Keeping it Real

18 10 2009

How many masks do you wear? And why do you keep expending the energy it takes to keep them in place?

When I became a stepmother of three children, I thought I had to be perfect so I would not become the wicked stereotype in their eyes. I worked hard to be like Julie Andrews in the “Sound of Music”—always singing, loving, fun, and energetic. But living with your engines running 24/7 gets old fast. And since I wasn’t showing the kids my REAL self, our relationships were founded on a fake, always cheerful version of me who didn’t really exist. But there was no way my Inner Critic would let me be myself. No! The kids would never just accept me for me, I thought. And so I performed.

After I spent several Saturdays crying in the laundry room because I was so burned out from being on all the time, I realized I had to cut the act or I’d never find peace in my home. At first, I was scared to have a bad day when the kids were over at our house. Instead of being cranky around them, I would make plans to be out of the house when they arrived. But when my husband said, “You know, the kids are sad when you’re not here,” I knew I had to re-engage with the kids and be REAL with them if our family was going to work.

It’s now six years later and my stepchildren have seen me cranky and mad, grieving and happy, exhausted and strung out on pregnancy hormones. I discovered that when I expressed my feelings we were able to have a conversation that ended up deepening our relationships.

When my sister-in-law died, I insisted they come to the funeral so they could see that life includes death. They saw me cry and held my hands. When I vacuumed around everyone while they played video games, I exploded with, “I am not the maid of this family!” and we were able to talk about the responsibility we all had to keep our home comfortable. When I gave birth to their little sister, I told them how tired I was and we talked about both the wonderful and hard parts about having a baby in the house. I discovered that the more honest I was with them, the more they trusted me with their own feelings.

If I were to go back in time to talk to the single me before I moved in with three kids I would have only one thing to say: Show those children who you are, good and bad. Take off the mask. Be honest. Be REAL.

Want to read more? Check out my book A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom.





One response

18 10 2009
La Belle Mere

Hear hear! I used to bend over backwards to try and be the perfect stepmum. Since I stopped trying, and just starting being myself, warts and all, my relationship with them has never been better. They show me lots more respect now too – they know I don’t take their shiz!!!! 😉

LBM xxx

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