Guest Post: Author Tami Butcher

6 01 2012

Hello Dear Stepmoms!

I get letters all the time from families looking for books to read to their young children about remarriage (besides Cinderella), but I don’t have a lot of answers to give. Tami Butcher wrote My Bonus Mom! Taking the Step out of Stepmom, a picture book for kids that helps families talk about divorce and remarriage. Yay! She’s written a guest post for my blog today. If you’ve got young stepchildren in your household, check it out at  www.mybonusmombook.com. Happy New Year everybody! Love, Jacque

As a child, Tami Butcher grew up with what she lovingly refers to as her “bonus mom,” a nurturing, caring woman many in society would refer to as a “stepmother.” Tami’s parents amicably divorced when she was 11, and for the sake of Butcher and her three sisters, decided to keep each other fully involved in their children’s lives despite the divorce. Eventually both her parents remarried, but they continued to share birthdays, holidays and special times together with their children, as well as with their new spouses. Because of her parents’ efforts, Butcher and her sisters grew up feeling blessed for having two moms and dads instead of “stepparents.”

I had two important women in my life. One was a savvy businesswoman who taught me how to run for Student Body President and what to put on a resume.  The other, an animal lover who never knew a stranger, taught me the importance of a good book and the meaning of hugs instead of handshakes.  One woman was my biological mom, the other was my “bonus mom.” Nancy came into my life when I was 14. I liked her right away, she exuded warmth and kindness. Heck, mom liked her just as much as us. Looking back, it was not one particular thing, but an assortment of many things making Nancy a great stepmom. She never tried to take mom’s place, she never competed for affection and certainly never said a bad word about dad’s “ex.” What she did tell us is that she would love us and our dad unconditionally forever.

Both my parents have been remarried for 28 and 30 years. In those years we have shared holidays, birthdays, graduations, births and deaths together, all of us. As children of a divorced family, you can’t imagine how much easier it made life for us. Guilt, hard feelings, nervousness, taken away because my parents decided early on to put their own egos aside for the sake of us kids. I am an adult now, happily married 15 years with 3 children of my own. What I learned from my parents and bonus parents I could never have gotten from a textbook or manual, I learned it from their actions and their example. I know how difficult it must have been to bite their tongue at times. Anger and bitterness certainly followed a divorce, I know that now. But it is also a state of mind that you can adjust. My parent’s certainly adjusted theirs and because of them, my 3 sisters and I grew up loving life, loving our family and loving our bonus parents. A lot of friends ask, how did you do it? Your family could not have been comfortable sharing all those times together? Really I ask? Try coming to Thanksgiving dinner at Mom’s house, where she and Nancy are in the kitchen laughing and dancing while Dad and Ken are on the couch together cheering on their favorite football team giving high fives. You have to see it to believe it, but I promise you, it’s real, very real.

 





Bonding With Your Stepkids: Book Club!

5 05 2010

Stepmothers often write me to ask what they can do to bond with their stepchildren. I usually recommend spending one-on-one time with your stepchildren doing things at least one of you enjoys! My stepchildren (15, 12, and 10, a boy and two girls) are all big readers and I often will read the books they are reading so we can discuss what we thought about the book. It’s been a fantastic way to create common ground for us.

I recently came across Cindy Hudson’s work and was thrilled because it helped me with even more ideas about what I could do with my stepdaughters. Cindy is the author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. She is the founder of two long-running mother-daughter book clubs, and she lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two daughters. Visit her online at www.MotherDaughterBookClub.com and www.MotherDaughterBookClub.wordpress.com.

I hope you enjoy Cindy’s guest post! And a big thank you to Cindy!

Mother-Daughter Book Clubs

by Cindy Hudson

During the last couple of years I’ve been lucky enough to talk to lots of moms in mother-daughter book clubs all over the country. Over and over I asked, “What are the benefits you see to being in a mother-daughter book club?” The reasons were as varied as the women who answered, but when I looked at all of them together, I began to see a pattern. Three overriding benefits emerged that served as an umbrella to all the others: These type of reading groups are great at providing a way for moms to stay closer to their daughters as they grow, they provide a connection to the broader community, and they encourage literacy. How do they do these things?

The simple act of reading together and talking about what you read is powerful. When you read with your daughter you let her know that spending time with her in a shared activity is important to you. You’re not driving her to an activity that you will watch; you’re not distracted while you talk on the phone or answer emails. You also get to talk about what you read. That may not sound like such a big deal, but the whole world opens up through books. You may start off talking about what happens to the characters in the story, but then you may get into important, related issues in your own lives. Over the years I’ve talked with my daughters about problems with friends, worries about school, questions about sex…all issues that may not have come up, or would have been awkward to address, without the entrée given us by the book we read.

Meeting with your group also lets you branch out and connect with other moms and daughters in your community. When my first group started nearly nine years ago, I didn’t know most of the moms and their daughters. But once our meetings got going we started trading parenting advice during dinner before our discussions. We talked about difficulties our kids were having in school and shared the names of pediatricians. We brought food when someone was sick, and we went away together for the weekend. We also got to know our daughter’s peers and watch them grow. Now it’s hard to imagine a time when we won’t be an important part of each other’s lives.

Finally, when you’re in a book club with your daughter you help her keep reading for fun. As kids grow older, many of them stop reading outside of school, because other activities crowd their lives. But reading for school doesn’t inspire the imagination the way reading for fun does. One is a chore, the other is recreation. My daughters and I always look forward to reading book club books, partly because we can imagine talking about them with others in our group when we get together. We have learned to appreciate genres that weren’t particularly our favorites, and we can recognize what others appreciate in a story that doesn’t resonate with us.

