Current Stepmom Trends
I did that thing that I always regret doing, and went and poked around some of those free Facebook groups that claim to be stepmom support groups but really they’re, for the most part, just a whole lot of blind leading the blind and hurting women ripping out each other’s throats and calling it advice. If that’s what folks think a support group is then yikes…
Now DISCLAIMER, I know those groups can be really helpful for a lot of women, especially at the beginning when you are just realizing maybe for the first time that what you’ve been feeling as a stepmom is actually really common… and YES there are some decent groups out there, and NO I haven’t been inside of every single community so I couldn’t possibly say they’re all bad… I know they serve a purpose and if those groups have ever brought some sort of peace or healing or hope or happiness into your life, then who am I to say what’s right for you or not.
I know they’re not right for ME anymore, and that’s okay. But there was definitely a time in my life that they were really comforting because up until that point I just thought something was wrong with me. So if you do get something from those groups, then eat your heart out sister.
Anyway. I went in and poked around a couple of these groups, because I get curious sometimes about what folks on the outside are talking about. And by, on the outside, I mean folks who aren’t a part of our Stepmom Story community which is a whole other vibe.
Plus, I don’t work one-on-one with clients anymore unless they’ve been through some of my other programs, so honestly sometimes I sort of forget what the vibe is like out there. It’s almost like I live on a remote island and sometimes I get curious so I hop in my ship and sail back to the mainland to check things out but once I see what’s going on out there I can’t get back into my ship and back onto my island fast enough.
I’ve built my life up that way for good reason. There aren’t many things left in my life that are bothersome to me. Not many places anymore in life that I spend my time or energy or money that I don’t consciously choose to do so. It feels good.
But in this quest back to the mainland, I noticed some common themes that were essentially permeating the conversations in these groups. And if you’ve tuned into the last several posts, you’ll know that I’ve been hosting a series that is intended to help stepmoms discover the belief patterns that are getting in the way of living happily ever after.
So this post is dedicated to those common themes. I put together a list of 6 of the most common reasons that your stepfamily might not be blending the way you’d hoped.
And as I go through this list, and give you my take on it, I want to invite you to keep an open mind and really allow yourself the space to get curious about the ways in which these themes might be showing up in your life.
Look Where You Want To Go
The fact of the matter is that, so many stepmoms know exactly what they do not want in their lives. So if you’re like most, then you might have a really clear idea of like, oh hey, I don’t want my life to look like this, I don’t want my relationships to look like this, I don’t want my household to be run like this. But if all you’re focusing on is what you do not want, then you’re just going to keep getting more of what you do not want.
The stepmom who thrives, the stepmom who IS living her fairytale— the stepqueen, if you will, the stepqueen has a crystal clear picture in her mind about what she wants her life to look like, and she is relentlessly focused on protecting her vision for her future.
So IF you wouldn’t yet call yourself a stepqueen, if you’re still struggling to blend, if you’re still struggling to be hashtag living your best life because your focus has been severely narrowed to be really really geared toward your stepfamily, then without further ado, here are the top 6 reasons your stepfamily might not be blending the way you’d hoped, that I observed when I left my little island and headed back to the outside for a quest.
The 6 Sneaky Reasons Your Stepfamily May Not Be Blending The Way You’d Hoped
6. Parenting But Not A Parent
Alright, so, this was one of the most common themes that I noticed aside from ex-bashing which is a whole other conversation. But if you identify with this, if you believe that you are parenting but not a parent, then listen in my friend.
First of all, I know how difficult it can be to do all the “mom” things without being their mom. Stepmoms do a lot of parenting without the same respect or rights as a biological parent. And I actually wrote an article for stepmom magazine a while back about whether or not stepmoms ARE parents.
But the problem I’m noticing here, with so many stepmoms having their hearts basically ripped out of their chests because they are doing all the mom things but feeling like they’re getting shafted when it comes to receiving love or respect or rights in return, the problem is really simply boiling down to an unclear or improper role definition.
Now, what do I mean by that?
Well, in my personal AND professional experience working with stepmoms from all over the world, when women become stepmoms, there seems to be this common underlying assumption that BECAUSE you partnered up with the kids’ other parent, that you are AUTOMATICALLY required to step into the exact role that a biological mother would play.
