What do you do when you are starting out at something new? Do you dive right in, letting the mistakes come? Do you ask for advice, seeking out those professional (or not so professional) opinions that are only a phone call away? What do you do when you are at the metaphorical crossroads? When you have to make a big decision? When you need to learn about something really, really important? When you are trying to decide whether to be a stepmother?

Here’s what I did: I read. I read everything I could. This worked, I think, because I value so much what others have experienced and can tend to internalize their advice and make it gospel. (No pressure, writing stepmothers!) Turns out, there was a lot to read on the subject, mostly having to do with the evil nature of the biomom or the stepmother, often involving words like “sassy” and phrases like “go ahead, girl!” written in hot pink script. Who is this targeted audience of stepmothers? Are they all gossipy 16-year-olds? I’m just not feeling it.

The worst though, in my opinion, are the articles that tell you that you absolutely must do something in order to be a good stepmother/wife/human being and for your marriage to survive this horrendous thing called being a stepmother. Eek. I must get a therapist? I must accept that my stepdaughter will be distant? I must not make any disciplinary decisions whatsoever because I did not birth them, after all?

And here you are, doing exactly what I like to do when I’m faced with a new situation. If you are reading this, you are probably a stepmother. Maybe you are looking for help. Maybe you are looking for someone who feels like you and is going through the things that you are going through. And maybe you are even looking for someone to just tell you what to do. If you could just know what to do, everything would be better.

Well, sassy sisters, here is my advice: Maybe you could do some yoga. It really helps me. For that sacred, lovely hour, my mind is switched off. I don’t think about anything at home, or at work, or in the Middle East, or wherever. I think about nailing that triangle position. I think about how long is acceptable to lay in final rest without appearing lazy.

But you don’t have to do that. Because here is the truth, and here is what took me a while to realize: We are all different, and have wildly different stories. What works for me may not work for you. There is nothing that you must do. Do what works for you, and don’t neglect you, okay? Because you matter too. You matter a lot.

Charlotte Curry McGhee teaches English as a Second Language by day and blogs by night. Her mission in life is to make the stepmothers of the world seem just a little less evil. You can find her at usuallyhappystepmom.com.

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