I have a bad habit of giving unsolicited advice. But when a friend came to me with stories of frustrated step-motherhood last week, I had to share these words of wisdom. By a happy coincidence, this also coincided with a topic from the Document Life Workshop.
This was a tough one to write. I have, and always will, strive to keep things on the blog positive. While the subject isn’t very happy, I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this hard time. Because it makes the good times (and there are many) so much sweeter.
You get to choose your role…
This is one of the most important things that anyone has ever said to me. It was said by a therapist that we saw in the beginning of our marriage. It was a very hard time for me. I was putting so much pressure on myself to be a good wife and stepmother, without really understanding what that meant. It was incredibly difficult trying to find a place in this family that had already existed before I entered the picture. It was heartbreaking to feel that my stepson and I weren’t “clicking”. Of course I couldn’t blame him, he was only three. So I put all the blame on myself. I drove myself nuts trying to do all the things I thought I “should” do, while not succeeding at any of it. Out of sheer desperation, I sought help from an outside source. After about three sessions she said those magical words that I’ll never forget- “You get to choose”.
You get to choose the kind of role you want to fill in his life. You get to decode how close the two of you will be. You can be another mother, an aunt, or even a friend. Nobody can decide that for you. If anything, you’ve got a pretty good deal. His parents are his parents, they always have to be. But you get to choose your own path. you get to decide what place you want to make for yourself in this new family.
So I chose. I made a conscious decision to take on an “aunt” role. I wouldn’t try to be his mom, he had a perfectly good mother already. My job wasn’t to be a parent. I couldn’t make him love me, or even like me. But I could make sure that the time we had together was not tense and stressful. I could do my best to be a good partner to my husband, and to help him to nurture his relationship with his son. That was my job.
I choose to be the one who does laundry and cooks. I choose to blow bubbles and draw on sidewalks with chalk. I choose to run in the rain and jump in puddles. I choose to make birthday cupcakes and plan surprise parties. I choose to let his parents handle discipline and punishment. I choose to teach him things that are my strengths, and let others teach from theirs. I choose to take time to myself when I need it, without feeling a shred of parental guilt. I choose to enjoy and relish every single hug and “I love you”.
Those words “You get to choose” were so simple, but so powerful. They really changed my attitude about things. I stopped putting so much pressure on myself to be everything to everyone, and started enjoying things more. Our life when we’re together is so much fun, and I’m so glad I gave myself a break so I could discover that. I choose to focus on the good.
Blooming Meadows by Mandy King
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