Protecting The Stepmother’s Mental Health

cryingwomansmThere are over 19 million people walking around depressed today, in America.  A large number of those depressed 19 million people are  mothers.  Many experts and society as a whole, acknowledge the fact that moms are the glue that holds the family together, and are often overworked and overextended. As a matter of fact, they sell t-shirts with a quote that says, “If mama ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy.” Television experts like Dr. Phil and Supernanny, Jo Frost, often encourage moms to take some time for themselves, learn to say NO (without guilt) and not feel bad for occasionally having feelings of dislike toward their children. They express that it’s just the resentment of being pulled in so many different directions that causes those types of feelings, and as a mom you need to set some boundaries in order to have balance. We’ve all heard this before, right moms?

That being said, as I stated in my Super Stepmom Syndrome article, what we don’t see a lot of is the same support for stepmothers. Historically, stepmothers have just been expected to accept any and everything because they chose to marry a man with children, and therefore chose to marry his kids and his ex-wife. It’s something that they shouldn’t complain about and realize that it’s not about them, but the kids who are torn apart by divorce.  We’ve all heard this before, right stepmoms? My question is then why shouldn’t mom be expected to just suck it up? After all, she chose to have children in the first place and it’s supposed to be about the kids, right? Why does she get to complain and then receive sympathy with kids that she chose to create, but stepmom has to just suck it up with kids who are not her own?

According to Linda Nielsen, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at Wake Forest University, stepmothers feel more stress than stepfathers and are overall the most stressed member of the stepfamily. In her research she indicates that 4 factors contribute to this stress: (1) our society’s attitudes about step/mothers and motherhood; (2) the mother’s and stepmother’s personalities, attitudes and circumstances; (3) the father’s attitudes and his relationship with the mother; and (4) the stepchildren’s gender and mental health.

As I stated above, stepmothers are expected to just accept everything without expressing themselves and are often told that they are evil and wicked if they do lose a grip every now and then. They are often battling an intrusive ex-wife as research indicates that ex-wives remain bitter for longer (years after) the divorce and are in fact the most intrusive. Their husband is still dealing with his guilt over the divorce and is often times an overcompensating, disney land dad and refuses to set healthy boundaries for his children and/or his ex-wife. Finally, age and gender definitely play a role in the step-parent/stepchild relationships in the stepfamily. For example, studies show that the stepmother/stepdaughter relationship is the most problematic relationship in the stepfamily, and can contribute to the dissolution of the remarriage and family if not handled properly.

All of the above mentioned and more, as you can imagine, creates a significant amount of stress for the stepmother and has enormous potential to send them to a downward spiral of depression. Being expected to please everyone without being able to express how you feel is an unrealistic and totally unfair expectation to place on ANYONE! Stepmothers need to have their role acknowledged and supported if we are to work at decreasing the alarming rate of second divorces in America. She can’t be expected to walk on eggshells, especially in her own home, just to pacify everyone else.  It will only leave her feeling totally isolated, resentful and depressed, just like those mothers that I mentioned above. The stepmother needs support, too; support from her husband; support from her friends and family and support from society as a whole!

sadwomansm1I realize that everyone in the stepfamily has their challenges and own crosses to bear; however, the stepmother receives less support and understanding than ANYONE in the stepfamily and that just has to change.  Everyone else is allowed to act out and freely express themselves without judgment, because society has more sympathy for them, and historically, stepmoms have been deemed as wicked. We sympathize with dad because he doesn’t get to see his children as often. We sympathize with the kids because they’ve just experienced the loss of their family. We sympathize with ex-wife because she is just trying to “protect” her children.  We then we dump all of those emotions, responsibility and aftermath of a divorce that she didn’t create, mind you, on the stepmother and say, “now you deal with it and you better do it all with a smile. There’s no wonder that so many stepmoms are reaching for antidepressants and anxiety medication. And we wonder why so many are just angry all the time.

Hopefully, with stepmoms like Wednesday Martin, author of Stepmonster, and myself included,  speaking out and encouraging other stepmothers to do the same, things will slowly but surely begin to change. Stepmothers should feel free to say NO, just as we encourage mothers to do, without guilt or fear of being labeled as wicked. It must be understood that these women feel overwhelmed as well. It must be understood that unrealistic demands should not be placed on them. It must be understood, by husbands, that they need YOU to step up and be the partner that they married. It must be understood that these are women with feelings, and although they may not have directly experienced the divorce with you, they often times have to deal with the aftermath, and they need some support and understanding, too! They deserve to have a voice and a right to be heard in the stepfamily.

