You have found a new significant other and fell deeply in love! Isn’t it great?! What a wonderful feeling it is to be happy.
I know that feeling – I fell in love eight years ago to my now husband and felt like a school girl in love with her first crush. I was so happy to have found someone who loved me exactly the way I needed to be loved. He was perfect for me. We dated for six months before I was introduced to his children (ages 2, 4 and 8). I was so excited to meet them and thought that they would love me! After all, I was fun AND I owned a party planning company that specialized in kid’s birthday parties! That should do it, right?! Think again.
I had become a stepmom.
It wasn’t just the two of us enjoying all our time together anymore. We moved in together and now had his kids 50% of the time. There was a HUGE adjustment period! And I went from being the happiest girl ever to depressed and full of anxiety. It didn’t help that his ex-wife wasn’t fond of having me in her children’s lives.
After a few years of stepfamily life, I realized that I was allowing this situation to change who I was. I let my unrealistic expectations get to me. I found myself complaining and being negative all the time.
I had to make a life-changing decision. I was going to be HAPPY again!
The subject of happiness became a passion of mine. I bought every book I could find on the subject. What took me almost 40 years to figure out was that I ALONE was responsible for my own happiness. It wasn’t who I was with or what anyone else could do for me. I had to be intentional about being happy. I control my own thoughts, and no one was ever going to be given that control again.
I now think about how to live a meaningful, happy blended family life each day and how I can cultivate happiness in the people around me. During my “research”, I truly found happiness in my role as stepmom to three and bio mom to two.
I created my own rules for blended family life.
Many of the problems stepmoms experience with their husbands, ex-wives and stepchildren are boundary violations. How frustrated do you feel when the ex-wife calls during dinner to speak to the children? To maintain your emotional well-being, it’s important to establish clear boundaries that protect your personal space. Unplug the phones during meal time. Do not allow cell phones at the dinner table. These are examples of boundaries YOU can put in place to protect yourself. Setting boundaries are not meant to hurt others or to control a situation. It is simply a way to take care of your own needs and have a greater influence over your own life. Our family dinners no longer include intrusive phone calls from the other home!
Set Realistic Expectations (or have NONE at all!)
When our expectations are not met, we feel disappointed. Having realistic expectations help us to make healthier choices and offers relief from negative emotions. Expectations in a blended family should be VERY different than of a nuclear family. In a nuclear family, you have control over schedules and activities. In a blended family, you may find that the wedding you and the kids were invited to just happens to fall on a day you do not have the children. Having unrealistic expectations paralyzes you with the pain of not getting what you want. You must remember that you have the power to change your inner experience at any time, even if you can’t change your outer experience. Let life happen and enjoy the ride!
Find a Support Network
One thing I hear a lot from other stepmoms is that they feel like they are alone in their struggles with blended family life. And I get that! I used to feel that way too. NO ONE understands the trials and tribulations of being a stepmom except another stepmom! Just having the knowledge that others understand what you are going through can make a huge difference when it comes to your sanity. Trust me, the support you receive from other stepmoms can literally change your entire outlook on this crazy blended family life.
Practice Self Care
Unless we place our own emotional needs first on our list of priorities, we will be of limited use to anyone, including ourselves. Unfortunately, our time is often consumed with trying to fix all of the problems in our blended families. This leads to us feeling overwhelmed, angry, depressed and most of all, resentful! You can reduce these destructive feelings if you take the time to fit self-care into your life. I’m sure you have heard that if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be at your best for the loved ones in your life. Think about putting that oxygen mask on yourself before helping others with theirs!
Make Time for Stepcoupling
A strong, effective partnership is an absolute necessity if you are to survive the stressors of blended family life. A strong relationship will help you cope with any problems that may arise with your step kids or the ex. There are two amazing books that will help you put the focus on your stepcouple relationship. The first is “Stepcoupling” by Susan Wisdom and Jennifer Green. This book focuses on creating and sustaining a strong marriage in today’s blended family. The second book is “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. This book is a great read that will help you to identify what you and your spouse need from one another. Your relationship should be your number one priority! (The children are your number one ‘responsibility’)
Live in the Present Moment
Live in the present moment. It sounds simple enough but we as stepmoms have an incredibly difficult time enjoying the moment. We tend to spend so much time dwelling over past moments or planning too much for the future, that we miss out on the great moments that are right in front of us. So often we fail to stop and smell the roses and don’t take the time to enjoy the present moment. Be grateful for the life you have and the joy it brings you.
BE HAPPY! You deserve it.