Entries tagged with “stepchildren”.


The love that Tiffany has for her husband, two stepsons and son will melt your heart. She beautifully articulates the love that a stepmother brings to her home and into the hearts of her stepchildren. She has lovingly filled a void in their lives. Read her beautiful story:

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When becoming a stepmom we volunteer to take the responsibility to be a mother of someone. The role of motherhood alone is a very rewarding yet scary task to take on. Then you add ‘step’ in front of that. Stepmothers exercise the act of giving beautifully. We give out of our hearts. Like most biological mothers, we give with the same motivations considering the children’s best interest.

For me, I took on the full-time stepmother role when my two stepsons were almost 2 and 4 years old. Their dad did an amazing job raising them as a single parent from when his youngest son was just 5 months old. The boys were so kind hearted and so well behaved for what they had been through at such a young age. 

My stepson’s biological mother choose a path in life that led her far away from her young innocent children. When meeting my stepsons they latched on and quickly created a motherly bond with me. They didn’t truly understand at that age what the word ‘Mom’ meant due to her absence. To show them unconditional love has been a gift. It has not been easy dealing with the hurt she has caused and continues to cause but it’s all worth putting up with for my stepchildren. Their biological mother is in their life limited to what the court allows.

My main goal in becoming a stepmom was not to replace their biological mother but to give the innocent children a stable family environment and deep motherly love. I feel that’s mainly what children need. They need to feel important, wanted and loved. I was given the blessings of potty training the youngest, bottle breaking, going thru teething, enrolling in preK, kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, taking them to school and all doctor visits, etc. The list can go on and on.

The love and trust I receive in return from them is the most rewarding feeling. My stepchildren know they can always count on me. I have had them full-time for years other than her visitation of three weekends a month. They can see I choose to be there for them out of care and not just there because it’s on a court order. Each Mother’s Day I have received the same amount of sincere attention from them.

To add to our happiness, my husband and I gave my stepsons a little brother in March 2010. My stepsons adore their little brother and call him ‘their baby’. Having him has added strength to our blended family environment. I feel honored to be raising three sons. Regardless if ‘step’ or ‘biological’ I have the same amount of love for each son. I hope everyone can have respect for all that has a motherly role because it is not easy work. Like the saying goes ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ I couldn’t agree more.

We all need to lean on one another! To all the stepmothers out there, your hard work does not go unnoticed! Every day is Mother’s/Smother’s Day!

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My name is Tiffany Helkenberg and I live in Southern California. I’m a wife to a loving and hard working husband. Helping others and being a caregiver is my passion. I spent years working in the medical field prior to becoming a stay at home mother. I spend all my time devoted to raising my step sons Mason age 7, Konner age 5 and my biological son Logan age 2. You can connect with me via Twitter at @Smom4Life

Day 7: Life in the StepMom Trenches

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone

This is so true and when you make the decision to become a stepmother, you also decide to let your heart be impacted by children that you may not have birthed but whom you have chosen to love.

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“Really? Is this how today is going to get started,” I thought as I spoke with my ex-husband and he informed me that he thought our DD12’s rabbit was dying. I couldn’t imagine how I would ever break the news to my daughter. She would be crushed.

This on the heals of our son being in the ER only hours earlier. My daughter had just left for her swim meet when I got the call from her dad.

A bit of history here: when my ex and I divorced when my DD was five years old I told her that when she was ten I would buy her a bunny. I had no intention of dating let a lone getting remarried and I thought by ten she would be mature enough to take care of a rabbit. We had gone to the pet store when she was five and quickly realized that a sweet looking and fluffy bunny in a home with a five year old, three year old twin boys and a baby would not work out so well for the bunny.

As life would have it my two stepdaughters and their grandmother are allergic to rabbits which means I couldn’t fulfill my promise to my daughter when she turned ten. That did not go over well and she would periodically launch into the “its not fair…..” and “you promised…” explanations. She was right on both counts.