Stepmothers, I am once again encouraging you to aim for balance in your stepfamily life. You do not have to be everything to everyone, heal everyone’s pain and/or be everyone’s punching bag in order to be a good stepmother. You shouldn’t be expected or allow yourself to sacrifice your own mental health for the sake of everyone else’s. Below are ways in which you can protect your sanity and still be a good stepmother.

  1. Learn to say NO! If it’s your husband’s weekend to have his kids, but you both know he’s going to be at work all weekend, it’s okay to express that you need a break and would like for your husband to choose another weekend. His ex-wife should understand that the primary reason for establishing visitation is so that they kids can spend time with their dad and not you. You are not bound by the visitation order, so if you need a moment, request it and then take it – WITHOUT GUILT!
  2. Create a co-parenting plan with your husband regarding household rules and consequences, which you both agree on, and then stick to it. Children shouldn’t be allowed to use the divorce as a lifelong crutch. Allowing them to avoid rules and responsibility because YOU feel guilty as a parent is not parenting and only creates more problems for the child and the stepfamily.  Co-parenting plans help avoid conflict with the kids and your husband regarding discipline, and help you and your spouse create and present a more unified front. It also helps to re-create some normalcy in their lives again.
  3. Constantly work on building and maintaining couple strength. Schedule date nights with your husband. Marriage is work and you have to work hard at remaining connected, especially in the stepfamily. During these times, make it a rule that you will not discuss ex-spouses, kids, stepkids or drama. Date night is a DRAMA FREE ZONE!
  4. Learn to let some things go. Remember that you don’t have to be involved in every single aspect of your stepchildren’s lives.  For example, it’s okay to let mom and dad attend the parent teacher conference. It really isn’t necessary for you to be there. Instead of seeing it as some sort of slap in the face because you help with homework, too, use this time to either have some alone time with your own children or get your nails done, if you don’t have any children of your own.
  5. Accept the fact that you don’t need to be perfect. You’ll be surprised at how relieved you feel when you have more realistic expectations of yourself than what is imposed on you by public opinion.
  6. Realize and accept that you WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PLEASE EVERYONE! Your primary focus should be on your immediate family. No matter what some say, you did not marry your husband, his kids AND his ex-wife, and suggesting this is only implying that it is your job to keep them ALL happy – NOT. You married your husband and you are the ones who have to build a solid team in order to raise your children and live happily ever after. If ex-wife doesn’t like it – TOUGH. There are two people in our marriage, not three or four. I’ve never seen a husband, wife and ex-wife rocking on their front porch when they are 80 years old. Ex-spouses are co-parenting partners, but they are not and shouldn’t be allowed to be participants in your marriage.
  7. Finally, if you feel you are depressed seek the help of a medical doctor and then call a stepfamily counselor to help get you back on track to getting some balance back in your life again. It’s okay to ask for help!

My mother always told me that how you start out in any relationship is often times how you’ll end up. If you allow someone to walk all over you from the very beginning then that will be their expectation of you. She has always encouraged me to set my own boundaries and expectations of myself and others. So stepmothers, don’t start off allowing your husband, his kids or the ex-wife to think that you are going to be their punching bag. Setting boundaries for yourself and others is not wicked. As a matter of fact, it’s encouraged and expected in order for everyone to have some sort of peace of mind. And if an ex-wife or a husband has a problem with it, they are the ones who need to be examined, not you! The stepfamily can work and thrive, but the adults have to first have the same goal and be supported in their roles, even the stepmother.

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Comments

  1. Anyone who has read this post please take the information to heart. I am no longer a stepmom because of a lack of support from my husband. After 7 years we are parting ways because he will not support our family and is driven by guilt from his ex and teen children to make his decisions. I wish I would have been wiser in the beginning but my need to nurture everyone took over and I ended up with a man and 3 children with many problems directly related to the mother. The mother never goes away, even if she fades off for a while and life is great. She is always there and if you do not have a complete unified stand as parents in your home, she and eventually the children will come between you.
    I am angry with my husband and maybe will be sad later at the loss, but I am crushed at the loss of my children. None of this is their fault but yet they pay the price.
    Thanks for listening.

