Monday, December 17, 2012

What Does Christmas Mean For a Stepmum - Final Part






FROM TENSION TO TOLERANCE

TENSION usually is a by-product of stress. It can make us cranky, knot up our stomachs, cramp up our shoulders and send everyone (including the dog) looking for cover when we are around. Not a happy thought – right? So, what is the antidote?

TOLERANCE  is a virtue that doesn’t seem all that easy to come by, especially for those of us who are fairly rigid in our views, are perfectionists and have high expectations of ourselves and others. For the survival of step-parenthood, however, tolerance is an absolute MUST. Tolerance can be learnt. The steps towards greater tolerance are:

* Lower your expectations (those you have of yourself and those you have of others).
* Recognize that different people function by different standards and that this does not make them wrong and you right, or vice versa.
* Drop any desire you may have to judge other’s thoughts and/or behaviours (even if you are convinced that they ARE wrong).
* Develop an attitude of curiosity. Try to find out why people think and act the way they do.
* * Remember that you don’t have to prove anything to anyone.
* Let go and relax!!! 

FROM MISERY TO happy MEMORIES:

MISERY is a state that many stepparents find themselves in at this time of year. Some may be miserable because they find themselves in circumstances beyond their control. For instance, they may be unable to spend time with their children…or be unable to afford the kind of presents they would ideally like to give…or they are locked in battle with their ex…or they are reminded of happy or perhaps unhappy times of the past etc.

MEMORIES 
One of the most important tasks we have as stepparents is to create memories with our new family members. Good memories can be the glue that holds people together. Christmas is a good opportunity for creating new and happy memories. When planning how to go about creating new memories it is important to remember that this does not require erasing old ones. Stepchildren need to know we respect whatever their old memories are and that they have every right to treasure them, just as we have a right to treasure ours. Making new memories can be great fun!!! A few ideas are as follows:

* You could combine some of your cherished traditions with those that are meaningful to your stepchildren.
* You could create a brand-new tradition that, in time, will be your new family’s trade-mark.
* You could do unexpected things like spend Christmas at the beach, go skiing, tobogganing, ice skating or make a snow-man. Just be sure that whatever you plan isn’t something anyone in your family hates.

FROM ANNOYANCE TO ACCEPTANCE:

ANNOYANCE is that uncomfortable feeling that makes us edgy, short-tempered and causes us to snap at people. In a stepfamily, Christmas with its multitude of complexities and its variety of stresses can be a source of great annoyance. We might feel annoyed with our exes, our partner’s exes, the out-laws (ooops, I meant to say in-laws), the stepchildren and even with our current partners. As though that wasn’t bad enough, we can even be annoyed with ourselves.

ACCEPTANCE is the perfect antidote for annoyance! How can we make acceptance work for us at Christmas? Well, firstly we need to accept that it may not turn out to be the kind of Christmas we are used to or we would ideally like it to be. Secondly we need to accept that if we haven’t been getting along with our partner’s ex, with our step-kids, the in-laws etc we are not likely to change that during the Christmas period. We must accept that Christmas will bring a variety of stresses that we need to handle even if that’s the last thing in the world we feel like doing. We have to accept that our partners will probably go along with whatever they believe is right and important for their children at this time of year and this may make us feel unsupported and left out. We need to accept that, whilst we might feel like abandoned children on the inside, we need to act like the adults we are, on the outside. Last, but not least, its important to accept that Christmas Day isn’t a good time to discuss issues of conflict. Put them off until the festivities are over!!!

FROM SADNESS TO SERENITY:

SADNESS may be the feeling we experience at Christmas if we realize that not many of the changes we’d hoped for have occurred throughout this year. It may be what we feel if we cannot have our own children around, yet are entertaining our partner’s. It could be our predominant sensation if we are remembering loved ones that may have passed away or cannot be with us for whatever reason on that day.

SERENITY is a wonderful state of being which is usually only achieved once we have learnt to be tolerant and have cultivated the art of acceptance as well as the ability to be still in the midst of a storm.
As you all know, as we travel the stepfamily journey we come across many hurdles, potholes and rough spots. These can make us fall and get hurt in the process. They can, however, also help us become wise and strong. Serenity is the wonderful state we achieve once we know that hurdles are no more than lumps in the road that we can step over; that potholes are there to be circumnavigated; and that the way we move through the rough spots will show us how far we’ve already come. SERENITY IS THE GIFT YOU RECEIVE WHEN YOU’VE COME TO A PLACE OF PEACE WITH YOUR SITUATION.

