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 

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






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 

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.