Practical Advice

Remember life before #hashtags?  Now the invaluable tool of tagging has moved to video and serves to help you find stepmom videos that will speak the words you need to hear right when you need to hear them. I’m excited to share this new project from fellow stepmom Stacey – a Ph.D. student and mom and stepmom whose amazing project is creating a tagging system for videos. Let’s hear from Stacey:

“Tags are words, keywords to be exact, that describe the object being tagged. Video tagging is the process of assigning keywords tovideo tagging videos where you share knowledge, share opinions, describe what you see, describe what you hear, or describe how you feel. Through tagging the videos as you watch them, you are helping to create rich keywords that can be used to index the videos and make them easier for you, your friends and people with similar interests to find.

The more text that exists for a video the easier it is to see at a glance if it fits your search need.  The more people who tag the same video, the more varied those keywords are.  The more people who enter the same keyword, the more we all know the video is relevant.  The descriptions are available on the site so you can interact with the tags you and others enter and maybe find videos of interest you might never ordinarily have watched.

Millions of people play millions of online games every day and invest hours upon hours of time into games that have little or no purpose other than to entertain. What if you could be entertained and participate in a useful task? VideoTag lets you do just that. Play some quick fun games whilst tagging videos. Choose a video that interests you then select which game you want to play, each game has a different challenge.  You score points depending on the type of tags you enter and depending on the game.  All players start out as an intern, as you earn points you’ll get promoted until you eventually reach the role of commissioner.  Once you are a researcher you can upload your own videos to VideoTag.  For those that prefer the idea of watching the whole video and just tagging it, without being entertained by a game we have Simply Tag – simply watch and tag, for as long as you want.

VideoTag is an experiment, we’re hoping to educate people on the potential benefits of tagging whilst analyzing the tags to see just how useful they could be and the vocabulary people use.  Our aim is to provide a useful resource for people who love watching online video and who love creating online video.

It is so fun and easy to use. Create an account for full access or sign on as a guest to have limited access. Either way it’s free, fun and you will learn a lot.”

Click on VideoTag, sign up and start tagging! You’ll not only have fun playing Video Tag, you will feel connected, supported and inspired and by tagging you’ll help a fellow stepmom whose searching for help later. Remember there are many other video categories like Crazy Science Experiments, Tour De France, Stop Motion Animation and The 90’s just to name a few.  I’m honored to have some of my stepmom videos in Video Tag and grateful to spread support, encouragement and inspiration to stepmoms everywhere via video. So what are you waiting for?

Have fun and start tagging!


A little from Stacey: Until the birth of my daughter in 2003 I was working in the marketing and press department of a broadcasting company in London, U.K.   I relocated shortly before my daughter was born and chose to pursue a different career path that allowed me the flexibility to be an at home more.   I studied part time for an MSc in Computer Science, passing with distinction. I was then lucky enough to be awarded funding to continue my research to PhD level.

During the start of my PhD I got divorced, met a wonderful man also getting divorced and became a step mum to his two children.  At this time I wondered in what aspect of my life I was learning the most, it is lucky I have a passion for learning!  I put my PhD on hold for a while whilst I concentrated on building our family of five, providing emotional support to my daughter, my husband and my step kids during what was a difficult time.  You have to know when you have taken on too much and something has to give.  We are all still learning and growing, there are still challenges to face but the journey has become much more settled and enjoyable.  As a result I have the time and mind space to enjoy my work again and concentrate on my PhD research.   My work explores whether tagging can provide accurate descriptions for online videos and whether effective tagging can provide new methods of organizing, categorizing and finding videos online.  For more information have a look at my website

Tag. Your it. It’s your turn to check out VideoTagging and enjoy and tag some stepmom videos. Would love your feedback and I know Stacey would too. Playing Video Tag will enable you to learn and grow as a stepmom and also support a fellow stepmom on her journey. What do you love about video tagging? Did you enjoy the videos? What are your thoughts? Thanks for sharing.

Helping my twelve year old stepdaughter is a continual battle. Not because I don’t want to help her but because I do. It’s because she resists my help.  My stepdaughter struggles with a lot of emotional issues stemming from her mother leaving her, her sister and their dad (my husband). She has built such a wall of protection around her heart that she won’t visit the pain that has to heal in order for her to live a healthy and peaceful life.

When her mother first left, my stepdaughter created a fantasy to explain why mom was gone and to make sense of it all. She has clung to that fantasy even though she knows the truth and over the past eight years she has applied this fantasy approach to other areas of her life. She openly admits she wants life to be the way she wants it to be and when it isn’t she makes it up to fit into “her world.”   

