Your Questions Answered: From a Stepdaughter

21 10 2009

Dear Jacque, My dad and stepmom have been married for 15 years. I am now 30 years old and she and I still have an entirely broken and bitter relationship. Can you recommend any books specifically for healing adult blended families (particularly with a long history together)? I am on the verge of giving up.

Thank you for sending in such a great question. I have to give you major kudos for wanting to work on your relationship with your stepmother. I don’t know of any books that speak directly to your question but you might check out Making Adult Stepfamilies Work by Jean Lipman-Blumen and Grace Gabe. It’s more about what to do when families get together later in life so it’s not an exact fit. If anyone has ideas of other books, please respond to this post and help our reader out.

I’m guessing that your early years with your dad and stepmom were challenging simply because you were 15 when they got married and that is a tough, tough age. (Correct me if I’m wrong!) You raise an interesting point that not only do children have to come to terms and with and heal from their childhood, so do parents who live through a high-conflict time. Here are a few things I would offer you wearing both my stepmom and stepdaughter hats:

Compliment her. Pointing out the positives about her role in your life can have MAJOR healing power. Compliment what she did for you and the positive parts of her personality or her relationship with your dad.

Ask your stepmother and dad what that time was like for them. It can be hard for adults to accept that their kids and stepkids have changed as they’ve grown to adulthood. They hang on to what we were like back then. Your stepmother could be holding on to the girl you used to be. Asking her what it was like for her and listening to her with an open heart can have a powerful effect on relationships that need healing. And of course, if you haven’t done so, share with her what it was like for you.

Apologize for your part and ask for an apology. Make the past the past by apologizing for your part in the conflict. It’s true that our parents “were the adults” and “should have known” to do things that would not harm us, but the fact is our parents are human just like we are. So apologize for your behavior. Then ask for an apology back so you can all put the past in the past and move forward.

Find common ground. Are there things you both like to do that have already provided you with a sense of camaraderie or at least a sense of peace? For instance, a lot of adult stepchildren and stepparents are able to heal the wounds of the past when grandchildren are born. Playing with a child or doing something fun together like attending a play or having a cup of coffee at a favorite coffee shop can provide a new way for you and your stepmom to bond.

Spend one-on-one time. Get your Dad out of the picture. Spend time alone with your stepmother and talk to each other. Learn about her life. Tell her about yours. Even if you’ve heard all the stories before, you’ll hear them differently now that you’re an adult and vice versa.

I hope you’ll keep us posted on how things work out for you and your stepmom! It can take hard work to let go of the hurts of the past but it’s worth it.

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!!!

Your Questions Answered: Anger at the Stepkids

28 07 2009

Dear Jacque, I want to thank you for being such a wonderful and insightful resource for stepmoms!!! I am writing to request your advice on an issue. I am a stepmom to an 11-year-old girl, Sylvie. I have been in Sylvie’s life for 7 years and overall we have had a good relationship and we do love each other, although it is certainly complicated by all of the issues relevant to “steps.” In the past year, Sylvie has changed dramatically. She has become sarcastic and angry and very difficult to deal with. I believe this is caused by a few factors, including the fact that I gave birth to a son 2 years ago and, although Sylvie adores him, she is no longer the only child. However, I think the primary cause of this change in behavior is the onset of adolescence and the normal development issues that are very unpleasant for parents.

My problem is dealing with the intense anger that I have felt toward my stepdaughter. It is much more difficult to cope with this behavior when it is a stepchild. I feel angry and resentful often and I need a place to process these feelings and move beyond them. Do you have any resources for me to review that will give me techniques for dealing with a very difficult tween stepdaughter and handling my anger and resentment in a way that is least destructive to my family? I do not want to ruminate over these feelings and I certainly do not want to create an enduring riff in my relationship with my stepdaughter. If anything, I would like to take this challenge as an opportunity to grow.

Any advice that you have would be so greatly appreciated. Thank you so much! Keep up the wonderful work.

A tween girl! I have one of those myself. And you’re absolutely right that part of what is happening in your home right now is the normal development stage of a budding teenager. I’m not aware of all the specifics of your situation, but it’s very possible that jealousy of her younger half-sibling is playing a role, as well as anger or grief over the end of her parents’ relationship. If she has a stepdad in her mother’s home or stepsiblings, those dynamics could also be affecting her behavior. But as you say so eloquently in your letter, knowing what it is doesn’t make it any easier!

