Biological Children

30 04 2009

Interview with Stepmom Author Izzy Rose

29 04 2009

izzy-roseOn May 5, stepmom blogger Izzy Rose’s book The Package Deal will be available in bookstores nationwide. Read my interview with her below. Then visit her website to watch the book trailers and pre-order your copy. It’s a fantastic read that will make you want to invite Izzy to your house for drinks.

When you first started your blog Stepmother’s Milk,you were searching for support for stepmoms. Were you surprised at how little there was available?

I was surprised once I learned some of the statistics– that there  are something like 15 million stepmoms in the country today! I thought, if there are so many of us, why isn’t this a mainstream discussion? Why aren’t we on Oprah? Since then, I’ve watched in amazement as our online community has grown. We’re everywhere now! It seems like every day, I discover a new stepmom blog or stepparenting site. It’s very encouraging to see so many women reaching out to each other, connecting and offering advice.
Your book describes your first year as a stepmom. How have things changed since then?

I’m more relaxed. I no longer refer to myself as the Ruler of Cleanliness and Order. I just couldn’t keep that role up. I was outnumbered– a husband, two boys and two male kitties! In addition to adjusting to filth and fur, I’d moved across country, given up my career and left friends and family behind. Needless to say, I was a little on edge. Two years later, the newness and panic has worn off. This is a good thing– for everyone’s sake.
What three things do you think a new stepmom has to have to survive the first year of stepmotherhood?

  1. A surplus of wine
  2. A sense of humor
  3. Lots of therapy (with you and your man, alone, and maybe with the kids, although you might want to wait on the whole family combo deal until they unpack).

Do you still have full-time custody of the kids?

No, my oldest stepson, The Tall One, is the only kid living with us full-time now, and you’ll have to read the book to find out why.
What has been your greatest challenge as a stepmom?

Balancing my own needs with those of the kids. I’m sure every mother struggles with this, but because I married into my parenting role and don’t have kids of my own, I’m never quite sure how much I’m expected to give and compromise. To be honest, it was really tempting early on to shirk some responsibilities because I was “just the stepmom.” But, the reality is that if kids are living full-time under your care, you’re responsible. My stepmom rule is to compromise, but not sacrifice myself. I’m a big believer that if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re no good to anyone else.

There’s been a large debate going on about stepmoms who blog or write books about their families and how it will affect their stepchildren and relationships with their husbands and the ex. How do you decide what you’re going to write about? Do you share your writing with everyone in your family?

I’ve made jokes about moving to Mexico or going into hiding once the book came out to avoid a family mob attack, but truthfully, I think the need for that is slim. In writing The Package Deal, I worked hard to be fair to everyone involved and I made drafts of the manuscript available for family members to read throughout my writing process, and I encouraged them to speak up if something felt wrong or icky.

That said, I’m very honest and I suppose you do run the risk of offending people when you expose your insides. But when you start self-editing to please the crowd, you lose your voice.

Have you ever had someone in your family object to or been hurt by something you’ve written?

Not that I’m aware of and I hope that’s because I’ve made a conscious effort to be respectful. Before I started my blog Stepmother’s Milk, I asked my stepkids if they would be okay with me writing personal stories about our family. It was really important to me that they be on board. Every step of the way, I’ve reminded the boys to come to me if there’s something they don’t want me to write about or if they’ve read something they don’t understand. I’m constantly mindful of their privacy and how far I can push the boundaries.
What have been your greatest rewards as a stepmom?

As someone who thought she was missing the mom-gene, it’s been a sweet reward to realize I’m capable of taking on someone else’s kids and not failing horribly at it. The boys showed me a reserve of love I didn’t know was there. I said yes to a marriage proposal and I ended up with a family. A pretty good deal, if you ask me.

If a dear friend told you she was marrying a man with kids what would you say?

Welcome to the club! Becoming a stepmom is so “in” right now. One might say– stepmom is the new black.
Do you think you made the right decision when you said yes to your husband, moved to Texas, and signed up to be a custodial stepmom?

Absolutely! I’m in love with my husband, Austin is a fantastic town and in addition to their entertainment value, the kids have helped me grow up. That said, I didn’t always feel that way. There were many days early on when I wanted to scream, WHAT WAS I THINKING! HOW DID I END UP RAISING ANOTHER WOMAN’S KIDS?  My therapist (and yes, every stepmom should have one) helped me realize that in order to survive, I had to adjust my expectations and be willing to reinvent myself. That’s powerful stuff. I remember thinking, OK, I can shift. I can do this.

What advice would you give to a stepmom who is struggling?

Seek out one good girlfriend who is willing to listen to you spill the good, the bad and the revolting. And then spill. I truly believe that laughing and groaning over our shared stories is one of the best antidotes for warding off insanity. It’s worked for me.


Father’s Day Rally

29 04 2009

Peter Spokes, the president of the National Center for Fathering is helping to plan a National Responsible Fatherhood Rally in Washington, D.C. Pass this along to the dads in your life! Check out his message below and the video about if from CEO Carey Casey.

