Jennifer Newcomb Marine and I are cut from the same cloth…hec, we read the same books and walk the same talk.  We firmly believe in the power of a good mom/stepmom relationship.  Today, if there is one blog post every stepmom should read, it’s Jennifer’s!

turtle-hippo

 

 

However new or weird the idea of getting along with the stepmother or bio-mom might seem to you, the benefits of doing so are probably annoyingly obvious.

Yeah, you’ve probably heard this all before (do I hear yawning?):

  • less stress
  • better communication
  • smoother flow to life in general
  • brainstorming help with the kids = better parenting (esp. with teens or kids that are acting out)
  • less yucky energy in your romantic relationship
  • you no longer have an “enemy” in your life who’s out to get you (hoarding information about your weaknesses and shortcomings, waiting for you to mess up)

Seems like a no-brainer for BOTH sides, huh? And yet, for some reason, it’s so incredibly easy to lapse into conflict with the mom or stepmom, despite your best intentions to take the high road.

To read the rest, visit No One’s The Bitch RIGHT NOW :-)  And tell Jen, Peggy sent you…

For those of you who don’t know my story, my husband’s ex-wife and I have gotten along from day one.  Yes, I still went through all kinds of feelings that nearly all stepmoms feel (unless you’re a stepford wife…then you don’t really have feelings…but at least you look good…) I’ve felt jealousy, resentment, anger, frustration, hostility, compassion, empathy, love, and lately, just a lot of peace.

Not too long ago, The Ex-Wife and I welcomed into this world “our” grand daughter – life just can’t get any better than that!

So – go read Jennifer’s article and think of three things you can do today to begin to have a better relationship with the woman you consider your adversary.

sos

I recently received this email from a sister stepmom and new friend, who graciously allowed me to post her question here. 

I need advice.  What do you do when step-kids create separateness?  My husband does not include me in his kids’ lives.  When his daughter (17) comes to visit, they pretty much become the “couple” and spend the whole weekend together.  My stepdaughter is controlling and runs the show.  My husband lets her and hasn’t done much to make things feel normal or integrated.  I should say that we’ve been together for 9 years and married for 5.  My husband assures me that things just take time but after all these years, I don’t see much change.  My kids adore him and we include him in everything we do. 

However, it’s not reciprocated. 

I have to constantly ask my husband what’s going on in his kids’ lives.  If I don’t ask, I won’t get any information.   Just this weekend, my husband and his daughter are taking a three day trip to see his sister in NY.  They made their plans and I was not included.

I just found out before they left that they have plans to go to a dance club in NYC one night!  If I had planned this kind of trip with one of my kids, I’d at least fill my husband in on all the details.  His resistance to including me combined with his controlling kids is hurting our relationship. 

The other part of this is that my husband doesn’t encourage his daughter to think of me on my birthday or at Christmas.  I’ve never received a card or gift from her.  She also eavesdrops on our conversations but my husband doesn’t confront her on this. 

By the way, I didn’t mention his other controlling kid who is 32 and lives in Florida…another story. Ugh!

You would think that my husband is a monster from all I’ve written but he’s actually a very sweet and kind man—he just is wimpy and guilt ridden when it comes to his kids.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!  Thank you!

 

advice1Advice From The Tool Box

I see this crop up in so many stepmom discussions in one way or another.  Even in my own stepmom life, this issue rears its ugly head, albeit to a lesser extent. 

At the heart of the matter is the feeling of being excluded.  Whether it’s an innocent conversation that starts off with “Remember when…” or when the step child “visits” for the weekend and dad drops everything to become one with the child at the exclusion and expense of YOU…his wife.

According to Wednesday Martin (Stepmonster, page 126) “the single greatest threat to a remarriage is the presence of children of any age from a prior union.”

What is key here is for your husband and you “to establish and maintain a close couple relationship despite the presence of kids” who would rather not acknowledge you.

Your husband’s actions, while he may believe he’s doing you a favor or making your life easier by not involving you, smacks of exclusion to the nth degree.  It’s not that he’s making plans with his daughter, it’s that he’s not telling you.  As a woman and a stepmom myself, that would drive me crazy. 

Hello?  Wife over here!  Thanks for including me Joe!

