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

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Stepmothers: Do You Turn Toward Or Away From Your Partner?

28 09 2010

We all know that conflict is a normal part of any long-term relationship. You’re going to fight. You’re going to get on each other’s nerves. You might even call each other a few choice swear words in the privacy of your own heads.

But at the end of the day, do you turn toward each other or away?

Over the last three months my husband and I have been stressed out. Big time. A whole bunch of challenges hit us at exactly the same time. For the first month, we turned away from each other. We were polite, but we suffered from the stress in our own little worlds. The second month, the stress started coming out in arguments and nasty comments. This month, we turned toward each other.

We acknowledged that we’re both stressed and began exploring some questions. How can we address this together? How can we feel proactive instead of reactive? And most importantly, how can we protect our marriage from the outside stresses it must endure? That is the challenge many stepcouples face. Scratch that. It’s a challenge that ALL couples face.

We came up with some things that are working for us:

  1. Be aspirational. Work toward a goal together that is fun and exciting. We decided to meet once a month for a day to visualize our goals for our future.
  2. Deal with the stress head on. We didn’t just sweep the stressors in our lives under the rug. We built strategies to help us manage the stress and move to a more easeful place with benchmarks so we can track our progress.
  3. Take a break! I know I’ve nagged you all about this one before, but my gosh–having fun is so important. We certainly can’t talk about our problems all the time. We need breaks! We decided that our breaks should include activities that build a positive emotional connection between us.

How about you? Do you have any strategies that you and your partner use to keep connected during challenging times?





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 @ drorchard.com.





Stepmothers: Protect Yourself

14 09 2010

There is a lot of advice out there on blogs and in books (including my own) that tell stepmothers what they need to do to make a stepfamily run more smoothly. There are lots of people to tell you how to make things easier for the kids. There are experts to show you how to co-parent more successfully. I, myself, have given you some of that advice. I’ve told you to cultivate an open heart and let go of anger. This is all good. However: You must also protect yourself.

It goes against our expecations of what family life is supposed to be like to think that we should protect ourselves from our family, but in stepfamilies it’s a skill you must learn.

When you’ve given your all to your stepkids and they turn on you it hurts like hell. When you’ve busted your butt to make your home a wonderful place to be for everyone and they hate it, it stings. When you’re ignored for the billionth time or your birthday is forgotten or your meal is hated or your help is denied, IT HURTS. In those times it is CRITICAL that you protect your lovely heart. Arm yourself. Do the personal growth work it takes to have a healthy and strong self-esteem. Surround yourself with friends who remind you who you are. Go on those date nights with your spouse. Read books. Take breaks. Go out of town.

A caveat: I’m not talking about total emotional disengagement. I’m talking about being more proactive in situations you know are going to hurt you. If you know you’re going to get angry tonight because you’ve cooked a beautiful meal and the kids are going to complain, ask your husband to cook. Get takeout. Tell the kids to trade off nights and let them cook. Order pizza. Make peanut and butter a jelly sandwiches and save the cooking for nights when they’re not with you.  See what I mean?

Some very well-meaning people call this owning your emotional response or taking responsibility or acting like an adult, but using those words can make us feel ashamed or silly for feeling what we feel. I call it protecting yourself.

Protect yourself, dear stepmother. You’ll be a happier human being, a more loving wife, and a far better stepmother if you do.





Bonding With Your Stepkids

22 06 2010

Once upon a time there was a guy who had kids with somebody else. Maybe you did, too. And now that you’ve met and fallen in love, you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to relate to his kids. But what if you’re not a kid person? What if you love kids but his are hostile and cold? How do you set about getting to know your stepchildren in a way that fosters positive feelings between you and the kids. Here are a few tips to help you get to know your stepchildren better than you do now.

Find Common Ground. Investigate your stepchild’s likes and dislikes and see if there is anything you both like to do. My stepkids and I love to read so we will sit in companionable silence reading on the couch. Then we discuss the books we’re reading. When I finished a young adult novel I was working on, I asked if they would be editors for me. I treasure the notes they wrote me with their comments about the book. And they still make comments about how they liked to help me.

Interview Your Stepkids. I interview people as part of my job. When I was first getting to know my stepchildren, I asked them a lot of questions. And every time they shared something with me, I made sure to reciprocate by telling them something about me. Be curious. Find out what makes them tick. Learn about what kind of human beings they are.

