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Sun 27 Nov 2011
Day 27: 30 Days in the StepMom Trenches
“Because I said so!”
“The best gift you can give me on my Birthday is to get along with each other!”
Two phrases my mother used with my brothers and I when we were growing up. Two phrases I didn’t like hearing as a kid. Two phrases I used today!
It’s Sunday in late fall and that means Church, attending my son’s basketball game, and weekend chores. This holiday weekend, it also meant putting up Christmas trees in each of the kids’ rooms and trying to squeeze in some fun family time as four of our six were not with us the whole weekend.
Needless to say, it was a busy day. Church was wonderful and we heard a great message. Reggie Hodges, a player for the Cleveland Browns and member of our Church, spoke briefly this morning about the importance of being bold in your faith. He spoke with such conviction and meaning. One of our Pastor’s spoke about apprenticeship and how many of the moral lessons he learned in life were taught in his home by watching his parents and grandparents and by listening to their words and following their example. His message really reinforced how what we say and how we live our life has such a profound impact on our children and stepchildren. It was good stuff.
My son’s team played well and won. It was great to watch him play. And then the fun started as we arrived home.
When I was a single mom, I decided to put small trees in each of my kids’ bedrooms. When I got remarried, we brought our tradition with us and my stepdaughters loved the idea of having a Christmas tree in their room. We have fun decorating the trees. We put on Christmas music, make hot chocolate and talk about when we got certain ornaments. It’s a fun time.
This year was a bit more hectic. Over the summer we added two bedrooms to our home so that each of our four girls have their own bedroom. Two new rooms meant finding two new trees and it was quite the feat trying to find trees that were similar to the ones we already had…. just to make things fair.
As Murphy’s Law would have it, the lights didn’t work from last year. Ornaments got broken in storage. Trees were tipping over. Just seemed like everyone had an issue and everyone needed “mom.” Even though my husband was available and offering to help, it was one of those days when only “mom” would do.
I had to bring out the “because I told you,” a few times when I asked people to do something and was challenged on it. There are just times when I want the kids to do simple things without the complexity of being challenged.
I reminded myself repeatedly while I was getting requests from every room in the house and finding myself getting frustrated because I couldn’t help everyone when they were asking for help that just 48 hours earlier I was very sad missing my four kids and wishing we were all together. We were all together today and I needed to appreciate the chaos that it brought.
It was just one of those days where it seemed the kids were just at each other. Not in a mean spirited way….. just a sibling we’ve spent to much time doing family stuff kinda way. So at the end of the night when I was tucking my two sons in and they asked “mom, what do you want for your birthday tomorrow?” I replied, “I just want you to get along. That would be the best gift of all!” And as I spoke those words I smiled, remembering how on nearly every holiday my mom would make that request and I would always think “give me something easier please.”
I guess it’s inevitable that we use the phrases that our parents used on us. We were raised by them. And regardless of what type of family you live in, you are going to have challenging days. You are going to have kids who challenge you whether you are the parent or the stepparent.
While the day was non-stop fire drills I paused to take solace in the fact that my seven year old daughter was adamant about making sure I had two new Christmas trees to put in the new bedrooms so that everyone had a tree. She sees all her siblings as siblings…. no step involved and that is a blessing if I say so myself.
Lessons from the StepMom Trenches: some days are chaotic and other days are really chaotic. Whether you are in a traditional family or stepfamily, siblings can get on each others’ nerves and it’s the parents/stepparents who often have to play referee.
Challenge: are there any phrases that your parents used that you find yourself using? How do you feel when you use these phrases? Do you smile thinking back to your parent’s using the same phrases or do you think “I can’t believe I just said that?”
Sat 26 Nov 2011
Day 26: 30 Days in the StepMom Trenches
Today, my four children returned from their time with their dad and our family of eight traveled to my parents’ home to celebrate Thanksgiving. My brother, his wife and their three children were there. It was wonderful to all be together. We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving on the day the calendar tells us to but rather on a day when we could all get together. The blessing of family and friends is the true celebration of Thanksgiving.
