Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Biological Parents Aren't Perfect Either

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Something I've been trying to remind myself of lately is that it's okay not to be a perfect stepparent. No one is expecting perfection and I shouldn't expect it from myself. Should I do my best, keep trying, ask for forgiveness when I screw up and try to do better again - YES!

But I also need to remember that biological parents aren't perfect either. Being a biological parent does not make you immune from screw-ups and in fact that are some really horrible biological parents out there. Being a biological parent does not give you all the keys of the kingdom of great parenting. It does not give you all the answers to your child's needs, understanding of their sometimes crazy behavior, or the solutions to nightmares, frustrated fits, inability to sleep, hormone changes and all the things that happen with children. Biological parents get short tempered, weary of kids shows on TV, incessant questions, kid messes, temper tantrums and exhausting schedules too. Feeling these same emotions does not make me a bad stepparent or unsupportive wife.

As a stepparent I too can study and learn good parenting skills, be patient, thoughtful and kind, act in love, be unselfish, continue to try and try again to do better, and I can forgive myself and be forgiven when I make mistakes. Making mistakes does not make me a bad person or a bad stepparent.

Being a stepparent, which is a very courageous thing to do, can also put one in a position to feel attacked from all sides. You are affected by so many other people's lives and needs, not to mention family courts constant upheavals and frustrations. The one person who should show up to support us every day is ourselves. We need to be our own best friend and biggest cheerleader. No one knows us better, can gauge how hard we are trying or be inspired to help us grow.

So I am going to try to be less critical and remember that biological parents aren't perfect either. I am going to keep working at being a great parent, step or otherwise and try to remember that each day I have the opportunity to do better and grow. That way, challenges of today will be triumphs of tomorrow. 

Do you ever find yourself putting a lot of pressure on yourself to be perfect or beating yourself up when you haven't handled things are graciously as you would've liked to? How do you talk yourself back to center?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Five Talents of Super Stepmoms

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I have been thinking about my role as a stepmom lately and about the amazing stepmoms I know. I admire these stepmom ladies so very much and as I try to live up to their awesome examples I see some traits that I definitely want to learn from them. Things that make them Super Stepmoms.

Super Stepmoms are:

1) Patient
It takes a lot to manage all the coming and going in a blended family. Stepmoms with patience learn to accept and manage the circumstances instead of just wishing they were different. Blended family life can be challenging, but a patient stepmom keeps working towards improving family life as a team. It's not easy to hold back when you want to be your husband's number one priority and he needs time with his kids. There are lots of lessons in patience for stepmoms.

2) Loving
Truly loving other people's kids takes a big heart. A Super Stepmom finds a way to put her feelings about her husband's ex away (as much as possible) so that she can love his kids without bitterness towards their mother. When kids know their stepmom cares, they are more easily able to show respect and acceptance. When kids feel the love and support of a stepmom their lives are are transformed and they have a better chance to heal from the pains of their parent's separation and to continue to mature.

3) Mature
Being a Super Stepmom means putting what's best for the family as a whole before your own emotions. It means not being easily offended and being willing to sacrifice for the well-being of the family. Please note this does not mean putting yourself last, it just means being mature enough to not let unregulated feelings and wants put unnecessary stress and pressure on the family unit.

4) A Ray of Sunshine
Being happy and enthusiastic make a world of difference to the people around you. Going out of you way to celebrate family members' successes, making a treat to brighten a heart after a frustrating day, creating laughter and bringing a happy spirit to the home is a fantastic talent of a Super Stepmom. A magnetic personality draws people to a Super Stepmom.

5) Committed For The Long Haul
Being a Super Stepmom means realizing that every day won't be easy, but also that hard days don't mean all is lost. Having an eye for a lifetime of happiness and peace really helps get one through the rough, dark days that come to everyone. Super stepmoms learn to find the joy in ever day and see the light in every person. There's nothing that scares kids more than the idea of seeing their parent go through another divorce and losing another person they've come to depend on. Showing your blended family that you in it, heart and soul, makes for a more secure homebase for everyone.