Back Off. When you’re new to a stepfamily situation, it is crucial that you do not come on too strong with trying to get the kids to do what you want. As a stepparent, the more you back off and let your relationship grow, the more successful you’re going to be.  Your job is to sit back and observe for a while until you can figure out your place in the family.  make it your goal to get to know the kids, to have fun with them. Let dad tell them to put their stuff away or pick up their rooms.

Spend Time Together. Spend time together one-on-one so you can build your relationship away from dad. The dynamics that happen when a family is all together shift significantly when people head off in twos. When my stepdaughters are together, for instance, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. But if I get them each alone, on a trip to the grocery store or a walk around the block with the dog, then suddenly I can have a real conversation.

Clearly Set Your Boundaries. Sometimes stepchildren feel more comfortable talking to their stepparents about sensitive topics than they do their parents. Occasionally a kid will test out a hot topic with a stepparent before they spring it on a parent. You and your spouse need to have a conversation about what things you will keep a secret for your stepchild when they ask, and what things you will not. And you need to be clear with both your stepchildren and your spouse about your feelings so no one is ever surprised.

Be Yourself. The best thing I ever did as a stepmother was have a bad day in front of my stepkids. I got the opportunity to say, “Hey guys, I’m having a crappy day, but it’s nothing you did. We all have bad days, don’t we? So I need a little space today. I’ll feel better tomorrow.” Suddenly, I became more human to them in a way that they didn’t take personally. And I got to feel like I didn’t have to be on stage all the time in my own home. Be yourself. It’s the best gift you can give your stepchildren.

Acknowledge Your Feelings. How do you build a successful stepfamily when feelings of resentment are building in your heart? Admit to yourself that you’re having a tough time. Go cry in the shower if you need to. Scream at the top of your lungs and beat on a pillow if no one is home to get some of the frustration out. Then promise to yourself that you will take one action every day to make yourself feel better. Something that will make you feel like you’re making progress.

Say ‘I Do’ To The Kids. Say “Yes” to what your stepchildren have to teach you about yourself, about your partner, and about the world.  Even when stepparenting is not the most fun job in the world, it can still teach you something. You can get something good out of it. I encourage you, as Pollyannaish as this sounds, to commit to getting something good. Say Yes. Say I Do. Say I will.

Give Experiential Gifts. This might be more difficult of your stepchild is at the age at which they want nothing to do with any adults in their family, but giving experiential gifts is a great way to bond.

Challenge

Exercise: Play Time

Make a list of fifty activities you can do with your stepkids for one-on-one time. The list should include things that cater to the personalities of both you and your stepchild. Your next assignment is to do one of the activities with a stepchild. Do it this week if you can. Or schedule it on the calendar if you have to go into next week. Examples: Plant a tree together. Go for a picnic. Go out for food your stepchild has never tried before. Head to a gallery to see work by local artists. See a play.





New Stepmom Circles Podcast: The Ex-Wife. A Bio Mom Speaks.

8 06 2010

Why can’t stepmoms and bio moms just get along? Well, sometimes, they can. Tune in to this episode of the Stepmom Circles Podcast to hear advice from Jennifer Newcomb Marine, the biological mom to two girls. She and her children’s stepmother Carol co-wrote the book No One’s The Bitch: A Ten-Step Plan for the Mother and Stepmother Relationship. They’ve been on Dr. Phil together along with Jennifer’s ex-husband and Carol’s current husband. They’ve put together a series of films that you can watch on their website in which they discuss common problems between moms and stepmoms. In this episode of the free Stepmom Circles Podcast, I talk with Jennifer about how stepmoms and moms can put down their guns and see each other through new eyes. Though not every mom-stepmom team can do what Jennifer and Carol have managed to do, we can at least take some of their tips and apply them to our own lives to see if we can make things run more smoothly.

Find out more about Jennifer and Carol at http://www.noonesthebitch.com.

Want to talk about today’s show? Join the Stepmom Circles group on FaceBook.

How Do I Listen? Click the links above for this show or click HERE to see a list of all the Stepmom Circles episodes.





