Would you enter an Olympic event without training? Envision yourself diving into the pool next to Michael Phelps. Stand next to Simone Biles and, together, perform a floor exercise. Meet Katie Ledecky at the pool and race her in the 400 metre free style. Close your eyes and see yourself in any of these scenarios. Did you win? Were you close? Why did it turn out this way? Are you laughing at the mere asking of these questions?
Of course, we all know that the difference is in training. The training of an Olympic athlete often starts in childhood. It is a pursuit of the heart, mind and body. It is relentless. Each thread of muscle is pushed and pulled to its limit. By the time the whistle blows at that first Olympic start, an athlete’s muscle memory is sharp and swift. They don’t have to think about what they have to do. Their muscles and minds are ready to go.
The coaches that support each athlete along their road to the Olympics are the people that make the critical difference. Parents. Friends. Professional athletes who teach their clients from their own experience. No one could even approach an Olympic trial without their team behind them. As they pursue their goals, they become part of an Olympic tribe of friends who are the only ones who truly understand their journey, their pain and their joy. It sounds kind of great, right?
Everyday, stepmothers (and many parents) jump into the Olympics called their life and expect to win. They do not train. They do not seek out a coach. They do not hone their emotional muscles. They do not find their tribe. We would laugh if one of us just joined an Olympic team and started to compete. Yet, we do it everyday.
Forming a stepfamily is an Olympic event. A stepmother joins a team that is already formed and has been training together for years. They have their habits and their training schedules. Their tribe is formed. Dad decides to ask a new member to join his family team. The new team member naively agrees and becomes a stepmother. Dad and stepmother do not train.
The original family tribe is disrupted. Now, what? No one has trained for this disruption. No one has studied and practiced the skills that would push the family forward and become a true well-honed machine. No one has thought that the skills to blend a family takes the years and years of training that constitutes the making of an Olympian.
Yet, stepmothers and Dads expect to be accepted and meld into the tribe immediately. Dad expects that an immediate new family is formed and that we will earn a medal. After all, sports demand training but we should just “know how” to understand and serve the psychological needs of our family members. We should just “know” ourselves well enough to fix all ills.
The truth is that life is an Olympic trial. There are no easy roads. You have to train. If you haven’t trained, start now. Take classes. Find a coach. Find your tribe. Life was not designed to go it alone and stepfamilies take years of training and forming, just like our Olympic athletes.
If you want to start your stepmother training, consider joining Jenna Korf and me at a Stepmother Retreat. If you would like to know about our 2017 schedule, we’re putting it together now. http://stepmomsanctuaryretreat.com/stay-updated/