Being an Empath in a Blended Family

Do you often find yourself retreating to your room to replenish your energy? 

Do you easily pick up on others energy?

Do you feel exhausted after being in the presence of a particular person? 

These are all indications that you are an empath and sensitive to energy. This means that you can feel the emotions of others and often get caught up in their energy field. This can be overwhelming in general, and even more so in a blended family. 

According to Christiane Northrup, M.D the 9 traits of empaths are:

  1. Highly sensitive. Sounds, smells, and low energy can overwhelm you.

  2. Spiritually open. Feel connected to a higher source.

  3. Attuned to other people’s moods. Absorb other people’s emotions,

  4. Introverted. Prefer 1:1 contact or small groups. If extroverted, may limit time spent in a crowd or party.

  5. Intuitive. Can sense when something is off.

  6. Easily overwhelmed in intimate relationships. Too much togetherness is difficult.

  7. Targets for energy vampires. Prey for narcissists, drama queens, chronic talkers.

  8. Nourished by natural world. Seek refuge in nature.

  9. Huge hearts. Often give too much, good listeners. Relieve the pain of others by taking it on, then feel drained.

Are you feeling seen? Are you shaking your head yes, yes, YES and feeling like someone gets what daily life is like for you?

If, like me, you are empathic and happen to be an introvert as well, it creates a combination that is challenging to integrate into a blended family home. There is the need to be alone to refill your energy stores all while clearing yourself of any energies you have picked up. If you have a dynamic where any of the individuals may be an energy drain to you, also known as an energy vampire, it can compound things even more. Ok, I know the words energy vampire seem strong, but it is a real term. 

What is an energy vampire? An energy vampire is a person who sucks the energy from you which in turn feeds them. Yet you may not even be aware of it at the time, but once they leave you can feel the space becoming lighter and open up….and you may feel completely exhausted.

Because relationships are an energy exchange you may find yourself wanting to disengage, distancing yourself, easily triggered, and excessively protective of your space. You may find yourself asking yourself: “why am I reacting so strongly to this situation”. It likely is due to the unseen energy forces surrounding you and it’s important for you to protect yourself.  

Some ways to protect yourself are: 

  1. Take a step away. It is important to give yourself distance, and even better if you can move as far from that person as you can. It is important that you take care of yourself and reset your system. If you are able to get into nature that’s even better for the grounding effect and to calm your nervous system. 

  2. Trust your gut. Learn to get in tune to what your gut feelings are and trust them when they happen. You are empathic so it’s important to remember your feelings and instincts come first before others. 

  3. Get support. Have a network you can contact to help you get clear and connected back to your energy. This may be a friend, coach, or therapist (or maybe all three).

  4. Shielding. Practice putting an invisible shield around yourself every morning when you wake. Imagine yourself being in a bubble of light (choose the color that feels most protective of you) and hold the intention that this bubble keeps you protected throughout your day. 

  5. Say no. As an empath this may be very challenging for you, yet it is vital to your well-being.  If you are unconsciously, or consciously, opening your energy up to situations that drain you  saying no can be empowering and allows you to take back your power and energy. 

  6. Cord cutting. This may be a new concept to you and I assure you it can help to alleviate some of the heaviness you may feel. Imagine an invisible cord between you and another person that connects you to them. Next imaging having a sword slice through the cord to free you both of the energy. You may have to do this often to keep your energy flowing and clear.


May all of this help you on your path in your blended family. I’d like to leave you with this quote by Alex Elle: “Energy is contagious, positive and negative alike. I will forever be mindful of what and who I am allowing into my space.” 

Chrysta Horwedel

Chrysta is a Certified Stepfamily Coach and stepmother of two. Her approach is holistic, supported by certifications as a health and ayurvedic wellness coach and yoga instructor. She enjoys music, writing, hiking, healthy food, wine, and travel. She lives with her family in Los Angeles. Connect with Chrysta at instantblendedfamily.com. 

Dear Dads, Husbands & Partners

 

Dads / Husbands / Partners

I understand you are not in an easy position. I understand that, if things were different, you would have hoped your first family, your biologic family, was intact and not broken. But sometimes we can not mend the wounds or close the distance and a restart is needed.

I’m here to tell you I honor you for the dedication you have to your children. Life did not go the way you planned and now you are dating again, engaged, remarried, and maybe had another baby or expecting one. Whatever the circumstances that have brought you to this place I wanted to share some tips on how to create more harmony in your blended family. I’ll give you a hint…it begins with you and your wife.

