Community. What does that mean exactly? Dictionary.com states that a community is a group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists. We as stepmoms are certainly not unique. Just take a look at the stats out there. In Canada we make up almost 13% of married couples and that number is on the rise as more couples get divorced and then remarry. We are pretty common. That being said our circumstances of parenting and intimate partnership are different than the parenting and intimate partnership in “first” families of first marriages. That is what makes us distinct. And certainly all of those rules and relationship dynamics in first time families DO NOT APPLY to stepfamilies!!
Even though there are a large number of stepmoms out there the stories and experiences are unique for each of us. Some of us are stepmoms without birth children. Some of us bring our kids with us into the union, some join a pre-made family and add our own. One thing is for sure the common ground or some of the more common experiences that all impact us. We all feel a little (or a lot) lost and struggle with finding our roles and our identity because there are no hard and fast rules about how to do stepparenting. We struggle from time to time with boundaries and consequently it impacts our self care and sometimes our self worth. And because of that we take things personally a little too much and a little too often. Hard not to when you feel like everybody (but especially if you feel its the birth mom) is judging you. We also seem to let in everybody else’s opinions of how things ought to be regarding our family.
And what about our common interests? Figuring out a way to find the calm in the storm, finding strength, hope and encouragement, and above all knowing that you and what you’re feeling and going through is completely NORMAL (but what is Normal except a setting on your dryer anyway??)
Things can go smoothly for stepmoms but what happens when it doesn’t? THEN how do we navigate this big swirling mess of frustration, confusion, anxiety, and stress?? Somebody or many somebodys who get it. Someone with whom you can have honest open communication about your reality. Someone that you can safely vent to (trust me when I say that person is not -nor should ever be your husband when it comes to venting) Having someone not judge you because they get that things are different when you co-parent a child not born to you with someone you probably don’t know or even like- ie the biomom. She may also have different parenting values than you do- very different. Even though our own stories, struggles, dilemmas and dramas are our own knowing that others in your community have similar stories, struggles, dilemmas and dramas feels not so… isolating, maybe even empowering! You need to have community- a safe haven and support. Keep in mind that support should also push you outside your comfort zone and get you to think outside your box. An honest person who gets you to move out of the deep hole where you are stuck. Someone who will not be a “yes man” or woman. Bottom line: If you don’t have support- and self care- the burn out rate is significantly higher which may very well put an additional strain on your relationship. You don’t need that and neither does your partner…and neither do the kids for that matter. So do what you can to talk to other stepmamas because they are out there. I recently joined a secret Facebook support group and it has been wonderful. I have learned a lot about myself and my family and my relationship with my husband and it has been so helpful. I now know I am not alone and that my feelings are very “normal” and maybe I am normal too. And guess what? When I hear from other women who have success stories I am glad to hear of their success because we all need a positive story to celebrate and maybe even aspire to. If you want more information please don’t hesitate to ask me. I’d be more than happy to help!