How to Cope With Depression as a Childless Stepmother? (+7 Common Symptoms)
In this blog, we will talk about childless stepmother depression. By throwing some light on the reasons for depression and symptoms of depression as a step parent, we will understand this problem better. We will also learn some ways to conquer depression as a step parent/mother.
What is childless stepmother depression?
Women getting married to partners with children from previous marriage/relationship and having no biological children of their own can sometimes develop depressive symptoms because of the difficult situations they find themselves in.
Many women believe that their longing for motherhood can be resolved by marrying men who already have children from an unsuccessful relationship/marriage. But they find themselves in deep distress when they actually have to be in the situation of being a very present step parent.
Symptoms of depression in a childless stepmom
Although the symptoms of depression differs from person-to-person, below mentioned are some key symptoms of depression tthat commonly occur in a childless step mom.
You feel fatigued and exhausted more than usual.
You find yourself isolating from people and social gatherings.
You find yourself crying for no particular reason or are often tearful.
You feel misunderstood, unwanted and helpless in the situation you are in.
You notice changes in your appetite and weight.
You have concerns with your sleep schedule.
You lose interest in activities that brought you joy earlier, including sex.
You have increased frequency of gut health issues, body aches, headaches, menstrual cycles, etc.
You are often irritable and have frequent anger outbursts without any particular reason.
You feel anger and resentment towards your step children yet feel bad feeling that way.
Communicating about your needs has become difficult for you, so you try to avoid situations fearing confrontation and scenes getting ugly.
Reasons for depression as a childless stepmother
Every woman has different experiences as a step caregiver to the existing family she enters in. Some of the reasons that lead to distress and depression are as follows:
Fear of less loved by the husband in comparison to the step-children.
Women often tend to compare the love and affection her husband gives to his children and to her as his wife. Seeing the husband spend time with the kids, joke around, etc may push the wife to think that on an emotional level the husband is still tied to their ex-partner because the children are present as a constant reminder.
Fertility fears and disappointments
Often, men who already have the responsibility of children reconsider if they want more children based on the family situation, the effect newborn children from the consequent marriage will have on the children from the previous marriage, financial capabilities, etc. If this issue has not been addressed by the current couple it will be difficult for the wife to express her choice and wishes related to motherhood later.
She might also be concerned about her age catching up leading to fertility concerns.
Or, sometimes the woman is aware of her infertility and seeing her husband with his children and knowing that she will never get to have children of her own can be pinching for some women.
Relationship equation and being accepted by the step children
Sometimes the step children may find it weird to bond with a new mom when they have a mom of their own, or they might find it unnecessary. They might even find it difficult to accept that their father has a woman in his life who is not their mother. Sore relationships can affect the behaviour and reciprocity of emotions among step-children and step-mother.
Being a punching bag for the step children in their state of confusion and for your husband in the state of his anger or tiredness can lead you to mental and emotional fatigue too.
Special days can be tough
Mother’s day, children’s birthdays, milestones days like graduation days for the children or a big promotional party, wedding anniversary, etc can be tough to face because the possibility of encountering the children’s biological mother and seeing your husband bond with his ex-wife and kids can make you feel like an unwelcomed outsider.
Unsupportive or gaslighting husband
When the husband does not understand the need for his current wife’s wish and need to have children of her own or passes comments like “why can’t you love my children as your own?” the woman feels her emotions are not validated and she is not understood. This leads to distress and depression.
Sometimes the husband has children from the previous marriage but because of health concerns he is unable to impregnate his current wife which can lead to embarrassment, altercations and strain in the relationship.
You never wish to be a parent but it was forced upon you
Becoming a mother is not a priority for many women and some believe they are not cut out for motherly caregiving. But falling in love with a man who already had children from a previous relationship might put them in a fix. She may feel obligated to take up responsibilities she never wished to undertake anytime in her life. Becoming a parent, with half a heart can be very strenuous mentally and emotionally for someone.
Constant rumination of thoughts
When you keep thinking about everything that is less-than-perfect or the opposite of ideal in your life you set a pattern of thinking which you find very difficult to get out of. Ruminating thoughts often lead to depression or are a characteristic of a person who has depression. It is easy for people to advice to change your thinking or be more positive but the sole way to feel better is to communicate efficiently and try to prioritize things well in your life.
