Do you do a seder, Easter Sunday, neither, both? Hope you will have a look at my latest post for psychologytoday.com. As it turns out, interfaith couples can learn a lot from stepfamilies…
Archive for the ‘parenting practices’ Category
What happens to kids when parents are permissive and indulgent? Research suggests that they are lower functioning across several measures–socially, emotionally, and academically–and they certainly aren’t much fun to be around. This is a legacy they bring with them into adulthood; many of today’s twenty-somethings, researchers like Ron Taffel note, were raised with so much indiscriminate and unwarranted praise, and so few appropriate boundaries and rules, that they have an inflated sense of their own importance and achievements, and unrealistic expectations not only within their own family system, but also in the world (I am reminded of a nanny candidate with a B.A. but zero full-time nanny experience who told me she “required” an outrageous salary–in cash –”in order to be happy”)
I hope it’s not too confusing that my most recent post was about the Mommy Tiger–and this one is about Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, wherein she asserts that there is a place for strict, authoritarian parenting.
It’s something stepmothers might dream about–parents so firm that stepmom gets to seem fun in comparison. Alas, too often the opposite is the case. Divorced dads are notoriously guilty and permissive parents. Single moms may be so frazzled and busy (or undermining of the child’s relationship with dad and stepmom) that they don’t do their part to raise responsible and considerate children on their end. And so the stepmom with normal expectations looks draconian and wicked compared to “good time Mom” and “Disney Dad.”
Sound familiar? Hope you will read my piece on different parenting styles, and why permissive parenting is for the birds, on psychologytoday.com
If you have a child or stepchild just starting school, my latest article for psychologytoday.com on her emerging independence might interest you. Please have a read…and leave a comment!
My friend Deesha Philyaw and her Co-Parenting Radio co-hosts will be featured on CBS’s Early Show Wednesday a.m. Divorce and remarriage with children plus stepparenting on national news–how do you like that? Have a look:
Also an interview I did with Deesha on co-parenting issues will run on Sept. 26th. Happy viewing…and listening.
The Council on Contemporary Families, a think tank on family life that I looooovvvveeeeeee, recently sent out a mailing all about fathers and Father’s Day. As a lover of research-based insight (and trivia), I wanted to share. Happy Father’s Day to the Dads and Stepdads reading. As a group you are more involved with your children and stepchildren than ever before, and making an unprecedented impact on not only your sons and daughters, but on the footprint of fathering more generally. You’re changing the way your children will parent. I love you!
1. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Father’s Day. So, um, happy Birthday, Father’s Day!
2. June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day, was celebrated in Spokane, Washington, after Sonora Dodd convinced the mayor that fathers such as hers, a widowed farmer who raised his six children, deserved their own day of recognition.
3. Not until 1972 did President Richard M. Nixon sign the holiday into law. Father’s Day is now observed world-wide, with at least 52 countries setting aside a day to honor dad.
4. Fatherhood has changed dramatically since 1910, and even since 1972. Between 1965 and 2003, men tripled the amount of time they spent caring for their children. Fathering is no longer an arm’s-length endeavor thanks to men who have stepped up.
5. In the U.S. there are 30.2 million fathers living with children under 18. Eighty-five percent of these men live with their biological children only, 11 percent live with stepchildren
and 4 percent live with adopted children. Many other children have stepfathers, adoptive fathers,foster fathers, grandfathers, and family friends who function as “social” or “psychological fathers.”
6. Almost one-quarter (24 percent) of the nation’s 11.2 million preschool-age children with a working mom are regularly cared for by dad during mom’s working hours. An estimated 158,000 men are stay-at-home dads whose wives support the family financially.
7. Fathers with children aged 3 to 5 in the home read to them 6 times a week on average, compared to almost 7 times per week for mothers. Seventy percent of fathers have dinner with their child every night during a typical week. Studies show that on average, African-American fathers in two-parentfamilies are more directly involved with their children than White or Latino fathers are with theirs.
8. More than 24 million children live apart from their biological fathers. That is 1 out of every 3 (33 percent) children in America – three times the proportion (11 percent) of children who lived in absent-father homes in 1960.
9. Another 2 million children live without a mother in the home. In 2009, there were 1.7 million single fathers in the United States. This amounts to 15 percent of all single parents. About half were divorced, 29 percent never married, 18 percent separated, and 5 percent widowed.
10. Custodial fathers and mothers are equally (un)likely to receive child support. For both men and women, only 45 percent of custodial parents received all of their allotted child support in 2007.