I love seeing these talents in the Super Stepmoms I know and I so appreciate their amazing examples. There are lots of inspiring stepmoms out there. Look to them and talk to them about how they've done it well. I am sure most still think they could've done a better job or they would've done things differently looking back, but this stepparent life is one in constant motion and comes with no handbook or training. We all have to figure it out and learn what's best for our unique families as we go. I adore the women who are out there trying every day to do it better and live a happy, peaceful life. Super Stepmoms are women who try and keep trying. Sometimes they fail, sometimes they excellently succeed. But they keep on trying with love, patience, cheerfulness and commitment. Hooray for all you Super Stepmoms.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's Gets Easier Because You Get Stronger

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One thing I have learned about life over the past three or four years is that things that once created massive amounts of stress for me don't get me as worked up anymore. Days that would leave me sick to my stomach and with a headache are minimally stressful to me now. I realize it's not because those events have gotten easier, but rather it's because I have gotten stronger and better equipped to handle them.

Going to court is one of these events. Another is seeing my stepdaughter's biological mother who has done so much harm to her, my husband, to me and the peace and well-being of our family in general. Occasionally I catch myself and marvel for a moment that I am in the middle of something that used to really push me over the edge and now it feels like just a minor annoyance. When friends say they can't imagine how I've survived what we've been through over the past few years I realize how much I have been through and I see that I am stronger for it. If life is meant to be full of lessons, they will get exponentially more challenging to keep up with our growth.

Some days it just getting through ten minutes, sitting down and then trying again for ten more minutes. But learning to deal with our challenges and stresses is possible and there is a lot of help out there to help us get through it. Join a stepparents group, go to a therapist, get involved in couples or family therapy. Find programs that help strengthen the family and improve marriage relationships. There are thousands of parenting and stepparenting articles online and websites devoted to strengthening marriage and family. There is no reason to suffer in silence. Sometimes as a stepmom it's easier to just get on the "complain & be annoyed" carousel where you are guaranteed to have plenty of company and just keep riding it around and around, never making any progress and continuing to be unhappy. It's not worth it.

You have every capability to thrive through your challenges and improve your life and the life of your family. Take the challenge, reach for new heights. Be an inspired stepmom. There are plenty of miserable stepmoms out there already. That club doesn't need more members. But the inspired stepmoms club is a noble cause, a call of great challenge and one that will help any woman grow into a better more beautiful version of herself!

Sending all you stepmoms out there big love. You have an amazing power to make your family's life a happy one no matter the circumstances.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Our Parenting History: Pictures Do Speak 1000 Words

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Last weekend I was going through my photo files working on a project. I ended up just flipping through several years of photos, all encompassing the time since I met my husband and stepdaughter. It was amazing to see how tiny she was back then and file by file see her grow and change. My heart started to beat faster and faster as I remembered all the wonderful days we've had together, the rough times we've gotten through and the joy and love we share in our family.

When I closed the last file I had the overwhelming urge to find someone to high five or chest bump with! I was so pleased to see through our family photos something that it would be hard to say. I saw success, I saw two people who have given their all for this little person -- a little person who is growing into a lovely, smart, caring young woman.

I just wanted to shout, "Damn we did good!" It was a good moment. It gave me courage to continue on, even at the end of a very long, tiring day. We still have quite a few years to go before she's out on her own, making her way. I hope then we'll be able to look back again and think "Damn, we did good."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Back In Action: It's All About Love

Ceramic Heart Brooch, Cherry Blossom Design

First let me say I am so sorry I haven't been here for a few months now. Some serious but temporary health issues sidelined me along with some major family events. Stepmom duties have kept me the most busy of all.

I hope you are doing well in your blended families and that over the long haul you are seeing that your efforts are paying off to build a beautiful family. Saturday night as I was getting my stepdaughter ready for bed, I noticed that she had put a hand-cut paper heart on my pillow. I couldn't wait to read what it said.

In her sweet little girl handwriting she shared with me how much she loves me and appreciates me. It brought tears to my eyes. Little kids know who the people are they can trust and who stand by them. As a stepmom we should definitely be one of those people in their lives.

I will save that heart forever. It is such a treasure. I've had a couple of big chances this past week to come to her rescue, once physically and once emotionally. I thanked God I had those opportunities to be the one person in the entire world who could truly rescue her from her distress. What a heartbreaking but sweet joy.

I am so lucky to have her in my life. The cost in life energy, strength, stress, distraction from my goals and desires, and financial security have been gigantic. But the rewards have been greater. Her love conquers all.