So for her twelfth birthday I brought the topic up with both my husband and with my ex-husband. I explained the situation and how she would love having a bunny and so we agreed together to get her a bunny for her birthday and that it would live at her dad’s house. My ex agreed that he would care for the rabbit when she wasn’t with him and because we live so close she could come over when she wanted to care for and visit her bunny.

And so Carter was added to our big blended and extended family. She loves that rabbit. She cared for him every day. She loved playing with him and feeding him and even changing his cage.

So when my ex called to tell me the rabbit wasn’t right this AM I knew I had to get him to a clinic. I found a 24/7 vet clinic that took rabbits. That’s not easy to do on a Sunday. I had packed up the kids: my three would be going to dad’s house and I made arrangements for my two stepdaughters. I couldn’t take my stepdaughters because of their allergies but also because they are highly sensitive to death. It would not have been a wise choice to expose them to that.

Just as I was getting ready to drive over to get the rabbit, my daughter’s dad called and told me he had passed. I broke down crying and drove over to see Carter. My ex lives down the street so it was a short trip. When I got there, I could tell by looking at Carter that he was gone. I held the rabbit and prayed over him and cried and cried. My heart was broken for my daughter.

I was crying at the passing of this rabbit but I was really crying for my daughter. I knew we would have to tell her and my heart was breaking for her. What a weekend for her, I thought. “she goes from a great two day swim meet to finding out her beloved pet has passed.”

Because my trip to the vet was cancelled, I told the kids what had happened. All five of the kids expressed sadness for their sibling and her bunny. They all promised to give her space and grace when she got home and not to ask her questions. When it comes to our stepfamily, us parents may often have issues with the kids but the siblings treat each other as siblings (no step involved) and for that I am thankful.

I thanked all the kids for being so kind and showing such compassion for their sister and her pet.

My ex wanted to tell her together and so we agreed that we would do so. When she got back the two of us talked with her. It broke my heart to see her cry and visibly shake. She kept thanking us for trying to save him. I was thankful that my ex was home to find the rabbit. I do believe that God weaves our days together and my ex was home because of our son who was sick yesterday but is now fine and the fact that he was home we were able to deal with the rabbit in a more positive way and to tell her that Carter was amongst family when he passed – a comforting thought for a sad little girl.

I love my daughter and I loved her rabbit. My heart is heavy for her tonight and hopeful for healing for her too. Carter was a blessing. It was hard for her to fall asleep tonight. I grieved with her. We shared tears and stories of that beloved bunny.

While today my heart is with my daughter, it is times like this that I recall how my heart was heavy for my stepdaughters when their crabs passed away and when we had to say goodbye to their fish. I helped my youngest stepdaughter make a grave marker out of popsicle sticks for her beloved crab. Recently, my oldest stepdaughter had to say goodbye to Freestyle, a fish she had received as a birthday party favor (brilliant favor idea!).

Lesson from the stepmom trenches: regardless of which child is hurting (bio or step) your heart aches for them. My daughter loved her rabbit dearly and Carter lived at dad’s because of my stepdaughters’ and my mother-in-law’s allergies and that is OK. Where the rabbit lived did not impact the length of his life and we all know that. Yet it is important to note that rearranging schedules are a part of managing a stepfamily. Life gets complicated and being flexible is key. When life is hard for our kids and our stepkids, life is hard for us. By being flexible ourselves we model the importance and possibility of being adaptable. I’m thinking after a series of stress filled days that boring is on the menu. Boring is so underrated.

Challenge: grieve with your child and/or stepchild when they are sad. Recognize the pain they are in and allow them to be sad with you. And always keep hope alive. Days will get tough but you are tougher.

I’ve been slacking a bit in the blogging department. And for that I apologize. But if you think I’ve been lax in the blog department, you should see my house. But I won’t bore you with descriptions of the heaping piles of laundry, the to-do lists that get more items added to them then get crossed off and the never ending search for all the missing goggles and beach towels. I swear they are in cahoots with the socks. Where do all these things go????

Attack of the Bunny Ears! Good times. Good times.

