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.