It was such a blessing to see everyone and hear the kids laughing and talking about Christmas and making plans to see each other in the next few weeks. The weather was wonderful so the kids played hide and go seek and basketball and we just had a very relaxing and peace filled day.
At dinner, my brother read a Thanksgiving prayer. The words spoken really touched my heart and I wanted to share it with all of you:
A Thanksgiving Prayer
Oh, God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work, help me
to remember the jobless;
When I have a warm home,
help me to remember the homeless;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer;
And remembering, help me
to destroy my complacency
and bestir my compassion.
Make me concerned enough
to help, by word and deed,
those who cry out
for what we take for granted.
~ Samuel F. Pugh
Lesson from the StepMom Trenches: Often it can feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders and many times it may be. It is important to be thankful in all we do during both the good and challenging times. Choosing to focus on the positive doesn’t mean you aren’t going through a hard time. It means that you are choosing to focus on the good things in your life. By focusing on the blessings, our burdens seem more bearable.
Challenge: Find a poem, quote, or other inspirational piece that really speaks to your heart. Read the piece daily during times of blessings and times of challenge. Very often an inspirational piece that speaks to your heart can help turn negative thoughts into positive ones and in turn help you maintain a grateful heart and positive mood.
Tue 15 Nov 2011
Day 15: 30 Days of Life in The StepMom Trenches
Family picture day has always been a special day for our family (or not). Special in the fact that no one ever “forgets” how much fun it is. From our first picture in matching clothes to wearing black shirts with jeans (for which it was dubbed “black and blue” day by the two oldest) to a few in between, I should just give up on the notion but I can’t. Correction, I won’t. I started doing a family picture when my oldest was born and continued doing it every year since. When I was a single mom, it was just my four kids and I and when I got remarried, I told my husband I would love to take a photo of all of us together.
While taking photos of little ones is hard because they have the “wiggles in their pants,” taking photos with tweens and teens is hard because they have “attitudes in their heads.” This year, I thought I’d be slick and have a tie dye party with the kids in the summer and then pack the shirts on our yearly camping trip instead of doing the photos in the fall. I thought surprising them with a family photo instead of making them think about it in advance was a great idea!
The kids were on to me when we tie dyed but they knew they could do nothing to stop me on this mission. There are very few things that I insist on. I secretly think they don’t really mind the yearly family photo shoot. I just think they like complaining more.
I won’t bore you with the details but I thought I’d just share a pictorial of how it went down with a little commentary of course. Enjoy.
The first shot with all the kids looking a bit pensive. “What’s my neighbor gonna pull?” seems to be running through their minds.
After the first click, my one son was up and moving and that started it all in motion. Notice he is already dirty. He wasn’t in the shirt 5 minutes and he wiped out in the dirt!
The two on the left are having fun and my son is finally standing up so he can crown his lucky brother with the bunny ears and take off his hat.
The final kid photo!
Final family photo.
Lesson From the StepMom Trenches: If you are going to do something because you and your husband want to do it but the kids are not necessarily on board, have fun with it and don’t go in with high expectations. The family picture is important to me. If it weren’t for intentionally taking it each year, we wouldn’t have family photos with everyone included except for the wedding photos. Have fun with it.
Challenge: Have you attempted the family photo? How did it go? Please share your stories and any tips you might have.
Mon 14 Nov 2011
Day 14: 30 Days in the StepMom Trenches
When my husband asked me to marry him it was a no-brainer that I would take his last name at the alter. I’ve always felt that the one name that truly belongs to a woman is her first name. We bear our father’s last name and then move to our husband’s name if we choose when we get married. Furthermore, I didn’t think it would be very respectful to carry my ex-husband’s last name into my new marriage.
But I hadn’t thought about what changing my name would mean to my kids and to my stepkids. My kids didn’t seem to mind at the time of our marriage but like most things stepfamily related, things change after the “I dos” are exchanged. While I stand firm in my decision of taking my husband’s name, I didn’t know what challenges and what joys it would bring.
Here are a few of the things that my name really impacts:
- I can take my stepdaughters to the doctor and call the insurance with no problem yet taking my own children can be a challenge. And while I am one who takes them to the doctor, my ex carries the insurance for them so I am never able to call and dispute a bill or service for the kids.