11. Dad’s involvement predicts children’s success. Children whose fathers are positively involved with them have fewer behavior problems, higher cognitive development, greater maturity and a lower likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse than children whose fathers have only fair to poor relationships with them
12. Fathers themselves benefit from being involved with their children and mothers tend to be less depressed when fathers have relationships with the children.
13. It doesn’t matter whether dad is a “biological” dad or whether he lives in the same home as his child: social support from dad is protective for children.
14. Stepfathers make a difference, too. Adolescents with close emotional ties to both a
stepfather and a nonresident biological father have better health outcomes than teens who are close to only their father.
Thanks to the Council on Contemporary Families for this marvelous research.
Are you following the story on Kelly Preston’s pregnancy at age 47? Hope you’ll have a look at my latest post for Psychology Today
And tell me about it: Did you become pregnant and have a child later in life?
Today I’m running a special guest post by Mary Kelly-Williams, MA, a therapist and stepmother in Boulder, CO about boundaries. You need them if you’re a woman with stepkids, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to maintain them, how to assert them, for fear of being disliked or perceived as wicked. Here’s Mary on how and why it’s important to have your boundaries in the stepfamily, and protect them. Otherwise, you’ll likely find yourself exhausted, depleted, and resentful. Have a read…and leave a comment!
BY MARY KELLY-WILLIAMS, M.A.
It is not uncommon for stepmothers to feel exhausted and depleted. It is not uncommon for stepmothers to feel misunderstood, used, taken for granted, and the scapegoat when things don’t go well in the stepfamily system. It is not uncommon for stepmothers to feel more like posers and actresses than actual human beings.
And all this exacts a price that no stepmother should or needs to pay.
Because the role of “stepmother” is so vague and ambiguous for most, and because our need for love and approval runs so deep, many stepmothers try to overcompensate, fix their spouse’s or even ex-spouse’s messes, be perfect and loving every second, take on the role of family and marriage counselor, and negate their own needs in the process. But there is a solution and it comes in the form of two simple words:
Yes, boundaries connect. I learned this 2-word mantra many years ago in a training program and I’ve used it ever since, for my clients and myself.
It’s important to have boundaries in our lives, especially when one is a stepmother. But this is tricky business, given the stepmother is the one with the invisible target on her chest that screams, “Blame me for everything!”
Stepmothers need to know when it’s okay to put up the bright red stop. They need to know when they’ve done enough conceding, enough “gutting” their way through their weeks and days. They need to recognize the warning their bodies give them when it feels like someone is stepping on their chest and it’s hard to breathe.
You know that feeling…that feeling you get when you agree to something that you really don’t want to agree to? That moment when you say “Yes”, and it’s as if you can feel all your essence, all that is you, slip down and go down the nearest sewer drain.
That feeling when you walk away and you want to kick yourself. That moment when you’ve said, “Yes” when you meant “No” and you blame the other person for “taking advantage of you.”
Why do we do this?
To keep the peace?
To avoid the conflict?
To get the ex-wife to like you?
To look like the good guy?
To make sure the stepkids love you?
To be a saint?
To be the perfect stepmother and wife?
To make life easier?
To ensure the smooth yet elusive “blended family”?
I thought so.
And you know how that feeling just sits in your psyche and you feel anything from slow burning resentment to out and out rage?
Usually when we get to this point, we also tend to get into a bit of a victim mode. We are being taken advantage of, we aren’t being appreciated, we aren’t being valued, we aren’t being seen.
Some of the most valuable lessons about how to maintain healthy boundaries in our stepfamily situations may come from other areas of our lives where we feel more self-confident. I finally learned the invaluable lesson of “Boundaries Connect” when one of my daughters was 15 years old. We were on the way to get her driver’s permit. Now, this daughter had been testy and feisty and difficult to get along with (Duh, 15).
I asked the unforgivable question, “So, how was your day?” ‘WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO NOSEY MOM? WHY DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO ASK ME THESE STUPID QUESTIONS???!!!”
Quick background. I was recently divorced from her father and full of divorce guilt and how my divorce was going to screw up my children for life, and how I was accepting perpetual rude behavior from this one in particular because I had put her through this divorce and would be forever more making up for it for all eternity.
Well, I had just learned about the power of the mantra “BOUNDARIES CONNECT” and the two words came screaming at me. I had had enough and I made an illegal U-turn in the road and headed the car back towards home.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHERE ARE YOU GOING? THIS IS THE WRONG DIRECTION!!!”
Me, in extremely calm mother voice: “You are not getting one more thing from me from this point on until you learn to speak to me with respect in a civil and polite tone. I will never apologize to you again about the divorce. It happened. It’s done.”