Dealing with anger doesn’t necessarily get less challenging over time because the longer we are in a stepfamily, the easier it is to call up the long list of hurts and injustices every time something new flares up. I think there are a couple of things we can do to work through anger at our stepchildren in a healthy way. It involves both direct and indirect methods.

Insist on respectful behavior. There are kids who say please and thank you (even if they are surly about it) and there are kids who are not required to be respectful by their biological parents. Whichever type of stepchild you’ve been blessed with, it is absolutely okay to demand respect in your own home. Clearly outline how you expect to be treated, share it with your spouse, and insist that your tween speak graciously to you. When I’ve been on the receiving end of disrespectful behavior in my home I addressed it like this: “I know you’re at an age when you think adults don’t know anything and that’s just fine. You can think whatever you want in the privacy of your own mind. But I will not tolerate disrespectful behavior toward me in this house.”

Disrupt the rumination.Most women are accomplished ruminators. When something makes us angry we descend into a spiral of negative thoughts that make us remember every single thing that person has ever done to piss us off. The more we think about how wronged we are, the angrier we get. And on it goes. Do whatever it takes to stop the thoughts. In my book, A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom, I describe how I used this trick whenever I was having jealous thoughts about the ex wife. It works with angry thoughts directed at the kids, too:

“Find a way to laugh, to change the downward spiral of your thoughts mid-stream. Here’s a completely ludicrous exercise to try. I’ve done it and it’s so stupid, it actually works. It was beginning to feel like there was a track in my brain that the ugly, jealous thoughts, once started, would just run along, as though they were recordings. I wondered what would happen if I disrupted the flow of negative thoughts with a nonsensical word that would jar me out of the cycle. My youngest stepdaughter was wearing a shirt with a pineapple on it that day. So I started saying “pineapple” to myself every time I started feeling jealous, and it was so ridiculous I ended up laughing every time. The good news is that it worked.”

Find the humor.Asserting your authority with a teenager is a good way for a stepmom to drive herself crazy. The last thing a teen wants is a non-blood adult telling them what to do–they don’t even want their biological parents giving them direction. Humor works really well to help diffuse tension between stepfamily members. And it’s a fantastic antidote to anger, too. It’s hard to hold onto rage at a stepchild when you’re smiling. If my tween and teen stepkids make a sassy remark, my blood pressure doesn’t rise at all when I respond with something like, “Oh boy, here we go. Teenage angst. Time for me to move out until the hormones have stabilized again and you’re a normal human being!”

Take ten breaths. If you’re mad at a tween or teen, do not engage in a conflict when you’re in the heat of the moment. Instead, tell a child you’ll address whatever the conflict is when you’re feeling more calm. Leave the room. Take ten deep breaths. Calm your body so you’re not clouded by the adrenaline in your system.  

Move your anger outside. If you’re raging around the house because of something a stepkid did, get out of the house for a while and do something that nurtures you. Take your son to the park. Meet a friend for a vent session. Go for a run or get a massage.  

Remember what it was like.The adolescent years are difficult for kids. I mean, seriously. Would you want to return to that time in your life? Kids are cruel to each other. Your body is changing. You don’t understand why you feel like crying all the time. Every injustice is magnified every hurt is the end of the world. Every time you feel anger toward your stepchild, take a moment to remember a painful moment from your own adolescence.

Let your partner deal with his kid.  Have a discussion with your spouse about how you can best get through these coming years together. Stepfamilies tend to do better when Dad steps up his parenting and Stepmom steps back.

Hold on. The next few years are going to be a wild ride. Sometimes all you can do during the turbulent teen years is to hold on tight until it’s over.

For many more specific tips to help you deal with the many stressors of stepfamily life, check out my book: A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom.  Readers: Please chime in if you have advice to share about how you’ve dealt with your anger at a stepkid! Oh, and one more thing: DO NOT HANG OUT WITH ANYONE WHO SAYS THIS TO YOU, “How could you be mad at her? She’s just a kid.” Call up any stepmother you know or log on and chat with your stepmother friends. It takes one to know one.

