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How do you deal with the anxiety of being a stepparent?

GreenB's picture

Hello everybody!

I wrote my first post a few days ago and I want to thank all the people that answered me. 

I wanted to know if anybody has some tips regarding self-care while being a stepparent. Since SS4 came to live with us full time about 4 months ago, my mental health has been declining, as well as the relationship with my DH. Me and DH were in a bad moment when SS came here, and having him here made the situation worst. After many discussions, we agreed that we would try to make our relationship work, starting a new page. 

The problem is that with COVID and everything that came with it, I am in the house, without working and only taking a few college classes online. We also live in a remote area with nothing to do. This gives me a lot of time to over think and increased my anxiety to the point where I constantly have migraines and I sleep too much or too little. I get so anxious whenever I have to pick up SS from the babysitter, because I know that I have hours alone left with SS before DH comes back, where I won't have much freedom. I don't enjoy my time with DH anymore, because SS is always with us (I also wrote a post a few days ago about SS being very clingy). I feel detached from DH and the only times where I feel good is when I'm at the gym, reading a book or being productive with my online school. The rest gives me too much anxiety. 

BM came back from nowhere yesterday saying that she wants to come visit SS, and this is increasing my anxiety too. I know I should be detached from it, that is none of my problem. I keep telling myself that these are not my problems, but that I should try and fix my relationship with DH, care more about SS, but part of me is resisting, part of me doesn't even want to try. Part of me thinks "this is not what I expected my life to be". A big part of me regrets my choice of becoming a wife and a stepmother so young.

Am I the only one feeling like this?...


GrudgingSM's picture

I have a lot of boundaries around those relationships. If DH didn't see his children's behavior and validate my experience, I don't think I would stay. I left a marriage to get out of the constant gaslighting and walking on eggshells...and then ended up doing it anyway, but instead of my romantic partner it's their kids. Every interaction with them feels like a hostage situation where I am both hostage and negotiator somehow. I saw the red flags. I articulate them. And somehow my boundaries softened too much. I still want to be the good guy and the caretaker. I was raised to rescue and it's hard to quit. I hope that in a decade I look at DH and am like "yeah, that was worth it", but if I knew years ago what I know now, I don't know if I would have stayed. 

I'm sorry this isnt' the advice you're looking for! Statistically, if you survive the first two years you're supposed to have a better shot at staying married in a step-family. But that's staying married. That's not necessarily happy. 

I have found that when I spiral like that, I need something to disrupt that cycle. If you can see a doctor for anxiety and get Xanax that might be the ticket. Or if you live in a state with medical marijuana, that might help. It's not that it makes your problems go away or hide from them, it just stops that drowning feeling. ANd then when the panic part is done you can look at your situation and really assess it. What does your life look  like in five years if you stay (best AND worst case scenario, knowing it will probably be in between but kind of what you're up against), as well as five years if you decided you could stepmom (again, best and worst case scenario). THose are the things I try, but yeah, the kids still make me feel exhausted and trapped.

GreenB's picture

Thank you for your answer!

I have considered seeing a therapist, but living in this remote area makes it harder to find one. I would like to steer clear from depression/anxiety medication (on myself, I don't judge who uses them), but I went to a dispensary the other day and got myself some marijuana, after a friend of mine suggested I try it for my anxiety.

I am trying to take care of myself more, physically and mentally. I hate waking up in the morning and feeling the anxiety already there. Sometimes I feel like a prisoner in my house, with a toddler following me everywhere, I'm definitely not used to it. I feel tense everytime I am in the house. Me and DH got married and lived together for a year before SS came here full time, so I definitely wasn't expecting this.

GrudgingSM's picture

Even though the custody schedule didn't change in my situation, I still wasn't ready for the reality. I definitely read the books and advice columns and all of that, but one of the annoying things about love is that it is so hopeful.

I feel for your SS a lot. I have no doubt he is extremely annoying, but I also know from watching my own kid in a divorce that especially with an upheaval that big, it takes a long time to figure out a new normal. You were absolutely right about the child needing play therapy and time with other adults. And I actually see your biggest issue as your DH, not your SS. I am tired of the guilty song and dance of Disney dad 's, but I also really do understand it. And yet, an explanation is not an excuse.

he needs to work on recognizing his child's behavior and working to address it. He needs to work on validating your experience, and seeking to understand it, even if it is unfamiliar to him at first. Because also, straight up, I don't even like my own biological child being that clingy and needy! It's a lot! It's hard to maintain patience and careful explanation for your own child, when you have an intense biological bond to, and in my case not the same severe psychological trauma have a parents abandonment. You all need and deserve a minute to adjust to the new situation. But really and truly, the biggest share of this comes down to your DH, who is the one who is authorized to make medical decisions for your SS. And he needs to do so. He also needs to work on doing so in a proactive way and not setting up babysitting after an ultimatum. That's not fair to you. That's not doing what is best for his child.

I hope the medical cannabis helps! I know it often has reset on my brain chemistry and I can think a little bit more clearly. My problems don't go away, but they stop spiraling.

JRI's picture

Are you positive you want to stay in this relationship?  You say you don't enjoy time with DH anymore and you feel detached from him.  The only reason in the world to endure all the trials of steplife is if we really love being with our SO.  

The little boy isn't going away, his abandonment issues will be around for years, now BM is popping back.  Read around on here and you will see many cases of negligent BMs popping in then disappearing again, leaving devastated children in their wake.

I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but are you sure you want to stay around for the looooong haul?   You are haviing physical symptoms from dealing with it all.  I dont see it getting better anytime soon.  Good luck, whatever you decide.

CriticalThinker's picture

I just don't care. The kid doesn't live in my house. She lives with her mother n she wil never live in my house. Problem solved. 

DHsfamilyfromhell's picture

I’m not in the step parent situation anymore, but I do suffer from anxiety. 

Art therapy is useful for some people (but it may not appeal to you). Draw, paint, knit, sew glue stuff together (for some reason I went through a phase of drawing manga type superhero figures!). It doesn’t solve problems but you aren’t feeling anxious 24 hours a day 7 days a week which isn’t a good thing.  

A lady I know who works at a mental health facility has a ‘her room’ to relax in when she’s stressed with fibre optics and relaxing music - thoughnot everyone can afford this. 

Other people I know go for a half hour walk on their own (or with a dog if you have one).



Frustr8d1's picture

Your post describes me over 11 years ago!  I completely get what you're going through.  If it's of any help to you, I promise this will all pass...the anxiety, feeling a big wedge between you and DH because of SS, feeling guilty for not having genuine feelings for SS...  I never thought I could make it, but I have, so far... You can make it through this!  

"The days are long but the years are short..."