Entries tagged with “advice”.


Back to School time means form time. You know those pieces of paper where parents and/or guardians are to be listed. Or not.

Nothing seems to bring more angst at the onset of school like those dreaded forms. Actually, it’s not the forms themselves but being left off of them that can fuel an emotional fire deep within a stepmom’s heart. stepmom, back to school

The first day of school each of my six kids brought home an inch of forms to be filled out; basic information sheet, emergency contact form, medical form, lunch and transportation forms, photo release form, code of conduct form, just to name a few.

I poured myself a cup of Joe and started to fill them out aiming to have them done when my husband got home to save him the agony.

Our school system is progressive and acknowledges the role parents and stepparents play in the lives of children. Having said that, I was surprised to find only three boxes to list the parents/ guardians on the general info sheet.

That works fine for our family as my ex-husband is not remarried. But what if he were?  Would I write her name on the back and draw an arrow to the front? Would her feelings be hurt if she were left off due to space? The questions could go on and on.

I tweeted early last week about the angst that these forms seem to have on co-parents and within minutes I had over five stepmoms tweet back about how their husbands were left off the form. One stepmom even said that not only was her husband left off the form but his children’s stepdad was listed as the bio dad.

Really???

When that happens you have to think about motive. And that’s why it’s best to go straight to the source if you are left off of a form – go to the school. Don’t engage the other parent. If you have legal rights to your child then the school legally has to make information available to you and include you in all communcations.

If the husband is left off the form, you can guarentee that the stepmom will not be listed. Sometimes as stepmoms we can feel like a used  text book. We are good enough to take care of our stepkids but not good enough to be included on the school forms or attend open house. It can really hurt.

These types of events are tangible reminders of our position in the family. Reminders of how little control we can have over situations regarding our stepkids. A reminder that we are expected to take care of our stepkids but that we shouldn’t expect any recognition for it. WE are good enough to buy the supplies, help our stepkids with school projects and study for tests but for some of us, we don’t count when pen meets paper. Ouch. That stings. But don’t despair. Regardless of what a piece of paper says… YOU are a very IMPORTANT person in the lives of your stepchildren.

Five Tips When You or Your Husband are Left Off the Form:

First, Don’t Take it Personally. You may not be on a piece of paper but that does not negate the role you play in the child’s life. Sometimes when a parent or stepparent is intentionally left off a form or out of a school function it has more to do with the insecurity of the other parent than it does with the parent not included.

Second, Go to the Source. Unless a court says you have no rights to a child, the school must under the law, give you access to the child’s information and list you on the forms. The tech age has made it easy for co-parents to stay in the loop. Most schools have the school calendar online and the teachers are easily accessible via the school website.

Third, Don’t Put the Kids in the Middle – When kids are put in the middle of any co-parenting issue there is a great chance for anxiety to set in for the child. When a child is anxious, he takes that into the classroom and it impacts his ability to learn and socialize. It also can impact the teacher, her ability to teach and the other classmates.

The children don’t make co-parenting choices and they shouldn’t have to pay the price when one parent makes a bad one. 

Fourth, Examine the Motivation. It seems like our culture loves to pit ex-wife against stepmom. Sometimes these two roles don’t get along but often times they do peacefully co-exist. If you and/or your husband has been left out, examine the motive. Could it be a mistake or oversight? Could it have something to do with the form itself? If you truly believe you and/or your husband was left off intetionally then my all means DO NOT ENGAGE THE OTHER HOUSEHOLD ON THIS MATTER.

If the true intent was to get you upset and you do get angry and call/email/text a nasty message then you have just given the other household what they want and you have validated their behavior. It’s natural to get upset but be cautious in letting them know how upset they have made you.

Every behavior has a motivation behind it. If your husband’s ex truly left your stepkid’s father off a form to spite him or you and you get all bent out of shape then you just satisfied her desire to hurt you. If you go directly to the school and don’t mutter a word to her, she may not feel that same motivation next year when the back to school forms start back up. She’s found out she can’t get to you that way. She also knows that she has no legal right to do what she did and that you and the school will right her wrong.

Fifth, Focus on What Really Matters. It is important that you know the teacher, the important phone numbers for the school (attendance, school nurse, principal,etc…), drop off and pick up procedures, alternative transporation rules, school hours, homework policy, etc…..

You can get all that information directly from the school office. Go there for the info if the other home isn’t working with you. Try your hardest not to get the kids involved.

