It’s a refrain often heard from the newly anointed stepmoms in the ranks…”I don’t have a life. All I do is take care of the kids.” Yeah.
Being a new stepmom, especially one who does not have children of her own can, can be daunting. All of a sudden you have a ready made family. And that family needs you. Whether it be as a cook, chauffeur, listening ear, mediator or any number of the roles associated with a caregiver. But it’s not only the child free stepmom who reminisces about her formerly, dare I say it, carefree lifestyle. Even moms with years under their belt parenting their own children can feel overwhelmed by the tasks associated with being involved in parenting their stepchildren.
Parenting in any form is all-encompassing. Life is never the same after you take on the role of caregiver whether of your own biological children or that of your stepchildren. The immense responsibility of ensuring a happy, healthy, well-adjusted child in today’s world is a 24 hour a day charge. However, anyone with an ounce of experience in the realm of adulting knows that we cannot take care of the world without taking care of ourselves. Running on fumes while being overtired and overwrought leads to a multitude of physical and emotional ailments. Physically, you initially may feel moody, fatigued or lethargic. Those symptoms can be the beginning of more serious ailments. Emotionally you begin to experience feelings of regret and resentment. Those can be dangerous emotions in a marriage and home, especially if they are preventable.
What’s the answer? Creating a life of your own by saying yes to you.
1. Commit to Self-care
People will often say “indulge” in self-care. Yet, it is not an indulgence. Self-care is part of a process to ensure your physical and mental health. It is crucial to a healthy self-awareness and should not be guilt-inducing. Instead, it is intended to be purposeful in that it ensures a path to recharge and regroup for the tasks ahead. It is a crucial part of the restorative process, not a mere reward.
It also conveys a message to those around you that you are important too.
How do you define self-care? Whether it be lunching with friends, getting a massage or sleeping in on a Saturday morning, choose what works for you. It doesn’t have to be expensive or exclusive but it should be worthwhile. Be kind to yourself.
2. Pursue a Hobby
Do you have a hobby? Or perhaps, did you have a hobby before kids? Don't let that slip away. I have written about how I gave up many of my own hobbies when I first became a stepmom. It wasn’t because I no longer wanted to participate in gym classes with my friends or to read books that had accumulated on my nightstand. It was because my time constraints were such that I was overwhelmed by everyone else’s commitments and my desire to meet everyone else’s needs. It didn’t take me long to learn that I needed my own time to enjoy life.
If you are in the throes of parenting little ones, time for yourself may be built around their nap and bedtime schedules. If you have older kids, their school and activities may keep you on the run such that early mornings are the only time available to be invested in you. Whatever the case, it is important to find that time to focus solely on a talent that you want to develop or an activity that has you intrigued. It may be only 15 minutes to start. But the commitment to yourself and your interests will pay dividends both in the short and long term.
3. Engage your Work Ethic
Believe it or not, work can be a respite for many of the ills of the world. Being involved in work that is engaging, satisfying and worthwhile can be confidence-building. Work, when it is well-suited to you and your needs, is stimulating and invigorating. Of course, not all work is pleasurable. After all, that’s why it’s called work. Still, if you have a job that fulfills you, be intentional about it. Allow it to be your balm. Share that sentiment with those in your home so that they will understand that your desire to spend time working is both necessary for your professional and personal well-being.
Stepmoms, press pause. Evaluate what is working and what isn’t. Then take those vital first steps in learning to celebrate you again.