For some stepfamilies, yes, this works. But for those that it DOES work for, they don’t feel like their guts are being ripped out because they’re doing all the parenting without any of the recognition. And arguably, the stepfamilies this DOES work for, are an eensy weensy teeny tiny infinitesimal percentage. Because NO MATTER WHAT, no matter how strong your bond is with those kids, no matter how young the kids were when you came into their lives, no matter how often their other parent is in the picture, no matter if their other parent is dead… the FACT of the matter is that, and I love you so much, but the fact of the matter is that, you are not their biological parent.
That doesn’t mean you aren’t a PARENT, that doesn’t mean that your role as a stepmom is less important than anyone else’s role, that doesn’t have to imply that there is a hierarchy and biological parents are better than stepparents. It doesn’t have to mean ANY of that.
But the truth is that, for as long as you are trying to essentially squeeze yourself into a role that is already occupied by another person – whether that person is dead or may as well be dead or alive and well, your stepfamily will never be able to blend, because you are denying the truth about the makeup of your family. And that TRUTH is that, you are a stepmother who belongs to a stepfamily. And stepfamilies have a different playbook. We have different rules. And stepmoms have an entirely different role than biological parents.
Again, it isn’t less important, but it is different. And until you accept the fact that no matter how hard you try or how hard you pray or how much you wish that your stepfamily was a nuclear family, it cannot and will not ever be. And that is okay. That is wonderful. Stepfamilies are amazing. Stepmothering can be one of the most rewarding and amazing personal development opportunities in your life. But first and foremost, my love, you are going to have to accept that you HAVE to allow yourself to define your role in your stepfamily as the stepmom. Well you don’t have to do anything, but if you want your stepfamily to blend then it’s going to be really hard to do unless you define what it means to be a stepmom and how you want to show up in that very beautiful special role.
5. Lack Of Control:
I mean I freaking get it… like, Is there ANYONE out there who would be okay with having their schedule dictated by other people?
In fact this was one of the most catastrophic fights in my relationship was when my husband rearranged our parenting schedule with my stepson’s mom without talking to me first, AGAIN. I had a full on colossal meltdown over it, and that last schedule change without my being consulted, on top of all the other BS in our stepfamily, was almost the last straw.
Before I was a stepmom, I was a young wild and free single woman who did what she wanted when she wanted to do it. I made good money, I had good friends, I traveled, I shopped, I stayed out late, I answered to nobody. So when I essentially became an overnight parent to a boy who was already old enough to have an opinion, my world got flipped on its head.
If you know me then you know my highest value is freedom. In other words, everything I do in my life is derived from one of my core values, which is doing what I want when I want to, and answering to nobody. A bit of a paradigm shift when all of a sudden my schedule and life are being dictated by other people and the only way I can make it stop is to leave my partner.
But eventually through all the work I ended up doing on myself in order to avoid having to separate from Seamus, I came to realize that while I initially believed my stepfamily wasn’t blending because I had no control, it wasn’t about me having no control at all. Rather, it was about me having shit boundaries. It wasn’t about me having no control, it was about me being totally unclear about what my needs were, and too afraid to rock the boat in order to get my needs met that I just festered in resentment and blamed everyone else for stealing my control from me.
Side note, if you have resentment in your stepfamily, read this, because, resentment will destroy your relationship if it isn’t dealt with.
The moral of the story: If you’re like most stepmoms who feel like their life is being run by other people, the reason your stepfamily isn’t blending isn’t because you lack control, it’s probably because you haven’t learned how to set proper boundaries, and you’re either unclear about what your needs are, or you’re unclear about how to get them met, OR, you’re worried about what will happen if you do set your boundaries and get your needs met. And listen. Wherever you are, that’s totally fine. But you’ll never blend with shit boundaries and keeping your own needs and well-being on the back burner.
4. Loss Of Identity:
This brings me to number 4 which I sort of started talking about in the last one, about how when I became an overnight parent it was a shock to my system.
And if you’re like most stepmoms I work with, especially if you didn’t already have bio kids before getting into your current relationship, then gaining an overnight family typically results in reduced freedom, lifestyle changes, and the overarching question of “Who the heck am I now?”