The screaming and ranting continued with the expected, “HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME? I NEED MY DRIVER’S PERMIT AND I NEED IT NOW, BLAH BLAH BLAH.” No no. Wasn’t going to do it. Wasn’t going to turn around. The verbal barrage continued. We got home and she ran into her room slamming the door, threatening to run away, go to her fathers’, call Social Services.
I handed her the phone.
From that point on, our relationship changed drastically. It moved into a relationship of love—my daughter stopped her ranting, her demands. And if she slipped, I’d look at her and say, “You’re not getting one thing from me until you speak to me in a way that is respectful.”
It didn’t take long.
Stepmothers recoil when I tell them this boundary connects concept. It elicits fear. “What if I give a boundary and I get rejected?” “What if my husband pushes back?” “What if my stepchildren hate me for sure?”
I try to reassure. I can’t tell you the times that the “Boundaries Connect” in action gives people more love, more respect. It’s not about being stubborn or rigid. It’s about being true to yourself and holding fast to the anchor of your being.
Ultimately, it’s better to disappoint another to be true to yourself. And it’s like that airline analogy. You know the one…you need to put on your oxygen mask first before you can help others.
We can’t model self-love to our children, our stepchildren, our spouses, or our friends if we aren’t self-loving.
So experiment today. Pick one small thing you’re tempted to relinquish. And don’t. See what happens…take a chance.
Top Concern of Women with Stepchildren/Stepmonster Giveaway: How Much and How Long to Spend on his KidsTuesday, April 13th, 2010
As I’ve been giving a few talks over the last weeks and reading your comments and emails, I’m getting a sense of what’s keeping you up nights.
You’ve told me, It’s the economy, Stupid. Thanks, I get it now. Stepfamilies (you may chafe against that term because the idea of you being a “family” of any type just doesn’t seem to honestly or accurately describe the reality on the ground when it comes to finances) and couples in a remarriage/repartnership with children are subject to all the economic pressure the entire country is feeling –and then some. And that’s because casting your lot with someone with kids, particularly a guy with kids, costs (men are just statistically more likely to be paying child support than are women, and anecdotally it’s clear that divorced men with kids often allow themselves to be guilted into going above and beyond their financial obligation, often way past the expiration date of a kid’s needs–35 and dad’s paying the rent, anyone?– to “prove” they’re good fathers).
Let’s say what people often don’t like saying, and what many of our well-meaning friends don’t think we should even feel, let alone mention, shall we? Particularly when economic times are tough, it can stink to have to foot the bill for kids or all too often adult kids not your own. Especially when those kids, young adult and adult children of your partner do not treat you particularly well. It can really stick in your craw, and you’re telling me that it does.
“Who am I, Wonderwoman?” one of you wrote, describing working two jobs to help your husband with his child support payments, most of which did not in all likelihood go toward child support once they reached his ex’s house. No, you’re not Wonderwoman. You’re normal, and that’s why you resent it. I’d stop if I were you, since you asked. I’d also start a conversation about separate finances. Another of you asked, “Why do I so resent that we are paying for my 28 year-old stepson’s rent?” Um, because your husband is a pushover who is teaching his son that Dad (and his wife) Will Take Care Of It, Son, No Need to Grow Up. Who wouldn’t resent having a partner who parented so incompetently and guiltily? If it’s going on at 28, who can tell what 38 may bring? Again, I’d think about a bank account of one’s own.
For others, the national economic crunch is affecting your housing situation. Since I live in New York City, land of negative square footage, I’m on the front lines of this one. Recently I gave a talk at which two different women in attendance shared their own architectural challenges. One was living in a small one-bedroom apartment–with her husband and two stepkids. I won’t go into the reasons or the details in order to protect her privacy. But I think we would all be hard-pressed to imagine anything worse for a marriage.
Another woman lived in a tiny two bedroom apartment–one bedroom of which was cordoned off as a kind of shrine to the man’s young adult child away at college. It seems the husband felt that his 21-year-old daughter required an inviolable, sacrosanct room of her own even though she doesn’t live there, and in spite of it being impractical and costly in every way. IN MANHATTAN. That left the woman’s young son sleeping with her and her husband in their room–for three years. The woman hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in all that time–it’s hard to sleep with a toddler alternately kicking and clinging to you all night long, take it from me. When she complained about it, her husband’s solution was that she should sleep on a mattress in the kitchen. So his daughter who had lived in another state for three years, and does not even spend summers with them, could still have “her room.”