  2. Hi Melanie,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment on my post. We really appreciate it!

    It breaks my heart when I hear stories like yours, not only because I hurt for the stepmother and the children, but because yet another stepfamily has been torn apart by something that I believe is completely preventable. You’re right, the mother never goes away, but even the intrusive ex-wife cannot tear a family apart unless she is allowed to do so. And yes, there are PLENTY of husbands out there like yours -mine WAS one of them, but with counseling, effective communication and hard work, he was able to see and understand that his ex-wife and her emotions were not his to own, for any reason. And, when I learned to let go and realize that the issues of his divorce weren’t mine to own and set boundaries for myself, I was able to tolerate a lot more until we successfully worked through our issues.

    I’m so sorry to hear that you and your husband are parting ways, but the optimistic me is hoping that you’ll somehow work it out. Until then, please feel free to stop by anytime!

    Warmly,

    *Kela*

  3. How I wish the people around me could understand what I go through. How I wish my man was better at setting up boundaries and how I wish his ex would work with me instead of against me… It’s been a year and nothing as changed. I have been home for months from work because of a major depression and am now moving out… I just don’t see how I can go on feeling so awful and walking on eggshells all the time. I did not need 4 different types of pills before and I enjoyed my work and my life. I was just hoping for love and for a family and let me tell you, I had no idea what I was getting into!

    Thanks for this article. It really does help to know I’m not crazy, that this is what other people go through and to have someone recognize how difficult it is! I have placed this article on my blog as well to share with the few stepmothers I have befriended…

  4. Alexandra,

    Yours is another story that truly breaks my heart because, on some level, I can relate to how you feel. In the first few years of my relationship and marriage with my husband, I had my bags packed on several occasions. I was determined to leave before my husband, his ex-wife, their son and their issues drove me and my son completely nuts! Why did I stay? Because I truly love my husband and our relationship, when kept separate from all his divorce issues, was REALLY fantastic. So, the question I asked myself was how do I keep those issues separate so that they didn’t constantly poison our relationship? I then began to ask myself what I was doing to contribute to such issues, and quickly realized that I fell into that Super Stepmom category! I stepped into our newly formed family with certain expectations that were imposed on me by public opinion. There was a certain way that I thought I had to act in order to be a good stepmom. It was nothing my husband ever told me that I HAD to do. It was just expected because I never challenged it. I only complained about it. It wasn’t his fault because this whole thing was new to him, too! He was just going along with what he thought the “mother” of the house should do, too. It wasn’t until I stopped complaining about not being heard or valued or walked on and instead started to verbalize what I would and would not put up with, that things started to change. It turns out that my husband was really receptive to what I was saying, and agreed with the solutions that I came up with to fix our issues.

    Our co-parenting plan took care of any discipline issues. We realized that we weren’t just automatically going to be on the same page. We had to discuss discipline issues and come up with solutions together. Often times, stepcouples spend most of their time fighting about disagreeing instead of coming up with viable solutions.

    Lastly, for you, it has only been a year and that first year (the first several years) are the toughest for the stepfamily. There is hope and it can work. But in the meantime, protect your mental health by doing some of the things I suggested in this article. Say NO, be clear about what you will and won’t do, take some “me” time and clearly communicate with your significant other. Finally, learn how to and when to just step back and allow your significant other and his ex-wife to handle such issues; even if you completely disagree. Unless it directly affects you, you have to learn when to say, “not my kid, not my problem.” It may sound harsh, but the alternative for many stepmoms is a world of depression and/or anxiety.

    I wish you all the best!

    *Kela*

  5. I tend to agree with the no. 1 factor adding to the stress of stepmom which you mentioned as the society’s attitude about stepmotherhood. We have a huge statistics of blending families and less support groups for them. I wonder what and how society (or the government) can address this.

