Find Balance Within Chaos

27 03 2009

On my recent trip to Mexico I was reminded of the necessity of being able to be calm and balanced in the middle of a whirlwind of negativity. It was a yoga retreat and we did yoga for three hours every day. It had been a while since I’d done any power yoga so I was sore and tired. My muscles shook and my mind fought me the entire way. “You can’t do this! Give up! You’re too tired. You’re not strong enough!”

It reminded me of what happens in stepfamilies and to stepmoms. When you’re living in a home that is filled with challenges from the people you live with and those connected to them, it can be tough to maintain your cool. But it’s essential to learn how to find a place of peace in your heart or you will lose your balance in no time.

Here are some things I’m experimenting with to keep my balance:

Dealing with my own stuff.Since I am a player in this family, I have to be responsible for my own emotional baggage. It’s my job to realize why things are upsetting me. And I am the one who needs to communicate with my family if I am feeling marginalized in unacceptable ways. I also have to make sure that I’m not taking things out on my family that are my own issues to resolve.

Asking for help. I simply can’t do it all. I can’t be a good wife, mother, stepmother or friend if I am strung out all the time with too much to do. There is absolutely no shame in asking for the help you need.

Having a laugh. There’s nothing like laughter to heal the soul.

A Blended Family Quiz

19 03 2009

Hi Gals:

I’ve just returned from a week in the sun on the sandy beaches of the Mayan Riviera and I couldn’t possibly write anything serious. So here’s a quiz. Read the statements below. Can you identify which stepfamily member would have said them? Hee hee. 🙂

1. “You’re not the mother!”

a. A stepkid

b. The ex wife

c. Your husband

d. Your new in-laws

e. Your stepchildren’s school officials

f. Your church leaders, colleagues, neighbors, friends, and family

g. All of the above


2. “Well, you knew what you were getting into!”

a. A stepkid

b. The ex wife

c. Your husband

d. Your new in-laws

e. Your stepchildren’s school officials

f. Your church leaders, colleagues, neighbors, friends, and family

g. All of the above


3. “You’re in love with a man who has kids? Are you crazy?”

a. Your parents

b. Your colleagues

c. Your friends

d. Your family

e. All of the above


4. “How could you not love them? They’re kids!”

a. Your friends.

b. Your family

c. Your colleagues

d. Your doctor

e. Your mail delivery person

f. The girl at the checkout counter at the bookstore

g. All of the above


5. “I Do!”

a. Your spouse

b. You

c. The kids

d. All of the above

Answers: 1. g, 2. g, 3. e, 4. g, 5. a or b and sometimes c, but not usually.

Another TV Opportunity

19 03 2009

Hollywood is calling again. If you missed the three other reality shows looking for blended families, here’s another chance:

Production Company Seeking Large Blended Family For Reality / Documentary Television Show

Left/Right TV is a New York City-based production company currently seeking a step-family for a new reality television show. We are looking to find a large blended family. And it would be best if this family was newly formed, but we will consider all step families.

We are particularly interested in racially diverse unions. African-American father with African-American children married to White mother with white children, or any combination of different races in one household. But it does not have to be interracial: we are truly looking for real families dealing with real issues: step-sibling adjustments, financial stresses brought on from the current economy, distribution of labor and any other issues that come up in a modern American home.

We are looking for articulate, intelligent parents and children who live in
suburban environments and live middle-to-upper-middle-class lives any where

in the United States of America. We also would like to ideally find a family that has only lived this new and blended life for a year or less.

Please consider being a part of this exciting opportunity to tell the story
of a single family’s way of dealing with the issues that the entire country
is dealing with right now.

If you and your family are interested in being a part of this timely project
– please get in touch by sending a letter describing your family as well as
a recent photo of everyone to: And please feel free to send this notice to anyone you think may be interested in being a part of this opportunity.

Please call Michael Sutton 212-695-1625 ext. 340 if you have any questions or advice on how to find a great family.

LEFT/RIGHT • 145 WEST 28TH STREET, 7TH FLOOR • NEW YORK CITY • 10001 TEL (212) 695-2092 • FAX (212) 695-1625 • WWW.LEFTRIGHT.TV


The Ex – An Exercise

11 03 2009

Over at the Stepfamily Letter Project, the majority of the letters we’ve received so far are from stepmoms to bio moms. So I thought it would be fun to try an exercise. Answer the questions below in a notebook or word doc that you can burn or delete when you’re done. (I understand that you wouldn’t want this to fall into the wrong hands.)

Answer the following questions and fill in the name of the bio mom(s) in your life.  I did this one myself to test it out before I posted it for you and found it surprisingly revealing and cathartic.

I wish ______________ would:

I am angry with ____________ because:

I need ____________ to:

I am hopeful that _________________ will:

I doubt that ________________:

I contribute to the problems with ________________ by:

I can make the relationship with ______________ better by:

Now burn it!

The Doctor Is In: Emily Bouchard

11 03 2009
 emilyEmily Bouchard, founder of, is an expert in stepfamily issues with more than 20 years of experience in working with children and families dealing with adversity. She has a master’s degree in social work and a bachelor’s degree in child development. Emily is also a stepdaughter and a loving stepmother to two young women who were teenagers when she entered their lives. At www.blended-families.comyou will find archived articles such as this one, a free newsletter written by professional family coaches, and many other resources for stepmoms who want to thrive in their families.

