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Excerpt: Focus on Yourself

from the INTRODUCTION: How Did I Get Here?

New roles often come with frustration. One day, after a particularly aggravating exchange with my six-year-old stepson, I took out my frustration on the chaise lounge using a plastic bat. New to my role as the stepmother of a grieving child, I struggled to overcome my insecurities. How had I arrived in this marriage with these children? I needed help. We all do sometimes. And when you’re moving into the role of stepparent, it’s important to get help early on, during a time when you’re feeling positive and hopeful. You can overcome your insecurities with knowledge, encouragement and support, but you have to look inside yourself first. Sue Thoele, author of The Courage to be a Stepmom, says, “Love and care for yourself first, for only then do you truly have love and compassion to give.”

How do I Feel About My New Role?
Lauren was twenty-two when she became a stepmother. She clearly remembers having an I-can-change-the-world feeling about the new family. Ella, on the other hand, distanced herself from the parent role because her husband’s girls were older and she felt it was too late to direct them. Step back and look at why you chose to marry, beyond traditional love and respect. Examine your possible attitudes toward your stepchildren. Did you marry out of financial necessity? For a parenting partner or an intimate companion? Or was it an I-hope-to-get-it-right-this-time remarriage? Exploring these questions helps you think about your stepparenting expectations and mindset. Are you:

  • A rescuer on a mission to save the family and make life better?
  • A friend who wants to be pals with the children and foster their fondness?
  • A helper, curious and enthusiastic?
  • A roommate who would rather not actively parent the children but instead courteously coexist?
  • A combination of these, or something more?

Each mindset can determine your willingness to work through your own agendas to better help your grieving family.