I think I have a good reason. Actually, I have six good reasons and each one has a special place in my heart. Talking about those six kids who I have home with me everyday now that school is out. To say my schedule has changed would be an understatement.

If you are like me, you love summer yet the change in the kids’ schedule changes everything. Maybe you have your stepkids all summer while they are away at mom’s during the school year. Or perhaps its the reverse and you have to say goodbye to the kids as they spend the summer with mom.  Some stepmoms, who don’t work outside the home, have their kids and stepkids during the day while their husband and his ex go to work all summer long.

Summer brings changes and we must bring the flexibility.

So far this summer we have gone on a week long camping trip (more to follow), made it to swim team practice every morning, Monday thru Friday (and yes I am thankful it is something all six of my kids do together), my son managed to break his glasses (again), we rescued a stray dog and found out he “loathed” our dog and therefore had to find him a new home, and we finished a home remodeling project to name a few. Oh and did I mention my husband went to Europe for a week for work?

I hope summer is treating you well and while I know it can be busy, I hope you are taking time to appreciate this season and cherish the sweet moments that do occur even amidst the crazy schedules.

While summer can be a hectic time in our home, I try and cherish the little moments. Focusing on the little things that make summer sweet helps me move past the things that make it hard. I try and make a point to enjoy those little joys of summer with the kids. These are the things I love most about summer….

  • sitting outside with my husband at the end of the day and talking over a fire
  • watching my kids explore their imagination with sidewalk chalk

    Chalk Art!

  • all the fossils my kids find while camping and how they regard them as extreme treasures
  • playing frisbee and badminton with the kids
  • cooking on the grill
  • swimming
  • taking the kids strawberry picking and making jam with my grandma’s recipe
  • roasting marshmallows and making smores
  • sleeping with the windows open
  • enjoying a cup of coffee outside before anyone else in the house wakes up
  • catching lightening bugs with the kids
  • laying on a blanket with my youngest and naming each cloud
  • making sun tea
  • going to the drive-in with the kids
  • blowing bubbles
  • wearing my flipflops and sunglasses everywhere I go
  • and I love getting my yearly corn dog and elephant ear at the local fair

Remember to breathe. A simple reminder but you get the picture. Life will always be demanding. There are always deadlines and people pulling you in a hundred directions. Take time to take care of yourself and also take time to think about what you loved as a kid during the summer. Think about what you love about summer as an adult. Think about what your stepkids and kids love about summer.

Life is a balance. There is good and there is not so good. Personally, I hope that I live to be old and gray and when I reflect back on my summers, I want to recall those precious moments and smile! Those good memories will overshadow those tough times that I had.

Soak in the summer and the memories it offers.

What do you love about summer? What are some things that help you connect with your kids and stepkids during these few months? Please share.

and I do have something fun and exciting coming your way in the next few days….. Stay tuned!

This is the second post in The Gift of StepMom Collection that I am presenting these weeks leading up to Mother’s Day. Stepmoms are the heart of their blended family and it’s important that we celebrate our role and the gifts we bring to our families. I am honored and thrilled to share this heartfelt piece by Judith Love Fout. I am blessed to have connected with Judith. She has been a stepmom since 1997 and her heart for her family shines through. I love how Judith views the gift of her stepdaughters’ love for her. Please enjoy.

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When I met my future stepchildren in May, 1996, they were 11 months, 3 years, and 6 years old. Four months later in September, their mother wasn’t able to continue to care for the children and their father was awarded full custody. It would be several months before they would see their mother again. In April of 1997, their father and I were married and along with Seth, my 2 year old son from a previous marriage, we became a blended family. In November, 2001, we completed our family when we welcomed another daughter, Jada Love. As with any blended family consisting of step-parents, step-siblings, and half-siblings, we had many challenges to overcome. It hasn’t always been easy. But, with God as the foundation of our home, a great deal of patience and understanding and most of all, a huge size portion of love, we continue to overcome those challenges together.