*See more of Purple Fig's Jewelry, like this beautiful brooch, in their Etsy shop.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Making Conscious Plans For Fun

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Summer is just around the corner. You can feel it coming. Now is a great time to make plans as a family for the season. Not just for that grand family vacation you will take to go camping, on a tour of national parks or to a big amusement park, but for all the little things too.

Summer is the time to cram in as much fun and as much memory making as possible. Especially if you have kiddos out of school. There are so many great museums, historical sites, parks and trails, or beaches to explore. It's a great time to arrange for one-on-one time with each child, picnics in the evenings at a favorite park, barbecues with friends, swimming parties and more. Summer is the time to enjoy socializing and being outside and enjoying everything about the season.

But it's easy to let it all slip away. It's just a few weeks in the end and often time slips out of our hands and we only realize how much fun we want to have in Mid-August and then we feel like we have to party the daylights out of two or three weeks before fall. With a little careful planning this can be a awesome summer for the entire summer.

Print a calendar of the next three months. Write in your must-do responsibilities, the holidays and other plans you already have then plan in some weekly fun adventures. It will make this summer one to remember. I'm trying to do that this year. I want to make sure we take advantage of all the amazing things there are to do and enjoy with my family in our own city. We are lucky to have lots to do here and many places to explore. I'm looking forward to it!

Are there fun places in your own town you have never been to or would like to visit again with your children?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Important Lessons for Childless Stepmoms

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Had to share this great article from HuffPo about being a stepparent titled Help For The Childless Stepmom by Mary T. Kelly, M.A. I can relate to everything it said. Things that stuck out to me are getting to used to the reality that you will always be an outsider in some regard and that you have to take care of yourself. So important!  Great inspiration here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

5 Things I Found Out Weren't True About Stepparenting

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In stepparenting, as in just about anything there are myths that become standard beliefs over time based on other people's stories and experiences. I never once before I met my husband imagined that I would be a steppparent. I never considered it, thought about what I would do in that situation or even opened my mind up to the possibility.

So when my new boyfriend, years ago, told me there was something he needed to share with me and told me he had a small daughter, I'll be honest, it broke my heart. Not so much because there was a child in the picture as I knew it meant there was an EX in the picture. Children I was good with, an EX affecting every part of our future I was not so happy with. I also knew this news would affect us financially for years to come. Little did I know it would be 100 times worse than what I imagined on that score.

I ended up taking a long walk by myself after learning this news and hours later when we regrouped I told him I wasn't sure I could handle all these people in his life. It was too complicated for me. Weeks later I met his young daughter, hit it off immediately and now years later I would not trade my relationship with her for almost anything. It has been a huge blessing in my life.

Looking back I had mythical expectations about what life as a stepparent would be like. Here are five I found to be untrue in my relationship with my husband, my stepdaughter and in my life.

1) That a stepchild would consider me a second class citizen in her life. I know everyone's situation is different and age has a huge, huge, huge affect on how stepchildren accept a new stepparent. But I find that if a child feels you are sincerely trying to bless their life by your involvement, they will be friendly and appreciate you. I know this is not the case for everyone, but I do believe that in most cases, this can be true.

2) That my husband would consider me an outsider when it came to parenting his child. My husband grew up with almost no experience with children. I grew up an oldest child with lots of younger cousins and neighbors. I did a ton of babysitting, teaching and mentoring of kids from birth to college age in my life. Kids are very familiar to me. So I was thrilled to realize that my husband is a phenomenal father, I think it's what he does best of anything in the world. He is incredibly intuitive, an amazing teacher, fun and loving. I appreciate that he has allowed me to use all my love and all my experience in parenting his daughter with him. He has only encouraged me to participate as a parent in her life and has shown great gratitude for my loving her and blessing her life.

3) That maturity and wisdom would make dealing with an EX a mature and simple experience. I am sure it's made it easier, but it has not made it easy. What I hoped would be a situation of mutual respect, after being lied to and falsely accused so many times just cannot be that. It requires a huge amount of maturity not to act out, speak my mind and let her have it. There is a reason why this woman has nothing but broken relationships in her past and no amount of generosity and maturity from others is going to change that. Lessons for me to learn.

