**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.
The stepmom journey is nothing if not unpredictable.
Just when you think you’ve finally mastered your role as a stepmom, a new and unexpected challenge will inevitably pop out at you.
Just as you feel your feet are finally on a level surface as a stepmom, the ground disintegrates under you.
And there you are, hanging from a newly formed cliff, clutching on to your sanity.
With frequent switches in routines, moods, and family dynamics, learning how to function productively within a blended family environment can be a daily — even hourly — struggle for many stepmoms.
Sometimes these challenges take a toll. Occasionally a stepmom — just like any human being put under pressure — can falter. It happened to me. I had to look at myself in the mirror and be honest about confronting my behavior.
I had to stop being so toxic.
There was toxic behavior that I had to actively stop in order to not only be more productive as a person, partner, and (step)parent but also to take it easy on my blood pressure.
There have been times in my role as a stepmom when I could have behaved better or when I could have engaged less negatively.
Worrying about things I can’t control. The constant need for approval. The stress over what someone might do or say. The often angry and negative narratives running through my mind. It was all toxic.
Not only do toxic thoughts damage your mental, emotional, and physical state, but they are also damaging to a relationship with a spouse.
I’ve had to practice shoving those spiteful, counterproductive thoughts aside in order to replace them with thinking about actionable things that are useful to me. Things I’m going to do to bring myself joy or improve my mood instead of thinking about things I’m afraid of or that upset me.
There are moments when having ‘positive thoughts’ can seem utterly unattainable. But in those bitter moments, I try to focus on what I’m looking forward to and what I’ve managed to accomplish so far. Those thoughts make me feel strong and proud.
Letting a dark, depressing and ultimately toxic narrative run on a loop inside my brain gets me nowhere. Those thoughts won’t change anything or fix my problems.
I’m learning to give those inevitable toxic thoughts a tinier and tinier amount of space in my mind and then I banish them.
But it is HARD.
Giving in to negative moods can be addictive. I often don’t want to let go of resentment or anger. Sometimes I want to hang on to that darkness as we all do. Wallowing in self-pity is normal and it is human.
Feeding on whatever drama the day brings and chewing on it longer than is necessary will not help anyone, especially myself.
Practicing gratitude and cutting myself some much-needed slack as a stepmom makes a huge difference in my marriage and my family. And it DOES take practice. It won’t happen overnight. You really need to work at it.
Choosing to separate myself from toxic thoughts and drama by switching up my focus has changed everything.
I’ve learned that as easy as it can be to succumb to feelings of rage, sadness, or hopelessness, learning and practicing how to dig myself out of that mindset while moving on to better, more productive goals can be so much more rewarding.