Sometimes you just have to laugh at the way we humans behave. We do so many things that get in our way, without even knowing it, without even feeling it. But, we’re conditioned and taught from our very early age to jump in there and get things done. We encourage our young to read, even before they are ready. We encourage them to walk, even before they have all the brain development to support other later, more sophisticated development.
So, take any 14-old-girl, and go forward with her in time, say 30 years. She’s 44 now, a new stepmother and what she knows is to try, try, try with all her might. Think back, what was that about when she was a kid? She got kudos and pats on the back, and (my favorite) “good girl.” She learned in so very many, deeply insidious ways, to be a “good girl.”
Being a “good girl” as a stepmother doesn’t get one very far. You’ve been there, haven’t you? You tried really hard. You bent over backwards. You did things you’d never have thought possible, all in the sake of trying to keep the peace. Then, one day it happened.
One day, you found yourself face to face with your husband who was gently urging you to not take the last incident so personally and to let things go. You stood there, listening to the man you loved telling you why the what-you’d-said or done, or should-have-said and done weren’t enough and how it caused a problem.
It is in moments such as those that you have an opportunity to let go of guilt. Guilt for not being “enough.” Guilt for not knowing the just exactly right thing to say that will help everyone get on with their next project. Most of all, guilt for trying too hard.
For . . . let me pause here . . . [pause] . . . you will never get this life exactly right.
I’ll say it again.
You will never get this life exactly right. Yep, you will fall down, you will belch, you will start, you will eye roll, you will snort, you will guffaw, you will muffle a scream, you will look wildly around for the nearest exit. But 89.99999999% of the time, you’ll do what you do best and that’s be you.
So, what’s a healthy stepmother to do? First step, repeat a zillion, trillion, million times until your husband gets it . . . “So, don’t defend me.” When he tells you that the kids didn’t like something you did, say it again, “So, don’t defend me.” He’ll get it, eventually. If he can let go of the guilt that he married a person who isn’t “perfect” or exactly like their mother, then two of you can then begin your happily-ever-after chapter. He can simply say, “Fine, don’t like her, but she’s my wife and you need to show her respect.” (I copied this last phrase from several books, my favorite of which is Stepmonster, Wednesday Martin). I think I said it a slightly different way here, but you get the point. I’m betting big money he will feel some serious emotional relief and the two of you will be able to get on with being the two fabulous people who married one another before you got all worried about what the kids thought. But, seriously, you may need to say it a thousand times, don’t defend me.
Guilty-skillty, just go be your non-perfect human, womanly self.