Distancing yourself from stepchildren is a concept that took me by surprise the first time I heard about it. It made me think… If I decide to disengage, wouldn’t it mean that I am giving up? Not only on my stepchildren but also on the idea that we’d ever be a happy family?
Stop thinking like this!
I know it sounds like you would be doing something horrible, and showing that you don’t care about your partner’s kids. But it’s not like that! If you really like someone, there’s always a way to prove that. And distancing yourself a bit won’t take away that chance from you.
If you’re feeling tired, irritated, or taken for granted – it’s time for you to step back. After all, the most important thing for you is to prioritize your happiness and health. Trust me, not a single family can be good if a parent is not good.
Okay, let me explain why your wish for a change is anything but destructive.
It’s okay to want a change!
No matter how you call it; stepping back, stepping away, disengaging, or redefining the roles, always be aware that it’s nothing bad. It’s important to know that distancing yourself from stepchildren is a process.
You will never step back from your stepkids in one action but through a series of actions. That’s how you should do it so no one gets hurt.
What you need to do is calm yourself down and make a rational, and organized plan to talk about the problems you have. Then it’s up to you. You will need to decide if you want your relationship to be complicated and unhealthy, or if you’re ready to set some boundaries and confidently state your wishes.
You might ask yourself questions like, “But I’ve already been so involved in their lives. I’m not allowed to step back now! They will hate me, and I’ll hurt them. What kind of a step-parent would I be?”
And that’s completely normal. It shows that you care about your stepchildren, and that’s great! But be aware that you’re allowed to change your mind. If the life you’re currently living doesn’t serve you, then you should try to change something. No, it’s not selfish, it’s called self-care.
Our role as a stepmom requires flexibility and adaptability, which can sometimes be really demanding. It’s completely okay to change your mind as the time passes. Our needs, stress levels, and roles change all the time.
If we needed or wanted something a month ago, it doesn’t mean we’ll want or need it today. And you must know that that’s totally normal.
Distancing yourself from stepchildren: When?
Hear me out. Look at your life, do you like what you see? If you don’t, I’m sorry, but at least you’ll know it’s the right time to make some changes.
Maybe you never realized how demanding your role is. You felt like you need to do all of those things because you’re a stepmother and a wife now. You should work hard to keep your family together and make everyone happy. But what about your happiness?
When was the last time you went out with your best friend without running back home to make dinner? No, I’m not saying you should go out every night, but taking a walk from time to time and missing the dinner shouldn’t disturb the peace.
When was the last time you watched your favorite movie or read a book? Only at night before going to bed? Is that the only free time you can find for yourself? Change that!
When was the last time you bought yourself something you really wanted? A long time ago? Do you feel obliged to spend most of your money on gifts for your stepkids? It’s okay to treat yourself too. Balance is the key!
If you recognized yourself while reading this, you’re in desperate need of change. Let’s look at 5 more examples that might encourage you to finally take action!
1) You frequently feel angry and upset
Sometimes, all the things you’re doing feel like too much, right? You try so hard to do everything the right way, but every time you do one task, the new one appears immediately. It’s just an endless loop of obligations and no free time for you.
This can create a bunch of negative feelings that will start attacking you. You’ll frequently feel angry, upset, annoyed, disappointed, used… Is that how you want to feel for the rest of your life? Be aware that it doesn’t only affect your mental health but also your physical state. Stress can cause a lot of damage to your body.
Take care of yourself, and only then you’ll be able to take proper care of other people.
2) You are more invested in raising your stepchildren than their father is
You’ve been doing everything you can for your family. Cooking, cleaning, helping the kids with their homework, warning them about the bad behavior, reading good night stories…
What about their father? What does he do to help raise his children? Are you doing most of the stuff on your own? Then distancing from your stepchildren might remind him of something. The fact that he has responsibilities he seems to have been avoiding lately.
Of course, you should try to be their role model, give them advice and help them become the best versions of themselves. However, you should not be invested in raising your stepchildren more than their father is. Talk to him and try to find the middle ground.
3) You’re a stepmother more than a wife
Do you feel like your role of a stepmother is the one you wear more than the role of a wife? If your answer is yes, that’s a big problem.
You decided to join that family because you fell in love with that man, your husband. Not his kids. It’s amazing to have a great relationship and love them as well, but you didn’t marry because of them.
You got married to be someone’s wife. A woman who will feel loved and cherished by the man she chose. You were his choice too, and he should never let you feel like your most important task is raising his children.