A New Perspective on Dealing with Your Husband’s “Ex” 

By Emily Bouchard

One of the most persistent and common complaints I hear from stepmoms is their frustration with their husbands’ former spouses whose behavior is intolerable.

In my experience it is HOPELESS to wish, want, need, hope, pray – that THEY will change. I’ve heard clients report how they have tried all sorts of communication strategies that are supposed to be so effective with zero results. I’ve heard so many complaints about how the former spouse will agree to something and then turn around and do the opposite – and my clients are always so surprised EVERY time this happens.

I feel a need to repeat here Gertrude Stein’s definition of insanity that can be very helpful: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Here’s what I tell couples who are struggling with these issues – stop focusing on what is wrong about the “ex” and start focusing on what you do have control over – your responses to what the ex-spouse does in relationship to you and your family.

Oftentimes, when couples begin to shift their focus, they discover that it has been serving them to look outside themselves at what is so wrong about the other person – the one they cannot change. It allows them to feel victimized, helpless, hopeless, and righteously indignant. They get to feel superior, knowing better than the former spouse how to parent and deal with new families and new lives.

The remarkable paradox that occurs is that when couples shift to:

  1. compassion for the former spouse, and
  2. taking full responsibility for their participation and choices in relationship to the former spouse,

change does occur – it has to. When one aspect of the family “system” changes, all members have to shift as well.

When the new, second wife is able to release and let go of her resentments toward the former wife, she is able to be much more at peace with whatever the ex-wife is doing. By becoming a “lover of reality,” you get to actually enjoy the drama of life, instead of feeling only wronged, victimized, and hurt by life.

Freedom and peace come from meeting life fully with what it brings you instead of wishing, hoping, or needing life to be different than what it is.

Action Step: The next time a former spouse pushes your buttons and you feel frustrated, angry, or hurt –

  1. Acknowledge your feelings and seize the opportunity.
  2. Ask yourself what you “get” out of believing that you are being treated a certain way.
  3. Honestly appraise how you approach life when you hold onto your beliefs about the former spouse and why you think they are behaving that way.
  4. Ask yourself how you might be different if you did not believe those things about the ex-spouse.

This same process works for ANYTHING outside of your control in your life. Any time you feel out of balance, frustrated, angry, or irritated about a situation – be it about one of your stepchildren, the weather, your computer not working right, your partner, etc. – you can apply this simple strategy to determine, consciously, how you’d like to respond to what life brings you.

A Father Speaks

11 03 2009

Bill has three kids from a previous marriage. He sent in his list of things he needs from his wife and the stepmother of his children.

  • Understanding that sometimes the kids are going to have to come first.
  • I apologize for having an ex-wife.
  • Understanding that scheduling is going to be hell and it will be for years to come.
  • I think the father needs to be a buffer between the stepmother and the bio mother if that’s possible.
  • I understand frustration about bio mom but would appreciate it if you don’t make comments about her in front of the kids.
  • Thanks for being understanding about my relationship with my kids because I know you will never feel the same way I do about them.
  • Communication is very, very important.
  • Divorce is not an easy way out. Let’s work through this.

Stress Management

5 03 2009

Living in a stepfamily can create the kind of constant stress to the body and mind that astronauts and soldiers are trained to handle. But as far as I know there isn’t a boot camp for stepmoms that teaches you how to handle living with daily stress in the very place that most people consider a place to relax–home.

It can bring a good woman down.

We’ve had flair ups in our stepfamily lately and the stress has started to show up in my body. Tight shoulders, aching neck, shallow breathing, difficultly sleeping. And so, m’ladies, once again I offer you a list of stress busters because we all need them. If you have any you’d like to share, please do!

Read for total escapism. Whatever your favorite reads are, I say go for them, even if you feel like you have to hide them behind a book cover or in your Kindle. Buy the book cover. Download away. Right now I’m reading the classic Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It’s good old-fashioned fun.

Watch a movie. One you picked, not one the skids fought over or your husband thought you might like. Pick one that’s just for you.

Find out where stress lives in your body. Close your eyes and think of the most stressful thing in your life right now. What happens to your body? Where do you tighten up? Use breathing, stretching, or massage to get those knots out of your system.

Don’t try to pretend you’re okay when you’re not.If you’re feeling crappy, don’t slap a fake smile on your face. Tell your family you’re having a rough patch and need their compassion. Or if you don’t have that level of openness yet with your stepfamily, head out for a mini vacay to a place where you don’t have to put on your smile like a suit.

Play. Bring out your inner kid with a toy pottery wheel, finger paints, a trip to the ice skating rink.

Allow your anger. Get it out ladies. That stuff is poison if you let it sit. And as you all know, most of us have been trained since birth that anger isn’t lady-like. We’re supposed to be nice, play nice, share, bite our tongues, keep our voices down etc. etc. etc. With that kind of training how are we supposed to know how to deal with our anger in a healthy way? Try screaming at the top of your lungs when you’re alone in the house. Beat a pillow. Throw glassware. Trash your room. Rip something to pieces.