I have an entire podcast episode on this, I think it’s called The Way Life used to be, and it talks in depth about the identity transformation that stepmoms go through when they become stepmoms. Even stepmoms who already HAVE bio kids, like we talked about in number 6, the stepmom role is not the same as the mom role. So the adaptation to a stepmom role will look different to someone who has bio kids, because the role will not translate.
One of the themes in those groups I was noticing was women saying, I’d never let my own kids get away with XYZ, or, I’m way more strict with my bio kids than my stepkids, or, my stepkids get away with murder and it’s not fair because my bio kids have different rules. Which I mean, all totally valid concerns. All the feelings associated – the frustration and exasperation and sadness and anger, all very very valid and very real and very important. You are not wrong for feeling the way you do.
But truthfully, when you become a stepmom, you experience an identity shift. And if your stepfamily isn’t blending the way you’d hoped, then there’s a good chance that you feel like you’ve lost a part of your identity, and you’re not sure who you are now, or what your role is now, or what life looks like now. You may be grieving a life you once thought you were going to have, but as long as you stay with this partner, can never have. You may be stuck in the thought loop of, my partner has already been there done that with someone else so if and when we get married or if and when we have a baby or if and when we get our dream home, it doesn’t matter as much because my partner has already done it.
We do a lot of work at the identity level inside of the Stepmom Story, which if you don’t know, is the most transformative and most incredible online stepmom support community that I facilitate. And if your stepfamily is not blending, or you feel like you’re an outsider, or you’re not really sure where you fit with their family, or you find yourself missing the life you had before you met your spouse, then chances are pretty good that some identity work would really help you.
3. Complicated Relationship Dynamics:
Alrighty then. Number 3. The third reason your stepfamily might not be blending the way you’d hoped: complicated relationship dynamics. And when I say that, there might be a chance that you got a picture in your mind about what that might look like for you.
Stepfamilies have a lot of relationship dynamics. Where a nuclear family just has dynamics between a spouse and their bio kids, a stepfamily opens up to a whole lot more relationships that are a whole lot more complicated, with people who truthfully may not even like each other all that much.
Relationships in general are the most satisfying AND the most challenging aspect of being human. If you think about it, our entire existence is really all about creating, maintaining, and ending relationships – and trying to figure out what all the feelings in between mean.
If your stepfamily isn’t blending the way you’d hoped, then there is a very very very high probability that it’s because you haven’t learned how to navigate these extra confusing and complex relationship dynamics. And hey, guess what, that is okay. Getting, “GOOD” at stepfamily relationships is a SKILL. And that’s really good news, because a skill is something that anyone can develop with practice and the right set of tools.
When you learn the skills required to not just navigate but find fulfillment and peace in your stepfamily relationships, and ESPECIALLY the ones that are the most challenging to you right now, you become free. If right now, you are caught in thought loops about how high conflict your spouse’s ex is, how nasty of a person they are, how miserable they are, if you are caught in a thought loop about how bad those kids are or how ungrateful or how disrespectful, then guess what?
Those people have control over you.
Thinking about how these folks are doing you dirty will never, I repeat never, result in you breaking free of their nonsense. Why? Because, if this is resonating with you, then plain and simple you are at their mercy. Plain and simple, if you are holding your breath waiting for the day that the people in your stepfamily see the light and get their shit together, you’re gonna be holding your breath for a long ass time. Hopefully you’re a mermaid. Because. It ain’t gonna happen.
IF your stepfamily isn’t blending the way you’d hoped, and you can pretty confidently point to the fact that your stepfamily relationships are a hot mess, then it is YOUR responsibility to gain the tools and skills and emotional intelligence to give yourself peace and happiness.
And if you’re like, it isn’t fair I’m the only one who ever puts any effort into trying to solve these stepfamily problems, then you can either keep thinking its not fair and refuse to add more tools to your toolbar and see how that works out for you, OR, you can give yourself the absolute GIFT of developing the skills required to show up like an absolute queen in even the most awful relationship transactions, and you can give yourself the absolute GIFT of knowing that those skills translate to every other area of your life. To every other relationship of your life; your friendships, your work relationships, your leadership skills… There is no such thing as being unfair because while you’re on your throne watching the peasants squabble and, as coach Naja Hall always says, being totally unbothered — you’re going to be at a whole other level, and so damn grateful that you didn’t wait for them to get their shit together before you were allowed to be happy. Period.