A quick course in how men and women’s brains are so drastically different is in order.  Men have what Mark Gungor calls “boxes.”  There’s a box for you, a box for the kids, a box for the dog, a box for work, a box for his ex (might be in the basement) and these boxes don’t touch…he’s even got a nothing box (and watch the video, because it’s SO true!)  Women on the other hand don’t have boxes…everything is connected to everything in our brains.  So…when your cheerful teenage stepdaughter arrives, your husband puts his wife box back and takes out his daughter box.  And the two never touch.

<sigh…MEN!>

All kidding aside, it is paramount that you invite your husband to a discussion regarding this exclusion.  Begin the discussion with two things that are great and wonderful, then gently drop in how awful you feel when your husband excludes you, and then finish with one more thing positive and a call to action. 

What do you want your husband to do?  What course of action can you suggest (not dictate) to him that will help you feel included?

As I state so often, the marriage must come first.  Even in the presence of his kids and your kids, there can be no mistake – your marriage and your relationship get top billing in your remarried dynamic.

Book Suggestions

Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do by Wednesday Martin

Stepcoupling: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Marriage in Today’s Blended Family by Susan Wisdom

Anyone else?  What other advice can we give to our sister stepmom?

blendedmesses

A Sblended Mess 

By Peggy Nolan

 

I was born one of four; at age nine, I became three of seven.

 

Do you have a one sentence blended story you’d like to share?  Submit to toolboxgrl@gmail.com! And you could see your one sentence story published here!

 

stepcoupling
Stepcoupling: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Marriage in Today’s Blended Family
 

A Book Review By Guest Blogger Southern Belle

If I could mail every new stepmom a care package, I would enclose a box of Kleenex for those first few difficult days, a new tube of pretty posy pink lip gloss to give her spirits a lift, some Dove chocolates (need I say more- it’s chocolate), and a copy of Stepcoupling, by Susan Wisdom, LPC and Jennifer Green.  It’s that good. 

I picked up Stepcouplingone afternoon and finished it the next.  I could not read it fast enough.  As I read, I was highlighting, and writing notes like “AMEN!!” and “Hmm…” and “Does my husband feel this way?”  I felt validated, enlightened and grateful for the wealth of information I had been fortunate enough to find at my fingertips.

Read the rest of Southern Belle’s review HERE

 

homeworkIs Your Home a Homework War Zone?

An excerpt from article which appears in August’s online issue of the one and only StepMom Magazine!

August means back to school and for many stepmoms, it means HOMEWORK.  If you’re feeling anxious, don’t worry; I might be able to help.

I’m a recovering pushy parent. With my daughters from my first marriage, I walked that fine line between what John Rosemond calls “monitoring” and “hovering.”  As a custodial stepmom helping my husband raise The Teenager, I found myself in the deep end of the pool, hovering all over the place.  I was so worried about how Junior’s mom and her entire family would see me if Junior didn’t do well in school once we transferred him to the high school in my town. 

At the beginning of Junior’s sophomore year, his mother signed full custody over to my husband so that we could get him in the best school in our state.  It also meant that I took on all things school.  Neither of my daughters prepared me for an unmotivated, underachieving teenager.  And did I mention he puts the H in ADHD and he came with an IEP (individual education plan)?

During Junior’s first quarter as a sophomore, I was Rosemond’s definition of Hovering Parent.  I was in Junior’s business and chasing after him to do his homework.  My home became a battle zone as soon as I walked through the door.  The constant fight was exhausting and a drain on me.  But somehow, Junior made the honor roll.  He proved to himself and his family that yes, he could get good grades…provided he had someone poking him with a red hot stick.

As Junior entered the second quarter, I backed off.  Thinking that his honor roll status and achievement would be more than enough motivation to keep at it.  Boy, was I wrong!

I stopped reminding Junior to do his homework.  I stopped my incessant stream of nagging.  And Junior started failing.  When I checked his first progress report via Edline, he was failing every class.  When my husband and I brought it to Junior’s attention and asked him why, Junior proclaimed, “Peggy’s not telling me to do my homework!”

Junior was blaming me for failing.  The explosion inside my head rocked me to my very core.  I realized that I had made a HUGE mistake that most hovering parents make:  I made Junior’s school and homework business MY business.  If he was blaming me for failing, then he also attributed his success to me.  He did not accept responsibility nor did he own all things school.

