I was watching Dr. Phil the other day; a show about overwhelmed moms. They talked about everything from discipline to co-sleeping to the expectation of having to do it all as moms. One mom confessed, “Most days I hate being a mom and just want to run away.” Dr. Phil replied with this question, “How many of you moms in the audience can relate to this mom, please stand up?” The entire audience of women stood up. Dr. Phil then assured her that she was definitely not alone and proceeded to tell her that she needed to learn when to let go, allow her husband to assume more responsibility and take some time for herself. He assured her that the world or her family would not fall apart if she did those things as we all have to recharge our systems, from time to time, in order to maintain our sanity. “Children need a mother, not a martyr,” he said.
Dr. Phil is right. It certainly isn’t uncommon for many moms to feel overwhelmed and at times, feel like hanging a “FOR SALE BY OWNER” sign on their children’s chests and place them in the driveway. As moms, we often do feel the need to do all and be all for and to everyone. Our emotions cause us to go overboard in wanting everyone to be okay that we often times allow those emotions to guide our decision making. In the process, we neglect to take time for ourselves. Can all of you moms out there relate to what I’m saying?
Now here’s a thought: STEPMOMS OFTEN FEEL THE SAME EXACT WAY, except the feeling is magnified times 10! Stepmothers feel the pressure and expectations from all angles; their husband, his kids, the ex-spouse and her kids as well (if she has any). As a result, some have a tendency to react to the emotional stresses within the stepfamily by becoming over-involved. It’s called the Super Stepmom Syndrome.
Stepmothers who suffer from Super Stepmom Syndrome step into the marriage trying to do it all. She wants his kids to automatically love her; the ex-wife to be her best friend; her husband to realize what a fabulous mother she is to his kids and EVERYONE to be one big happy family. She wants to be involved in every single aspect of her husband and his kids’ lives. She doesn’t want to be left out of any decision, whether it directly affects her or not and she wants to be recognized for being the mother of the year; the one who is keeping the family together and at peace. Her intentions are good, but she can be just as forceful and intrusive as an intrusive and forceful ex-wife!
Super stepmoms need to first learn that they are no more entitled to every single area of their stepchildren’s lives than the ex-wife is. There are certain decisions that will not require your input. For example, you are not automatically entitled to be at every single parent teacher conference just because you are married to your stepchildren’s father. If you are invited, then that’s fine. But if not, don’t push your way in because you think you’re the new sheriff in town. Your spouse can inform you of anything that you need to know regarding the conference. Otherwise, let the biological parents handle that situation.
The next thing super stepmoms need to learn is how to relax and the art of when to make a point, and when it’s not necessary to do so. For example, if your husband invites you to that school conference, but his ex-spouse has a major problem with it, then step back because it’s not a battle that you just HAVE to fight. It’s the super stepmom’s insecurities that make her prone to fight for that sense of control. She might fear that if she isn’t involved in every single decision with her husband and his ex-spouse that her husband might do something stupid; something that she might not be able to live with. Additionally, she might even fear that she might wind up looking like the bad guy if she doesn’t prove that she loves her husband’s kids, and therefore wants to be involved in every aspect of their lives. All of these misguided fears and insecurities often end up backfiring and causing her a significant amount of undue stress.
Just like those moms on Dr. Phil, super stepmoms need to realize that you don’t have to be everything to everyone in order to prove your love or keep an illusion of control. It’s healthy to just focus on yourself sometimes, and the more issues that you can let go of and allow the biological parents to handle, the better you will be for your stepfamily. Like Dr. Phil said, children need a mother/parental figure, not a martyr. Letting go and stepping back, in certain areas, doesn’t mean that you are a horrible step-parent. Remember, that every parent, including step-parents, need to recharge, from time to time in order to maintain their sanity. Ericka Lutz, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Stepparenting, offered some great tips for the super stepmom in her book.
- Don’t take over.
- Don’t try to do and be everything; you’ll only fail.
- Try to do less and you’ll achieve more.
- Be a duck and let society’s expectations roll off your back like water. Nobody out there knows the reality of your life.
- Work to build a relationship with your stepchildren. Don’t pretend like there’s a wonderful relationship when there’s not.
- You cannot change EVERYTHING.
- In certain areas, remember that you might have some influence, but no control.
Relax, relate and realize that learning the art of letting go can be a huge stress reliever. Work on building trust with your spouse so that you can allow him to handle areas in which your involvement is not required, instead of trying to control handle every situation. You will find that it enables you to be who you NEED to be, not who you or society thinks you HAVE to be in your stepfamily, without losing yourself in the process.