  6. Much of what everyone has said applies to me, the alientation, isolation especially. I married a widower and his wife was ill for most of the children’s childhods, especially for the younger one, whose mother first became ill when she was two and died when she was eight. Of course, the late wife has achieved sainthood, while the children have little real experience of amother- as in one that has a say in how they behave. It’s really wierd, as if they want me to be mum and suddenly they don’t, usually when they see that I may say no. The girl is especially difficult, because I have taken her daddy away from her. She becomes very withdrawn and cold, won’t eat my cooking, stays away at friends all the time. Then she will veer back, particularly when she wants something, like a haircut that she can’t easily persuade her dad to give her. She is now 17 and i’ve been involved with her from 12. Her older brother is a bit easier, but very distant. Maybe its partly family differences, they are not the warmest of people, any of them, on first achquaintance. There was a lot of family hostility towards me. (and still is some). My husband is very loving and works hard to understand, but can’t overcome the coldness. I find it very difficult to talk to his kids, they remain cold and distant most of the time. I get very depressed as this sin’t just the earlydays, and seems to get worse. I do constantly blame myself for my lack of attachment to them, and I feel increasingly angry around them and simply can’t wait for them to leave, which is awful. They are not bad, just silent and resentful. So am I! I have two sons of my own, the elder has left home and he gets on OK with his stepsiblings, but my younger one doesn’t – especially with his stepsister who has been quietly mean to him. She is an expert at being mean without her dad noticing. Her dad sees her ignring me, and tells me that I’m doing just the same. True. How to break this cycle? Her friends are really horrible to me, they rarely come over, she always goes to them, so I know that she is telling them about how horrible I am. We went on a hellish holiday last summer- never again. Yes, it did involve four teenagers with problems ( plus one friend to appease the girl’s demands), so was it likely to be fun? No. However, the two girls were vile to me, the friend obviously egging girl on to get all touchy feely with dad and completely ignore me. I felt I would burst with anger and jealousy. And I was paying for the privelege of their company! My husband does understand that I don’t have the feelings for his children that he does, but he doesn’t really want to spend time with his kids either, probably because they moan about me or their stepbrothers every time. I feel constantly that I’ve failed to come up to everyone’s expectations and this really eats into my sense of self-worth. I am very isolated, and don’t havemany friends. It’s hard to share your life when there is so much that you have to hide and when the atmosphere at home is often polar. I often dread coming home or being at home when I know the stepkids are there. It’s always a relief when they’re out.

  7. Helen,

    Thanks for sharing your story and please know that is a common one. You are not alone! Often times, many step-parents feel as if their journey through stepfamily life should be easier if one of the biological parents is deceased, but unfortunately, they discover that this is rarely the case. As a matter of fact, it can actually be harder. Those loyalty binds that children experience when their parents divorce and are alive are still there (perhaps even more) when one parent is dead. Not only are they hurting because they prematurely lost a parent; which is extremely difficult for a child, but they don’t want to dishonor their deceased parent’s memory by getting close to a step-parent.

    The question remains, how do you deal with it? First off, never blame yourself. You should be relieved to know that in most stepfamily cases, especially when one of the biological parent’s is deceased, the step-parent can be as loving and nurturing as she can but it rarely changes the actions of the children who are hurting because they will never see their parent again. There is no way you can be super stepmom, meet everyone’s expectations and make everyone happy all or even most of the time, so don’t try. I encourage you to indulge in some much needed “me” time and don’t blame yourself for not being able to “fix” something that you didn’t break yourself. Be understanding of your stepchildren, but set boundaries for them as well. Sit down with your husband to develop a co-parenting plan that consists of rules, expectations and consequences for the children. Include things like respecting each other, no back talk, bed time, homework time, etc. and make sure you inform the kids of the new house rules. Lastly, make sure you and your husband carve out monthly (at least) couple time to ensure that you maintain some couple strength. What’s important is that you don’t allow the kids to use their mother’s death as an excuse for bad behavior. Be understanding, yes, but don’t do away with rules and expectations and accept bad behavior.

    I hope this helps, Helen. Please feel free to visit our site for more helpful information and if there is anything I can do to help you through your journey, please let me know.

    *Kela*
    kela@blendedfamilysoapopera.com

  8. Adrienne says:

    Hi,

    I appreciate this post and was just wondering if anyone had any constructive advice about HOW to better handle being a stepmum?

    I have a 10 year old stepson and 13 year old stepdaughter. My partner and I have a 4 month old son.

