Sadie Holloway is a workshop facilitator who teaches interpersonal communication skills to help people strengthen their relationships.
Being a stepmom is one of the world's toughest jobs within a modern family. Here ares some suggestions and ideas for women who want stop worrying about how to be the ideal stepmother. (Hint: There's no such thing as a perfect stepmother, so stop being so hard on yourself!)
Stepmothers have one of the hardest jobs within a blended family
Their role within the stepfamily can be very ambiguous:
- Does the stepmom have the same level of authority as a biological mom when it comes to discipline issues?
- Should the stepmom behave more like an auntie or a big sister to her stepchildren?
- What should the stepchildren call their stepmother?
For perfectionists, not having a clearly defined role can be unsettling. How do you know if you’re “doing it right” as a stepmom when you don’t even know what “right” looks like?
Striving for perfection creates stress and anxiety. Self-forgiveness promotes inner and outer peace.
Let's explore some coping strategies for stepmoms who want to overcome the need to be perfect all the time.
Pay attention to tasks that you've been putting off
Have you been avoiding an important task that involves doing something for your stepchildren? A simple task such as planning a family dinner or buying a birthday gift for a stepchild can be stressful for stepmoms who want to be perfect. What if your stepchild hates the food you made or doesn’t like the gift you chose for her? Perfectionists like to please other people. If they’re afraid that they’ll fail at a task, procrastination sets in. Ask yourself if there are any projects or chores you've been putting off and see if you can figure out why you're afraid to tackle that particular job.
Let go of your need to be recognized, and find your own way to celebrate your successes
One of the biggest challenges that stepmoms face is the feeling that they're not recognized for their contributions to the family’s well-being. From your stepchildren thanking Dad for that gift you spent days searching for, to the assumption that you’ll gladly reschedule your holiday time to meet your stepkids' needs, being a stepmother feels like a thankless job! This lack of acknowledgement, whether it's accidental or deliberate, can hurt, especially for perfectionist who need affirmation that they did something right. Give yourself credit for what you’ve achieved. Focus on the bigger picture. For example, although your stepchildren may not have liked the nutritious holiday meal you made, you learned how to cook something new and you made an effort to improve your stepfamily’s health.
Focus on cultivating personal leadership skills, not household management skills
The things that define a great leader at work are the same qualities that can make you a great leader at home. Instead of trying to manage and control every detail in your blended family, focus on developing great leaderships skills: assertiveness, empathy, patience, humility, strong ethics and a friendly sense of humor.
Be curious about why you're a perfectionist
Practice being self-reflective and non-judgmental of yourself. Have you always strived to be perfect, or does being a stepmom bring out the perfectionist in you? Did you grow up in a family where love and affection were given out freely? Understanding why you're trying to be a perfect stepmother can help you lighten up on yourself. Every one of us carries some of our old childhood beliefs and values with us into adulthood. Knowing why you are the way you are can help you find self-acceptance as a stepmom. Ask yourself which habits no longer serve you as an adult and then focus on the habits that bring you joy and happiness.
When you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself
Celebrate your imperfections! Point out your own mistakes and be the first to laugh at them. The best way to stop trying to be a perfect stepmom is to cultivate a sense of humor. If you're looking for a bit of stepmother comic relief, check out The Package Deal by Izzy Rose.
Let go of your expectations
Being a perfectionist means having high expectations for how things should turn out. The truth is, however, that perfectionism is subjective and can’t truly be measured. Results that matter to you may mean very little to someone else. What you define as “being organized” could be someone else’s idea of being too uptight and inflexible.
Put things into perspective
Were your stepkids properly fed and clothed when they spent the weekend with you? Were they safe and out of harm’s way when you were looking after them? Were they encouraged to be physically active? Were they given the opportunity to participate in activities that stimulate their intellects and promote good self-esteem? Were they shown, through your own words and actions, how to be respectful, compassionate and kind to others? Believe it or not, the things that help determine a child’s healthy development in a biological family are the same things that positively influence your stepchild’s healthy development. You may not always feel like the "good guy." Positive parenting or stepparenting isn't a popularity contest.
With the right attitude, you can transform your perceived step-parenting flaws into strengths
In the real world, both your strengths and weaknesses are what make you lovable and unique. Trying to be a perfectionist all the time can undermine your relationships, especially the ones that you’re trying to develop with your stepchildren. People who are hard on themselves when things don’t turn out to perfectly are often sullen and moody. Being angry at yourself for not completing a task generates negative energy even when you think you're directing your anger only at yourself. Your stepchildren will pick up on this negative energy and that could create even more barriers to developing a strong, healthy relationship with them.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Sadie Holloway
Wicked Stepmother from My Living Room on January 01, 2015:
Nice article, thanks for sharing your positive perspective on step parenting.