Blended Family Teleconference Call

30 12 2008

Hi gals:

Join me for a live one-hour teleconference call with Emily Bouchard, a stepmom of two, blended family coach, and the founder of Blended-families.com on Thursday, January 15, 2009, at 6 p.m. PST / 9 p.m. EST as we discuss the challenges and joys of stepmotherhood!

The call is free (except for your local long-distance charges) when you sign up here and if you have a question you want answered during the live call, you can submit it to Emily who will be conducting the interview.

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Stepmom Book Club

30 12 2008

Okay ladies, I’m starting a book club on this blog! I’m going to post reviews of books that portray or discuss stepfamily life and once you’ve read them I would love to hear your thoughts about the books. If you have suggestions for books you think we should read, please email me or leave a comment. I’ll also be doing some interviews of the authors here too, in the future. So watch for those.

package-dealThe first book is not even out yet, so I must apologize in advance that I’m going to give it a glowing review and you can’t even read it yet. But fellow stepmom blogger Izzy Rose over at www.stepmothersmilk.com has written a memoir called The Package Deal:  My (not-so) Glamorous Transition from Single Gal to Instant Mother that won’t be out until May. You can order it in advance though to make sure you get a copy and I highly recommend you do just that. It is hilarious and so heartfelt. I loved it.

To get a flavor of Izzy’s writing, check out her blog. Some of the posts she wrote there ended up in the book. If you love red wine and hanging with other stepmoms, you’ll love this book, too. When it comes out in May I’ll start up a book club conversation about this memoir and post an interview with Izzy.





Stepmoms Speak

30 12 2008

A New-Fangled Christmas
by Peggy Nolan

I grew up in a blended family (ok, a puree’d family) so Christmas with step-relatives was no big deal for me. In fact, growing up as a “step” kid (my mom later adopted me and my brothers) paved the way for my future as a step/bonus mom.
When I married my husband, I not only married him, his kids and his ex-wife, but I married into his ex-wife’s family. My “mother-in-law” is really my husband’s ex-wife’s mother…but she refers to my husband as her son and introduces me as her daughter-in-law. Kinda nice…but it does come with a separate set of “between my own ears” issues.

Putting my own personal issues aside, this family arrangement brings forth a realm of blessings that I can’t imagine a stepmom not wanting. My husband and I attended my mother-in-law’s family Christmas on December 20. This gathering included my husband’s ex-wife, her boyfriend, three of my husband’s semi-adult children, and all of “mom’s” children as well as her ex husband and his wife. All together, there was probably 25 people at mom’s. Five short days later, Christmas dinner was hosted by my eldest stepdaughter, and most of the same people who were at mom’s family Christmas were also at my stepdaughter’s.

The blessings are infinite and grow with each gathering. My husband’s children don’t have to split their time between parents. They don’t have to decide who they’re opening presents with, who they’re having dinner with, or how much time they spend at dad’s.

My husband and his ex-wife ended whatever battle they had going on in their marriage a year or two after their divorce was final. By the time I came into the picture, there was no animosity, no drama, no negativity. In fact, I was welcomed into her family as a sister and a daughter. And her kids are free to love me, like me, or leave me. Three of them have chosen to love me (the 4th chooses to leave everyone and be a victim).

My husband’s ex-wife and I are not best friends, but we are friendly toward one another. Her youngest son lives with me and my husband full time – and I know she appreciates where I’ve stepped in because her son is thriving.

Weather permitting, I will be spending New Year’s Eve with my husband, his ex-wife, her boyfriend, her sister, and at least one of her brothers and his wife. Originally, her sister invited my husband and I to join her for First Night…and we were going to spend the night at her place so that we wouldn’t have to drive home; however, with my husband’s ex-wife also joining in, we won’t be spending the night…all in good time, but not now. Even my husband is not ready for that!

Check out Peggy’s blog at: www.serendipitysmiles.wordpress.com





Stepmom Smackdown: Keep your friends close.

23 12 2008




Stepmoms Speak

23 12 2008

Ann Orchard, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist who provides individual, couple, and group counseling through her private practice in Edina, Minn. Ann has also published research on stepmothers and has led stepfamily support groups. She is a stepmother of two. www.drorchard.com

 Time Heals 

By Ann Orchard 

Who would have imagined 20 years ago that Bob, my husband, and I would be celebrating my stepdaughter Elizabeth’s 30th birthday with Bob’s ex? And happily so! Twenty years ago we were enmeshed in an acrimonious custody battle. Bitter words were hurled at each side, resulting in lasting hurt and anger.