    I’m 40 years old and my biological clock exploded last year. My partner didn’t want anymore children and I was in the process of going through IVF, using donor sperm, because I wanted to be a mother very much. My partner and I broke up through the process.

    Because of complications, I had nearly four hours of abdominal surgery in order to prepare my body for IVF and during my recovery my partner decided he did want to have children with me and fortunately I got pregnant right away. Unfortunately, he changed his mind about wanting to have a family with me but I was already pregnant.

    Although I had a dream pregnancy and subsequently gave birth to a very happy, healthy little boy, homelife has been very upsetting and stressful. We have tried to make it work and are still together however I’m really struggling with the whole ‘blended family’ situation.

    His two older children are his main priority, which I completely respect and understand, but I would appreciate some input as to where my son and I are supposed to fit in to all of this?

    What are some tools people have used to make a happy life from such a bad start? How do my partner and I make a life for ourselves that is not always in constant conflict about his kids? (They are reasonably good kids and although I have a lovely relationship with the 13 year old girl, I sincerely struggle to love/like his 10 year old boy.) I appreciate they have a rough trot not having Mum and Dad together however the boy plays on this and his behaviour and attitude is difficult to live with the majority of the time. Please be aware I try and be understanding, compassionate and loving towards them but inside I’m feeling resentful and wondering how I got myself into this mess!

    This is all coupled with the fact that I’ve been told I might be suffering from PND and I’m in the process of seeking medical attention to manage this. Whereas I used to go into reclusion previously when I was depressed, this is not an option anymore because there is nowhere to go and I will be damned if I allow children to be submitted to some ‘depressed crazy lady’ in their own home. We have them one week on, one week off and when the kids are here we play happy families and put off talking about or coping with ‘my condition’ or issues relating to my partner’s children until the week they are not here.

    My partner is at a loss to know what to do with me and we’re both miserable. (We don’t get the kids until tomorrow so my partner has left me at home for the day to sort my head out before the kids get here and the week starts all over again.)

    Some tips would be greatly appreciated.

    Regards,
    A

  9. Wikkid stepmum says:

    Thank you for this great article. Luckily I’m with a man who got a lot of this upfront, and in addition to a stepfamilies course we took soon after moving in together, we’ve had a lot of fortunate accidents in setting such boundaries in our family life. His boys do comment on my ‘me time’ and doing things without them, but I figured if I set that up from the start they’d come to expect it. It’s not even 18 months of living together yet, but things are going well (with the occasional glitch of course, just to keep things interesting!). This article will be a good one to keep on hand when those inevitable glitches occur.

  10. I think that in the years I’ve lived I’ve never felt so depressed as I do now. Having to deal with a psycho ex-wife, my boyfriend’s child support is still in court, his fustration with the whole process, not having a social life, the two children and the question of WHEN DOES IT GET BETTER? I’m now starting to read the Single Girls Guide to marrying a man, his kids, and his ex wife and so far it has helped me ALOT. I don’t feel so much anger and sadness when he snaps or when the psycho starts calling (when he does not have the kids). I’m contemplating taking anti-depressants just to help me get through this whole phase of courts, visitations,and the changes of my whole world. I have a whole new level of respect to the Stepmothers out there. :) There is so much to jugle and NO HELP. Specially with a man who believes that a woman is responsible for cooking, cleaning, working and at 9pm finish it all with a smile in her face. I’ll wish for all of us to be blessed with PATIENCE and lot’s of it.

  11. Seriously, this article is like a balm to my exhausted heart. Thank you for the great article.

    “She can’t be expected to walk on eggshells, especially in her own home, just to pacify everyone else. It will only leave her feeling totally isolated, resentful and depressed….”

    Absolutely true. Don’t know what to do, feel like crying all the time – lost interest in most things, been married 6 months.

  12. Thanks for commenting, PK, Dania and Wikkid Stepmom. I’m sorry to hear about how you’re feeling at the moment, but I hope the preceding comments offer some consolation in knowing that you are not alone. If you ever need someone to just listen, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email, at anytime.

    ~Kela
    kela@blendedfamilysoapopera.com

  13. Thank you for being so supportive of step-moms. I am both a mother and a step-mom and both are equally as hard. However, you are so right when you say the step-mom is expected to suck it up and take a back seat to the mom.

