Entries tagged with “stepdaughters”.


New stepmom Joelyn (Jody) brings us her story and shares with you her perspective on the gifts of stepmotherhood. Some of us are further along on the journey and some of us are just beginning. Regardless of where you are on the path you will be moved by her words. I think all of us can relate that stepmotherhood brings with it surprises. Joelyn has a beautiful perspective of her life changes.

Surprises For A New Stepmom- Joelyn

Here I am, the month of May, the month of the mother – boy has my life changed recently.  Looking back it isn’t really so recently, June 1st it will be a year that my life began a plethora of change.  Some good, some bad but all a learning experience and although I say I would love for things to have been different, in reality I look back and realize that I appreciate more of what I have right now because of the past experiences.

I am a mom to a fourteen year old girl and anyone who has a teenager knows what a challenge this can be.  On top of that, I am on disability due to a neurological disorder.  In August of 2011 I was able to finally move out on my own and not have to worry about anyone taking care of me and my daughter was able to start living her life to the fullest as a teenager and I was enjoying every moment of it.

Over the course of time a friend I had known since I was 14 years old began communicating with me again.  We shared our troubles, our joys and of course what was going on with our kids and families.  We both were in need of a friend who would listen and not judge and after knowing each other for 20+ years, it seemed to be the right fit.  It also helped we were hours away from each other and just had messaging to communicate.

When reality hit that his life at home was not going so well and there were problems regarding his girls we worked to create a contingency plan should he have to leave.  Needless to say the contingency plan has happened and our lives have changed drastically.

I am learning to co-parent a three and seven year old, who are majorly different than fourteen year olds, I am reverting back to laying out clothes, putting clothes away, making breakfast, packing lunches, doing homework, reading stories, drying tears, giving baths, going on field trips and picking up crayons and Barbie dolls.

This is so challenging for me, especially considering the pain I am in some days, the confusing and frustration of moving to a new city, along with what happens on a day to day basis due to the shared parenting of both his girls and mine.

I have learned to love the hugs of little ones, the ability to teach them new things like cooking and baking, the shouts from parts of the house because something is not right, the running up and down the stairs and of course the little voices when they say thank you or that they love you.

I find it funny when they are learning to read, write and spell – all things I have taken for granted with having a fourteen year old child.  It is so cool seeing them draw and then share with me what it is they drew.  The sound of them asking to help in the kitchen or the yard is like music to my ears and it is great when you see all three of the girls asleep in the back of the car after a fun day as a family and you realize that you are so blessed and grateful for what God has given you, even though sometimes it feels like more than you can handle on a day-to-day basis.

Being a step-parent or co-parent is amazing.  I never imagined my life with little ones in it again.  I am so happy that they are though, I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I went from a two bedroom apartment to a four bedroom house, increased from two cats to four, and added a bathroom, bigger kitchen, yard, garage and responsibilities.  It all sounds like a lot, but when I can tuck all three girls in at night and each one has their own special way they like it done and I sit down to do homework, write or work on my business I stop, listen to the silence and smile – the hugs and kisses I received just a little bit ago are all I need to sleep well and make it into the next day.

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Joelyn Morgan is an Independent Chocolatier for Dove Chocolate Discoveries, attending school to be a Certified Health Coach and advocate for those with mental health needs.  She resides in Galloway, OH with Kevin, Sammie, Juliette, Josephine and their cute cats.  Her interests are health, wellness, reading, writing, volunteering, crafts, cooking and baking.
Please visit her blog at http://nowtherearefive.com, follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!
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Share how Joelyn’s story touched you. We all learn and grow from the sharing of each other’s hearts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and our hopes went on and on an on…..

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

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

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

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

I am the best stepmom she allows me to be.

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

 

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

This is the last article in the three part series on jealousy and the stepmom and stepdaughter. This last segment focuses on the impact that the jealousy between a stepmom and stepdaughter has on the stepmom’s relationship with her partner and offers tips to help your relationship weather storms of jealousy. Read on and share your thoughts…..

