Monday, February 22, 2010
Learning the Art of the Stepmom Stepback
My husband was out of town for most of the year and I had a lot on my stepmom plate. If you haven't gleaned from last week's posts, I felt like hope was almost certainly lost and that Super Stepmom Syndrome was going to be the death of me.
Like a lot of stepmoms, I'm a doer and a hopeful peacekeeper. I want everyone to like me and for everyone -- my husband, my stepkids and their mom -- to feel more at ease because I've got things under control. Everyone in Erin Experimentland had a tough 2009, not just me; however, I felt it was my responsibility to make sure everyone's life was easier.
Trying to make sure four other people's lives are easier is like trying to arrange peaceful talks among Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea and the folks in the Gaza Strip. It's practically impossible to do and you'll likely not survive intact.
I could feel the weight of trying to be everyone's peacekeeper tugging at my soul. No matter how nice and accommodating I tried to be to everyone else, there was always something keeping me from taking full care of myself.
I spent most of 2009 struggling to figure out what kind of Stepmom I was. I had essentially thrust myself into my husband's Dad role during the week and then felt depleted on the weekends he was home. I couldn't figure out if I was coming or going and it impacted everything from my marriage to my waistline.
I stayed on this roller coaster for almost a year.
About a month ago, my blog intervened on my behalf. I'll spare the details but suffice it to say, I was relieved of a lot of my during the week Stepmom duties. And I've never felt more normal in my entire Stepmom life.
I had spent so much time trying to be the second coming of Mom and Dad that I completely lost myself. It's hard to figure out who you are and what your role is when Mom and Dad are wanting and expecting you to step up and keep things running smoothly.
Some time around my birthday, I was having a discussion with some members of the Stepmom Posse about how I could untangle myself from this intricate web I felt I had woven myself into.
I asked, almost desperately: How do I step back and reclaim my Stepmom role again?
I'll never forget what honorary stepmom Jen Newcomb Marine of NoOnestheBitch.com told me: You need to subtly step back and let your stepkids' Mom and Dad be just that: Mom and Dad. They brought these children into the world and they are the one's responsible for making sure the kids are taken care of. It is not your job to be the family peacekeeper. Sure, Mom and Dad will make mistakes and forget things -- just like you are capable of doing -- but if you become a Helicopter Stepmom and don't give everyone room to fall down or screw up then you won't have done anyone any good, least of all yourself.
She, along with Izzy Rose, another stepmom friend named Jen, and my trusty, insightful mom reminded me that being "Family Peacekeeper" wasn't part of my marriage vows. I didn't enter into the state of matrimony so that I could make everyone happy with my organizing capabilities. I got married because I wanted to be my husband's partner and because I love him.
So now, I'm practicing the art of the Stepmom Stepback. I'm learning to not get involved in matters where Mom and Dad should be the ones making the decisions. If someone has a doctor's appointment or needs money for a field trip, guess who isn't making the appointment or writing the check anymore?
It's been a tough role to remove myself from. There have been instances where I felt like I should speak up or just do something or volunteer to do it so that everyone is less stressed. But then I'd just be falling right back in to the same routine.
For now, I'm learning to take better care of myself. My radio show co-host Peggy Nolan would be proud of how much self-care is going on at Casa de Erin Experimentland. I try to do yoga at least once or twice a week; I don't worry as much about the little things anymore and I feel much happier than I have in a long time.
I'm still trying to figure out where and how far I should step back. Ladies, have you had success figuring this out? Anyone trying to get started? Leave me a comment and let me know.