Community Forum


Stepmom friends, we all know the importance of being mindful as a stepmom and we also know how important it is to get useful tips and tools from other stepmoms who have been there and thrived through a challenge. My StepMom Magazine colleague, Joan Sarin, is writing a book that will help you build your Emotional Intelligence as a Stepmom and she is looking to get YOUR input.

One of the things I cherish about our stepmom community is the way we come together to support, encourage and inspire one another. Please read the following from Joan and I ask you to take the two calls for action and consider sharing your stories with her:

Learn to Love Being a Stepmom By Building Emotional Intelligence (working title)

This book is written by a stepmom for stepmoms – it’s about building the emotional intelligence to make a highly challenging role into a successful and fulfilling one.

Anyone who’s a stepmom knows how hard it is, and how tricky it can be to find your way. At first it seemed like my home was a landmine field, where I could set off explosions of conflict with the slightest misstep. I didn’t know then that all of us had the same anxiety, and our household was often an awkward and painful place to be.

In my book, I tell the story of how we made it through; we will celebrate our 20th year as a stepfamily as this book is published. I now thoroughly enjoy my role as a stepmom in the successful stepfamily we have built. My experience as a stepmom is my most important qualification for authoring this book; however I am also a social psychologist, as well as a Master Stepfamily Coach with the Stepfamily Foundation. Last year when I trained as an EQ (Emotional Intelligence) Educator, the proverbial “light bulb” went off. The Six Seconds’ (a top international leader in EQ training) framework for developing emotional intelligence is an ideal method for a stepmom to use for transforming her experience to a more positive, and happier, one.

There are books for stepmoms, and some give excellent advice. But in my work with many stepfamilies (teaching “The Stepfamily Success Course”) I am struck by the complex variations of stepfamily life, there’s just no “one size fits all” solution. As a smart stepmom, you need a system to work through your feelings and to find answers that are uniquely right for you and your family. Learn to Love Being a Stepmom provides that system.

Fortunately, EQ skills are trainable (unlike IQ, which is pretty much set by our genes). There are eight “EQ Competencies” in the Six Seconds framework. Each of them has a chapter devoted to developing that skill as it relates specifically to stepmoms. Each skill is taught by example and stories, and is followed up by a Study Guide to help you practice. The skills range from better awareness of our feelings to learning how to navigate the difficult emotions; from recognizing patterns we find ourselves repeating to using consequential thinking; and from finding our own intrinsic motivation to practicing optimism. In addition, we learn to practice the critical skill of empathy, as well as discover the importance of pursuing noble goals.

The book is authentic, well-researched, and rich with stories of real stepmoms. It also gives surprising insight into what’s going on in the emotional lives of the other members of the stepfamily. It gives you the “how to” you need to build the internal resources that will help you make good choices for yourself and your relationships. Through this book, you will learn to use your emotions in a smart way, in a way that will benefit you far beyond the stepfamily. All your relationships will improve, with the emphasis on the most important one – the relationship with yourself.

Call to Action:

Please vote for the title you’d most likely purchase by leaving a comment below and Joan will get the vote:

1. Learn to Love Being a Stepmom
By Building Emotional Intelligence
2. The Emotionally Intelligent Stepmom
3. Other(After reading the summary): _____________________________

Share Your Story:

Also, you can help other stepmoms by sharing what you’ve learned. I need several more stories from stepmoms. The focus is on a difficult challenge that you’ve faced and overcme through taking an emotionally mature approach. Just write a brief summary (half to a full page), and I’ll interview you if your story is selected for possible inclusion in the book.

Everyone who sends in a story will receive a complimentary electronic copy of the book; those whose stories are included will get a print copy and more!