4) That parents emotions are immune to being hurt by things their children or stepchildren say or do. As kids go, we have one of the sweetest, but one lesson I have learned is that I can get my feelings hurt by things she says, even unintentionally, sometimes even jokingly. I wish I'd been a little more thoughtful to my parents growing up. I cringe to think I've hurt their feelings with stupid things I have said.

5) That you ever get used to having kids in your home only part of the time. After years, I still have moments where I think I've lost or forgotten my stepdaughter somewhere only to remember that she's with her mom. The disruption to our household on each of the weekends she leaves to visit her other parent are painful and don't get easier. Her total personality change when we pick her up two days later is still completely stressful. Gladly she becomes more herself after a few minutes, but to see her face look empty, lifeless and soulless those first few minutes is deeply unsettling. Having to plan our lives around these visits, miss so many school and other activities because of visitation is a continual frustration and sadness.

These are just a few things I've learned and changed my mind about a bit over the years. How about you? Are there things you expected that turned out to be nothing like you expected? Please share them in the comments!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Stepchildren Speak by Susan Philips

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I wanted to pass along another great book by Susan Philips. It's called Stepchildren Speak: 10 Grown Up Stepchildren Teach Us How To Build Healthy Stepfamilies. I recently posted about another book by Philips called An Intricate Dance: Stepparents Tell Us How They Found Their Rhythm

I've been thinking about how easy it is to get caught up in all the broken relationship, broken family drama: the lies, the arguments, the frustrations. Those situations often result in feelings that do not foster peace in the soul or in the home. It is always a blessing to step back and focus on creating a peaceful, happy, loving home. When you put the well-being of the people in your home as your priority it's much easier to move past hurt feelings and annoyance and focus on progress-oriented solutions.

I love that there are books like these and so many other resources out there available to us to help us focus on what is really most important. Have you read any books lately that you would add to a reading list for Inspired Stepmoms?

Friday, April 5, 2013

An Intricate Dance by Susan Philips

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I learned about an interesting book that I wanted to pass along to all of you this week. I was given this book by an attorney who knows the author quite well. The book is An Intricate Dance: Stepparents Tell Us How They Found Their Rhythm by Susan Philips.

Just the very idea of this book "finding our rhythm" is inspiring to me. I am looking forward to jumping into this book and learning from other stepparents and I wanted to pass it along to all of you. I hope if you are interested in this book it will bring you some fresh perspective, comfort and inspiration.

I will very likely be creating a few additional posts from my experiences reading this book but wanted to get it out to the stepparent world now. If you read it, I've love to hear your impressions. Please let comments.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Being A Stepmom Has Ruined the Idea Of Adoption

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I have been having a lot of big life conversations with myself the past two weeks as we've been looking forward to some major life changes in the next couple of months. It was supposed to be a new dawn for our family, a chance to move forward on so many things that have been on hold for several years. But instead it looks to be the most challenging times we faced so far.

One of the issues I have been forced to face is whether or not we will be able to have children. This has been a lifelong dream and goal for my life and what I feel is my highest calling and purpose for my life. After years as an unmarried adult, I had always hoped the opportunity would still come and when I met my husband I thought it was definitely still an option. That was five years ago and after many difficulties and a long, drawn out custody battle, the chances of having children has progressively and drastically diminished.

The great hope was that this year we would have a chance to try to make that happen. Now it looks like things might go another direction and I worry about even trying at this point. There are so many things that could go wrong. In the back of my head there was always a backup adoption possibility. But I realized very recently that my life as a stepmom has greatly complicated this issue and perhaps closed the door on my interest to ever adopt.

Here's why. I just cannot allow another biological parent into my life. I have one biological parent in my life who has without exaggeration made my life, my husband's life, and definitely my stepdaughter's life a living hell for the past five years. It is impossible to adopt without the existence of TWO other biological parents. I feel very strongly in my life right now that I cannot allow one more parent into my marriage, my family or my life. I just can't. Closed adoptions are a thing of the past, which means you will have an open adoption and you will have to communicate with biological parents. Even if you could get a closed adoption you face a life with a child who will dream about and want to find the biological parents and invite them into your life. And so the door on adoption now closes, while I have one foot in the having a baby door trying to keep that door from slamming shut on me.

