A Healthy Stepmother . . . knows the season to feeeeline. (more self-soothing)

It’s not too early to prepare yourself for the November-December embers. You know what I mean. The time of year when the expectation is for happy, merry, and thrilled-to-be-alive from all the family members. A few of them have permission to play that out a different way and others do not.

It’s a vulnerable time of year for a stepmother because she’s expected to show up and pay attention, but not too much. Pssst, it’s a vulnerable time of year for most, but not everyone is willing to admit it. It is expected that a stepmother will act happy, but not be too involved. She is expected to witness. almost like an audience member, but not show her emotions. She is not one of the family members with permission to behave other than happy, merry, and thrilled-to-be-alive.

And, there’s plenty of pain that she might feel and see. The pain around where a child is on a certain day and at certain special times. The pain of a dad not having time with his child. The pain of keeping silence because you really don’t need or want to add more pain to the child’s pain, and the child does have pain.

No matter how much a stepmother mentally or physically prepares for the non-stop six-to-eight week bandwagon that is the Thanksgiving/Winter Holiday, she needs some alternatives to the go-go-go that carries the season. It’s during this month and a half of the year that I recommend you take on the behavior of a cat.

Consider the cat. My cat has passed on, but if he was here he’d be sitting on the back of the couch looking out at the world in his calm and dignified manner. He was never overly-ruffled unless he went outside where the young cats came to challenge his authority. When he had too much of them, he’d come back inside and have a bath and a nap. For a cat, there is no humility in taking a break or retreating to regroup and rejuvenate. For a cat, this is what life is, one long nap interrupted by breaks to play and check things out.

I’m not suggesting you nap all day, but you can intersperse being ready 99% of the time to participate in family activities with a daily nap or rest time to bring yourself back to level and steady.

Depending on where you are in the process of integration into your stepfamily, you might need or want more or less of the cat experience. This doesn’t mean you can’t behave like the dog (allllwwwaaaaays ready for a walk or a fetch, see this post) and go out looking at Christmas lights and have a great time. But, if you keep connected to your cat-like needs, when you get back home it’s okay to slip away for a cup of tea. Or, you can sneak away for a scan and some time to balance your sensing, feeling, thinking, and doing (remember this post?).

Hopefully, it’s not just you who can get some cat time? Maybe your guy can also have his moment to lick his paws and take a nap in front of a football game. And you? What would give you that feeling of sitting on the back of the sofa basking in the sun with a regal countenance? When you know what it is, you’ll have yet another tool for your self-soothing process.


2 thoughts on “A Healthy Stepmother . . . knows the season to feeeeline. (more self-soothing)

  1. Or maybe you’re a step mother like me who has recently felt forced to disengage. The holidays have never been totally joyful, not with bio-mom keeping everyone’s feathers ruffled and instilling in sd a sense of guilt if she actually has fun with her dad and me (heaven forbid). This year sd has reached her pre-teens and with it has come hormones, rolling eyes, downright rudeness, and full-on disrespect … for me. Sadly, dh has waved it off as “a phase” and refused to do anything about it, hence the disengagement. I’m not looking forward to any part of the holidays this year, which happens to include our wedding anniversary. If I could go to sleep on Thanksgiving Eve and re-awaken the day after New Years Day, I would certainly do so.

    • Oh Lola, you’d be in good company. What if we could all Rita Van Winkle ourselves into another domain and hang out there together until the craziness was over? This has got to be the hardest time of year I’ve ever lived through…..don’t know if you’ve been following the blog very long, but a couple of years ago at Thanksgiving, when everyone was giving thanks for health and nice stuff, I said I was thankful I hadn’t killed anyone. There was silence and then everyone laughed a nervous laugh, but not me.

      I can definitely relate to what you mean, and if your re-marriage is fairly new then the fact your anniversary is also during the holidays makes it double and triple hard. I’m so glad you commented. I think you’re going to need lots of the disengagement and the only thing I can think of to help support you is to validate that it is healthy for you to disengage and if you can think of it as replenishing and nourishing yourself for you and not that you are being driven away, maybe the alone time can have a more positive effect. I might also suggest to make sure you are away when you need to disengage . . . for example, one choice is to “check out” and walk around like a zombie clearing the table and preparing the next meal. Or, you could say, I need some time alone, I’ll be back at 4 to begin dinner and then leave the area where everyone is. Does that make sense? I tried the grit-my-teeth and check out part, and it’s just draining, even more than just admitting that the situation is terrible.

      I wish you all the best in self-soothing. I do think I can speak for many other stepmothers I know and say, you are definitely not alone. I’m pretty sure every stepmother has walked this path, it’s a function of the situation, not a reflection of how good or bad a person you are. And, no matter how many years you’ve been married, it’ll still be an issue, it just gets less startling after some years go by and you give yourself permission to dive into taking care of yourself.

      For everyone reading, despite my recommendation that the 10 Tips for Self-Soothing be non-primary (i.e. not food or clothes or drinks with girlfriends), I’ll say that over the holidays you should indulge in both. Primary soothers like lunch with a girlfriend once a week for the next 8 weeks combined with secondary soothers like taking a walk/hike or napping or doing a body scan should give you even more resources to self-sooth during this supposed-to-be-joyful-but-it’s-not-that-joyful time of year.

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