- all information will be confidential and anonymous (you can select the name you want to use)
- Please respond to Joan@StepmomSOS.com
- When sending a story, provide your email address & phone number as well as the best time to reach you.

~~~~~

I hope you’ll consider helping Joan and in turn helping many, many other stepmoms.

Domestic Violence is real. Domestic Violence hurts everyone. Domestic Violence must be stopped. 

In the time it took you to read those three statements, 2 women were the victims of domestic violence.

Staggering.

Domestic violence is an issue that affects one in four women, yet 1/3 of Americans have never discussed it.

An estimated 1.3 million women will be the victims of physcial assault this year with an average                                                   of 145 women being abused every hour.

These numbers don’t lie yet many are remaining silent out of fear.

“Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. Violence against women is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, and thus is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and sometimes death. The consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and truly last a lifetime”. (via www.ncadv.org)

Perhaps, you or someone you love has been or is currently the victim of domestic violence. Personally, I have friends who have been the victims of domestic violence and some of them have children who have witnessed their mother being physically and/or emotionally abused. I knew girls in college who were raped by a boyfriend but were embarrassed to report it to the authorities somehow thinking it was their fault.  I don’t want that for my daughters nor for my stepdaughters. I don’t want that for you or for your daughters or for your stepdaughters. This is a cause near and dear to my heart. As women, we have a powerful voice and we need to use it!

We can make a difference and this new venture, The Purple Purse, can help!   

You’ll notice the oversized Purple Purse widget on the side of my blog. Go there! PurplePurse.com is designed as an online shopping magazine, but its real purpose is to encourage people to talk openly about domestic violence and financial abuse. Since research shows that the issue of domestic violence is difficult to discuss, this site was created to make it easier to bring up the subject.

PurplePurse.com is an important Allstate Foundation project – in partnership with YWCA – focused on getting people to talk about the issue of domestic violence. The Purple Purse was created as a new national symbol of a woman’s economic empowerment.

I am honored to be teaming up with AllState Insurance and the YWCA to unveil the Purple Purse during October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Our local team has been challenged by The Allstate Foundation to have at least 100 people attend the event. For every attendee, the Foundation will donate $100 to the YWCA of Cleveland to fund programs that support domestic violence victims. Local Tweetup is October 27th from 11am – 1pm at the YWCA Greater Cleveland located at 4019 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio  44103-4301.

Our guest speaker will be ILinda M.J. Reese, author of “Til Death.” Her autographical account exposes the hurt and devastation of marriage where domestic violence is present. Reese shares not only her story but offers practical solutions to unbind from an abusive partner and teaches women there is life after abuse that includes mental, physical and spiritual freedom.

Local Clevelanders please join me at this incredibly important event. Show your support by attending the event and/or sharing the link to the website with your friends.

What are some other ways you can get involved:

visit the www.purplepurse.com

tell your friends about the purple purse

consider carrying a purple purse this month to spark conversation about domestic violence (I’ll be carrying the one pictured above)

Tweet to your followers or post on your Facebook page:

o    “Join the #purplepurse cause and check out PurplePurse.com

o   Always include #purplepurse in your tweets.

We’ve got to start talking about domestic violence. While not an easy topic to address, it is one that needs to gain a voice. I’m thankful for Allstate for founding the Purple Purse and providing tools and resources and getting the discussion going. If you have something you’d like to share on domestic violence, I would love to hear from you.

Had to borrow that famous one liner. Sorry couldn’t help myself. Also had to write a post in response to the sassysinglemama’s piece. Her comments caused quite a stir and prompted many stepmoms to weigh in. Many diverse opinions were shared. Love the honesty and variety of our community. Makes us so interesting….

One lesson that jumped out while reading her guest blog and all the comments is this:

there is no one way to be a stepmom and there is no one way to define a mom and stepmom relationship.

What works for the sassysinglemamma doesn’t work for others. And that is OK! We can determine that what might work for her might not work for us. However, judging another person or their motivation isn’t our place. We are all in this together and we need to encourage and support one another but we don’t have to agree. The latter is actually impossible!

The important thing is having a relationship with your stepkids and their mom that works for you and your family.

I know that many smoms took issue with #12 which spoke to the stepmom’s husband helping his ex-wife.  This one is a tricky one. One thing this magnifies is that we, as stepmoms, are protective of our husbands and rightfully so. We are his wife. We love him and his first priority is with us.  That is all so true.

I try to never use the ex-wife label. Personally, I prefer to refer to her as my stepchild’s mom or by her first name. Every time we say ex-wife, we are verbally connecting our husband with this woman. They are no longer a couple. Period. However, they are the mother of our husband’s children and sometimes on occasion it may make sense for him to help his kids out (which on the surface may appear that he is helping their mom out).

