11/11/2013 08:57 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Stepmoms: This One Piece of Advice Could Save Your Sanity

Be Yourself

Sounds pretty simple, right? This isn't just the best advice for stepmoms but for almost every woman who's trying to morph herself into the expectations she thinks other people have of her.

Raise your hand if you've ever tried to be the person your parents expected you to be. Have you ever tried to be the student you thought your teachers expected you to be? What about the wife you're trying to be because you think your husband wants you to be a certain type of wife? What about being the mom you think every other mom expects you to be?

Then of course, if you're a stepmom, your brain goes into overdrive. You're unprepared for this immense responsibility - because you've now become the stepmom to someone else's kids.

"Who on earth am I supposed to be?" you think to yourself. You bend over backwards to be accommodating. You jump through hoops to be in five places at once. It's almost criminal that you twist and contort yourself into any number of assumed identities.

I know. I've been there. I went from being the every other weekend stepmom (more like fun loving, golf playing, let's go get ice cream kind of stepmom) to full time, 24 x 7 x 365, please help me, I need a break stepmom. I honestly thought I had to be beyond perfect because I felt like I was under the microscope more often than strands of DNA on CSI. I thought I had to be a better stepmom than the mom I was to my own two kids. A few months into my stepmom gig, I woke up and realized that I was trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. Beyond perfect just doesn't exist.

Do you want to know what I did? I shoved as much of my anxiety aside and asked my husband, "So how do you want me to play this stepmom thing?"

He replied, "Just be you."

"Really? I can do that," I thought. It's so much easier than trying to morph myself into all the different expectations I thought others had of me.

My husband's advice completely relieved me of all the self-imposed pressure I put on myself. I didn't have to be mom. I didn't have to be perfect. I didn't have to be anyone but me. I could say no when I meant no and yes when I meant yes. I didn't have to go to every event or every teacher conference. By releasing the expectations I thought others had of me I was free to choose. In fact, my freedom to choose had been there all along, I was simply blinded by expectations and what I thought other people wanted me to be and do. I embraced the freedom to be me and I created how I would play the stepmom role.

  • I created healthy boundaries between myself and my husband's ex-wife
  • I created a relationship based in authenticity and trust with my youngest bonus son, Junior
  • I created relationships based in mutual respect and genuine interest with my adult bonus kids.
  • I no longer bought anyone's ticket for a guilt trip to Expectationville - especially my own.

Being a stepmom doesn't have to be hard. When you live from your heart center and from your true authentic self, you are better able to create healthy boundaries, create clear and open channels of communication with your spouse, and you are better able to deal with the challenges of the role stepmom.

What about you? Do you struggle with your identity and who you are *supposed* to be inside your stepfamily? Would learning to live from your heart center be of value to you as a stepmom?

This article first appeared in The Stepmom's Toolbox