 (Part 3 of 3) Jealousy and Your Relationship

“Jealousy is that pain which a man feels from the apprehension that he is not equally beloved by the person whom he entirely loves.” Joseph Addison

Jealousy lives and breathes in the hearts of all of us. At its core, jealousy is the fear of losing something that one possesses to another person and that something is typically the affections of a third party. Given the multiple complexities and people in a stepfamily, there are boundless reasons and opportunities for members to feel jealous towards one another.

stepmom magazine, stepdaughter, stepmother, jealousy

Often stepmoms are jealous of the relationship their stepdaughter has with their dad and stepdaughters are jealous of the love their father has for their stepmom. This stepmother – stepdaughter jealousy is a triangle with the third person being the man they both love. While the jealous feelings may not be aimed directly at our partner, they often feel the impact of the jealousy.

Feelings of jealousy may be hard to avoid and it is what we do with the jealous feelings when they surface that matter and define our relationships. When jealous feelings affect our partner and our relationship, it’s time to take action to protect both.

Last month we learned that much of the jealousy stepdaughters feel towards their stepmother is based on perception not reality. Perhaps some of the jealousy that stepmothers feel towards their stepdaughter may also be based on unfounded truths.

Jealousy in a stepmother’s heart may stem from the advantage she believes her stepdaughter has over her in her partner’s life given that the stepdaughter was in his life first. The stepdaughter’s jealousy often grows from feelings of resentment of her perception of being replaced by her stepmother in the heart of her father.

Regardless of who is jealous of who, if there is tension in the home everyone feels it and every relationship can suffer from it. 

As the third and final installment of this series on jealousy within the stepfamily, this piece deals with the impact that jealousy between stepmom and stepdaughter has on the stepmom’s relationship with her partner. We will look at how perceptions impact jealous feelings in a stepfamily and then provide tips for stepmoms on how to address and deal with the jealousy to preserve their relationship with their partner and bring peace to their heart and home.

Looking Through the Lens of Your Stepdaughter’s Life

The jealousy in the home is often permeated on the perception of either the stepmother and/or the stepdaughter trying to control the man in the home. A stepdaughter perceives her stepmother’s kindness and/or actions to change things for the better in the home as a threat. The stepmother perceives her stepdaughter’s constant control of her father’s time as a clear message to “stay away.”

Looking at potential insecurity in our stepdaughter and a desire for things not to change may help explain a stepdaughter’s negative treatment of her stepmom and/or clinging closer to their father. Feelings of “losing dad” may be motivation for a stepdaughter to push back on her stepmother regardless of how kind and goodhearted the stepmother is to her stepdaughter.

As one stepdaughter put it “before Amanda entered the picture, dad used to ask me where I wanted to go out for dinner and what color he should paint the living room now she gets to make those choices. I just don’t feel important to my dad anymore. I wish things could go back to the way they were before HER!”

While it is important to view stepfamily life through our stepdaughter’s eyes, it often helps for us, as stepmoms, to be proactive in showing our stepdaughter that we value them and the relationship they have with their father.

The following proactive tips can serve to communicate we are neither here to replace mom nor to take dad away:

Make The First Move. If we get upset because we feel like our stepdaughter is always trying to keep us away from our partner and sit next to him at the kitchen table, on the couch, at the movie theatre, etc…. we may want to consider offering up the space instead of having it taken from us.

Offering the seat next to our mate to our stepdaughter serves two purposes. First, offering the spot lessens the pain we may feel in not sitting next to our love. If not sitting next to our mate is our idea, it doesn’t hurt so much. Also, if our stepdaughter is desiring to be close to their father because she truly wants to be close to dad than the unselfish offering will be seen as a kind gesture and can go miles in building our relationship. If our stepdaughter is seeking closeness to dad to spite us and she sees that we are offering the spot and don’t seem upset, than the motivation will wane when she doesn’t get the desired result in upsetting us. When motivation lessens so may her moves to be close to dad and purposely push us aside if that is in fact her goal.

Plan Daughter and Dad Day Out. Set up a time once a month for your partner and his daughter to go out and spend time alone. Whether it is out for a meal, to see a movie, do an activity like bowling or ice skating, or just going to the library…. when we set it up and offer the time alone it communicates that we place a value on their time together.