Receiving unsolicited advice and dealing with stigma in the society
When there is a crisis in the family or struggles with conception, often family and friends think it is okay to give free advice to the person suffering on how to resolve the tension. This advice is often not asked for as people do not really understand the intensity of the situation. As a concerned person, the best they could do is just listen to your worries and ask how they could be of best help to you.
The society often considers it is okay for step children to have a rough transition to being around a new mom because they are still young but expect the stepmoms to be nurturing and unconditionally loving. This expectation puts a lot of pressure on the stepmoms to fit into the mould of a good home-maker and when things do not go the wish it could, it could lead to a lot of distress.
How to cope with depression as a childless stepmom
Know that it is okay to feel the way you are feeling. Beating yourself up for feeling jealous or angry would not make those emotions disappear. Know that it is important to set healthy boundaries and it is not selfish to choose your mental peace and sanity over other people’s demands from you. Know that love as an emotion is the most powerful and vast and it does not get reduced in proportion by sharing it with others.
Also, know that you are new to the whole situation too. Be it two months of being a step mom or two years or two decades. Every person has a learning curve and you can just try to do your best.
The very key quality to develop in relationships of any kind is good communication skills. Being assertive, empathetic, acknowledging, patient listener and clear speaker are qualitites that are developed with practise. It is best to start as soon as possible. Choose a kinder way to state your point rather than choosing to be mean to prove your point.
Consult a psychiatrist
A psychiatrist can prescribe medication, for example, antidepressants based on the severity of the condition of the person. Antidepressants are an important part of recovery and going to a professional should not be delayed.
Consulting a counselor/ psychotherapist is essential in mental health issues. This, most often, goes hand in hand with medication based on the severity of depression.
A counselor can bring in newer ways of perception, help the person to emote better while engaging in healthy boundary-making. The counselor can also help the person eradicate irrational thoughts and beliefs that inhibit the person’s well-being. The counselor and the client, together, also work on and construct healthier coping mechanisms against stressors for the client.
Self-care should not be luxury, it is a necessity
Taking care of your own self is neither selfish nor should it be a luxury. Take a break when things get heavy for you. Step back from your duties till the time you feel mentally sorted. It is perfectly okay to do so, infact it is essential!
Self care activities can include doing leisure time activities like singing, dancing, art-making, etc. It could also be spending some time in a spa or getting a new look from a salon treatment. Often in depression, people tend to downplay the importance of these little things that otherwise would have had high importance for us.
Improve lifestyle choices and work towards good health
Health is a concept with many interlinkages and it is also all-encompassing. One can’t expect to have good mental health if their physical health is deteriorating and vice-versa. Exercising, healthy eating habits, good sound sleep, and practicing mindfulness, along with any medication/therapy if need be, can help attain victory over any condition, including depression.
BetterHelp: A Better Alternative
Those who are seeking therapy online may also be interested in BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers plenty of formats of therapy, ranging from live chats, live audio sessions and live video sessions. In addition, unlimited messaging through texting, audio messages and even video messages are available here.
BetterHelp also offers couples therapy and therapy for teenagers in its platform. Furthermore, group sessions can also be found in this platform, covering more than twenty different topics related to mental health and mental illness. The pricing of BetterHelp is also pretty cost-effective, especially considering the fact that the platform offers financial aid to most users.
In this blog, we talked about childless stepmother depression. By throwing some light on the reasons for depression and symptoms of depression as a step parent, we tried to understand this problem a little better. We also learned some ways to conquer depression as a step parent/mother.
Frequently Asked Questions: childless stepmother depression
What to do when you do not like your step-children?
You can do your best to try understanding situations from the child’s point of view. You can try arranging trips, picnics or activities that you both can equally enjoy. Learn to communicate better with the children and encourage an open channel of communication from them to you. Address the behaviours you do not appreciate in them.
Can a stepchild ruin a marriage?
One cannot rule out the possibility of a stepchild interfering with the good health of your marriage. It is better to communicate beforehand with your partner about your opinions about entering a marriage while already having a child. If you decide to take the plunge, try your best to communicate well with your partner, prioritize your marriage and set aside time for just the two of you.