Your wife may put on a strong face, but know that she needs you. She has to be a strong woman to choose to be in a dynamic that includes you, plus children, plus an ex. She is looking to feel a connection with you that is consistent, meaning it doesn’t falter when the children come into your home. So many times I hear the roller coaster of emotions from women who feel like a queen in their home to then feel cast aside when children arrive.

Everything is a delicate dance and it is important to your relationship that your foundation is strong and supportive to one another. It starts and ends with the both of you. It is up to you to create an environment and foster an open, loving environment. I know, it’s a lot for you, but if you create the foundation and work together with your wife to maintain this it will be a major benefit to your relationship, and consequently the blended family.

Remember the two of you didn’t get the chance to date and experience one another without children. There is no easing into things. It’s an instant family and you may feel a completeness to the dynamic long before she does, especially if she hasn’t been married before.

 

Here are some tools to help you stay connected and strong in your foundation:  

1.     Love language. There is a book called The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Take the test together and find out what your love languages are. You will find that it will be easier to relate to one another with this new found information. You will be able to speak to the parts of one another in a new, positively focused way.

2.     Listen. This may be the most important tool you have in your tool belt. She needs to feel that you hear her. A woman who feels she is heard will go to the ends of the earth for you. You will see her blossom like a flower right before your eyes.

3.     Communication. Having open discussions will build trust between you, especially the tough and potentially contentious subjects. Women are very intuitive and have an ability to zero in on details. It is better to acknowledge her, instead of dismissing even if you don’t have the energy to talk. This will build the trust and solid foundation to flourish in the years to come.

4.     Safety. She wants to feel safe and protected by you. You are her man. You are her anchor, the reason she’s there. If she doesn’t feel safe you will likely experience more conflict and upset. Vulnerability is necessary here.  

5.     Action. Follow through on your words with action. As simple or as non-significant it may seem to you I can assure you she feels differently. Instead of avoiding doing something because you think you may risk upsetting her, do it anyway. The benefits far outweigh the risks by being up front and giving more details than you think are necessary. You are thinking things while she is feeling things. Meet her at the feeling place.

 

No matter where you are at in the stage of your relationship, things can improve. With patience, forgiveness, and a focus on your love you may experience a renewed outlook and energy to transform with the changes that inevitably happen in life. I wish you peace always and in all ways.

Chrysta Horwedel

Chrysta is a Certified Stepfamily Coach and stepmother of two. Her approach is holistic, supported by certifications as a health and ayurvedic wellness coach and yoga instructor. She enjoys music, writing, hiking, healthy food, wine, and travel. She lives with her family in Los Angeles. Connect with Chrysta at instantblendedfamily.com. 

Blended with Baby

If you’re reading this you are not the first family. You are likely the second family, the blended family. You may have found your way into the family unit in the same way I did; single with no children of my own. Or perhaps you brought your own children from a previous relationship to the blended family. Any number of combinations could have brought you to this present moment: stepfamily life. 

The journey of fitting into the first family is one that never ends. If you came into the relationship without children of your own the “firsts” have already been done. They are more like second firsts if a baby is brought into the family. A recycling of the parent, if you will, in adding to the family unit. 

I have been doing the stepfamily dance for 13 years now. Trying to be this, trying to be that, seeming to fit in here and there, but not fully. Then came baby. Let me be the first to tell you that if you began your journey as a stepparent in the same way I did (single, no kids) then you are in for a surprise. 

Becoming a biological mother is a whole new world. Suddenly you're thrust from the outer edges of parenting right to the center. It’s night and day. I recall reading somewhere in the past that biological parents see their children through the eyes of love and stepparents see the children through the eyes of responsibility. It resonated with me at the time I read it as I know from personal experiences and my work with others that this was true. However, now having a child of my own it has become even clearer. Having a baby definitely does change everything, especially perspective. 

Through the process of pregnancy and the birth of the baby I observed how things were slowly shifting and morphing. I became even more introverted, than I am by nature, and became detached to the family unit. I was on a solitary journey to motherhood and parenting that my family unit had experienced before. Though the energy of the baby was new and filled with excitement, there were moments that I just couldn’t shake that this had all been done before. My path was not unique. 

Bringing a new child into a blended family is a delicate process. From the announcement of the pregnancy to the children, to the sharing of feelings about what is about to happen, to staying connected first and foremost to your partner, and then to the arrival of the baby. I found it to be like a wheel, the baby being the center of it, and all of the spokes that move outward had so many attachments, feelings, and judgments that went along with them. In my family we did not have a perfect, seamless process during this time. There were missed opportunities to have a more engaged connection between us all. 

