in a stressful situation, is what every stepmum goes through. Your feelings are valid. If you are hating being a stepmum or feeling angry, resentful, jealous or just generally fed up, don't ignore these feelings. Don't push them down. Don't tell yourself you shouldn't be feeling a certain way, or that you have it easier than other stepmum problems you read about in FaceBook groups.
There are lots of tips and techniques that I haven't shared anywhere else on how to bring peace to your mind and your home!
If you are having a tough time right now, remember that is okay. Let go of the guilt and don't feel you have to switch those feelings off. Give yourself the space to feel whatever it is you feel right now.
Remember being a stepmum is going to bring out all your insecurities and test you in ways you could never have imagined. You certainly did not know what you getting into that is for sure! (UGH I HATE IT WHEN PEOPLE SAY THAT)
Being a stepmum is hard. There are going to be challenges, ups and downs and moments of feeling unable to cope. Remember biological mums also have days where they can't cope. When did a stepmum have to be this perfect magical unicorn woman with no bad feelings or flaws?!!
It isn't what happens in life, but how you deal with it remember. Try not to see your struggles as black holes where there is no coming back from, but instead a hurdle to overcome and a lesson to learn from, or one that will help you grow.
Remember you can overcome ANYTHING!! Here are some steps I would suggest if you are struggling in any area of your stepfamily life right now.
1) BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF ABOUT WHAT YOU NEED TO CHANGE
We can't change someone else, but we always have control of how we react, feel and think. When we change on the inside, the truth is that externally things will change, even if it isn't a physical one.
Is it best to look within, before you try to implement a stepfamily strategy. Often strategies only work in the short term, because we don't try to change our mindset on a sitatation too.
Be honest with yourself, how have YOU contributed to this problem?
Did you overreact? Did you withdraw or shut down your emotions? Did you say something that didn't need to be said? Could you have thought before you acted?
Are your thoughts running away with you? Are you telling yourself a story about something that may or may not happen in the future, or are you going by facts?
It is always easier to blame someone else, but in reality, the only person we have control over, is us.
There is no denying that in some stepfamily situations, a stepmum isn't responsible for what has happened. But the key to being a happy stepmum, is learning that we are in control of how we deal with what happened.
Be honest with yourself, do you ever add fuel to the fire? Not necessarily physically, but maybe emotionally? Do you ever look back and wish you had acted differently?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and sometimes we need to make these mistakes, so that we can learn and grow. Other people may not ever learn from their mistakes in a stepfamily, but there is no reason that we can't!
Try and see your challenges as room for growth, rather than the end of the world. My biggest challenge was always my jealousy. There was no way implementing boundaries or some research based technique would work until I sorted the root cause of the issue.
Take some time out and try and see things objectively. What would you say to your best friend who was in the situation and understands how it all stepmumming works?
2) SAY THANK YOU FOR YOUR CHALLENGES
Yes I know that sounds crazy!! But honestly you will see a massive shift, when you say 'thank you, I am grateful for this challenge highlighting what I need to heal within myself, and showing me what I need to do next in this situation.'
When I have had a rough time, I often journal and write a thank you letter to the person or situation which has tested me. I say thank you to the darkness and the pain which has highlighted the parts of me that need more light and love.
Remember, none of us are perfect and your current external situation is a reflection of where you are inside right now. Remember everything external is an extension of our internal world.
Other people often highlight our own wounded parts. And we all have them! I know this is really hard to get your head around if there is a high conflict ex who causes you a lot of grief and pain. I am not saying you are high conflict, but does her anger reflect your own inner anger? Or do her insecurities reflect the part of you that you need to strengthen?
Following on from point one, learn from these challenges and be honest with yourself about how YOU need to change. That is the only way to find peace in a stepfamily where you can't control anything.
Once you are honest, you can say THANK YOU and become grateful that these challenges are merely teachers guiding you in the right direction, so you can become a happier and healthier individual.
3) FOCUS ON YOUR OWN HOME AND RELATIONSHIP
Once you have begun to be honest with yourself about the inner work you need to do, and begun to shift to a place of gratitude, (remember challenges aren't bad, they are a teacher pointing us in the right direction) it is important to refocus your attention on your own home and marriage/relationship.
The focus of any stepfamily should always be the marriage, and without this, cracks appear and the ex or kids may have the power, which can make a stepmum feel like the outsider in her own home.
If the power balance is with the couple, it is SO much easier to deal with challenges as a team.
Who really wants to be sorting out a blended family nightmare without the support and love of their partner?
If the focus isn't with you and your partner right now, it can easily shift that way.
- Remind your partner that your marriage doesn't stop just because your stepkids are in the house. A marriage or relationship doesn't have a custody schedule. It is full time and needs constant work. People forget relationships are hard work! You have to put the time and energy in, and this can't stop when your stepkids walk through the door.
- Set aside time as a couple on a regular basis to spend alone time together. Your date nights don't need to just be when you don't have the kids. If you can find a babysitter, it is a normal and healthy aspect of a relationship to have a date when you have children there, whether they are step or not.
- Don't argue or disagree in front of the kids. Have a unified approach at all times to show them they can't come between you.
- Seek help from a professional if your partner still refuses to put you as a priority or makes you feel inferior to his kids. Often, men experience a lot of emotions such as a guilt which stops them from putting the stepmum as a priority.
It is not selfish to put your relationship as a priority. Remember you are teaching your stepkids stepkids how a normal relationship works and it may influence their choice of partner in the future.
4) BE PATIENT AND FORGIVE WHERE NECESSARY
It can be particularly difficult when children act out or rebel against the new family member (the stepmum!), or when your partner's ex is making it clear she doesn't like you.
Remember what the children and ex are going through and try to be compassionate. Divorce is hard on kids whatever their age, and some adapt better than others. A 'difficult' ex may still have some healing to do or may feel jealous or bitter about you being in her children's lives. Remember not everyone reacts or responds in the same way.
Just because you wouldn't treat a stepmum the way you are being treated, does not mean someone else understands that. Their own past, their childhood and life experiences are shaping the way they show up in the present and treat you know.
You do not need to understand them, and it is probably better you don't try!
Expect that things will probably not always go the way you planned. It is best to have little or no expectations, whatever stage of stepmotherhood you are at, if you are regularly being let down by others.
Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your stepchildren and partner, and importantly remain patient with the ex and wherever she is on her journey. Remember her journey and yours are not the same. It is best not to judge another, and work on your own healing, home and relationship.
Be patient with yourself when everytime you encounter a challenge. A stepfamily is not ever going to be perfect in many ways, things will always be that little bit more difficult or complicated than a first family.
Be patient with yourself as you explore the parts of you that you need to work on. Maybe your grief, resentment, anger or jealousy issues.
Be kind to yourself as you are patient. Being a happy stepmum takes some time and work.
Keep forgiving yourself for all your screw ups! Forgive yourself for the times you respond with anger or say things you don't really mean. Forgive yourself daily and then laugh at yourself for being human!
You can then set higher expectations for yourself as you learn and grow, forgive yourself for making mistakes. WE ALL MAKE THEM.
For you own sanity, FORGIVE THE EX or your partner and stepkids for anything they did or didn't do. Forgiveness is not about them, its about you. In forgiving them, you release the pain and burden that is worrying you down.
Remember you are worthy of your time, love and forgiveness. You are worthy because you exist, and your stepfamily challenges make you a human, not a failure.