Suffering immense pain throughout this past week as a result of a nasty tooth and gum infection that necessitated a root canal treatment - (OMG, how much pain can anyone deal with?) - reminded me of the article I wrote quite a few years ago when I broke my elbow. I hope that you glean some wisdom from it:
Tip 1: EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
When I slipped, fell and hurt myself it certainly wasn’t something I’d expected would ever happen to me.
Living in a stepfamily it’s useful to expect the unexpected. For instance:
*One moment you barely know that you even have stepchildren (because the ‘nasty ex’ won’t let them visit), the next moment they land on your doorstep, suitcase in hand saying: “Dad, I thought that I should move in with you for a year or two – you don’t mind, do you?!"
*One moment your stepkids seem to think you are super cool and two months later, after a few unpleasant incidents, run-ins and disagreements they only ever refer to in terms that are anything other than kind.
*One moment you are planning for Christmas with all the troops, next thing you know the ’ex’ has spirited your stepkids away with promises of Christmas in the snow/at the beach/on the moon…..
Tip 2: GO WITH THE FLOW
As I found myself writhing on the supermarket floor (where I had slipped and fallen) I quickly realized that despite all the plans I’d had for that day/week/month, I wasn’t going anywhere (at least for a while).
When the unexpected occurs in your life or things simply don’t work out the way you had envisaged, dreamed or planned, go with the flow. The more stubbornly you cling on to your previous ideas, thoughts and plans, the harder reality will bite and the more it will hurt. Going with the flow means (as the phrase implies) that like water in a river you make your way under, over or around the obstacles in your path. If you encounter a really big obstacle, your flow may even be interrupted for a while. That’s okay, it’s a normal human response. But like the flow of water in a river won’t be stopped for any length of time, going with the flow means that no obstacles will have the power to stop you for too long either.
Tip 3: BE TOUGH
Just as I needed to be tough and not allow the excruciating pain to overwhelm me until it was finally relieved by a very welcome shot of pethidine (an hour and a half after the incident!) there will be times in a stepparent’s life when nothing short of being tough will stop them from becoming too overwhelmed, crumbling under the strain and buckling under the pressure.
Life requires toughness - the ability to grit ones teeth and endure. No one who walks this earth has it easy. When we are in pain it’s easy to look around and see all the other people going about their business as normal – not a trace of pain to be seen on their faces and we long to be just like them. Guess what? They too have their struggles; they too have endured significant pain at some point or other and/or have their times of difficulty yet ahead. There is no such thing as an easy life…..and the older you get the more you will come to understand this. So, when you hit a tough spot, grit your teeth and hang in there!
Tip 4: ACCEPT SUPPORT
Although the customers and staff of the supermarket where I had taken my fall rallied around me, they couldn’t do much more than collect the bits and pieces that had fallen out of my hands (wallet, mobile, handbag) and make me as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. Despite their inability to change my situation, I really appreciated their kindness and concern. It was nice to know that I wasn’t on my own.
As stepparents we need to accept any support we can get. Even if the support we are getting doesn’t change our situation, it can still be incredibly helpful. A stepparent’s support could be:
*A friend offering to look after the new baby whilst you make special one-on-one time for your distressed stepdaughter…or…take a well-deserved break…or…go shopping without appendages –yippeee!
* Another step mum suggesting a heart-to-heart when your stepson’s just told you that he hates you and no matter what you’ll try, you’ll never replace his mum…or…the ‘ex’ is making yet another demand on your already strained finances…or…your partner turns yellow with jealousy every time you spend time with your biological kids.
* A parent who’ll take your kids and step kids off your hands so that you and your man can have a weekend away to sort out your differences…or…to catch up on some much needed sleep… or… to reconnect and just have fun.
Even if it doesn’t look like the supporting hand can do much to stop your pain, never say ‘no’ to someone offering help!
It's so important to find and accept all the support you can get. Are you aware that there is a Stepmom Summit Interview Package which features over a dozen coaches, counselors, authors, speakers and fellow stepmums - including my good self - that reveals successful ways to deal with many of the challenges you are pretty sure to encounter along your stepmom journey. To learn more about this package, click here.
Making Pain Work for You will be continued in next week's blog.