Stepmothering: Don’t take it Personal

Stepmothering: Don’t take it Personal

All 3 of my children prefer their other parent at the moment. Our oldest will cry for his mother nearly every night. There are long stretches of listening to him complain that he misses his mom and how much he just want to be with her and that he wishes he didn’t have to be here and could just go back.

Our middle one is always crying for her daddy and can’t wait to spend more fun-filled weekends with him. Sometimes it’s purely her mimicking her older brother. Other times it’s her whining to get out of doing something she’s supposed to be doing. The worst are the complete panic-filled melt downs as your heart breaks for your child while they are missing the parent that isn’t you.

Our youngest has hit a stage of clinging to daddy for EVERYTHING. She will scream and cry for her daddy and beg for him to hold her. When he does try to hand her over, she’ll squeal and cling even tighter.

don't take it personal

Now what kind of mother wouldn’t at least question: “What’s going on here?” “Am I really THAT bad?”

Especially when this behavior happens to coincide with one of those absolutely crazy days where mom loses her temper and yells at the kids? You all know what I’m talking about.

Now if you confide in someone about your insecurities as a mother, what’s their typical response?

“Don’t take it Personal”

Are you kidding me?!

What could possibly be more personal than a mother and child relationship? My children are my career, my life, my every day! Of course I’m going to take things personally at times; even when I know I shouldn’t!

But when has the advice of “Don’t take it Personal” ever actually helped or comforted anyone?

So can we just stop? It’s not a helpful saying. It has become such a regurgitated and automatic expression that is more often than not used completely incorrectly. It has become a cop-out answer to just tell someone to “toughen up” instead of actually comforting the friend in need.

When was the last time a friend responded to a “don’t take it personal” with a “ Oh thank you, I know I need to just snap out of it and toughen up, thank you so much. I feel much better now.”

They don’t.

Taking something personal usually stems from insecurity. Who was the last mother you met who was completely and 100% confident in every motherly decision they have ever made?

EVERY mother is insecure at some point, about something. We are all winging it! Motherhood is hard! Step-mothering is even harder! And what is the advice we give each other?

Don’t take it Personal! Toughen up! Don’t be so emotional! You’re too sensitive!

C’mon! We can do better than that!

Here’s how!

Be a friend! Stop regurgitating a cop-out answer so you don’t have to invest the time in listening to your friend and their problem. Take the time to listen and BE A FRIEND! Listen to them! They came to you for a reason!!! They are expecting you to be someone who will understand the intense feeling of inadequacy that comes with motherhood and step-motherhood. Telling your friend “Don’t take it Personal” will only leave your friend feeling more isolated and insecure than before.

Share your own stories! Is someone you know struggling to bond with their stepchild because no matter what they do, their child still only wants their mother? Have you been through that? Doesn’t it hurt? Just because someone is hurting doesn’t meant they are taking something personal. Taking something personal is to take a comment or action as a personal attack on one’s character. If my step child isn’t bonding with me and I’m hurt and sad by that doesn’t mean I’m taking it personally. I know I’m a good mother despite their ability to bond, but it still hurts.

But what if your friend really is taking something far more personally that they should. What if they are declaring themselves and absolutely despicable mother because their child won’t bond or is throwing a tantrum. Well, you still don’t tell them “Don’t take it Personal” because you know what? That still isn’t helpful.

Don’t take it personal + because – Don’t take it personal = what you SHOULD say.

If you are going to say “Don’t take it Personal” try adding a “because”. Ex: Don’t take it personal because when your child is throwing a tantrum doesn’t mean it’s something you did wrong as a mother. Then completely take away the first half of the sentence. Now when your friend needs some empathy, all they will hear is “When your child is throwing a tantrum doesn’t meant it’s something you did wrong as a mother.” This takes away the “tough love” mentality which can leave someone feeling very invalidated AND turns it into the magical: “HOW do I not take it personally?”

I struggled with my toddler as a single mother and thought I was absolutely failing at motherhood until I met my husband who tenderly explained to me that just because my child is having a major meltdown doesn’t mean I did something wrong as a mother, it just means she’s having a hard time coping and dealing with her emotions. It may seem silly now, but I was so wrapped up in my insecurities as a mother I couldn’t see the situation any differently than viewing the fact that I was failing. All the people telling me “Don’t take it personal” did nothing to help shift my viewpoint because no one could tell me HOW not to take it personal. It wasn’t until my husband tenderly listened to me and explained the “because” that it not only changed my viewpoint, but it left me feeling more uplifted, validated and understood than before.

Motherhood is hard! It’s beautiful, messy, painful and oh so personal!

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