1. Be YOURSELF! Hang up the tap shoes and give your Stepkids the gift of getting to know the REAL YOU. Too many of us tried to be the Super Stepmoms doing every conceivable creative, clever, kind and thoughtful thing we could think of for our Stepkids in the sincere attempt to let them know they matter, etc. Many times this strategy backfires into their sense of feeling entitled to you treating them like royalty every day. So…be your naturally kind, loving, and real self in reaction to whatever you experience together. Trust that they will one day see you as an adult who has loved them enough to NOT be manipulated by their antics or hurtful reactions
You are not alone.
2. Take nothing personally. This could be our new mantra! It is incredible, and sometimes frightening, how our husband or Stepchild can say something that goes right to our hearts and crushes us. As we can begin to realize that most of what they are doing is in reaction to their own pain, most of which we had nothing to do with, it becomes easier to reaction with a detached attitude. Please read “The Four Agreements” (check out pages 47-61) as we have all gained so much strength from book.
Check out these Books and Articles:
- Stepmoms on a Mission: A Compassionate Exploration to Find Answers, Options and Hope.” By Cathryn Bond Doyle.
- The Courage to Be Yourself & The Courage to Be a Stepmom by Sue Patton Thoele
- The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists by Eleanor Payson
- “The Intimate Dance; Stepparents find their Rhythm” by Susan Phillips
- The Enlightened Stepmother by Perdita Kirkness Norwood with Teri Wingender
- The Four Agreements & The Fifth Agreement both by Don Miguel Ruiz
- Where to Draw the Line by Anne Katherine
- Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting by Lynne Grabhorn
- The Stepmom’s Guide to Simplifying your Life By Karon Phillips Goodman
SMOMs Recommended Books
3. Check out Cathryns Articles. For over 2 years Cathryn wrote monthly article for an international women’s website, check out the collection of articles for more insights on human behavior. Being aware of what and why we are doing wht we do is the first step to lasting change. You can find the articles here.
4. Honor your feelings! Process your Anger! Realize that your feelings are real, valuable and deserve your attention. Stop judging yourself (it only numbs your feelings). Learn healthy ways to process the anger, the hurt, the anxieties, the jealousy, etc to so you don’t have to act on them with negative impact. It is important to give yourself permission to feel as you do-the key is to handle them in adult and responsible ways. See the Smommentaries (Essays) & articles for detailed suggestions!
5. Take care. Self-care is one of the first things to be sacrificed when we’re under stress. It is also the most effective healing strategy on which you can focus. Take extremely good care of yourself. Be sure you are feeling your strong, rested and wise Self before you make decisions or interact with others. Make YOUR well-being a priority. Time spent on self-care often bumps up against the urge to perform for others yet the better you feel about yourself, the more energy you will have for the rest of your family. Treat yourself the way you would support your best friend!
6. Get creative and continually look for new choices and new ways to solve the problems that arise. As examples: getting tired of his ex-wife coming inside your house? Tired of watching your Stepkids get away with things? Feeling resentful about something your husband and kids expect you to do for them? Figure out 2-5 alternatives that are acceptable to you, present the new choices to your husband or Stepkids and let them choose the new option. Ask for help and you’ll be amazed at the progress you can make. Creative problem solving is a vital and valuable skill for Stepmoms.
7. Clarify and discuss personal roles and boundaries. Get clear on roles and responsibilities. So many times it is the unspoken issues that sabotage the peace and joy in a relationship. Learn where to draw the line about what you will and won’t do, what you expect and what is expected of you. Write out the discipline guidelines for ALL the kids in the family and find out where you agree and disagree. Create a strategy for how to handle the disagreements so you are both ready next time the issues arise. Make time to have these conversations with your husband and all the kids in the house. Every moment you spend clarifying a boundary or expectation is saving you untold future stress, hurt and anger.
8. Learn to Stay out of things that are NOT your responsibility. This is a hard one. Accept that you are NOT going to be able to fix or heal the past between your husband and his ex-wife and between your husband and his kids. Whenever possible, step back and become the reflective observer. This is a behavioral term that describes a role you can take when there is tension between your husband and his kids or ex-wife. Rather than jumping in and trying to get them together and make everything happy and fun, just be there and observe the situation. It is amazing how powerful it can be to just BE THERE. What can you do? You can set the stage for happy times and then “let go” of what they do in it. Try this mantra from Louise Hay, “I’m no longer curious about things that upset me.”
Do your best to stay neutral. HA! I write that like it is easy. When you can stay neutral, you will save yourself and your marriage a lot of stress! It can be hard to do nothing and yet experience shows that staying out of their arguments, wounds and problems allows you and your husband to stay closer. It can be very uncomfortable to watch as others deal with their “stuff. Remember you are NOT responsible for their feelings of the past. Refocus your attention on your own feelings. Watching others argue can create lots of anxiety for everyone present. It is often more comfortable to jump into their issues than comfort yourself.
9. Become aware of the urge to control and “counter-control” the situation. When people get afraid or anxious or worried, it is a natural and common reaction to clamp down and try to control the situation. Many people have had parents who “ruled” via control or manipulation or had parents who did things so they could feel like they were in charge. Control does work: however it is hurtful. When you are trying to control the situation, you are not being loving and you can feel that harshness. If you and your husband can both remember that relationships can be built on mutual love and respect, clearly defined boundaries (that will be tested), constantly creative choices for each situation and good communications skills, you have a greater chance at a positive relationship.
10. Be patient with the process & very tender with yourself. This is hard work. A friend of mine once said, “Impatience is a lack of trust in the timing of things.” She said that if we totally knew that things were happening at exactly the right time, we could relax. Many of us want to get to the “happy family fantasy” as soon as possible-totally understandable. Unfortunately not something we have complete control over. Impatience changes our outlook, our gentleness and our attitude. So be aware of the power of patience.
Looking for some guidance, new insights & skills?
Want to share your feeling with someone who truly understands how you feel?
Cathryn (Stepmom Consultant & Mentor) has supported thousands of Stepmoms, and you can work with her too.