Make believe and pretend are fun and accepted when you are a little girl but once you enter your tweens the fantasy world continually crashes with the reality of life because fantasy cannot exist in truth. When my stepdaughter’s fantasy is “shattered” by proof of the real world, it is very difficult for her to process and because of this my stepdaughter’s lies and manipulation have escalated. She is determined to make life fit into the small box she has designed for it. Problem is, it doesn’t fit but rather spills over and impacts so many areas of her life.

I’ve tried countless times to talk with her. Share my experiences growing up. We spend hours a week in counseling and my husband and I lovingly enforce pre-set consequences for her choices. She calls us mean. We know we are being responsible parents who hold her accountable. She doesn’t like it and that’s okay. She doesn’t have to like it. We understand she has been hurt. What happened to her at a young age is terrible. But she has to work with it to work through it. We don’t push perfection in our home because we don’t believe in perfection. We promote putting your best effort forth.

Her future employer isn’t going to let her be 20 minutes late to work every day because she had a tough childhood. Her future relationships aren’t going to give her a pass if she is verbally abusive to them or lies and deceives them because she’s been through some tough stuff.

The irony in all of this is that while my husband and I have been frustrated that our “daughter” chooses to live in this fantasy world, the reality is that we have been stuck in our own fantasy world of sorts. We want the best for her and have been putting forth our best. We’ve clung to our faith yet we’ve also clung to these hopes…..

“if we just talk to her the right way…. she’ll get it”  

“if we just show her even more love… she’ll get it.” 

“If we take her to the right counselor…. she’ll get it.”  

“If she has the right teachers this year…. she’ll get it.” 

“If she hangs out with the right crowd…. she’ll get it.” 

and our hopes went on and on an on…..

The cold hard reality is that my stepdaughter is not going to get it until she CHOOSES to get it. We can’t force her to change. We can give her consequences that make her life uncomfortable but we can’t force her to change her ways. She has to decide that for herself. We have to continue to be there to love her through it.

What we know for sure is that my husband and I are giving her beyond what she needs to heal but she is choosing to allow pain from her past to control her today.

Tuesday night at therapy, my stepdaughter told her therapist in front of my husband and I that she thinks we like to give her consequences and her therapist responded “I think you know your parents hold you accountable for your actions and you don’t like living in the truth. They hold you to the truth.” My stepdaughter agreed. Those words intended to hurt us don’t because we know who we are. While she says those things once in a while, she also tells me and her dad that she loves us every day. She is tangled inside and it shows through the cracks in her heart and the opposing words she speaks in both anger and joy.

I am loving, responsible, caring, compassionate, hopeful, firm and most importantly for me to understand…..

I am the best stepmom she allows me to be.

I share this story for the countless stepmoms out there who put their best foot forward but whose efforts are often thwarted by their stepchild or the mother of their stepchild. Many stepchildren and/or mothers of stepkids are allowing the pain of their past to try and dictate the today and tomorrow of those around them instead of dealing with their pain. We can’t make them heal but we can OWN who we are. In writing this I noticed that the first two letters of the word BEST is BE…. Just BE who you are and you will BE your BEst!
Embrace what you bring to your stepfamily not what others will allow themselves to receive or not receive from you.
You are the BEst YOU that you can BE and if another chooses not to embrace all of your or in the case of a mom who won’t allow her kids to be blessed with all of you that is their decision and NOT a reflection on YOU!
A good friend of mine Deesha Philyaw  shared a story with me on how she was the best that someone allowed her to be and her words sunk deep in my soul and they came out singing today while I was dealing with some issues my stepdaughter stirred up at school.  Never underestimate what you bring to your family and never underestimate what you can bring to a fellow stepmom. You never know when your words are lifting another up.
I pray that this helps you on your journey. BE the BEst you can be and don’t allow your efforts to be judged by how someone else receives them.


Never forget that you are the best you can be. You make the decision to be who you are and you cannot control how another accepts you. Be you. Be true. The truth will shine through.

On December 14, 2012 the unspeakable happened at Sandy Hook elementary school. My heart is heavy for the families impacted. The ripple effect of pain cannot even be measured or described.

I had planned that day to write and share a post on gifts to give your stepkids. When I heard the news (actually read on twitter Friday), I wept openly at the grocery store for all the parents impacted (parents, stepparents, grandparents, all those who love the victims). My heavy heart was also weighed down with worry for ALL SIX of my kids (my four biological kids and my two stepdaughters).

When the kids came home that day, I hugged them all a little tighter and loved on all of them. Love… it’s what we want all kids to feel. I unplugged all weekend to really plug into my family. Time well spent. But today rolled around and I felt prompted to sit down and share some gifts that we can give our kids (our stepkids and our biological kids).

