Posts Tagged ‘stepmothering’

Holiday Tip #9 for Stepmothers from Reader Kim–Stop Being a Stepmother

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

How good would it feel to step away from stepmothering for a few hours or a day? Give it a try.

How good would it feel to step away from stepmothering for a few hours or a day? Give it a try.

This tip is born from the concerns of a number of readers who have been emailing me about holiday worries, dramas, and tribulations. It seems that the holidays can bring out the worst when it comes to charged relations with exes; “visitation shenanigans” as one reader puts it; and unresolved issues between us and stepkinder.

If it gets stressful over the next days, take a minute to remind yourself that you are not necessarily a “stepmother.” You are a woman who married a guy with children, and there is a whole spectrum of “normal” when it comes to how you will be with those children, and how they will be with you.

Remember what you were like before you married a guy with kids? You’re still that person, too.

Remembering that you are a person first–a person with interests, talents, ambitions, gifts, and desires of your own–is something women with stepkids too often forget. Stepmothering can be so overwhelming, so demanding, and so depleting that you may give yourself over to it too completely. Which leads to resentment. Kim writes:

“The last time I was ‘away’ by myself was in October and it’s overdue for me to go again. Even though it was for a conference, I was relieved of my responsibilities and I started to feel like my old self again.

Then, today, when I was out getting the making for the desserts I’m contributing to several events and I was buzzing between stores, I had a sudden desire to go to my favorite bakery for a quiche and a cappuccino. The place is so popular that the line is out the door. Instead of fretting about how long it was taking me, I just waited. I waited and breathed and did my people-watching and ran into some people I know. By the time I left, I felt “youthful” again . . . in the way that having a spontaneous and carefree moment can bring. It was precious . . . that moment ‘out’ of it all”

Taking time to reconnect with friends and your family of origin, go to your book group or just your favorite cafe for a cappuccino, solo, Kim reminds us, can help you get back into your own skin and reconnect with the woman you were and still are. Remember her?

Holiday Tip #8

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

From Peggy Nolan, this tip you need!! See my blog roll to the right for Peggy’s site, the Stepmom’s Toolbox. Full of great information, advice, and upbeat perspectives on stepmothering. Peggy Says…

Peggy Nolan says you should do this over the holidays. She's right.

Peggy Nolan says you should do this over the holidays. She's right.

“Carve out 30 minutes to YOURSELF each day. Meditate, go for a walk, read, soak in a hot bubble bath (with a glass of wine if you choose), practice a few rounds of Sun Salutation – do something for you that recharges your batteries, refills your cup, brings you inner calm, peace and poise of mind.”

To which I can only add: MAKE A LIST of things that make you happy. Seriously, write the things down. And then do them over the next days and weeks. Promise?

Please leave more holiday survival tips…thanks for your comments!

Holiday Countdown–Tip #4 (from reader Eyes Wide Open): Keep Your Serotonin Levels Up!

Friday, December 18th, 2009
This serotonin molecule doesn't look festive--but it's the key to holiday happiness. Guess how you make it?

This serotonin molecule doesn't look festive--but it's the key to holiday happiness. Guess how you make it?

Reader Eyes Wide Open has this to say about how she gets through the holidays with her sanity intact:

“Exercise!!! We try not to get stressed at the holidays because this season is such a lovely time and we enjoy the season so much more than the day – it’s hard to enjoy if everything is all stressed. This year has been tough with my husband not working much (and not receiving unemployment); when it all seems too much I cue up my iPod list and sweat it out until my legs are jelly. I usually try a new physical challenge (”I’ll do the big hill by the beach twice today!”) and by the end of the session, I’m so amped on adrenaline and proud of my accomplishment that I have no time to dwell on the stressful things. Plus then I can justify eating all the treats at the holiday parties!”

She’s onto something (and she has a blog, too, that you’ll enjoy). Experts tell us that it’s right at this time of year that many of us experience a dramatic dip in our body’s level of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates, among other things, mood and sleep). Low levels of serotonin = disrupted sleep and down moods (or, in some people, actual depression) (remember that women are twice as likely to experience depression as men, and that a number of studies I discuss in my book found that women with stepchildren have higher levels of depression than women without stepkids).

New York City psychiatrist Andrew Gotzis, M.D. confirms that there are three ways to up your serotonin levels without medication:

1. Sleep
2. Exercise
3. (You’ll like this one) Orgasm

So those are the ingredients that make for a happier, less stressed mood this holiday season. Easier than sugar cookies, right? I’m trying to keep a straight face here as I say: Have fun.

(For some of us, an additional boost like melatonin at night and 5HTP during the day, or an antidepressant, may be necessary. Ask your doctor–you deserve to feel great)

Mary Kelly Williams Stepmonster Support Group

Thursday, December 17th, 2009
Mary Kelly-Williams, stepfamily therapist

Mary Kelly-Williams, stepfamily therapist

Those people out in Boulder have all the fun. They get to live near the mountains, do workshops at the Naropa Institute–and get their heads adjusted by Mary Kelly-Williams. On December 15 Mary hosted a Stepmonster get-together, offering women with stepchildren company, sympathy, and insights galore. I’m told it was eye-opening and fun. Wish I could have been there. Thanks Mary for all you do for stepfamilies, and to everyone who was there! Anyone who is interested in Mary’s fantastic work can check out the great advice on her website

Holiday Survival Tip #3–Let Someone Else Do It! (Thanks Mary, Talia, and Kela!)

