Being a stepmom is hard. Like, really hard. And there are A TON of not-at-all enjoyable moments. But in the midst of the chaos and heartache, it is very possible to be happy. The trick is to find your place of deep gratitude for your role as a stepmom.
As a stepmom myself, I know the struggle of seeing the good when we’re facing the bad. Even when things are good we can sit around waiting for the next bad thing. And unfortunately those tend to come when you spend your days facing the realities of how divorce impacts families.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There is an amazing way to turn this around. To look at the bad and instead see the good. There’s a quote I love that explains this concept so well:
So, how can gratitude make you a happier stepmom?
Why gratitude matters
I’m not going to bore you with the absolute load of research that has been done on gratitude and how it positively impacts our health.
I think it’s important to know that gratitude can be studied physically in people. For example, people who experience more feelings of gratitude actually have observable differences in brain matter (source).
So, knowing that gratitude can literally change our brain, it’s not hard to see how it can change our outlook on our situations.
If you want a really deep look at gratitude and some amazing research on how it impacts our lives, I fully recommend reading this article. It’s really pretty amazing how something as simple as positive feelings and thoughts can change our life.
I’ve tried many different methods, through the years, to figure out how to be a happy stepmom. Out of all those different ways, the easiest, most consistent game changer has been gratitude for my life, my husband, my stepkids, and even their mother.
Gratitude versus thankfulness
When I was sitting down to pull this post together, this question gave me pause.
I know gratitude and thankfulness are used interchangeably. But is there a difference between the two?
Obviously you’re going to find the two listed in a thesaurus as synonyms of each other. In other words, gratefulness = thankfulness = gratitude.
But to be honest, I’m not sure that’s the answer to the question. My gut feeling tells me gratitude is a much deeper and more long term feeling than thankfulness.
I’m thankful for my house. But I experience gratitude for my house even when I’m cursing having to clean it. In those moments I’m less thakful for a house but my gratitude doesn’t go away.
But those are just my two cents.
The internet as a whole seems to agree that there is a difference but each person describes it a little differently.
However, I did come across this little thought that’s worth sharing.
Full disclosure, I don’t really care what the difference in gratitude and thankfulness is as long as I can utilize them to find peace as a stepmother.
How to live in gratitude
Ok, so now we’ve covered why it’s important to feel gratitude and if gratitude v thankfulness makes a difference.
But none of those things really matter if we don’t know how to live them out.
How do we live in gratitude while facing the difficulties of being a stepmom?
Here are 4 different things I do (or try to do) to encourage the peace that comes from gratitude.
1) Make a list
There is nothing that shows more intention to complete a certain task than writing it down.
So if you’re goal is to be grateful, make a list of thinks you are grateful for.
And be specific.
I can be thankful for my ability to do a crossword puzzle, but that doesn’t help when it comes to keeping a healthy perspective on being a stepmom.
I’ve recently started thinking of one thing a day that has improved in my life, or makes me happy, as a result of becoming a stepmom.
This is my gratitude list. It looks something like this:
- I never had to change a diaper for any of my stepkids
- Z-3 (three kids, names all start with Z) doesn’t remember a time before I was part of her life
- Z-2 loves animals as much as I do
- Z-1 is incredibly imaginative and comes up with the most amazing stories
- Fertility issues make it unlikely I would have ever been a mom without expensive medical intervention
- I look like part of the family…so much so that Z-2’s face unlocked my phone recently with my facial biometrics
- I love watching my husband be a father. He’s darn good at it and it’s kinda sexy.
- My parents, who LOVE grandparenting, got 3 extra grandkids who they love and love them
- I love sewing halloween/history day/school event costumes and I have 3 stepkids who need them
This list is no where near complete. I could take up a lot more time than you’re willing to read adding to this list.
But the funny thing is, these are not new things. Z-2 loving animals has been happening for years.
The difference is, I’ve started being intentional in noticing them. It slows down my life and checks my negative thoughts.
If she is difficult one day, I can remind myself that there are things that I love about her even if I struggle loving her in the moment.
This is important because I struggle hard with unconditional love. As do most stepmothers, I believe.
