Five steps to being an awakened stepmother
By Jasjit Sangha
“In an awakened family, parents are aware that every relationship in their family exist to help each person grow. Parents view their children as mirrors through which they are able to see how they themselves need to mature and develop.”
In her latest book, The Awakened Family, Dr. Shefali explores how parenting is about self-growth for the parent, more than for the child. As a stepmother, I can attest that this is very much how we need to think about the experience of step mothering if we want to nurture loving and long-lasting relationships in our blended families. In my book Stepmothering: A Spiritual Journey I shared how engaging in a process of deep self-reflection through meditation enabled me to see how I needed to change and grow in to order to maintain meaningful relationships with my stepdaughters. It was a very emotional process and it was not a quick fix, but it meant that I was able to have authentic relationships with my stepdaughters that continues to this day. Although they are now adults and starting their own families, the need for self-awareness on my part is as relevant as ever.
Here is a list of 5 ways I continue to further my own self-growth though my relationships with my stepdaughters:
- Be authentic in your relationships
First and foremost, be your true, genuine self with your stepchildren. It is much better for you and them if they can relate to you as you are, not under a false pretense of how you think you should act or behave around them in order to be a “good stepmother.” This helps to establish trust and gives your stepchildren permission to also be their authentic selves. It also means interactions can be less tense and more relaxed.
- Do not expect anything from the relationship
By this I mean that while interaction should be respectful and caring, relationships between stepchildren and stepmothers can start to feel complicated if there are expectations placed on each other. For example, it can be heartbreaking for stepmothers to want validation or some sort of acknowledgement that they are playing an important role in their stepchildren’s lives. This may never happen. Instead, focus on the present moment and the time you are sharing together and build relationships with them as individuals.
- Establish boundaries that allow you to be your best self
For South Asian mothers, this can be a challenge, and a source of deep seated resentment. Although you may feel that you need to go above and beyond what you think is needed from you, establish boundaries for yourself.
For example,instead of feeling overwhelmed cooking a big meal when your stepchildren come to visit, pick a simple option or get take out. Similarly if you had plans to do something that was important to you, go ahead with your plans and don’t feel like you are needed in the house instead. Your stepchildren will benefit so much from you being happy and positive than feeling a sense of obligation to tend to their needs.
- Find fun ways to interact with your stepchildren that you both enjoy.
As a stepmother it can feel very stressful at times to feel like you are liked and accepted by your stepchildren, so you may feel pressured to show them a good time and ensure they are having fun when they are with you. However this can quickly backfire if you feel like you have to spend a lot of money or do things you do not enjoy. Instead, if you let go of the desire to seek acceptance, and focus more on being more present, something as simple as a walk in the neighbourhood can be a valuable way to connect. Or perhaps cook together, make art or kick a ball around, anything that helps to establish a connection.
- Do not judge the decision they are making (you may not agree with it, but you have to accept it)
This was by the far the hardest aspect of step mothering for me. Learning how to accept the path my stepdaughters chose for themselves even though it was so different than what my South Asian ideals wanted for them. Nothing will be worse for a relationship than feeling judged, shamed, discouraged or ignored. Accept the path your stepchildren follow, offer support as needed and provide advice when you are invited to do so. While this may be really tough as times, if you can do so, they will come to you for help when they really need it and you will be able to continue to play a valuable role in their lives, even as adults.
Did you find these tips useful? Have you also found that step mothering has led you to engage in self growth? I would love to hear from you in the comments!
Read more of Jasjt’s Stemothering as a South Asian mom column here: masalamommas.com/category/saheli-circle/step-mothering/
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