Let me share a personal situation that I had in this regard.  One night I was driving home with all six kids in tow at 8:30pm and my husband was out of town on business. I was at an intersection and my van just died. We happened to be on a corner with businesses and a nice guy helped me push my car into the parking lot.  It was getting late and all my kids were young and tired. I called my husband and told him what happened. He actually suggested calling my ex to see if he would come and jump my van so I could drive the short distance home. He said it would take to long for AAA to come and he didn’t want me and the kids sitting there alone. He even said, “his kids are in the van. I hope he will come and help you out.”

In my situation, my ex did come and help. But he was helping out for the kids, not for me and I had discussed it first with my  husband. We’ve had other things come up where my ex has helped out for the kids sake but I always ask my husband first out of respect for him and for our marriage.

I think if our husband consults with us first before doing something that might be helping out his kids’ mom is vital and also gives us more power and say in the situation. And let’s face it as stepmoms, we often feel that we yield little control over things. At least that’s how I feel a lot of the time.

What is important to remember is that our stepkids’ mom and our husband will always have their children as common ground. There is no denying it. Nor should there be any denying it.

But that commonality or connection, if you will, is a working relationship not a romantic one. A positive working relationship between two parents whether they are married, divorced, or never married benefits the kids.  When I work with my kids’ dad it is not because I want to or because I enjoy it but rather because it’s important and vital for our kids to see us get along.

Kids never ask for divorce yet they bear the brunt of the impact of divorce. They shouldn’t have to carry the burden of two parents who don’t work together.

Whatever type of relationship you have with your stepkids’ mom, I hope it is one that brings you peace and not pain. I hope that it is one that is beneficial for your family and all your kids.

In the end, I will always support open, healthy and honest dialogue. It is my hope that by feeling comfortable to share our true feelings as stepmoms, we can connect with one another and feel the support of our wonderful stepmom community. We each come from different places, different life experiences, different backgrounds yet we have one common thread – to love our husbands and nurture and care for his children. Love that we are all so diverse yet all so committed to our husbands and our families. Let’s disagree on issues but not on the character of someone. I never want someone afraid to share their true heart out of fear of being judged.

We are all compassionate women and moms/smoms and I am so proud to be a part of this community.

Now, what say you???? I really want to know what’s on your mind:)

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful woman who is a real inspiration to many. Jessica is the Sassy Single Mamma and she has begun a blog of her own. I so love the way she has embraced her children’s soon to be stepmom and asked her is she would like to write a guest post. I was thrilled when she agreed.

So here is Jessica’s words of wisdom to stepmoms. Please note, her words are from experience as she used to be a stepmom herself. Enjoy!

_______________________________________

A stepmother is a very unique breed of woman! She is a woman who has courage and honer running through her huge heart! A heart large enough to let in children she never got to bond with as a baby! She loves her husband’s children but knows she could never say (s)he’s mine.  Because of her love, being a stepmother is a never ending battle in her mind.

Never knowing where you truly fit in or what your exact rule is to the stepchild can cause friction in the household! I know so well because I was once a Smom to a little girl. I loved her as my own. When she hurt I hurt, when she was happy my day was brighter. It was hard for me sometimes to step back and remember I’m her stepmom and a mother to her soon to be brother.

Now my rule has changed to a mom of two boys who are about to be blessed with a smom of their own. Honestly, I’m not worried! My children’s father would not bring a woman around unless she is a good person. I have also met her on several family dinner nights!

Yes that’s right I’m a very unusual woman who wants nothing but the best for my kids father and part of that is getting to know his new love.

I wouldn’t say I’m the controlling type but family means the world to me, and making sure my boys have stable loving homes is priority. So I plan to have a “normal” friendship with this new woman. And that includes the three of us sitting down and coming up with rules that will please both households. We must also go over strict guidelines on what punishments will go along with the rules.

I feel my children will see her with more respect if she is not stumbling around. I want this to be a smooth transition for everyone. I would hate to see her punish the boys for something they are usually allowed to do. Even worst is the idea of hearing “but she let’s us do it!” along with these new sets of rules I sat her down the other day to talk about what our ideas on Smom means.

So here is my list of what  a Smom should do/be:

1) Be a role model. Show the children how a woman acts and takes care of the household. My kids had to see a relationship fail once, so make sure they see love and respect.

2) I am their mother. Don’t ever try and take my place! Be there for them but know your role and never introduce them as YOUR kids!

3) Keep communication open. As hard as it might be sometimes make sure you talk with the mother about her kids (good and bad)

4) Don’t talk bad. Yes there are bad mothers out there! But its not your business. Don’t make a child feel they have to choose between the two families! Children are innocent and have the right to love someone even with faults