Bringing a baby into a blended family requires a deep level of letting go of what was. As the bearer of the child you are forced to redefine yourself personally and then as your role with your partner and stepchildren. What was will never be again. It’s important to be kind to yourself through this major life transition. Put yourself first as you need all the energy you can to caretake the life you’ve brought into the world. Speak up and ask for what you need. Seek support from those that fulfill you, rather than drain your energy. Most importantly stay connected to your partner and communicate. 

In closing I’d like to end with this quote from the author Yung Pueblo:

“After years and years of repeating the same behaviors, it takes time to change and adopt new responses to life. Old patterns are often so densely accumulated that it may seem like the same heaviness keeps coming up for release and often it is. How many times have we felt anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety and more from the large spectrum of heavy emotions? When we remember this it helps support our patience as we continue the process of letting go of the old, literally releasing the debris of the past during moments of deep healing, so that a new way of living can emerge.”

You have the grace, the courage, and the strength to create your new way of living. I support you. 

Chrysta Horwedel

Chrysta is a Certified Stepfamily Coach and stepmother of two. Her approach is holistic, supported by certifications as a health and ayurvedic wellness coach and yoga instructor. She enjoys music, writing, hiking, healthy food, wine, and travel. She lives with her family in Los Angeles. Connect with Chrysta at instantblendedfamily.com. 

Suggestions, Opinions and Control

Stepfamily life doesn’t feel natural. It’s a blending of individuals who wouldn’t be navigating family life together. It is undefined, yet we have biological roles to play. Some fall into the roles easier than others and some never do.

For us stepmoms we try to find our way through this nebulous place every minute of every day. We hold the space for our partner. We hold the space for our stepkids. We hold the space for the ex. We want to be liked by the children, the ex, the previous shared friends. We want to be part of the family. We want to feel we belong. But we tend to put ourselves last in an effort to manage and care for everyone else because it’s the “right” thing to do. Putting your self-care back in the trunk while you put everyone in the front seats will put you on the fast track to being agitated, resentful, and disconnected.

Let’s start with where we can contribute. We have influence over our household, our partner, and the kids, but we don’t have control. This is where things can get challenging. We live in a space where our role is being defined after a family has been in place, whatever the health of that family dynamic was/is. We are navigating uncharted waters in our homes to find a natural flow. Some days it feels like you’re all sailing together into the beautiful sunset on calm waters, but other days it feels you are the lone hiker trying to reach the summit.


We all want a sense of control, it’s in our ego to fight for this. Most of us don’t even realize when it’s creeping in, but suddenly we find ourselves in a place of extreme frustration or anger. Control will get you satisfaction in the moment, but it ultimately gets you nowhere. It feels good to feel you’ve “won”, but we are all trying to live in harmony and create balance while raising kids who didn’t choose this life they are living.

Instead of having a power struggle with yourself or others in the family consider making suggestions (not demands) on what you are feeling could be an alternative way. Offer suggestions on how you see where things could run smoother. You have a valid perspective and deserve to be considered, but you don’t want to beat anyone over the head with your suggestions…especially your partner. He deserves to have one topic at a time given to him. You will get further in your discussions if you stick to a topic and don’t bring in a whole list of grievances. This will allow for him to trust you and not feel undermined and ultimately he will be open to more of your suggestions in the future. But the moment you voice it, let go of any attachment to the outcome. This is where your work will be.

I have ridden the roller coaster of being helpful and suggesting things. I’ve overwhelmed my partner and then I would be frustrated and annoyed because I’ve lost the sounding board and partner in my household. Let me be your tour guide here and save you some trouble: Approach one topic at a time with your partner and then let go. Give him space to process before you approach with more. If you are attached to how he wants to raise his kids you’ll end up living in a world of frustration. It takes time, it takes trial and error, and it takes patience, but you both kind find your way of relating to one another that feels good to you both. Celebrate the baby steps as they lead into the creation of new patterns.

Chrysta Horwedel

Chrysta is a Certified Stepfamily Coach and stepmother of two. Her approach is holistic, supported by certifications as a health and ayurvedic wellness coach and yoga instructor. She enjoys music, writing, hiking, healthy food, wine, and travel. She lives with her family in Los Angeles. Connect with Chrysta at instantblendedfamily.com. 

Light at the End of the Tunnel

You probably feel like there are days that you are alone and that no one could possibly understand what your life is like. That you’ve stopped complaining about the little things and just go through the motions. You wonder if you’ll ever be seen or if your opinion really matters. You wonder if you slipped out the back door if anyone would even notice.

I have been there and I understand. And it can change. No, really it can.

