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Articles & Interviews
STEP 1: Compose Your Self First
How many times have you thought to yourself, “If only my mother/husband/stepson were different, my life would be so much easier”? Most people spend their days focused on others: how they’re getting in our way, what they should do better, and why they need to change to suit us. Yet we rarely look at our part, our contribution, and what we did to help things get this way.
Composure is about understanding where others are coming from without letting their feelings overwhelm us, and about acknowledging our part in the relationship system. Let’s look at an example:

Anne has a 16-year-old son, Kevin. Anne recently received a phone call from Kevin’s new stepmother, Barbra, ranting because she discovered drug paraphernalia in Kevin’s bedroom at his father and stepmother’s home. Barbra was overwrought, yelling about Kevin’s drug use and the terrible example he was seting for her 12-year old daughter. Barbra demanded a “family meeting”—including herself, Anne, Kevin, Kevin’s father—to set more strict house rules between the two homes, to discuss Kevin’s drug use, and to agree on the consequences of Kevin’s behavior.

Anne had two big challenges to her composure in this situation: 1) her ex-husband’s wife was calling her son a drug abuser and dictating to her how the family must deal with issue; and, 2) her own worries and concerns about the very real possibility of her son’s drug use.

Keeping our head when those around us are losing theirs is the very definition of composure, and this was Anne’s challenge. Fortunately, Anne realized that Barbra was an important part of her son’s family system as his father’s wife, and that a shouting match with her would not be in the long-term best interest of the family. Instead, she calmly but firmly assured Barbra that she would talk to Kevin, and that she would follow up with her former husband the next day. This gave Anne time to think, talk with her son, gather some facts, and consider the situation overnight.

Family leaders work on composing themselves first in order to be stronger, healthier, and more constructive in difficult emotional situations such as this one. Composed people are able to:
  • Keep their focus on the long view and the big picture
  • Gather as many facts as possible in order to see the situation accurately and realistically
  • Identify their convictions, principles, and beliefs that apply to the situation
  • Allow others to have strong feelings without catching them or trying to change them
  • Choose a response or action based on their best thinking
  • Control what he/she says and does in the moment
  • Think through problems in a clear-headed way
  • Understand others vs. trying to change them
According to this list, Anne did a terrific job in an emotionally charged situation. But it was no accident—since her divorce five years before, she’d been practicing yoga, walking every day, building a strong support base of friends and family, and working on her self.

Composure is not something we can conjure. True composure is a discipline that must be practiced every day in order to have it available to us when we really need it. Composure is about an inner calm rather than an outer appearance, and it requires constant thought and attention. 
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