12 Empowering Expectations for Stepmoms


12 Empowering Expectations for Stepmoms
Lowering expectations rarely solves anything, so consider new expectations that can work for you.

Anything ring a bell from your own personal list of expectations? This was my list back in 1996. As naive as I was I was still quite enthused and eager to do whatever I had to for us all to be happy together. Chances are good that a few of these expectations are (or were) on your list too. Many of you know how frustrating, painful and disheartening these unfulfilled expectations can be and how despair can take root when we don’t know what to do about these feelings and/or how to improve our situation.  [EXPERT]

12 Wise & Achievable Expectations For Stepmoms


Here are some new expectations to consider. You may need to read them a few times as this is a shift from “Happy Family Fantasy” to a “Happy sense of self & strong loving connection with husband no matter how others act Dream.” [EXPERT]

  1. Make doing your best your number one expectation! Recognize that your best will vary under different circumstances. Mute the voice of your inner perfectionist. Turn on the faucet of kindness and shower yourself regularly with huge doses of patience and compassion. Expect challenges to your self-esteem and use that pressure to become stronger. You need to be able to count on yourself. Do your best in a thoughtful, respectful and fair way so you can be proud of yourself at the end of each day and in hindsight.
  2. Expect that your husband may NOT be able or willing to stand up for you and your right to be involved in your stepkids’ lives because of his desire to minimize conflict with his ex-wife. As you and your husband begin your life together, find out what he is (and is not) willing to do to support your involvement in his kids’ life, public and private. Talk specifics even if it’s scary or uncomfortable. Being aware of this possibility can prepare you and help reduce the shock of any unilateral decisions he makes out of fear or divorce guilt.
  3. Expect that his feelings about the divorce will impact how he treats you, his ex-wife and his children. Do what you can to take nothing personally.  See “The Four Agreements” pages 47-61.
  4. Expect to stand up for yourself instead of anticipating that your husband will consistently do so. Be courageous and willing to defend your personal boundaries. Expect that your willingness to rock other people’s emotional boats, by taking a stand and speaking up appropriately on your own behalf, will reduce resentments and marital stress in the long run.
  5. Expect that if the bio-mom is angry with her ex-husband that it’s going to rub off on her interactions with you. Be smart, versus naïve about how and when you interact with her. Trust your husband when he tells you that he knows her better than you do. See my article, “His Kids:HIS Call” for more details. 
  6. Expect that your husband is NOT always going to be able to understand how you’re feeling. Seek and expect to get compassion and validation from other stepmoms whenever necessary. This takes a lot of pressure off your husband, non-stepmom friends and family. See SMOMS.org for bulletin board community.
  7. Expect that you’re going to have moments when you question your sanity about getting into this relationship. In these moments of hurt or anger, suspend any self-judgments and switch over to self-care strategies. Acknowledging the expectation of negative feelings will reduce some of the panic and fear that surfaces if/when those thoughts ever come to mind. Questioning your own judgment about getting into the relationship when you’re feeling out of control, outraged and/or in deep emotional pain is a real, reactionary pain-numbing thought.  Again, not bad or wrong, just human. See my article, “Feeling Judgemental?” http://www.smoms.org/smomsbb/showthread.php?tid=33471
  8. Expect that you’re going to feel out of control, angry, hurt and left out at some point in this relationship so take action right now to prepare for these feelings! Be proactive. Learn healthy ways to process your feelings and to heal from emotional wounds.
  9. Expect that you’re going to have a positive and healthy relationship with your skids. Be willing to do your part, while holding onto your power, your boundaries and your right to be treated with respect. Give it 100% while remembering that you are only 50% of each adult-child relationship.
  10. Expect that your skids are going to be emotionally shaken up, to varying degrees, by the divorce and will probably lash out at you when they’re feeling angry or feel that the stepmom has exercised her authority as the woman of the house or their father’s wife.
  11. Expect that the bio-mom’s behavior at the beginning of this relationship is highly indicative of how it’s going to remain throughout your lives together. Trust that she’ll continue with the very same behavior until she consistently doesn’t.
  12. Expect that you and your husband have, or will get, the skills, energy and love needed to create a wonderful life together and let the form (specifics) that your life takes be flexible and fluid. [EXPERT]


You may be thinking, “how can we have these expectations and be realistic too?” This is a good and necessary question.  Switching to many of these new expectations requires a new level of self-awareness, time to grieve and the acceptance that no matter how hard we try, we can’t force others to get along with us. As enraging as that can feel, we can use the energy of that anger to fuel our new expectations. We can be realistic AND optimistic by placing a higher value (and more attention) on what we can do to hold onto our self-esteem and stay connected to our husband as events involving our stepkids and their bio-mom occur. [EXPERT]

Ideally we start to focus less attention on the specific details of how our desired future will look and how others have to act in order to accomplish those goals and instead put more attention on how we’ll interact and stay connected to our loved ones whatever happens. We can be realistically optimistic because our expectations are now about how we’re going to respond to and handle whatever happens to us.  We have control over that. We can prepare and be alert to the actions of others and still be true to our own values and the loving connection with our husbands. This good news gives us confidence and makes us feel good about our future and therefore better from moment to moment in our daily lives. As we take control of our ability to meet our expectations, we give others less ability to destroy our dreams. This is empowering at a very deep level. [EXPERT]


Unlike what so many books say, I don’t think it’s about raising or lowering our expectations. I think it needs to be less about the exact specifics of the destination we seek within our new stepfamily situation and more about our choices and the experiences of the journey from day to day. While we may not get to live the “happy family dream” exactly as we imagined it at the beginning, with all anticipated joy of stepkids and bio-moms getting along and treating us with respect and kindness, we will have the awareness, the ability and the energy to create expectations that lead to a happy, hope-filled life with the man we so dearly love. [EXPERT]

For more stepmom specific articles so to SMOMS.org   

2012 Copyrighted by Cathryn Bond Doyle

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