There is a difference in creating the time for our stepdaughter and her dad versus being made to feel that we aren’t welcome during their time together. Creating this time is a gift we give to our stepdaughter and her father and to ourselves.  Be the driving force for their time alone and see the benefits for everyone unfold.

Control the Jealousy so it Doesn’t Control You and Your Relationship

Jealousy based on perception is a total misrepresentation of reality yet feelings of jealously can be so strong and powerful they can cause us to act out. Regardless of why a stepmother may feel jealous, dealing with jealousy is essential to nurturing and preserving the relationship with our partner.

When jealousy isn’t acknowledged and dealt with it can plant seeds of bitterness and resentment deep in our relationship and lead to emotional behavior atypical of our personality. Here are some basic steps we can take when we are feeling jealousy towards our stepdaughter:

Accept Your Part. Understand and accept the feelings of jealousy and acknowledge that we have a choice in how we will allow this emotion to affect us, our stepdaughter, our partner and our relationship. Decide if whatever is making us jealous is worth having an impact on our own emotional state and the state of our relationship with our partner.

Because jealousy is an emotion inside of us, it can also be tied to other emotions. Take the time to understand if our jealousy is fueled by fear, past hurts, insecurities deep within and/or any other emotion from our past that we may struggle with.

Acknowledge The No-Win Situation For Your Partner. From our partner’s perspective, jealousy between their child and us puts them in a no-win situation. It really hurts our partner when their own child is the source of our pain and it also causes them pangs of distress when their daughter(s) is upset at our hands.

One dad told me “I’m often in a no-win situation. If I side with my wife, my daughter thinks I’ve deserted her. And if I side with my daughter, than my wife feels unloved and unwanted. I love both of them but I often feel like any choice I make is doomed from the start,”Steve, married for 5 years; father of two and stepdad of one.

Understand that your partner loves you. They have chosen to spend their life with you. Your partner loves both you and your stepdaughter in different ways. If we are concerned about any feelings our mate has for us it is best to ask them rather than assume something that could be wrong.

Communicate With Your Partner. If something is truly bothering you, talk with your partner but not at them. There is a difference. Understand that there is no right or wrong way to feel towards the relationship between you and your stepdaughter. If something is troubling you and it has the potential to pull you and your partner apart, than you owe it to yourself and your romantic relationship to address the issue.

Before talking with your partner, keep these things in mind:

First, check with your partner to make sure it is a good time to talk. Right before bed is never a good time to bring up a potentially heated topic. Also, make sure both you and your partner are in a good frame of mind to have the conversation.

Second, start off by verbally affirming your mate as both a parent and a partner. Also, counter any negative comments you share with two positive comments.

Finally, focus the conversation on how you feel not on what your stepdaughter or your partner is doing. When we focus on how something is making us feel, it takes the pressure off of our mate to fix another person and lessens the probability of them becoming defensive.

Jealousy is often self-serving and can lead to feelings of confusion, frustration and self-doubt. The important thing to remember is to not allow jealousy to consume our relationship but rather allow it to be a springboard to uncover any hidden emotions deep within us moreover to have positive discussions with our partner.

Seek Professional Help. If you find that jealousy is causing issues in your relationship that you cannot resolve together then please seek the professional help of a counselor and/or stepfamily coach. A professional can help you and your partner with tips and tools to identify jealousy and how you can work together. The reality is that it is often challenging to talk about some topics with our partner especially if they regard our stepchildren. A qualified third party can bring up the topics and provide a neutral environment in which to discuss feelings and provide tangible solutions.

Avoid Disengagement From Your Partner: Intentionally Nurture Your Relationship

No person wants to be hurt by someone they love. In our stepmom role, we can slowly disengage from the relationships that are causing us pain. We can find ourselves disengaging from our stepdaughter and our partner.  While disengaging from our stepchild is not a good thing, disengaging from our partner can have long lasting negative effects on our relationship and on our stepfamily.