To read the strategy Richard and I put in place and John Rosemond’s ABC’s of homework, be sure to read August’s issue of StepMom.  If you’re not yet a subscriber, you may want to read my review and ten reasons why I believe every stepmom needs this magazine in their tool box!

In+the+SpotlightOther News

Check out what Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine have in the works on No One’s the Bitch – exciting stuff!

Check out Izzy Rose’s report on BlogHer 2009 (we need more blogging stepmoms there next year!)

Check out Wednesday Martin’s Blog.  Wednesday is looking for stepmoms who’ve experienced physical violence from a stepchild (adult or otherwise.)

Check out Jacqueline Fletcher’s Blog and Podcasts!  You’ll be glad you did!

And I recently discovered a sister stepmom in the UK – Check out La Belle Mere’s Blog – she’s very funny!

I am very excited to share with my sister stepmoms an excerpt from Erin Walter’s book “Her Words” – A Second Wives Roadmap to Inspired Wealth.  Erin’s book is due out this fall – make sure you put in on your reading list!

financial matters

Avoiding Financial Pitfalls as a Second Wife!

Excerpt taken from “Her Words” – A Second Wives Roadmap to Inspired Wealth

By Erin Walter (©E.M Walter)

Available Fall 2009

“An exciting and major corporate acquisition has just occurred. As the CEO of the company you are going on a business trip to ultimately garner details to improve the company’s bottom line.  You are well known in your role and considered a pioneer in your role as CEO.  There are new corporate policies that need to be put into place but there is one adversary you have to deal with.  Part of this new take-over includes “keeping on board” this adversary. You need a strategy to deal with this adversary to improve the company’s bottom line.

The acquisition that I am talking about is entering in the business of “re-marriage” as a second wife or stepmom.  Without a doubt, this trip you are endeavoring upon is the journey of living a life with success as a stepmom and second wife.  And that is  your bottom line.  The adversary that you are dealing with is his ex-wife. As a pioneering CEO, you make choices for the bottom line that do not always sit well with the business adversary, his ex-wife.  So what should you do?

Common sense would tell us that when we go into business with someone else, we make sure that our assets are protected and our best interests guarded from the start. A second marriage is no different. Our men have prior financial obligations to ex-wives and children from their first marriages. And the old added cliché “Love is Blind” rings true, causing some common financial mistakes second wives make.

There are three  foundational second wife “business models” as a stepmom and/or a second wife should consider modeling to help her family “business” prosper, and they are re-organize, remember and resist  before applying the practical “hands on” business applications.

“A policy is a temporary creed liable to be changed, but while it holds good it has got to be pursued with apostolic zeal.”  Mohandas Gandhi 

Business Model #1: 

 

When you get discouraged; re-organize your life.  Author, Rick Warren writes, “When you are disheartened, it does not necessarily mean you’re doing the wrong thing; you can be doing the right thing in the wrong way.” 

There is also a business model that I like, called the 80/20 Rule.  80 per cent of time spent is on the wrong activities while only 20 per cent is accomplishing the goal.  Business managers call this ROI time – “return on investment.” What this really means is the maximum time on those few things that produce the greatest results.  Don’t give up on your goals, devise a new approach.  There are many returns to calculate investing in ones “self worth” vs. net worth. It will make all the difference to have influence as CEO of your family “business” and will support your bottom line.

 “We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.” Nelson Mandela 

I think you would agree that it’s your “self worth” that really counts in the end, not your net worth; although it is important to protect this too. The ROI investing in your self worth does not come close to the best days in history on the DOW.

Business Model #2: 

 

Remember! You are the CEO of your family “business” and the role you serve.   Remember your brand as the CEO. When you think of a corporate brand like Nike, the phrase “Just do it” comes to mind. Remember, like a powerful brand; you have control of the market share that determines shareholders interest. Because your brand is good and strong turns around a phenomenal profit as others choose to invest in your priceless value. Remember too, no matter what, a successful CEO can only assist an organization to prosper by doing the right thing, not matter what! The ‘right thing’ is not always the easiest thing, but it’s always paramount and creates incalculable value that will attract prized shareholders.