I trust that this Christmas you’ll be able to make the journey from the first acronym to the second.
May it  be a wonderful, joyful and peaceful time for each one of you.
Christmas greetings and love from Sonja

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I must say that as a new stepparent, I have enjoyed reading the blogs since coming across them. However, reading this last series with regards to Christmas, and in particular the last part, makes me extremely sad. The changes the stepparent is 'expected' to make means giving up so much of yourself, that for me this goes against what I believe in. A stepparent has to sacrifice so many things as it is, and if you constantly have to sacrifice and settle for less then why on earth should a person stay in a relationship that requires this? Does a stepparent not deserve to be loved, treasured and valued for who they are? Perhaps not by stepchildren, but most certainly by their partners. And should not some (or even a lot) of the then why on earth should a person stay in a relationship that requires this? Does a stepparent not deserve to be loved, treasured and valued for who they are? Perhaps not by stepchildren, but most certainly by their partners. And should not some (or even a lot) of the responsibility sit with the parent?

Anonymous said...

An error at the end (duplicate wording) - was meant to read:
An error at the end - was meant to read:
I must say that as a new stepparent, I have enjoyed reading the blogs since coming across them. However, reading this last series with regards to Christmas, and in particular the last part, makes me extremely sad. The changes the stepparent is 'expected' to make means giving up so much of yourself, that for me this goes against what I believe in. A stepparent has to sacrifice so many things as it is, and if you constantly have to sacrifice and settle for less then why on earth should a person stay in a relationship that requires this? Does a stepparent not deserve to be loved, treasured and valued for who they are? Perhaps not by stepchildren, but most certainly by their partners. And should not some (or even a lot) of the responsibility sit with the parent?

Sonja said...

Hi Anonymous,

I read your comment with great interest and cannot help but share your sense of sadness because of the simple truth that few of us stepmums really want to fully accept: The fact that stepparenting indeed requires a lot of sacrifice and more often than not the willingness to settle for less. How many of us set out to share our husbands' time, love, attention and finances with one, two, three or more other people? And when we do, how many of us truly believe that this will impact on us personally and on our couples relationship for a long time to come? How many of us are prepared for the feelings of resentment and frustration over all the things over which we have zero control? I’d venture to say, not many!

You ask a good question: "Why should a person stay in a relationship that requires this?" and I am sure that different people will have different answers some of which may be as simple as: "I love that man!" (or woman)

Having experienced the good, bad and the ugly - the traumatic, unexpected, unforseeable, delightful, gratifying enraging, tragic as well as the humorous that can all be part of the stepparenting journey over the past 30+ years that I've been a stepmother, the aim in my posts is to be as helpful as I can whilst still being realistic. The simple truth is that much of what is required of us when we take on the stepparenting role is that we do let go of many of the hopes and dreams we might have had of what life would be like when we are partnered. Does that also mean giving up aspects of yourself? I think it probably does! Does it mean that you need to give up your desire and expectation to be loved, treasured and valued? No way! In fact, I strongly believe that the ONLY way anyone ‘survives’ the stepparenting journey intact is if those important matters are firmly in place. Without feeling loved, treasured and valued by one’s partner this journey that is, at best, difficult, can quickly turn into a nightmarish trip.

Last but not least, yes, the ultimate responsibility for the partner’s children always rests with the partner but what exactly does that mean? What happens when one of the kids is sick and their other bio parent isn’t available to take care of them … and your partner is working 24/7? What does it mean when one of your stepchildren is diagnosed with a mental illness … and the other bio parent is unable to cope? What does it mean when one or more of his children are jealous of the child/ren you have together … and they take this out on their father, on you or on your child? Tough questions, aren’t they? They are tough questions alright, but each one of them is a question I have been forced to face throughout my stepparenting journey.

I don’t know if you are a stepparent as yet or if you are merely contemplating becoming one. If you are in the latter category I’d really recommend that you open your eyes, as hard as this may be when you are madly in love, to the reality of so many stepparents. Stepmothering is a really tough gig. Please do yourself a favour and don’t take it on if you are not prepared to let go of at least some of your hopes and dreams and aspects of your SELF.

Kind regards,
Sonja

Anonymous said...

Hi Sonja, I have just found your blog after searching the internet via my phone after an extremely minor situation with my stepdaughter this morning for something or someone to help me understand why I am feeling so bad. I couldnt even wait til I got home to get on my pc I felt so confused and alone. Your blog made me cry. Im not a new stepmum, it has been 8 years and up until relatively recently it was been good...then fine, but its getting harder. Your blog has made me realise I am not paranoid nor alone, my feelings are normal and I should feel and be supported, thank you. Feel very low right now but I reckon it will be ok x

Sonja said...

Hi Anonymous, It makes me very glad to hear this. That's what my blog is meant to be all about. Best wishes for your stepmothering journey - Sonja :)