I was meeting with a stepmom coaching client a few days ago, and she expressed her concerns about sending her stepchildren back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. She didn’t want to homeschool or orchestrate virtual learning for her stepchildren during her partner’s custodial time, but she felt cornered.
Her partner thought it would be safer for the children to stay home than return to the classroom, and it was assumed my client would teach her stepchildren while her partner was at work.
After talking with many stepmoms about this same issue, I understand there are many reasons why a stepmom may not want to be the teacher this year.
She may be too busy and not have time for another commitment—especially one of this magnitude. She may know herself well enough to know she doesn’t have the patience or skills needed to teach. She may simply have no desire to homeschool or oversee virtual learning.
And yet, many of those stepmoms feel a lot of pressure, like they should be stepping in and being the teacher in their home during this pandemic. Sometimes the pressure is self-imposed; other times, it comes from their partner. Regardless of the source, the reality is, many stepmoms feel pressured to be the teacher this year and don’t want to.
If you’re caught in the same bind, let me give you permission to breathe. You don’t need to be the teacher, stepmom!
If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it.
My primary goal as your stepmom coach is to protect your peace and happiness. You do not have to take one for the team this school year if you are too busy, not confident enough, or simply uninterested in homeschooling your stepchildren.
Volunteering for (or being volun-told) responsibilities you don’t enjoy as a stepmom will inevitably lead to resentment. Acting like a martyr by letting your desires go unverbalized will only elevate the other members of your family above you.
It is okay to take up space in your home, friend. You have an equal say and an equal presence in your home. Let your needs and want be heard, and don’t feel pressured to be a teacher if that’s not something you’re interested in.
This is not your responsibility.
Here’s one of those times you can sit back, sip a cocktail, and say “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
Revel in being the stepparent instead of the parent this go-round. This is not your responsibility or your problem to solve. Consider this the perfect opportunity to support your partner instead of trying to save them.
I’ll reiterate my last point that when you step up to volunteer for a task that isn’t your responsibility and you don’t want to do it, you’re inviting resentment.
If you and your partner are both unable to teach your stepchildren, your partner can hire a tutor, identify a local camp that will facilitate distance learning, or work with their co-parent to identify a solution. There are other options, even when it seems like you’re the easy fix.
You are a person outside of being a stepmom.
Sometimes, it’s hard to remember life before becoming a stepmom. It can require strenuous effort to remember the person you were before carpool duties, dinner meal plans, and custody schedules. But, you were someone incredible with her own wants, needs, and plans before you met your partner.
Many of us are achievers and put our all into being the best stepparent we can be, and that drive is part of the reason our partners love us so much. But if we aren’t careful, it can also be our demise as a stepmom.
Love your family fiercely. But love yourself more.
Remember who you are outside of stepmomming. Go to yoga class, meet your bestie for happy hour, or head back to school for that class you’ve always wanted to take.
When we volunteer for things we aren’t excited about in this role because we think we should or we feel pressured to, we begin sliding down that slippery slope to martyrdom and resentment. A pandemic doesn’t change that.
Not sure where to start? I offer 1-on-1 stepmom support coaching, and I’d love to help you set boundaries to protect your peace and learn how to navigate difficult or uncomfortable conversations.
P.S. If you’re afraid to rock the boat like I used to be, remember you’re allowed to say “No.”