• Michelle Zunter

My Stepmom Guilt



Let me tell you about my stepmom guilt.


It creeps in even on the good days. It seeps in even when I know I’ve done my very best.

The hardest part about raising a child you didn’t give birth to is wondering if you could have  would have — OR should have done things differently if they were your own through biology.


I struggle with all the could-haves, would-haves, and should-haves daily — especially now that my stepchild is older and with me full-time.


I think about the days when my stepchild was younger and we tried the back and forth thing with his biological mother. I remember having mixed emotions about that.


I had just given birth to my daughter, so when he would go to the other home I did feel a sense of relief because that was one less child to take care of.


I feel guilt for that.


When my stepchild was at our home I would feel torn between how much attention I was giving him as opposed to how much attention I was giving my biological daughter.


I would agonize over if I was treating my stepchild in the same way I would treat a biological child.


I would fret over whether I was being too soft on my stepchild and not disciplining him enough. I would often overcompensate because he didn’t have a ton of access to his biological mother.


I was angry with my stepchild’s mother for not doing more — for not showing up.


I feel guilt for that.


I often wonder if I had put more effort into my stepchild earlier on before I had him full-time if I could have made a better impact.


I feel guilt over pushing him to spend more time with his biological mother when he was younger — because I thought it was the right thing to do — and, ultimately, she ended up leaving him anyway.


Guilt is such a useless emotion. It causes grief yet offers no comfort. It’s a cold, and empty void of torture.


We often put these burdens on our shoulders even when they are truly not our burdens to bear.


We often stifle our voices in order to please others.


We feel guilt because we care.


However, when we operate from a place of guilt or only with the concept of what’s best for the kids 100% of the time and designing our daily lives around what we think will make them happy, we’re often forgetting what’s best for US.


You can only make yourself drink so many cups of guilt before it becomes a toxic poison to your own mind, body, and spirit.


You feel guilt because you carry compassion, but, in the end, if you’re miserable and torturing yourself over these things you can’t control, it isn’t helpful to anyone — especially the kids.


I’ve learned throughout my own stepparenting journey of over a decade now, that trying to be the stepmom who is the fixer or the mediator can turn into a toxic cycle of not allowing the biological parents to figure things out on their own and essentially draining myself of energy better used elsewhere — like on creating good things in my own life.


Freeing yourself from the stepmom guilt is a constant work in progress.


However, it’s vital that after a certain amount of time spent trying, worrying, and feeling that guilt, you need to eventually let yourself off the hook of always trying to fix everything and let that guilt gradually slip away.


More from Michelle: 3 Assumptions About Stepmoms — That Don’t Always Ring True

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