- At school, the kids in my biological children’s class get tongue tied when they address me. Inevitably, every time a teacher introduces me they first introduce me with my kids last name then correct themselves. That’s when I’ve learned to interject “you can call me whatever you feel comfortable calling me. I answer to all nice names.”
- Once my youngest stepdaughter told my youngest daughter that I was no longer her real mom but only my stepdaughter’s mom because I choose to have her name. Talk about damage control. I know my stepdaughter was talking out of a place of pain but I won’t minimize the pain that I was in and that my kids were in after those words were spoken.
You just don’t’ know what kids are thinking and often they don’t think about something until they are in the moment of it. All four of my kids now have come to me since I’ve been married at one time or another and expressed that they wish I had never changed my last name. I explain to them that a name cannot define love and that only my first name belongs to me. I believe that they “get it” but don’t always like it and I understand. I tell them that they don’t have to like that I have a different last name but that they need to respect why I do.
Lastly, if I’m putting it all on the table I have to admit that sometimes it’s hard having my last name at the school as my youngest stepdaughter gets in trouble. A lot. I’ve had parents call me, teachers call and email and talks with the principal. I’ve even had a mom inform me that her daughter was no longer allowed to play with my stepdaughter. I was raised that children are a reflection of their parents and while I’m not sure that is entirely true I can tell you it has been engrained in the fibers of my being and it also does not apply to stepparents. I tell myself often that I am not a bad parent because my stepdaughter makes poor choices but I would be an irresponsible parent if I didn’t address it. Which my husband and I do.
Lessons from the StepMom Trenches: While I don’t regret taking my husband’s last name, it has served up some challenges for me. As with anything in a stepfamily, things seem to have more layers of complications. It comes with the stepmom territory and as I hurdle each “situation” with the name, I think about how thankful I am to be married to my husband.
Challenge: Would you be willing to share with the other stepmom sisters here whether you took your husband’s last name or kept your own? And also what blessings and/or complications the name change or “name keep” have caused. Thank you!
Sun 13 Nov 2011
Day 13: 30 Days of Life in the StepMom Trenches
The fever is still with me. My husband is still taking care of me and all six of our kids are pitching in to help. As I laid my head down on the pillow again this morning and covered myself in a mountain of blankets, I felt so thankful that I could take this time to heal myself from this fever that had enveloped me. I love my bed and the feeling of being all warm and toasty in the down feather comforter and blankets that weighed down on me. I wasn’t feeling any guilt about the fact that I was taking another “day off.”
But then the thought hit me “what about all those mothers and stepmothers who need to take a break when they aren’t feeling well and would love to take it easy but can’t?” The reality is that while my biggest issue with taking a break is whether or not I feel guilty about it another big reality in our society and the greater world is the fact that there are so many women who simply can’t take it easy given their economic and/or relational circumstances.
I remember back to the days after my first husband left and my kids were so small. I remember how I couldn’t take a break when I had the flu. I remember sitting in the bathroom as sick as a dog and my 13 month old in her exersaucer outside the bathroom door giggling and beeping the attached horn. I couldn’t’ leave her unattended yet I had to attend to my sick stomach.
I never want to take for granted the luxuries I have in life. The fact that I can take a break when I am sick and know that my husband, our kids and our home won’t fall apart is a luxury and one that many women don’t have.
There are always others who are less fortunate than we are. At the holidays, I am reminded of how very important it is to give back. I do donate my time and my resources to a number of local and international charities. And I think this year, I’m going to focus on some local people that I can bless with my time and talents. Cook a meal for a family where there is no income coming in, donate clothes, babysit for a single mom who could use a break, etc…
I will continue to give myself permission to take care of me and not feel guilty about it but I also never want to loose site that I am very blessed to have that privilege.
Lessons from the StepMom Trenches: It is so important to take care of ourselves and we should do so without feeling guilty. I think it’s also important to remember all the women who cannot take a break when they are sick or just need to recharge their batteries. When the stresses of life get to us, remember the blessings that you do have. I know that it helps me to get through some rough spots by reminding myself of the many blessings that I have. The fact that I could take a break and focus on getting rid of my fever and feeling better is a privilege of having a caring husband, children and the economic means to do so. I never want to become so complacent that I take that for granted.