It's been a very difficult and heart-breaking process working through, particularly as my stepdaughter prays daily for siblings. Last night she cried her little heart out asking what we're going to do if we can't have kids. This isn't even something I discuss with her other than to occasionally try to temper her hopes with the idea that it might not be possible. When I'm already crying in private, having her crying to me is difficult. All this is going on while at the same time we are trying to figure out how we will resettle our life come this summer as we go through some major changes again and while custody issues loom as unsure and expensive as they ever have.

It never dawned on me that I would give up on my backup adoption plan. But I think I have. It will take more than a miracle to get me to change my mind. Which makes me sad, but also feels a bit self-protective because it's important for me to know my limits and know what I can and can't handle. This is one of those moments when figuring out my life hurts but I continue on, happy to have crossed this river and looking forward to continuing on my path.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Facing Little Ones' Fears About Your Marriage

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For the first time this week I shared with my husband the fears his daughter has shared with me several times about what would happen if we didn't stay together and got a divorce. I think that would do the sweet girl in. She often talks about how horrible it would be if she lost me. She's seen her mom go through boyfriend after boyfriend so she knows that relationships don't always last. In her mom's world no one stays together, everyone breaks up.

When I told my husband this, it caused him a lot of grief. He hadn't even thought about her worrying about this. It immediately took him back to his own childhood sadness as he watched his parents' marriage fall apart and break up their family.

It gave us both a push to make sure we model a healthy relationship for our sweet girl. That we do all we can do to help her feel safe, loved and cared for in our home. Becoming a stepparent isn't just marrying a nice man or woman and taking on some responsibility for their kids. It's making a decision to stand as an example to a small child about what a good relationship can look like and to help them see that it is possible for them when they grow up too.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Factor In Recovery Time For Yourself

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My plea today is that you will begin to schedule in downtime after very stressful family events. This would include court hearings, ugly interactions with the other parent or with the stepkids, or dealing with financial and other major stresses. Some days you will be able to plan this in advance, please do it. For the days you can't plan it in, push everything else aside and make that time. It is incredibly important.

We have found that the day after court hearings we are completely emotionally and physically depleted. After devastatingly bad hearings it has taken us days to recover. You may want to plan on that and make sure you take time that day for quiet and calm. Often for several days after problems with "The Mother" it will take me time to get the stress levels down. Anticipate that the stress levels will rise at any time and then make sure you take time to lower them in any way that works for you. Maybe it's exercise, maybe getting to bed a little earlier so your body has time to recover and repair, or a talk with a good friend, a long walk in a beautiful spot, an hour sitting on the beach.

Find out what works for you and use it to your advantage. There is very little in life that is more stressful than fighting over the well-being of your child and worrying about your future. Make sure you safeguard your health and well-being, especially as the stepmamma. You take on a massive amount of stress that is generally out of your making. It can be very easy for it to overtake your life. You must protect and safeguard your own life and your well-being. Take the time, make it your number one priority. Spend less time fussing about things out of your control and make yourself your top priority. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy clean foods that will keep your body functionally optimally and leave you with high energy.

I'll say it again TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. It is a must if you are going to survive stepmomhood and you home and marriage are to survive. It's not selfish, it a blessing to everyone, most importantly to yourself.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Favorite Book Chapter By Wayne W. Dyer

Wanted to pass along a favorite piece of inspiration today. When I am feeling out of sorts I often go back and read this chapter from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer's book The Power of Intention. He in fact suggests reading this last chapter A Portrait Of A Person Connected To The Field Of Intention first before the rest of the book. It's a portrait of what life could be like if you are connected to your authentic self and living in the present moment with intention.

It is a beautiful guide for where you can be in your life if you live in peace and inspiration aplenty to motivate you in that direction. When you are so self-solid that no one outside of you can rock your boat you have a power that few achieve and all are seeking. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Remembering Simple Actions That Restore Calm

My little one has not been sleeping well this week. This is very unusual. She has always been a fantastic sleeper. But she's been waking me up multiple times every night saying she had a dream or she can't sleep. It's really been taking a toll on me because I'm not getting any quality sleep. She's doing okay because she's already sleeping four to five hours before she starts her middle of the night routine then still sleeps another 4 after she finally falls asleep again.

Last night on our way home from an event, already 20 minutes past her bedtime, I decided to take a detour and take a walk at one of her favorite places in our neighborhood.  It is the grounds of a religious building and a very serene and calming place to wander. We used to take her there at least once a week when she was little but in the past few months with an earlier school bedtime and her now spending weekends with her mother, I haven't taken here there.

