Marriage: A Petri Dish for Personal Growth

2 02 2011

When you meet the love of your life, it’s freakin’ great, isn’t it? My husband and I had so much fun in those early days before the pressures on us built. Little did we know then that our relationship would lead us to the darkest places we’d ever been. And how great we’ve been able to descend to the depths of ourselves to excavate all those unhealed places!! Marriage really is a Petri dish for personal growth. As a fellow stepmom said recently, you can grow disgusting moldy junk in there or a cure. You decide.

I also write novels (to be published soon, I hope!) and while taking an amazing seminar with Robert McKee, he said, “True character is revealed under pressure.” Isn’t that true of life, too? My character has certainly been revealed to me in the past few years as life pressed. And I’m so glad.

As another fellow stepmother friend once said, “Will you become bitter or strive to be better?”

Dr. Ann Orchard’s Stepmom Support Group

22 09 2010

If you’re in the Twin Cities area and want to meet other stepmothers face-to-face, I highly recommend Dr. Ann Orchard’s Stepmother Support Group. Her next group starts October 12. I joined one of Ann’s groups when I started dating my husband and it was a life saver.

When: 6 Tuesday evenings, October 12 through November 16, 2010, 6:30 to 8:00pm

Where: A room will be reserved at Colonial Church of Edina, 6200 Colonial Way, Edina (intersection of Crosstown & Tracy Avenue)

Cost: $150

Pre-registration and a $25 non-refundable deposit are necessary. To secure your place in the group, please send a $25 check payable to “Orchard Psychologists, PLLC” to Ann Orchard, 7101 York Avenue S., Ste 305, Edina, MN 55435. A minimum of 5 stepmothers are required for the group to be held.

Questions?? Please call Ann at 952.848.2297 or send email to ann @

From Single Mom to Stepmom

28 10 2009

Joanie Winberg, the host of the Blog Talk radio show Single Again? Now What! and the founder of the National Association of Divorce for Women and Children interviewed me on her show. The topic: From Single Mom to Stepmom. Check out the fun conversation we had about the biggest mistakes new stepmothers make and tips on how to blend two different sets of kids. Click on the link below to listen to the show:

From Single To Stepmom

Just Say No

8 10 2009

Dear Readers,

I have received so many letters recently that I have not been able to get back to everyone in person. I hope to address each and every one of your letters. Please be patient with me! In the meantime, I wanted to do a quick post on a topic that I think will help many of you. This is it: Learn How To Say No.

I know that saying No is not easy. Believe me. But I’ve been practicing saying No in a loving, kind way to protect my energy and my open-heart and by gosh, it’s been amazing. Not only am I happier and do I respect myself more, so do the people I’m saying No to. The author and wonderful man Gay Hendricks calls this “The Enlightened No” in his new book The Big Leap.

Here’s an example. I have provided free daycare for my stepchildren every summer since we moved in together. I did it at first because I wanted to. I felt it was important that we have that time to get to know each other. But I am a working woman who works from home and it quickly became overwhelming for me. As the other adults in our family came to expect me to be the summer babysitter, I started resenting them. That snowballed into my relationships with the kids and I was really cranky with my stepkids as they can attest to.  Still, I didn’t think I could say no.

It wasn’t until the birth of my daughter when I realized that my need for time to work was about my personality and what I feel I’m here to do on this planet. But I had beaten myself up for years thinking that I should be a better stepmother, a more giving person, the kind of woman who would continue to sacrifice herself for her stepchildren and her family. (This is a great example of how stepfamily dynamics make everything so much more complicated!)

Several months ago I began a big work project and I hired a nanny for my daughter. I didn’t feel guilty or bad about it for a minute because when I had time to get my work done, I was able to be more present with my daughter. It was a revelation for me.

I told my husband in a loving, kind way (I hope–you’d have to ask him to be sure!) that the structure of the summer would have to change. At first he rubbed his eyes as though a migraine had come on and I felt the guilt blossom in my chest. I almost blurted out a retraction, but managed to keep silent.

A day later he told me that the summer daycare issue was solved in one phone call with our other household. It wasn’t even a big deal! And here I was torturing myself for YEARS.

I want all of you to think about this concept because women are notoriously bad at saying no until we’re pushed up against the wall and then we say it in anger and self-defense. The goal here is to start saying proactive, kind-hearted Nos to protect yourself so you can extend to your families in positive ways.

Consider these questions: Every time you say Yes, what are you saying No to? When you say Yes, does it make you feel good? Do you need to say No to something but are afraid to? What would happen if you said No? What are the worst and best case scenarios?

This week, test out saying No. Do this with me! Without anger. Without defensiveness.