Many have often told me through the years that I was an angel, or a gift, sent to these girls and that they are very blessed to have me in their lives. I was a 25 year old single mom of a son and was taking on the task of marrying a man who had full custody of three young daughters. I didn’t see it that way.

The way I see it, I was given a wonderful blessing from God to be a part of the lives of three amazing girls. These girls gave me the most beautiful gift I could receive from them – their love. It didn’t necessarily begin that way but after some time, their love towards me slowly began to develop into something beautiful and in my opinion, very rare in cases of stepfamilies. Because there were many years that they would only see their mother one or two times, they depended on me for everything that a biological mother would provide to her biological children. Out of respect for their mother, I refer to them as my stepchildren but in my heart, they are daughters to me.

We have had many issues that we had to work through but we taught our children at an early age to be honest with us about their feelings. To talk things out instead of keeping things bottled up inside. Of course, when they were younger, we dealt with things in a little bit different way according to their ages but always in love. As they grew older, and we grew closer, I became even more thankful for their love for me. I do my very best as a mother to teach our children about right and wrong, to guide them to make proper decisions, to encourage them to give their best at whatever they attempt to do, to be honest and trustworthy at all times and most importantly, to love God and serve Him with all their hearts. I’m sure they have learned a lot about life, education and relationships from what their father and I have tried to teach them. But I have also learned a great deal from them.

I have learned that unconditional love is just that – unconditional. Forgiveness is a necessary part of life – carrying pain with you only increases hate and bitterness in your heart. Perseverance – no matter what the circumstance in your life, never giving up is of the utmost importance. Acceptance – accept things or people for what they are. Trying to change someone who doesn’t want to be changed or change a situation that can’t be changed will only cause heartache. Smile – when all else fails, give yourself or someone else a smile.

For all these reasons, plus many more, I am very thankful to God for blessing me with a loving husband and five wonderful children. I am thankful to my husband for loving me and believing in me as a mother and stepmother to our children. I am thankful to their biological mother – although our relationship has not always been a great one – for allowing me to be a part of their lives and being a mother to them. And, I am thankful for my stepdaughters and the most beautiful gift of their love.

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Judith and her husband have been married since April, 1997. She is the mother of a 16 year old son from a previous marriage, a 9-year old daughter, and three step-daughters, ages 21, 18 and 15.  Judith and her family love the beach, playing games, and one of her favorite things to do is watch their children and support them in their various sporting activities. Their kids are involved in soccer, basketball, football, baseball, and tumbling. The children are also very involved in church activities and have performed at several local churches as well as Fine Arts festivals in Denver, CO and Orlando, FL. Judith and her family live in West Virginia with their three dogs and two cats. You can follow Judith at @JuJuLove71 on Twitter

This is the third installment of my conversation with Brigette Lemos-Norman of In The Blender. Our conversation stems from the one we had on  The Stepmom Connection which aired live on March 16, 2011.

The third taboo topic: Do I have to be friends with my stepchildren’s mother?

This question stirred a lot of comments in the chat room during the show. As with every stepmom issue, this one has many, many layers. Some stepmoms want to be friends with the mother of their stepkids but the mom says NO! While others seek to get along for the sake of the kids but have no desire to “be friends.”

Why is this topic taboo? Why do stepmoms feel guilty if they don’t want to be friends with the mother of their stepkids? Is it because, as women and mothers, we are supposed to like everyone and be nice to everyone. We are raised to nurture and care. The fact that we may not want to be friends with our stepchildren’s mother does not make us wicked and evil.

Being friends can often mean walking a very fine line for many stepmoms.

Having said that, I believe it’s every mom – stepmom duo’s decision how they want to craft their relationship. I do believe that it is in the child’s best interest that both women are cordial to each other and never speak negatively about each other in front of the kids. However, how friendly you want to be is up to each mother/stepmother team.

The truth is both women do have one thing in common: the kids. Leaving egos at the door is a healthy practice in putting the emotional needs of the children first.

