Entries tagged with “smoms”.


Tuesday night I could have felt really sorry for myself. OK, correction; I did feel sorry for myself but I chose not to act on it.

I was a little blue but I knew I had a choice. And making the right choice while not always easy always brings a sense of peace and joy. You see Wednesday my son was having his tonsils removed and I wanted him to stay with me Tuesday night so I could keep an eye on him, make sure he didn’t eat or drink after midnight….. basically mother him to the ninths. But Tuesday is his dad’s night to have him and his siblings so I did the right thing….. didn’t fight it and sent him to dad’s house.

Earlier in the week, I had emailed my ex asking if our son could stay with me the night before surgery. At the time of the email, he was okay with it and said he’d like to bring him back to my house at bed time but he changed his mind and told me when he came to pick up the kids “I’ll just hang on to him tonight. I’ll meet you at the surgery center tomorrow.”While my heart did an ouchie, my head knew that the right thing to do was let the schedule be. And so I did.

Moms, Dad, Stepparents Give Good Care

I could have gone though that whole “but” thought process of “but I took him to the doctor for the consult. But I made all the arrangements for surgery. But I know what he has to do with pre-opp activity…” yet the common theme in all those thoughts always stops me: the word “I”.

Anytime, my discomfort is due to what I want and not what is best for the kids, I stop myself. Surely, my ex-husband is capable of caring for our son and going by the doctor’s guidelines. It would be selfish of me to operate on a different notion.

And those things I did for my son in preparation for the surgery, I did out of love not for a return on investment. I needed to respect the schedule and deal with my mom heart not having him Tuesday night. It was my issue not my ex-husband’s nor my son’s.

I was tweeting Tuesday night about it and was touched by how many wonderful women joined in on the conversation. I tweeted this: ….My check is to ask myself “why do I want to do this?” If it’s for me then I stop. Kids come first in co-parenting.

I’m often asked the key to working well with my ex. The answer is simple, I put the needs of my kids first.

Sadly, I think our society loves villianizing ex spouses and stepparents and they really love pitting them against one another. If all ex-spouses and stepparents were villians there wouldn’t be very many nice people walking this earth. Sure it’s true that my ex and I look at life somewhat differently and there are things he does I don’t understand and I’m sure he feels the same about me. However, I know kids need both of us. When I feel an instant tug of not liking something or wanting something different when it comes to co-parenting, I do the self-check and ask myself “why am I feeling this? Is it because I don’t like it or because it is truly not good for the kids?” I don’t quantify how often I have these feelings but I’m pretty sure when I have those heart tug mommy moments, it’s because of me and potential selfishness and not due to what is happening in the other home. Once I recongize it’s me… I know I have to do what’s right for the kids and let it go.

I challenge all co-parents to do the self-check whenever they start to feel a parenting tug that would pull the kids from the other parent or cause needless drama.

 Will you take the challenge? Will you share with others?

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Check out my book with Gayla Grace entitled Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace (available at all major ebook retailers). The book gives solid advice you can use at the holidays and everyday of the year.

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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.

from freedictionary.com

“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

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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….

 

Top 10 spaces to land on when playing Step MomOpoly

  1. Peaceful Island
  2. Shattered Dreams Shack
  3. Co-Parenting City
  4. Outta My Mind Motel
  5. Mind Games Mini-Storage
  6. Don’t Take It Personal All-Day Spa
  7. Self-Care Sanctuary
  8. Nurture Your Marriage Resort
  9. Compassionate Condominium
  10. Prayerful Palace

And instead of a “Get Out of Jail” card, Step MomOpoly would have a “Stay in Bed” card!

What spaces would you love to see if you were playing Step MomOpoly? Oh, wait! We travel the these spaces and more on a daily basis. They are the typical phases/emotions that we go through as stepmoms!

Please share your thoughts! And what do you think would make great playing pieces? Let’s get creative girls. This could be fun:)

xoxo Heather

Late last night I had a lightbulb moment. After rehashing the day in my head – it hit me. The reason she is ramping it up and saying all those things is because she thinks I don’t care. She is equating me not engaging her with me not caring. I think she would rather get into an argument every day then have me calmly dismiss her antics.

She thinks I don’t care. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In regards to the day, I woke up to the local news announcing school was cancelled. Two weeks ago, the idea of being snowed in with her would have had me a nervous wreck. I would have been wondering who am I going to get? The SD who says she loves me or the SD who believes my mission in life is to make her miserable.  But this morning was different thanks to my challenge. I was excited about a snow day. Baking cookies, staying in our jammies all day, watching an old movie.