My relationship with Bob’s ex – I’ll call her KB for short – had started amicably enough. By the time I came on the scene, KB had already moved east to Boston, leaving Bob with their two kids, Elizabeth (age 7) and Ben (age 5). When Bob and I became engaged after a year of dating, KB was one of the first to congratulate me and wish me the best. However, soon after Bob and I were married, the relationship between KB and me soured. Bob had been trying to amend the original divorce decree to reflect the change from joint custody to his now having sole physical custody. There would then be a legal record of his entitlement to child support.

All hell broke loose. After one year of an intense and expensive custody battle, I found myself depressed and extremely angry. The part I resented the most was her intrusion on my marriage and her contribution to making my first year of marriage the absolute worst year of my life. No honeymoon period for me. On our first anniversary, I even said to Bob, “We’ve been married for a year now- just you, me, Elizabeth, Ben, and KB.”

The custody issues were finally resolved, yet the bitterness remained while the kids progressed through middle school, then high school. The two sides were civil to each other (with some blowouts along the way), but no love was lost.

The “big thaw” started with high school graduations. Enough time had passed, and I felt it was just time to let go of my anger. I believe we each have a choice how we’re going to live our lives, and that anger is toxic. By the time we hit graduate degrees for each child, we all were having a good time at our joint celebration dinners. The dinners included the two kids, KB, KB’s second husband, Bob, me and other family members. Of utmost importance was the inclusion of KB’s mom and my mom – the “neutral parties.” A little bit of wine also helped.

Once we were done with graduate degrees (and no weddings in sight), I realized I genuinely missed our joint celebrations. So when Elizabeth turned 30 last fall, I was thrilled to receive KB’s invitation to travel east to help mark Elizabeth’s milestone birthday. It was truly an act of graciousness. Bob and I went and had a wonderful time at the celebratory dinner. No, I doubt KB and I will ever be best of friends, but I feel good about how our relationship has grown. As I said, who would have imagined?





Tis the Season!

15 12 2008

Hi Ladies:

The holidays can be seriously stressful for stepfamilies, but they can also be the time of year when the creativity and flexibility of blended families can really shine. Check out this archived post for some ideas. Then help us all out by answering a few questions:

How do you split up the holidays?

What special traditions do you celebrate?

Are you nervous about anything?

What do you find most challenging during this time of year?

What things are you grateful for?





The Power of Guilt

15 12 2008

journaldmIn blended families, there are few things more powerful than guilt. It is the emotion that fuels many of the negative things that happen in stepfamilies. It is the reason that Dads become permissive parents and allow their children to run wild. It  is often one of the reasons Moms are combative and challenging to co-parent with. In 2003, the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage published a study called Divorced Mothers’ Guilt. The study found that the guilt they felt for putting their children through divorce often kept them stuck in one emotional place and unable to move on with their lives.

Anecdotally, I can attest to this just from listening to moms during interviews. I have always been curious about the moms who originally ask for the divorce and then act as though they are the victims or become vindictive or angry later when they weren’t at the time of the divorce. It could be the guilt talking.

And so for all of us, how do recover from guilt? How do biological and stepparents move on from feeling guilty about an affair, or a divorce or a remarriage? If anyone has some good ideas, please feel free to comment. In the meantime, here are some of my thoughts:

Say your sorry. Take the children out for one-on-one time and apologize. Call or e-mail your former spouse and tell them you are sorry for everything that happened. Marriage researcher John Gottman describes in his books how repair attempts can reduce conflict in relationships. If the breakup of the marriage happened because of an affair, leave defensiveness behind, own up to your responsibility and say your sorry.

Look to the future. Instead of remaining stuck in anger and guilt about what happened in the past, focus on your hopes for the future.

Remember we’re alone. Each of us has our own particular path to walk in this life. A divorce and remarriage will affect children for their rest of their lives, but at the end of the day they will have to deal with it on their own. Give them the tools they need to move through their emotions in a healthy way instead of letting them manipulate you with your guilt.

Let go of what doesn’t serve you. Guilt is really a useless feeling. It doesn’t move you anywhere, just keeps you stuck in the past. Wouldn’t you rather choose to let go of the guilt? Challenging things happen to children. How they respond to it can build their character and yours if you allow everyone to move on emotionally.

Be true to your inner truths. Guilt can strip biological parents of their core values. For instance, if a parent would typically believe that boundaries are good for kids but lets them all go because he feels guilty, he is not only depriving his children of the parenting they need, he is abandoning his own belief system. Seriously, guilt is that powerful.

So what do you feel guilty about? How does the guilt of your partner or the ex affect the dynamics between all the members of your blended family?