2. Not Feeling Like “Enough”
Did you know that stepmoms have the highest rates of depression & anxiety of ANY parenting group? AND, might I add, EVERY SINGLE woman I have ever worked with, has the core belief that she isn’t enough.
Coincidence? I think not.
If your stepfamily isn’t blending the way you’d hoped, and you find yourself often thinking that it’s because you haven’t tried hard enough, or you haven’t proven yourself, or because the ex was good enough to marry and have kids with but you aren’t, and no matter what you do or how hard you try or how much you stuff down what you’re really thinking and feeling in order to keep life hunky dory for your spouse and the kids, I want to ask you something…
How will you know when you are good enough?
How will you know when you have done enough?
For me, I used to think, I’ll know I’m good enough when I get the ring. And I got the ring. And then it became, I’ll know I’m good enough when he actually marries me and we aren’t just engaged. And we eloped and got married. And then it became, I’ll know I’m good enough when he lets me have a baby. Then another baby.
No matter what I attached my good-enoughness to, every time that thing happened for me, I moved the target.
Because I still held this core belief that I wasn’t enough. And no ring, no baby, no dream home, no time machine to go back in time and meet my husband first, was going to change that.
No overcompensating and buying my stepson all the fun things in the world. No amount of dieting and exercise. No weight on the scale. No amount of income that I brought in.
There was NOTHING that could convince me that I was enough. No matter what I achieved. No matter what I gave. No matter what other people gave to me. Until I healed that core wound, until I removed that devastatingly crippling belief that I wasn’t enough, then nothing that happened on the outside of me could change that.
If your criteria for finally arriving at this blended place includes finally being validated that you’re enough, then my friend, please please please have an honest conversation with yourself and let yourself discover if there has ever been a time in your life you’ve felt good enough. Please ask yourself if there has ever been a milestone that you’ve reached that you didn’t automatically discredit as being important because you hadn’t reached the next milestone yet.
It’s okay to want more. It’s okay to have big dreams and big goals for your life. It’s so important. But if your happiness is hingeing on the fact that you don’t have those things yet, and you believe that the reason you aren’t happy yet is because you havent gotten to that place yet, And I love you so much. But (slowly) how can you ever create your fairytale, your dream life, the happily ever after your heart is begging you for — when deep down inside you don’t believe you’re worthy of it?
1. No Clear Vision Of What Your Happily Blended Family Could Look Like:
And last but certainly not least, the number one biggest reason your stepfamily is not blending the way you’d hoped…
you don’t have a clear vision of what your happily blended family AND happily ever after life look like.
I see this mistake being made all the dang time. And if you’re making it, that’s okay. You didn’t know. How could you have known?
As stepmoms, we tend to have so much BS going on all the time, that more often than not, it’s almost like the vision we have for our lives gets narrowed to this teeny tiny focus of stepfamily stuff and that’s it.
Like I don’t know about you, but when I was a new stepmom, during that identity transition, it was almost like my whole world shrank right down. Instead of planning fun vacations with my friends, I was obsessing over holidays with my stepson. Instead of enrolling in club sports, I was proving a point by going to every single one of my stepson’s sporting events. Instead of spending time with my husband, I was locking myself in my bathroom, taking hours-long baths, chugging wine and looking for answers to my stepfamily problems.
And if you’re anything like I used to be back then, then maybe you’re starting to realize that all you can think about or spend your time and energy and money on anymore is in trying to fix what’s wrong in your stepfamily. IF you’re anything like I used to be, then maybe it’s true for you that, you’ve totally lost sight of what you actually WANT your future to look like.
I’m sure you know what you DON’T want in your life, but when is the last time you sat down and really thought about what it is that you DO Want in your life in order to be really happy and abundant and peaceful and content?
So let me ask you something — if you don’t have a clear vision of what Happily Blended means to you, and a clear plan of how to get there, what are the chances that it will ever happen? (Hint: not good.)
The laws of the universe dictate that, whatever you focus on, grows.
What are you focusing on, Stepmom?