And whether it’s right or wrong, typically the mom sets the tone for the relationship. If mom wants to be friends with her children’s stepmom then it can become a reality. If mom chooses not to accept their children’s stepmom then patience and grace will have to be a stepmom’s friend until mom changes her mind.

One stepmom, during the show, shared that she and the mother of her stepkids don’t like each other. She said that they keep their “dislike” between the two of them and don’t believe the kids sense it. If you can maintain an amicable relationship in the children’s presence and never speak ill of each other in front of the kids that is a blessing.

Personally, I can’t be friends with my stepdaughter’s mother.

It’s not because I don’t want to be but given the fact that we’ve never met and she lives multiple states away, the opportunity for a friendship is nil at this point. Actually, deep down I wish we had an amicable relationship but the reality of being a custodial stepmom is that mom is out of the picture and therefore no chance of becoming chummy.

The way custodial stepmoms can be “friends” with their stepkids’ mother is to never talk ill of her in front of the kids. My youngest stepdaughter asks me frequently, “do you think my mom still loves me?” First time that question was asked, I was nearly speechless. I answer that question the same every time. I tell her that I believe every mother loves her children. She always follows up with “then why did she leave and why did she have more babies that she is keeping this time?” I just give her a hug and tell her that I think her mom shows love in a different way than how my husband and I show her love but that I believe with my mother’s heart that her mom loves her. I also tell her that I am not her mother and therefore I am not going to guess what her mom is thinking or why she did what she did. I definitely don’t want to put words in another woman’s mouth, especially when it’s their mother.

In that way, I try to ease my stepdaughter’s anxieties and build a bridge with her mother. Because someday we may meet. Someday we may co-parent and if that day ever comes I don’t want there to be any ill will. I want my stepdaughters to feel comfortable in a situation where we would both be parenting them.

Like all things stepfamily related, there is no right and wrong way.

There is only what works for your family.

Some stepmoms I talk with are “Facebook Friends” with the mom of their stepkids and consider that a good first step. Other stepmoms I talk with, while friendly with the mom of their stepkids, don’t want their “two worlds to collide” by way of social media. They want to be friendly at events, on email, over the phone, etc…. But when it comes to Facebook, Twitter, etc…they want to maintain their own space.

Regardless of how you wish to define your relationship with the mother of your stepchildren, I would recommend the book No One’s the Bitch by the mom – stepmom duo of Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine. You may agree or disagree with the book but one thing is for sure, this book will get you thinking and talking about the mom/stepmom relationship. And the ten step plan for cultivating a mother and stepmother relationship may just be what you are looking for.

So what works for you? Are you friends with the mother of your stepkids? Do you think you have to be? What are your thoughts about being “Facebook Friends”? Comments and encouragement are always welcome. Thanks for sharing.

Groundhog Day! Okay, I know it’s not a real holiday but I have always loved it. Mostly because it is my grandfather’s birthday. And also because even as a young child I loved the suspense of wondering if there would be six more weeks of winter.

And yes, I was one of those strange children who secretly loved six more weeks of winter. Making snow angels, drinking hot cocoa, the possibility of snow days were all things I embraced. But I also knew that even if winter was brutal, I could take anything when I knew there was a finite end to it. Winter will end. Spring, then summer will come. This is an absolute truth.

With stepfamily life, an end to some of the frustration and challenges we face isn’t so evident. Some days it feels that things will never get better. We can feel this way because the reality of being a stepmom is that so many things are simply out of our control. Just like the character Phil, played by Bill Murray, in this clip from the movie Groundhog Day, we can become jaded with the circumstances around us. If we are not careful, we can come to believe the lie that things will never get better.

But just like Phil learns some things about himself and about life through the course of the movie, we can too. Once he accepts that he is “stuck” in Groundhog Day, he starts to work on himself. He realizes that smashing the alarm clock every morning and being rude and grumpy isn’t going to change that fact that it is continually February 2nd every morning he wakes us.