A stroke of inspiration made me think maybe this would help her calm down and sleep well. I thought too that maybe keep her up a little later would make her just a little more tired and keep her sleeping through the night. So we went and we walked and she was amazingly calm and peaceful as we wandered and when we left. She calmly went to bed and she slept through the night.

It was a good lesson for me for a few reasons. First, listen to my parental inspiration. Second, remember what worked in the past that you might have let slip. Third, don't be afraid to break out of the usual routine in unusual circumstances.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

No One Ever Told Me My Feelings Would Get Hurt

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One thing I had no idea about when I stepped into the world of parenting was how easy it would be for my stepkid to hurt my feelings. Who knew growing up that our parents had feelings and that our disrespect or unkind words might actually wound them?

I was never very disrespectful or rude growing up, but I can tell you that I don't know that I ever concerned myself with my parents feelings other than to avoid them feeling mad at me. I've been amazed at how easily a small child can wound me by the way she says things, by disrespecting me, ignoring me when I talk to her or embarrassing me.

It's another little place where a stepparent has to learn to be the grown up. It's easy to be a little more hurt I think when you've made the sacrifice to take on this child who is not your own biological child. It's a big sacrifice to give up on your dreams of starting a family with just your future spouse, only to find out he's already in a family and you're going to join that family. Only you really understand the magnitude and depth of sacrifice you've made to give you your dream and create a new dream for your life together. So then when the stepkids step on your feelings it can really hurt.

I'm learning to get over my ruffled feathers more quickly and not take it so personally. These are kids we're dealing with after all. We need to teach them appropriate behavior but sometimes it's totally appropriate to just let things roll off our backs and get on with life. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Does Your Face Light Up When They Arrive

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I remember many times Oprah Winfrey talking about how all people want is for your eyes to light up when they enter a room. I think she was quoting Maya Angelou. I have thought about that a lot. Some of my very favorite people are people whose face lights up when I enter a room. They make everyone feel special, cared about and appreciated just as they are.

All children, no matter the age, appreciate seeing your face light up when they enter the room. Imagine what it can do for a stepchild/stepmom relationship if they feel your eyes genuinely light up every time they enter your home. It will break down walls, dissolve fears, warm hearts and create lasting relationships.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

If There's Still Time, Rethink Destroying The Family

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This is a plea to parents who have not yet separated or divorced but you are seriously considering it. Please read this first and thoughtfully reconsider for your children's sake. One of the saddest things I regularly see is watching kids being traded back and forth between parents. When I go to pick up our little one it is at a police station which is a very popular places for drop offs and pick ups to happen. While I sit there and wait I am surrounded by car after car doing the same thing. And it is excruciating to watch little kids being traded back and forth week after week.

Some cry, some scream. Many just walk with drooped shoulders, heads down. You can feel their loyalties being torn between two sides sometimes. You can feel the disconnect, the sadness, the damage. You also see pain and sadness and desperation on the faces of parents now forced to only spend part of the week with their kids, trading them back and forth with a spouse they can't possibly stand anymore.

I will never forget the words of a dear friend who divorced his wife long after his children were grown. He said, "If I had known the damage our divorce would do to our kids, I never would've done it." This is a man with grown children. One can only imagine how much more devastating it is for children under the age of 18 who don't understand why or what is happening to their world.

There are very legitimate reasons for divorce. Among them I consider abuse, addiction and adultery. But many times families are begun without proper thought and consideration. Many times they are broken up in exactly the same way. I want to stand up for all these hurting children of divorce and say think twice before you marry and think twice before you divorce. Don't put your children through any additional trauma at your hands. Your kids will suffer enough just growing up in the world around them which is challenging enough. Do everything you can to avoid hurting your kids and causing them additional suffering. Don't divorce out of convenience or because you're not happy. It's time to put your kids happiness at the forefront of your life. IF they are happy, you will be happy. If they are sad, you will never be happy.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

There Is Enough Love To Go All The Way Around Us

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Being a stepmom is a ever-changing adventure. We got through diapers, bottles, toilet training, strollers, the alphabet, counting, home pre-school, kindergarten and more. Now suddenly I find myself in new territory. Doesn't it always happen that way, you just get comfortable with a new phase and everything changes on you.

