By Susan Wilkins-Hubley
Some of you may be thinking. “Yeah, I am an overwhelmed sometimes, or even all of the time”. Some of you are custodial step moms and some of you are non-custodial stepmoms. It doesn’t matter. Some step moms are long distance step moms and it seems that they too are overwhelmed.
Why? Well, there are a variety of reasons why, but the majority of it is emotional. We as step moms are trying to fit into the different roles that are superficially presented to us by the media, society and our families. The truth is, we may not necessarily fit into all of these roles, or any of them. Most of the time, we just want to be ourselves, without the stereotypical hype that is assigned us. We probably did not realize that we were expected to clean out the ex-wife’s old clothes from the attic, nor did we want to! But it was there, and it had to go! Of course, finding something from the first marriage, be it clothing, photos, keepsakes, etc, is upsetting. We get on with life and our marriage. We try to dismiss the negative undertones that the new family dynamics bring and we try to make it all work.
Sound familiar? Second wives step into the lives and families of those who are or who have, mourned the loss of a partner. It’s automatically a crummy situation to be in at times. Second wives are brave souls! Step moms are people who accept or try to accept another woman’s children, no easy task. Some of us are raising these children day in and day out. Hypothetically speaking: It’s so easy for second wives and step moms to become completely “possessed” by negative thinking and feeling demons.
How can we rid ourselves of all this negativity, loss and sadness? Look at the big picture first. If you want to wallow in grief and obstacles, don’t look beyond today. If you want to see yourself in a happy marriage and a happy well adjusted family, look at the BIG picture. Get involved in counseling if you need it, be it for yourself, for you and your spouse as a couple or as an entire family. Make yourself goals as to how you want to live your life in a stepfamily.
Don’t look to others for all the answers all of the time. There are times when we have to learn on our own. Our mother, our father, our sisters, our friends etc, may not be able to relate to our quandaries or our emotions. Sometimes even fellow second wives have difficulty relating. This is when we must go through the motions and work it our ourselves. Sometimes a good counselor can help us through. This may be all part of self-discovery and you may not even like what you discover! It’s all part of learning and growing as a person.
Give yourself time, patience and careful consideration. We can not adapt to the role of step mom and second wife automatically. It’s not possible. We need to figure out for ourselves what we are and what we are not willing to do or tolerate. Be patient with yourself, it may not come to you right away. Expect some rocky times throughout your marriage. Be good to yourself.
Make time for your own interests. Don’t dwell on being “second” or being the step mom. Neither of those things are anything to be ashamed of, but it’s so easy to bring on a really good pity party! Get involved in something you’ve always wanted to do. Maybe it’s pottery or sewing. Do it for yourself and do it now. You are worth it. You are more than a second wife or step mom, you are a living, breathing, walking, talking, human being. Ignoring this advice is one of the most common causes for burnout and resentment. Pay heed!
Talk to other step moms! This is where The SWC can come in for you. Talking and relating to other step moms is one of the best forms of therapy you can get! Just realizing that you are not alone with your feelings can be very comforting. So many step moms feel as though they are the only people in this world who are jealous of their stepchildren, or who can’t stand to hear their mother in law speak of the ex-wife in that wistful tone. Or maybe you want to run screaming down the street away from your husband and your home to a far away land where no one knows who you are and why you are there! Visit The SWC regularly for support and camaraderie. (Did you really think I would write this article without saying something like that?)
These are a few ways to lessen the stress and the feelings of “I can’t do it all”. Try a few at a time and see if it helps. Don’t cheat yourself, be honest with yourself, and do it for yourself, not for others. I did not write this article for your husband!
Susan Wilkins-Hubley ….. Who is sometimes overwhelmed herself.