Challenge: This holiday season and beyond think about people in your community that you might be able to lend a hand. Maybe its someone you know. Maybe its a family your school and/or your church can put you in touch with. Serving others blesses those we help and it also blesses us.
Share ideas on donating your time and resources to help others.
Thu 10 Nov 2011
Day 10: Life in the Stepmom Trenches
I can’t tell you how reenergized I feel when I get to spend uninterrupted, alone time with my husband. And I encourage every stepmom out there to move mountains to make sure they get that time with their guy. Couple care is mandatory for stepcouples.
Couple time on top of a mountain in Smuggler's Notch. Highest lake in Vermont!
My favorite alone time is when we go away with each other. We do make a point of doing that once a year. My husband will use his frequent flyer miles and we usually pick a place that neither of us has been too and go. It’s heaven on earth to just focus on us.
Reality says that weekend getaways are the exception not the norm so my husband and I have to be intentional about making time for just us.
Throughout the years, we have developed a couple of ways of achieving this:
- No kid talk after 8pm. Typically if we start talking about the kids it’s never a 10 minute conversation. There’s always a chance that a short talk will turn into a very long discussion and that makes for no fun at the end of the night. If we have to discuss something we set a 15 minute limit but we try not to break the after 8pm rule.
- We unplug on the weekends. We all know how much time we can spend reading blogs, tweeting and checking FaceBook but the reality is that my favorite social network is my family. I unplug from my stepmom work on the weekends to focus on my family and mostly on my husband when it comes to the evening hours.
- Set a date night once a month. While we try to go out of the house sometimes that just is not possible. If we can’t go out for our date night, we bring the date night to us. Our kids go to bed at 9pm on the weekends. Seriously. Our two oldest will stay up and read but they are in their rooms by 9pm. Is it for selfish reasons? Absolutely. We need our time together and the kids need their sleep.
I’ve also become very intentional lately about showing my husband how much I love him. Not that I never showed him but I realized that with the hustle and bustle of the kids and the family schedule that I wasn’t doing things for him or saying sweet things to him like I had done in the past. I want my husband to deeply feel my love for him every day. So I make it a point to do at least one thing a day out of the norm that says I love you!
Sometimes it’s a note in his lunch (or a fun coupon – see previous post). Other times, I send him an email to let him know I am thinking of him. I’ll make his favorite dinner or desert just because or run errands for him that I know he doesn’t enjoy doing.
Hiked together to this view!
We recently had our yearly weekend getaway. We went to Stowe Vermont near the end of October. It was incredible. I think my husband summed up the importance of getting away best with our Remarriage Checkup class at Church. He said “spending time alone without the constant demands of the kids let us see and focus on just our relationship. We see how much we have in common and enjoy each other’s time. It’s motivating for tackling the tough stepfamily stuff because our marriage is so important and so worth it. We got to focus our energies on being husband and wife only.”
We’ve been going through some tough stuff with one of our kids and its been emotionally, physically and spiritually draining on us individually and as a couple. Getting away was a huge blessing and we reconnected in a wonderful way. Not to say that we ever got unconnected but we definitely re-sparked things in Vermont.
Lessons from the stepmom trenches: It’s easy to focus on the kids and all the demands of stepfamily life as those things demand our time. Disconnecting with your husband is definitely a slow fade and one that needs to be combatted. When stress is high, it’s also easy to think that you and your spouse don’t have much in common especially if you aren’t seeing eye to eye on certain issues. Whether its a weekend getaway or uninterrupted alone time at night, focusing on just the two of you helps to stay connected.
Challenge: Plan some alone time within the next week for you and your husband. Set up a date night out or plan one in. Get the kids to bed and have a picnic in the family room, watch a favorite movie, cook a meal together, go for a walk. Be intentional about creating and maintaining couple care.
Would love to hear your thoughts on couple-care. Please share some tips so we can help each other get creative and stay connected with our guy.
Tue 8 Nov 2011
Day 8: 30 Days of Life in the StepMom Trenches
“This to shall pass” is a proverb that I hold onto dearly as both a mom and a stepmom. Situations in life are temporary. Both the good and the bad are never permanent.