Since the kids are at my mercy on snow days, I typically take the opportunity to introduce them to the “classics.” I choose to watch Singin’ in the Rain.  I just love the “gotta make them laugh” sequence and Debbie Reynolds jumping out of a cake is priceless.  Anyway, she wanted no part of such a boring movie so she went out to play in the snow. And it was great, I got to watch the movie with the kids in peace while keeping an eye on her through the window. She played outside with one of her siblings and they wore off a lot of energy. A win win for both of us.

Overall, the day proved to be more of the same. She purposely broke something of her sisters. Took every opportunity to pick a fight with me.  I stayed calm and strong. My husband is so thankful. He said “I love to see your smile. You wear your smile so well.” How can I argue with that. I have more peace, more energy at the end of the day and my husband is noticing a huge difference.

I don’t want her thinking that I don’t care. But I’m not going backwards. I’m not going to start engaging her. And I’m loving how I feel inside by not taking things as personally as I have.

Believe me. My feelings still get hurt. My brain still can’t figure out why she says what she says and why she does what she does. The key difference is that I am learning not to internalize everything. I’m learning that I will probably never understand her and that I am so thankful for the harmony and energy that I have at the end of the day.

My husband takes our daughter to the counselor tomorrow. It will be interesting what she says about the week.

I am certainly not where I want to be on this journey of not taking my SD’s attacks personally but I am moving in the right direction

Things haven’t changed. I’m still focused on not engaging my SD’s behavior.  She is still focused on drawing negative attention. I’m spending this time doing a lot of “soul searching”. I’ve been thinking about why does it hurt my feelings so badly?, why do I feel like I have to engage her when she is so combative and verbally abusive?

The answers are coming…. I guess the one thing that has been hard is I thought that if I didn’t engage and just let it go she would stop. But she keeps pushing the envelope. I know she is craving attention. She searches to fill a void in her heart and she is looking in every direction. That is scary to me for I fear what she may turn to as she gets older. But I know I can’t allow my thoughts to go there.

And to reference yesterday, I truly believe that the only one who can give her peace is her biological mother. My SD told me that the reason her mom can’t come and see her (remember it’s been over 4 years) is because she is going to Las Vegas. My SD said that’s what she told her the last time they talked. So of course, my SD asks me this question, “why can she go to Las Vegas but not come to see me?”  I just reply, “I don’t know the answer to that. I bet that has you really confused.”  “Yeah,” she says. 

On a funny note, I thought I’d share these two with you.  First, she comes up to me in the evening, very sweetly, and asks me if I am ever going to leave the family like her mom did.  I told her that I would never do that. She replies “Good.  Because having two moms is a lot of work for me and a third mom – well, I don’t think I could handle that.”  I’ll take it as a compliment.

Secondly, she was watching the Olympics with her dad and a commercial addressing urgent urination problems for males came on the TV. She turns to her dad and says, “Oh my gosh, I totally have that.”  You just have to laugh and shake your head.

… than to ask her a question I already knew the answer to. Haven’t I learned something over the past three days? Well, I was feeling good and I asked her something this morning and she looked into my eyes and lied. Lied to my face. I know I mentioned previously that manners are important to me.  I also don’t like to be lied to. And it was over something so little. In the past, this would have really hurt my feelings for many reasons. (It actually makes me feel sad for my SD that she can look at me and lie.) But as soon as she lied and I felt myself tense up, I realized that I was beginning to internalize it and I stopped. I said “I know what you just told me was a lie and I don’t appreciate being lied to” and I gently walked away not to say another word about it.

The kids left for school. My youngest and I were busy getting ready for my sons’ birthdays (they are twins but the only thing they really have in common is their date of birth. They are very different. Both have their own set of strengths. I am so grateful for their individuality). We had a good day. My one son went to a friend’s house to play after school and my youngest daughter had a neighbor friend over to play.  My SD asked if she could join in. This typically ends in disaster (you know three girls just don’t play well together as someone is usually left out).  I said sure. And sure enough, things started to go south about 1 hour into the play date. But I was grateful it took an hour, because typically the time span for lift off is about 20 minutes.

Sent my friend’s daughter home and tried to redirect my SD. But she was in a mood. You know what I mean. My SD regresses in behavior when she wants attention. It is as if she goes back to being 3, when her mom left. She rolls around on the floor, says things that don’t make sense, and pokes her siblings, all in the hopes of getting attention. Then she gets so upset when her siblings get upset with her. So I just made sure that everyone else’s time was occupied and I started cooking.  And I cranked up a mix CD that my husband recently made for me. It’s got some 80’s tunes. I skipped to The Warrior by Scandal and pushed the repeat button. Enough said.

