Sounds kind of obvious, right? I mean, everybody wants to be happy. All stepmothers want to have the best stepparenting experience possible.
The trouble is that once we become a stepmother our priorities often shift—slowly, and quietly, and sometimes even without our realizing it—from being happy to being a good stepmom.
Where we used to foucs on our work, interests, and friends, we're now spending our time trying to make everyone else in our new family happy. We're picking up groceries during our lunch break, canceling movie night with the girls, and leaving work early to be home in time to make dinner. We make meals we can’t stand because our stepkids are picky eaters. We give up our weekend yoga classes because our husband hates going to his kids’ soccer games by himself. We constantly fret over whether or not we should be disciplining our stepchildren, and we spend a lot of time telling our friends about how badly they treat us. We dwell on the annoying things their mother does and space off in meetings wondering if she does them on purpose.
Certainly putting the needs of our family members before our own is healthy in moderation. Compromise makes for a healthy family.
But when our mind is always ruminating about our stepchildren or their troublesome mother and when we’re constantly devoting our time and brain space to them instead of to ourselves we end up feeling exhausted, frustrated, and burned out.
Instead, we need to retain a strong focus on our needs after we form our new family. Clearly we can (and should) work on our relationships with our stepchildren, but we need to do so in a way that asks “how can we get along together?” instead of “how can I make them happy?”
Part of this process involves managing our partner’s and stepchildren’s expectations of us. A second, equally important part involves managing our expectations of ourselves and our attitudes about the situation. More later this week.