I had reached a point in my stepfamily life that I had been so wrapped up in helping and problem solving everyone else’s issues that I continually overlooked my own. I became resentful. I became jealous. I became disengaged. Believe me when I tell you that disengagement is not a problem solver. It may be a quick fix in the moment, but over time it can destroy your relationships. I had become so wrapped up in thinking I was doing the right thing, but all along with each passing day I was losing another piece of me. I had lost the focus of me and the happy go lucky attitude I had when entering my relationship many years prior. I found myself asking who am I and what shifted in my life.

Does this sound like your life? Can you resonate with what you’re reading?

You may feel that you are aching for a different life. Wondering how your path in life included raising children that do not share your DNA, that you did not physically birth. That is ok. It is normal to have these thoughts and feelings. A friend once said to me when I first started my stepfamily life that it was like I was sharing a house with little strangers who dropped in for a few days every week. Sometimes it did feel like that in the beginning and I felt so guilty for having those feelings. I was young and in love and didn’t feel like there was anyone I could talk to about the intense feelings I was experiencing. I didn’t know that the majority of stepmothers have these exact same feelings. What a relief it was to learn this, but oh how I wished I had this information when I was new to the role.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. By no means is this role easy. If you are just entering a relationship which will require you to be a stepparent and you think it’ll be fun. Let me be the voice of reason and say it will have its fun moments, but the role will require you to dig deep. And then dig deeper. And THEN dig even deeper. For me it has been one of the toughest roles of my life, but not to sound cliche, the most rewarding. Rewarding in the sense that I have been stripped down to the core of my being over and over again and I’ve found what I’m made of. I’ve learned how to be patient, how to be forgiving, how to mind my own business, how to let go, and how to love without attachments.

Being in a stepfamily requires you to find and make time for you. Make this a priority. If it means 5 minutes sneaking in the bathroom to use a meditation app then do it. If it means making up an errand to leave the house, do it. As stepmothers we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be liked, to be present in our new life, and to caretake our new families. Find time for you and don’t get caught up in all the details that don’t necessarily concern you. Connect with that fun-loving woman that you are and let the self-inflicted stresses melt away. You can do this, my friend.

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” - Dr. Wayne Dyer

 

 

 

 

 

Living in the Shadow

You are going to have good days and you are going to have bad days. It’s part of being human. In your stepfamily you may feel more of the extremes than anywhere else in your life. Some days you will feel like you are queen of the world and everything is aligned and in order. You can tend to have that “bring it on” attitude because ain’t nothing taking you down. Other days you will feel like you are out in the middle of the ocean with 20 foot swells battering you around in your little boat. You likely feel that the closest rock to hide under is the perfect escape for you. The work we have as stepmothers is finding the balance of all the other days that fall in the spectrum between these two extremes, as this is where daily life happens.

Perhaps some of the days that the rock may look pretty good to take a rest under are Mother’s Day, Birthdays, and the Holidays. These days can feel alienating to a stepmom as they are a reminder of the life that was created before you joined the family. A whole intimate family system was intact. Children were conceived. Celebrations were had. Memories were made and will be talked about now and it can make you feel melancholy about not experiencing it yourself. You will never have the role of bio mom. You will go through phases of feeling like you’re living in the shadow of her. You will be more concerned about her than she ever will be with you. Remember you stepped onto the train that was in motion, a few people have gotten off, and a few people have gotten on - one of them being you.

I’ve been in my blended family for over a decade. I can tell you that time does help to heal. And when I say time, I mean it could take years. Sure there can be exceptions, but this balance takes more than a couple of months. There is a dance of integration, patience, and acceptance. There is no forcing of anything in a blended family. Nothing. It’s like learning a new language. It takes time, it takes work, it takes being kind and patient with yourself. It takes courage to weave a new life thread together.

As I am writing this a mourning dove has flown into the bird feeder outside my office. I wasn’t going to share, but I decided to look up what the meaning of this feathered friend is. What I found was: “the symbolism of mourning doves gives us optimism with its spirituality. Beyond their sorrowful song is a message of life, hope, renewal and peace.”

As stepmothers I feel we embody the mourning dove. Even it’s name. There is a place in us that mourns having not created these children with our partner, but gratitude to their mother that she did. We strive to bring peace to the family unit and are hopeful for what we can create. We don’t share DNA, but we can share what we’ve learned in our lives, how we process it, and how differences are ok. We offer a valuable and, likely, different perspective than their parents do. Which I like to think is pretty lucky.

In my work with other stepmothers I’ve learned that collectively as women we have to continue to look for the good in others, particularly right at home in our blended families. We are the divine feminine and embodying that means showing love, compassion, patience, acceptance, and kindness. You may feel insignificant on some days, but remember you are the weaver of the connections. Own this role in a gentle and accessible way. This is yours to define and continue to redefine. I’m on that same path with you, sister, and we can do it. 