At Christmas, we are reminded of the love God bestowed upon us when He gave us the gift of His son. We love (or want to love) this time of the year and we want our children to feel loved. We want love for all kids regardless of the blood that runs through their veins. My stepdaugthers may not have my DNA but they do have my heart.

I am saddended when I read of the struggles that many co-parents and stepparents face and how those challenges seem to get ramped up over the holidays. I recently read a tweet from a stepmom sharing how the mom of her stepdaughter ripped the shoes off of her feet because they were purchased by the dad and stepmom. I’ve received emails from stepmoms who say that gifts that are purchased are either not allowed to be brought to their mom’s house or are even taken from them when they are. I’ll never understand how any parent puts their hurt onto their child. (Please note, I’m not saying moms do this only. Parents who are hurting transfer their pain to their kids and that is not confined to moms.)

Maybe, just maybe the horror that occurred Friday will soften the hearts of all parents and not pit children between two homes when co-parenting is present.

Having said that I wanted to share some ideas for gift giving to your stepkids this season. Gifts that can grow the bond between you and your kids and that can’t be taken away…..

Give the gift of experience – a memory cannot be taken away. Unlike a toy that will eventually end up in the landfill or clothing that they will likely out grow or like, an experience will last a lifetime.

Consider planning a fun trip; a day out, or a simple activity like a cooking class, ski lesson, ice skating, etc…..

If you or your husband have frequent flyer miles, consider using them for a day trip. Find free things to do in your city or a big city you can fly or drive to. Use groupon or living social to find experiences you can give your kids.

With an experience, you are giving your kids the gift of time and of memories. That can never be taken away.

Give a Hallmark Recordable book- I love these books! Record your voice and/or your husband’s voice reading a story. Your child can have it with them and listen to you read them to sleep at night even when they aren’t with you. The only caveat I would caution is to know whether this book would be welcomed in mom’s home. Even though we don’t have control over what mom does, we don’t want to give our kids a gift that could cause an issue for them. Perhaps they could keep it at your home if you don’t believe mom will like it. Actually, you could consider purchasing two different recordable books; one that you record and one for them to give to mom and have her record herself reading. This would be a great way of “telling” your kids how much you love and support their relationship with their mom – that there are no loyalty “wars” in your mind.

Purchase Cooking Supplies/Cookbook - put together a gift basket of fun kitchen gadgets and cookbooks that your stepchild can use when they are with you. Help them plan special menus and items to make together.

Give the Gift of Family Time – give your kids a new game or purchase a family membership somewhere. Whether it be an interactive video game or a board game… playing games together builds family memories. Our family loves Apples to Apples, Bananagrams, Wii Sports and Wii Just Dance games. This year, we bought the kids Ticket to Ride! We are looking forwward to playing it with everyone.

Consider purchasing a membership to the Zoo, Science Center, Children’s Museum, etc….. and then make it a point to go when you are all together.

Sponsor a Child in their nameWorld Vision provides an amazing way to truly teach your child to give back while at the same time gaining a perspective on giving and how children in other parts of the country live. I started sponsoring a young girl from Albania when I was a single mom. I wanted my kids to give to other kids and connect with another child. Through the seven years of sponsorship, we have developed a close relationship. We love to write to her and send her small gifts and we love hearing from her. Sponsoring a child is $35.00 a month and when we think of how we can spend that friviously, it makes the amount that much more impactful.

Make a “Love You” jar or “Things To Do” jar – write out things you/your husband love about your child. Also, write down things you can do with each other; bake a cake, plan a movie night in, paint pottery, go to a local sports event, have a spa night at home…. Get creative. The child can pick something out of it and you can plan to do the item. If it’s a love jar, they can feel all warm and fuzzy inside knowing they are loved and cared for.

The Gift of Positive Messages - gift a chalkboard to your stepchild that they can hang in their room. Write positive messages on it. Let them get creative. If a chalkboard isn’t big enough, consider painting a wall with chalkboard paint or painting a dresser with iet. Get creative.

I also love Wallhogs. Last year I purchased Wallhogs of my two boys. They think it is really cool to have this larger than life cut out of themselves on their walls.

Give the Gift of You and Your Story - consider purchasing books, movies, toys, etc… that you loved when you were the age of your stepchildren. It’s a great way to connect and share an item and an experience.

Regardless of what you leave under the tree or send to them, I humbly caution you about giving a gift with expectations attached. When we have expectations and they aren’t met, we are often left feeling so disappointed. Even when we don’t make our kids “choose” between homes, they can feel such loyalty – “if I like this gift, will it hurt mom’s feelings?” And many stepmoms struggle with doing so much for their stepkids and feeling like their efforts go unnoticed or unappreciated.

