Stepmoms are often on the receiving end of a plethora of advice. “Take the high road. Don’t let his ex take up space in your head. Learn to like his kids even if you don’t love them.” All good stuff, to be sure. In fact, if this were an article about stepfamily advice, those are just the places I would start. But this article is about you, Stepmom. Just you.
As stepmoms, you get bogged down in the details of the family. You schedule, you plan, you pay, you chauffeur, you cook, you clean, you try to keep the peace. Those are all commendable jobs. They are also the jobs that will consume you, beat you down, and cause you to want to kill people, or at the very least collapse into a pile of worn-out stepmom guilt.
I believe in two tried and true pieces of advice that are geared solely towards you. Only you.
1. Self-care is a necessity in your life.
I know that you immediately felt guilt when you read those words. Self-care sounds selfish, right? Wrong.
Self-care can be envisioned on two fronts. First, there is the obvious. You may need a massage, time to read a book or exercise, or even enjoy some vacation time away. Those are worthy ways to spend time taking care of yourself. It’s vitally important to feel sane, well-rested, and healthy.
Without those key components intact, you will feel resentful and frustrated, and that in turn leads to physical upsets. Taking care of the core components of your health and well-being is important to keeping yourself going. It’s of utmost importance in the life of your family that you keep yourself going. If you see it in this light, it’s not selfish. It’s necessary.
Changing your attitude towards taking care of yourself is a gigantic leap towards the act of self-care. But, that’s not where it ends. Self-care also extends to that point where you draw the line: you set out the boundaries, you learn to say "no." You can only accomplish the means of taking care of your body, mind, and spirit when you determine that it’s time to do just that. When you see those needs increasing in your own life, you must then do something about it. That’s when you make your stand.
Self-care by virtue of the use of the term "self" is indicative that this can be done by you and only you. You are the only one who can say, “Now, it’s my turn.”
2. Find your people.
No, not those people. I know that you have a husband who loves you and you now have a built-in family system. You need your people. You need people that are interested in you…how you feel, what you're doing in life. You need the people who "get" you. Often, I think it’s best if your people include stepmoms.
No, not so you can sit around and bash the ex or complain about child support. It is for this simple reason: they get it. They understand the difficulties involved in your life, and, therefore, they don’t need the accompanying commentary. You have a shorthand with stepmoms. They understand your specific dilemmas and issues, and vice versa.
If you need help finding your people, consider these two things: your people will support you in your role as a stepmom to your family while also appreciating you as the individual that you are. You need people who will understand the commitment that you have made to raise your husband’s children, whether that be in a custodial or non-custodial capacity.
Your people will understand that those little people now figure greatly into how you spend your time and your life. Your people will willingly support your investment in your family, and yet, they will encourage you to build your repertoire of activities that you love to do, that also build your spirit.
It’s a new year, stepmoms. It’s time to put away the guilt and fear that keep you from growing into the stepmom you choose to be. Find time for yourself and let that time nourish you and replenish your spirit so that you return to your family ready to take on the next challenge.