Chrysta Horwedel

Chrysta is a Certified Stepfamily Coach and stepmother of two. Her approach is holistic, supported by certifications as a health and ayurvedic wellness coach and yoga instructor. She enjoys music, writing, hiking, healthy food, wine, and travel. She lives with her family in Los Angeles. Connect with Chrysta at instantblendedfamily.com. 

Mothering Day

Mother’s Day is coming up and I have lovely memories of celebrating my grandmother and mother on this special day. These women graciously and selflessly mothered me in many ways and they deserved to be recognized, at least, on this one day carved out for them. 

I would put on a lovely dress and we would go to have a brunch at a fancy place. We went out because that was the one day that the ladies would not be in the kitchen taking care of everyone else. My grandmother was a widow for as long as I could remember and my mother a single mom. They didn’t have a choice but to keep mothering and taking care of everyone, including themselves. 

Oh, and did I mention I had a stepmom too? My stepmom was on the outskirts of my childhood, dropping in here and there when I would see my father on occasion. It was a amicable relationship we had which I’m grateful for, but I was an easy-play-by-the-rules kind of kid so I didn’t attract much drama or discipline. We were close, but never too close.   

Little did I know back then that I would be in the stepmom role years later myself. Surprise! Being a sensitive empath isn’t exactly aligned with this role. I’ve made mistake after mistake after mistake over the years because of being overly involved. But as life goes, we learn from our mistakes and adapt to new ways of being. I’ll admit though, sometimes I wish I could trade in my sensitivity in order to channel that calm, cool, collected British demeanor my stepmom so effortlessly embodied. But no special Harry Potter wand for this girl to create any spells.  

Being a stepmom takes courage, grace, and confidence (and a bit of wine doesn’t hurt either).You are not the mother. Nope. Sorry. You have influence, but not control. You can speak your mind, but after you are heard: let goooooo. I mean it. Let go of any attachment of what YOU think the outcome should be. You will drive yourself mad. Focus on the good parts of the stepfamily and find new ways of approaching the not so good parts.  

Mother’s Day will never be your day, but there’s room for stepmoms to be recognized too. Did you know there is an official stepmothers day? Probably not as it’s not something that is in the mainstream of our society…yet. The kids have a mother and she will be recognized and celebrated by her children on Mother’s Day. It can be challenging to treat this as any other day, but in my experience it’s best to not have any expectations around this day. But I won’t lie, when I have received a text from the kids or flowers from my partner, I’ve felt incredibly grateful for the gesture and happy I was seen for my mothering.  

It hasn’t been the norm in our society, but I feel things need to shift to include stepmoms into the Mother’s Day “club”. Perhaps it is even changing Mother’s Day to Mothering Day. The majority of families today are now blended and stepmoms play a vital role in the raising of children. It takes a village to raise these children and it is time to be more inclusive of the the individuals who are present, despite how they arrived in the child’s life. It’s time to practice coexistence and to let go of old thoughts around the evil stepmother. 

If you are a stepmom, had a stepmom, or know someone in the stepmom role (maybe she’s mothering your own children), a small gesture of a text or card to tell her she’s appreciated could make her day…and maybe you’ll experience a sense of gratitude too. At the end of the day we all just want to feel seen, accepted, and loved, don’t we? 

 

Journey to a Happy Heart

I asked the question today on social media what words people associate with stepfamily, stepmom and step kids. It is incredible to me the amount of negative word associations with these phrases. Words came up like the other, difficult, adjustment, wicked, evil, different decisions, scary but fun, would I do this again, instant, and challenging. It is remarkable to me how the role surrounding a step mom is already, forgive my language, but doomed before she has even had a chance to embrace her role.

Many stepmoms suffer from depression, anxiety and a general feeling of isolation. This is normal to go through these feelings. I can tell you that I’ve been there and it takes a lot of effort to keep inserting yourself back into the family when you feel like the odds are stacked against you. This is where it is crucial to stay positive and reflect on the reasons why you chose to be in this network of people. What lessons can you learn from this? What lessons are you teaching by bringing your life experiences into this newly created family. Try to spin it to the positive and let go of any negative chatter that may be trying to take your attention away from the present moment. 

Stepmoms have been given an assignment that is asking them to dig deep to find the strength and courage to know they matter and are making a difference. Being a step parent is like being Casper the Friendly Ghost in the house. You want to be a part of daily life and decisions, but often you’ll go unnoticed and feel like you’re invisible. It requires a thick skin, letting go of control over outcomes of children you love, and the ability to let go of all attachments. 