Two weeks ago I was talking with our little one about my sister and the nice man she is dating. I asked Little One what if she thought, if she thought they would get married. She said, "I don't know, what do you think?" I told her I asked her what she thought. She repeated her question and this went back and forth a couple of times.

Then finally I said, "I think he's a great guy. I like the idea of them getting married." Then she said, "NO! She can't get married! No! No! No!" I was very surprised. "And not your other sister either!"

This behavior was so unusual that I had to do some digging into what was causing it. After some conversation, it came out that she was afraid that if they got married and had their own families they wouldn't have time for her and they would forget about her. That broke my heart a little bit, but I reassured her that they would never change how they felt about her or how much they adored her.

A few days later the conversation came up again. Except this time I was the one she feared might forget her. She said if Daddy and I had babies that maybe I wouldn't love her as much or have any time for her. I said, "Are you kidding me. I'm going to need you around more than ever. Babies can't talk. They can't do anything fun in the beginning." We started talking about all the things she could do that they couldn't do and all the things she would be able to teach them. She seemed comforted. I realized I need to keep reminding her of how much love there is all around her. There are more than just a couple of us. There is a whole community surrounding her, loving her and watching out for her.

It was a good reminder to me that I don't always know what's going on in her ever-developing, growing little mind and heart. If I don't talk to her, I am operating without all the information I need to help her and love her best. One thing I do know is that she will always benefit from being show and reminded how much she is loved. We can work through a lot when that most important truth is on the table.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Taking Care of Self

With my husband out of town and our little one visiting her other parent, I took one day of the entire weekend and didn't get out of bed or dressed until five at night. It felt so good. I slept on and off, did some writing, watched Netflix and rested.

I've been sick again and the schedule every week is exhausting, as fabulous and full of life as it is. So a day in bed was just what I needed. The hours flew by and I felt so relaxed. It was wonderful. I could've felt guilty, I could've pushed myself, but instead I let myself rest. I let myself process a bit all the things stirring around in me. It was a good thing to do.

On another day I took a long walk on the beach with my camera. I got sand between my toes, I stopped to watch the wildlife, inspect shells, check out a sailboat that had washed ashore. I let the breeze blow through me, sat in the sand, quieted myself.

When you are a full-time stepmom, you don't get much time for yourself. I'm trying to learn that every free moment, outside of the time I care for and shower love on my people and take care of items on the "must-do" list, needs to be for me time. I'm trying to remember to read good things that help me keep centered, to think about my goals and dreams for my life, and to seriously and frequently check in with myself, see where I'm at and make sure I'm going in the right direction.

Self care, I am learning is my number one most important job. I have to remind myself of this fairly often. That me time doesn't come easily. It requires sincere effort on my part, but when I do I see myself healthier, happier and more able. These are good reason to make myself a priority. My family likes me better that way. I like myself best that way too.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Golden First Hour After School

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I remember, when I was a part-time nanny during grad school, that the hours of four to six in the afternoon were cause for fear. It seems like it there are going to be any knock-down-drag-out meltdowns, baby cry-a-thons, or other ugly events they were probably going to happen sometime between four and six. Kids are tired, grown ups are tired. It's a powder keg of bad possibilities.

Since having a little one in school, I have quickly learned that immediately after school, as in on our way home, is not a good time to do anything. I've tried the grocery store, I've tried stopping by to say hello to a neighbor, doing art projects, cleaning house...not of these things are good activities to do the first hour after school gets out. (Read between the lines "it was hellish.")

When kids get out of school, they need to be able to just be for an hour. Our little one often plays with her Legos very quietly that first hour. Or she might grab a book and crawl up on her bed. Some days she just needs me to sit with her and have me hold her tight, talk with her and sometimes have a massive tickle session.

So when we get home, I turn her lose for an hour or so, then try to get a few minutes of bedroom cleaning or chores done. Then dinner preparations and homework. After dinner it's time to finish homework, clean the kitchen and living room and then get pajamas on. Hopefully we've given ourselves enough time at this point to have a leisurely time saying bedtime prayers, reading a story and having a chat.