This past weekend has been a whirlwind of “activity” in our home and I’ve been flying solo with my husband away for work. Having a bit of experience in the chaos department I also know that after each storm comes the calm. Sometimes it takes a day and sometimes it takes many, many days but the calm does come.
Today was calm. Today was peaceful. Today was a much welcomed change and much appreciated.
Let my DD12 take a mental health day and stay home from school. She was so sad from Sunday and learning that her rabbit had passed. And she wasn’t screaming crying or sobbing uncontrollably or blaming others. She had a deep sadness. One that I could see in her red puffy eyes and feel in her presence. She’s a gifted student who never likes to miss school. When she asked if she could stay home, I said yes. And like a good co-parent that I try to be, I emailed her dad to let him know she was home.
I recalled that Brad Paisley song “Time Well Wasted” and I took it to heart. Sure I had piles of laundry to do, dozens of emails to respond to and grocery shopping to do but I just hung out with my daughter. It was time well spent.
Made her a cheese omelet for breakfast with bacon.
Baked Christmas cookies with her.
Watched two movies. We talked. We laughed. We cried. Most importantly we connected and she knows I am here for her.
Enjoyed hot chocolate with whipped cream and peppermint.
The kids came home and the after school chaos ensued.
We have no school on Tuesday as it is election day so two of the kids asked if they could have a sleepover and I said yes.
With eight kids in the home, there was laughter and chaos but it was that “normal” kid chaos. No sickness, no emotional trauma. Just eight kids playing Just Dance on the Wii and discussing what song is the best and girls who are begging to give a makeover.
It was a calm day and I loved every minute of it!
Lessons from the StepMom Trenches: Hang on tight when things are tough because a calm day is coming. You can’t predict when the waves of frustration and struggle will subside but they will. And the sun will shine and you will be able to take a deep breath and enjoy the day with your family. Hang on tight!
Challenge: Embrace every boring, uneventful day you have! When your day is anything but calm and boring, remember what it feels like and have hope that those days will return. Don’t let a hard day or a series of hard days define your role and life as a stepmom. Yes, things can be tough but having resolve and pushing through is important. Promise to press on.
Mon 7 Nov 2011
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.
“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.
Mon 17 Oct 2011
Here’s the story…..
of America’s most beloved stepfamily. I bet many of us could sing the rest of those lyrics to the Brady Bunch without even thinking. Most of us grew up watching the Brady Bunch and/or reruns of the Brady Bunch. I can remember getting home from school everyday, having my snack and watching the show before I started homework.
I loved it! I remember when they went to the Grand Canyon, when Peter dressed like a girl and when Marcia entered her (step)dad in the father’s day contest. What I don’t remember is ever hearing the word stepmom, stepdad, stepfamily and most important ex-spouse in any episode.
In fact, if you read the back of the DVDs from the series, there is no mention of stepfamily. The Brady’s are referred to as “America’s grooviest TV sitcom family.” I know this because a friend gave our family the entire series on DVD as a wedding gift and we watched every episode as a family throughout the first two years of marriage. The kids loved it and would ask “can we have a Brady night?” I think it was good for them to see the siblings all get along and treat each parent with respect.
While I will always love the show I realize that the Brady Bunch is not a true representation of stepfamily life but neither is the persona that Disney has put out there about (evil) stepmoms.
In an age where reality TV is the preferred list of shows that viewers are turning in for, I am happy to see that one network has a stepfamily show in the works. The one thing they are still searching for is A REAL AMERICAN STEPFAMILY! They are looking for YOU!
Nothing is more real than the drama that stepfamilies face. Often, when I am sharing a story of my life with my non-stepfamily friends, I wonder if they think I am exaggerating the truth because as the words come out of my mouth, I often can’t believe what has transpired. The cast of characters is lengthy when you throw in your spouse, your kids, his kids, your ex(s), his ex(s), your parents, your spouse’s parents, and the out-laws (former in-laws).
Taken at our Wedding Dinner. Photographer asked us to line up on the stairs. He captured our "Brady Bunch."
