What I wanted to say to these women -- and to all women who are struggling with anger and frustration in their stepfamilies is: take the power back.
I have the good fortune to have gotten past my anger. Of course, it's taken me seven years, an anti-depressant, 20 Stepmoms Toolbox Radio shows and countless emails with the Stepmom Posse, but I'm past it.
And it really has made the difference in how I see things when it pertains to my role as a stepmom and my family.
I've noticed a few of angry or stressed stepmom themes:
- Husband leaves/wants me to discipline the kids
- I'm afraid the step-kid(s) will be permanently screwed up if I'm not involved
- That bitch be crazy and I am forced to deal with her
If I told you that you can stop the anger and stress by doing one thing, would you believe me?
I know I've stressed this on the blog comments I've left, but I also know that the experts on the panel said the same thing: Take the power back.
Seriously. Take. It. The. Fuck. Back.
My stepdaughter is planning her birthday party (#14 WOOT!) at present. She's got a spending limit for the party, invites, food and the remainder is her birthday present. She can choose to blow the whole thing on her party or she can go half and half, 60/40, 70/30, etc. . She has all of these great ideas, but they cost money. Her father and I keep reminding her that she's essentially giving away her birthday presents to people when she loads more "accessories" into her party.
Her plight is apropos of the point I'm trying to make. If you're stressing out over giving away your birthday money (time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, etc.) take it back! It's yours to give as you want. If you don't want to give your power away, then don't! Hold on to it for dear life if you have to.
All three of the common issues listed above have a common thread most women are hesitant to stir up trouble with: The Partner.
"He's too busy"
"He travels a lot"
"He's given me the authority to do that"
"He prefers I do that"
"He can't take the time to deal with it"
"He's afraid of making the kid(s) upset"
"He's afraid of making her upset"
There was one word I used in every single one of those examples: He
Your partner -- He's the one that needs to figure out how to deal with the issues his ex/kids' mom is bringing to the table. THEY are the ones that brought the child(ren) into the world. If mom is absent or dead, then it really is up to Dad to deal with the issue(s).
I've seen so many stepmoms -- including myself -- get caught up in the "But, _______ needs me."
I'm sorry darlings, but no, ________ doesn't need you. We all tend to concoct this idea that as stepmoms, we're the antidote to the divorce poision. If we sacrifice our own happiness (or time, sanity, etc.) for everyone else, then we'll go to heaven after we've lived somewhat-happily ever after.
Back up the truck. Huh? Does that make any logical sense to anyone? Don't be happy now but be happy later. Why would anyone want to do that? I'm sorry. I choose to be happy now...and later.
I used to think if I helped everyone in my stepfamily out by scheduling this and that, fixing some of those, worrying about some of that, transporting Kid A here and Kid B there (let's not forget Husband 1 from the airport every other Friday and Sunday), that I'd eventually be happy because everyone would appreciate me.
Um, yeah. It felt more like they took me for granted and I grew angrier and angrier.
I was so sick of being angry it was making me physically sick. The stress was giving me anxiety attacks among other ailments. To make it so I wasn't a person everyone would eventually loathe, I took the power back.
- First things first, I stopped being a martyr. Repeat after me: no one likes a martyr. If you're doing something because you think someone (including your husband or stepkid) will be upset with you if you don't, you're martyring. STOP IT RIGHT NOW!
- I started taking back my time -- from my family, from work, even the house. I work at home most days of the week. I can work until all hours if I'm not careful and that sort of midnight oil working makes for a really cranky Erin. So I stop working at 4/4:30. I shut down the email, go downstairs and start reading or doing something I like to do. Even if I only read for 15 minutes, I've at least given myself some "me" time and I'm a lot easier to deal with.
- I stopped bending over backwards for everyone. Sort of a sister to the martyrdom, I started to say no to things. My husband's travel schedule is hellish. He used to fly home on Friday nights at 11 p.m. and then leave again on Sundays at 11 a.m. Would you believe I used to put things on hold -- dinners out, baby showers, visits with my mom, sister, etc.-- to get him to and from the airport. I was incredibly resentful that I was putting what I wanted to do on hold so that I could take care of him. Then I remembered that he's an adult and quite capable of figuring out how to get himself home or to the airport. Even that small thing has made a huge difference.
- I started to realize that I was worth sticking up for. This one was probably the hardest to muster. I spent so much of my life feeling like I wasn't worth standing up for (even for myself) that I let things happen rather than argue it. The sum of all of these parts has been to realize that I'm worth taking some time for myself. I'm worth being treated with respect by my husband and his ex-wife and the kids.One of the most important parts of realizing I was worth sticking up for was also realizing that I also have the power to leave. Leaving my family would be the worst case scenario, but I'm willing to do that if it reaches a point where it feels like things can't be fixed.
I've taken the power back. How about you?