In our book Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, Gayla Grace and I speak candidly and with wisdom regarding the joys and heartaches of stepfamily life during the holidays. As a bonus feature we share family traditions that you can start with your blended family. Traditions make memories and memories live on in the hearts of those you love.

Would love to hear what type of gifts you give your stepkids? What are your thoughts on the above listed ideas?


Growing up, I remember  each year asking my mother what she wanted for Christmas and always getting the same response:

“All I want is for you and your brothers to get along. No fighting on Christmas.”

“Please,” I’d think as I’d push her for an easy gift. Still she would stand strong on her “simple” request.

I now understand my mom’s wish list. Yet, I am blessed to know something I’m not sure my mom understood and that is; I cannot control what anyone else says or does BUT I can control how I process it and how I choose to respond. It would be lovely if my kids didn’t fight and there was little drama on the stepfamily front but reality strikes and I cannot control the many people and situations I inherited when I said “I do” to a wonderful man with two kids.

That’s why this new ebook Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace that I co-authored with Gayla Grace is so near and dear to my heart. And I’m excited to announce it is now available at all major ebook retailers. This book was written to help you feel peace in your heart and in your home. Our Ebook is available for Kindle, ipad, nook, kobo, ereader and more and at all major e-retailers.


You may remember that together, Gayla and I co-authored  and published “Thriving at the Holidays: Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace” in 2011. Due to the amazing response and great feedback, we decided to write a second edition and make the title a little shorter (you could barely tweet it out last year).

Gayla and I have poured our own experiences, failures, successes, knowledge and most importanly our hearts into this book. You will find practical tips and tools to use today to bring peace and joy to YOUR heart and therefore into YOUR home.

In addition to all the practical tools and tips, the book has a heartfelt prayer you can say during the holidays and beyond, yummy recipes, and great ideas for creating your own unique stepfamily holiday traditions.

Our book is 37 pages and chalked full of great tips. We deal with managing expectations, scheduling, self and couple care, creating and maintaining boundaries, remaining hopeful and so much more. This book is formatted for the busy stepparent; easy and fast to ready. If you don’t have an ereader, it’s no problem. You can download a free e-reader for your computer.

Smom T-shirt (size S, M, L, XL, XXL – winners choice)
Smom Brushed Twill Cap
Smom Ceramic Mug
Smom Stainless Steel Travel Mug
$65.00 total value

To thank all of you for checking out the book and to spread some holiday cheer, I’m giving away a Smom gift basket from my e-store. Please enter below for a chance to win a CafeSmom gift basket. Contest closes at midnight EST Monday, December 10th. You can enter daily.
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Every person has their joys and their struggles. And every person feels support and encouragement when they find others who are navigating their same journey.

One of the greatest blessings of our stepmom community is the encouragement, inspiration, support and understanding we give each other. We are authentic about our struggles while striving to remain positive and without putting others down.

To better understand the needs of stepmoms, I have teamed up with @RedHeadStepmom on Twitter to conduct an intensive survey to understand the many relationships in a stepmom’s life and how it impacts her “happiness quotient.”

The survey is being sent to stepmoms via email in order to preserve the integrity of the data (to ensure stepmoms only fill it out). This is an important research study and we want to hear from YOU!!!

Please email me at to participate in the survey.  The results will be shared on my site in December and will be sent to those who provide resources to stepmoms. Please email me today!

By better understanding our challenges and our joys, we can better serve YOU!

Encouragement. Support. Inspiration. Resources. Together our stepmom community is strong!



Thank you so much for participating. YOUR Voice Matters. You MATTER!!!!

We are stepmoms. We care for our families. That means we probably cook once in a while. Recently, I had the pleasure of going to a blogger meet-up for Bruegger’s Bagels. At the meet-up, Bruegger’s Executive Chef, Philip Smith, made a recipe (on the fly) for us using plain bagels. It was amazing! I asked for the recipe so I could share it with you.  Bruegger's Bagels, Bagel Recipes, Salmon Strata

I made the recipe for the first time the other day and decided to video myself making it and turned it into a vlog so you can watch me below if you like. This strata makes an amazing breakfast on a holiday (or any day) as you can make it the day before you bake it. It would also be a great dinner and it’s a wonderful idea for “what to do with day old bagels?”  There is something to be said for eating fresh bagels (sorry Thomas)!

I vlogged the recipe so if you want to watch me make it, ramble on as I assemble the ingredients and wear my nearly 10 year old apron, you can tune in below. I’m also posting the recipe here.

