There’s a lot I still don’t know about being a completely healthy, well-adjusted stepmom. There’s a lot I’m still figuring out. It’s definitely a complicated balancing act of epic proportions.
But there are things I’ve been continually learning that I can pass on to other stepmoms. There are experiences we all go through that bind us together into the stepmom tribe. These experiences can be some of the worst moments you’ll ever have in your life.
I know what those worst moments can be like. I know because I’ve lived many of those moments. I’ve felt those moments. I’ve regretted those moments. I’ve been in those moments with you.
For instance, those moments when you feel left out because you were not around at the beginning of your stepchild’s life. Those moments when your stepchild says they miss their “real mom.” Those moments when you try so hard but don’t get any appreciation in return. Those moments make you feel lonely, afraid, and uncertain about the future of your role as a stepmom. Can I really do this for years to come? What are the teenage years going to be like?
If you’re already stepparenting a difficult teenager, you may literally be on that last bending straw of patience.
I get it.
In your worst moments, you wonder, what the hell am I doing this for? What am I getting out of this? There’s no gratitude for all that I do.
Yes, that’s right. Those moments are ugly and raw. They bring out the part of you that screams to lash out, to give up, or even to be unkind. Those moments will tempt you to say words you cannot take back, to try and control things you simply can’t, or to turn your back and detach completely.
Sometimes it is necessary to detach. But a lot of the time, these unpleasant experiences will truly be teaching moments, and you’ve got to get back up from the floor of despair to figure it out.
In your worst moments, you may feel jealousy. You may resent loyalty binds with a biological parent you don’t like or even respect. You may struggle with keeping your comments about this parent to yourself. You may have already screwed up and said something you shouldn’t have.
In your worst moments, you must regroup. In those moments, you must acknowledge the ugliness that is capable of living inside you. It’s the only way to learn and do better going forward. You’ve got to try and deal realistically with your negative emotions as they come.
Negative emotions are signs that you are struggling. They are signs you are hurting. They are signs you need help. Ask for help if you need it. It’s important.
Don’t be afraid to feel bitter, envious, or mad. Allow these moments to exist, but then you must learn. Learn to back away when you feel overcome with these emotions. Learn to take alone time, even if it’s just a trip to the bathroom with a locked door to gather yourself. Learn to look at the bigger picture which contains much more than whatever you may be feeling in the heat of the moment.
I’ve messed up multiple times as a stepmom because I was not able to control myself in my worst moments. No one else is responsible for my words or actions other than me. It’s not my stepchild, my spouse, the other biological parent, or anyone else around me.
One thing you learn as your stepparent is that at some point, there will always be a blame game about something. There will always be comparisons. There will always be something you think you need to fix. It’s inevitable. Stepparenting is not a role where you can make any safe assumptions. Things change on a dime. You’ve got to adapt.
In your worst moments of being absolutely fed up with doing what you do for your stepkids, whether it’s school pickups/drop-offs, after-school activities, sports practice, cooking, cleaning, or homework — just know that you are not alone. There is an ever-growing tribe of stepmoms from all different backgrounds, living situations, and varying temperaments who are in the trenches with you.
In those worst moments when you think you have failed as a stepparent, you are still allowed to forgive yourself. You are still worthy. You are still incredible.
Being a stepmom isn’t sunshine and roses. It will bruise your ego, test your faith, and burden your mind. The learning curve is steep. You’ll face those worst moments and see your true self. You will decide what kind of person you truly want to be. You will hopefully rise up from your perceived failures and keep trying. That’s what stepmoms do.