Your Questions Answered

3 06 2009

Q. Hi, I finished your book about 2 months ago, and I want to tell you that it’s the most relevant book I’ve ever read. As a new step-mom I have so many questions, concerns and unexplained (and unexpected!) feelings. I am so thankful for your book! I have been married 4 months, after dating my husband for a year and a half and my step-daughter is almost 6. We have her every Friday night, and then every other full weekend, as well as split holidays. My step-daughter and I get along wonderfully, but my husband and I have no communication with bio-mom whatsoever, and I don’t think that will ever be possible (her choice), though they split up before my step-daughter was even born. We do our parenting completely blind to what happens in the rest of her life when she is not with us, but we present a united front as far as rules, etc. goes, and work very hard to show her a secure and loving home environment. I have some questions that I think you may be able to offer some feedback on. First, what should I say when people ask me things like “Is this your little one?” when my stepdaughter is out with me? When I’m with my stepdaughter, I just say something along the lines of “yes, this is my stepdaughter” and that seems to be ok, but it that ok for her? She always tells me that she’s my daughter, but never tells me that I’m her mother. I want a response that I can be comfortable with, but that will also make her feel good about herself and our relationship.

A. I think it is always best to ask your stepdaughter what makes her feel comfortable. Ask her if she wants you to correct someone in public when they say, “your daughter.” Ask her if she’d rather you not explain your exact situation because the only thing that matters is that you and she know that your her stepmom and you love her. Sometimes kids are more embarrassed when we try to tell a stranger about our complicated families.  We put our stepkids in a loyalty bind when we ask them to call us “mom” or some variation of that and it makes them feel uncomfortable or they get flack about it from their Moms. When I asked my stepkids what they wanted me to do when people asked, “Is that your mom?” or some other related question, they said, “Just tell them your my stepmom.” And that was the end of it. Now when people ask, I’ve gotten used to saying that and it doesn’t have any negative connotations in my mind because it is simply a descriptor that other people understand.

Q. What about when my husband and I are out together without her and people ask if we have kids? This is the absolute worst—as soon as I say that my husband has a daughter, I’m dismissed completely, and the situation becomes uncomfortable. Bio-moms seem to have no respect for a stepmom and they don’t really know what to do with us. Again, I wonder how I can be honest in this situation without making people (especially me!) feel uncomfortable, while at the same time expressing the value the my stepdaughter, my husband and I place on our close relationship. I am more sensitive to reactions than my husband is, and maybe I’m just too sensitive in general, but it seems like they then find you lacking and completely loose interest. If I am asked when I’m alone if I have kids I just say that I have a stepdaughter, and while they loose interest almost immediately then too (unless they happen to be a stepparent) it seems less uncomfortable. Why is this?

A. People are uncomfortable with stepparents for two reasons in my opinion. First, because the stepparent feels uncomfortable and we transmit those feelings. Second, because stepfamilies are different, and people don’t know what to say. Because stepfamilies are formed in the wake of sorrow after a death, affair, or even a “good” divorce, the negative connotations that go along with the title “stepparent” are absolutely real. I know first-hand the discomfort you describe. We have four kids in our home. When people ask how many kids I have, what do I say? Four? One? One and three stepkids? After much trial and effort I came to a response I feel comfortable with most of the time. “I have a daughter and three wonderful stepchildren.” When you admit to a social group that you’re a stepmom it can feel like you don’t belong, but I bet if you started asking around you would see that plenty of people in the room either are stepparents, are married to one, or had one themselves. Rumor has it stepfamilies outnumber first families in the United States. So think about that the next time you feel like the odd-woman out. It might help!

Q. How do I talk to my husband about some of the things I feel because of my role as a stepmom? I can’t share your book with him because he would panic, terrified that I don’t want to be with him because of all these tricky emotions. That’s not the case at all, but he doesn’t really get that. I already tried to express some of the difficulties I face with adapting to this new role, but it didn’t go over well, so now I just keep it to myself. Could your blog incorporate some articles for husbands of stepmoms to read?

