How do you do it? Not crawl up in a ball and hide when it’s really tough? How do you keep your wits about you? Practice grace? Humility?
Yes, you. I’m asking you. I sure as fuck do not have the answers. I’m sorry. The thing is I’m not sure I’m doing any of it right. This whole stepmom thing. This mom thing. How does anyone know if they’re doing it right? There’s no barometer. Or progress report. No quotas or monthly meetings. You certainly know when you’re doing it wrong. Plenty of people to tell you that. Your kids. Stepkids. Your partner. Your partner’s ex.
Practice Relentless Optimism
It’s bullshit, right? I celebrated the baby accidentally pooping on the toilet the other day. Literally clapped, high fived her. Told her how proud I was of her. Meanwhile, none of my children have died. They’re well fed. Clothed. I’ve never punched one. Nobody high fives me for that. No one says they’re proud of me. So how do we know? How do we navigate? Especially in a blended family?
Here’s the truth. Perhaps the only truth I’m capable of right now. Practice relentless optimism and everything will be okay.
Yelling all the time is exhausting. Expecting the worst all the time, toxic. But, remembering that most things work out just fine. Helps. It does. Obviously, you can’t just hope your kid masters the multiplication tables. That’s why you send them to school and look the other way. I mean… well, you get it.
We Get Better
Think about the last time you absolutely lost your shit and were riddled with guilt and shame. I’m guessing you didn’t just walk away and never talk about it. If you did, let’s talk, I can help. But for those of you who didn’t, and really even if you did, what happened next? The world didn’t stop. Right? No, because when we choose, we have the ability to get better.
That thing you lost your shit about, maybe it happens again. Shit luck. I get it. This is sort of how I feel with my kid’s biological mother. She’s becoming increasingly high conflict and starting to really harm the kids emotionally. Unfortunately, and this has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to accept, I cannot change that. I actually first typed, “I cannot do a thing about it.” But that’s incorrect. I can do a lot about it, I just can’t change her actions.
The Consequence of Relentless Optimism
So that’s the point. By practicing relentless optimism in that situation, I’m controlling my actions. Which then changes the environment my kids are growing up in. Whether they overtly knew it or not, on some level my harboring so much negativity about their mother’s bullshit, was harming them. I might not have expressed it verbally or directly, but it was changing me. Because I was becoming pessimistic.
Having the perspective that everything will work out changes so many situations. This doesn’t mean you stick your head in the sand and things magically get better. What it means is that by choosing to believe the outcome will be okay, you’re enabling yourself to change the situation. Because you’re not so exhausted. And honestly, people want to listen to you more.
When I walk around pessimistic, no one wants to be around me. Much less listen to me. But, by being relentlessly optimisitc my husband feels like I have his back. And the kids whether they’re struggling with the issues their mother is causing or just being kids, I can be a rock for them. And when they are testing me as a stepmom, my choosing to be relentlessly optimistic takes away all the power that their negative intentions may have carried.
It’s not always graceful. And I really don’t know how I do any of it. Often I feel like, and sometimes am in fact, a big egotistical insecure asshat. There are no wits. And on occasion, I’ve crawled up into a ball. But the more I practice relentless optimism the better I become at executing it. And the more that happens, the less weight I feel I’m carrying.
Relentless Optimism, Always
Tonight, when my oldest daughter asked me what happened between her parents. And she told me the horrible things her mother told her. Without a second thought, and with complete and total composure, I simply said, “Babe, that’s not my story to tell. I wasn’t there. But you should try talking to your Dad.” And that was that.
I didn’t lie or make it seem like she did something wrong by asking. I simply controlled the situation and was able to look her in the eye. And for only moments did I want to angrily shout the truth. But that anger was fleeting, more so than it’d ever been. Because, here’s the thing… relentless optimism allowed me to have power over my emotions. Because somewhere deep down I know that in the years to come, how I treat those moments will mean everything and it will be okay. More than okay.
I may not have grace or humility or do much correctly. But more and more I know with every ounce of my being, that for the rest of my life I’ll be able to look all of my kids in the eye. And in the worst moments, those horrible ones, when I’m dragging myself out of that ball I crawled into, I will practice relentless optimism.