Relationships of all kinds present their challenges and within these challenges are chances for growth. Being a stepmom is a reminder that with all the love and maternal instincts you have within; use them first to love yourself and focus on your self-care, then extend that mothering to the rest of the family. This is not selfish, but necessary to creating a conscious, connected blended family. Taking this step will also set a tone for the family that self-care is ok and necessary and teach the kids to follow your example. 

Despite what the media may say, what friends or loved ones are conditioned to say, or even what judgements you may have of yourself it is normal to feel a little isolated. Know that the role you have is one that is also being held by an intricate system of kindred spirits having the exact same feelings and experiences as you. Seek connection by finding an online support group, a stepfamily coach, gather reading materials to empower you and to connect with others who can help to elevate you in the stepmom role. 

I’d like to close with a quote that has helped me feel hopeful in my role. May you find the support, love, and happy heart you deserve on your step-mothering journey, my friend. 

It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.”          - Dalai Lama

 

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Chrysta Horwedel

Chrysta is a Certified Stepfamily Coach and stepmother of two. Her approach is holistic, supported by certifications as a health and ayurvedic wellness coach and yoga instructor. She enjoys music, writing, hiking, healthy food, wine, and travel. She lives with her family in Los Angeles. Connect with Chrysta at instantblendedfamily.com. 

Your Unique Stepfamily

Just hearing the word stepfamily, or worse, stepmother can cause people to immediately respond by saying: “I’m sorry, that must be so hard for you.” Without much thought there is judgement already happening before knowing too much about your family. In my experience this is generally from someone who has never had any intimate connection in the stepfamily dynamic. It’s not a biological union so why on Earth would life be easy or work out. Isn’t it supposed to be difficult and riddled with challenges.

Unfortunately most people have been exposed to stepfamily life through the sensational way the media portrays life with the all familiar “evil stepmother”. The stepmother is a self-absorbed, evil temptress who just wants the children to be rid of so she can focus on delighting her partner. She’s young, mean, and angling to make everyone miserable that sets foot on her path. Talk about needing to rewrite that characterization! Thankfully this stereotype is being re-written as more and more blended families has become the norm. Obviously it’s a big commitment to undertake loving a man and his children, but every stepfamily is unique and my experience may be vastly different than yours. Like raising children, there is no manual for blended family relationships or ant set way of operating within one.

There are so many factors, emotions, and histories to blend together in becoming a stepfamily. Most of us enter the relationship thinking the acceptance and flow of life of all parties involved will happen quickly. I mean we love our partner and his kids so what else could be a problem. If you are new to this dynamic keep in mind you are making a large commitment and with that needs to come patience, especially for yourself. The bonds and relationships won’t happen overnight or, sorry to say, not even in the first year. It is a process that will require a minimum of two to three years to achieve a desired flow and balance. Even after this time you’ll still be striving to keep a balance and flow to your life because, truth is, you share your life with another household and little people who are shuttled back and forth between. It is important to remember a family unit was created before you arrived and it unraveled. In that unraveling healing is needed, especially for the children. You are entering a role where respect, sensitivity, patience, and empathy are required from you.

The biological mom may or may not approve of you, the children may not approve of you, the former in-laws may disregard you, the other step-parent may ignore you, but don’t let that decide your worth in the family. Those relationships need time to evolve and they may or may not ever reach a place of harmony. But always (pay close attention here) always take the high road and be willing to be flexible. Don’t take it personally as everyone has their path, their role, and lessons to be learned.

Being a stepmom is a role where you have to be willing to go unseen at times. But know that you are not. That your presence is felt and that you matter. You have brought your unique perspective and life experience into this family unit that is being recreated. What you bring to the family is important and so are you. You’ve got this, girl. 

Growth and Expansion in Stepfamily Life

Stepfamily life has its challenges and struggles. But honestly what family unit, relationship (personal or professional) doesn’t have its challenges. In these moments of challenge is where we have the opportunity to shed our skin and grow, but that’s usually easier said than done. Believe me I’ve been there. Over and over again and consider myself a work in progress while I’m learning the lessons. Each moment, each interaction allows me to look at how I may be adding to the drama or refraining from it. I read a wonderful quote the other day that I’d like to share:

"It is okay to be at a place of struggle. Struggle is just another word for growth. Even the most evolved beings find themselves in a place of struggle now and then. In fact, struggle is a sure sign to them that they are expanding; it is their indication of real and important progress. The only one who doesn't struggle is the one who doesn't grow. So if you are struggling right now, see it as a terrific sign - celebrate your struggle." ~ Neale Donald Walsch

What if we could shift our focus from something being a struggle to instead being a moment of expansion. So often we get caught up in the negativity of a situation and we lash out, or worse disengage, with those closest to us. This may temporarily put a bandaid over the struggle we’re facing, but ultimately won’t help us move through it.