Made homemade pizza and pepperoni rolls for dinner. Made a giant cookie for dessert in honor of my one son’s basketball tournament tomorrow. It was very yummy and I ate way too much of it. After my  kids went to their dads, I went in to the office and wrote. My oldest SD had a friend sleepover. My heart goes out to my oldest SD. She and I get along great and she is often overshadowed by the antics of her younger sister. She is always getting dragged to counseling appointments, school meetings, etc.. I wanted to do something nice for her. I know she is enjoying having a friend over.

Regarding my youngest SD, I know what I’m up against and I know what she is going through. Hurting people hurt others. My brain knows it’s not me personally but the message is still slow getting to my heart. My SD is hurting so badly inside. Out of the blue, she thanked me for not leaving her like her mom did. I assured her that I will never leave. It has never even entered my thoughts. I love my husband and my entire family and I know there are always bumps on the stepfamily road but I am here for the entire ride.I know in my heart that she loves me. But that her heart is aching from rejection. I assure her that her mom loves her and I truly believe that she does. I just don’t think her mom knows how to show it right now.

Thinking about her heartbreak and all the anxiety that it causes her helps me to understand why she behaves the way she does. It’s not personal. I’m learning my lesson.

Day 5… here we go

Okay, my SD is on to me. She knows something is different. She can’t get me upset and I think it’s upsetting to her. She began the morning with a bunch of “you have to…..” When she demands I do something for her instead of simply asking, I typically correct her and get a little tense.  My whole family knows I am big on manners. Pleases and thank yous are super important to me and I am committed to raising children who are polite and respectful. So you can imagine how my insides can flare up when my 8 year old SD demands things of me. Yeah!

This morning, I simply responded with a “we can look into that” and found something to occupy my time. Folding laundry never seemed so appealing.

Had a great afternoon. Met my husband for lunch. Got some writing done. Tweeted (that twitter is so addicting). The after school storm blew in.  I stayed the course. She does not know what to do with me now. I drove her to music lessons. No questions asked. (In the past, I’ve asked her to practice her piano each day per her teacher’s request. And I usually asked her on the way to lessons how many times during the week did she practice only to get upset when either she lies about it or says none.  I’ve gotten a little resentful that I have to drive her, as well as the other five in the car, to her ½ hour lesson once a week when she doesn’t even practice. But I’m learning to let go.) Now, I tell myself that I don’t care if she practices or not. I am taking her because I love her dad. Period.

My husband picked her up from lessons today on his way home from work. She started in on him. While we were getting ready for dinner, he would ask her to do something. She wouldn’t do it. When he asked her again, she gave him a snippy “I’m doing it!” Wink, wink: he’s big on manners just like me. My husband thanked me today for ignoring her behavior. It felt great to see that my changes are making him feel so great. That’s the best encouragement I could get to continue on my challenge.

When it was time for her to go to her counselor’s appointment, she wouldn’t put her coat on. She told her dad “you can drag me there but you can’t make me go in!” I stayed out of it. (In the past, I’ve been known to jump in on occasion because I don’t like her disrespecting her father.) Needless to say she went to her appointment.

I was shocked to see her so abrasive with her dad. Usually I am the one who gets it. Then I had a light bulb moment:

  • She’s not getting a reaction from me. She is craving a reaction so she’s going to redirect her behavior to another person in hopes of reaction. She is lashing out with her emotions. This helps me to believe what I’ve been telling myself for a while now but it wasn’t sinking in: it’s not personal. It’s not about you. She is angry as all hell and takes it out on you because you are the mom in the house and she’s angry at her bio mom.

While I do not like seeing her act so combative with her father, it helps me to understand that it’s not me personally when she gets so aggressive.

Okay, so my husband just got back from taking her to the counselor and put her to bed. He then shared a few things from the session. He had shared with the counselor what I was doing and how great I felt. She said to warn me that my SD will more than likely turn up the heat so to speak to gain my attention. She told me to buckle down.

She has the majority of her session alone with the counselor. My husband goes in for the last few minutes to catch up. He informed me that her behavior was very silly and attention seeking. He also told me something very interesting. For the first time, ever, she refused to talk about her biological mom with the counselor. Hmm?

Day 4, ready, set, go…..

