The Stepmom Step-Back

stepmom step backBy Lisa Bagshaw – StepMom Magazine Sept. 2011

A lot of successful stepmoms talk about the merits of stepping back. An equal number of stepmoms express confusion over what stepping back really means—and how to do it.

The premise is to step back from the dramas of living with kids that aren’t your own, an ex who might be problematic and all the other many things stepmoms can’t control like last-minute schedule changes, discipline differences and the past.

Stepping back doesn’t mean that you don’t care about your family. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t kind and loving, or that you ignore the people with whom you share your living space. Stepping back means you consciously choose to take a hands-off approach on certain matters that ultimately, you probably can’t control anyway. You mentally detach from becoming caught up in the drama. You tactically detach from getting caught up in the day-to-day parenting tasks.

You let it go. You let them figure it out. You accept it and move on.

For some of us, this sounds like the work of Gandhi.

The completely opposite approach is a stepmom who wants to know everything that is going on between her partner and the ex. She wants to be part of every decision made about the kids. She wants to have her opinion heard on every matter. She wants to be right. She wants to change the past. She is emotional, upset and angry. We’ve all been there and it is half way to Happy Hour at the Funny Farm.

Stepping back comes from a place of love. Self love first, and love for your family, even the ex. Drop the reins and focus on what makes you a happy person. You will be more yourself, loving and kind, more present, and those around you will all respond similarly.

I have discovered that this stepping back routine is not, in fact, the work of a saint (or a martyr) but the work of a proven, achievable formula. There are three important steps that could leave you feeling downright giddy about your life. Grab a pen and paper (go ahead, we’ll wait!):

STEP 1. Decide that you are going to let go of matters you can’t control, that cause you to feel resentful and that ultimately drain you of your energy reserves. Write down all the things about stepfamily life that are simply not within your control.

STEP 2. Practice focusing on the positive aspects of your life as a stepmom. Write down all of the benefits of being a stepmom so you can refer to it when you’re not feeling positive.

STEP 3. Commit to your own personal happiness by doing the things that make you happy. This step is the Holy Grail to stepping back. As you step back from potential dramas at home and feel positive about your decisions, you can then create opportunities and experiences for yourself and your family that give you joy. List all the things and activities that make you happy. Commit to making them a bigger part of your life.

A few years ago my stepsons were not doing well in school. I had very strong opinions about what we should do, as did their mom and dad. I became very frustrated and angry when I was not included in every discussion they had and then when they chose a path that I did not agree on it sent me down the rabbit hole. No one is partying in the rabbit hole.

I realized for my own sanity and health I needed to let the issue go, leave it to them and move on. When I made this decision, it freed me up to enjoy my home life and remember what I love about being a stepmom. Because I wasn’t spending hours dwelling on it any more I had more time to do the things I love, and that made me a happier person.

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7 thoughts on “The Stepmom Step-Back”

    1. Thanks for this article after months of clouded judgment and almost ready to abandon my new marriage. This has reiterated several concerns that has helped me refocus and detach. I was too involved and making myself angry because I was not the “bio parent”. I’m sure my wife is slightly disappointed that I’m not as engaged but it beats divorce, right? I’ve since shifted my attention to creating my own bio family with my wife (Same sex Marriage) and allowing her to raise her children while, Co-parenting with her Ex husband. This has allowed me my free time to do whatever I want as a motherless woman. Try it ladies you may get some disappointing comments from your husband or wife, however, it’s your life take control don’t pity yourself with the burden of individuals who are not 100% responsibility. Grab happy hour at noon today!!

  1. When you have a husband that is ADD and can’t remember schedules, much less writing it down in the calendar, and he works close to 70hrs a week, and all of your stepchildren are girls who always come to you first for just about everything, it’s very hard to disengage. We deal with a HCBM and it causes him anxiety just to talk with her. While they (DH and HCBM) are the ones that always talk to each other (I don’t usually even converse with her), I usually am the one that takes care of everything after the phone call or text message. Also, because DH can’t remember schedules, he usually comes to me before making a decision with HCBM. All of this makes it very hard to disengage bc if I didn’t keep up with everything, there wouldn’t be anything to keep up with ?

    1. I completely understand. There are times when I’d love to disengage, but it seems that the role of scheduler, event organizer/coordinator is thrust up on me. Disengaging isn’t always as “easy” as it seems.

    2. Sounds to me like you are letting your husband and his ex really take advantage of you. You probably get blamed when things do go as they should, too, right? They are using you as a convenient scapegoat for not dealing with their issues, and encouraging your stepkids to see you that way too. That’s a dynamic that you should work to change. You’re not saving anyone, you’re just enabling the parents to continue to be lousy parents. Wishing you well, and hoping you’ll start taking better care of yourself.

  2. I remember when I started to do this years ago to protect myself. My husband identified it as problematic at first asking me to ‘stay in the game’ and not ‘retreat’ into my own world. I think the point was valid and challenged me to identify my motivation and intention. This article helps clarify the difference between hiding from something you characterize as the ‘problem’ versus stepping back consciously out of love. The first is giving away your power while the second is taking it back. When I found my sweet (stepmom) spot, it changed everything!

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