A Healthy Stepmother . . . gives it time.

Maybe you’re like me and you grew up knowing how to make things happen. You learned to watch and listen and pay attention to the nuance. Then you used the info you had gathered to plan and carry out a strategy to solve the problem or create something new. As far as I can tell, most of us learned this detailed way of noticing, planning, and fixing.

You grew up and went on about your life. Maybe you got married and had kids or didn’t have kids. You divorced. Then met the man you’re with now. You married and anticipated using your well-honed skills of making things happen.

Instead, suddenly the world went sideways.

Franz Jüttner (1865–1925): Illustration from S...

Franz Jüttner (1865–1925): Illustration from Sneewittchen, Scholz’ Künstler-Bilderbücher, Mainz 1905 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As if someone waved a magic wand, all the world stopped moving in the direction you were going and began moving in almost exactly the opposite direction. Your strategies didn’t work and you flailed and struggled and tried harder and the world kept moving past you as if you weren’t there.

You watched in disbelief, then in anger, then with sarcasm and tears.

The world kept moving as if you weren’t there.

Finally, you stopped. You waited. You sat down and contemplated whether you could really do this. Maybe this remarriage-with-kids thing was too much. Maybe you shouldn’t have said I do. Maybe you should have known what you were getting into. Maybe this was really all your fault.

I think it’s in that moment, when you stop and reassess, that you actually begin a process that will create a place for you in your new family. That moment comes after you’ve caught your breath and can see that it isn’t your place to make life good for everyone; husband, kids, or kids’ mother. That moment comes when you live and act as though it isn’t your job to try so hard even though you’ve been trying really, really hard. The moment comes when you forgive yourself for trying so hard and accept that it was what you learned as a kid. You more fully understand that the acceptance you gained as a teen and young woman for being so good actually cemented the trying so hard as a strategy you would later need to let soften.

In that stop, wait, and breathe moment, that is when you can let things unravel. You can let your fingers sift the problems, so you can tell which ones are actually problems. You can let your thoughts swirl and swirl and finally come to rest and those that refuse to rest, well, they should likely be dealt with. You can let your spirit be assured that you are good enough just as you are. You can listen and feel for your physical self to find a resting place.

Finally, when all systems calm and come to a rest, make a note for yourself that this is your starting place. This is home base. This is the return from outer space place that waits for you when all hell breaks loose.

You can move out from that place deep inside you and offer what you will, but monitor carefully so you never give more than you hold and never more than you have.

When you get to the stop, wait, breathe moment, you’ll be ready for the letting go and the accepting what is, including the slow pace of finding your place. You can then look at your life and realize that you do have skills to bring to these relationships and that to support those skills you must learn to give your life time and do even less, more gently, and with softness.

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5 thoughts on “A Healthy Stepmother . . . gives it time.

  1. You are welcome, Shelley & Marianne. I know I fought it, I wanted it to happen fast and yesterday and somehow judged myself that it couldn’t happen sooner. But, no one is the savior and relationships can’t happen overnight, no matter what kind of a “to-go” society we are living in. Ahhhh…..in many ways that is reassuring, isn’t it? That it’s NOT about you or me, it’s about a process. Woot!

  2. I have just found you. I have been a stepmother for 15 years. I feel very alone as everyone else I know has children the age of my own two with my husband (11 and 14) but no one else has a stepchild (20). I have beautiful, loving, supportive friends and family but they just don’t get it. They don’t get why it is not black and white. Why when I have had it, I can’t just walk away. Why I keep trying and forgiving and putting my stepchild before my own two children because she needs someone like me so much. And now, today, I have been knocked down yet again. After all this time, I thought we’d done it- we have formed a good relationship (my stepchild and me) but now I feel slapped. I want to run away from my life and take just my husband and two daughters. And I feel so guilty for it. I have searched for “stepmother blogs” but didn’t find what I wanted, Until maybe today. Is your blog new? I want to look for the first post and start from there. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    • Hello Lana, welcome. This blog is 3 years old, going back to December 2009. You can use the search feature to pull up the ones about self-soothing, or the 10 Essentials by title. There’s also a particular issue your comment makes me think of . . . when you get close to a stepchild and then feel pushed away. It’s so tricky, because those late teen and early adult years are such a time of confusion for a young person. They get close to you and feel really good and then go visit their mom and come away feeling guilty. If they really, really care about you, it’s almost as if they’ve had an affair and breached the trust of their mother. I have such huge compassion for them, AND I always feel cut to the quick, as if there was a knife inserted in my chest. Rather dramatic image, but each time it takes my breath away and then I go back to my work of breathing, expanding, soothing, and making sure I’m not cutting myself off from me or my husband or anyone else that is welcoming me. Tough, tough, tough place to walk. In the comments on the posts, you’ll find many here who are in a similar place as you.

      And, a note…..I started this blog because I wasn’t finding what I needed online. I didn’t want venting, I didn’t want name-calling. I didn’t want platitudes or someone saying if I did x, y, or z then I’d be woman enough and my life would all be better. None of that made me feel a bit better. I wanted understanding of this tough situation and enough support to feel I could pull myself together in my own messy way and begin again each day. I sincerely hope you find a bit of that here.

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