5) Be apart of their lives. Weather its full, primary, or partial custody its your job to be there! It will show the child and mother you want to be a great influence. Pluses you got something to talk to the child about!

6) Love them for them. Don’t try and change them. Don’t try and turn them into what YOU believe they should be.

7) Don’t compare them to your child. Every kid is different! They learn, play, and socialize in a way that’s comfortable for them.

8) Be a mediator. They will fight with their family and friends. Its your job to listen not to put fuel on the fire. Tell the father or mother what the child is telling you what’s going on.

9) Learn from them. Children have a remarkable way of showing us our flaws. Don’t take it as an insult or reason to run away.

10) Be willing to negotiate rules. Yes each house will have different rules but really look at how important it really was before you punish the other house with keeping up with a grounding or taking away of a favorite toy! I bet the mother will see your flexibility and will become more supportive and flexible with you as well.

11) Selfless! You must be able to share your husband with his kids. Yes there are days you will come home and want to talk to your husband but wait till the kids go to bed! (That’s if he doesn’t get them all the time) If he has a annual camping trip with the kids before school starts up, don’t invite yourself or complain a week is to long.

12) You are his wife, but I am the mother of his children. I’m not saying I’m better then you! I’m saying he has a responsibility to take care of his kids, and part of that is making sure his kids mother is okay! So when he says I got to drop my car off at___ because hers broke down and needs to get to work… Don’t complain! Realize its for the good of the kids.

I do know every family is different, and your situation may not allow some of my list. But give it a try! You never know how things may change for the better.

……..

Sassy Single Mama is a 23 year old mother of 2. She just began her blogging adventures about dating as a mother and raising her boys one day at a time!   You can read more about her at her blog:

www.sassysinglemama.blogspot.com

Her motto is “Learn from yesterday, Live for today, Hope for tomorrow!” ~MUAH~

_________________________________________

So what do you think? Please share your comments here!

Now that’s a conversation starter. Yeah, I know. This is a blog not a book. Discipline in general has been the topic of thousands of parenting books. Throw in the divorce factor then add stepfamily dynamics and you’ve got enough stuff to write a book series on the topic of discipline. But today, I bring you a question that is burning in the heart of one mother.

I recently was in contact with a great single mom whose kids are about to get a stepmom. This mom really wants to work with her ex and his fiancé to put the kids first. She is meeting soon with both of them to “draw up plans” on how to handle discipline across both homes.

 Her main question is “what role should a stepmom play in disciplining my kids?”

I asked her if I could throw it out to get comments from the great stepmoms who read my blog and she is happy to get your feedback. What a great person. She truly wants to work with the other home and keep things consistent. If I understand the situation correctly, the kids will be going between the two homes on a regular basis.

Is it possible to keep things consistent between the two homes? What can she expect? As stepmoms, what do you want her to know about how you feel your role is in discipline? What’s your current role? What do you wish it to be?

For me personally, I have to enforce consequences with my stepdaughters as I am a custodial stepmom and I am home with them more than their father is at home. Thankfully, my husband and I recognized that fact before we even got married and made sure we set rules and expectations ahead of time.

Our rules are clear and our consequences are clear so when one of our kids breaks a rule, we don’t even have to tell them the consequence they know it. Setting clear rules/consequences takes pressure off of me to be the heavy. We just need to say “you choose to have this consequence by your choice to do ____________. You know the rules of the house and you know the consequence for breaking them.”

I believe that every stepfamily is unique and that each couple has to agree on how they want discipline handled in their home. This can bring about so much stress for a stepmom. She may often feel disrespected when her stepkids purposely disobey what she says and feels she has no authority to correct the behavior. 

The father is such an integral part of making this work. I believe that is why it’s so important for the couple to set up house rules and consequences for all the kids in the home. This takes pressure off the stepmom and also doesn’t make her the “bad guy” with the kids.

In my humble opinion, if the father is home, he should handle the discipline. But if the stepmom is the only parent home, she should have the authority to enforce already established consequences.

There are many situations where the dad travels for work and/or the stepmom is custodial. Stepmoms need the authority from their husband’s to enforce set house rules and consequences.

I know many people cringe at the idea of family meetings but they are so vital in creating an environment where the kids see both dad and stepmom as a team. They can be used for the dad to share the house rules and consequences with the kids (with the stepmom present).  It’s important for the dad to say that these are rules we came up with together and together we will enforce them. You will have to respect me and your stepmom’s authority.

And wow! What a great opportunity for this mom. Would it be possible to have a family meeting with she, her ex and the stepmom present to say these are the rules we ALL set up and these are how they will be enforced. How cool would that be for all the kids to see all the parents are on the same page?