At those moments when we least want to be close to our partner, are the moments when we need to be the closest. Disconnecting with the father of our stepdaughter does not happen overnight but rather is a slow fade. Passion, respect, love can slowly fade over time when we don’t nurture our relationship and when we allow emotions like jealousy to pull us away.

“It is difficult for some people to accept that love is a choice. This seems to run counter to the generally accepted theory of romantic love which expounds that love is inborn and as such requires no more than to accept it.” – Leo F. Buscaglia

Make it a point to intentionally show your partner love and respect. This can be challenging at times especially if you aren’t feeling much love or respect for your partner. Feelings follow actions and the more you intentionally show love to your partner the less affect the jealousy may have on you and the more connected you may feel to your partner.

It is my hope that this three part series opens up discussion about jealousy that may prevail in your home. It is a very normal and typical emotion in stepfamilies and its important to continue to have honest conversations about those things that impact us most. Jealousy can become a vicious cycle in a stepfamily if we allow it. Recognize that combatting jealousy is often an ongoing challenge for everyone in our stepfamily where dynamics are many and stresses can be high.

This article was originally published in StepMom Magazine, November 2011.

Domestic Violence is real. Domestic Violence hurts everyone. Domestic Violence must be stopped. 

In the time it took you to read those three statements, 2 women were the victims of domestic violence.

Staggering.

Domestic violence is an issue that affects one in four women, yet 1/3 of Americans have never discussed it.

An estimated 1.3 million women will be the victims of physcial assault this year with an average                                                   of 145 women being abused every hour.

These numbers don’t lie yet many are remaining silent out of fear.

“Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. Violence against women is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, and thus is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and sometimes death. The consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and truly last a lifetime”. (via www.ncadv.org)

Perhaps, you or someone you love has been or is currently the victim of domestic violence. Personally, I have friends who have been the victims of domestic violence and some of them have children who have witnessed their mother being physically and/or emotionally abused. I knew girls in college who were raped by a boyfriend but were embarrassed to report it to the authorities somehow thinking it was their fault.  I don’t want that for my daughters nor for my stepdaughters. I don’t want that for you or for your daughters or for your stepdaughters. This is a cause near and dear to my heart. As women, we have a powerful voice and we need to use it!

We can make a difference and this new venture, The Purple Purse, can help!   

You’ll notice the oversized Purple Purse widget on the side of my blog. Go there! PurplePurse.com is designed as an online shopping magazine, but its real purpose is to encourage people to talk openly about domestic violence and financial abuse. Since research shows that the issue of domestic violence is difficult to discuss, this site was created to make it easier to bring up the subject.

PurplePurse.com is an important Allstate Foundation project – in partnership with YWCA – focused on getting people to talk about the issue of domestic violence. The Purple Purse was created as a new national symbol of a woman’s economic empowerment.

I am honored to be teaming up with AllState Insurance and the YWCA to unveil the Purple Purse during October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Our local team has been challenged by The Allstate Foundation to have at least 100 people attend the event. For every attendee, the Foundation will donate $100 to the YWCA of Cleveland to fund programs that support domestic violence victims. Local Tweetup is October 27th from 11am – 1pm at the YWCA Greater Cleveland located at 4019 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio  44103-4301.

Our guest speaker will be ILinda M.J. Reese, author of “Til Death.” Her autographical account exposes the hurt and devastation of marriage where domestic violence is present. Reese shares not only her story but offers practical solutions to unbind from an abusive partner and teaches women there is life after abuse that includes mental, physical and spiritual freedom.

Local Clevelanders please join me at this incredibly important event. Show your support by attending the event and/or sharing the link to the website with your friends.

What are some other ways you can get involved:

visit the www.purplepurse.com

tell your friends about the purple purse

consider carrying a purple purse this month to spark conversation about domestic violence (I’ll be carrying the one pictured above)

Tweet to your followers or post on your Facebook page:

o    “Join the #purplepurse cause and check out PurplePurse.com

o   Always include #purplepurse in your tweets.

We’ve got to start talking about domestic violence. While not an easy topic to address, it is one that needs to gain a voice. I’m thankful for Allstate for founding the Purple Purse and providing tools and resources and getting the discussion going. If you have something you’d like to share on domestic violence, I would love to hear from you.

