Recently, I was reflecting on my early days as a stepparent, remembering many times when I felt uncomfortable in said role.
Frustrated and consumed with tension, emotions and split decisions, I worried about what each stakeholder in the situation was thinking and wanting from me. So badly wanting to start off all interactions with my “best foot forward.”
This is the cycle we’ll be exploring on the show today.
Should I attend my stepdaughter’s chorus concert? How about her back to school night?
If not now, when should I start?
Should I say something to my stepdaughter about doing her homework?
How would I even say it if I did?
Should I offer to pick her up or drop her off to help out my partner?
How will that work without my partner with me?
Sitting next to her mom at cheerleading games and competitions was always stressful…
Will she be chatty? Or will she ignore me?
The worst was being an awkward bystander for the uncomfortable conversations with mom about my stepdaughter not turning in homework during the week when she was young.
The Stressful Worry Cycle
The stress of getting these things “right,” or at least not getting them wrong by adding to the tension, would make my stomach queasy and my knees shake.
Can you relate?
Knowing how you feel but questioning how everyone else is feeling, how would they react and what’s best for your stepchild. Do you find yourself in a constant cycle of worry and uncertainty which only leaves you feeling more frustrated?
For me, the pressure was too much. I felt powerless and indecisive about how to handle things. I felt paralyzed, like I had no voice.
I was swamped with these thoughts and emotions, feeling like I was drowning in them. I remember thinking “no matter what, someone is always disappointed with me and I can’t do anything right.” I felt ineffective and hopeless.
Sadly, these are common experiences and dilemmas for stepparents. You might even relate to a few of them yourself.
If you have this going on, realize these feelings are informing you that something’s off. This is a useful first step to making a change for the better. You don’t need to live this way and there are things you can do to change it.
Imagine for a moment …
- Clearly, rationally and calmly thinking through and going to a wedding where your partner’s ex will be also and taking powerful action from an intuitive place…
- Feeling grounded and content in your decisions and attending your stepchild’s back-to-school night with ease…
- Feeling free to confidently show up in your truth every time at your partner’s ex-mother-in-law’s Family Thanksgiving potluck dinner without worrying about anyone else’s opinions…
- Growing closer in your relationships with your partner and stepchild and delighting in your time together…
These things are possible for you.
I’ve lived this cycle multiple times over.
When I was young, I had to find my voice not by choice but to survive, because my parents couldn’t help me.
They didn’t have a blueprint for navigating my childhood since we found ourselves in a new country with a new language and a new culture with opposite values that they themselves didn’t understand.
Growing Up with Opposing Cultural Values
Here are some examples just to name a few (disclaimer: this is from my personal perspective and experience) …
- In Soviet Russia, children were treated like possessions;
American culture aims to help children become autonomous and independent.
- In Soviet Russia children were expected to listen to their elders who had all the answers;
America valued respecting boundaries and obtaining consent.
- In Soviet Russia citizens were controlled by the government through propaganda, living in fear of retaliation;
America values freedom and, at least back then, objective news.
What I was up against, having to move through the newness of the environment on all levels while discovering who I am and my place in the world – essentially becoming a person, was too vastly different from anything they had been through nor could reasonably understand.
So, it’s not a surprise that though my parents and grandparents had the best of intentions, they didn’t know how to lead, guide or advise me through this experience.
The Impact of Growing Up with Opposing Cultural Values
So, what did all this mean for me?
My early childhood was spent in an environment where I was silenced. My mom was an only child who was very close with my grandparents and I was their only grandbaby. I was intensely loved, but the attention and energy I received all the time was too much.
I come from headstrong people who are vocal about their opinions and how things should be done. And let’s not forget the cultural foundations I laid out a moment ago.
All of this made me feel small, insecure, and foolish.
Their suggestions delivered often and intensely felt critical, controlling and suffocating. Consistently putting in effort to quench a deep desire to please them to gain their hard-to-earn approval, left me feeling depleted and empty. Through it all I lost my voice.
Most importantly, a little question kept bubbling up inside of me like a quiet, barely audible whisper…What am I doing this for?
All along the message I was receiving was: be a “good girl” and obey. I was exhausted. Feeling like I was trapped in my life and didn’t have the tools to be heard.
Through exposure to different beliefs and a new perspective on life’s purpose and childrearing in the American culture, I found freedom to challenge the rules of my motherland that were forced on me.
And just like that I awakened to the power within me to create a life on my terms, not other people’s.
Through this journey of discovery that eventually led me to becoming a stepmom, I’ve reconnected to and amplified my voice and autonomy. And now, have a wonderful family who supports me, I love spending time with and is my respite, rock, and touchstone.
I don’t believe in accidents. I believe that you are called into your stepchild’s life and the lives of the parents and caregivers that surround them. The same way that these people are called into your life.
To that end as a stepparent you are given a unique opportunity. You are coming into the family at a critical time. This season of change ushers in opportunity for growth and recalibration.
These changes are inviting your stepchild and everyone involved to stretch and to see how adaptive, strong and resilient they are – yourself included.
I know that finding your truth from the little voice deep within and being truly free to make your own decisions are critical milestones and common struggles for most. Our culture does not often offer permission to be exactly you and live in accordance with that.
But I believe finding these 2 things is a rite of passage that each of us has to make in order to be truly free to own our unique gifts. We have an opportunity to profoundly impact the next generation through letting them own their full voice and autonomy.
These are things everyone struggles with at different levels even if you’re not aware of it.
In response to this, I founded Synergistic Stepparenting Breakthrough, a proven 5-part process to help stepparents transform family chaos into harmonious co-parenting by building meaningful and lasting relationships with ease and joy.
I know that you’ve invested a lot of time and energy in the people in this family and that you deeply care about them, you don’t need to give that up just because of challenges.
My methodology helps you build relationships that utilize your personal skills, knowledge, and experience so that you create the strong family foundation that lasts the test of time and weathers storms.
All of that is possible for you and I will help you create that life.
If you’re ready to release the frustration and chaos and create aligned harmonious relationships that bring you peace and joy, book your free call with me at synergisticstepparenting.com/work to find out how you can create your dream life.
Until next time, be well!
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