So he starts to work on himself. He loosens up and gains a great sense of humor. He looses his fear of sharing how he feels with this woman he is falling for. He works on himself and how he deals with the situation of the day that never changes.

That is a wonderful lesson for stepmoms. The reality is we often can’t change our stepchildren and turn them into the people we want them to be. Nor can we control what the ex says about us.

But we can work on how it affects us. I know I may sound like a broken record but I want you to know that You define You. If you are struggling in a particular area of your stepfamily life, take a step back. Look at what you are currently doing and decide whether or not it is working for you. Then make necessary changes if need be.

Even if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow and we have six more weeks of winter, we will survive. We will perservere and press on. And even if you feel as if you see your shadow every day, and the promise of a bleak winter looms over you, please do not give up hope. Time is on your side and remember the sun will shine again. It always does.

Closed For Business…. this is one of the mantras I want you to stick in your head and say to yourself the next time your partner’s ex or your stepkids (or anyone else for that matter) starts the crazy talk with and/or about you.

Something we all know but forget in the heat of the moment….You Can’t Fight Crazy!

Don’t even try. You’ll end up feeling emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausted because your words of reason are bound to fall on deaf ears when someone is hell bent on making you miserable.

In fact, I want you to get out two sticky notes right now and write down:

Closed For Business

and

You Can’t Fight Crazy

and put them where you will see them as a reminder to ignore any crazy talk that is sent your way.

You need your emotional energy. Those calls/texts/in-person rants at pick up time suck your energy levels dry. Don’t give anyone your permission to zap your emotional, physical, spiritual energy with negativity.

You can stand strong in the midst of a “hate” storm and the best way to do it is put up the umbrella of no entrance and let the toxic cocktail slide down your back without ever feeling or tasting a drop.

If your stepchildren’s mother is sending you infuriating text messages….block her.

If she is calling and leaving rude messages…..block her from your cell/don’t listen to the messages on your home phone.

When you cannot get along with the mother of your stepchildren limit or end any interaction. Allow your husband (who loves YOU) to deal with any issues relating to the kids.

But don’t just stop there.  Don’t ask him what was said after he speaks with his ex. If the schedule impacts you, then you should know about the schedule changes and only the schedule changes. If it doesn’t, then you are emotionally better off not knowing details of the conversation.

Let’s face it. If you and/or your husband have a tumultuous relationship with your stepchildren’s mother then the less you know, the better. You’ll never be pleased. You’ll get angry at the “fakeness” if she’s “all nice” to your husband on the phone or you’ll get frustrated and angry if she is trying to manipulate your man and/or the situation.

This same philosophy holds true for your stepchildren and actually for any relationship in your life.

If someone is bent on being a certain way or thinking things you know aren’t true then don’t listen. Remember, you can’t fight crazy! but you can go crazy trying!

One of my fav quotes is “he who angers you, controls you!”  Do you really want to give someone that type of control over your thoughts, your day?  Because that is what we do when we respond to ridiculous comments aimed to hurt us.

I can’t say this often enough…You define You! Don’t let any toxic words tell you who you are.

And don’t spend precious mental energy trying to figure out the Why’s behind it all. You don’t think like they do and you aren’t in their shoes so you’ll never be able to reason the Why’s.

It’s hard not to respond BUT it is possible. One of the best ways to do it is to not listen or engage! You need to close down for business so to speak. You will reopen when an amicable relationship is possible. Not until then.

I know this post is a little in your face. But I’ve felt the pain in many Smom’s calls for help lately. Holidays can be hard for many and often it’s as if the stepmom has a bullseye on her back and she is the target for a lot of pain that others are feeling.

Stay strong my friends. Press on. Close for business when needed.

This week has been crazy busy. But as my husband would say “Heather, what week isn’t crazy busy?”  But this past week was even more so than usual. Busy weeks can be good and bad. Busy keeps us moving physically so not much time to lament over doors slammed in my face or rude words spoken to me. Busy also means feeling a little tense and rushed because I’ve got to do 20 things in 10 hours or be 3 places at the same time. Yikes!