This is a smart, savvy and utterly competent woman. But when it comes to asserting ourselves in one’s step”family,” it seems, many of us forget that it’s necessary and healthy to advocate for our own interests. In fact, we forget ourselves entirely. We cave out of fear of seeming, of being accused of being, wicked and unfair.
And then, weeks or months or years later comes the tidal wave of resentment. Or the insomnia, or the hair loss, or the health problems our doctors tell us are stress-related. As summer approaches–and brings with it younger stepkids on vacation and older stepkids on break from college–it is imperative to get your financial philosophy in order. Get a therapist involved if it would help. Then have the tough conversations about what you are and are not willing to shell out, about how to structure or restructure your finances–including your wills, insurance policies, and estate planning –so that everyone’s best interests and desires, including yours, are represented. Because from what you’re all telling me, it will save you a lot of aggravation down the road to have these arguments and negotiations now. Your partnership is very likely worth it. I’m rooting for you. Tell me how it goes.
And let me know here and now: HOW DO YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND OR PARTNER HANDLE FINANCES? MERGED? PARTIALLY MERGED? COMPLETELY SEPARATE? WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND WHY? I’ll randomly select one respondent to receive a free copy of my book, Stepmonster
*details in anecdotes have been altered to protect the identity of the subjects who tell me their stories
Ever wonder if your/your partner’s teen (or you) might actually be not only really into social media, but addicted to it? Today on my psychologytoday.com blog, check out the special guest post by Dr. Stephanie Newman…and leave a comment!
-”My husband is married to his kids, not to me. He’s so close to them. Whenever they show up I feel and am shunted to the side. If I complain, I’m a petty wicked stepmother. So I don’t say anything. And then I’m furious at him, and at them.”
-”When his kids are around he won’t even hold my hand. That hurts. And it makes me dread their visits.”
“He’s not finished with his ex. He does chores for her. He bickers with her like they’re still married. He’s at her beck and call and I’m fed up with it.”
-”This is a shadow of the marriage I hoped I would have–the fighting, the disappointment, the stress of dealing with his kids and his ex.”
You are right in your sense that when it comes to stepfamily life, without a good partnership you are nowhere. And with an airtight, satisfying alliance where you feel valued, loved, and part of a team of two, you can put up with and even thrive in the context of just about anything an uncooperative ex or resentful step/kids dish out.
Your partnership is what counts and is the key to success. Everything else–games of chicken about visitation with his ex, teen stepkinder with slovenly rooms and bad hygiene, stepkids who are disrespectful, sullen, or unwelcoming to a stepparent–are so much noise. What I mean is, fix the underlying issue by recalibrating your marriage so that it is a true partnership, and these other issues with repair themselves, or recede so much into the background that they matter less.
For example, if your teen stepson in residence is using drugs, that’s a huge problem and a huge stress on a marriage or partnership–particularly if you find yourself in that typical dynamic in a remarriage with children wherein you point out the problem with the kid’s behavior, and your husband dismisses your concern and minimizes the importance of what’s going on. At which point, you escalate your criticisms so he’ll take you seriously, and he grows ever more defensive and withdrawn and suggests, implicitly by ignoring you and explicitly by saying it, that you’re way too hard on his kids and there’s something wrong with your reaction.
Feels like a deal breaker, doesn’t it? Here’s another scenario: you’re both on the same page about what to do. You’re not thrilled to have your life once again waylaid by a teen stepkid who’s constantly creating drama and difficulty in your marriage and your life. You calmly tell your husband as much while also telling him that you feel bad for the stress it’s creating for him to have a kid breaking the rules. Your husband nods and says, “I know. It’s so frustrating for me and I’m his parent. I can only image how much you must resent this, and I don’t blame you one bit. Thanks for putting up with all this teen crap. I really feel lucky that you married me and you’re sticking it out with me.”
Yes, you can. Over the next weeks I’ll have stepfamily and martial and relationship experts doing guest posts to tell you how to realign the power imbalances in your home so your partnership feels and IS equitable, satisfying, and yes, happy.
A great place to start is psychoeducation–learning what’s normal for a couple in a repartnership with kids of any age, what dynamics are typical. One of the most common is putting the partnership last on the list of priorities as we put out fires with stepkinder and uncooperative exes.
Two great guest posts, one by Mary Kelly Williams, MA of www.marriedwithbaggage.com, and one by Susan Wisdom, author of Stepcoupling, illuminate why your couple bond is so important, and steps to take to keep it thriving.
And Susan’s piece called “What Were You Thinking?!”
Have a read (have two!)….and leave a comment.