A. Yes! I will work on some articles for the blog that stepmoms can hand to their husbands, but in the meantime you can show him this. It is incredibly important that you are able to talk to him about your feelings–the good, the bad, the ugly. All of the research on stepfamilies show that a couple who are able to talk about their experiences within this new stepfamily in an honest and open way have a FAR better chance of making it. By not allowing you to talk about your negative feelings, he is basically living in denial and it absolutely will come back to bite him in the tush. When we suppress anger or hurt feelings for a long time, they come out eventually. And your husband is not alone in his reaction to your feelings. Most men have trouble hearing negative things about their new family or their kids or even the ex wife because they are living in their own fantasty land. They want this new marriage to work. They don’t want to be divorced again. But the reality is that remarriage divorce rates are higher than first marriages. The inability to talk openly about the COMPLETELY NORMAL stepfamily challenges often leads to divorce. If he won’t read my book or any other book about stepfamily development, then read him the sections in my book where other stepmoms talk about their experiences or read a post from a blog by another stepmom. Perhaps that will help him see that what you’re going through. Hopefully he’ll be able to see that what you’re family is going through right now is part of the deal during the first years of stepfamily development. You might also check out Patricia Papernow’s helpful book: Becoming a Stepfamily. It does an fantastic job of showing the stages stepfamilies go through so you don’t think you’re going crazy!

The Power of Guilt

15 12 2008

journaldmIn blended families, there are few things more powerful than guilt. It is the emotion that fuels many of the negative things that happen in stepfamilies. It is the reason that Dads become permissive parents and allow their children to run wild. It  is often one of the reasons Moms are combative and challenging to co-parent with. In 2003, the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage published a study called Divorced Mothers’ Guilt. The study found that the guilt they felt for putting their children through divorce often kept them stuck in one emotional place and unable to move on with their lives.

Anecdotally, I can attest to this just from listening to moms during interviews. I have always been curious about the moms who originally ask for the divorce and then act as though they are the victims or become vindictive or angry later when they weren’t at the time of the divorce. It could be the guilt talking.

And so for all of us, how do recover from guilt? How do biological and stepparents move on from feeling guilty about an affair, or a divorce or a remarriage? If anyone has some good ideas, please feel free to comment. In the meantime, here are some of my thoughts:

Say your sorry. Take the children out for one-on-one time and apologize. Call or e-mail your former spouse and tell them you are sorry for everything that happened. Marriage researcher John Gottman describes in his books how repair attempts can reduce conflict in relationships. If the breakup of the marriage happened because of an affair, leave defensiveness behind, own up to your responsibility and say your sorry.

Look to the future. Instead of remaining stuck in anger and guilt about what happened in the past, focus on your hopes for the future.

Remember we’re alone. Each of us has our own particular path to walk in this life. A divorce and remarriage will affect children for their rest of their lives, but at the end of the day they will have to deal with it on their own. Give them the tools they need to move through their emotions in a healthy way instead of letting them manipulate you with your guilt.

Let go of what doesn’t serve you. Guilt is really a useless feeling. It doesn’t move you anywhere, just keeps you stuck in the past. Wouldn’t you rather choose to let go of the guilt? Challenging things happen to children. How they respond to it can build their character and yours if you allow everyone to move on emotionally.

Be true to your inner truths. Guilt can strip biological parents of their core values. For instance, if a parent would typically believe that boundaries are good for kids but lets them all go because he feels guilty, he is not only depriving his children of the parenting they need, he is abandoning his own belief system. Seriously, guilt is that powerful.

So what do you feel guilty about? How does the guilt of your partner or the ex affect the dynamics between all the members of your blended family?

Dating a divorced man with kids?

15 12 2008

A vast majority of newly married couples report they did not have conversations about important topics such as money, sex or the number of children each person wants before the marriage license is signed. Part of the conflict that arises in the first few years of marriage comes from problems in these areas that were never discussed during the courtship stage of the relationship. If you are dating a man with children it is absolutely critical that the two of you put everything on the table long before you decide to move in together or tie the knot. The fact is, remarriages have a higher rate of failure than first marriages because the stressors that come with stepfamily dynamics can erode the marriage. The more armed you are with information, the better!

You can find many conversation starters in my book at the end of each chapter in the Discussion Topics for Two sections. I also came across a free teleseminar that you might find of interest:

Yvonne Kelly, founder of The Step and Blended Family Institute and David Steele, founder of The Relationship Coaching Institute are presenting a free teleseminar on Thursday, January 22, from 9-11 p.m. EST. Register at to reserve your spot and they’ll send you a copy of the Stepdating Report.

Stepmoms Speak

12 11 2008

Christina Hines is the author of Navigational Skills for Stepfamilies. The following is an excerpt from her book. Used with permission.