    I am lucky, I have a husband who does not place me in the back seat which as you know will cause issues with the mom. My husbands exe is a good mother (in her own ways) but has spent the past three years trying to tell us how to do things an how wrong we are in our parenting practices. It got so bad, that we finally had to completely cut her off.

    Once we cut her out of our lives, I had a constant burden of people telling me (including the ex) that we must co-parent. I am here to say they are wrong. While co-parenting is the preferred choice, sometimes that is just not possible. You can imagine the relief I found when I discovered a term that described the actions my husband and I were taking. It is called parallel parenting and that phrase has saved me.

    If you want to hear more about my story and parallel parenting, you can read about it at http://daytodaywoman.com/2011/02/09/parallel-parenting-the-phrase-that-saved-me/

    Thanks again for standing up for all of us step-moms. We are not the wicked step-mothers that mothers make us out to be.

    ~Carrie

  14. Carrie,

    THank you for stopping by and commenting. By the way, I LOVE your blog! Keep up the good work.

    Diane

  15. Thank you for this. I posted on my blog using some (most) of this article (with credit and links, of course!)… I hope that’s ok.

    I really needed this today. Found you at the perfect time. <3

  16. Annalise,

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out our site. I just went to your blog and I love it! Keep up the good work!

    Diane & Kela

  17. Annalise,

    I’m so glad that the article helped. Thanks for stopping by! And, wow…I love Sweet Anna’s! Every recipe just had my mouth over here watering. Oh and your family is the absolute cutest.

    ~Kela

  18. I cannot thank you enough for this article and following comments, I seriously thought this morning that I was the only one experiencing these feeling of isolation, worthlessness, maddening anger and resentment. Have been in tears all day and then I read this, it made me feel hopeful for the first time in a long time. Am going to try and have my partner read this in an attempt to articulate my feelings, as I haven’t been able to do so without becoming so angry that anything I say is written off as the rants of a mad woman.

  19. It would also be nice to have more support for those stepmothers who’s PARTNERS have custody, rather than the mother. My husband has custody of his boys, as their mother didn’t want it, and he both works and goes to college full time. I give up a lot to help him raise them, mostly willingly, yet have a lot of these same feelins and issues. It would be great if society would see how important a stepmother can be, and how hard a job it is.

  20. Grace,

    I totally agree with you. Unfortunately, the role of the stepmother is the most underappreciated. However, in our work and in our coaching practice, I hear more and more children/teens/older stepchildren that tell me how much gratitude they have for their stepmother and all that she has or is doing for them. Hang on and keep doing a great job. Your stepchildren need you! Thank you for stopping by and feel free to come by anytime!

    Peace & Blessings,
    Diane

  21. Grace,

    Diane is right, we do come across so many grown children of stepfamilies who really grow to honor and appreciate their stepmothers in the end. However, you can’t allow that to be your sole motivator or you will fall into the Super Stepmom Syndrome trap. It is equally important for you to be good to yourself or you will be of no use to them. It’s okay to say no sometimes to both your stepchildren, children and husband. Here’s the revelation: It’s more important for YOU to realize how hard you work at being a stepmother and how much you sacrifice than it is for society to realize it. Once you truly acknowledge that then you can begin to feel deserving of rewarding yourself with some much needed “me” time (on a regular basis) and thereby set your expectations of your role.

    Thanks for stopping by,

    ~Kela

  22. I’m with Grace. This is a great article and offers a lot of solid advice for any stepmom. However, like the majority of resources out there for stepmoms who unwittingly walked into a minefield of confusing, conflicting, and complicated critical and crucial family dynamics, this is geared to the joint custody or visitation-only step-mom.

    The step-mom who takes on the whole package -for better or worse- gets (at best) 2 days a month on average to spend with her husband. She doesn’t get very many date nights, and feeding a healthy marital relationship becomes difficult if not impossible when trying to meet the obligations of her life pre-raising children (that she did not have years or even months to prepare for) and making sure to be Super Step Mom. (Note: unhealthy or not, when you love your stepchildren and realize it is no fault of their own that their biological parent doesn’t prioritize them and/or otherwise treats them poorly, it is a battle with nature itself — and inside your own self — to deny doing everything in your power to try to help them overcome the infinite list of issues she burdened and continues to saddle these fragile children with.)