BRUEGGER’S SMOKED SALMON AND DILL STRATA                                                           Serves 6-8 people

This makes a fantastic Sunday brunch item or is perfect for a holiday breakfast for a group. It can be prepared and refrigerated overnight and baked next day. Bruegger's Bagels, bagel recipes

  • 5 Plain bagels , cut into thumb sized pieces
  • 6 large eggs, cracked into a bowl
  • 1 lb Bruegger’s smoked salmon
  • 1 tub/ 6 oz Bruegger’s Chive and Onion Cream Cheese
  • 1 Cup half and half
  • 1 stick of butter/ 4 oz
  • Pinch Cracked Pepper/ Salt
  • ¼ Cup Fresh Dill- end of the branches, picked into tiny pieces
  • ¼ of a medium Red Onion- finely chopped
  • Pam spray
  1. Preheat your oven to 350º F/ 325º F convection .
  2. Melt the butter in your microwave on high for 20 seconds.
  3. In a stainless bowl beat the eggs until they yolks and whites are blended. Then add the melted butter, half and half, salt pepper and fresh dill.
  4. Soak the cut bagel pieces in the egg mixture, and using your fingers, work the eggs into the bread, so it is thoroughly soaked and all the custard has been absorbed.
  5. Spray a 13” shallow baking dish with pan spray.
  6. Layer the baking dish with ½” layer of soaked bagels.
  7. Top with a layer of smoked salmon (half lb. or half the side of salmon)
  8. Dot the smoked salmon with dollops of half the cream cheese.
  9. Repeat a soaked bagel layer and another salmon layer. Dot again with the remaining half of cream cheese.
  10. Layer the remaining soaked bagels (this layer will be thinner).
  11. Top the soaked bagels with the chopped red onion, scattered over the top
  12. Bake covered for 20 minutes then between an additional 15- 20 minutes uncovered until the egg dish soufflés up and the center is firm.Bruegger's Bagels, recipes with bagels, stepmom resources

Serve warm in 2.5” squares with a small salad dressed with a lemony vinaigrette

I substituted crab for the salmon. You could even use sausage, beef or go all veggie. I also added 10 minutes to my time when baking in my convection oven and did not serve with a vinaigrette.

The verdict: my family loved it and I loved making something unique and delicious. Would love your feedback on this recipe. Your thoughts? Do you love cooking with your family? For your family?

I do have to give a plug for Bruegger’s for all the good they do for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. On Wednesdays throughout the year, you can buy a dozen bagels for half price. And this Wednesday, November 14th, they are giving out FREE COFFEE til’ 2pm. Guests to Bruegger’s can enjoy their first cup of coffee that day while donating their spare change (or more) to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at canisters located by the register. In 2011, guests on this special day contributed more than $30,000 on Free Coffee Day! So plan on Wednesday, going to Bruegger’s, buying bagels and cream cheese for this great recipe and enjoying a free cup of coffee while donating to the Children’s Miracle Network.

note: I was not compensated for this post. Sharing the recipe with you because it is super yummy and super easy.

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
- 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.

dis·en·gage  (dsn-gj)

v. dis·en·gageddis·en·gag·ingdis·en·gag·es

1. To release from something that holds fast, connects, or entangles.

2. To release (oneself) from an engagement, pledge, or obligation.

To free or detach oneself; withdraw.


“Disengage from the situation!”Just disengage from your stepchild if they are causing you pain!” “I would just disengage from my husband if he was acting like that.

These are common tid bits of advice that stepmoms receive. But the bigger question is:

“How do you disengage and still stay connected?”

While disengaging from someone or something does lessen the pain it doesn’t solve the problem that is causing you to want to disengage. As the definition states above, disengage involves withdrawing and how can you have a healthy and fulfilling marriage if you are disengaging from your husband and/or the child he brought into your marriage.  

Do you stop asking about their day? Do you stop talking to your husband about their child and the struggle that brings you pain? Do you stop going to soccer games or parent teacher conferences to avoid confrontation from their mom? Just how do you disengage? Walking away from the pain may make the daily ride “easier” but it doesn’t address the struggles causing the pain and it isn’t drawing you closer to your husband nor his children.

When we disengage a few things can happen. The biggest drawback in my opinion is the hardening of your heart. When you disengage from a person or situation that is causing you pain, you often start to slowly put up a wall. You withdraw emotionally even if you are physically present and that can present it’s own issues. Sure you are still loving that person but you are loving them from a distance. You are lessening your vulnerability to be hurt. That may sound great… no pain… but when you want to give and receive unconditional love you have to be vulnerable. When you are married… you are vulnerable. When you are a parent…. you are vulnerable.