This can be such a hot topic. I reached out to my twitter community to see if they wanted to share any words of wisdom as I was writing. These are some of the great comments I received:

  • We have a “our home, our rules” situation because we highly disagree with BMs parenting. Also can’t have separate rules for ours than SS.
  • At least be consistent in your home even if the rules are different between homes.
  • Smooth here…they all seem to know the rules upon arrival & knock on wood we have yet to hear but mommy lets me or daddy lets me. (Yeah, for you!!!)
  • Had more trouble blending “our” rules… no more climbing walls, jumpin on furniture, coloring everything, or ham sandwiches for dinner.

One stepmom wrote “2 add he’s taught me many things as well, like patience and lowering my voice-brought just as much to the table, we r a good team.”

I heard from quite a few stepmoms who say that their husband has a volatile relationship with their ex-wife and rules don’t really apply because the mom seems to do the opposite of what the dad says and/or rewards the kids when they are with her. 

Whether we are discussing discipline or co-parenting in general, the parent’s unwillingness or shear inability to separate their role as parent from the conflict they experienced in their previous marriage and through divorce make it extremely difficult for them to make decisions with the kids’ best interest at heart.

So let’s hear it. What is your advice for this mom as she prepares to meet with her ex and his fiancé to put a plan in place? Let’s help her out! Thanks!!!

Recently, I spoke with a woman who holds a role very similiar to many of us. She is both a mom and a stepmom. She embraces her role as both and seeks a good relationship with her children’s stepmom. However, her kid’s stepmom recently did something that has this mom very upset – the stepmom had her stepkids’ (this woman’s children) names tattoed next to her own children’s names. The stepkids names were added to the tattoo she already had of her own kids.

Understandably, this mom/stepmom is upset. It hurts and angers her that her children’s names are tattoed on another woman’s body. She believes this woman crossed the line and is torn between whether to confront her or not and if she confronts her – what should she say.

It is hard for me to offer solid advice not knowing all the dynamics of this mom and stepmom’s relationship. What was the motivation behind the stepmom getting the tattoo? Did she do it to validate her role as stepmom? Was she feeling insecure as a wife and stepmom? Did she do it to spite the mom of her stepkids? The motivation is unknown.

If she did it to spite the mom or to make her role as their stepmom more real then confronting her will probably leave this mom more upset and frustrated. If this stepmom had the tattoo for selfish/negative reasons than she may expect an angry response from the mom and might possibly be happy that she is upset. If she’s the type that is expecting a response, the best response you can give her is to not respond.

It’s my understanding that this mom is considering confronting the stepmom to tell her she has crossed the line because she doesn’t want her to do something like this again. This mom asking the question would like clear boundaries set on the role of mom and stepmom. But in confronting the stepmom of her kids, I believe this mom may run the risk of her kids’ stepmom doing more things like this in the future if it is her intention to upset the mom and/or if she doesn’t care about the mom and her feelings.

A line that I read once when I was going through my divorce was this; “He who angers you controls you” anonymous.  I love the quote and I remind myself of it daily as I do not want to give anyone that type of power over me.

I would encourage this mom/stepmom to work through her anger. She has a right to be hurt, she has a right to be angry. I know I would be if I were in her situation. But what we do with the anger is key. I don’t know what confronting the stepmom will accomplish. I don’t know if she will listen and be remorseful and agree to not do something similar in the future. One big possible outcome of confronting is to be left feeling more upset especially if this mom has an expectation of what type of response she wants from the stepmom. Unfortunately, that tattoo is there and is for all purposes – unremoveable.

Depending on this mom’s relationship with her ex-husband it may make the most sense to speak with him directly about how she feels. This way she can express her feelings without running the risk of getting into an arguement w/ the stepmom that could leave her feeling more frustrated and angry.

Here are some truths as I see them that can never be changed regardless of whether her kids’ names are tattoed on another woman:

You ARE the mother of your children

Your kids WILL ALWAYS be loyal TO YOU regardless of what the stepmom’s tattoo reads

Your kids WILL ALWAYS love you

As stepmoms, we know first hand that regardless of how much we love and take care of our stepkids they are most loyal to their mom and dad first. This is often very frustrating for stepmoms but should bring comfort to moms and communicate to moms that they don’t have to compete with stepmoms. Most of us truly want what is best for our marriage and for all of our kids (biological, adopted and step).

The above is my humble opinion on this matter. I wanted to open this up for other stepmoms to respond and encourage this woman and share any experiences that might be similiar.

Our stepmom community is strong and we all know how important it is to help one another out. Please leave your feedback for our friend below. Thanks.

Are you struggling with an issue regarding your blended family?  Do you need encouragement? Want to share a funny story? Whatever is on your mind, we want to know. Post your question and comments here.  Feel free to respond to others. We are all in this together. Only another stepmom can truly understand what you are going through!

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