A Stepmom Who Realized She was Part of the Problem


I was recently in Nice, France vacationing with my husband (no kids!) suffering from jet lag! I couldn’t sleep and my mind began to wander to how I’d reacted to hiccups that we had during our travels.

husband and stepmom realized shes part of the problem

We had parking hiccups at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. We had parking issues in Nice. I misunderstood and thought parking was included with our apartment rental, but it was not; therefore, we had to shell out a large amount of money to park in a major downtown European city. “Tres cher” as they would say in French…very expensive!

The second day of the trip, I had a cold sore appear from travel stress (I didn’t think to pack that medication), I didn’t eat enough food during the day and battled crankiness due to blood sugar issues and … and how crazy do I sound? I was in the south of France, with my husband on vacation without children!

Reactions, perceptions, tone, and attitude can change every situation. Our second day of the trip, we drove through the French Alps and saw amazing mountain scenery and ended the evening with an awesome dinner and gelato. Up in the mountains, I peed behind a bush along the road because there were no bathrooms on the route (another common annoyance of Americans traveling through Europe…lack of toilets!). I started laughing mid-stream because it was the most beautiful scene that I’d ever seen while going to the bathroom! In the Alps, looking out over mountain ranges.

mountainside in french alps

Reaction, mindset, and perception are all things we can control! It’s taken me more than five years of being married to someone with children to understand how important this statement is in blended family life. My reaction and mindset in situations are impactful and can change the tone in the house.

I can’t imagine my husband or step-daughters wanting to spend hours with me when I am cranky and complaining. Who would you want to spend a vacation with? The person complaining about the parking issues or the person laughing about going number one at the top of a mountain range in France?

I was part of the problem.

One area where I have struggled greatly as a stepparent is my reaction to situations, but looking back, I have always struggled with my quick, not always positive, reactions in many areas of my life. But I didn’t realize how much I could change my reactions and mindset until these three awesome people came into my life and I woke up one morning and said, “I don’t want to be like this anymore!”

I am the person who has an immediate response for everything, whether it is positive or negative. Often my response is negative because my step-daughters didn’t do something the way that I thought they should or they needed to be told for the hundredth time that week to brush their teeth.

I mean, how many times do we need to tell kids to brush their dang teeth? Whether you’re a bio-mom, step-mom or both, you know what I’m saying. Please, for the love, brush your teeth!!!

I can change. I can be better because I want to be better. I’m willing to put in the hard work, the time out of my busy schedule for counseling and personal development and to change how I’ve been reacting for 41 years, which is not easy. We’re not all created with a loving tone, patience or a natural calm.

Realizing I was part of the problem, was a huge shift in my life.

Have you ever stopped and thought, “Maybe it’s me; maybe I am part of the problem!” It is eye-opening, thought-provoking, and kind of scary.

My personal growth has drastically changed our family dynamic. Our 11-year-old now talks to me every day when she gets home and she asks to go shopping with me. Our 9-year-old is a daddy’s girl, but now she asks me to also tuck her in at night and she talks my ear off when we’re together.

I am a work in progress and I still have a negative tone at times or insist on having organization: a clean home and all toys put away before the girls go back to mom’s house. As I work to stop chasing perfections, my reactions and mindset are positive and growing. The clean home, the organization, or the kids consistently having brushed teeth and picked up toys won’t matter anymore if these people are not in my life.

That is the important part…having these three people in my life, even if it means telling them to brush their teeth ten times in the morning before school.

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