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I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment if you and/or your husband has been left off a school form or not included in some type of school open house or activity. What’s your take on this situation? How has it impacted your husband? You? Your kids and stepkids? Thanks as always for sharing.

I am so excited to announce my newly created community for Smoms! My heart is to offer resources and to help encourage and support stepmoms. I truly love you ladies. And I am constantly working on ways to add to and improve my site.

I wrote this on the wall of a coffee shop in Switzerland

It’s my desire to create a positive place where stepmoms feel safe to cry, laugh, share and feel connected.

I feel like our society embraces stepkids and ex-wives who complain about the “evil” stepmom (thank you Walt… you had to have had serious mom issues growing up) yet a stepmom can feel so guilty and wrong when she is feeling frustrated in her role. The reality is that being a stepmom is both a blessing and a challenge. Our role takes on seasons and sometimes the challenging season lasts a really long time. Bottom line is we need each other.

My biggest piece of advice to new stepmoms has always been to connect with other stepmoms so they don’t walk the journey alone. Feeling isolated as a stepmom can wreck havoc on our emotions.

I started my own local support group here in Cleveland to connect with other stepmoms and it has been a lifesaver. Then as I was designing my site, I had the desire to build an online stepmom community so that no matter where you live that you can connect with others just like you. Because no matter where you came from, no matter where you live now, we are all on the stepfamily journey and we need each other.

So I encourage you to visit My “Where Stepmoms Connect” Community on TheBlogFrog.com http://theblogfrog.com/1371856

You can participate in the discussions that I started and/or you can start your own discussion and get advice/comments from other stepmoms. You can sign up to be notified when a new discussion is started and when someone responds to your discussion. It’s very interactive.

For instance, are you dreading this weekend because your stepkids are coming and their mom poisons them against you… then share your feelings and ask other stepmoms how they deal with it.

… or do you want to share a wonderful experience you had with your stepfamily and offer encouragement.

When you wake up at 3am and can’t sleep because you are churning with worry about something, you can share your feelings and get support from others just like you.

So go on… hop on over to My blog frog community and get connected.

Would love to hear what you think. Always accepting comments/tips to make it even better for YOU!

It started innocently enough. I tweeted about taking a day to myself last week and how I felt guilty doing so. My twitter friend @StepMoms_Rock put me in my place and told me to ban the guilt. She was so right. Why do I feel guilty taking time to take care of myself?

We both started thinking “why do we as stepmoms feel so guilty about everything?” Before we knew it, we had decided to do a #BanGuilt blitz. We are on a mission to get stepmoms to stop feeling unnecessary guilt.

Guilt is an important emotion but it is one that is used to keep us from committing moral and legal offenses.

Last time I checked, reading a book, working out, sleeping in, sending store bought cookies to school with your kids instead of baking homemade doesn’t qualify for a federal offense. Not loving your stepkids like your own kids doesn’t make you guilty of being a bad person either. Wanting time to yourself, feeling like no matter how hard you try that your husband’s ex-wife hates you, having your efforts to connect with your stepkids repeatedly rejected isn’t anything to feel guilty over and surely doesn’t make you a criminal.

Don’t allow guilt to control your life. If you feel you have truly done something wrong, make amends and be done!

Peggy Nolan, of thestepmomstoolbox, is such a wonderful proponent of self-care and a real inspiration to me. She has encouraged me to embrace the time I take to recharge. While I feel completely refreshed when I do partake in self-care activities, I still struggle with guilt.  I know part of it stems from being raised on a healthy diet of guilt. Buy why do I still allow myself to feel guilty when I know better?

Is it because between my husband and I we have six kids and its quite busy at our home? Is it because I think our house will fall apart if I’m not there to keep the walls standing up? I know I’m not a control freak although I will admit I have a very clear picture in my mind of right and wrong and don’t like to veer off course.

My parents taught me to put the needs of others ahead of myself. It is noble and I am thankful for the lessons learned and the mercy that I have for others.

I need to remember that I can put others first but not at the expense of myself!

One important reason to keep guilt in check is to model for our children, and especially for our daughters, the type of life we want them to lead. I do want them to make the right choices in life but I don’t want it to be out of guilt. Taking time to take care of myself sets a great example for them as they grow into young adults.

Please join me and Laura from Step Moms Rock to #Ban Guilt.

I make this pledge: next time guilt comes a knocking, I’m gonna try my best not to answer  the door.

Please share the one thing you are going to stop feeling guilty about! Thanks.

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!!!

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