“What should I wear on the first day of school?” I’m sure this is a question nearly every kid thinks about as the new school year draws near. For children whose parents don’t live together but who see both sets of parents and stepparents this question can have an additional layer of stress. I recently witnessed first hand the potential anxiety that this question can pose when both sets of parents purchase new clothes for their child for the new school year. 

Every August, I take the oldest two girls (my eighth grade stepdaughter and my seventh grade daughter) shopping for school clothes. I typically buy the younger four their clothes as they don’t care what style, brand, etc…. I purchase for them and they prefer not to be “dragged” to a store. This year, we had some unforseen time crunches as we neared the school year so my husband took his daugther shopping and I took my daughter shopping for their new school wardrobe.

I treasured the alone time that my daughter and I shared and the wonderful conversations that we had. It was truly a positive experience for both so when she seemed tense as she was trying to decide what to wear the first day, I was initially baffled.

I never thought much about the question “what should I wear on the first day of school? until I really stopped to examine it through my child’s eyes and through the lense of divorce and co-parenting.

My daughter spent one week with my parents and with her dad’s parents (they live five minutes from each other and we all get along) earlier in August. They both took her school shopping. This year, she also went shopping with her dad and he bought her a few shirts. She and I went shopping last and we had so much fun checking out new stores and trying on outfits.

I am a bargain shopper and have taught my “skills” to my kids. It was so much fun to watch her pick out clothes and make good decisions. She had a budget from which to shop and she did a great job staying in her budget while purchasing some great quality clothes. She has an incredible eye and we came home with some great deals on some great looking clothes. I felt like it was our most successful back to school shopping spree to date both from a clothing perspective and also from a bonding perspective.

Then this afternoon she says to me “mom I don’t know what to wear on the first day of school. I know you took me shopping for most of my stuff but are you okay if I wear something that someone else bought? I don’t want to hurt your feelings but I also don’t want to hurt anyone else’s feelings if they ask what I wore on the first day of school.”

“My feelings,” I thought to myself. “How could you ever hurt my feelings based on what you wear to school?,” popped in my head and then I remembered how for the first year, she had new clothes from a variety of important people in her life. I looked into the sweet face of my wonderful daughter and said “whatever you choose will look great on you! I’m so thankful that so many that love you gave you some new clothes for school. You wear what you want and you can never hurt my feelings.”

“I didn’t think you’d care but I really appreciate you getting me all my stuff and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” she answered. She seemed to look relieved with what I shared with her.

These types of conversations are continual reminders of the loyalty “wars” that are always alive in the heads and hearts of our kids even when we never “force them to choose.” While I can honestly say I’ve never made my kids pick between their father and I, I know they think about our feelings.

After this conversation, I spent some time processing the event and recalled many times when the kids and I had done something that we all really enjoyed and when we would get home and they called their dad, I would hear them say things like “it was okay,” or “yeah, we did that but we’re home now.” While I never said anything, I would think “did I miss something? I think we just had a great time.” Then one time my son said to me that he never wanted to hurt his dad’s feelings so he doesn’t like to talk about his fun times with me and his stepdad and I can personally attest to the fact that I know they have a great time when they are with their dad however, they never boast and brag about the fun things he does with them. The kids want to protect both parents feelings.

So I sit in wonder of my kids tonight.

And I sit in wonder of all the kids who live between two homes.

How they balance so many emotions and feelings. Sometimes they balance it inside. Sometimes they try and balance it on the outside and often that can go so smooth that we don’t even notice or it can be incredibly painful and frustrating for them and present itself in anger, detachment, and sometimes dishonesty.

My kids have never come right and asked for “permission” to enjoy their dad and what he does with them. And I would venture to say that no kid asks for it outright. However, I would venture to say that all kids who live between two homes want and need to know that they can enjoy both parents without hurting the other parents’ feelings.

Every time my kids go to their dads or to his parents house, I tell them to have a great time. I tell them to enjoy their time with their dad and/or their grandparents. They don’t need my permission but I believe it takes an emotional load off of their backs to know that I’m not going to give them the third degree when they get home and that I’m behind a positive relationship with their father.