Your Questions Answered

12 11 2009

Hi Jacquelyn,

My name is Jeff. I am happily re-married to the most wonderful woman in the whole world. We have 5 (15, 13, 11, 7, and 5 years of age) children from my previous marriage, she had no children. Every other weekend the children come stay with us and once a week we go see them and it takes about 50 minutes to get to the children (one-way). My wife says she loves me and has no problems with me and our relationship. However, she is wanting to leave due to the ex-wife being in our lives. I have put forth great effort to minimize any contact with the ex and have been quite successful just dealing with the children. The children adore their stepmom and love her more than myself (which has been great) due to lack of the proper attention at home. She (stepmom) has been a source of security and stability for me and these 5 children. She is tired of the monotony and seeing 1/2 my pay check go to a woman who does nothing but sit in her chair, watch tv, talk on a cell phone, and then leave the kids a few times a week and spend money on herself. My wife is a hard worker and sharp as a tack. She is angry for letting herself get into this situation, angry because of the wasted money, and has quite frankly had it.

I am not a stepmom. I have read a couple of books and can see where she is coming from. Issues of how society treats her, how is she supposed to act, not being herself etc. I try to stand in her shoes, I have treated her like the queen she is. I help with the house, laundry, cooking etc… She gets flowers once a month, cards, notes, daily hugs n kisses, thank yous and appreciation. I love her more than anything in this world ( I am not saying I am perfect, though. I am male ;)). How can I help relieve her anger and frustration? I try to get her to focus on us / me rather than the ex and future issues. She seems to go through a cycle where we are doing great and then she is walking out the door. This cycle used to be monthly and has now been not as often, around every couple of months since the beginning of the year.

We have been to counseling that was superb.

She is tired and I am hurt because she is hurting.

Any suggestions?

Signed

Losing My Soulmate 😦

Dear Losing My Soulmate:

If only all stepmothers had a man as aware and engaged as you! (Sorry dads, but stepfamily life really asks dads to step up to the plate like never before.) It’s tough to know exactly how to advise you because I don’t know enough of your particular situation but here are a few general rules of thumb that you can share with your wife that will hopefully help alleviate some of the pressure you both feel.

Lighten up. I don’t mean to be flippant here. I really mean that. Have some fun! Since you don’t have the children all the time, go out and have some inexpensive fun. Laugh together. Create a list of activities that would interest both of you so you can build some really strong, wonderful memories together. Do this with all the kids, too. Create some fun rituals so that your stepfamily can begin to create an identity.

Hire a financial advisor or take a money class. We all know that with the economy the way it is, money is tighter than ever. Join a stepfamily and Dad’s money now goes to support two families. Though this is a tough concept for a stepmom, she really just has to accept that you are sending money to the other household. You are financially obligated to support your children. (She knows this I’m sure.) If mom is really not using the money on the kids then you always have the option of going back to court. (Though I would HIGHLY recommend mediation first because the courts rarely handle these cases intelligently, well, or fairly. Little rant there.) Check out these books for a place to start:  

For Richer Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples, by Ruth Hayden. A money class in a book that helps couples learn to view their financial lives as a partnership. Hayden doesn’t address stepfamilies specifically but her approach to dealing with money as a couple is fantastic.

Money Advice for Your Successful Remarriage: Handling Delicate Financial Issues Intelligently and Lovingly, by Patricia Shiff Estes. A guide to financial systems, options, and solutions that work in remarried households as well as how to deal with the complicated emotions connected with the subject of money.

Create boundaries with the ex. It sounds like you’ve already set up the ways you two will handle your ex wife and that’s great. Sit down with your wife and brainstorm together ways you think you should handle the ex as a couple. The more you do the job of co-parenting, the better off your wife will be in the long run. If she is feeling jealous of the ex or angry at her for intruding on her family life, then tell her to write me a letter so I can help her by knowing more of the facts. It sounds like this is your wife’s biggest issue. Depending on what kind of ex you have, this can be a major stressor. Is she open to co-parenting? Or is she angry and bitter and in your faces? That makes a big difference in how things will go in your house.

Thank your lucky stars. The fact that your kids love her should make your wife jump for joy! There are so many families who are struggling because the kids are resentful of and angry at stepmom.

Chin up. You didn’t mention how long you’ve been remarried, but I want to toss this out there: The two of you are not going to figure out everything all at once. This is why that lighten up section is so important. Balance the icky parts of stepfamily life with fun times and lots of laughter and intimacy and you’ll be just fine. (If you’ve read my book then you know about John Gottman’s research: 5 positive interactions to every one negative interaction equals marital longevity and satisfaction!)