Evening Group Coaching Starting Soon!

22 01 2010

Many of you expressed the desire for an evening Stepmom Circles Group Coaching session so I decided to offer one.

  • Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. CST, February 3 through March 10

The  Stepmom Circles group meets for an hour and a half each week for six weeks over the telephone. Every week I lead a discussion on a particular stepfamily challenge. (Creating a strong partnership with your spouse, dealing with the ex, bonding with the stepkids, handling your negative feelings, identifying common stepfamily mistakes, discovering what successful stepfamilies know). Then wel have an open talk about your particular questions and issues.

The cost of a six-week session is $197. That’s about $32 per week.

As a member of a Stepmom Circles coaching group you’ll receive

  • a FREE half-hour, get-to-know you consultation with me over the phone before the class begins
  • email access to me between group coaching sessions so you can ask questions that come up during the week
  • an autographed copy of my book A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom

Because space is limited, you’ll need to reserve your spot fast.

Email becomingastepmom (@) gmail (dot) com for more information.


A Revised Stepmom’s Bill of Rights

22 01 2010

My Dear Stepmamas:

WOW! My post about the Stepmom’s Bill of Rights generated a lively discussion! Many thanks for all of your thoughtful comments. It’s clear to me that, as I discovered while doing research for my book, there are a lot of brave families out there trying to do their best in frightfully difficult circumstances. BUT, there is still hope. As I have said all along, stepfamilies DO make it every single day. So I’d like to propose an alternate version of the Stepmom’s Bill of Rights because I believe that empowered, happy stepmothers mean happy stepfamilies. (And happy stepmothers are flexible stepmothers. Research tells us that the more flexible the members of a stepfamily are, the higher chance that family will stay together!)

A Revised Stepmom’s Bill of Rights

I will create a rock-solid marriage with my husband so we both feel confident in our commitment to each other and the family. I vow to always make fun together a priority.

I have the right to be on the parenting team with my husband but I realize that this takes time to develop.

I understand that stepfamilies are formed out of loss and that the people I’m living with are carrying wounds that will affect them forever.

I will congratulate myself every day on a job well done. Even on days when I’ve done or said things I’m not proud of, I will be gentle and kind with myself because I am a brave, courageous woman.

I will work to feel confident and worthy of love.

I will not look to my stepchildren for validation or self-worth.

I will protect my heart with healthy boundaries that help me to be a more loving and present wife, stepmother, and human being even if that means making difficult choices.

I will forgive my husband, the exes in our lives, my stepchildren, and myself for our human-ness.

I will try to understand what living in our home is like for every member of our family.

I will create a sanctuary for myself and make self-care a priority so I can recharge my batteries.

I will choose my battles.

I understand that control does not equal respect or love.

I realize that I don’t have any control over what the ex or the ex-in-laws or the kids think or do. The only person I have control over is me.

I will ask for what I need instead of making people guess what I need to prove their love for me.

I will find the gifts in being the outsider in a family that formed before I came along.

I will focus on building relationships instead of on who is right and who is wrong.

I will take breaks when I’m angry so I can be calm when I discuss issues that affect me but I have little control over.

I will hold on to the things that remind me of who I am.

I will plan things to look forward to with my husband and with my family.

I will remind myself often of the many reasons I decided to be with my husband.

I will choose hope.

I will choose love.

Much love to you all,


A Stepmom Bill of Rights…Dangerous to Stepfamilies?

13 01 2010

Ladies, I’m afraid that this might not be a popular post but I feel I must write it. Currently there is yet another version of the Stepmom Bill of Rights circulating online among stepmothers.  I’ve seen many of these over the years. Though the contents of these missives are often well-meaning and make stepmothers come together in a rallying cry, I believe portions of them are actually harmful to stepfamily development. Please, hear me out. Yes, stepmothers often have one of the most difficult roles in a stepfamily, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else gets off scott free. In fact, everyone has a difficult role. The children. Dads and Moms, Stepdads and Stepmothers. We all have our crosses to bear. It’s very easy to take the research that says stepmothers have the most difficult role in the family and swing too far to the other side of the pendulum where we become self-righteous or victims–and that does not a happy stepfamily make. In fact, the Stepmother’s Bill of Rights actually highlights the tension and conflict that is a normal part of  stepfamily life. I have reproduced below the latest version of this bill of rights and I’m going to respond to each point.

1. I will be part of the decision-making process in my marriage and family at all times.
Yes, this certainly is a reasonable sentiment in most cases. However, it is the nature of stepfamilies that things happen that stepmothers have no control over. To insist that we do is to set ourselves up for heartache and a troubled marriage. In the best cases, stepmothers are on the decision-making team and their husbands make them feel like their opinion counts. These women are lucky. But even in the best cases there will be times when the decisions of what happens to the children are up to Dad and Mom.

