In this segment I am joined by June Taylor. She has been a stepmom for over 25 years and is a licensed psychotherapist and stepfamily coach. In other words, she has no clue what she is talking about. Ha! Quite conversely, this woman is basically a guru for stepmoms. And when I asked her what she wanted to discuss during her time here at Nacho Mom headquarters (aka mi casa), she insisted that we discuss what is called the stuck inside/outsider position.
I had never heard of it but she explained it like this:
"This core challenge starts early in the relationship and weaves itself all the way
through ( in a less intense way) even in mature, long established stepfamilies.
(weddings, graduations, funerals, etc). As soon as the stepchild walks in the room or
interrupt the conversation, a good parent turns to the child. At this point, the
stepparent is the outsider. This happens over and over in stepfamily structure."
Sure I had never heard of the clinical name of this phenomenon but man am I well versed in it! It was such a relief to finally have a name for this weird feeling of exclusion I've felt countless times within my family. Thankfully June not only enlightens us about this challenge almost all stepmoms face at one pont or another in their stepmom career, but she also tells us some strategies to help cope:
Healthy Coping Strategies:
- Normalize the situation. Feeling like the outsider at times is something that just comes with the stepmom territory. Don't feel guilty or ashamed about it.
- Carve out quality one on one time for each relationship within the family structure. Step couple time, Bio parent with children time, and stepparent with children time.
- As the stepmom, shift from the outsider position to the insider position by choosing activities that are your specialty so you can "show" the family. For example, if you love to paint, take the family for a painting lesson where you are the expert.
- Make some time for yourslef. Dont feel guilty of taking some time to retereat to your own space and disconnecting for a bit. Everyone needs to recharge!
The last point June and I felt the need to discuss was the importance of good interpersonal communication skills. Regardless of what challenge you and your spouse face, being able to communicate with each other effectively is key. June suggests not agreeing, but rather empathizing. Try putting yourself in your partener's shoes and vice versa. Practicing empathy will not only help you get through the insider/outsider challenge, but also any other challenge that comes your way.