“This Father’s Day marks the 100th anniversary of the first observance of Father’s Day. In recognition, a National Responsible Fatherhood Rally is being planned for June 20 on the Mall in Washington D.C. when organizers are
asking dads to make a simple, 5 point commitment to their children. The goal is to get more than 1,000,000 dads across the country to make this commitment prior to Father’s Day, and then begin living it. To accomplish
this goal, we need the help of every organization and individual working with dads.

The Commitment
The first three of the five points are focused on a dad’s relationship with his own children.

o Loving your Child – affirming and nurturing your child, loving and/or respecting the child’s mother.

o Coaching your Child – being involved in your child’s life and knowing them well

o Modeling for your Child – consistently living the values you wish to pass on to your children

Recognizing that there are 25 million children living without their dads who would still benefit from the involvement of a father or father figure we added a fourth point:

o Encouraging another Child – reaching out to a child in your sphere of influence and getting involved as a father figure

And to generate a sense of belonging and to ensure that we involve enough dads to make a difference, we added the final point:
o Enlisting other fathers – to make a similar commitment and to live the life of a responsible, involved father

These are the five elements of the 2009 Father’s Day Commitment: Loving, Coaching, Modeling, Encouraging and Enlisting. Our experience is that dads respond to this as a personal call to responsible fatherhood. They get it
and they remember it.”

Mother’s Day Dare

29 04 2009

Hi gals:

Here’s a dare for you from The Step Mom’s Toolbox: Send a Mother’s Day card to your stepchildren’s mother. Can you do it? Will you? Here’s more of the post, check out the blog for the full story.

“This Mother’s Day I am going to not only honor and recognize my mom, my step mom, and my mother-in-law, but I am also going to honor and recognize my daughters’ step mom (she would be my ex-husband’s wife) AND my step children’s mom (she would be my husband’s ex-wife).

This costs me NOTHING except $3.00 for a nice Hallmark card and what ever the US Postal Service is charging for stamps these days.

My goal is to encourage 5,000 or more step moms to send their step kids’ mom a Mother’s Day card.”


They Say it’s Her Birthday

22 04 2009

 Are you stepparenting a child whose mother has passed away? If so, you already know there is an embarrassing shortage of resources for you. Diane over at Mama J’s Parenting Posts is working on a book Stepparenting the Grieving Child. She wrote a fantastic post on the topic today on her blog. Check out the post: They Say it’s Her Birthday. Diane gives ideas about how you can honor your stepchildren’s mother’s birthday and the day of her death. Here’s an excerpt:

“April 24 comes around every year. It’s not like Leap Day; it never gets skipped on the calendar.

At least two anniversaries each year should not go without recognition in a grieving stepfamily: The deceased parent’s birth date and death date. Throughout the twelve years our stepfamily lived under the same roof, these two days were awkward for me, only slightly outdone by Mother’s Day (yeah, that’s coming up too).

In two days, my stepchildren will again remember their mother’s birthday. She would have been 49 this year. “


Resources for Stepfamilies in Trouble

22 04 2009

I’ve had several letters lately from struggling stepfamily members asking for resources that will help (and by stepfamily I mean anyone dating, living with, engaged to, or married to someone who has kids from a previous relationship). I have a list of resources that I am putting together and will eventually put on a separate page on my blog hopefully sooner rather than later. But as I’m putting together this list I thought I’d ask all of you if you’ve worked with an amazing counselor, therapist, or coach, read a helpful book, or watched a useful video. If you have, please let me know and I’ll add your resource to the list. For now if you’re struggling, check out the links on the side of this page for a place to start. You can also check the back of my book where I list many resources including books, websites, and organizations. There is help out there for stepfamilies. Let’s prove it!

Mother’s Day Prep

22 04 2009

All right. We know it’s coming. Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 10. So instead of waiting until the last minute, let’s get some ideas flowing ladies about how we’re going to spend the day. The goal, of course, is to avoid hurt feelings. Here are a few ideas:

  • Remind your husband that mother’s day is approaching and you would like him to get you a card to celebrate the great job you’ve done stepmothering his children for the past year.
  • Plan to be out of the house doing something you love. I always love a good massage, so that’s on the books for me!
  • Make a lunch or cocktails date with your stepmom girlfriends.
  • Celebrate your own mother with a visit to her house.
  • Ignore the day completely and throw your own special stepmom day.

So how do you plan to spend the day? Please submit your traditions in case the rest of us what to try something new! And I hope you will, at the very least, pat yourself on the back on Mother’s Day for a job well done. Being a stepmother is not the easiest road to walk and you deserve major kudos!

