I remember making a list of all the things I wanted to do before I died when I was twelve years old. For the longest time, I carried that folded up list in my purse but now it is no where to be found. I wish I could find that list. I’m sure I had things on there like meet Matt Dillon, swim with Christopher Atkins and ride with Jon Schneider in the Dukes of Hazzard Car but I honestly don’t remember all the “fantasy” type wishes. I do remember a few of the more tangible list items because they have come true; go to college, get married, be a mom (although I wanted eight kids), and write a book (did get an ebook published).
I’m much older now. Forty-three to be exact and my goals and life list have changed. Today, I am taking part in Alissa’s from Clever Compass Life List Project. Committing to the project forced me to sit down and make a list and share it. When I share I am more accountable. It was also fun to make a list that wasn’t all focused on stepfamily life. I am a stepmom but that is not all that I am.
So here are the things I would like to accomplish. Some are big. Some are small. Many I know I will probably never check off but a girl can dare to dream….. Here is my life list (aka heart wishes):
Grow old with my husband
Hug all my grandbabies
Read the entire Bible
Love my body
Get a couples massage with Andy
Feed a giraffe
Go to Alaska with Andy
Go on a short term missions trip with my family
Retire with Andy to a log cabin and motorhome
Visit all 50 states with Andy
Take the family to the Grand Canyon
Write and send a thank you letter to every person who has inspired me
White Water Rafting on the Rio Grande
Get back to a size 8 and stay there
Hug my stepdaughter’s mother
Organize my house
Be bolder in my faith
Finish my kids’ scrapbooks
Find a book agent/get book published
Host a stepmom getaway where I could meet all the amazing stepmothers I’ve connected with in person
Operate a Bed and Breakfast in Vermont with Andy
Go to Hungary
Hold my oldest daughter’s book in my hands (She is an amazing writer)
Help all my kids find and pursue their passions
Be there when my kids fail
Read more fiction books
Learn to accept rejection
Skinny dip in a lake with Andy
Find the woman who cleaned the office at my first job, hug her, thank her for being a ray of sunshine in my life
Speak at Weekend to Remember conferences with Andy
Have coffee with Julie Andrews
Have coffee with Judy Blume
Run a Christmas Tree Farm for one season
Find the right therapist for my youngest stepdaughter
Take a Hot Air Ballon Ride
Go back to Switzerland with Andy
Hear Tony Evans preach in person
Take the family to San Diego to visit my brother and his family
Unpack all the boxes in my basement
Squeeze the pain of rejection out of my stepdaughters
Open a coffee shop/book store
Ice skate around the rink without holding on or falling
Volunteer at local pet shelter and foster dogs
Run a 5K
That any pain I live through can be used for good
Start a non-profit that helps parents effectively co-parent
Host a show on the Food Network
For all my kids to know at the core of their soul I will always love them no matter what. I want them to live and breathe unconditional love
Have dinner with my husband and fellow stepmoms and their husbands
To get a stepmom ministry in Churches
To speak at Churches across the country with Andy regarding stepfamily living
Sew like my grandmother
Finish all the sewing projects I’ve started
Put together a recipe book of all my family recipes
I know some of these will never come true. The chance that I’ll enjoy a cup of java with Julie Andrews is a dream but one that I have. Her professional work and her personal life are an inspiration to me and my daughters.
I enjoyed just sitting down and writing from my heart. The list above is top of mind. Not milled over for hours. If you can help me accomplish any on my list, please let me know. And if I can help you accomplish any of yours, please let me know.
What’s on your Life List? Consider doing one and sharing here.
Day 9: 31 Days of Life in the StepMom Trenches (Vlogtober)
Why do you have to go and make things so complicated? – Avril Lavigne
Complicated. A word that I commonly use to describe stepfamily living. There is no positive or negative stuff attached to the word just that decision making in stepfamilies has a few more layers to it.
In today’s video, I’m actually sharing a decision I had to make recently in regards to my own daugther. The fact that I am remarried and have a different last name made me pause and think about a few things when she made a request to me.
Takeaway: Life is a stepfamily is great but it doesn’t come without it’s set of challenges. One of those being have to consider many people’s feelings when making a decision. Next time you want to pull your hair out because of all the factors you have to consider in doing something stop and understand that this goes with stepfamily and co-parenting territory and start to focus on a blessing that you get from your life. Replacing a frustration with a blessing is a sure way to lift your mood and get your focus where it can be positive and productive.
Would you agree that stepfamily life brings with it some “complications”? What brings you the most complications as a stepmom?
Day 8: 31 Days of Life in the StepMom Trenches (Vlogtober)
Today, I’m sharing with you a personal story that occurred yesterday. Originally, our plans for the day included the whole family going to one of my son’s soccer game. It was pouring rain so I ended up going solo to the game and my husband stayed home with the other five kids. My other son needed help with his homework but he didn’t want his stepdad’s help. Wait, you mean stepfathers get push back too???? Yes, it’s normal for all stepkids to resist help from a stepparent.
In today’s vlog, I share more of the story and then what was going on in my son’s mind when he declined his stepfather’s help. Yes, I’m grateful he shared what he was thinking because those two have a great relationship and I would have never guessed that my son felt the way he did about getting homework help from my husband.
What I forgot to share in my vlog is that my son and my husband (his stepdad) played Stratego while I was gone and my son beat him. Those two spending time together after homework was complete tells me that my son wasn’t saying “I don’t want to spend time with you,” to my husband but rather “I don’t feel comfortable doing my homework with you. It’s something I like doing with my dad.”
