Giving Up On Perfect | One Stepmom's Story About Facing Imperfection
Since the beginning of fairy tales, stepmothers have always been casted as wicked and incapable of love. Because of this many new stepmoms find themselves overachieving and doing whatever they can to make everything perfect, or at least seem perfect from the outside.
Moral of this story? Nobody's perfect and you will work yourself to death trying to live up to impossible expectations. Your strive towards perfection will jeopardize your happiness and the happiness of your family. Here's my story on almost losing everything I was working so hard to keep.
The "Perfect" Step-Mom Is A Myth!
In the beginning, I believed that I had to do everything. I had to be a perfect step-mom. I thought I had to be "better" at EVERYTHING. The kids had to love me. They had to be kept impeccably clean. They could never be dirty. They had to always be straight "A" students. My house had to be clean and kept immaculate. I had to prepare and cook 3 meals a day, each perfectly balanced. Everything had to be perfect. I had to be perfect. I had to prove that I was the better choice of "mom."
In my mind, I was convinced that I had to go above and beyond everyone's expectations. I took on this burden of perfect-ness all on my own. To me I was fighting for a spot, feeling that it was a competition. The only problem with this was I was competing with no one, except for my own erratic thoughts of impossible expectations and perfection.
Examples Of My Idea Of Perfection
Just so you know a little of what I used to do in order to be "perfect" here are a few examples of my neurotic thinking:
- I would stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning, cleaning, polishing, doing laundry.
- After staying up all night cleaning, I'd crash for a couple hours until it was time for the kids to get up and put on their freshly ironed clothes for school. (In other words, I was getting about 2 hours of sleep each night.)
- If the kids did something that wasn't right, I'd excuse them and not tell their dad about it. I thought this would be a good way to get them to love me. (It's not!)
- I used to also hide things from my in-laws, thinking if something wasn't perfect it would reflect on me and my inability to be a parent. (I have great in-laws, this was all in my own head!)
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Impossible Expectations Breeds Resentment
Some nights I would lay in bed and couldn't sleep for all the thinking that I was doing of tomorrows chores. I constantly worried over being a good mom. I thought about and anxiously questioned what everyone else thought of the parenting job I'd taken on. I worked myself to the bone and into depression, then the resentment set in.
- "Why don't they appreciate what I do for them?"
- "Why don't they see what I do for them everyday?"
- "How can they not say thank you?"
The resentment I was feeling inside was brought on by me taking on way too much. Trying to be perfect in every way. It was brought on by my insecurities and my constant need to make sure everyone was happy with me all the time.
Being a stepparent is rarely an appreciated role, I knew that before I married into the step-mom role. After awhile, I began to really unravel and I doubted myself, my marriage, and my ability to be a stepparent.
Nobody can go for 22 hours a day and keep their sanity intact. Eventually you will crash and burn or in my case become a shadow of the person you used to be. My life was a mess, I was a mess. I didn't even remember the life I used to live or the person I used to be.
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My husband and I began to have problems because I was always cranky, pissed off, and very hard to live with. He tried over and over to get to the bottom of what was going on, but a person can only try for so long before giving up. My husband is a kind hearted man, who loves me very much, but had just about given up on me ever being who I was when we met. I had transformed into a neurotic crazy person. There was no trace of who I used to be. I cried a lot. I was not easy to be around.
During this time, while I was trying so hard to be the perfect parent for my stepkids, I had actually alienated them. The bond and relationship we had from the beginning deteriorated. Each one of my three step kids began to pull away from me. Who could blame them though? The stepmom they had known and loved had completely disappeared. Instead they were faced with a woman that never smiled and only worried about their clothes being clean.
I started to blame my husband, blame the kids, blame the kids mom, all for my unhappiness, only I never voiced any of my feelings with anyone, I kept it ALL inside.The real problem was me, my impossible expectations of being a stepmom.