    I don’t know if it’s by the grace of God or pure dumb luck that my family and I haven’t parted ways, but I can say that more resources need to be available for what I like to call people like myself who became “insta-mom” when they said I do. At a time where even local, state, and federal governments are recognizing the breakdown of the family unit is directly linked to many other problems in our society, AND blended/stepfamilies outnumber nuclear families, I am astounded at the lack of resources for the people overwhelmed and sinking fast in these situations.

    It is my full intention to use what resources I can find, and I invite insight/advice from others in similar situations to join me, to create a site similar to http://www.stepmothersmilk.com but is targeted more for full-time stepmothers. Feel free to contact me at myzzeri.in.happiness@gmail.com if you’d like to contribute or if you have sources to recommend. I’m all ears!!! Thanks to Kela and Wednesday and all the stepmoms out there who have taken the path less traveled and survived albeit scrapes, cuts, and bruises (physical, mental, and emotional).

  23. WonderWoman says:

    I’m not only a step mom in a blended family; but my husband works nights with his days off being Wed/Thurs. We basically have completely opposite scheduels which leaves me home alone with 4 kids after work and on the weekends. (Ex Wife only does visitation when she feels like it) I literally have the dream husband, which is probably why I’m now paying the price with the schedueling conflict from Hell. I see my spouse only a few times a week. Recently I’ve decided that the anxiety & depression that have ensued are beyond me & I’ve reached out to my doctor for help.

  24. Wonder Woman,

    I can relate to scheduling difficulties because for a long while I was the primary caregiver for my son and stepson. I was also working full-time but because my job was the most flexible, most of the parenting duties fell on my plate. It was exhausting, both mentally and physically, and eventually I got burnt out! It’s easy to fall into the “who else is going to do it, or I’m the only one” trap. Falling into this trap means that you slide further and further down on the priority list and as you can see, it becomes a detriment to your mental health. I don’t want you reaching for antidepressants and if you must, I don’t want you on them long. So, let’s modify your lifestyle a bit to include time for YOU!

    Some simple things you can do are:1) make sure you take at least 30 minutes per day just for you. This can be when the kids go to bed, in the morning before they get up or at nap time (if you have younger kids). 2) Create a personal space in the house that is just for you. Name it, claim it and make it off limits to everyone else in the house. 3) Meditate and pray because doing so not only allows you to have one on one time with your Creator but it also allows for some much needed quiet time at a certain point during the day. 4) Don’t be afraid to take an adult time out!! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious…don’t be afraid to call your support system to tell them that you need them to take over for a few hours while you collect yourself. If you don’t have a reliable support system, don’t be afraid to explain to your children that mom needs to take a time out! Go to your personal space for a few minutes, regroup and then come back to your children. 5) Last, but not least, connect with people who understand what you’re going through. If you can’t find anyone, give me a call or shoot me an email when you’re feeling frustrated. Often times it helps just to vent, without judgement, to someone who understands.

    I hope these little tips help and please keep me posted on how you’re doing.

    Grace and Peace,

    ~Kela

  25. Taryn,

    Thanks so much for your comments.

    Let me clarify who this article is for…it is for moms; full time stepmoms, insta moms, part-time stepmoms, and moms! While I completely understand and agree with your notion that when you love your children and/or stepchildren, you will do everything in your power to help them, it is not healthy for you or your kids, to sacrifice your mental health to do so! There are way too many moms and stepmoms reaching for antidepressants for me to be okay with telling them otherwise. You cannot be the best mom or stepmom if you are falling a part at the seams and taking time to take care of you is completely okay. It is okay to say no sometimes. It’s okay to indulge in some regular “me” time. It is okay to ask for help. It is our right, no our duty, to take care of ourselves so that we can in turn take better care of our families. This article is not telling stepmoms not to love and SUPPORT your stepchildren. It is advocating for a healthy balance, whether your stepchildren live with you or not, so that you can maintain a joyful mind. All moms need that, step or not, and you are not hurting your children by expecting it.

    ~Kela

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Seriously, though, being a typical stepfamily care bear – not speaking up, always putting the kids first, minimising your own needs – may have a short-term payoff in terms of not having to engage in confronting conflict, but it comes at an enormous price in terms of withdrawal, rumination and ultimately, stepmother depression. [...]

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