In my journey as a stepmom, disengaging from negative comments (not the person) is the best disengagement! And I speak from experience. Years back, I tried disengaging from my youngest stepdaughter and it didn’t work. Her struggles continued, her roller coaster of emotions continued. My disengagement did not erase the impact her choices were having on the family and on me and her father. Me not asking her about what was going on at school might have helped me not physically feel sick when I would hear the answer but it was like walking around my family room in the dark: the toys were still strewn everywhere, there was dust on the TV but I just couldn’t see it in the dark.

For me, disengagement made me feel worse. I disbanded that approach and did some soul searching. I want to be there and help and if it hurts to do that then I have to work through that. The best thing was for me is to put distance between hurtful things said and done and how I choose to process it.

Here are some truths about being a stepmom that remind me to not take things personally and help me disengage from the hurtful words not the person hurting:

My success as a stepmom is not tied to my stepchild’s choices and behavior. Measure your success as a stepmother by the love you give not by the response you get back. Because divorce and/or death of a parent is loss for a child, they are often operating from a place of pain. While remarriage is a second chance at love for you and your husband, it’s a reminder to a child that mom and dad will never be together again. We know that hurting people hurt others and often kids are operating from a place of pain. It doesn’t give them a license to say or do hurtful things but it can help you understand that their choices and behavior are not tied to your role as stepmom.

Hurting people hurt others. Disengage from the hurt not the hurting person. As mentioned above, separate the hurt from the hurting person. Have boundaries and consequences for poor choices. We can choose to withdraw from the person causing the pain but if we are committed to staying in our marriage than withdrawing and hardening our hearts will not build into a marriage that we want to grow and flourish.

While someone’s choices may impact me, they are just that – SOMEONE ELSE’s choices and I am not responsible for their choices. Do not take on another’s choices as your own. We may hear “you ruined my life,” “you took my dad away,” “my life would be perfect if you weren’t in it,” “if you cared about me, you’d leave me alone,” and more from our stepkids and we may hear even worse from their mother. Remember: these are their words not your doing. Do not take in these words as truth of who you are.

My value is not tied to another person’s opinion of me. While we should be open to honest feedback about ourselves, feedback and bashing are two different things. Do not measure your value by others. At Church this past Sunday, our pastor shared these words “your value is not tied to your valuables.” So true. Our value comes from the one who created us and God loves us all. He sees us as the beautiful creations He made us to be.

“You don’t always get back what you give!” (this is a little gem of a phrase I just learned from my friend Lisa on Twitter). Lisa said it so well. And this may be one of the hardest stepmom truths to swallow and accept. We give and we give and as stepmoms (and I would say parents in general) we may not get back all that we give but we are called to give anyway. When we give to give and not expect anything in return, it helps.

Hope these truths I’ve come to know help. While disengaging would numb the pain we feel it would also serve to numb our relationships and wouldn’t solve the problem bringing the pain. If anything we could have more issues as our withdrawing would impact our marriage and relationships.

“An engaged woman is always more agreeable than a disengaged. She is satisfied with herself. Her cares are over, and she feels that she may exert all her powers of pleasing without suspicion. All is safe with a lady engaged; no harm can be done.” Jane Austen


Would love to hear your thoughts on disengaging? Have you found yourself disengaging from a situation or person in your stepfamily? What tips would you share? What did you think of the stepmom truths shared? Are they helpful to you? As we share with one another and have open and honest dialogue as stepmoms we continue to grow, support and encourage one another.

 Look forward to hearing your take on disengaging! Let’s talk….


What would you do?  This is a new series I’m launching where I’ll be sharing some real stepmom dilemmas from real stepmoms and asking you to share your insight and encouragement with them.

I get emails frequently from stepmoms sharing a difficult situation and asking for my advice. As stepmoms, we all know that one of the greatest blessings of finding a stepmom community is not feeling alone in what we are going through. So I’ve decided to share stepmom struggles (with the stepmom’s permission of course) and am asking all of you to leave comments and words of encouragement, support and positive advice.


To start this series off, I’m starting with a question I have. Yes, I’m turning the tables and asking a question from my “mom” perspective to all my stepmom friends. Here goes:

Late last week, my ex sent me an email asking me if he could have our two eleven year old sons for a big “road” trip over Memorial Day weekend. Knowing my ex, in the seven years we’ve been divorced and the nine years we were married, he doesn’t take road trips. We had agreed earlier in the year to split the kids that weekend and cafesmomknowing I have no business in his schedule or control over how he spends his time with the kids, I said yes. But I had a feeling…..

To give you some background, my ex and I get along well from a co-parenting perspective. He moved in down the street and we are flexible with the kids’ schedules. While I miss my kids like crazy when they aren’t with me, I know they NEED to spend time with their dad. I don’t agree with some of his choices but I do believe that he loves the kids and enjoys spending time with them. And above all else, I respect that he is their dad. I chose to have kids with him and I choose to nurture his relationship with the kids. As their mom, I believe it is my responsibility to ensure they spend time with their dad and his family.

