Stepfamily Planning

1 05 2012

Dear Stepmoms,

I’ve been quiet on my blog for a while because I’ve been busy writing other books. I’m really excited to finally be able to share this one! Last summer I met a remarkable woman named Lynn Devlin, who wanted to write a book about her story. She’s a speaker and workshop leader but needed a writer to help her get her story into the world. We worked closely together all last fall. Lynn is a palliative care and hospice nurse who regularly deals with end-of-life issues. When her husband of 24 years was diagnosed with Stage Four cancer, she was horrified. How could this have happened in her house?

Just like stepfamily issues, end-of-life issues are incredibly challenging to discuss with your partner, but they are critical. Have both of you created advance care directives so your partner knows how you want to be taken care of if you can’t speak for yourself? (Only 18% of American adults have completed theirs.) How about your estate planning? It gets complicated in stepfamilies. Have you planned your funeral so your spouse doesn’t have to?

No doubt all of this planning won’t go into effect until many, many decades from now. But after listening to Lynn’s story, my husband and I planned our funerals so I know what he wants and he knows what I want.

It’s a tear-jerker of a book. One that readers can’t put down–even the guys. We’ll be doing a big book party and cancer fundraiser in Minneapolis this summer. I’ll keep you posted so if you’re in the area and want to meet Lynn, you can.

I hope you’ll check out the book or pass it along to friends and family who might need it. And I really hope you’ll start thinking about this stuff even though it’s hard to do. It’s important.

Here’s the book:

Cancer Widow

Here’s Lynn’s website:

www.cancerwidow.org

Love,

Jacque

Advertisements




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.

 





Stepmothers and the Illusion of Control

19 05 2011

When I interviewed Dr. Paul Rosch, the president of the American Institute of Stress, he told me that when you don’t feel like you have control, you feel stress. This comes as no surprise to stepmothers everywhere. But I’ve noticed in my own life and in talking to stepmoms that we often react to this lack of control in our home lives by becoming tense and controlling over things that the research on stepfamilies tells us often result in backfiring. (Manners, cleanliness, rules, grades, food,  schedules, ex-wives, etc.)

I reacted to the stress of moving in with three children and their dad. Boy did I ever. But after a while, we found our equilibrium. I found little things I could control that made me feel more involved in the family. And I worked hard to develop a really strong marriage so I felt safe enough to let go of some control. Most days this works. Some days it doesn’t and I continue to struggle with the things I have no say over.

When I had my daughter, the lack of control that is inherent in getting pregnant, giving birth, and raising a child brought me to my knees in a way that stepmothering didn’t. I had a say about what I put in my mouth while I was pregnant so my child got all the nutrients she needed. But I didn’t have a say in how or whether she grew in the dark of my tummy. I have a say in how this girl is raised like I have never had with my stepchildren, but she can still choke on an apple and all of my carefully laid plans are thrown out the window as I work to help her get the food out of her throat. I have a say in what school she goes to, what books she reads, and her access to the Internet, but she can still fall and break an arm.

This is what I’ve been meditating on lately. We need to feel control over our lives and our environments. I agree. And at the same time, life will have its way with us no matter how we plan or clean or prepare healthy foods for our families.

It comes down to the same things it has always come down to:  How do we feel safe enough to let go of control just for the sake of having something to control? How do we make peace with the fact that, really, we don’t have control over the big things in life? The ones that matter more than anything else?





A Tribute on Mother’s Day

8 05 2011

Ladies: I got this letter a few days ago from a man with four children and I wanted to share it with you. The Mother’s Day tribute from this man to his wife is gorgeous. May we all have spouses that appreciate what we do the way this man does! Happy Mother’s Day! 

Jacque,

I just read your book over the course of a two-day reading marathon. I couldn’t put it down. I loved it, and I’m not even your target audience. I’m the “biological father” of four kids whose ages range from eight to four. I downloaded your book for my Kindle, and after reading several chapters, I quite promptly ordered a print copy to give to my wife for Mother’s Day this year. I think she’s really going to benefit a lot just from the sheer validation that your book brings by acknowledging everything a stepmom goes through. I benefited from it immensely, because it gave me a much clearer insight into her world, what she’s probably feeling, what she’s probably thinking, and all the rest. I feel a lot more empathy for her, as well as a great deal more gratitude and appreciation for who she is and what she does.

I’m including below a short tribute that I wrote for my wife, who (no offense) is the best stepmom in the entire world. But really, it’s a tribute to all stepmoms, and I hope they all get a chance to hear something like this from their husbands. After all, they deserve it.

Thanks so much for your contribution.

————————-

Thank you, first of all, for embracing my children as your own (if not always internally, then at least outwardly, in all that you do for them). This is one of the biggest reasons why I married you in the first place, and it remains one of the biggest reasons why I would marry you all over again any day of the week.