What if all of the little things that have the potential to irritate us daily could be discarded with the evening trash. What if we recognized all the beautiful lessons that come to us, especially through our loved ones and all the daily interactions, instead of being annoyed and frustrated with how we thought things should unfold. We are most comfortable and vulnerable with those closest to us which typically means we are capable of being the most cruel when we are moving through something difficult.

Stepfamily life allows for much growth as there are many opportunities for expansion. As a stepmom I’ve had my number of personal and relationship struggles to move through. Mostly all self-inflicted due to a fear based mentality and an adopted rigidity to coexist in the blended unit. (Which by the way, I don’t recommend as a means of coping). Some I had more grace than others when handling them. It’s said that the lessons we need to learn most will keep showing up until we learn them. From one stepmom to another you will at some point see light at the end of the tunnel and feel a small victory. When you do - celebrate it! Celebrate the little things and know nothing is static and that change is inevitable. We are all human and we all make mistakes, but in these mistakes are moments of vulnerability and growth if we’re willing to see and own them. 

Next time your stepchild leaves their light on, leaves their dirty dishes laying around, has piles of clothes littering their room, or whatever the annoyance may be try to step back and see it as an opportunity for your growth instead of annoyance. You can only control your emotions and reactions and wouldn’t you rather be a peaceful example, rather than being the nagging one. I can confidently say you’ll feel better if you choose this approach as you let yourself off the hook. Let go of the inner struggles and focus on the happy you. You know that one that you maybe lost sight of. I’m here to tell you she’s still there and she wants to come out and play. Go shine your light, beauty.  

You Matter

You matter. Yes. YOU. Really take in what I’m saying. You. Matter. Now take a deep inhale and feel that in your body. I know that there are days when you feel like no one sees you or appreciates you. Those are the days that it is vitally important for you to recognize that you are enough. Your contributions matter, even if they go unseen. 

Being in a stepfamily can be one of the biggest challenges someone can have in their life. It’s an undefined role. It can be a mine field. Just like when babies are born, no rule book is given to you, but you can be assured that you’ll receive a lot of unsolicited advice about what you’re doing and how you are doing it. 

You’re walking into a dynamic that was intact, children were created, the relationship fell apart and now here you are arriving fresh on the scene in a phase of rebuilding. Despite the timing of your arrival into this relationship it may be much to the displeasure of an ex partner and maybe even the children, but it is the beginning of a dance of navigating a complex, but rewarding dynamic for all involved if you choose to allow it and be in the flow. 

When you begin to question your worth I have learned that this is the time you need to step away and focus on you. Just stop everything. This is not selfish, but necessary so you don’t deplete yourself or worse criticize your partner or children. The maternal instinct is a primal one that cannot be discarded. You may or may not have your own children that you’ve brought into your new partnership, or created together, but you are helping to raise children that do not share your DNA, but you love and care for as your own. This can cause some distress if you are not taking care of yourself and instead are putting your attention on everyone’s needs, perhaps even over perceived by you, before your own.

Believe me I know what it’s like to want to be the organizer, the healer, the advice giver, and so on, but you have to be prepared to give with no expectation of receiving in return. Give freely, but while doing so be sure that you are not over extending yourself into a state of depletion Energetically you can become so involved in trying to manage, or control, your household that everyone is negatively affected and detachment and distance can replace connection and flow of the relationships.

One mantra that helps me through trying times is: I am enough. I can’t recall the original source where I first heard it, but it resonated with me. Showing up in an authentic way in the present moment of the craziness of your life is a beautiful thing. It will be messy, you will say and do the wrong things, but if it’s authentic and you are willing to grow and learn; what is more beautiful than that. Recognize that in these moments you are enough. 

You are a woman who is sensitive to the world and who is a caretaker. If you are comparing yourself to intact families or other step families do yourself a favor and stop. You, my friend, are enough. Plant the seed, water it and see what beautiful moments blossom in your life. 

You Are a Goddess, Now Stop Comparing Yourself

How are you showing up in your life? This question could cause some anxiety, I understand. It’s a big one especially for a stepmom. Are you seeking guidance or approval from others to fit into the blended family? Trying to do it the “right” way, but finding that it is causing you direct conflict? Are you not being true to your gut feelings and inner compass to feel comfortable in your personal, creative approach to life? 