The one thing I wish I could get through to him is that he should communicate directly with me via email and not through the kids. Having said that the kids came back this weekend and the boys said “Dad is taking us on a nine hour road trip with Angela and her son. We’ve never met her before but her son is our age and he loves basketball and video games. Oh, and dad rented an RV that we will sleep in.”

My one son was super excited and the other had guarded enthusiasm as he was hoping for a “boys” weekend. They were both shocked their dad rented an RV as we all know he doesn’t like camping. I figured there were some holes in the story and as the details have unfolded it turns out that his dad’s friend rented an SUV not RV for the trip.

Back to the story at hand… I’m thankful there is someone going with my ex. Two adults are better than one when it comes to wrangling kids. And I’m thankful the boys will have a female present. Women just bring a different dimension of care.

But I’d be lying if I said I’m not nervous. The boys have never met her or her son (and today I found out the son is bringing a friend… everyday brings new tidbits). He is taking them to a major amusement park/waterpark which he’s never done and with someone that the kids have never met. I also know that my kids (generally my youngest) get attached to the women their dad introduces them to and rightfully so. My kids are starting to get guarded with new friends because of the pattern on having them in their life for awhile and then they are gone.

So here’s my question(s):

  • I typically pack snacks/games/books/etc….. for the kids when they drive with their dad to grandma’s or go on short drives and I do this on all of our camping trips. I want to do the same as I usually do and don’t want the two other boys to feel left out so I’d like to add extra snacks for her son and his friend but I don’t want to offend their dad’s friend. What are your thoughts?
  • I asked my ex if I could meet her before they go and he said that’s not going to happen because of time constraints. I told him that I really wanted to meet her in front of the boys and even give her a hug so the boys could see that I was truly happy about the trip. I conveyed that I think this is especially important for our one son who is a “runner” when he gets angry and I fear he could “run” at the amusement park if he gets upset. He wanted a boys only weekend with dad.
  • One of the reasons I’d like to meet her is because I feel it will give me a sense of comfort. I know that may be selfish. I want this woman to know my kids. I want her to know that my one son is heat senstive…. he needs to drink water constantly when out in the sun or he can get sick. I want her to know the signs to look for. I want her to know that he needs to wear a hat when he is outside and that one needs to be kept in the car in case he forgets it in the hotel (which he typically does).  I want her to know that my other son will over indulge in junk food if given the chance but will be sick, sick, sick, if he does and that will prevent people from leaving the hotel. I want to ask her to apply and reapply sunscreen to the boys (I’ve asked their dad and he thinks sunscreen is a waste. My kids can come home toasty). I want her to know that if my son with eczema swims in the hotel pool and/or at the water park, he needs to take a shower shortly thereafter and apply his eczema cream or he will be in extreme pain. Etc…

I want her to know my sons so she can care for them. 

You may be thinking that is their dad’s job. And you would be right. However, in the past even when he’s known this he doesn’t do these things. He is not a details guy. I’m not angry at him over this. It’s a fact I know about him and I work with it.

As I’m writing this I feel like it comes across as I’m trying to control the situation and in some regards maybe I am. I recognize that I have no control over my boys for the next four days and as their mom it isn’t easy. I sincerely want them all to have a great time and I want my boys well cared for.

I also want this woman to like me. And I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable when I call the kids via their dad’s phone this weekend. The kids have told me that dad always picks up the phone when you call if he doesn’t have a friend over but if your number pops up and he has a friend over he won’t pick up and says stuff like “Oh, it’s your mother again.” That not only puts the kids in an awkward position who want to pick up and talk I believe it sends a message to the friend that I’m a “bother.” I call my ex’s number for two reasons: to talk to the kids and to communicate anything regarding the kids.

So what would you have the mom of your stepkids do in this situation? Think back to when you first met your stepkids…. if you were going on a big trip, how would you feel about the mom wanting to meet you and give you some insight on the kids? Would it be insulting, encouraging, etc….?  What advice would you give a mom who wants her ex’s girlfriend to be well prepared to help care for her kids?

Would love your feedback.  Thanks.

Write to me at heather@cafesmom.comto submit a stepmom dilemma to share.

Where’s Waldo? is a popular book series that gets the reader focused and excited to find the character in the red and white stripped shirt. I have had so much fun looking for Waldo with my kids and crossing my eyes a time or two as Waldo is immersed in so much detail that it makes it hard to spot this beloved character at first glance.  

It’s funny how life often imitates art (or the other way around… I never really know which way is first).