A reality show on stepfamily life would get America talking about the realities of stepfamily life. One of the things I hear most often from stepmoms is this “its’ good to know I’m not alone!”
So often, we are afraid to share our struggles and fears as stepmothers because we don’t want to “fit” into that evil stepmom persona but the reality is that our job is tough. A reality show on stepfamily life would depict the true heart that stepparents have for their spouse and their kids and stepkids yet also showcase the many struggles that must be navigated in a blended family.
When CBSeyeCASTING contacted me I was happy to learn of their production and to share the information in hopes of finding the right stepfamily. Here is their casting call:
Now casting MODERN STEP FAMILIES!
Is your family a modern-day BRADY BUNCH? A “blended family” full of step-siblings from a previous marriage?
Would you be excited to share with the nation the various challenges of merging households – of merging families – as parents have to do when they remarry and bring 2 families together under one roof?
Is there something unique about your living situation that sets your family apart?
If yes, then the producers of “Food Network Star” and “DESIGN STAR” want to hear from you!
Please email: CBSeyeCASTING@gmail.com for an application form. Casting is NATIONWIDE.
The ideal “modern family” should have at least 3+ children, be comfortable on camera and be active in their community.
CBS EYE Productions creates diverse non-fiction programming for domestic and international markets. Our clients include CBS, Discovery, Food Network, The History Channel, TLC, A&E, MTV, Vh1, Animal Planet and HGTV to name a few.
Over the past decade, the Emmy award-winning unit has produced more than 1,000 hours of original reality programming and documentaries in genres ranging from entertainment to lifestyle to science to history.
Chances are you’ve all seen reality shows and the thought of cameras in your home may cause you distress. I’m sure anyone who does a reality show has lots of questions beforehand.
My big question is Do I get my own Alice?
What questions do you have? What would hold you back from being the featured stepfamily in this reality series? What would make you want to sign up? Please share any and all constructive thoughts on a reality series for stepfamilies? Would you tune in? Keep checking back to see what others are sharing.
Thu 29 Sep 2011
I recently received this letter from a stepmom asking me for advice on a topic that has been giving her grief lately: the relationship between her husband and her fourteen year old stepdaughter.
She also asked if I would share it will all of you so here goes:
I recently read your article Jealousy: The Green Eyed Elephant in the Room in the September issue of StepMom Magazine and it hit a nerve. I’m really starting to develop negative feelings towards both my fourteen year old stepdaughter AND my husband because of the physical closeness they share. I don’t think what I am feeling is jealous. I think what I’m feeling is the creeps and I wanted to get your opinion and that of your stepmom community. I’ve been in my stepdaughter’s life for five years. She and her dad have always been close and that’s something I love about him but as she has gotten older the physical closeness has gotten more intense and that just creeps me out. For instance, my stepdaughter is always going up to him and hugging him and giving him a small peck on the lips. In my family growing up, kisses on the lips were okay when you were under five but after that mouth kisses were between mom and dad.
Secondly, I’ve always “stepped back” as they call it since I came into her life so when we watch a movie, I let her sit with her dad and if we go to amusement parks, etc…. I never make her jockey for position. But lately I’ve noticed when they watch movies, she lays on his lap and takes his arms and wraps them around her and then intertwines her fingers into his so he basically holds her through the whole movie on the couch holding hands. The problem I have is that he holds me the same exact way when we watch movies. And now when he wants to hold me or sit next to me, I find myself making excuses up because I physically am having a hard time being next to him and having him hold and touch me like he does his own daughter. I don’t think its jealousy. I think it’s creepy (did I say that?). I know its nothing sexual but for us it does turn sexual and that’s what makes it hard for me. I also think it’s inappropriate for a girl that age to even want to lay across her dad’s lap and have her head near his crotch.
I often think about how I have seen her mature into a young woman with boobs and hips and a like for boys and he may still see her as his little girl and nothing wrong with how they sit with each other. In a few years, she’ll want to sit and watch a movie with her boyfriend, will it creep her out to know that she and her dad watched it the same way? I believe fathers model how their daughter should be treated. Does he want her laying on her boyfriend and being that close in a few years?