Today was another good day. I am operating at a high level of consciousness in terms of being very aware of my response to activity around me.  I’ve been thinking about what is the most difficult time of the day for me with my SD. It’s definitely after school and dinner time.  I have 5 children getting off the bus at the same time every day and my oldest comes home one hour later. I refer to the arrival of 5 as the storm blowing in. I always savor the 30 minutes prior to the bus pulling up at the house because I never know “who” is going to walk in the door.  In the recent past, I have come to expect that the tired, angry, “you messed up my lunch again” SD is going to walk in the door that way I’m prepared for the worst. If I expect the worse, then  I can’t get hurt.

But yesterday and today, I told myself I am not going to have any expectations and if the poor verbal and physical behavior starts up I am going to ignore it and I did it today.  She was starting to do what I refer to as her “odd routine” to attract attention and I just found something to do in another room.

I think it is really bothering her that I’m not engaging because today she has ramped up the chaos among siblings. Picking fights with her brothers and sisters and then telling. Each time she comes to me I have calmly responded that she is going to have to work it out with the other person without even skipping a beat. It feels great.

I understand what Cathryn meant now when she said you can gain power by not engaging. I used to think I had to correct all the poor behavior and make her understand why it was inappropriate in order to help her. But I know she isn’t misbehaving because she doesn’t know better she is lashing out because of her feelings towards her BM (see Day 1 – a call from the absent one).

Dinner time was hard for me. She plays with her food, while looking my way to see if I notice, to see if I’ll say anything. Tonight, I stayed strong. No glancing over at her. No reaction. It was particularly difficult tonight because my husband was travelling. Combine her dad being out of town with a recent phone call from her bio mom and there’s usually trouble coming my way. She loves to test me and while I can live without it, I understand that testing comes with the territory. Tonight, I won!

Combative, anxious, moody was no match for me today. I never had to deal with defensiveness because I never engaged. I have definitely seen moments where a week ago I would have felt so hurt and angry but I chose not to internalize the toxins and that has made all the difference. It’s good to not house those emotions.

Day 3, I’m ready for you……

The new year is fast approaching. A time when we all reflect on the past year and usually dwell on the mistakes we’ve made or the tough times we’ve been through. 

This year, I want to extend a challenge to you to reflect on the past year and think about what you’ve learned that you can apply to your future. What new insights have you gained?  What do you want to continue doing?  What do you want to do differently?  If you think about things that have been frustrating, I want you to focus on the reason for the frustration and brainstorm solutions. 

We are all human and therefore we all make mistakes and we all get frustrated. Think of your mistakes and/or frustrations as an opportunity to learn and to grow as a woman and as a smom and mom.  Our blended family dynamic automatically adds challenges that other families don’t have. So don’t expect to sail through any year without a few tears and scars but use those tears and scars to build a better tomorrow.

Remember – you are the heart of your blended family. Your love and devotion is reflected in your husband and children.

 

Daily Cup Challenge – think back over 2009 and how you can use the year’s tougher times to have a great 2010!  You can do it!  I know you can.

“He who hunts for flowers will find flowers; and he who loves weeds will find weeds.”

-          Henry Ward Beecher

 

I want to cement this quote in my brain to remind me what path to take each time the opportunity arises for me to choose whether to hunt flowers or weeds.  So often as smoms, we are faced with this choice of hunting flowers or weeds.  We can focus on the things that are challenging in our blended family and that usually leads us to feeling frustrated, tired and hopeless. Or we can choose to focus on the things that are blossoming in our blended families and feel uplifted, encouraged and loved.

 

I know that I went through a season where I felt weighed down by all the things that were hard. And the more I allowed my mind to harbor those thoughts, the worse I began to feel. And as I always try to give my family a sweet disposition, I realized that fixating on those things that are challenging was not allowing me to have a sweet disposition.  I then began to let go of the little things that I was allowing to bother me and think only of the things that were positive; my marriage, how the kids were getting along (most of the time), my friends and family.  What I realized once I started to only think of lovely things was that the annoying things didn’t seem so annoying anymore.

 

This isn’t to say that I don’t get upset. I do. My feelings still get hurt and my heart still aches whenever my kids or my husband is hurt. But what I’ve learned is to allow my self to be upset, work through the issue and then let it go. Just as you would throw away weeds after they’ve been picked, I am learning to throw away my negative feelings and leave them in the trash can. It is a learning process to do this but one that has already yielded a beautiful garden of hope.

 

The daily cup challenge: choose to hunt flowers today!!!

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