The evil stepmother trope is much too common in the world of fiction. Unfortunately, it has shaped the way we perceive the role of being a stepmom in real life too. This, however, is far from being the truth.
Being a stepmom is one of the most selfless roles a woman can take up. She decides to nurture kids that she didn’t give birth to and raises them as her own. This is not an easy task, especially when you’re new to a family and the burden of living up to everyone’s expectations weighs down on your shoulders. The smallest mistakes could make you feel you’re failing or struggling as a stepmom, even if that might very well not be the case. There’s seldom any tangible support for stepmoms, the lack of which may have adverse effects on the familial relationships that she worked so hard to build.
If you’re a stepmom, then you’re the stepmom every single day. There are no breaks. It’s not easy, instead, being a struggling as a stepmom is hard and comes with its fair share of daily struggles that many stepmothers deal with. These are some of the most common struggles associated with being a stepmom:
FEELING LIKE AN OUTSIDER
The unavoidable truth of being a stepmom is that you are not the ‘real’ mom. You might do everything from cooking to helping with homework, just as a real mom does, but it doesn’t change the fact that you didn’t give birth to those children. This is a bitter pill to swallow and it leaves one thinking that they’re a replacement. You constantly feel left out and all of your actions seem to be aimed at making up for being an outsider.
THE ‘WICKED’ STEPMOM STEREOTYPE
Every stepmother has to deal with the negative image that they are usually painted in. You’re expected to work selflessly for the children, like a real mother. But, if you assign some chores to the kid or are disappointed in their academic performance (like a real mother), then you’re the evil stepmom. Any form of complaining regarding the kids’ behavior is off-the-stepmom’s-limits. Walking the very fine line of what ‘mom behavior’ is acceptable and what isn’t, is a stepmom struggle in itself.
RESENTMENT FROM THE KIDS
If the kids are old enough to know their biological mother then there’s the chance that they wouldn’t resent you for taking their mother’s place’. It’s very hard building a relationship with children who have no interest in reciprocating your feelings. It’s even harder when those kids go out of their way to tell you that you can never be their real mother. In the end, all your attempts seem futile and doubts about whether this is worth it start seeping into the conscience.
ADAPTING TO A NEW FAMILY
Settling into a new environment is a challenge in itself. When the new role comes with major responsibilities of its own, the challenge is multiplex and requires you to surpass your own limits. Every family is different and every new stepmom has to try to adapt to the family’s unique pace. Normally, a woman would herself set the environment for her family, but when she’s new to the scene – she is the one who has to settle. Many blended families struggle with settling in with each other and this usually leads to drama and friction in the family dynamic.
EMOTIONAL STRESS AND INSECURITY
Stepmoms have to deal with their own emotions and insecurity in addition to balancing their new family-lives. The experience is a roller-coaster of positive and negative feelings and this might knock askew a stepmom’s own emotional balance. Making sure that everyone in the home is happy while keeping a check on your emotions is a struggle that many stepmothers have to overcome. They also have to bear the insecurity of thinking of themselves as a temporary fix instead of being a permanent member of the family.
To make up for the fact that a stepmother is not the biological mother, stepmoms usually end up over compensating for something that isn’t in their control. They feel responsible for their stepchildren but doing more than one is capable of takes a toll on the stepmom’s emotional well-being. Over compensatory behavior might also feel forced and fake to the step kids, and can actually end up causing a rift between the two.
A number of stepmoms realize that they’re giving more than is required but don’t know how to stop this cycle.
Help for stepmoms doesn’t come in a tiny rule book that describes all the roles you have to take up and all the lines that can’t be crossed. It would make the situation so much clearer but every familial situation is different. Realizing that you want to know how to be a better stepmom is the first leap towards actually becoming a better Struggling as a stepmom.
The second leap is to recognize and understand the reasons why you feel like you’re struggling as a Stepmom.
REASONS WHY STEPMOMS STRUGGLE
- Many stepmoms feel pressured into or responsible for taking the place of a biological mother in the stepchild’s life.
- A majority of stepmoms are new to motherhood and are suddenly bombarded with motherly duties.
- The change in environment is a huge contributing factor to a stepmother’s struggles and not being able to settle into this daily life adds to the struggle.
- Feelings of jealousy and resentment from both the stepmoms and children towards each other are common and these emotions keep them from forming a genuine bond.
- Stepmoms are expected to act like a mother and do everything a mother does. They might be treated cordially by their stepchildren, but they’re not treated like mothers at the end of the day.
Here’s how a struggling as a Stepmom can do better:
Stepmoms are superheroes and this is no exaggeration.
You have to start looking at yourself in a new light- as someone courageous enough to love and raise kids you didn’t birth. The act itself, of choosing to become a stepmom, is worthy of appreciation and you deserve a pat on the back for it. You have to first humanize yourself- to realize you’re a human before being a stepmom and it’s completely acceptable to make mistakes. When you start seeing your own worth as a stepmom, your step kids will follow suit.
UNDERSTANDING THAT YOU’RE NOT YOUR SPOUSE’S FIRST PRIORITY
This is one of the hardest hurdles to cross for a second wife, who is also a stepmother.
When you’re new to a family, you’ll be the second most important priority after the kids… and that’s okay. You have to understand that this is not a competition and with time you will also be prioritized as an invaluable part of the family. Children always come first but that does not reflect on your worth in any way.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BECOME THEIR REAL MOTHER
Stepmoms feel the constant pressure that no matter how hard they try they can never be enough because they aren’t the real mothers.
Once you realize that your role in your step children’s life is not to replace but to make your own little place in their hearts, it’ll be easy sailing. Their biological mother and you are your own persons, you’re both different, your roles vary and that is the beauty of it.
TAKE IT EASY AND JUST HAVE FUN
Every stepmom’s journey is unique and there are some good days and some bad. There are also struggles.
The real fun begins when you stop worrying about the nitty gritty of fitting perfectly into this assigned role and just go with the flow. Don’t worry about what your child thinks of you, cherish the little moments, and they’ll feel your sincerity.
Taking the time to sit and bare your feelings in front of your partner and step children goes a long way in building an honest bond.
Kids might be young, but they’re very intuitive, they sense that you’re being honest, and they’ll be honest in return.
There are a number of expectations a stepmother might have of her family members. Expectations from her step children- about how she expects them to do their personal chores and behave around the house. Expectations from her partner of being treated as an equal, with respect, love and loyalty.
Managing these expectations would mean practicing patience with your step children. If they aren’t doing the expected chore or breaking a rule you set, remind yourself that they are only children. For your partner, managing an expectation would translate to appreciating the little things that they do. When you manage your expectations of your family, they too are in turn more mindful of managing their expectations and appreciating you.
Struggling as a Stepmom struggles are real- from entering into a new family to adopting another woman’s kids, it is a never ending wave of responsibilities. It might seem difficult, but all is not lost. When stepmoms start taking it easy and not getting hung up on minor details, the family you acquire becomes more than worth all the work.