I know you have mixed feelings about your success as a stepmom; sometimes you’re able to congratulate yourself and see how much you’ve accomplished, and sometimes you beat yourself up for being impatient or irritable. That makes you normal. I’m their father, and I still waffle between thinking I’m the Best Dad on Earth and thinking I should just surrender all of my parental visitation rights and move to Siberia. If I feel that kind of emotional conflict, you’re bound to feel it even more intensely, and I want you to know that I get that. I still think you’re an awesome stepmom; the best in the world, actually.

I want you to know that I acknowledge your right to get frustrated, have the occasional melt-down, and expect me to go the extra mile in helping you make this transition. It’s going to be an ongoing process, it will probably take years, and I don’t expect you to do it alone. I might get impatient with you sometimes because I see you struggling to act in ways that have become second-nature for me, but that’s just because I’ve forgotten (for the moment) how to empathize and see the world through your eyes. When I make myself see things from your vantage point, I get overwhelmed with the magnitude of the challenge you’ve taken on, and then I’m amazed that you’re even still in this marriage, let alone thriving and continuing to be the most incredible wife in the world.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re not a real mother. You may not have done the hard work of carrying these children in your body for nine months, going through labor, doing the late-night feedings and diaper changes, etc., but you’ve certainly done something equally difficult: you’ve accepted all the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of motherhood – the extra laundry, the added chaos, mediating sibling rivalries, the scheduling nightmares, the truncated social calendar, the extra expenses, the bedtime rituals, the invasion of privacy and personal space – and you’ve done it all without the ace-in-the-hole of being able to say, “Because I’m your mother, that’s why.”

You’re not a biological mother. But you sure-as-hell have a right to call yourself a real mother.

I’m proud of you. This family of ours loves you, and that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.

Oh yeah, and I love you too. 🙂

Happy Mother’s Day.





Children’s Bill of Rights

30 03 2011

Stepmoms: When I received training in how to help stepfamilies from the National Stepfamily Resource Center, I got this document in their Smart Steps information for stepfamilies. The Children’s Bill of Rights has some wonderful guidelines to help both parents and stepparents talk to the kids about what they’re going through. Good stuff.





Stepmom Circles Group Coaching Update

16 02 2011

Due to a cancellation there is a spot open in the Stepmom Circles Group Coaching session that starts this Sunday. We meet for 6 weeks over the telephone. Click here for more details. And email me at becomingastepmom (at) gmail (dot) com for more info or to snatch up the spot! Can’t do Sunday evenings? If enough women want to meet on another night, we can form another group.  Email me with your interest.

Here’s what one stepmom of two says about my coaching:

“When I first called Jacque, I was truly at the end of my tether.  I was quite fortunate to dearly love my stepchildren, but I was tremendously frustrated with dealings with the former wife and — unbeknownst to me — was weighted by a burden of resentment.  The means to my freedom began with the very first steps of the process: filling out a thought-provoking questionnaire.  The act of pondering the answers to the questions helped me to see my situation from a different perspective.  Jacque is an empathetic and careful listener, closely attentive to the words used in conversation and deftly intuitive in interpreting the intent of those words. It was a relief to vent to such an amiable listener, yet it was Jacque’s challenges that fostered my growth.  Jacque’s knowledge through experience, artfully planned coaching and perfectly balanced challenges helped me realize that I held the key to my own prison door… not the former wife.  I had sought counseling for this before, and Jacque does not claim to be a counselor.  But this approach was amazingly effective in dealing with my issues as a stepparent.”





Group Coaching Class: Winter Session Starts Soon!

2 02 2011

Looking to connect with other stepmothers and find out concrete things you can do help yourself and your family?

The winter Stepmom Circles Group Coaching session starts in two weeks!

“It was such a positive experience! I carry with me Jacque’s fun loving, caring and supportive voice. It’s a voice I will carry with me for a long time.” –Stepmom of 2

The Stepmom Circles group meets for an hour and a half each week for six weeks over the telephone. We discuss stepfamily challenges based on your needs. (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). Each woman in the group is given the chance to ask questions, share challenges, and receive guidance.

Dates
Wednesday evenings, February 16 to March 23.

Time
6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Central Standard Time

Cost
The cost of a six-week session is $197. The conference call each week is long-distance so you will be charged your regular long-distance charges by your phone carrier. If you have a digital plan with free long distance then the call is free. Payment can be made via Paypal or by check.

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

  • a FREE half-hour, get-to-know you consultation with stepfamily expert Jacquelyn Fletcher 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

Email becomingastepmom (@) gmail (dot) com for more information or to reserve your spot in the upcoming session. Space is limited.

“Thank you again for such an enlightening 6 weeks! So much insight and shifts in my thinking…I really needed that. I look forward to the day when I can look back on these tough times and laugh. Thanks for the inspiration! You truly made me think in ways that were outside my comfort zone. I look forward to the continuation of my journey, and hope to get to that place of peace that you talk about. I hope that someday I can inspire other stepmoms as you have inspired me. Thank you for your words of wisdom.” – Stepmom of 3