Hey, Stepmom. Does co-parenting ever feel like you are headed down a river on a boat blindfolded? Your stepchildren are on board, you are trying to steer, and you don’t even know if you are going the right way. And just when you get you and everyone off the boat safely, you have to hop on board and repeat the same ride every.single.day. It can be more than stressful, right?!
Stepmom’s can feel helpless, alone, and very isolated. Many have no idea what their job as a stepmom is. They are afraid. They are afraid that they might do or say something that may offend the other parent. They are scared of any backlash from not doing something correctly.
On top of all of these big emotions there is another emotion that comes into play – the stepmom guilt. In working with many stepparents, I can safely say that stepmom guilt ranks pretty high up there as one of the hardest parts of holding this title.
Below are 4 of the most common things causing stepmom guilt:
- Wondering what it would be like, NOT to marry someone with children. Yes, I said it. Many stepmoms feel like this is their #1 guilt. They never had a chance to have a first child with their spouse. They never got to live a family life without relying on a parenting schedule or not hearing co-parenting conflict day in and day out. They have never got to experience what a typical “normal” family would look and feel like.
- Hating the custody schedules. Who likes to share days with another person or parent? Always planning out the calendar for birthdays, vacations, and the daily day-to-day schedule? You are continuously checking the calendar to see if your stepchild will or won’t be home on certain days or events. And if the stepchild isn’t with you on that day, asking the other parent if they can join you can cause stress. You can never plan out your family schedule without looking at the custody schedule. And many times, you don’t have any say in the parenting schedule, which affects your family calendar. You are told what the parenting schedule looks like.
- Feeling overwhelmed. Most stepparents want to be good stepparents while ensuring they don’t step on the other parent’s toes. You try to be a good wife while making your own bio-kids feel special, making your stepchild feel special, all while giving yourself self-care. Stepparents feel as though they need to make everyday special to keep the peace and keep it equal.
- Tension between the Ex and your husband is not your fault. Any problems between them were already there and are theirs only to fix. You came into a situation that may not have been good. And often, you are the one who becomes blamed for all the conflict when it was already a situation before you became a part of the team. Understand that others’ actions towards you are more about them than you. It’s their hurt and process that triggers them. It’s not about you. It is what you represent now in their life.
Hey, Stepmom…stop feeling guilty. This is YOUR story and YOUR life.
You are part of the team. You may not be the one in charge. The bio-dad and the bio-mom are in charge of the team; they are the managers. However, you as a stepparent are a shareholder. You are the one that invests in the family. You are responsible for helping your spouse make sound decisions based on the mindset while helping keep everyone and everything at a base level.
Know your boundaries and communicate your feelings with your husband with kindness and grace. This part of being a stepmom is challenging for many because you want to stick up and help your husband, so you insert yourself into the conflict. Don’t do it. Let him fight those battles. However, be there for him. You are a team together.
Letting go of self-guilt is what you will need to make yourself a priority in your family. You are you. Don’t let others tell you what your stepmom journey should look like. Everyone’s journey is different. And they may not know the real story. However, you do.
This is your life. You can only control yourself and your feelings. You know your role in your life story.
If you feel overwhelmed, take a step back and remember who you were when you first met your husband. Think of why you married him. Think of why you chose him. He also married you because of who you were when you first met. Communicate your guilt and frustrations to him. He may need to understand why you are overwhelmed with your life.
Bring back the joy in your life. Become the person you want to be. Don’t be afraid to mess up. It is a learning process for all involved. Educate yourself always. You can never learn enough about who you were meant to be. Play your role with positivity and kindness. Negativity will never get you ahead.
“A healthy stepmother knows that some day’s she’s a stagehand, some days she is the leading lady and some day’s she’s the audience…and she plays each role with grace and style.” – Unknown.