This week, I had quite a few opportunities to explode. But I made the choice not to. It was a hard choice. I woke up many mornings with my mouth aching because I had slept with my jaw clenched (I do that when I’m stressed). I ate way too much chocolate as I paid a visit to “Dr. Hershey” during my time of stress (did I mention I’m a true fan of Lindt truffles but all I had in the house was a bag of dark Hershey kisses).

I’ll share my biggest struggle this past week. It was when I got lectured by my stepdaughter. You see all last week when I would try and talk with her calmly about her behavior, she would respond with “that won’t be necessary for you to know why I did that” or “it’s not necessary for me to give you a reason”  (sarcastically said I might add). She kept telling me that her school counselor told her she does not have to give a reason for her behavior. I would respond to my SD that those words of advice might hold true for a peer but not for a parent.  My SD was persistent and even used the “scapegoat” phrase on her dad. She refused to give us reasons for poor choices.

Knowing that she does work with the school counselor on tips/tricks for social skills with peers I believed that she had been taught to respond that way. I decided to contact her counselor. I emailed the counselor and first thanked her for working with our daughter. I then explained what was going on and kindly asked her if she would explain to my SD that those phrases/skills are to be used on peers only and not on parents and adults in charge.

I got a quick response back stating that she never taught my SD that she doesn’t need to give a reason. She was very disappointed in my SD and said she was going to pull her out of class today and give her a lesson on honesty. Great I thought. Until my SD walked in the door.

She came home screaming at me, “How dare you talk to Ms. _________!”  “I never said those things to you. Why did you make all that up? I told her I never said that to you or my dad. I had to sit there while she talked about lying. You ruined my whole day. How could you!!!”

I took a deep breath and responded “I know what you’ve been saying and you know the truth.”

“I never said those things to you. You are lying!” she said back to me.

At that point, I could feel my blood rising from my feet and shooting up through my neck. I was faced with a choice. A choice to fight back knowing I was right or a choice to not engage further. To know that I am right and that I don’t need to convince her of that.

I chose to look at her square in the face and say “you know what you said and so do I. There are consequences for making stuff up.” And I walked away. She was shouting at me but I kept walking and went into the office and put on some music.

The choice was actually easier than I thought because when she was so defiant and so determined that she never said that stuff to me I knew she either wasn’t thinking clearly or had convinced herself it wasn’t true and one thing I’ve learned through this is YOU CAN’T FIGHT CRAZY.

If I had engaged her and that conversation, I would have ended up blowing myself up emotionally. Been in a bad mood all day and she would have picked herself up and been playing Barbies in 10 minutes.

I made a choice for me. I made a choice for my husband, our marriage and our family. A choice to not engage and have peace in my heart and in my home.

This conversation isn’t over. I’m going to contact the counselor again today to see if she can email me the lessons she shares with my SD in the future. This way I can post them on our info board in the laundry room and then there is no question as to what she is or isn’t learning. I’m in the know and so is my SD.

I am so thankful for taking this challenge because I know if I wasn’t so aware of her and her pain and of so many other things I would have made a different choice and I would be writing this in a bad mood.

I can’t believe its day 21. The end of my challenge. The celebration is earned yet short-lived because I know the truth; while this may be the end of my challenge it is really only the beginning.

Of everything I learned over the past 21 days, this is probably one of the biggest lessons: every day I will be faced with a choice to either take things personally or not to. I do have a choice. And each of the two choices carries with it distinct consequences for me and for those around me.

I believe in my heart that the majority of days, I will not take things personally. I’ve learned a lot over the past three weeks and I’ve gained a lot that I don’t want to lose.

But I also realize that it would be absurd for me to think I have totally broken the “habit” of taking things personally when my stepdaughter lashes out at me. That’s impossible. I’m human. I have a heart. I try hard and therefore I know I will have my feelings hurt in the future. The key question is really “what will I do with my hurt feelings?”