The thing is my husband is wonderful. He loves and respects me and he makes me feel that our marriage is his first priority. I know he isn’t doing this to purposely disrespect me and that’s why it’s an awkward topic to bring up with him but I know I have to do it because it’s impacting our marriage. I find that I don’t want him holding me in our bed anymore because its too similar to the way he holds his daughter on the couch. I do need to point out that he doesn’t seek her out and hold her that way but rather she seeks him out and puts his arms where she wants them and he leaves them there. I don’t think he thinks twice about it.
Please help! Am I jealous our justified in my feelings and how can I find peace with this? Any tips on how to bring this up with my husband without offending him?
Thanks for sharing your story. And I’m honored you loved the article and reached out to me. I’m betting that you are not alone in what you are going through. It is clear from your letter that it bothers you that he spends some physical time with his daughter the same way he spends with you and that is understandably hard. I’m sure others can truly relate.
To answer your question are you jealous or justified, please know that everyone is entitled to their feelings. We all have feelings and react to different situations in our own unique way. There is no right or wrong way to feel. It’s what we do with our feelings that make a difference. These feelings are impacting your marriage and therefore they have to be addressed.
As stepmoms, we all understand that there can be many dynamics at play here for your husband and his daughter. Does he come from a very touchy feely type of family? Have he and his daughter always been close? Often times the type of affection we grew up with is what becomes the norm for us as parents and it can be hard to understand a different way if our partner is from a different type of family.
In my family, after you learned the safety rules and could cross the street yourself, hand holding was just for mom and dad. Personally, I am very close to my father but once I understood the “birds and the bees” I found myself not wanting to be as huggie with my dad or sit on his lap. That’s just me. As a custodial stepmom, I notice that both of my stepdaughters (age 13 and 10) are very clingy to their dad. The more affection we show each other as a couple typically results in the more affection they seek from their dad. They don’t receive any physical affection from their mom and it appears at times they seek a double dose of hugs/kisses/close time from dad.
The dynamics of divorce and co-parenting changes the dynamics of our children’s lives and our lives as well and this can have an impact. Kids don’t typically spend the same amount of time with their parents as they would if their parents were still together. If your stepdaughter doesn’t see her dad much she may just be craving that extra attention. Perhaps you could suggest a day out when she has time at your home and/or plan game nights at home if movies are a tough time for you.
Often stepdaughters are jealous of the closeness their father has with their stepmom. They view their dad showing lots of outward affection to his wife and that can be hard for some stepdaughters. Your stepdaughter may be trying to get the closeness with her dad that she views that you share with him.
Simply put there are a lot of dynamics at play and if this physical closeness is impacting your emotional and/or physical closeness with YOUR husband you need to talk to him about it. There is no right or wrong way to feel about a situation. You feel what you feel when you see your husband and stepdaughter that close and you have to address those feelings. Never let something come between you and your marriage. If you don’t address it, you risk the bitterness and resentment that is slowly setting in your heart now to really take a stronghold and harden your heart towards your husband and his daughter and that isn’t a risk worth taking.
As awkward as this conversation may be, stepmoms in this situation have to learn how to not let the closeness between their husband and stepdaughter impact their relationship and find a way to discuss the topic in a loving and calm manner. I would suggest using this post as a springboard for conversation with your husband. Perhaps seeing it through your eyes and on paper will give him a different perspective. And it sounds like he is a very reasonable, loving and committed husband who wants what is best for your marriage.
It’s also important to note that any time we have to have a tough discussion with our husband it makes sense to first ask him “is this a good time to talk?” Then start by saying some positive things about your husband as both a partner and as a father. And focus the conversation on how you feel rather than on what he and/or his daughter is doing. When we focus on us and how we are interpreting events it often lessens the defensive mechanism that can pop up in a parent’s heart when the stepparent starts talking about their child. Simply put, just share your heart about how things are making you feel and ask him to understand and help come up with a collaborative way to help you and your feelings.
Wishing you all the best and please let us know how things are going. Stay strong. Press on. Friend!
Now it’s your time to share? Dads, I want to hear from you on this topic? StepMoms, I want to hear if you deal with this? Please share any and all constructive advice please. Thanks!