Have you set your New Year’s resolutions? If you’re like me, you’ve been thinking about them but haven’t put pen to paper just yet. Well, let’s change that. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the role of stepparent shapes every aspect of my life. So it occurred to me that maybe we need our own resolutions!
Stepparenting is one of the most fulfilling, toughest roles there is in a family. Our needs are very similar to biological parents, but we have to deal with lots of stereotypes, complicated dynamics, and lots of feelings of “less than.”
Stepparenting is a daily, high-wire balancing act. We want to always do the right thing – but it can be hard. And all-consuming.
So with all that in mind, here are five New Year’s resolutions for stepparents to keep you on track in 2020. [And spoiler alert – these New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for stepparents. They’re pretty much for anyone!]
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1. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind. And the daily drama. Whether your spouse has a high conflict ex or you’re dealing with teenage attitude or you’re not getting the support you need in balancing the many demands on you.
Do you remember the book, “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff” by Dr. Richard Carlson? It came out almost 25 years ago and is just as relevant today. Dr. Carlson argues you can reduce stress and anxiety by tackling one problem at a time and put them all in perspective.
A great resolution is to do just that. Resolve to address each problem or issue at a time and give it the amount of attention its size warrants.
Don’t get wound up over whether your husband put his glass in the sink or your stepson left his bookbag in the front hall. If it’s the eighth day in a row, that may be another story.
But what I’m saying is to pick your battles. It’s not worth worrying – or warring – over every little thing.
Along those lines, I love the title of Marie Forleo’s “Everything Is Figureoutable.” The premise is that no matter what’s going on in your life, your brain is wired to immediately start searching for the answer. And it’s true.
Worrying about all the daily crazy won’t help you do anything except build stress. Let that go and put your brain to work figuring out the important stuff.
2. Be Grateful – Daily
Studies have shown there are health benefits to being thankful. I’m a strong believer that being grateful helps you focus more on the positive.
So take a moment each day to think about what you can be thankful for. What’s going right in your life? Or can you flip the script when things aren’t going well to examine what you’ve learned from what might be going wrong?
I received this gratitude journal for Christmas and I cannot wait to start using it every day. Think of it as a little treat for yourself.
Whether you’re recording your thanks in a daily journal or on a notepad – or saying silent prayers, it’s a great habit to get in and will help you keep perspective as life gets nuts.
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Whatever your version of “healthy” is, set some goals to reach for this year.
3. Keep Healthy
Whether it’s setting fitness or nutrition goals, or making sure your mental health is a priority, make sure you stay healthy.
You can’t be there for your family if you aren’t healthy. Here are a few ideas:
- Read a book a month. Even if you aren’t a big reader, tackling a great book is good for your mind. Reading will help you decompress and you might even discover some interesting books.
If you don’t have time to read, check out Audible. You get an audiobook credit each month for less than the price of a hardback book.
Although I am a passionate bibliophile, I love that Audible lets me listen to books on my drive to work. And I have discovered some great writers I wouldn’t have otherwise.
- Take up a new form of exercise. If you’ve never tried yoga or pilates, why not do it now? They’re both great for the mind and spirit. And if you take them up with the goal of getting mentally fit, you might just be surprised when you get into better physical shape.
Or if you know you have some aggression to work out, try boxing. Or hiking to get outside and breathe a little (see resolution #4 for more on breathing).
- Set some food goals. I don’t mean reach for the sky with a diet that is unsustainable. But whether it’s trying out keto, whole 30, paleo, or just trying to eat more balanced foods. The old saying you are what you eat is right on. If you’re putting junk in your body, you won’t be able to function well for yourself or your family.
When I’m doing deep breathing exercises, I like to picture my “happy place,” which is the beach.
Take a minute or two per day for deep breathing. Ideally, do this in the morning and in the evening.
Studies have shown deep breathing helps relieve stress, and over time will actually rewire your brain‘s autonomic and central nervous systems to better deal with life’s stressors.
At the very least, it can help calm you down if you’re starting to get worked up.
If you have an Apple watch, you likely get an hourly reminder to do some breathing. If you can do it every hour, or even a few times a day, you’ll notice a huge difference.
And if you can get outside a bit, fresh air reminds you to breathe. Sitting outside for lunch or walking around the block for a few minutes are great, easy ways to do this.
If you have good hiking around where you live, take a weekly hike. It will recharge your spirit while it gets your blood flowing.
5. Take Up Space
You may look at this and think it’s a weird one. What do I mean by taking up space?
So often, stepparents put their own priorities on the back burner. And I mean the way back burner – like behind the stove.
There is always something going on that feels like more of a priority than you. Some conflict with your husband’s ex-spouse. A sick kid. A kid acting out.
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Whatever it is, as stepparents we often feel like our needs don’t need to be on that list. It’s easy to just shrink into yourself and focus instead on making sure the needs of others get taken care of. You try to take up as little space as possible because surely everything else that’s going on for your family is more important.
Your husband fell in love with you because of the space you take up. Your family and friends love the space you take up. So don’t devalue that.
Set goals for the year to reserve some “you” time. Talk to your husband about it and get his buy-in. I’m betting that he’ll support you and enable you to take the time you need to focus on yourself. I know mine has!
You may need to remind him when you’re going to take that time, but if you’ve discussed it in advance, he’ll be supportive rather than thinking you’re just checking out.
Whether you can go for a spa day, an evening with your girls or just an afternoon holed up in your room with a book, you need time to recharge and renew.
I hope these New Year’s resolutions for stepparents resonate with you. My New Year’s resolution for you is that you can enter the new year strong, relaxed, and ready to tackle whatever life throws at you.
Because you deserve it.