If I can take away one ounce of worry, guilt, frustration or challenge by giving them “my blessing” then I will do it.

School starts tomorrow. As of 8pm tonight, my daughter had tried on five outfits for me. Two I bought her and one from each of the other people who love her. I told her they all looked great. She asked me what was my favorite and I said I loved the smile she wore as she modeled each one. I suggested she wear what she was most comfortable in. As of tuck in time tongiht, she had still not decided.

No matter what outfit she chooses, I hope she goes to school wearing the confidence that she is loved by all her parents and grandparents and in the knowledge that she will never be asked to choose between parents because we are all her family – we just don’t live in the same house.

So I’m curious. What ways do you see “loyalty wars” played out in your kids/stepkids? Do you ever feel like your kids and/or stepkids are made to choose sides? What impact do you see it having on your kids and/or stepkids?

Together we can learn and grow from one another’s life experiences and insights. Thanks for sharing.

Brigette Lemos-Norman was my guest on The StepMom Connection Wednesday. While we had a great conversation, the technology didn’t cooperate and only half of our interview was taped. Therefore instead of leaving half a chat in the archives, I made the decision to pull the show. Bridgette and I decided to cross blog the topic so you can get in on the whole conversation.

The first taboo topic we discussed was:  “I fell in love with my husband, not my stepkids”.

When you say “I do” to a man with children, you say “I do” to his children too. But while you are committing to caring for your stepchildren, you may not love those children in the same immediate, unconditional love that you feel for your own biological children or even for nieces and nephews that you have been involved with since birth.

Often times, stepmoms feel guilty when they don’t feel deep love for their stepkids. There is no cookie cutter way to love a stepchild. And the reality of stepfamily life is that the stepchild drives the relationship with their stepmother. If the child embraces you and the relationship flows easily then the love typically flow easily. If the stepchild puts up a wall either because they just don’t want to accept that dad is with another woman or perhaps their mom is not giving them “permission” to accept their stepmom, you can feel left in the cold.

One stepmom in the chat room during the show shared “I thought being a step mom would be easy… but so much depends on the bio mom and how she is with the children and what she imparts to them regarding the step mom.” We know these to be very true words.

Love and trust are given without question to a birth/adoptive parent but a stepchild chooses whether to love and trust their stepmom and to what extent. That choice impacts the relationship between a stepmom and stepchild.

Also, I think it’s fair to say that stepmoms can love their stepkids but not always like their behavior. And when a stepmom says she doesn’t love her stepkids, that doesn’t mean she is not going to take care of them, or treat them well or parent them to the best of her ability. It means she is being real about her feelings. While we are commanded to love one another under God, we also know that love can take many different forms and have different levels of feelings.

I feel it is so important for our community of stepmothers is to be careful not to judge one another. I think the reason that so many stepmoms feel guilty about saying what they are feeling is that they don’t want to validate that “evil stepmom” persona that the media has created.

You are not an evil stepmom if you don’t love your stepkids.

You are an honest stepmom.

It takes time for love to grow. If you are committed to your relationship with your stepkids and their dad, if you are committed to treating them with love and kindness then you are doing what you need to do.

Each stepmom has her own journey, and while you may not agree with how another stepmom feels and/or what she says, be cautious not to judge her character. Every woman is different and until we walk in her shoes (her past and her present), we don’t truly understand her. Because that is impossible to do, it isn’t fair to judge or criticize her emotions and actions. Disagreeing with someone’s words or actions is different than judging their character. The former makes for healthy discussion while the later fuels unnecessary discontent.

Only when we can all feel comfortable sharing our true feelings with one another can we remove the “taboo” label on topics and truly deal with our frustrations and work past them. You can feel isolated and lonely as a stepmom when you think you are the only one struggling with a certain topic. Knowing there are others out there that share your same struggles can be very comforting and encouraging.

What are your thoughts on loving your stepkids? Loving one stepchild more/differently than another? Do you feel this is a touchy topic in the stepmom community?