Three weeks ago when I was listening to Cathryn Bond-Doyle on The Stepmom’s Toolbox Radio Show, I had the idea to challenge myself because I recognized I was internalizing nearly everything my SD said and did to me and it was dragging me down. I know myself and I know that if I commit to something, I honor my commitment. I knew I would see this thru and that it would have big gains not only for me but also for my husband, our marriage, my SD and our whole family.

Living out loud in my blog, helped me to really hold myself accountable to ME.  Having said all that, I am deciding to extend my challenge to the full 40 days that Peggy Nolan of The Stepmoms Toolbox posted (thanks Peggy for the extra 19). Seriously, I know this is a challenge that I will, in general, face every day and I want to continue on this structured challenge to make it to 40 days.

I’m not going to blog daily like I have for the first 21 days but I will write about it and I will definately tweet when a potential struggle comes up with my SD. Peggy asked me to guest blog on her site at day 30 and I am honored to do so. I am so looking forward to sharing all that I have learned.

I’m also working on a PDF that will be available free for download that will include all my mistakes/success/lessons learned.

It is my sincere hope that those who have been reading my 21 day challenge will benefit from my mistakes and my successes. If you are just joining me, I would love for you to go back and read all the days. Pour yourself a cup of joe, kick up your feet, and laugh and cry with me on my journey.

All in all, we as stepmoms know we are putting ourselves out there each and every day just by being stepmoms. We are putting our hearts on the line. Remember this, we are bound to have our feelings hurt but we do not have to allow our spirit to be broken.

Stepmoms, You Rock!

Yes, I know. I misspelled weekend. I did it on purpose. I was weak this weekend.

Overall, I did okay on my challenge. What made it easy for me to do well is what also made it difficult. Confusing, I know but isn’t most of stepfamily life?  Allow me to explain.

It was easy this weekend to do my own thing and not be subjected to any verbal attacks because my mother-in-law was in town for my SD’s birthday. My SD was so excited to have her grandma here that the house could have been burning down and she wouldn’t have noticed. So I was but a spec on the wall with her grandma in the house. A happy spec on the wall I might add.

But because her grandma was here my SD didn’t think she was subject to the weekend house chores we have. So when her dad kindly asked her to do something and I heard her back talk to him, my fire was lit. Hot.

See, that’s a trigger for me. When she talks back to her dad, it makes me very upset. Now, my husband handles himself well and he doesn’t need me to come to his rescue but the mere fact that she can look him in the eye (hands on hip) and say an emphatic NO! can boil my blood. I know everything her father went through for her and how much he loves her. It actually bothers me more when she disrespects him then when she does the same to me.

This happened a few times and each time (until the last) I sucked it up and swallowed my words. I was, in fact on my last days of the challenge, but the last time she did it pushed me. I didn’t butt in on the exchange, I let him handle it. But a little later in the day when she was sitting at the kitchen table doing homework and gave me a bunch of crap about what she was (and wasn’t) supposed to do for work, I gave her a little piece of my mind.

That “trying to get out of responsibility” mentality she has is not a fan favorite of mine. I didn’t yell or get visibly upset but I definitely engaged her. This developed into a small argument because she’s not backing down and I’m not going to back down. Finally, I said to her “I’m going to leave the room now because I’m not going to allow you to talk to me this way. When you want to have a civil conversation please come and find me. Thanks.” And I walked out of the room. She never came and found me but the next time we were in the same room, life was good.

I should have known better then to engage her. But instead of beating myself up for being weak and not staying strong, I am going to chalk this up as a learning experience. One in which I can clearly identify that her back talk to her father is a real trigger for me.

No letting this one day ruin what has been an enlightening and prosperous journey for me. It would be absurd for me to think that my SD and I will never get into another disagreement or that I’m a bad stepmom if we exchange “unpleasantries” from time to time.

I’m being realistic and I’m going back to what I told her a few days ago (Day 17): “That’s what makes a family strong and great. We can get in fights but we always forgive and we always love. You can’t expect to live with someone every day and always get along.” 

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