As I sit at home surrounded by my husband, my two stepdaughters, and my dog, I feel completely alone. Like an outsider in my own home. But why?
It’s not because they treat me poorly. We all love each other so much. All three of them show me love every day. So why isn’t that enough some days?
What is this feeling inside of me? This feeling of emptiness, when my heart (and my living room) are so full?
I think to myself, “Why isn’t this enough? Why can’t you shake this feeling, Ashley?”
Stepmom Mental Health: The Conversation is Just Beginning
A friend of mine recently published an article titled, “A reminder to check on your new-mom friends.” Her article is heart-wrenching. The first time I read it, I texted her and apologized for not checking in with her more often after her son was born.
I’ve never had a baby, so a few months after her son was born, I assumed that she and her husband had found their groove in their “new normal.” Truthfully, I allowed life to get in the way of me doing my due diligence with her. I assumed she was fine. What a mistake that was!
Her article struck a personal nerve with me. Just like we need to check on our new-mom friends, we really need to check in with all of our friends. We never know what battle someone is facing if we don’t ask. (And unfortunately, even if you do ask, she won’t always tell you.)
Everyone is facing a silent battle that we know nothing about.
As a #StrongWoman, I knew I didn’t need anyone to help get me through my transition to stepmotherhood. Let’s all laugh together, shall we?!
My stepmom journey has been through many emotional seasons. There have been highs and lows throughout, but I am finally at a place where I am confident in my role.
I parent well with my husband within our home. We get along with my stepdaughters’ mom, and they co-parent well. I actually consider my stepdaughters’ mom a friend! On top of all of that, we have good jobs, a nice home, and a strong support network of family and friends.
You’re probably thinking now’s a good time for me to stop bragging. But the truth is, despite “having it all,” I still feel completely alone at times. Drained. Frustrated at myself for feeling this way, and frustrated at my support system for not noticing.
As a society, we have made words like “depression” and “anxiety” taboo words. But why? I know I’m not the only person who has felt these feelings, right?
We are all a work in progress.
No matter how put-together someone looks, she still has plenty of room for growth. I promise.
Women often have a predisposition to be selfless caretakers who would rather silently suffer than ask for help. We work to make our loved ones happy. We provide. We follow through. We show up. But who is checking on us?
Mental health is a tricky bitch, and I am no expert. What I am is a concerned citizen who is tired of hearing how reactive we are as a society.
I never want to learn about a friend’s struggle with mental health through a published article again. I want to be present. I want to be proactive. And I want that same favor returned by my support system.
Check on your stepmom friends.
According to the Mayo Clinic, women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression (source). And although they don’t list “transition to stepmotherhood” as a contributing factor on the website, if you’ve found this website, you know it could have made the list.
It has taken me years to understand the impact that “instant motherhood” had on my mental health. Going from a single, confident woman to someone who is constantly judged, berated, and compared is not for the faint of heart.
It takes thick skin to be a stepmom, but even thick-skinned girls need a support system.
Like I said earlier, I truly do consider my stepdaughters’ mom a friend… but to this day, when I see her name come across my phone or my email, my stomach immediately goes into knots. The sigh of relief I feel when I open it to find it’s friendly does not remove that anxious feeling from moments prior. One quick burst of anxiety can put me on edge for the whole day. My stepmom mental health still suffers.
You are not alone.
I know you’re not alone because I’m right here with you. You have a whole community of stepmoms here to support you.
Check on your stepmom friends. And if no one has checked on you lately, put yourself out there. Tell your friend you need to talk. Have a girls’ night. Do not suffer alone—there is no need to!
I know this is an uncomfortable topic, but it needs to be said. Sometimes, it’s those who appear the strongest who are suffering the most. Never forget that.
Mental Health America has both emergency and non-emergency phone and text lines available to you 24/7. Visit their website to learn more.
Stepmom mental health is no joke, and the conversation is just beginning. Join me to help raise awareness for those in need. Together, we are unstoppable.
P.S. If you haven’t got the memo yet, it’s time to get real about stepmom self-care.