Make sure to visit Brigette’s companion piece at her blog InTheBlender

Next “Taboo” Topic that some stepmoms think but may not speak: “If I would have known what I was getting into, I would have never married you.”

Okay, I have to admit it. I am proud of my progress on this challenge. For the most part, I’ve been keeping it in check. The accountability and the journaling are huge parts of my success.

But today the words flew. They flew out of my mouth faster than my brain could keep up. But this time, I believe my words were meant to be heard. These are the words of my heart. The words that have been burning inside of me for a long time. They are the words that so longed to be spoken and heard. Tonight was the night they poured out of me into a vessel that was on the brink of exploding – my stepdaughter. Believe it or not, she didn’t sink upon hearing them.

You see my SD was having the “tantrum of the decade” I referred to on Twitter. She had been in an agitated and combative stage since she stepped foot off the bus coming home from school. She was arguing with her sibs over silly things and pounding me with absurd accusations.

I could write down every exchange between her and me and between her and all five of her siblings because she got into it with each one. But I won’t because who wants to read a 5,000 word blog?  I will say it was just one of those days where she was “relentlessly combative.” A day when I could have said the sky was blue and she would have argued with her dying breath it was aqua.

Needless to say, I was feeling the heat beneath my collar but I was not engaging. Found myself in different rooms than she was in but then I hit a crossroad. Long story short, I gave her a punishment for some inexcusable harsh words she was using on her sister. She refused it. So I asked her another time. This time she stomped her foot, said no and started in on her sister again. Well, I had to make a decision. I had asked her to do something that she was refusing yet I knew she was in a mood and didn’t want to engage her. Remember one of my mottos “you can’t fight crazy.” Well she was being “crazy.” But I knew I had to stand my ground.

“Serenity now, serenity now” was the chant in my head. Oh Seinfeld, how I call on your wisdom and wit during these times. I decided to give her additional punishment. This time I told her to go up to her room and write 20 times “My behavior is mean when I tease my sister. I will ask her to forgive me.” She actually went upstairs. I breathed a sigh of relief.

When an hour had past and she hadn’t come down, I went up to check on her. She was hiding in her room and hadn’t written one sentence.  When I asked her why she replied, “because I don’t want to do it and you can’t make me. This is harsh. You are harsh. I’ll stay up here forever.” Deep breathes… count 1,2,3 . I replied “I can make you and I will make you. You need to finish what I asked you to do and then you may come down to finish your homework.”  She started yelling at me but I was out of her room and down the stairs with my fingers plugging my ears. I did not want to engage.

I made dinner and called the kids down to eat (my hubby was travelling and not home yet). She came stomping into the kitchen complaining about her punishment and how I’m so harsh. While we were eating, she preceded to pull apart all of her food and eat in a very inappropriate manner. I tried not to notice or get upset but it was difficult. I could see she was doing this for my “benefit.” 

It’s our custom that everyone remains at the dinner table until the last person is done eating and either I or my husband excuses the table. But tonight I made an exception. When I saw she was done eating, I told her she could be excused to go back upstairs and complete her sentences.

She started screaming and I mean screaming at me. I tried to ignore it and kept redirecting her to her room. The other kids were getting very agitated with her nonsense and were becoming protective of me. She refused to move her body and go upstairs all the while screaming at me about how I hate her and how I want her to leave. It was truly unbelievable.

I choose to tell my SD “go up to your room now or I will drive you to school tomorrow, march into the principal’s office with you and have a long talk about what we are all going to do about your behavior.”

At this point my SD had slid halfway down the stairs and just started screaming and pounding her fists: “You hate me. You don’t love me. You never loved me. You want to go live somewhere else. You love everyone else but me. I’m a nobody. I know you hate me. I just know it.”

I’m walking away as she is saying these things but then something made me turn around, march half-way up the stairs so I’m at her level and I fired these off at her:

“Stop saying these things to me. Do you know you aren’t talking to me right now; you are talking to your mother. I am not your mother.  Stop taking your anger out about your mom on me. I did not leave you. I did not move two time-zones away from you. I did not go to Las Vegas instead of visiting you.  I am not your mom!  I am your stepmom! Stop treating me like I’ve done those things to you. I didn’t do them.

