I have always been an incredibly sensitive and emotional person, well before I met my future husband and his three boys. So the feeling of guilt was not unknown to me, however, in the role of step mum, I feel guilty so often. I’ve learnt this occurs often unnecessarily and to the detriment of my own emotional health.
The other day, actually it was a Monday, the boys had returned home from the weekend with us, and I received a text message from my husband saying ‘the boys are sick’. Now it is quite usual to receive only a few worded message from my husband but my mind raced ahead. I immediately felt guilty: had I given them enough healthy food over the weekend? Enough time to rest? Told them to put jumpers on when the evening came cool? etc.
I also had a number of questions: what type of ‘sick’? Head cold or tummy ache or something else? What were their symptoms? etc.
In this role of being a step mum, I have very little control over what information I have supplied to me and very little ability to obtain more. I also had no ability to care for the boys during this time that they were sick. And, almost automatically now, felt guilty for this too.
These thoughts took hold of me for the next half hour or so but I’ve been consciously working on shifting my focus to what I can control and the positive points. So I made my favourite cup of tea and took a couple of minutes to firstly breathe and then look at the situation logically. Firstly I felt all of what I was feeling was relatively natural; I care deeply about the boys and am lucky to have a pretty amazing relationship with each of them. So of course I worry about them and especially their health. I think it is also quite natural for me to want to care for them when they are not well and equally natural for me to feel frustrated that I couldn’t provide that care.
Acknowledging my thoughts and feelings as legitimate is a huge step and really helpful in how I now view myself as a step mum.
What I also acknowledged to be true was the constant thought process or unanswered questions helped no one, including myself. It was very emotionally tiring and fuelled the frustration I felt. I work better on a plan, so I acknowledged my thoughts and then made a plan to speak to my husband after work about how the boys were doing and if he had received any further information about them.
Making a plan, even if that plan changes, helps me gain some control over my mind, my actions and what I can control.
Finally, I confirmed to myself that they were in good care. I might not agree with how the boys mum chooses to parent the boys but I know they are well looked after. If they need to seek further medical care they will or if they need to rest then one of their homes is the best place. I also confirmed, perhaps most importantly, that there is no need to doubt my own parenting skills. I am fully aware that I am learning as I go but what parent isn’t? I know how to care for children and having been doing so in a variety of roles for many years now. I love the boys deeply, full stop end of story.
Affirming to myself that I am a good step mum, learning as I go, I don’t need to doubt all of my actions, be perfect all the time or feel guilty at the many challenges I face.
Sydney Ferguson* might be a pseudonym however the experiences she shares are true. A mum to a four month old boy, step mum to three boys aged 6, 10, 12, wife, daughter, sister and aunty who resides in Australia. Her house always has country music playing in the background and you can find Sydney most days working with the horses, gardening or practicing yoga. Blessed with one dog, two horses and multiple chickens and birds, she is not only a human mum but also a fur mumma too and loves both of these roles. The aim of her sharing her experiences is to connect step mums and provide a safe place for discussion on the unique, confronting and sometimes humerous challenges faced in this role.
You can find her sharing her experiences at fb.me/mystepmumjourney or guest writing for numerous mum blogs nationally and internationally. Connect with Sydney through @mystepmumjourney and through firstname.lastname@example.org
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