Episode 7 of “One Day You’ll Thank Me” was just me flying solo and discussing the “Five Characteristics of Being an Empowered Stepmother.” This is a topic that so many of my clients struggle with and something that not only do I know about professionally, but personally. I too am a stepmother to FOUR children.
We all have heard the terms, “wicked stepmother”, “stepmonster”, and it goes on and on. Just to be real, being a stepmother is difficult. In speaking with my clients that are stepmothers, many of them share with me that it is just not what they expected. They expected things to go differently, more smoothly. They expected less resistance or pushback from their stepkids or the stepkids mother. They also weren’t prepared as much as they thought they were about the resistance from their spouse that has been either co-parenting or parenting on their own for a while and now and having to get used to co-parenting with someone else from the same house, it can be a big adjustment for them too.
You and your spouse may have very different parenting styles and sometimes they can evolve together and sometimes it feels like it is more conflictual. And there is the managing of ex-partners and all the dynamics that go along with that also. I personally am co-parenting with my ex-husband and my husband is co-parenting with his ex and we need to take everyone into account at times. It can get muddy sometimes.
Then on top of all of this, everyone is also coming to this new relationship with their own emotional baggage, either from past relationships or family dynamics. That can be an opportunity for someone to have their feelings hurt or notice a behavior and find it offensive, or take things personally.
I also want to acknowledge those stepmothers that may not have the same connection with their stepchild as their own biological/adopted child. I want you to know that if you do not have the same type of connection, it is normal. Many women have guilt about that and feel that it is difficult to handle. You have to remember that you may not have been in their lives since they were born and they have other parents in their life, now you are another adult coming into their lives without the same status. This isn't going to change over night, but there are things you can do and tools that can help.
With all of this being said, we know that being a stepmother can come with challenges, but know that there is support out there. I feel that the best way to manage your way through all of this is by becoming empowered.
Strong, positive, empowered stepmothers recognize their power. They recognize that they are the woman of the household and regardless of their experience with stepmotherhood, they are usually the leader within the setting. They are the one that typically sets the emotional tone of the household, take the kinship lead with extended family, sets routines, planning vacations etc. Oftentimes, despite having a leadership role they can feel powerless because they are new to the culture between the spouse and his kids, the spouse and his ex, or both. Therefore, it can be very difficult for stepmothers to recognize that they have this very powerful role within their own home.
My goal is to have these stepmothers harness the power in what they do have control over, because they can’t control everything, and realize what they need to let go of. This power will be used to create harmony instead of discord.
So, what are the 5 characteristics of an empowered stepmother?
First, acknowledge the power that you do have.
When seeking support, seek places of positivity and hopefulness, a healthy place where you problem solve, not negativity or toxicity that can create an unhealthy state of being.
Seek professional support even when your spouse may not be on board or see even a problem (they may not realize), but you know you need that type of support to benefit the entire family.
Foster a sense of inner wellbeing, tend to recognize your own strength and have confidence in the decision making in the family, not comparing or competing. Having a sense of inner peace and harmony.
Refuse to compare yourself despite social media or tv representations of what your life should be like.
Do you feel that sometimes you are babysitting instead of being a co-parent, do you feel that you are an outsider in your own house at times and maybe disrespected, do you struggle with anger or resentment? Could you use some strategies to manage?
Then make sure you are reaching out for professional help.
I have created a new online resource for stepmothers. It's called THE EMPOWERED STEPMOTHER. It's a virtual online Zoom support group, facilitated by me, consisting of no more than 10 stepmothers. It begins on Tuesday, January 26, 2021 at 7:00pm EST, and there will be eight sessions, each 90 minutes long. The goal is to create an environment that is both supportive and informational. We're going to discuss new topics each week, learn practical strategies, and there will be a What'sApp thread so participants can support each other throughout the week. I think it's going to be amazing. I hope you join us, or send a beloved stepmother my way. Early bird pricing is available until January 16, 2021!
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