Remember to create a “success wealth statement” that you cling to like your life depends on it to keep you doing the ‘right thing’ for your “business’s” bottom line. This is your brand. A success wealth statement keeps you on track for the benefit of your worth.  I often recite to myself, “I am willing to live MY life and OWN it.”  This statement, like a bank statement too, has increasing value.  It means so much to me to have a record of this statement handy. I write it down everywhere.  It helps me remember how to track my life fully and abundant as a stepmom and second wife with self worth. I know what and where to invest my self worth. Without my wealth success statement, I am like a log that floats pointlessly in water subject to befall prey at the usually ex’s expense. And it is too costly for any stepmom/second wife to incur. Remember you are a valuable commodity within your unique blended family situation and usually in a market downturn; (like life challenges sent to you from your silent business partner; the ex-wife!) commodities are valued higher in a down market.  Remember, he is with you now; and that is has added to the retained earnings on the family “business” asset listing report more than you will ever know.

Business Model #3: 

 

RESIST. Resist the need to reform others.  Instead, reform yourself first. I really like some great quotes that Ghandi stated and I think this is the best of all, We must become the change we want to see in the world.

No one likes bad debt. Resist compromising your corporate policies when under pressure. You will invest in the wrong things.  Re-organize them as stated in  #1 from time to time and resist false pride and self-veneration and keep your mission in view. It only creates bad debt if you don’t.

I know that all human beings are liable to make mistakes. If someone commits a mistake, forgive and forget. RESIST negative power that will delude your corporate policies to live abundantly as a stepmom and wife to avoid bad debt in your families “business” balance sheet.

Now, here also a few more of several practical “hands on” applications for second wives to put to use to avoid further financial pitfalls:

1)       Having a joint bank account with your husband

If your husbands’ ex-wife ever took him back to court for more child support you’re letting the cat out of the bag of how much you make combined.  Even though, your income cannot be used for child support, calculations you leave yourself exposed to an opinion of what he can really afford!

2)        Wills are not updated

Here is an example: Sadly, last night your husband passed away and his will was not updated.  His ex-wife is making financial claims against his estate for child support or education costs.  Mitigate these risks for unpaid child support with term insurance too until the kids are of age. 

3)        Inadequate Insurance Coverage

Since 2007 Manulife (Canada) paid out 65% of critical illness claims for cancer.  The average age critical illness claims were paid for women; was 47 years old.  What if you became critically ill, would your husband be able to afford to take time off work to take you to medical appointments?  He already has financial obligations to ex-wives and their children of their first marriages. Would your loss of income have an effect on your blended family situation? Consider in addition to your employee benefits, critical illness, disability and long term care insurance.”

For more savvy and successful strategies to protect your financial wellbeing as a stepmom or second wife go to www.beprotected.biz or email erin@beprotected.biz

©E.M Walter Copy written 2009

Disclaimer:  This excerpt from the book “Her Words” and in part, is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information on the subject of personal finances for stepmoms and second wives. As a precaution, each individual situation should be addressed to an appropriate professional to ensure adequate evaluation and planning is applied.  The author specifically disclaims any liability, loss, or risk that may be incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any contents of this work. The material in this writing is intended as a general source of information.

A very special thank you to Erin Walter for granting me permission to post this excerpt on The Stepmom’s Tool Box!

stepping stones1,000 Step Families in Ten Days

Claudette Chenevert, stepmom and step family coach wants to reach 1,000 step families in 10 days.  I’m helping her do that by posting her message here on The Stepmom’s Tool Box.

 Why do I want to reach these families? 

 Many stepfamilies are suffering in silence and are afraid to reach out to others in fear of judgment, of not being or perceived as normal when in fact half of all marriages in the US are remarriages. There are over 13 millions children living in a stepfamily environment.

When family relationships don’t work, it affects not only the people in the family but also the extended family, the work place, schools and event he community at large.  Peter Block, author of Community wrote “ the [family’s] suffering is an effect of their isolation and their being labeled”.

 Failing relationships and family stress costs employers and companies a lot of money in sick and unpaid leave and in having workers not being able to focus fully on their work.  The cost of divorce is much more than any marital or family program could cost not to mention the emotional stress and turmoil it causes to the entire family, adults and children alike.

 Judith Wallerstein said in her book “Second Chances” that what really affects the children of divorce is not necessarily the divorce itself but the way the adults have dealt with it and how they have talk to it to the children.

