Setting Boundaries as a Stepparent
How do you cope when too many people ask too many things of you? It could mean it's time to set some boundaries for yourself.
Stepparents make endless sacrifices for their stepchildren and may see few rewards, especially in the beginning. If we give up too much of ourselves in order to meet the constant needs of others, we will wind up frustrated or resentful. It's our responsibility as stepparents to determine when we need a break and what that break needs to look like.
With three teen-agers and an eight-year-old at home right now, our house is constantly filled with activity which usually translates into noise. We have kids in and out, music playing, steady streams of talking and laughter (or arguing sometimes), TV shows, and computer games to name a few. Because I don't have a high tolerance for chaos, I am aware of my need to retreat to my room at times for peace and quiet. Other times, I may leave the house for a run to find some "alone time." I know I am better able to handle my responsibilities when I take care of myself.
I like the way Sue Thoele discusses boundaries in The Courage to be a Stepmom:. "With practice and commitment, taking care of ourselves and setting self-nurturing limits can become second nature. Cultivating the ability to say "no" to unreasonable responsibilities and expectations makes it easier for us to say "yes" to love and laughter."
It's also important to set boundaries regarding how we will allow ourselves to be treated. We can require respect from our stepchildren, even if they don't like us. Our actions or inactions teach others how to treat us. It helps to team up with our spouse and set some ground rules (i.e. yelling is not allowed, even when you're angry), and then follow through with consequences if they're not followed. It's good to remember that our stepchildren will be more likely to honor our boundaries and respect our needs if they sense an attitude of love from us.
If you're struggling with boundaries, a helpful book I recommend is by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend titled Boundaries, When to say Yes and When to say No to take Control of your Life. Healthy boundaries impact all areas of our life and are necessary as we recognize our limits and seek to maintain balance as a stepparent.