When I first became a part of my blended family, I hadn’t really been around children that much. I went from being a single girl in her early 20’s living with roommates in an apartment to becoming an unofficial stepmom for two amazingly energetic toddlers. It was a culture shock to say the least. My whole life had completely changed. I went from having freedom to come and go as I pleased to changing diapers and dealing with terrible two tantrums. It was a new life that I was so excited to embrace, but it was just going to take a little adjusting.
In the beginning it was a difficult transition.
I was never huge on organization or keeping a spotless house, but I did not realize how much two little tasmanian devils could destroy. I mean seriously. I know y’all know where I’m coming from here. These little angels can take a house you spent all weekend cleaning and make it look like a tornado ran through it in less than an hour. I was spending my days constantly picking up toys, rewatching the same animated movies, washing clothes worn for approximately 20 seconds, and praying I was doing a decent job. I was doing a pretty good job holding it all together. Except one thing that I kept coming back to.
The decorative hand towel that hangs over my oven door. I would go in the kitchen and it would be balled up on the counter. I would walk by the oven to see it all scrunched up and ugly. I would come home from work too see that my mother in law had used it to wipe up a spill. I would look at my oven only to notice my decorative hand towel missing from it’s spot on the oven door, again. I never knew how big of a pet peeve a decorative kitchen towel was for me, but it was driving me nuts.
This one thing that I asked of everyone that kept getting ignored.
My one simple request kept getting overlooked.
I felt like I wasn’t being heard.I felt like my desires didn’t matter. I felt like they were all intentionally messing with me.
It was a simple, silly little decorative kitchen hand towel but it was turning into a symbol for revolt.
This decorative hand towel was turning into a physical representation of my stepkids not accepting me as an authority figure in their lives. It was turning into my mother-in-law not taking me seriously. It was turning into me not being able to handle my new role in my blended family. The fact that I couldn’t take care of this silly little towel ultimately meant that I was incapable of taking care of my family. Every time I noticed my little decorative kitchen hand towel disheveled, stained, misplaced, or god-forbid gone I would lose my ever loving mind.
I may not have realized at the time, but that hand towel was so much more. Because to me this hand towel wasn’t just a hand towel, it was a symbol of my abilities as a stepmom.
Me and this towel had to straighten up. (pun intended)
I was going to take control of my emotions surrounding this hand towel situation, and I was going to become the stepmom I wanted to be. The kind of stepmom that is in control of her stress and doesn’t lash out on the kids over a damn towel.
The truth is that biological parents have an innate sense of patience with their own child. They are more likely to forgive and forget quickly because of their inherent connection. Their ability to let go of situations with their children is stronger than that of a stepparent. (Although, I know that bio-parents often struggle with patience too.) Step Parents have to work harder to learn patience with their stepkids. They have to consciously make the decision to be patient in their blended family.
“Have patience with all things, but first of all with yourself.” – Saint Francis de Sales
It starts with being patient with yourself.
You have to forgive yourself for not being an amazing parent right off the bat. You weren’t given months to prepare for this role. You weren’t gifted with advice from friends and relatives. You weren’t blessed with the connection of housing the child in your womb, giving birth, and bonding during the beginning when these babies were fully dependent. You have learned to love them. You have watched them grow. You have adjusted to becoming a stepparent. You are doing your best. You have to have patience with yourself when you say the wrong thing. You have to have patience with yourself when you don’t know how to handle a situation. You have to have patience with yourself when you aren’t completely rocking this blended family thing.
You won’t have an instant Brady Bunch family.
But that doesn’t mean give up.
It means to be patient with yourself in order to allow yourself time to find the right answers, the right way to handle situations, to find what works for you, and the strength to rock your blended family role!
News flash – all parents, not just stepparents, struggle with this.
You are not alone.
In order to establish a better sense of patience within my blended family I set a few ground rules for myself.
(I would do anything not to become the “evil stepmom” that yells all the time, and that required patience above all.)
I set up a little mental checklist for the moments my patience is running thin.
(maybe when the kitchen towel is not sitting pristine in its rightful place.)
I make sure to take a few deep breaths to calm my nerves. And to stop me from yelling at the first poor little person in my path.
2. Look deeper
I ask myself how important this situation is in the big scheme of things. Will this little melodrama matter in a week, a day, or even an hour? If it’s not going to matter then don’t waste time or heartache focusing your energy on it. Ultimately the kitchen towel will be replaced and it won’t matter who stained it. I don’t need to ruin my night or anyone else’s because someone didn’t remember to leave my sacred towel alone.
3. Tell them
Let whoever is trying your patience know. After you’ve done your breathing. After you’ve looked deeper at the situation. Tell your little pet peeve how you’re feeling. Let them know that they are trying your patience. They may not know that what they are doing is bothering you. It may sound silly, but it can be very beneficial. If they know that what they are doing is making you angry, be it your stepkids or your SO, then they are likely to stop. Typically, they aren’t specifically doing things out of spite to aggravate you. Whatever is bothering you isn’t a prevalent concern of theirs, so you have to let them know that it is important/bothersome to you.
4. Then Enforce
If you’ve been through the steps then it is time to enforce. Don’t enforce rules out of anger. Make sure that you are calmed down before doling out punishments. (If that’s a role you play in your blended family.) Don’t let some fit of anger over a hand towel cause a rip in your relationship with your stepkids. (But seriously, on the plus side, everyone leaves my damn decorative kitchen hand towel alone now. Even the kids tell other people not to touch it! lol)
This mental patience checklist may not be perfect, and it may not be lifesaving, but it has been beneficial to me in my own blended family. Sometimes I get stressed and my patience runs thin. In these moments of high stress I like to mentally take a step back and look at the big picture. This normally stops me from losing my shhh on my loved ones so much. So, stepmama, I hope this has helped you in your journey for patience in your own blended family. I encourage you to use patience with yourself and with your family as a big step in building a happy blended family.
Love your family, love yourself, and live your happiest life.
xo – jessicanicole.