“I am tired of being a stepmom. I feel guilty confessing this to you but I am really tired. This job is hard and no matter how hard I try it never gets easier. Am I bad stepmom for feeling like this? Is this normal” ? These are the words in an email I received a while back from a lady who was 2 years in her journey as a stepmom. She did not give me any indication that she wanted to leave her husband or abandon her stepchildren, she was just concerned about the fatigue that comes with being a stepmom. My first reaction was pride, because so many stepmoms would rather keep up appearances and pretend that there is absolutely no trouble in paradise than admit that they are struggling. I could relate to her because I have had my fair share of doubt. Moments in which I would question myself and my abilities as a stepmother. Moments of confusion where I wondered what the hell I was doing and whether I was on the right path. Times when I doubted if there was anything I was doing right. Days I wished I had a magic wand to make all things perfect so I never had to worry about anything ever again. If you are a stepmom and you are completely honest with yourself then you have had similar moments.
Sometimes stepmoms just get worn out and tired. It is perfectly normal, nothing to feel guilty about. How you deal with the fatigue however will determine whether your situation gets better or it takes a turn for the worst.
So how does one know that they are experiencing stepmom burn out? Well there are quite a number of triggers which if you conscious about, you can identify and deal with before things get worse. I have put together the following list of questions which you should ask yourself. Though it is not exhaustive it is a good guide to determine your mental and physical condition as a stepmom.
- Do you feel like you bear all the responsibilities of a mom but with none of the authority or appreciation?
- Do you feel like you are at your wits end? Annoyed you don’t know what to do next?
- Do you feel manipulated by your husband, his ex, your stepkids?
- Are you tired of seeing your partner being manipulated by his ex or his kids?
- Do you feel like your opinion doesn’t matter despite your contribution in the home?
- Do you question why you are doing ‘this’?
- Do you feel like an outsider in your own home?
- Do feel like you have no control in your own home?
- Are you constantly fighting with your partner?
- Do you feel like your partner doesn’t defend you like he should and/or gives in to his ex, his children too easily?
- Do you feel lost?
- Are you uncomfortable at home, during school functions and family events?
If your answers consists mainly of yes then it would be prudent if you took a step back and realize the kind of pressure that you are under and make a plan to do something about it before things get worse. All these issues may look small but over time they have a way of weighing down on you and slowly making you numb and before you know it you could care less about your family and most likely take it out on your stepchildren which leads to further stress and strain to all the family members.
What do I do now, you might ask.
1.Accept it, own it
Stepmom burn out is a normal occurrence especially if you are still new to it and still adjusting. Let go of the guilt because it is what prevents you from seeking the help you need to get through these tough times. Once you accept that you are tired then own it. Identify what exactly you are tired of and why. It helps to make a list and see which ones are attributed to you, your partner, his ex, the stepchildren. Once you are aware of the source, it makes it easier to start dealing with each one of them and find a lasting solution.
2. Ask for help
There is no shame is asking for assistance when you need it. Many stepmoms feel obligated to do everything and do it perfectly. They feel like they have to be there for everyone, all the time, lest the world thinks of them as “evil”. This is especially true for full time stepmoms who are responsible the day to day care of their stepchildren and feel like their efforts are not being appreciated. In between attending school events, picking and dropping your stepchildren from school and other extra curricular activities they are involved in, helping out with homework, house work, your own work in the office, your duties as a wife, your family and friends, its not surprising that one would get tired. When you feel burnt out ask for help from your partner, your family or professional help if need be. You will be surprised to find people who are ready and willing to assist you. Keeping a healthy balance of all that is going on in your life helps you to maintain your sanity enabling you to give your family the 100% it deserves.
3. Accept what you cannot change
Some of the issues that you identify may be beyond your control. Its important to know what these issues are and let go of them. If you have tried and you are unable to change a situation its better to let it go. Holding on only stresses you further and steals your joy. Shift your focus on the things that are working and adopt an attitude of gratitude.
4.Girlfriends, girlfriends, girlfriends
Whether you just need a safe and secure space for you to share your experience openly without fear of being judged or you just want take a break from it all, let your hair down and have some fun, your girlfriends will always have you covered. Take some time off and do something for yourself, something you enjoy doing that takes you to your happy place. This will go a long way in rejuvenating you and giving you that well deserved break
If you are already a stepmom, and you are struggling with stepmom burnout and would like help specific to your situation write to firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be ready to assist you. If you would like to learn more about what to expect when it comes to raising stepfamilies download a free copy of her ebook “The Truth About Stepfamilies” HERE