Takeaway: Next time one of your stepkids resists your help, pause for a moment and understand they may have a very good reason (in their mind for it). Don’t take it personally but rather use it as an opportunity to reassure them that you are available should they change their mind. This is a teachable moment to model consistency and flexibility to them.
Your thoughts on the vlog and story? Do you have a question or issue you’d like me to address in upcoming vlog posts? Please share. Thanks.
1. To release from something that holds fast, connects, or entangles.
2. To release (oneself) from an engagement, pledge, or obligation.
To free or detach oneself; withdraw.
“Disengage from the situation!” “Just disengage from your stepchild if they are causing you pain!” “I would just disengage from my husband if he was acting like that.”
These are common tid bits of advice that stepmoms receive. But the bigger question is:
“How do you disengage and still stay connected?”
While disengaging from someone or something does lessen the pain it doesn’t solve the problem that is causing you to want to disengage. As the definition states above, disengage involves withdrawing and how can you have a healthy and fulfilling marriage if you are disengaging from your husband and/or the child he brought into your marriage.
Do you stop asking about their day? Do you stop talking to your husband about their child and the struggle that brings you pain? Do you stop going to soccer games or parent teacher conferences to avoid confrontation from their mom? Just how do you disengage? Walking away from the pain may make the daily ride “easier” but it doesn’t address the struggles causing the pain and it isn’t drawing you closer to your husband nor his children.
When we disengage a few things can happen. The biggest drawback in my opinion is the hardening of your heart. When you disengage from a person or situation that is causing you pain, you often start to slowly put up a wall. You withdraw emotionally even if you are physically present and that can present it’s own issues. Sure you are still loving that person but you are loving them from a distance. You are lessening your vulnerability to be hurt. That may sound great… no pain… but when you want to give and receive unconditional love you have to be vulnerable. When you are married… you are vulnerable. When you are a parent…. you are vulnerable.
In my journey as a stepmom, disengaging from negative comments (not the person) is the best disengagement! And I speak from experience. Years back, I tried disengaging from my youngest stepdaughter and it didn’t work. Her struggles continued, her roller coaster of emotions continued. My disengagement did not erase the impact her choices were having on the family and on me and her father. Me not asking her about what was going on at school might have helped me not physically feel sick when I would hear the answer but it was like walking around my family room in the dark: the toys were still strewn everywhere, there was dust on the TV but I just couldn’t see it in the dark.
For me, disengagement made me feel worse. I disbanded that approach and did some soul searching. I want to be there and help and if it hurts to do that then I have to work through that. The best thing was for me is to put distance between hurtful things said and done and how I choose to process it.
Here are some truths about being a stepmom that remind me to not take things personally and help me disengage from the hurtful words not the person hurting:
My success as a stepmom is not tied to my stepchild’s choices and behavior. Measure your success as a stepmother by the love you give not by the response you get back. Because divorce and/or death of a parent is loss for a child, they are often operating from a place of pain. While remarriage is a second chance at love for you and your husband, it’s a reminder to a child that mom and dad will never be together again. We know that hurting people hurt others and often kids are operating from a place of pain. It doesn’t give them a license to say or do hurtful things but it can help you understand that their choices and behavior are not tied to your role as stepmom.
Hurting people hurt others. Disengage from the hurt not the hurting person. As mentioned above, separate the hurt from the hurting person. Have boundaries and consequences for poor choices. We can choose to withdraw from the person causing the pain but if we are committed to staying in our marriage than withdrawing and hardening our hearts will not build into a marriage that we want to grow and flourish.
While someone’s choices may impact me, they are just that – SOMEONE ELSE’s choices and I am not responsible for their choices. Do not take on another’s choices as your own. We may hear “you ruined my life,” “you took my dad away,” “my life would be perfect if you weren’t in it,”“if you cared about me, you’d leave me alone,” and more from our stepkids and we may hear even worse from their mother. Remember: these are their words not your doing. Do not take in these words as truth of who you are.
My value is not tied to another person’s opinion of me. While we should be open to honest feedback about ourselves, feedback and bashing are two different things. Do not measure your value by others. At Church this past Sunday, our pastor shared these words “your value is not tied to your valuables.” So true. Our value comes from the one who created us and God loves us all. He sees us as the beautiful creations He made us to be.
“You don’t always get back what you give!” (this is a little gem of a phrase I just learned from my friend Lisa on Twitter). Lisa said it so well. And this may be one of the hardest stepmom truths to swallow and accept. We give and we give and as stepmoms (and I would say parents in general) we may not get back all that we give but we are called to give anyway. When we give to give and not expect anything in return, it helps.
Hope these truths I’ve come to know help. While disengaging would numb the pain we feel it would also serve to numb our relationships and wouldn’t solve the problem bringing the pain. If anything we could have more issues as our withdrawing would impact our marriage and relationships.
“An engaged woman is always more agreeable than a disengaged. She is satisfied with herself. Her cares are over, and she feels that she may exert all her powers of pleasing without suspicion. All is safe with a lady engaged; no harm can be done.” Jane Austen
Would love to hear your thoughts on disengaging? Have you found yourself disengaging from a situation or person in your stepfamily? What tips would you share? What did you think of the stepmom truths shared? Are they helpful to you? As we share with one another and have open and honest dialogue as stepmoms we continue to grow, support and encourage one another.
Look forward to hearing your take on disengaging! Let’s talk….