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

You over the holidays. Just lose the cigarette.

You over the holidays. Just lose the cigarette.

Today’s tip comes to you courtesy of Talia and Mary (thanks to you both) as well as Kela Price, one of my favorite stepmom coaches, of

It is: Let someone else do it!

Talia says that after bad behavior from her stepkids around gifts the last few years, “I am taking a laid-back, hands-off approach this year.” She’s letting their dad choose their gifts. I suggest she also let him wrap them and, if Talia and her husband keep their finances separate, pay for them. These kids want gifts from Daddy, not Talia, anyway. Until they’re out of their loyalty binds, exacerbating them by giving gifts will work against Talia.

Mary writes that “There will be no bending over backwards [for resentful stepkids who don't appreciate the effort this holiday season]…it is a set-up for criticism and hurt feelings down the road.” Brava. By making the holidays normal and inclusive, rather than treating the kids like royalty to be pandered to, everyone wins. So have kids of all ages involved in meal planning, preparation, serving and clean-up as possible. Little ones can make holiday art or placecards for guests. This way the kids feel like part of the life of the couple rather than “special guests,” and the stepparent feels less depleted and resentful.

And here’s Kela:
by Kela Price,

This holiday season, delegate, delegate, delegate! Don’t feel the need to do everything for everybody. If you cook, let your husband clean up or shop for the ingredients. Allow the kids to wrap presents for dad and you can even give them an age appropriate cooking task as well. Tell your husband to wrap his kids’ Christmas gifts. Make everything a team effort in order to decrease your chances of feeling burned out and resentful.

Of course delegating requires that you do it the right way. You have to communicate with your partner about it all. Talk about plans for the holidays and realistic expectations ahead of time with your spouse, and be as honest as possible. Resist the urge to fall into your people pleasing tendencies during this time of year and talk about what YOU expect. If your stepchildren don’t like you and don’t mind showing it, explain to your husband that you expect them to be respectful and courteous (they should be doing this all year long) during this time, so that they don’t create tension for other guests who might be invited to Christmas dinner. It is also helpful to discuss with your husband, what you expect of him. Often times, divorced dads seem to be even more permissive with not only the kids, but the ex-wife, during this time of year. Talk about these issues AHEAD of time! If you don’t discuss these issues ahead of time, you are likely to fall into the “for the sake of the kids” rituals and end up serving turkey and dressing to your husband, his kids and the ex-wife; all while they discuss old times and relive what once was. Explain the importance of creating new family traditions so that you ALL can move forward instead of being stuck in reverse.

Thanks Mary, Talia, and Kela for this great tip.

The Real Scandal of “Sexting”

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Poor judgment + risk-taking + society's double standards = vulnerable teen girls

Poor judgment + risk-taking + society's double standards = vulnerable teen girls

If you have a teen step/daughter or know anyone who does, you’ll want to read about sexting. Check out my newest post on–and leave a comment!

What Do You Think? What the Divorced Mom Has to Say

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

What your husband's ex wants you to know about being divorced mom...

What your husband's ex wants you to know about being divorced mom...

Thanks to all of for your very moving comments/ letters to your partners’ exes and for reading my guest post, “What your child’s stepmom wants you to know about her life” on the No One’s the Bitch web site.

Jennifer Newcomb Marine has written a response, “What Your Husband’s Ex Wants You to Know About her Life.” Very interesting! Have a read and let me and/or Jennifer know what you think:

Talk for Steps in New York City

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Stepfamily members often feel stressed over the holiday season. Come talk about it--and other step issues--this Wednesday

Stepfamily members often feel stressed over the holiday season. Come talk about it--and other step issues--this Wednesday Dec. 9

Come join me for a discussion of stepfamily life this Wednesday, December 9 at 6:30 pm. at the Calhoun School, 81st and West End Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Whether you’re a “step” of some sort, the spouse or friend of one, divorced or separating, thinking about repartnering with kids, or just curious–all are welcome. I will facilitate discussion, answer your questions, and have copies of my book Stepmonster available for sale.

Hope to see you there!

What Would You Like Your Husband’s Ex to Know About Your Life?

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009
Do you wish your husband's ex had a better sense of what you struggle with?

Do you wish your husband's ex could have a better sense of what you struggle with?

I have a guest post on Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carole Marine’s No One’s the Bitch Website today. As you know, I strongly feel that women don’t need the additional pressure of “fixing it” with hubby’s ex. Civility is often a difficult enough goal, and we need to be very careful about siphoning energy away from self-care and tending to our marriage, given how depleting stepmothering is, and how vulnerable remarriages with kids are to divorce. In the spirit of engineering the kind of civility that can make everyone’s life easier, and in the hopes of fostering mutual understanding, here’s my post.

Have a read and leave a comment–what would you like YOUR husband’s ex to know about your life?

Why the 2010 Census Matters for Stepfamilies–and Stepmothers

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Please check out my newest piece for the Huffington Post on stepfamilies and the 2010 U.S. Census. Without accurate numbers, there won’t be enough research–or support.
When the census equates "family" with "households," stepmother families lose out