It's amazing how much smoother the evening goes when I give her that first hour of downtime to do whatever she wants. It helps her decompress from the school day, relax after the regimentation of the school environment and to enjoy her space and being at home. I always want her to feel connected and happy about being at home. I think when she has time to just be at home on her own terms, doing what she wants to do, it really fosters that sense of connection I so want her to have.

I've definitely learned that days are much easier when we have quiet free time that first hour after school. My life, her life are much better when we follow that plan as much as is possible. Learning on the job, that is the life of a stepmom.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Valentine Speaks A Thousand Words

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Last Thursday I got the best Valentine I will probably ever get. It captured who I am, who my stepdaughter is and our love of life and each other. Here's what it said.

Dear Mom,

You take me on cool trips. You protect me.

Love, (her name).

We both love to adventure. She would travel constantly if allowed. At least once a week or more she says, "I want to go on a trip right now. On a plane." or "Let's go to the airport. I just want to go on a plane right now." I am the same way. Circling the globe for both business and personal travel, racking up frequent flyer miles, was one of the best periods of my life. I never even stayed in a motel until I was almost seven. She has spent been many places, is a pro at a hotel room and is just about able to pack her own suitcase now. She'll tote her carry on and knows exactly what she wants and needs in it.

The fact she would say you protect me, is a double-edged sword for sure. Sad don't you think that a tiny child would think and speak about needing to be protected? That breaks my heart. But it turns my sad frown upside down to realize that she knows that come what may, I will fight for her and I will protect her if it's the last thing I do. She knows it. I know it.

In such a few short words she captured us. Who we are, what we love and how we love. And it's all so beautiful. This is a Valentine that will stay with me for life. Treasured away. And it a great reminder to keep doing more of the same. Sounds totally fun to me!

Monday, February 18, 2013

I've Lost Her! Oh, Wait, No She's With Mom

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A stepmother panic happens to me fairly often. I am somewhere alone and suddenly a wave of sheer panic comes over me when I think Where is the little one?! Did I lose her? Did I forget her somewhere! Then I stop everything and calm myself down when I remember that she's with her mother.

This first happened to me when she was very tiny and I was in a store and would hear little girls about her age that sounded like her and think it was her, lost somewhere in the store. Now days I panic that I forgot to pick her up from school any time I get really engrossed in a project on a school day. When I rush in to look at the clock I realized it's still two hours before school gets out as I try to get my heart rate back down to a livable beats per minute range.

Every weekend morning she is visiting her mom I expect her to come into my room and she doesn't and I get worried and then remember she's not here. I am here alone. Every time I hear noise from another room I think it's her. Sunday morning I panicked trying to figure out where she was, what day it was and where she was supposed to be. Then again, I realized and had to destress myself.

I'm curious to know whether this happens to lots of other stepmoms. I did have a cousin tell me it happens to her with her own biological children, so I figure I'm not alone. But there is a strangeness to being a mom and having a child some days and not others, don't you think? Has this happened to you? How do you deal with it?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Big Stepmom Lessons

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I cannot believe it's been two months since I was last here. Wow. It has been pretty shockingly eventful, that is for sure. The biggest life changer was gaining custody of my stepdaughter. It's been fantastic, stressful, awesome, overwhelming and just plain amazing.

It's also been a lot of work figuring out our new family structure and life here with school, homework, tighter schedules. It's been a big change and has taken a lot more thoughtfulness and adjustment than I would've imagined. After a few weeks it feels like we're settling into a pretty, simple, happy life here and it feels good. She seems very happy. A few days ago she said she had to pinch herself to make sure this was all real and not just a dream. That charmed me to no end and it made me so happy that the things she's been praying for for such a long time have become answered prayers for her and for us.

Things are different. She is showing sides of herself that I have never seen before. I think it was easy to be happy and behave when it was just for a weekend and it was such an escape from where she was living. But now that reality has set it, there are more angry outbursts, refusals to follow instructions or requests and complaints about things she is asked to do. It's surprising, frustrating and for the most part I get it. That doesn't mean it doesn't bug me though. But we're working through it, learning new techniques and applying consistency to the situation.

So I'm experiencing stepmomhood in a whole new way now. I'm sure that will give me lots of new experiences to share here, lessons for me to learn and great things to come. I'd love to hear how life changed for you when you went from the weekend house to the weekday house if you have any thoughts. Your experience and wisdom, when shared, is invaluable. Have a great day!