Stepmom Book Club

14 04 2009

Good morning M’Ladies:

I recently came across a fantastic resource for stepfamilies (thanks Jen!) The Library Journal printed an article Stepfamily Ties, which includes reviews of several stepfamily books to help librarians build collections that will really help stepfamilies. Check it out for some great reads. Here are a few noteworthy reviews from the article by my blogger pals:

bitchNo One’s The Bitch: A Ten-Step Plan for the Mother and Stepmother Relationship. by Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine 

“Bitch is a worthy, energetic workbook…Chatty and funny, it provides useful ideas (e.g., make small offerings) and sound how-to (e.g., greet each other when the kids swap houses). Fill-in-the-blank sections pose a defacement risk, though the positive tone outweighs it.”

package-dealThe Package Deal: My (Not-So) Glamorous Transition from Single Gal to Instant Mom by Izzy Rose.

“This candid, optimistic memoir readably recounts Rose’s journey from single San Franciscan to stepmother of two adolescent boys in Texas. Clear-eyed, funny observations complement 21 “rules of motherhood” (e.g., compromise but without sacrificing yourself) and show how real people blend.”

And they included my book, yay!

bookcoverA Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom: Expert Advice from Other Stepmoms on How To Juggle Your Job, Your Marriage, and Your New Stepkids by Jacquelyn B. Fletcher

“Fletcher’s excellent what-to-expect guide is perfect for women who were single with no kids before they married into stepchildren. Anecdotes and snippets from stepfamily experts are conversational yet illuminating.”

How does divorce impact a child’s health care?

14 04 2009

Fellow stepmom Theola Labbé-DeBose is a reporter at the Washington Post. Check out the article she wrote in today’s edition: Split Decisions: Vitamins? Flu shots? The smallest health questions get complicated when parents divorce.

The article showcases a subject that is not often brought up. How does divorce impact a child’s health care when a child is switching between houses and parents who might not co-parent well together?

Theola will be co-hosting an online discussion today at noon EST with marriage and family therapist expert Elayne Savage. Click here to send in your questions and to join the discussion.

One item that struck me was the child who only has one inhaler and has to carry it back and forth between houses. Two of my stepchildren had braces a few years ago and had to wear retainers. They were only given one and if they forgot it at our house or their moms, they had to go without it until they were next at the other parent’s home. It caused a great deal of stress for the kids and put the pressure on them to remember. I worked to get in the habit of asking them before they left if they had their retainers with them, but if I was out when they packed up for the week at their mom’s house, then they usually left them on the counter in their bathroom.

Has this kind of thing happened in your homes? Have you had to fight over medical issues? And if you’ve resolved them, how did you do it?

Do Stepparents Get Too Involved?

8 04 2009

If you missed the Good Morning America segment When Stepparents Get Too Involved, check out the link to watch the video. It starts with a talk about supermodel Gisele Bundchen and features fellow stepmom Brenda Ockun, the publisher of Stepmom Magazine.

Though the report clearly showed that neither moms nor stepmoms have it easy, the segment was far, far too brief! And it didn’t really finish what it started. Do stepparents get too involved? Sure, some of us do. We try too hard at the beginning. We jump in without taking time to get to know the kids or the family dynamics. We come on too strong with words of love or authority. But some of us don’t. Some stay too distant. One adult stepchild I interviewed for my book said all she wanted was affection from her stepmother but she received ettiquette lessons from her instead. Stepfamilies are complicated and this brief report barely skimmed the surface.

There are so many stepfamilies struggling to knit their families together who need the tools to learn how to do it successfully. As stepmom Diane Sawyer pointed out, it often takes a decade before a stepfamily begins to feel normal. And I was struck at how bio mom still had tears in her eyes when she talked about watching another woman with her children. Even after years in a stepfamily, we can still feel sadness for our children, grief over a divorce, or anger at the other woman in our life even if we all get along most of the time.

It’s been more than two decades since my parents split up, and even though everyone is settled and both of my families have developed their own identities and rituals, it still pains me every now and again that I didn’t have parents who stayed together. On the other hand, now that I’ve been a stepmom for five years, I am hurt when the kids don’t acknowledge me when they walk in the room, even though I know what it feels like to be in their shoes. To say that stepfamily life is complicated is a HUGE understatement.

As I watched the Good Morning America segment it reminded me yet again of the best advice I’ve ever heard about living in a stepfamily: Remember that every single member of a stepfamily has a compelling story to tell. I know I’ve repeated that on my blog only about a million times, but I have to repeat it to myself often when I’m having a tough stepfamily day–as a stepmom or a child of divorce.

Brenda’s comments about the segment are below.

“I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to represent all the strong, smart, dedicated StepMoms who work hard to create loving and healthy homes for their families.

There was a lot of information from my interview with JuJu Chang that I wish had made the final edit and I do agree with many of your comments that certain elements of this story position “moms” as victims and “stepmoms” as intruders, which is unfortunate. I believe this stereotyping only compounds the matter and does women in general a disservice.

I started StepMom Magazine to increase society’s awareness and understanding about stepfamilies and to dispel the negative perceptions that exist about StepMoms. There is still much work to do! But the ball is rolling – and people are starting to talk – and that’s the first step!” –Brenda Ockun

Well girls? What do you think about the show? Do you think stepparents can get too involved? Did you feel compassion for mom and stepmom or did you side with one or the other? By the way, there are no right or wrong answers. As far as I’m concerned we are all doing the best we can.