As a stepmom it is so important to keep your focus inward and avoid comparisons. There will be plenty for you to choose from and it will be easy to fall into a negative spiral. The children may make comparisons of what happens at the other household, your partner may unconsciously lead you to believe a comparison from a story from the past, you may fill in blanks and create your own stories that have never existed. Simply put, just stop. It’s time to approach your family in a new way. 

You’ve likely heard the phrase that your inner world reflects what is happening in your outer world. So if you’re feeling good about yourself internally your life will reflect that. Take the burden off your shoulders of being the stepmom. Instead think of yourself as the bonus mom. Does that give you relief even just reading those words? Bonus mom. Doesn’t feel so wicked does it? It takes so much judgement and stress out of the term stepmother. As a bonus mom you get to enhance the lives of the kids in a unique and nurturing way. What I’ve learned in my stepfamily is that the kids have a capable mother and father. I don’t need to take on that role of primary parent, instead I can take on being a support, a guide, a mentor, and a coach; thus bonus mom. 

It is so important to be in the flow of what feels right for you. If you need a break that may mean you need to go meditate or that may mean you need a vigorous run, a glass of wine and a call to your best friend, or simply a walk in nature. It’s all about balance and what your body is telling you what it needs in that moment. When you are having positive moments in life and feeling in the flow you will create more positive thoughts and experiences. Embrace that whatever path or thought you choose it is simply the right one for you, in that moment.  

I’d like to leave you with a quote by Anita Moorjani: “It’s not important whether I’m having a bad day or a bad week. It’s more important how I’m feeling about myself while I’m facing this day or week. It’s about trusting the process even as I face a difficult time and not being afraid to feel anxiety, sadness, or fear, rather than suppressing everything until those emotions pass. It’s about allowing myself to be true to who I am. Because of this, the feelings will dissipate and occur less frequently.”

You’re a goddess, treat yourself kindly. 

Chrysta Horwedel

Chrysta is a Certified Stepfamily Coach and stepmother of two. Her approach is holistic, supported by certifications as a health and ayurvedic wellness coach and yoga instructor. She enjoys music, writing, hiking, healthy food, wine, and travel. She lives with her family in Los Angeles. Connect with Chrysta at instantblendedfamily.com. 

Stepmom Stress and Self Care

Stress. Everyone has it. Even children today are speaking out about being stressed. Some have it for different reasons, but we all suffer from it in one form or another. Call it a symptom of our current instant-gratification-technologically-driven world and our need to be constantly plugged in. Whatever the root we need to step back and evaluate how we can reduce the stressors in our lives. 

If you are reading this then I will safely assume that you are a stepmom? And that you know the stress that goes along with that role. Maybe the word in itself is stressful and brings up immediate judgements and negative feelings. Let’s be real, our society hasn’t exactly spun this role into a positive one. A new story needs to be created and told, especially with the increased numbers of divorced families. It has become the new norm and collectively we need to honor this blended family unit. 

There are a number of challenges that face a stepmother. Just the title itself is subject to judgement and expectations that she may never be able to live up to. It is such a delicate balance of putting all the pieces in place so that the previous family unit can coexist with the new/current family unit. It’s a merging of the past with the present, a dance of adding in new family members as the result of divorce, remarriage, and potentially the birth of more children. 

For a stepmom you are not only trying to navigate the role of mothering children you didn’t birth, but also a support role as a partner to your partner in raising the children. Add in finances, support for another household, homework, carpools, vacations, scheduling, and all the little details that have to be handled on a daily basis. It is a very delicate balance of keeping your household fully functioning while not slipping into judging the other household for what may or may not be getting done there.


The dynamics of an intact biological family have their own sets of challenges, but now that the web of family life extends into this blended family arena there are more opportunities for ambiguity, stressors, resentment, and dissatisfaction. The only thing you can control is how to cope with the stress and the flow of the relationships first and foremost in your household. It’s an ebb and flow, that as the stepmom, it is crucial to be fluid in your daily life.

Checking out and disengaging are options, maybe not the most positive, but I understand sometimes they are necessary. This is also a sign that the stress in your life has hit a level where you may need to thoughtfully step away and focus on your self-care. Creating a safe word, phrase, or hand gesture to let your partner know you need a moment is suggested, rather than just disappearing. 

As women we give so much of ourselves daily and we forget we need to caretake ourselves too. Taking even 10 minutes away out of the confusion to reset yourself can bring a sense of peace so that you can return a little renewed. You have the choice in every moment to reset the negative patterns and negative thoughts into new ones. To move forward we consciously need to stop, take some deep breaths, reconnect to our inner wisdom, and let go of the thoughts that no longer serve us. It’s a daily practice that can be cultivated, that’s why it’s called practice. Now take a deep breath and go take a few moments for yourself now. You deserve it, sister.