Setting the scene:
It’s Saturday morning and you are anxious about going to your teen stepdaughter’s soccer game. You believe it is important to show your stepdaughter that you support her so you are happy to be a spectator at her game. While you have a genuine interest in her sport you know that going to her game means possibly seeing and interacting with the biological mother. In the past the biological mum has caused scenes and demonstrated disrespect towards you. You no longer wish to be treated in such a way and humiliated in public.
Stepmums, no matter how heart-centred and driven you are you can unfortunately wear the brunt of the biological mother’s grief, guilt and shame. This means that attending events where the biological mother is present can be highly stressful and at times embarrassing. Experiencing an aggressive and volatile interaction with the biological mum can be extremely painful and upsetting. This is amplified especially when you are committed to being hands on and engaged with your stepchildren. Reacting with anger can feel like the only option when your blood is boiling and you feel as though you have reached your limit. While you have every right to defend yourself there are better ways of handling these situations which allow you to also preserve your dignity and sense of self.
Here are 4 ways to help you work towards feeling comfortable and confident while enjoying your stepchildren’s sports games:
1. Avoid conflict at all costs. As a rule of thumb do not respond to the biomums’ outbursts, name calling or threats in a similar manner. Show her that you are calm and in control. Simply excuse yourself from the interaction and move on. Show her that you will not fuel her threats and emotional outbursts by investing in taking care of yourself. This method has the potential to change a relationship dynamic dramatically. Though, this does need to be a consistent response. It’s good to also understand that sometimes relationships change and sometimes they don’t.
2. Be strategic in where you physically position yourself at sports games. (a)You and your partner could make sure you are around other people you know so she is less likely to create a scene. Surrounding yourself with other people you know is a great way to also feel supported. (b) You might like to create a huge space between the two of you by standing on the opposite side of the sports field. If the biomum comes to talk to you and your partner, you could choose to walk away. Implementing physical boundaries like this send a clear message and will give you space to enjoy the game.
3. Let go of expectations. You can’t change or control the actions of the biomum. While you might be ready to interact, negotiate and discuss the wellbeing and lives of the children (or simply get along), she might not be. It is best at this point to do what you can to let go of any expectations and protect yourself by limiting the amount of contact you have with the biological mother. Letting go can be hard especially when the relationship between the two of you causes so much pain and upset. To let go you might like to write down on one piece of paper all the things which you no longer wish to experience in relationship to the biomum. On a second piece of paper right down experiences you would like to have in your life and name the people you get to share these with. Rip up the first piece of paper and put the other piece of paper somewhere to remind you of all the good people in your life.
4. Engage the support of your partner. Talk with your partner about the importance of you feeling protected and safe from any words or actions directed at you from the biomum. You might like to work out some strategies together which offer you support and allow you the chance to enjoy being at your stepchild’s sports games. Having a secret gesture or word which indicates your feeling uncomfortable can help him to be more in tune with your needs. Along with this strategy it is great to have a get away plan up your sleeve too. Preserving your sense of self is not a weakness. Instead it is a strength and to maintain your sense of self is the greatest gift you can give yourself when faced with hostility.
The dynamic between stepmum and biological mum is complex and multifaceted. In many situations there is no quick fix and sometimes nothing ever changes. However, the best thing you can do as a stepmum is look after yourself and ensure your partner has a good understanding of what you need.
It would be great to hear from you and to learn about your experiences as a Soccer mum! Please feel free to comment below.
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