I believe being in a mother-daughter book club can have a positive effect on both you and your daughter in many more small ways you’ll probably never know. It’s hard to imagine making a better investment in your future relationship with your daughter than picking up a book to read together with a reading community you create.





Know any good books for kids?

15 09 2009

Readers: I got this letter from a dad who is looking for help. Read on and if you know of any books, let us know by commenting on this post!

I’m having trouble trying to find something for my wife (a fantastic stepmom), and am hoping you can help me.

As I expect you’re aware, most children’s books portray stepmothers negatively (not even as ‘stepmoms’, etc.). I’ve been scouring the internet trying to find ones that portray stepmoms in a positive way (how I found your website) to expand our home library. So far the only thing I’ve found is one that does so but in the midst of a divorce situation. Since our daughter has never known her mother and I to be together (left her before pregnancy was known), I’m afraid it will introduce other issues.

We love reading together, and my wife & daughter have an excellent relationship, I can just see that it bothers her every time Cinderella comes off the shelf… Any help would be appreciated.





Stepmom Book Club: Musings of a Divorced Dad

3 06 2009

40YROLD.COVER3There’s a new book out this month by Joel Schwartzberg called The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad.The essays in this memoir are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes absolutely heartbreaking. It’s an interesting read for stepmoms because Schwartzberg details his experience as a divorced dad, single dad, and then remarried dad. I love how the book shows his feelings for his kids and documents those little awkward moments that come with life after a divorce. The stories about dropping his kids off at school and attending parent-teacher conferences are especially touching. Many of the essays in this collection are not about divorce or remarriage, and I wished there were more of them about his transition to remarriage. Overall it was a charming read. Check it out and let us know what you think!





Happy On Sale Day!

5 05 2009

There are a bunch of books I’ve been telling you all about for a while, and I’m happy to say that you can get your hands on them today! If you don’t see them on the shelf in your local bookstore, you can purchase them from any online retailer. I’m busy building my resources page and will add these books to my list but in the meantime, here’s a description of each to get you started:

bitchNo One’s The Bitch: A Ten-Step Plan for Mothers and Stepmothers by Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine

What it is: A humorous, yet helpful take on navigating the minefield that typically exists between moms and stepmoms.

Why it’s relevant: Over a thousand new stepfamilies form every day! Imagine all those women out there, dealing with a stepmom or bio-mom and slogging through resentment, power struggles, miscommunication, a lack of shared purpose, and worst of all, boatloads of stress. We need a new model for partnership between the two women “stuck with each other” in this situation. When they work together, marriages are stronger, children are happier, and there’s less hair loss all around.

How it will help people: No One’s the Bitch is the kind of book we wish we could have read when we first met! Ten powerful concepts and true-life stories will walk readers past the point of traditional antagonism and into a revolutionary new approach. They’ll learn how to create harmony and cooperation with the other woman along a spectrum of successful possibilities.

As readers increase the sense of cohesion between the two families, they’ll also regain a feeling of control, mastery, and confidence. Helplessness will be replaced by tools for mastery, conflict will be replaced by communication, and both sides will be inspired by a new vision of an extended family that actually works for all involved.

 

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

In today’s version of Sex and the City, Mr. Big would have kids, and Carrie Bradshaw would look and sound a lot like Izzy Rose, a hilarious and chic new stepmother trying to come to terms with “the package deal.” On any given day, 1,300 women agree to join the ranks of the 15 million and counting stepmothers currently living in the United States, and THE PACKAGE DEAL: My (Not-So) Glamorous Transition from Single Gal to Instant Mom chronicles one woman’s outrageously funny and poignant journey from sophisticated, single gal in San Francisco to married with (step)children in Texas, where she reinvents the stepmother role for a new generation of daring, confident women.

Falling in love turns many women’s lives upside down, but for the millions of women who fall for men with children from previous relationships, love often leaves them wondering how they ended up raising another woman’s kids. At 35, Izzy was a successful TV producer, living the good life as a “middle-class socialite” in San Francisco. She’s perfectly content to be unmarried and kidless—and then along comes Hank, an irresistible Southern gentleman with two kids of his own. In the parenting department, she’s a total amateur, but she does bring one strength to the new arrangement: she speaks the blended family language. She was a stepkid herself.

stepmonsterStepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do by Wednesday Martin

How many times have you picked up a book for stepmothers–only to find that its focus is how you can make things better for the kids and their dad? How often have you sought out support and sympathy–only to get an earful of “you shoulds”? Wednesday Martin, a parenting journalist, stepfamily researcher, and stepmother, believed it was time that someone explore stepmothering in a new way–from the stepmother’s point of view. Stepmonster asks how repartnering with a man with kids affects her — psychologically, socially, economically. It also sets out to explode the myths—like the myth of the blended family and the myth of the maternal stepmother—that have clouded our view of who women with stepchildren are and what they ought to be able to accomplish. Far more than mere replacement parents, Martin insists, women with stepchildren of any age are people first, with their own emotional and cultural baggage to bear.

Going far beyond the usual perfunctory recipes for “how to do it better,” Stepmonster is truly stepmother-centric. It offers real life stories of women with stepchildren gleaned from interviews; first-person confessions from an author who has been there; perspectives from fields like anthropology and evolutionary biology; and a readable synthesis of the psychological and sociological literature on stepmothering, allowing women with stepchildren to see themselves as part of a larger story that is rich in meaning and social significance. On a practical level, Stepmonster suggests, in an unexpected twist, that the Wicked Stepmother may actually be our single best tool for understanding ourselves, and for finding a way to navigate through the stepmothering difficulties that can threaten to overwhelm us. Whether you’re a new stepmother or have been at it for decades, Stepmonster is sure to surprise you—and provide the compassion and understanding you deserve.





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.





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.”