I cried in the presence of my stepsons. This is a deeply personal blog post and as you read through I am sure you will understand why I feel this way.While it is very personal in nature I have felt compelled to share as it may offer support you in your role as stepmum.
Recently I had an experience where I felt full of sadness and hurt. In this moment of emotional rawness I was without a clear pathway for expression or resolve. I stood in our kitchen aware that bubbling inside me were tears and words which needed to be spoken. At this stage though my family, stepsons and my husband, were blissfully oblivious to my internal tug of war. “Do I say something or do I leave it?” I knew that tears would accompany any words I spoke and I didn’t want to overwhelm or adversely impact my stepsons. It was them I needed to speak to. Yet, if I didn’t speak up would I be doing myself a disservice?
A tug of war commenced internally. Outwardly I noticed I was interacting with my stepsons in a prickly, short and distant (aka bossy boots and cranky pants) manner. This is not me. I knew the peculating sadness was coming out sideways and impacting my capacity to be considered and caring. Following this awareness I knew I needed to embrace the fear and let the hurt be known as I wasn’t going to be a very pleasant stepmum. I could feel the fairy tale archetype of the wicked, evil stepmum emerging and I wasn’t having any of those shenanigans. I am all about rewriting the fables of our forefathers!
I spoke up. I took full responsibility for how I was feeling by using ‘I’ statements and I made sure I used the soft/difficult/soft technique when I expressed what had created the sadness and hurt within me. For example: I really liked you telling me that you don’t like salad dressing. However, I feel upset because it would be lovely for me to hear thanks and gratitude for the many things I do for you. In future if you were to make your own salad I am sure you would make yourself a delicious one. These words were coupled with tears. I received a heartfelt apology from my stepsons. Feeling relieved I knew the tears were going to turn into heavy sobs. So, on that note I removed myself from the kitchen and took refuge in my room.
Children can blame themselves for others hurt. I had said my piece and now it was time to go elsewhere to release the full tension which built up during that entire experience. This wild ride as a stepmum continues to reveal hurdles, hoops, tunnels, barriers, rocky terrain and more. I have resolved that it might never end. However, I am going to continue exploring ways to express my true self which benefits not only me but my stepsons. Since this experience I have been receiving daily expressions of thanks and gratitude. Beautiful!
I would like to share more specifically what I learnt during this experience:
1. Vulnerability is nothing to fear. Instead it can support you in bring your honest and truth self to others. By choosing to share your feelings and emotions with your stepchildren you are giving them the opportunity to learn how their words and actions impact you. Everyone is unique and it’s important to know your comfort levels when it comes to exposing your vulnerability. Next time you feel your vulnerability check in with yourself and see if there is any part you would like to share with your stepchildren. Be thoughtful in how you go about doing this!
2. Use non-blaming language. Do you know the sandwich technique? Dr Patricia Papernow talks about this in her book ‘Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships- What works and what doesn’t.’ This is where you state a positive, then the ‘problem’, followed by a positive (soft/hard/soft). I have been practicing this approach for a number of years now so it is automatic to me. When I spoke to my stepsons I started with a positive, then I shared how I felt and then finished with another positive. I know that if I had not been practicing this approach in less intense situations over the years I would not have been able to draw on this technique at this time. If you want to give it a go remember it goes, positive, problem, positive. Good Luck!
3. Standing on my own two feet. Since embarking on this wild ride of stepmotherhood my husband has been my rock and at times my voice. My husband has offered me so much support and backed me up 100% whenever a challenge arose in our stepfamily. This time I didn’t look to him at all. In fact I was determined to be seen as having my own voice. My husband was in the same room yet totally engrossed with playing the guitar. He didn’t know I was upset. I loved that I claimed my space and spoke for myself.
I would love to hear if you have recently had any significant breakthroughs in your role as stepmum. We all know that being a stepmum is incredibly challenging. You might like to comment below or head on over to the Amazing Stepmum Support Group and share your own story of triumph. I would love to hear from you.
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