One night I finally had enough and broke down and talked to my husband about what was really bothering me. I told him about my thoughts of being unappreciated, about how I felt that our family was falling apart before it even got a real chance to thrive. I told him about feeling pressured to be perfect and how I thought it was my responsibility to keep everyone happy.
He listened as I went on and on and then asked me,
"Why would you feel that you have to have everything perfect? Who asked you to be perfect? Who said you are the one responsible for everyone's happiness?"
These questions really got me to thinking. I had never thought about it before, but no one had ever pressed any type of expectations on me. I had made this all up myself. I was the one that had put impossible perfection standards on myself! I had taken all this on myself!
That's when he said,
"I didn't marry you because you were perfect. The kids don't love you because you are perfect. We love you because of who you are, not because of what you do for us."
For me, this was the most eye opening conversation I had ever been a part of. My constant fears of not being the best made me insecure and a bit, ok a whole lot, on the nutty side. It made me feel like less of a person. What my fears boil down to is I was afraid that if I wasn't the best, maybe my husband or kids wouldn't love me. Maybe, I might lose them. The thought of being without them scared me immensely.
The truth is, my constant controlling of every aspect of our lives almost caused me to lose them. I'd almost lost everything that I loved because I was so afraid that I would lose them. Fears are great motivators, but they can either have positive reactions or negative consequences. In my case, fear had nearly driven me completely insane with the feelings of "perfection."
After the big talk about how I was feeling, my husbands beautiful words about why he and the kids love me, and my eye opening realization I began to actively pay attention to my thoughts.
Everyone says, "we are our own greatest critic," and I'm no exception to that rule. The negative thoughts I heard bouncing around in my head were really quite appalling. In order to get my thoughts back on track I had to combat them with positive thoughts. It was a hard road, but I haven't been the same since.
I still struggle at times with the urge to make everything perfect, but I've learn to just live. Controlling everything, living up to others' expectations is an impossible way of life. Now, I just try to live each day and enjoy my kids. They get dirty. Their clothes aren't ironed unless it's a special occasion. I get more sleep. I step on toys from time to time, but they are happy and so am I.
As step-moms, we sometimes jump right in and attempt to "conquer the world." It's natural to want to be the best. We want to "fix" everything and make our step-kids happy. We want to tie it all up in a bow. That's all fine and dandy, but don't sacrifice yourself and who you are to "fix" something that you didn't break in the first place.
I'm a firm believer that the Universe, or God, will always put you in the place you need to be at the time. Being a step-mom to these kids is what I'm supposed to be doing. It's easy to get caught up in self defeating thoughts, but just remember that you are where you are supposed to be.
Do your best. Take care of your family. Do what you can to bring happiness to your step-kids life, but don't lose yourself in the process. Don't let your striving to be the best step-mom push you to resenting the ones you love the most in the world. Life happens, just go with the flow, relax, and concentrate on the memories made, not the laundry or unattainable perfection.
Tips For Finding A Balance As A New Step-Mom
- Don't do things for your step-kids that they are perfectly capable of doing on their own.
- Don't worry about what others think of your "parenting."
- Don't feel the need to dictate every tiny detail of your kids lives.
- Take the time to just enjoy being "the mom." Before you know it, they'll be grown and gone to live their own lives.
- Make sure to speak honestly with your husband about how you're feeling and what's going on in your head. Communication is the only way he will understand your point of view.
- Let go of your "perfect" thinking and just live life.
Related Step-Mom Reading
- Step-Mom Advice: Why Won't She Call Me Mom?
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- 6 Must Read Survival Tips For New Step-Moms
6 important survival tips for new step-moms. Being a step-mom is tough. Read these tips to help you get on your way to being a great one!
- What I'm Thankful For As A Step-Mom
Are you a stepmom? Are you finding it hard to find the bad through all the not so good? Take a minute to read what I'm thankful for as a step-mom.
© 2014 Stephanie
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