When I run into a time when I feel like my love is being tested, I remember that she loves to bake with me, wears outfits that her grandparents bought her to make them happy, and that time she cried from happiness when we gave her a label maker.
Likewise, if you need help when you’re stepkids are being unlovable, you can look at your list to remind you of times they were 100% loveable!
2) Make it a habit
Another way of saying this would be, make gratitude intentional.
Gratitude doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a little like marriage.
Marriage is a daily decision to love your spouse and gratitude is a daily decision to live by and remember the good even if you’re feeling a little more of the bad on that day.
Apparently I’m in a mood for quotes, because here’s another one from a felow blogger, Roselle Caballes, that just fits perfectly.
There’s an old wives’ tale that says you have to repeat something 7 times for it to become a habit. I personally think it’s a lot more than that.
But the trick is doing something repeatedly until it becomes natural. Maybe you’re in a spot where you have to live hour by hour. Choose every hour to live in gratitude. Then chose it the next hour then the next.
Eventually, you will be able to live it with very little effort.
3) Use reminders
When I was writing this post, I pictured sticky notes on mirrors and handwritten notes in lunch boxes.
That probably isn’t very realistic.
Although I did have a friend in college that would leave motivational notes on her mirrors using dry-erase markers. I think that’s a great idea!
Or you might want to use techology. Maybe an alarm clock to ring every day at the same time to remind you to live in gratitude that day.
I personally am a huge fan of Google calendars. I’ve written in the past about using it to help keep your house clean.
Maybe your reminder is a calendar appointment to take 15 minutes to add something to your gratitude list every day.
Really, the ‘means’ doesn’t matter as much as the purpose they serve.
I read a story in the heat of the last summer that parents should set a reminder to get their babies out of their hot cars.
Good lord…if you need a reminder for something like “don’t let your kid die” you definitely are going to need one for remembering to have gratitude when your stepkids are throwing a fit or you’re having ex-wife problems.
4) Discuss it with someone
This might be the #1 best advice I have to offer.
There is something about having someone hold you accountable that makes it really hard to slip-up.
That person could absolutely be your husband. However, you might want to find a less partial person to share your thoughts with. Your spouse might not want to hear that you’re struggling with their kids, but another stepmom would know exactly where you’re coming from.
Side note – you can like my facebook page where I share more advice and comic relief for stepmoms. You can also mesasge me on there if you need to vent!
Basically what I’m saying is find yourself an NA mentor. Except instead of Narcotics Anonymous, it’s Not-the-birth-mom Anonymous.
Ok, the was corny. But I hope you get my point.
Be discerning in who you choose, also. I’ve seen some of the ‘support groups’ on facebook. They are 100% more focused on the negative than the positive. You have enough of that in your life.
You need someone who will lift you up and help you feel gratitude for things when life is hard.
Because with a little work and some gratitude, life might still be as hard but you’ll be much better equipped to handle it.
Being happier is being a better stepmom
I know the difficulties of being a stepmother. I’m very blessed because I have a husband who sets a great tone for our family and stepkids who have accepted me from day 1.
But it’s still constant and continuing effot to feel gratitude for my stepmom role. However, I’ve find the more intentional I am about gratitude the happier I am. And the happier I am the better stepmother I am.
It’s a vicious cycle.
The thing is, stepkids, even the prickly ones, need our love. They’re at a time in their life when they may be facing the absence of a parent. Or the separation of their whole world. They’ve seen love break down in their home.
And more than likely, they didn’t chose us. Their parent did.
So it’s important to rise above the daily negative to be happier for yourself and for them.
Pulling it all together
I love this quote.
You can feel how intentional the Mr. Burchard is in choosing the thoughts he will let rule him.
Gratitude has been scientifically proven to physically change our brain. I love the power in thinking I can make my life better by simply choosing to.
Use the tools I’ve suggested and choose to improve your life with me!
- Make a list of what you’re grateful for
- Make gratitude a habit
- Use reminders to be grateful
- Discuss gradtitude with a trusted friend
I know we can do this. We can be good stepmothers and good to ourselves, too. Use gratitude to be a happier stepmom.
I would love to hear something you’re grateful for as a stepmom. Leave a comment below and tell me what your list looks like!
Don’t forget it. Pin it!