A stressed-out stepmom, misunderstood by her husband and mistreated by her step-kids, reaches out for support in an online forum. She describes her situation in detail – the step-kids, their ages, how often they come over. She describes how the kids complain about everything - the food, their activities, how bored they are. How their dad drops everything so that life revolves around the stepkids’ desires on those weekends together. There are no house rules, and no discipline. At the end of her post, the stepmom writes about her fears, feelings and frustrations: “I’m so alone, I feel like I don’t matter, and I’m afraid my relationship will fail because I don’t know how much more of this I can take”.
A Sea of Solutions.
Solutions and well-intentioned advice come pouring in – Talk to your husband about your feelings. – Try planning activities that you can all enjoy together ahead of time. – Let each family member pick an activity on a revolving basis every weekend. – Disengage and go out with your girlfriends on those weekends instead.
The advice received is endless, combined with occasional judgements about how ‘you signed up for this’ and ‘you’re letting this happen to you’, implying that somehow it’s the stepmoms fault and she should have known better.
But not a single one of those answers gets to the root of the problem – that the stepmom feels alone and fears her relationship will fail. Instead, this root of the problem is looked at as an afterthought, something that happens because of what is happening on the outside. I’ve seen this time and time again in online support groups.
A stepmom’s feelings and fears are often overlooked or minimized, with responses like “don’t take it personally” or “just let it go”.
But what if doing the opposite is the key to healing yourself and the situation? What if you shouldn’t let go, and should take it personally? That is, after all, what you’re doing anyways, isn’t it?
Well, I suggest you do just that, to the most-extreme sense of the word. Allow me to explain.
Don’t Let It Go.
Letting go implies that you simply ignore your feelings. It implies that your feelings are not important and that you are exaggerating by being angry, upset, or hurt.
This is just not true.
Your feelings do matter, and are of the utmost importance to your own life functioning. Working through your feelings allows you to show up as the best step mom you can be in your unique situation.
Take It Personally.
By ‘take it personally’, I mean that you make it about you and explore your negative feelings.
Look at what is being activated inside of you. Don’t overlook the feelings, ignore them or stuff them down. Instead, explore what is causing you to react this way. Explore how that reaction may be coming up in different parts of your life, especially in your past. Healing those feelings and fears may just be the solution to all your problems.
When you stuff down those negative emotions, they just accumulate inside of you until you can’t handle them anymore and explode.
A disclaimer: Taking it personally does NOT mean that you tell everyone about it, react from those negative feelings and cause more drama. It means you turn inwards and deal with your feeling first.
When you “take it personally”, you look inwards to work through those problems to resolve your role in what is happening. You can start with understanding your own emotions and reactions to what is happening. You can learn to understand what fears and beliefs may be driving your responses.
Once you clean up your role in what is happening, you are in a better place to decide what is best for you and your family. You can listen to your intuition, rather than the voice of fear, for those answers. After you deal with your own feelings and the limiting beliefs behind them, you are in a better place to act in an empowered way, rather than re-act emotionally to what is happening on the surface. It takes a lot of self-awareness to be able to do this.
For example, you may feel sad and rejected every time the kids show a lack of appreciation for what you do. The underlying problem may be that you don’t truly appreciate yourself. The underlying belief that you are not worthy of appreciation may be triggered every time your step-kids don’t say thank you. When you learn to appreciate yourself, others tend to follow suite. If you find creative ways to make your step-kids give thanks, you may still not feel appreciated unless you deal with your own limiting beliefs first.
You can come up with your own creative solutions to the problem. That’s not to say that the opinions and advice you receive are not valuable. However, if you receive that advice through the filter of denying your own fears and emotions, no external solution will ever be enough.
Those solutions you come up with may very well be disengaging and going out with your girlfriends, talking to your husband about your feelings, pre-planning activities, or a combination of the above. Those same answers that were offered up in the support group may indeed contain the solution you need.
The point is that when the answer comes from a self-fulfilled and empowered place within you, it’s then that you can achieve a true sense of accomplishment and peace as a stepmom. Rather than someone else telling you what to do in your desperate attempt to try anything and deny your own feelings, you can deal with your feelings first, then tune into your own inner-expert.
Your intuition can be your best friend and is there to support you in any moment. All you need to do it choose to believe in yourself and put your own emotional needs first, for the highest good of all those involved.
You can become emotionally resilient and learn to process your feelings rather than deny them. It’s then that you can achieve true peace despite whatever chaos is going on around you.
As a stepmom, you may reach a point in your family where you feel lost, confused and disconnected. In those moments, you may want someone to tell you what to do next. You may feel an urge to vent and ask for advice from family, friends, or even online stepmom communities. I encourage you to take a moment to journal, explore your own feelings, and see where this reaction within you is coming from. That doesn’t mean that it’s your fault or that you are to blame. It just means you’re willing to do your part to show up fully and completely to deal with the situation.
Have you ever experienced the inner-peace that comes from following your intuition? I’d love to hear about a situation where you dealt with your feelings first, tuned into your own inner expert, and found a creative solution to your problem. Now’s the time to brag, let’s hear all about it!
Need more support in the process your feeling? Try Anna's free workbook "Speak-up or Shut-up: A Stepmoms's guide to controlling the uncontrollable", available at her website www.annadeacosta.com
ANNA DE ACOSTA is a life coach and intuitive on a mission to guide stepmoms be the change they want to see in their families. She helps them overcome limiting beliefs through her Mindful Stepmom meditation album and at AnnaDeAcosta.com. An adult child of alcoholism and divorce, Anna views challenges as opportunities for growth and healing. Both a full-time stepmom and mom, she lives in Peru with the love of her life and their four children.