Is PMS secretly sabotaging your stepfamily harmony?
If you are currently struggling with your stepfamily, confused as to what the problem is and desperate to find a middle ground, you might find that PMS is secretly sabotaging your stepfamily life.
Being a woman can be tough. Being a stepmum can be unbelievably challenging. And being a premenstrual stepmum can be a recipe for disaster. Having an awareness of the impact your cycle may be having on your family life can make a huge difference to your stepfamily success.
The Grimm fairy tales, Disney films, and general societal stigma would have us believe that all stepmothers are evil; despite caring deeply for their stepchildren. However, there is a certain time of the month (and my own blended family will attest to this) where the Brothers Grimm may have had a point.
Do you ever find yourself channelling Queen Grimhilde*? PMS could be the culprit…
There have been times when I’ve been so low that I found it hard to cope with my own children, let alone my husband’s children. On some of our weekends with them, I just wanted to crawl into a hole and stay there until they left. Forcing myself to function like a normal human being took great effort and strength. It left me feeling exhausted and, I’m ashamed to admit, resentful. Naturally, the kids picked up on it and, as much as I tried to keep a handle on it, at times I exemplified the wicked stepmother stereotype.
Around a year into our relationship, my husband gently pointed out that he has noticed a pattern to my darker moods that I had overlooked. With his support, I started tracking my cycle and mood swings in earnest, and it became clear that I was suffering from severe PMS. I also suffer from Endometriosis, which adds a whole other layer of struggle to the mix. Uncovering this pattern I was experiencing was a huge revelation and, while it didn’t take away the symptoms, it explained a lot about how my PMS was sabotaging our stepfamily harmony…And it can help you too. With more predictable symptoms, they will become easier to cope with, and your partner will be better able to support you.
Six ways you can save your stepfamily – and your sanity – from PMS
Embrace this uncomfortable side of womanhood and the natural flux of your emotions
In the words of Julie Holland M.D. (a book I highly recommend):
“We are women. We feel more deeply, express our emotions more frequently, and get moody monthly. It’s normal. It’s nature’s way. Pay attention to what your body is telling you about your own wants and needs. Find the rhythms in your cycles. There is wisdom in our biology. Above all, do what feels best. Making healthy choices feels good. This is not deprivation. It is nourishment on all levels. It is the opposite of neglect.”
There’s a tendency to try and “push through” and ignore what we are experiencing; this will do nothing for your sanity or your stepfamily dynamic.
Track your cycle and plan around it
Try to plan stepfamily activities around your cycle. With fluctuating hormone levels throughout the month, it makes sense to adapt activities accordingly.
A little intro to the phases of your cycle and how you can plan around them:
The Follicular phase – also known as the Feel Good phase. This is more likely to be your “happy” time of the month. Use this time for high energy and fun activities together as well as outdoor pursuits. Make the most of spending quality time together as a family.
The Ovulatory Phase – also known as the Loving Phase. This is a time for affection and compassion. Reinforce to everyone in your family that you love them. It is also an excellent time to have conversations about those things that might be niggling you about your stepfamily dynamics such as different parenting styles, finances and discipline – without it turning into a blazing argument.
The Luteal Phase – otherwise known as the Dark Days (for me anyway). This may be when you start to feel anxious, on edge and irritable. Try not to schedule much in when contact with your stepkids falls into this time. Encourage your partner to make the most of spending time alone with their kids and schedule play dates for your kids.
Practice self-care and compassion
You can’t be a loving wife, mum, and stepmum if you don’t first treat yourself with love, compassion and kindness. Communicating your experience with your partner, teaching them about your cycle and allowing them to support you is so essential to this. Partners who live with a Queen Grimhilde once a month: be compassionate!
My own self-care checklist includes acupuncture, reflexology, yoga and pilates. These are investments in my sanity, and my stepfamily benefits immensely from the person I am when I create this space for myself.
Research and experiment with complementary therapies
There are plenty of therapies claiming to help with PMS symptoms, do your research and see what feels right for you. When my husband and I started trying for a baby a few years ago, I began acupuncture treatments. While an ‘ours baby’ wasn’t on the cards for us, I did notice a considerable improvement in my mood in general from acupuncture, especially in the few days running up to my period.
See a Nutritionist
Your diet can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health. A thorough personalised report of what you need to be eating and what supplements to take to support a healthy endocrine system is invaluable. I was taking all sorts of supplements to “boost” my fertility (kindly prescribed by Dr Google) and my nutritionist pointed out that some may have even been counterproductive.
Cut back on – or better still give up – alcohol
This one may be controversial, but having quit alcohol for a year in 2018, I saw how life-changing this could be. Granted, it can be hard as a stepmum; ending a long-term relationship with Sauvignon Blanc and Gin & Tonic might be a scary prospect when you’re expecting the stepkids for the weekend. You should know, though, that what I gained completely transformed my life. Not only have my PMS symptoms all but dissipated, but I’m generally so much healthier and happier!
Now, in my forties, I can report that I am happily married to a very PMS/cycle savvy partner; we survived the test of my inner Queen Grimhilde and came out stronger than ever. My PMS symptoms have decreased significantly, although one or two occasionally still rear their ugly heads, but I still plan ahead and try to schedule in as much self-care during the week before my period.
My journey from Grimhilde to calm was definitely a bumpy one; the challenges of stepfamily life alongside PMS felt insurmountable at times.
Don’t let PMS – or wicked stepmother stereotypes – sabotage your stepfamily harmony; seek help and remember that you are not alone.
* Grimhilde is Snow White’s wicked stepmother.
Magriet Steyn (aka the Stepfamily Harmony Coach) is a professional Life Coach and Certified Stepparent Coach. Originally from South Africa, she is now based in the UK. As a stepmum to two adult stepchildren, bio-mum to two teens, and co-parent with two ex-husbands, she understands the complexities and challenges surrounding stepfamily life. Magriet specialises in stepparenting teen and adult stepchildren, co-parenting, dealing with challenging exes, secondary infertility and supporting teens and young adults through LGBTQ+ discovery. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and www.magrietsteyn.co.uk