“This family makes me feel like an outsider. I do all this work and I am still an outsider. When will I ever feel like I belong?”
It’s a common stepmother lament. We cook, clean, run errands, pick up kids, buy them clothes and, yet, we feel like a third wheel. It is just this feeling that we are outside of the core family. Some conversations feel as if you have no room to participate. It is this overriding feeling that they just don’t want you there.
Here are a few tips for any stepmother who has ever felt this way.
We Are Not Part of That Family.
For some reason, we do not want to acknowledge that there is a family unit in our homes of which we are not a member. Your partner has children. They have unique experiences that they have shared. We were not there. That’s okay. They know people that we don’t know. That’s okay. They know their mom in a way that we don’t understand or need to understand. They experienced their family’s divorce. We were not there.
It is no different than when we have childhood friends. There is a certain special relationship there because we share so many years and times that few others know about. Think about your times with those friends. You laugh deeply. Reminiscing makes your heart sing. It is just a special feeling. It is the same way for that sub family unit within your household.
Now, think about yourself talking and laughing with that childhood friend and a new, current friend pulls up a chair. You feel the air go out of the room. Although you like and love that new friend, you just want them to go away. Just for that moment, not forever. We are that newer friend who joined the conversation.
Are You Sure That You Want To Be a Part of That Family?
When we have these hurt feelings of not belonging, it feels like rejection. Is it? Do we really want to go back into time and share every experience that your stepchildren and partner have lived? Or, does the feeling of exclusion take us back to times in high school when we needed to belong? Does this feeling of exclusion make us feel unloved? Does it feel really personal and cut like a knife?
Actually, these feelings of needing to belong bring us back to our tribal roots. In nature, if you get separated from the group, your chance of survival is slim. Think about how a predator hunts their prey. They will charge at the group, hoping to separate one out. Once separated, the lone animal is a goner. So, these deep seeded feelings of belonging are quite real. But, in our society today, we really do not need to be a part of every single group on the planet. If you sit back and really thought about it, do you wish that you had been a part of your partner’s previous life? Probably not.
Do you want to give up all of the precious memories of the life you had before you met your partner? Probably not.
There is Another Tribe
There is another tribe that lives in your home. It is the tribe of the stepfamily. This tribe has its own memories. As you travel upon your stepfamily journey, these memories will grow. Time is your leader. As our memory banks increase, the children’s memories with their mom and her new life grow. The memories of life with stepmom grow as well. Life becomes richer and different. The earlier memories fade but will always be treasured. The memories with us will also be treasured. It is a saga that takes a long time. Years and years and years. We are all like a fine wine that takes years to appreciate. You can’t rush it.
Lead your tribe by honoring the past memories and traditions of your sub family units as well as the memories to come. This is what life is about. ~ Amen.