A Healthy Stepmother . . . cuts herself some slack and some other ideas.

For the New Stepmother 

  • Becoming a stepmother is like traveling to another country to live for a year and falling into a depression when you arrive. Though you were excited and amazed and in wonder at the adventure, there’s also loss and a feeling of not belonging. It seems pretty normal to have an adjustment period and that’s my concern: we don’t cut ourselves much slack.
  • Becoming a stepmother is like moving in with a houseful of strangers, except that if everyone was a stranger you’d all be on a level playing field.
  • A new stepmother often experiences the shock of being thrown in the deep end without knowing how to swim.
  • A stepmother will often find herself trying to love a pack of porcupines.


For the Been-There-Awhile Stepmother

  • A stepmother’s biggest hurdle is meeting and making friends with her own emotions.
  • The stepmother who can find, hold, and nurture the place inside her will always feel at home.
  • The stepmother who sees herself as a whole, complete person will fare well in any situation.
  • A smart stepmother builds a safety net.
  • A stepmother feels sad when things are sad, troubled when things are troubling, curious when things don’t make sense, and satisfied when things are good enough.


For the Well-Seasoned Stepmother 

  • A healthy stepmother embraces good enough.
  • A healthy stepmother learns to let sleeping dogs lie.
  • A healthy stepmother finds her breath before she hurls her voice.
  • A healthy stepmother lowers her expectations without letting go of her integrity.
  • A healthy stepmother finds a quality to respect about each of her husband’s children..

And, the one that started this whole blog . . . a healthy stepmother worries about filling her own shoes.

Anything you’d like to add? 

9 thoughts on “A Healthy Stepmother . . . cuts herself some slack and some other ideas.

  1. Thank you. Not sure where I’d fit into the schema, but it resonates nonetheless. I’m still indulging in magical thinking, but trying to hear and see the truth.

    • Whew Shelley, magical thinking is the tricky part. I keep reminding myself that it’s the expectations put on us by the languaging and images we are bombarded with of how we SHOULD be and not the realities that exist in front of us. If I can keep a good handle on the expectations, the pain of the process is much less. Of note, my husband had to also let go of his expectations that things be just-so. We are growing together toward a more mutual image of what our lives contain. Best to you!

  2. I love this! I am a new stepmother (been married a little over a year) and I’ve done the above. Moved to a new country and fallen into a depression? Did it! Been thrown into the deep end without knowing how to swim? Did it! Trying to love a pack of porcupines? Yes!!! And I love my husband so much, and want so much to love his children because they are a part of him, they all came to me as a package.

    I am a little lifted today because I know someone gets me. Thank you!!

    • BHall, hang in there…….you’re in a challenging phase. Sooooo many ideas out there of how you should be the perfect woman as if you are just this-enough or that-enough, then your new stepfamily will be just-perfect. Ugh…..I hope you’ll shrug that off and let yourself be an imperfect woman who has feelings and needs and know that we all know this is a tough thing to do. Do you have support in the form of other women who have stepchildren who will agree to not just sit around and gripe? I think that is an important distinction, you need to have support that is about looking at things with an accepting lens and not to put others down to make yourself feel better. Those griping kinds of support feel great in the moment, tho I’ve always felt a little dirty afterward, as if I used someone else’s misfortune to make myself feel better. I stopped that quickly. Anyway, dig back through, there are 3 years worth of ideas for you to experiment with. I’d suggest the self-soothing series (the single best thing you can invest time in learning how to do) and you can find that by putting self-soothing into the Search Window on the blog. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I especially like the one about letting sleeping dogs lie. Ahhhhhh! If only I had taken that in much earlier and let people and things just be how they were for the most part and focused on my own life!

  4. I’m just finishing year two. The ex-wife has brained washed the children not to share their life they live w/her. So, if you try to have a normal conversation with them of “how is life,” it can’t happen, they shut down and there is awkward silence. We walk around on a superficial plane. I’m learning that while the kids are with us I can have my own life. It’s taken these two years to figure this out. One has to take each day, one day at a time. Always looking for the good.

    • Welcome Laura, it takes what feels like forever, almost like a test of patience. I found a tiny thread of connection with each of my stepkids that vanishes when they are all together. Oddly, that has become enough. All the best to you.

      • Hmmm, you just shared an insight I thought I must only be imagining (“tiny thread…all together”). Helps to have validated what’s actually happening (as opposed to what’s “only” in your head). I have a friendly, fun time with my partner’s middle daughter at the stables, then wonder what changed when we’re back at the house with the 2 other siblings….context! Aha! Now, I will use your experience and wisdom (“become enough”) and try to find the goodness that was, and not be confused by the change in demeanour that follows. Cheers!

      • Ahhhh, I love that story. And horses, just like dogs, give you such a doorway in to share a world that isn’t about either one of you. Love, love, love.

        What I haven’t blogged about is the realization one day that the children are monitors of one another’s behavior. If that same child who is connected to you in the horse barn goes home and acts connected to you in your home, you can bet all hell will break loose. Often if there is any subtle alienation going on, even as simple as bashing (which isn’t simple at all, Divorce Poison), then the kids are beholden to be loyal to their mom. They have freedom when it is just one child with you that they will almost never have when they are in 2s or 3s. Knowing that has been a salve to my heart on many, many an occasion. Best to you…..from my dogs and I.

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