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A Plan for Stepmothering

In a perfect world a new stepmom would enter the family with a plan for the life she is about to undertake. She would have a strategy for handling relationships and dealing with matters both within and outside of her control. She would be armed with ideas for addressing conflict and she would have a good understanding of the inevitable stages and pitfalls every stepfamily experiences. A good start is always preferable to doing it over.

Most women do have a vision of life in their new family. It includes cooperation, acceptance and mutual respect. But a vision is more of a hope or an expectation than a planÖ and it can set you up for disappointment if it is not fulfilled.

Some may argue that a plan cannot be created until we are living under the same roof and have a chance to assess the personalities and culture of the individuals who make up our new family. Of course that is important when it comes to adjusting and forming relationships (and you can rest assured the other members of your household will have their own plan for adjusting to the new situation) but the type of plan Iím describing involves a different purpose. Itís actually more like a set of guidelines for your personal conduct based on the values, understanding and beliefs that define you.

The best plan for becoming a stepmother, and a gift you can bring to your family, is maintaining a physically and emotionally healthy person. The demands of parenthood can take their toll on the most organized and prepared moms. Self-care in the form of eating well, sufficient sleep and attention to your social needs is critical to your performance. Making the time to nurture your mind, body and soul will also set a standard of expectations in your home.

Possessing an accurate sense of your own strengths and weaknesses will help you to determine where your plan may require support from others. Your career, existing commitments and outside interests should also be factored in. How you will handle financial decisions and time management issues warrants consideration and mention in your personal plan. How will you ensure that your marriage will not get neglected or outranked by the parenting aspect of family life? For the sake of your planning, a description of your responsibilities toward his children is invaluable.

In developing your plan, be sure to anticipate issues of anger, disobedience and disrespect. It is not necessary to know the whys and wherefores in order to anticipate your behavior and response when they do occur. What will your position be when you and your husband disagree? Will you remember to stay positive and to offer recognition and praise when it is warranted? Keep in mind that your plan is not intended to solve problems but rather to control your reactions and decisions while you are working on them.

The earlier we realize that we are only capable and entitled to control ourselves, the easier the task of step parenting will be. Our response to unacceptable behavior can influence change but it cannot force it in another individual. The best lessons are certain to be lost if they meet with a reactionary woman who is unable to control her own behavior.


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