The Struggling Stepmother
By: Zalome Pi
Motherhood is one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences a woman can go through. I know I would do anything humanly possible for my children. I would climb mountains, bleed for them (I have), fight lions, tigers, and bears. Getting those hugs and kisses at bedtime is all the reward it seems I would need. And adding my stepdaughters to the mix, I would do it all for them too. But, all the stress and anxiety that come from your own children, can be multiplied by a hundred when it comes to stepchildren, just with no kisses no hugs no thanks in the end.
One of the most common struggles for mothers and stepmothers alike is feeling like they are not doing enough or that they are failing their children. This feeling can lead to intense stress and anxiety that can have a significant impact on mental health.
After 11 years of step mothering, going above and beyond all my girls it seems like I hit a wall. No matter how equal I treat my stepdaughters to my daughter, they won’t love me unconditionally as they do their mom. They run to me to solve their problems. I get the whiplash of their emotions sometimes even caused by their mom. But the minute I say something they don’t agree with, they run back to her…
What I was experiencing is not uncommon for mothers and stepmothers to experience, which was overwhelming feelings of sadness, frustration, and exhaustion. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was just a reaction from working extra hard to create a loving and supportive environment but feeling like my efforts went unrecognized or unappreciated.
One of the most shared challenges that stepparents face is feeling under-appreciated.
You may feel like you are doing a lot of work behind the scenes, but not getting the recognition or acknowledgment that you deserve. This can be especially frustrating if you are putting in a lot of effort to build a relationship with your stepchildren, but not seeing the results that you expect.
If you are feeling under-appreciated as a stepparent, it’s important to take steps to address this issue. As a mother, it’s natural to focus most of your energy and attention on your children’s needs. However, it’s also important to take care of yourself so you can be the best version of yourself for your children. You might come to recognize, that things aren’t as they seem. With the help of my therapist, I was able to take a step back and not only advocate for myself but also, she was able to help me see the situation from a different perspective. Blended families are not easy to navigate. But it doesn’t have to mean losing yourself.
These are just some strategies I’ve learned since starting therapy:
1. Communicate your feelings:
If you are feeling under-appreciated, it’s important to talk to your spouse about how you are feeling. Explain that you feel like you are doing a lot of work to support the family, but not getting the recognition that you deserve. Your spouse may not realize how you are feeling and may be able to take steps to help you feel more appreciated. Effective communication is essential for healthy relationships with your partner, children, and others in your life. Therapy can help you improve your communication skills and learn how to express your needs and emotions in a constructive way.
2. Set boundaries:
If you feel like you are taking on too much responsibility, even if its emotional responsibility, it may be time to set some boundaries. Make it clear to your spouse and stepchildren that you have days where you cannot take it on. You are human and may not be able to carry the weight being put on you. This can help you feel more in control of your
responsibilities and prevent feelings of resentment.
3. Focus on your own validation:
While it’s important to feel appreciated by your family, it’s also important to focus on your own validation. Take time to recognize the work that you are doing and give yourself credit for your efforts.
4. Increase self-awareness:
Therapy can help you become more self-aware and understand why you react to certain situations or people in a particular way. This self-awareness can help you make positive changes in your life and improve your self-esteem.
5. Reduced stress, Anxiety, and depression:
Stress, anxiety, and depression can affect your ability to be present for your children. Sometimes it can even cause us to interpret situations not as they are, but as how we are feeling. Therapy can help you identify and address the root causes of these issues and develop strategies to manage them.
6. Take time for yourself:
As a parent, it’s important to take time for yourself to recharge and rejuvenate. This can help you feel more energized and positive. Pick up a hobby. Find something other than parenting. Therapy can help you identify your values, goals, and priorities and work towards achieving them. This can lead to greater life satisfaction and fulfillment.
Once I learned to communicate my feelings, set boundaries, focus on my own validation, increase self-awareness, and take time for myself; my stress, anxiety, and depression significantly decreased. I’m so grateful for my therapist that has helped me throughout this rollercoaster. I can see more clearly that as much as I may feel underappreciated at times, I love my family, and I will still do anything I can for them. That means being 100%, mentally and emotionally. And what’s even better is that my family has even joined in on a few sessions, which makes so much of a difference.
Ultimately, being a mom and stepmom in a blended family requires patience, love, and understanding. It’s not always easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding to see your daughters grow and flourish under your care. So, this Mother’s Day, take a moment to appreciate the unique challenges and joys of being a mom and stepmom in a blended family and know that your love and care are making a positive impact on your children’s lives.
If you feel you are struggling with the stress of motherhood, please reach out to Family Therapy Group to help.