2. People outside the immediate family – including ex-wives, in-laws and adult children – cannot make plans that affect my life without my consent.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if this were the case? Wouldn’t it be great if this were true in our families of origin let alone our stepfamilies? Ex-wives do make plans without our consent. They sign their children up for basketball and baseball and swimming lessons that directly affect our lives. Adult children consult with their Dads instead of us. One of the reasons stepmothering is so difficult is that we parent from the backseat. To tell yourself that it should be any other way is to deny the reality of stepfamily life. Plenty of research talks about the fall of the fantasy when our dreams and reality conflict. Believing that no one will make plans without consulting you in a stepfamily is a fantasy. Your reaction to those frustrating times is what you can control.

 3. I will not be responsible for the welfare of children for whom I can set no limits.
As a stepmother, role ambiguity is one of the issues that makes stepmothering challenging. It’s hard to know what role to play with our stepdaughters and stepsons. You often won’t be able to set limits for the children. That’s up to Dad and Mom. If the children are older when you get into their lives, it is highly likely you’ll have no say whatsoever in discipline not because Dad won’t let you but because the children will not accept it from you. And yet, you are responsible. You have no legal rights. But you are responsible for the children’s welfare when they are under their roof. This again speaks to a few fantasies of stepmotherhood: 1.) That you will have control. 2.) That you will be able to totally disengage if you don’t have control. Big mistake. If you totally disengage it will affect your marriage. If you try to get too involved, it will affect your marriage. Stepmotherhood is a balancing act, one that take a great deal of maturity and is not for the weak of heart.

4. I must be consulted about which children will live with us, when they can visit and how long they will stay.
Once again, this is a statement right out of fantasy land. Often it is a judge that decides or a divorce agreement that dictates which children will live with you, when they can visit, and how long they will stay. It’s not up to us stepmoms. A biological parent has a legal responsibility to care for his children. To allow this friction into your heart and into your marriage is dangerous. The fact is the rate of divorce for stepfamilies is higher than first marriages in the early years. If you can make it past the chaotic early years, the divorce rate actually falls below first marriages, but only if you decide to move out of Oz and be fully present with the realities, both wonderful and challenging in your family life.

5. I will not be solely responsible for housework; chores will be distributed fairly.
This one I can agree with!

6. I will be consulted regarding all family financial matters.
Consulted, sure. But at the end of the day, a biological father has a legal (if not moral) responsibility to care for his children financially. Once again, the agreements he made before you came along must be honored. This is a hard pill to swallow for stepmothers because it has an impact on her new family, but it is something you must accept if you’re going to be a happy stepmom.

7. Others may not violate my private space at home, nor take or use my possessions without my permission.
This is a great one. Make it a household rule. But remember that kids are kids and sometimes they don’t follow rules.

8. I will never be treated as an “outsider” in my own home.
I want to pull my hair out on this one. Being an outsider is one of the definitions of stepparent. This is what makes it so difficult! We don’t share blood with the children who live with us part- or full-time. You will be treated as an outsider. So what will you do about it? How will you react to it so you don’t blow up your family life? How will you develop bonds with your stepchildren to reduce this feeling? Stepfamilies can feel like family but usually only after a lot of years have gone by and our actions toward the children and our husbands and ourselves have made us feel like family. This is an incredibly harmful stepfamily myth, that we’ll all love each other and feel like family instantly. You will not. You will feel like an outsider. And you might always feel that way occasionally. (At graduations and weddings, for instance.) But you’ll find a role that fits you and your family. Researcher Patricia Papernow calls stepparents “Intimate Outsiders.” We will never be blood, but we can develop very strong, positive relationships that ultimately feel like family.

9. My husband and stepchildren must treat me with respect.
Yes! I’m on board with this one. In fact, this is one of the rules of a house that can help a stepparent feel better as she works through the challenges of finding her place in the family.

10. Our marriage is our first priority, and we will address all issues together.
YES!!! This is hugely important. And the stepfamilies who make it to the finish line are the ones in which the marriage is a priority. But children are a priority, too. Sometimes a child’s needs come first. It’s not either marriage  or children, it’s marriage AND children.  Still, a stepmother needs to feel secure in her marriage. A woman who feels confident in her relationship with her partner is better able to handle the normal stepfamily challenges.

So. Does this mean I think that stepmothers don’t need a rally cry? Absolutely not! Stepmothers need to band together. We are often unappreciated and left out. But please remember that some of these rally cries come at the expense of your relationships with your family. Be careful. Be gentle. I wish for all of you to always feel at home in your own home. I hope that you all feel empowered and among a sisterhood of like-minded women who support you. I also hope that your families are growing organically into something really wonderful and special that enhances each member’s experience of life.


