This one was originally written by Kristen, CEO and Founder of Stepmomming.com
Are you exhausted? Overwhelmed? Ticked off? Have you reached a breaking point with this same old exhausted stepmom routine?
But if you don't do it all, who will? You're the glue that's keeping the family together. You keep the schedule, you do the grocery shopping, you cook the meals and clean the house, you encourage co-parenting and sanity check text messages for civil tone and neutral wording before they're sent.
You're burned out from this life that you didn't even create. You were thrown into an instant family with what felt like the entire world anticipating your failure. You've had to prove yourself again and again, giving this role your all, and receiving zero to little credit for your work. You're fed up with being at the mercy of a custody schedule you didn't create and tired of your husband's ex having control over your life.
You're exhausted, stepmom.
I get it.
I completely get it. Before you became a full-time stepmom and wife, you were completely in control of your own schedule, home, and responsibilities. You paid your bills, communicated with the other adults in your life, and had the freedom to make all of the decisions. If you wanted to go on vacation, you did! If you wanted a clean house, you were the only one to blame if it wasn't! Your paycheck wasn't partially used to pay child support. Your schedule wasn't dictated by custody agreements.
Your life was completely shaken up when you began dating a man with children. The only way that a strong, independent woman like you could cope is to make sense of the chaos and get organized. You set plans into motion, and you picked up any perceived slack.
You shared with your husband the
issues areas of opportunity you saw in his parenting and in his ex-wife's. You started cooking dinner, preparing healthy lunches, and working toward either a custody modification or co-parenting (or both?).
And it felt good, right? You were needed, you were making a difference, and you felt like it all started to make sense. Sure things haven't always been easy, but it's always been worth it.
The Turning Point
But one day you started to realize there's more tension boiling. You might have started to sense some hostility from the ex or become annoyed with your husband sitting back and letting you handle everything. Did he even appreciate everything you'd been doing?
When things start getting into a good grove and you're past the honeymoon stage, you can step back and really see your behavior from a bird's-eye view.
Has your behavior been helpful or intrusive? Are you acting like an equal to mom or a supplement? Are you trying to do all. the. things. or to be a great stepmom?
Because the reality is, you don't have to be Mom 2.0 to be a great stepmom - in fact, I'd advise against it! If your stepchild's mom is involved in the child's life, then let her be mom and encourage dad to be the best dad he can be. And enjoy this unique role you have.
Dad doesn't need you to come into this role and take over. He can make lunches, prepare dinner, and help with homework. He can communicate with the mom, and he can make decisions.
He doesn't need saving. He doesn't need your help. Of course you ARE a help and you make his life easier and more enjoyable, but this is key: he is completely capable without you.
Many of us come into the stepmom role full-force ready to be a wife, mom, and household coordinator on day one. We feel thrust into this real life from the get-go and struggle with the lack of control we have over our lives.
We see so many things to fix: from parenting mistakes to household disorganization, from unhealthy meals to co-parenting communication and practices. We see "broken" and know we can fix it.
But the reality is, you can't fix what you didn't break. And you should stop trying to.
Trying to be everything to everyone isn't a sustainable lifestyle. Burning the candle at both ends to please everyone in this crazy blended life is only going to lead to burnout. Putting your passions and hobbies on the back burner while you prioritize your husband, stepchildren, and co-parents will only cause you to feel overextended, overwhelmed, and unfulfilled.
The Stepmom's Role
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The stepmom's role is not to replace the mom - or to be the mom's equal - it is to be a supplement to that role. As long as your stepchild's mom is involved, you will not be a primary parent; you're a secondary parent along with stepdad.
I'm not being dramatic and telling you to "nacho," but I am telling you that if you continue to try to have control over this situation, it will wear you out, it will demoralize and undermine your husband, and it will piss off your stepchild's mom.
Actionable Steps for the Stepmom
Here are a few things I want you to try out...
Instead of being the one to snuggle up with your stepchild and make sure she completes her assigned reading for the week... suggest that she and Daddy spend some time together reading tonight.
Instead of planning an all-out family play date each week... encourage your husband to take your stepson out on a Daddy/Son date and spend some 1-on-1 time together while you recharge alone or with friends.
Instead of reaching out to your stepchild's mom to remind her about an upcoming time swap... let your husband do it.
Instead of stressing out about everyone's schedules and making sure they're where they need to be and when... trust your husband will pick up some of that slack.
Instead of being the rule enforcer and the more strict parent... sit back and be the fun one a little bit more.
Instead of coordinating parent-teacher conference times on behalf of the family... allow Mom and Dad to attend and relay important messages home.
Instead of organizing the home, schedules, and all of the responsibilities... empower your husband to own some of those decisions.
Instead of wearing yourself out trying to be everything to everyone... focus on being the best version of YOU.
The Only Universal Stepfamily Truth
There are no two blended families that look or operate the exact same, and I shy away from generalities. But I do know this is true across the board: if you continue to try to fix what you didn't break and be everything to everyone, you will wear yourself out.
It's not a sustainable life; it's energy-sucking and will cause you to be resentful.
Sit back, give yourself a break, and enjoy this beautiful role you've been given. To supplement, not to control.