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August 12, 2019 | Magriet Steyn

Stepmums in the workplace

Our latest blog is from Magriet Steyn who is a Stepfamily Dynamics Coach. Every stepfamily is unique but the challenges facing working stepparents are very common. Magriet takes us through tools and techniques that can be used to improve the situation.

We can all agree that being a working mum is tough; juggling childcare and household responsibilities while maintaining a professional career can take its toll.

Among us working mums, however, are stepmums who carry much of the same responsibilities, without any of the authority or recognition. Since becoming a stepmum in 2009, I found that stepfamily life added another layer of complexity to an already challenging family dynamic. Not only at home, but also in the workplace.

For working stepmums, some of these challenges include stress and anxiety that are part and parcel of stepfamily life, which can have a negative impact on work-life balance and professional performance.

Writing this article, I was able to draw on my own experiences as a working mum and stepmum.I also asked a group of 150 stepmums and found these three most prevalent challenges.

Challenge #1 – Avoiding time at home with your stepkids

Many stepmums end up avoiding time at home when their stepkids are there to avoid having to deal with potential conflict like disruptive behaviour or sibling rivalry. When my stepkids were living with us full time, I worked longer hours. However, due to the stress at home, I was unproductive and couldn’t fully focus on my work.

What you can do about it

It’s essential to communicate with your partner, in a non-confrontational manner,about your difficulties.   Agree how you will both deal with challenging behaviour, household rules and consequences so you don’t take these anxieties into work.

Schedule time for yourself doing the things you love. See it as re-filling your tank rather than avoiding your stepkids.  It puts you back in control, which will have a knock-on effect on your mental attitude and productivity at work.

Challenge #2 – Dealing with harassment and abuse from the ex

I was shocked but not surprised by the number of stepmums who reported that they’ve experienced harassment and abuse from their partner’s ex in the workplace.

What you can do about it

Speaking with your manager or confiding in a colleague can help reduce the pressure of dealing with it on your own while at work. Keep a record of all abusive communication;block their phone number during working hours if you can. If your partner shares emails or text messages from their ex with you while you’re at work, let them know that for you to be supportive, you don’t need to know the nitty gritty of what is being said.

Challenge #3 – Stress and anxiety

Stepmothers are very prone to stress and anxiety; differences in parenting styles and values, contact schedules, finances, ex-spouses and external factors outside of their control all contribute to feelings of isolation, helplessness and frustration. Symptoms of anxiety can range from negative thought patterns and excessive worrying, panic, restlessness, irritability and mood swings.

What you can do about it

It is essential to have a support network in place, someone who can lend a sympathetic ear. However, a lot of stepmums say they have nobody they can talk towho can relate to what they are experiencing. There was a period where I was so absorbed with what was going on in our stepfamily, it was all I talked about. I’m sure people at work were avoiding me and they lost interest in the ongoing saga of my stepfamily life! It was all-consuming.

Seeing a Life Coach and a Hypnotherapist helped me put things in perspective. Other things you can try to reduce your stress and anxiety levels are acupuncture, yoga, reflexology, meditation or activities such as kick boxing or body combat.


If you are a stepmum who is experiencing any of the above and it’s impacting your work life balance, please know that you are not alone. You are a wonder woman, and you very much deserve to be happy!

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