Figuring out how involved – or not involved – you should be when it comes to supporting your spouse as a parent can be tough.
Here are three things you can do that will support your spouse and empower yourself at the same time:
Did you know that one-on-one time is essential in stepfamilies?
In a recent Psychology Today article, stepfamily expert and bestselling author Wednesday Martin explains that “while first families bond well as a group, stepfamily members bond best dyadically, or one-on-one.”
Recently, another stepparent gave me some wise advice: “Be honest with yourself about what impacts you and what doesn’t.”
I decided to try this. When I did, I was surprised.
My husband’s daughter recently told us that she didn’t want her downstairs bedroom. For the past two months, she chose to make a bed of blankets on the floor of the room next to our bedroom rather than sleep in her own bed. In time, we hoped she would eventually face her fears of sleeping on a different floor and grow to appreciate the independence her room would offer. But she’s not ready. She’s almost 10 years old, but she’s not ready. So as much as we enjoyed having the upstairs as our sanctuary, we agreed to move her room next to our bedroom.
Wednesday Martin, author of the breakthrough book Stepmonster, has been studying stepfamilies for a decade. She argues strongly against unrealistic societal expectations that perpetuate “blended families” as the ideal. In fact, she wants to ban the term “blended family” altogether.
I agree. We must create new language that accurately describes who we are.
Today I am filled with gratitude. Our home is full of love and playfulness.
I’m sitting in the living room, sunshine streaming in the windows, taking it all in. My husband reading the paper, his daughter playing with the cats in the windowsill while they watch bluejays on the deck. Our new dog cuddled at my feet. Even the beta fish are swimming happily in their bowls.
One of the benefits of writing things down is that we can go back and check in with ourselves.
Today, I’m reflecting on this recent post: The Hardest Thing I’ve Done As a Childless Stepparent.
I’m reminding myself to step back, breathe, and let go.
This post is inspired by reader Trigirl, who commented on my recent post The Hardest Thing I’ve Done as a Childless Stepparent. I wrote about how I must accept that my husband will deal with his former wife in his own way and that whatever dynamic exists between them does not involve me (Manifesto #5).
Trigirl asked: “How did you come to accept that you will not have a child of your own? For me that is the hardest issue to come to peace with.”
“If we do not think through things well, if our vision is only short-term and our methods only superficial, and if we do not consider things with an open and relaxed outlook, then we turn what started as minor problems into major difficulties. In other words, we ourselves create a great deal of our own suffering.”
~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama | Daily Advice from the Heart
I’ve faced many challenges as a childless stepparent. I’ve made peace with the fact that the part of myself I thought I would give my child – as a mom – has nowhere to go. I’ve learned how to be a balanced, positive presence in my stepchild’s life. I’ve decided to ignore my husband’s former wife, who often intrudes into our life. Those things are hard but they are all things I can change within myself.
Without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve done as a childless stepparent is this: accepting that my husband will handle his former wife in his own way.