As a mother and step-mother, it is essential to discover a sense of willpower towards being inspirational! A path in life no longer simple and easy to maneuver. Being positive develops an ability to motivate, especially within the family unit. How so can it be consistently achieved let alone made possible within a blended family? There are huge amounts of baggage and increased struggles when it comes down to putting a person who has grown from a broken past together with a single parent/extended family, or any other combination of blending.
It never was a normal family from the beginning: where a couple marries with a bond that grows, to becoming parents who do their very utmost in keeping the marriage strong while giving their all to their children and making sure to be good examples. In that typical “nuclear” family unit- the connections made are simply natural and increase the ability to be ourselves and feel accepted for our unique selves. (Yes, not all families have the most loving environment or positive upbringing, this is just a generalization. What most of us would view as an ideal family.)
A step-family unfortunately lacks the natural connections you not only seek, but truly need. It requires working at something even if it feels as if it should just come together. Not everyone is ready to work on “coming together”. At first, in my own step-family experience, what should have been the natural phenomenon of bonding became a series of intense clashing and emotional hurt. The marriage bond is stressed when one has experienced having children and the other hasn’t, to the children feeling a whole wide range of emotions that come out in anger, frustration and simply acting out. Being a step-mother in the beginning is one of the most deeply painful experiences I have been through. And not for what most would think! Not because I disliked the children or because I didn’t like to do the work, but because I felt my step-daughters pain on top of my own pain for feeling like a failure in being a good step-mother. I was inexperienced on how to talk to and even how to be around not only step-daughters but teenage step-daughters. I made mistakes and there have been great challenges along the way. But, despite how much of a fight it has been to get our step-family adjusted and more comfortable, I have recognized the need for positivity!
We all thrive on positive feedback and reassurance, and since becoming a mother myself with now a daughter of my own, it has become more clear on how to give out that positive feedback. There is no changing the past no matter how much I would like to, to create a better start for our step-family. The one thing I can do is show how much I have truly cared since the beginning. Here are a few of my personal steps in creating a more successful step-family environment:
1.) Prayer and Meditation
Our family is Christian and the study of the bible and the use of its principles are a big part of our daily lives. Prayer helps calm my own frustrations in the unique challenges we go through and study helps me find peace of mind and encouragement. So, with how much it has helped me to be more patient and take a step back when I am personally frustrated, I do my best to encourage prayer/study with my step-daughters as well.
Especially with older step-children, the mothering part of being a step-mom can be unwanted or unneeded as they have already got their mothering at a younger age. So I have learned, and keep practicing, what to help give advice on as a friend and what to leave as the responsibility for their father. I still am given parental rights by their father to assign chores and ask for help and so on, but I tend to give space to more personal things to show I do respect the need for that space.
Even with your own teen it can be a pain to try to compliment or encourage during the teen angst of viewing the world negatively almost half of the time. But even when it seems like one or both are not listening or don’t care, I have made it a habit to say kind little things or encourage a positive outlook to certain situations. It shows there can be positive and not negative all the time.
Any time either of my step-daughters help out with chores or take responsibility without my husband or I asking, I always always make sure to say thank you and that I appreciate the help! I do this even if they are cleaning up begrudgingly and hating me having to tell them to do something. It insures that they understand I really do care and appreciate what they do. That I notice the good things they accomplish.
5.) Taking Personal Interest
It can be hard to relate when I do have very different tastes and interests than what the girls have been around. Despite me feeling or looking at certain things differently I have made more of an effort to show interest in what they like. I make sure to truly give my attention when they share things with me, and make sure to keep in mind the things they have said and like. This has proven very positive for both girls, with time of course, they have been more comfortable in sharing.
This entails being more self-aware of how my words and actions are coming across, based on recognizing not only my personal feelings but those around me. It is still a work in progress, but I have accomplished holding back a negative response and showing more understanding. It is the true sense of putting someone else first, while still paying attention to my own needs. (I will touch more on the subject of Mindfulness in a future post)
Along with these, always remember the importance of continually working on your marriage with your spouse! I cannot fully give without my husbands full and loving support and he cannot give his best without my respect and support.
The Step-Family dynamic brings in even outside influence that can easily tear apart a marriage/family. So, I am grateful for having a good husband who is also a great father in recognizing all I truly do for our family despite the everyday challenges.
There has been positive change for our step-family since I have put all of the above into practice. But where it all truly really started, is within myself. It truly is willpower to keep trying as a step-mother and it is even more automatic with your own child, to give the best motivation and to set the best example you can be. I am not perfect and staying positive is not always easy, but it is a constant goal I try to reach for. I hope the steps I have learned, can be an encouragement and inspiration for any other parent or step-parent out there!