I’ve learned a few things throughout my stepmom career. Perhaps the most important were how best to take care of myself while working, running a household and managing a family. I’ve compiled my best self-care strategies for all those stepmoms who need the Cliff’s Notes version.
Ladies, I hate to break it to you, but your husband shouldn’t be your one and only outlet for your stepmom angst. Sure, there are things that you need to discuss with him but there are plenty of things that are best left for a girlfriend’s listening ear. Your husband can only hear how many times Benjamin has left his homework on the stairs for the past two weeks. Or how Katherine sneaks chocolate chip cookies every night before dinner despite the cookie jar being off limits. It’s irritating, yes. But it’s also petty. When you continually complain to your husband about the kid’s idiosyncrasies, you begin to sound like the little boy who called wolf. When you bring issues to your husband about his children, be prepared for a serious conversation based in foundation and the wherewithal to plan for solutions. Don’t waste valuable spousal time on complaining. Leave it for your ladies who have the same things to share with you.
2. Space of your own
When I moved into a home with my spouse and his children, it was a considerably larger home than I had been housed in by myself. The difference being that the three bedrooms and three bathrooms that I owned were mine, lock, stock and barrel. My clothes were where I wanted them, all three bathrooms were overrun with my supplies and I didn’t have to worry about what photos I hung on the walls.
However, when we moved into our new family home, my personal space was diminished. I would find myself locked in the bathroom crying from time to time because I had nowhere else to be alone, which is difficult for an introvert like me. I made it a priority to claim space of my own. Since our kids were older, they began to understand that our bedroom was off limits. I also claimed an office for my own where I could read, write and basically have a place that reflected me…not the family, but me. Just me. It’s a powerful reminder that I am not just a wife and a stepmom in my home, but I am a whole person of my very own.
3. A good hobby
You need downtime. You need to feel good about yourself and who you are as a person. You need to be your own person with your own interests instead of being wrapped up only in your family. Do you have a hobby? Perhaps a recreational activity that you engaged in before you became part of the new family? It’s time to return to the heart of you. I found that as I attended more and more kid activities I gave up reading and working out, both de-stressors which I found valuable in my time apart from my life as a wife, stepmom, lawyer, etc. After a few years without making my needs a priority, I found myself becoming resentful and begrudging all of the time I was putting forth for everyone else. Once I put my own activities back on the calendar and made myself a priority, I was able to resolve some of the annoyance that was bubbling up in my daily life.
4. A stepmom mentor
We can always benefit from someone who has been there and done that. Sometimes we need advice, sometimes we need a listening ear, sometimes we need to vent. We need our people. Seeking out a fellow stepmom who has blazed the stepmom trail before you can be a godsend. When you are in the trenches, it can be not only comforting but empowering to find solace in another who has passed this way before. If you don’t personally know a stepmom, find an online support group, resource center or church that can point you in the right direction.
5. A thick skin
As much as you may think so, most things are not about you. Kids are continually growing, pushing boundaries and working to become people of their own. Don’t make their issues your own. Your spouse is a good measure of the kids’ behavior. He knows what life looked like before you showed up on the scene. That allows him to best gauge what are honest reactions to you and what are just normal growing pains.