Subscribe to Becoming a Stepmom!

5 01 2010

In case you didn’t know: You can sign up to receive my Becoming a Stepmom blog posts in your email inbox for free! Then you won’t have to worry about missing any new articles, stepfamily advice, inspirational stories, or Stepmom Circles podcasts–they’ll be right at your fingertips.

FREE BONUS: When you sign up for a free subscription, you get a free copy of my report Top Ten Tricks Successful Stepmothers Know, which is based on the hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted with stepmothers and blended family members and experts from around the world.

To subscribe, click on the “Subscribe to Becoming a Stepmom by Email” link at the top right-hand side of this page.

And by the way, my privacy policy is that I don’t share email addresses with anyone else, ever. Happy reading!

Jacquelyn B. Fletcher

How to Be A Stepmom’s Friend

5 01 2010

My Dear Stepmothers: Please pass this post along to your best friends, sisters, mothers, cousins, or anyone else you go to for support.

How to Be a Stepmom’s Friend

When I first became a stepmother, my best friend listened to me talk about what it was like to becoming a stepmom. I dished to her all my fears and feelings. Yes. ALL. The stepmothers who are reading this before sending it along to friends are cringing right now. Because often when a stepmother tells the truth of what she’s feeling to someone who is not a stepmom, she hears responses such as the following:

How could you hate a kid?

What do you mean you don’t love your stepchildren?

You knew what you were getting into when you married him / moved in with him / decided to date a man with kids.

Why do you need alone time? Don’t you want to be with your family 24/7?

You sound like a wicked stepmother.

Shouldn’t you be at your stepchild’s soccer game?

Why would you go to your stepchild’s soccer game? You’re only her stepmom.

What a stepmother’s friends don’t typically know is that the hard feelings we have as we become stepmoms are a normal part of stepfamily development. But since this is not common knowledge, stepmothers are often made to feel like crazy, evil, heartless, and stupid women by the very people who love them most. And that makes the job of becoming a stepmother, more difficult.

If you’re friends with a stepmom, here are some tips to help you stay friends as she blossoms into stepmotherhood.

Have an open heart policy. Even if you’re a whiz at active listening, pay attention to how you offer your new stepmom friend a shoulder to cry on. Try to listen to her feelings with an open heart and mind. Even if she says she hates the six year old who knocks on her newlywed bedroom door every night, please don’t judge her. Instead merely say something like, “I’m sorry honey. That sounds like it’s really hard for you.”  

Give her the benefit of the doubt. Assume your friend is still the generous, kind, loving woman she was before she became a stepmother. Becoming a stepmom can knock a woman to her knees, especially if she has challenging stepchildren who are openly hostile. Even when she voices things that you don’t understand or agree with, consider voicing this thought: “I don’t really understand what you’re going through because I’ve never been a stepmother, but I love you and support you no matter what.”

Remind her of who she is. No matter how long your friend has been a stepmother, she needs to be reminded of who she is outside of her stepmom role. Help her remember what she’s like when she’s happy and light-hearted. Take her out to do things that you both love that don’t involve husbands or kids or stepchildren.  

Read a book about stepmotherhood. Consider this quote by a reader who reviewed my book, A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom. “I am not a stepmom or a stepdaughter but my best friend is both. There was no way for me to understand the kinds of issues she faced as they courted and got married and built their new family; this book makes it all so clear.” Whether you read my book or one by another author, you would do your friendship a great service if you learned about the normal phases of stepmother development.  

Support her positivity. Don’t let your friend just vent to you about all the negative aspects of stepmotherhood without touching on the positive parts. A stepmother needs to be armed with optimism if she’s going to make it to the finish line. So help her remember the many reasons she loves her husband and what she feels she’s done well.

No one dreams of becoming a stepmother but now that your friend is one or is about to become one, she will need you more than ever. On behalf of your friend, I thank you for your willingness to love and support her. If I were in your presence right now I would give you a standing ovation!

 And to my own dear friend. Thank you so much for listening to me with an open heart. You always make me feel supported and understood even when you disagreed with me. I love you!


Blog Radio Interview: You’re a stepmom…now what?!!

5 01 2010

I was thrilled to be the first guest on a new blog radio show The Stepmom’s Toolbox Radio Show by stepmom bloggers Peggy Nolan (The Stepmom’s Toolbox) and Erin Erickson (The Erin Experiment). The show is live once a month but you can download recorded shows any time. Stop by to hear the interview in which Peggy and Erin both grilled me with me GREAT questions. The show theme was: Congratulations! You’re a Stepmom…Now What?!! And a big thanks to Peggy and Erin!