Here are some examples that relate to some of your letters:

To a spouse:

“In order to be the best stepmother I can be I need to say no right now to cooking another dinner for children who say they hate it even though I know it’s their favorite meal. Why don’t you order pizza or ask one of the kids to cook a meal? I’m taking the night off.”

To a stepchild:

“Sweetheart, I would love to help you plan your wedding, but my feelings are still so hurt from the last wedding that I need to protect myself right now. I know this is a special time for you and my heart will be with you but I can’t be treated so badly again.”

To a spouse:

“You know I will do everything in my power to make our family work as well as it can, but I refuse to allow your children to treat me disrespectfully. I need you to tell them it’s not okay to treat me like that. Will you do that?”

To an ex wife:

“I appreciate that you have strong feelings about your children. However, I won’t allow you to talk to me like that. If you have an issue you want to discuss with me, please email it to me because I will not be answering the phone only to be screamed at.”

If you manage to say No this week, then please comment on this post and let us know about it! In fact, I think this is so important that I’m going to run a contest. Set your boundary in a kind and loving way, say your No, tell us what happened, and I’ll choose a winner to give a signed copy of my book to.

We can do it!!!

New Podcast: Wednesday Martin, PhD

14 07 2009

stepmomcircles3Ladies! I am so excited to announce that I’ve put together my very own podcast! The miracles of technology. I was a DJ in college and have sorely missed spinning tunes and interviewing fascinating people on the air. My new radio show is called Stepmom Circles.

In the first show I talk with author Wednesday MartinClick here to listen.  Or click on the Stepmom Circles Podcast tab at the top of this page for a list of all the shows.

If you’re interested in sponsoring the show, pop me an email at becomingastepmom (at) gmail (dot) com for more information.

I hope you enjoy the show! Join the Stepmom Circles group on FaceBook to discuss the show!



Stepmother Water Torture

10 06 2009

Hello M’Ladies:

We had a submission over at the Stepfamily Letter Project that I felt really spoke volumes about what it’s like to be a stepmom. Check it out:

Dear Husband,

I would never leave you. Not in a million years. But I would consider leavingeverything you bring to the table. Especially on the days when my efforts go unappreciated. Especially on the days when I feel taken advantage of by you, your ex wife, and the brood the two of you had together. There are days when I hate what you bring to the table and I feel so trapped I can’t breathe. So many people are pulling on me asking things of me wanting a piece of me and then criticizing the parts of me they do get because they’re not enough that I don’t know how long I’ll be able to withstand the pressure. I am strong. By God, I am the strongest f-ing person I know. But even mountains crack when the plates constantly shift beneath them and the water wears at them day after f-ing day after day. I have to leave. For a day. For a weekend. I have to vent the pressure building in my chest or I’m afraid of what I’ll do.

Many of us have been at this point at one time or another. It’s amazing how you think you’ve got the stepmotherhood thing down and then something comes along to knock you off your feet.

In stepfamilies, those of us who are not related by blood do not give each other the benefit of the doubt. Even if things have been even-keeled for years, if there’s an emotional upheaval, we assume the worst. Stepmothers assume the children hate them and are behaving that way just to get at them. Stepchildren assume stepmothers are being manipulative so they can have more of Dad’s attention. Ex-wives assume that stepmothers are harming their children even after years of service.

Please. Let’s give each other a break. If a kid tells us something the other household said, let’s not jump to the conclusion that it’s a message from the ex-wife. It could be that the child misinterpreted something that was said, or that the child is the one who is trying to stir things up. Let’s not assume that a snotty kid is trying to get back at us. Perhaps she had a crappy day at school.

I have to admit, I am terrible at this. I am probably lecturing myself in this post. I make assumptions about what is motivating behavior in my stepfamily and usually it makes me more miserable than just talking to the person who I’m having a challenge with to find out what’s really going on. 

But when you’re in a low point and the stepmother water torture so aptly described in the letter above is getting you down, it’s hard to maintain your emotional intelligence. Usually if I give myself a few days to calm down (aided by dark chocolate and a glass of red wine) I can see the situation more clearly.

Teleconference Call Reminder

13 01 2009

There’s still time to sign up for the teleconference call this Thursday, January 15.

Join me for a live one-hour teleconference call with Emily Bouchard, a stepmom of two, blended family coach, and the founder of on Thursday, January 15, 2009, at 6 p.m. PST / 9 p.m. EST as we discuss the challenges and joys of stepmotherhood!

The call is free (except for your local long-distance charges). To participate, all you need to do is submit a question for me here. After you send a question, the instructions for how to get on the call will be emailed to you.