Distancing yourself from stepchildren will most likely help him see you as his wife again.
4) Your self-esteem depends on your relationships with your stepchildren
It’s a known fact that stepchildren can be mean from time to time. It’s understandable to some extent. They probably miss their mom and feel like they would betray her if they start liking you.
Sometimes they actually really love their stepmom, yet they hide their feelings for the reason I’ve just mentioned. On the other hand, sometimes stepchildren just don’t want to find the common ground.
Whatever is the case, never let your self-esteem suffer because of your bad relationship with your husband’s kids. How they portray you, has nothing to do with how you and the people around see you. Time changes everything, so don’t stress about this too much.
5) What you do is not valued
You are trying hard all the time, running from place to place to get everywhere on time just so you could do what you planned.
You make sure that there’s a different meal on the table every day, and even that little cake you like to make for them. Freshly washed outfits are always ready for school and work tomorrow, and everything in the house is clean. Yet, no one seems to notice those things.
If you feel like you’re taken for granted, step away a bit. Let them do something for a change. It will help them realize what you’re doing for them every day. And you will finally feel valued, and have your work appreciated.
Distancing yourself from stepchildren: How?
You can’t successfully disengage as long as you don’t change the way you perceive yourself in your family.
Start by trying to be invested only in matters that directly involve you; there’s no need to run around the house fixing everyone’s problems. And then you forget to think about what your problems are and how to solve those.
Stop concerning yourself with the thought that your stepchild’s imperfect behavior reflects on you. Don’t be afraid that distancing yourself from your stepchildren will end with them not respecting you. You can still achieve the same effect, yet lead a happier life.
It’s completely fine to bring your focus back to your marriage and other things outside of it like your career, friends, and hobbies. That’s what defined you before you joined this family.
Your disengagement will bring your husband back into the game. When a stepmother takes over the parenting job, it gives her husband the opportunity to avoid his responsibilities. If you step away a bit, he might not notice it immediately. But, he eventually will.
Maybe he won’t raise them the way you would like to, but if you decide to disengage, you’ll need to have the ability to tolerate it.
Making this change will provide you with something that you didn’t even realize you needed: the choice to not do something.
Maybe you really don’t feel like going to your stepchild’s 15th football game this month, now you don’t have to! If you hate cooking but you feel like you have to make something different every night – you don’t. Relax, they will figure something out. I promise!
In order to find the right way to make those changes you should follow the next two pieces of advice I prepared for you:
1) Recognize what you add to your family
There’s no need for you to try and be his ex. You are not trying to replace their mom, you just want them to respect and love you, and you’re ready to do the same. If you’re concerned about your husband, he would still be with his ex if the relationship between them was any good.
Let me guess, you feel obliged to do everything and keep the whole family together. You want to do everything their mom and ex-wife did to show that you’re the one.
Cooking dinner, keeping a clean home, doing arts and crafts together… All-day, every day. Does it make you happy, or do you feel forced to do those things?
Then you’re constantly tired and even irritated as days pass by. You start doubting yourself. Asking questions like “Am I a good stepmother? Is he happy with a wife like me? Am I the same as his ex? Was he hoping to find someone better?”
Stop forcing yourself. You’re exceptional the way you are. The day you realize that and start showing your real self, everything will change.
Distancing yourself from your stepchildren, and the tasks you don’t like doing can only improve your relationship. Your smile will come back, and the dynamic of your family will shift.
Always be aware of the fact that you add something special to your family. Do what you enjoy doing for your family, and take care of your health. That’s how you’ll find true happiness.
2) Talk to your partner
Don’t worry about being selfish. This is everything but making a selfish decision. It’s a decision you want to make for improvement. It’s about the health and happiness of your family, and you should stand proudly behind that decision.
If you aren’t constantly tired, angry, sad, or annoyed, you start enjoying the thing you do. You will enjoy spending time with your family more, and they will love it even more! That’s how you successfully make a win-win situation for everyone.
To achieve everything we’ve talked about, we need proper communication. Make sure your partner is aware that what you want isn’t an attack on him or the kids, a way to avoid parenting duties, or anything else negative.
Explain that distancing yourself from stepchildren will actually allow you to finally show who you truly are and what you can bring to the family.
Remember to be patient. Think about how the word “disengagement” seemed harsh to you at the beginning. Give your partner some time to understand the idea and recognize the benefits of your decision.
I hope you now have all the information you were looking for. Prioritize yourself and then you’ll finally be free to enjoy the rest of your life! I believe in you.