As you may have noticed I unplugged completely from my blog, writing and social media at the end of 2011. My apologies for the abruptness and non-notification. This unplugging wasn’t pre-planned. But it was necessary.

You see I had become like Waldo. So immersed in my blogging, tweeting, writing, radio talk show interviews, coaching, and volunteering that I allowed myself to slowly get lost in the busyness of life. I had plugged my time and talents into so many areas in addition to my family (church, school, writing, social media, etc…) that my priorities were all blending together and the ones that were truly at the top of my list weren’t standing out and weren’t getting the attention they needed.

The top priorities in my life (God, my husband and six kids) were often getting a tired, emotionally exhausted and often run down me. And that wasn’t the wife and mom and stepmom I had promised nor wanted to be. Just as an extension cord or power strip can short circuit if to much is plugged into it so can we as wives, moms and stepmoms when we put to much on our plate without the right balance to carry it all.

I was clueless that I had spread myself so thin because I run at full speed and give life all that I have. Having more to do just meant sleeping less – simple enough but lack of sleep takes its toll over time. I  have a heart to serve and don’t like saying no to anyone in need or any project that requires my help. I was always home with my family and was there to serve them but I had allowed myself to be pulled in so many directions that I wasn’t running at full capacity and was often distracted.  I had to pull back and refocus energies on my husband, my marriage and my six kids.

The bottom line is that I had over extended myself. 

In the past two months, I have become my best client. In plugging completely into my husband and my family and being plugged into God, I have seen tremendous positive changes in my marriage and in my kids. The mom/stepmom truly is the heart of her blended family and when mom/smom is peaceful and bearing the fruits of the Spirit; love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control … her home sings a sweet song. I see the benefits of my more balanced approach in our home. While I felt our family was doing great before, we have bonded and transformed to a whole new level since the first of the year.

My kids seem more peaceful. I feel like my husband and I have fallen in love all over again. I’ve had such peace in my heart and I have seen that peace transferred to the kids and to my husband. Now, this isn’t to say that we haven’t had our challenges. We have six kids between the ages of 13 and 8, two ex-spouses; a child with ADD and a list of activities the kids are involved in; of course we have our challenges. But a more balanced me has brought more balance to my marriage and to my family.

Instead of thinking about deadlines while eating dinner with my family, my thoughts have been focused on what each child accomplished that day and about how my husband and I will spend our quiet time after the kids are asleep. It has been amazing to give my husband all of my time after the kids go to bed instead of “just a few more minutes and I’ll be done in the office.” A few minutes often turned into an hour or two ….my husband is a very patient man and my appreciation for him has grown exponentially. I’ve had more time to just talk with the kids and with my husband. I’ve shared stories of what I struggled with as a young teen with both my daughter and stepdaughter and have drawn closer to each of them because of it. I have learned more about video games, Boy Scouts, and basketball in connecting with the boys and I’ve had time to sit and enjoy the many impromptu fashion and singing shows my youngest daughter and stepdaughter love to put on. And they only charge a cookie or two for admission.

I have learned so much in the past two months of complete focus on my husband and marriage and my family. I have also spent a great amount of time in prayer and in self-reflection and really looking inward. Often it is so easy to see what others around you are doing wrong but holding the mirror up and taking a long hard look at yourself and your contribution to situations is tough to do but essential in making progress. We are not our past but we are shaped by it and it was very helpful for me to dissect things that happened in my childhood and young adult hood and look at how they shaped me and my current thinking (more on this in future posts).

The reality is that the world is not going to fall apart because I don’t blog or tweet for two months or four months or a year but my family and my marriage can suffer if I don’t tend 100% to it daily.

I am beyond humbled that you missed me and I apologize for any worry or concern that any of you had. I never meant to cause anyone worry. I saw from tweets that many thought something had happened to me or my husband or kids and I do feel bad if I caused you any grief.

While I missed everyone, I know it was the right thing to do and now I look forward to sharing my learnings with all of you. I’ve built this blog around being transparent about the joys and sorrows of stepmotherhood and it’s my intention to continue sharing what I’ve (and my family has) experienced these past few months and how our family is growing stronger because of it.

You are going to start seeing me again but this time you will find a more balanced me and a me that will not be online as much as previously.  I have created a life balance plan for myself to help me balance my time and talents to serve God, my husband, my six kids and the stepmoms that I love. I do love my stepmom sisters and I know that together we are stronger, smarter and more supported.

 It’s good to be back! More balanced and ready to share!

What are your thoughts on unplugging from it all to focus on your family? Have you ever had a similar situation? Please share.


It may sound cliche but it’s true; we often have to take a step back to step forward. Unplugging from the distractions of life can help you become more plugged into your family.

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