As any mom, we as stepmoms need to choose our battles. As a stepmom, it’s important to remember it’s not about you. What I mean is sometimes as a stepmom it’s incredibly important to own that your kids are not yours biologically. This gives you the opportunity to step back from certain conflicts and be more objective. What I’m really saying is that more often than not it’s really just not about you. And that’s powerful.
I so often go down this road in a conflict. Tell me if you recognize it. Stepkid is being a total asshat. We talk about it. Then being all of 7 or 9, he or she doesn’t respond as I want. I internally freak out. Clearly, this outrageous lack of respect is because I’m not their real mom. And they want to hurt me by proving I’m not their real mom by refusing to properly clean the bathroom.
Been there? Though I’d love to pretend a friend told me this story, me too. But, here’s the thing. Maybe, just maybe, my asshat kid is just fucking around instead of cleaning the bathroom. Because they are 7 and 9 years old. Who knows, maybe they are trying to hurt me because of some issue they’re struggling with internally. But by choosing to accept that it’s probably because they are 7 and 9, I can be better. More objective.
So, how do you manage this? Obviously actually yelling all of those feelings won’t work. It’d really hurt the kid and it wouldn’t accomplish anything. Except maybe ruining the relationship you have. But, those feelings they’re valid. Not in the sense that your kid is trying to hurt you, but in that it’s all so god damned terrifying.
In the moment though, when those terrifying insecure feelings creep up it’s hard to believe that simply reminding yourself it’s not about you will help. But, maybe it will? With practice. Constant practice.
Compared to 3 years ago, I am worlds better at navigating these conflicts. And with practice, I am getting better at recognizing when it is about me and when it’s not. In truth, it’s almost never about me. And when it is, it’s actually about me as their mom, not their stepmom. In other words, it’s just because I fucked up in some way or they’re pissed at me for making them do their chores like kids do. And maybe, the handful, of times when it has been about me as their stepmom, the truth is it’s not my place to handle it. It’s my husbands.
This is not to say that I retreat and hide and never talk about it. I don’t think that’s practical or good for mine and my kid’s relationship. But in those times I choose to let my husband take the lead. Because I need the kids to know that I respect my role. I take it really fucking seriously, raising them, which admittedly is what makes it so hard, but all the same, I know my place. This is so important because it shows my kids that we know, it’s not about me. It’s about them and this really difficult thing that they’re dealing with and that’s okay.
So, when we’re in conflict. And in the nano-seconds my heart and my brain are trying to process the previous 500 words, I try to remember that it’s not about me. It’s about the fact that they’re kids, or that I am tired and messed up, or it’s just a bad day… and not about me. It takes a lot of strength and mindfulness, muscles I’m still developing, but with constant practice, it’s getting easier.
I still let it get to me. I’m not perfect at handling these conflicts. But thankfully, or maybe not, I get a lot of opportunities to practice. Two 9-year olds and a 7-year-old afford me that. What I’m learning is the more that I try to maintain that perspective, that’s it not all about me, in all parts of our relationship, the better equipped I am to remember it when there is a conflict. It’s constant and intentional practice. And as I get better at it, I get better for them. Which really, is the goal because it is in fact not about me.