 My goal is to help as many families as I can to make their lives better by showing them the way to creating strong and healthy families so that our future generations will grow being proud to create their own family one day based on healthy values and good role models.

 One way you can help me reach my goal is to forward this email to everyone you know.  In return, they can download their free report on “7 Steps for Dealing With “The Outsider Syndrome” for Step Parents” As an additional bonus, they will receive my monthly newsletter that they will receive free of change. Every month, there is a featured article on various topics concerning stepfamily issues as well as tips and resources.  They will also receive information about my upcoming teleseminars, workshops and group sessions plus. 

 I look forward to serving as many stepfamilies as I can and appreciate your time in helping me out.

 Yours Truly,

 Claudette

 To receive your special report on “7 Steps for Dealing With “The Outsider Syndrome” for Step Parents”  go to www.coachingsteps.com

 For additional insights as to what I am up to, you can go to www.coachingsteps.com/info/claudettesblog.php 

Claudette L. Chenevert, Stepfamily Life Coach
Coaching Steps LLC
Email:claudette@coachingsteps.com 
Twitter: www.twitter.com/stepmomcoach

703-915-2470

choices

Difficult choices are still choices.  No one, whatever their actions, can deprvie me of the ability to choose my way of being.  Difficult people are neverthess people, and it always remains in my power to see them that way.” ~ The Anatomy of Peace

There are times in my stepmom life that I have seriously felt like I was being squished between a rock and a hard place.  I was either “damned if I do or damned if I don’t.”  During one agonizing analysis paralysis session with my Self, I opted to err on the “damned if I do” and make my choices accordingly.

I acknowledge that my doing will ruffle feathers.  I don’t like stepping on toes and I go out of my way to ensure that whatever I’m doing, I’m not stepping on The Ex-Wife’s toes when it comes to her children.  The balancing act can be kind of tough but what makes it easier is that I’m doing for the sake of doing.  I’m not doing to make myself look good and someone else look bad.  I do because that’s who I am.

I step in.

I step out.

I step up.

I step down.

I step side to side.

I do the Two Step Tango.  I’m not trying to out do anyone, be better than anyone, or overshadow anyone.  Sometimes, when it’s a difficult choice, I’ll ask Richard “what do you think?” and he usually tells me “just be who you are.”

That’s easy.  I can be me

Stepping In

As a custodial stepmom, I’ve had to step in with Junior.  He lives in my home, under my roof, under rules set forth by Richard and me.  I am the one who is the primary contact for school.  I make his doctor appointments, dentist appointments, and I live with that weird smell that only boys make.  When it comes to Junior, I step in…and sometimes all over it.

Stepping Out

The New Mommy is worried that her mom, her mother-in-law, and me (her stepmom) are going to “fight” over who gets to hold Olivia during the wedding…”Honey, please,” I said, “take me out of the equation.  I know where you live and I can hold Olivia anytime.  I don’t need to hold her during your wedding.” 

Non-existant problem solved.

Stepping Up

One of my strengths is organization and planning…and when the occasion calls for it, I put on my project manager hat and step up.  I planned The New Mommy’s baby shower (and yes, I was more than ready to step down if her mom wanted to take more of a role).  I’m helping her plan her wedding.  But I’m not doing anything out of character – I’m also planning The Red Head’s wedding, which is six week’s after The New Mommy’s.

Stepping Down

One of the qualities of a good project manager is the manager’s ability to delegate and trust that other people are fully capable to do the do.  As much as I planned The New Mommy’s baby shower, I also stepped down once the big things were taken care of (location being the biggest) and let her older sister take it away.  She coordinated the guest list, the menu, and the favors.  She did a phenomenal job!

Stepping Side to Side

moondance1

This is probably my favorite part of being a stepmom because it means I’m also a wife.  Richard’s wife to be exact.  And there’s nothing more romantic then when Richard takes me in his arms and dances me around the kitchen…or on the beach under a moonlit sky.  

As a stepmom I make difficult choices and deal with difficult people and situations.  It’s not always easy staying balanced on the double edged sword that accompanies remarried life…and I have slipped off a time or two.  What keeps things in harmony most of the time is me and my way of being.  Chaos can swirl around me but as long as I have peace in my heart and see difficult people as people and difficult situations as opportunities, then I’m more apt to respond with love and understanding.

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