I am here each and every day for you. I take care of you. I cook for you. I make sure your field trip slips are signed, I help you with school projects.  I love you. Don’t you ever, ever say that I don’t love you. Because you have NO IDEA what is in my heart.

You have every right to be angry at what your mom did. You have every right to be hurt and sad but don’t you dare transfer that anger on to me. I do not deserve it and I’m not going to stand here and listen to you accuse me of something that isn’t true. I do care about you. If you can’t stop saying these things then you need to march up to your room and shut the door because I’m not going to listen to this crap anymore!”

I said it very sternly but never yelled or screamed at her. I couldn’t believe I said those things. She never said a word, just seemed to be looking at me and staring intently at my face. When I finished,  I walked away, afraid of her retort.

My SD followed me into my office and said “I’m sorry” and she sobbed and sobbed. She said “my mom would kill me if I told her how I really feel. “ Then she got close to my face and said “can I just ask you one thing?” “Sure,” I responded. “May I have a hug?” she asked. I grabbed her and hugged her and held her and cried with her.

After we were done crying, I told her how I was never angry or mad at her but that I could no longer listen to her scream at me that I don’t love her. She seemed to understand. I told her to go take a warm bubble bath to relax and we would talk more when she was finished. We did.

I needed to say those words and I think she needed to hear them. For the past three years, she has been transferring all of her hurt, confusion, pain onto me and it’s very hard to take. While I know in my head that it could be any woman in my shoes and they would still be getting the same treatment, it’s still hard to hear and experience. I know it’s not me personally but in the flesh, it sure is hard not to hurt from it.

I have to admit. I do feel much better. Let’s see how tomorrow goes. One of my many lessons learned is not to have expectations.

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.” 

Another good day. Today, there was no I love you. There was, however, validation seeking for her comment yesterday.

I was doing dishes and she was doing homework in the kitchen. She asked me if what she said yesterday was true, “is it right smom what I said yesterday? That even if we don’t get along about something that we always make up.”  “Yes,” I told her. “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.” 

“So, you aren’t going to leave me?” she asked. I’m thinking that I want to scream I will never leave and how could you even think that but I know she is desperately searching for validation that she won’t be abandoned again.

She’s not asking the question because I make her think I’m going to take off, she is asking the question because she doesn’t want me to leave.  Hey, I think I’m getting pretty good at deciphering how and why. But I’m stopping. I’ve learned I can’t spend too much time trying to figure things out. 

Just go with the flow Heather. Go with the flow.  I’m flowing with this. Trust me. When there is nothing much to report. That’s a good day. I’m really appreciating the simplicity of a boring day.

Tomorrow, I have a HUGE surprise for my stepdaughter that her dad and I planned for her birthday. She is going to be super duper excited. Okay. Stop. I can’t have expectations. I’m pretty sure she’s going to love the surprise. Hint: it’s not a gift you can open!!!

What? Do my ears deceive me? It can’t be or maybe it can!!!  Did I just hear I love you?  After months of “you hate me”……

My stepdaughter actually came up to me and said “I love you.”

Still in shock, I can’t speak while my little one was quick to say “my mom doesn’t like you. She can’t like you because you are so mean to her.” I was about to butt in because I didn’t want my little one saying such things. Plus I didn’t want this moment to have any negatives attached. But then my SD replied “well, we do have some arguments but we always make up and I love her.”

Deep breath. Wipe away a slow tear falling. Close my eyes and etch her words and this moment into my brain and into my heart!

“WELL SAID,” I replied to my SD. And off she and my little one went to go play Barbies.  Perhaps she is seeing my love for her more clearly now that I’m not engaging. Perhaps, she is just having a great day. Perhaps, she is buttering me up. Her birthday is a few days away and she knows I’m the cake maker, present buyer, party doer.

Whatever the reason, I’m not spending time thinking why. I’m living in the moment of “I love you” and in the moment of peace. And that’s where I’m staying today. No questions asked!

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