Lack of Awareness

When we navigate without awareness, we still remember the “Wicked” Stepmother in our Cinderella stories. We live inside the lingo, the language of “Broken Homes” and “Step” and everyone suffers on all levels. “Broken” takes on a tone as If there is something fundamentally wrong that will always be fundamentally wrong. Step has a tone as if someone is stepping on someone else’s toes or property, as if by stepping “in and on” you are doing something morally illegal.

Inside of this broken stepping on toes limited thinking…. 

We teach our children that love has conditions. “You are free to love everyone! Except the woman who now lives with your father.”

We provide our children with “Disney Land” weekends to ease the guilt we feel inside of us for not being there in the day-to-day.

We get divorced and cling fiercely to making sure our children experience “family traditions” only we don’t stop to understand what we are really doing to them.

Let’s see how this works. We tell our children “Get dressed, brush your teeth, eat breakfast, put your jacket on – you are going to Dad’s for three hours to have his tradition. Next, while you are in mid-play, you will need to put your jacket back on, come back home, we’ll drive to grandma’s and have our tradition (notice, at Dad’s you had HIS tradition but when you are with me, you are having “Our” tradition.) Take your jacket off and then mid-play, you will need to put your jacket back on. Next; we will get back in the car, drive to our house. Take off your jacket it’s time for bed! Now wasn’t that fun?

Children literally spend half of the day in the car. A quarter of the day taking their jackets off and putting their jackets back on.  A quarter of the day just digging into a wonderful play experience only to have it cut short once again.

Family traditions start to take on a tone of hurry up, let’s go, wasn’t that fun and we do this for your sake. Children’s little heads spin. They can’t remember whom they are playing with and everything feels to the child like there isn’t enough time. We literally teach our children how to not focus fully. We teach our children how not to experience something fully and then we label and medicate them when they can’t seem to focus.

More of what’s Inside of this broken stepping on toes limited thinking…

We send them over to the other parent’s house exclaiming “Oh I will miss you so much while you are gone,” and then the child spends half the time at the other parent’s house worrying about how lonely and upset the other parent is with visions of the “missing” parent crying missing them so much and unable to enjoy their time fully because they are too busy worrying about the other parent’s experience. We teach our children to always feel like something is missing.

We get out of one relationship to get right back into the “same” relationship with someone else or we go for someone completely different and spend all our time comparing, complaining and “pining” for what we no longer have when we didn’t enjoy what we had when we had it. Never fully enjoying our present moments.

We watch a child grow and develop and we have reverence for the process yet we have no tolerance and lack reverence, time or patience for the emotional evolutionary process of growth and development that needs to happen inside of marriages or inside of divorces or our remarriages.

We treat our children like partners and our partners like children.

We ignore our pain, bury it, pretend it doesn’t exist and we hide behind children using them as an excuse on why we can’t move on or worse, we use them like bait on a fishing rod to attract a potential parent for them verses trying to attract a partner for us who will eventually be a good stepparent.

We set our new relationships up to be stressful and chaotic because we didn’t take the time to process our emotions and then we get mad at our new partner for expecting us to be fully present to them.

We expect our new partners to love and accept our children and us unconditionally while we don’t accept and love them unconditionally.

We set the stepparent up by sabotaging their relationship with our children by bending the rules when the stepparent isn’t home or by blatantly coming out and saying, “I don’t mind but your stepmother is on my back.”

We set our children up to feel abandoned and to resent the person who does what we do for our children – by allowing our children to sleep in bed with us at night and then “kicking” them out when an adult comes into the picture.

We blame the “other” parent when our children lie, manipulate or act out on our time with the children. We say the children are doing that because of who the other parent is and oh what a great parent we are.

 We blame the stepparent for pointing out our children’s behaviors and focus on the stepparent instead of focusing on parenting our children 

Women walk around comparing themselves to each other while competing for who’s better, prettier, has a better body, looks younger, makes more money, has a better house. As if a child cares about any of those things. (Who is that really about?)

Men are so confused, not knowing who to listen to, the biological mother or the stepmother. Knowing perfectly well that he’s completely screwed either way, lying to each woman causing more problems for themselves crying, “Women are crazy people!”

We haven’t learned to “play nice” inside of our adult relationships while we tell our children to “play nice” with others. Or, we no longer care about teaching our children how to play nice, we would rather they think of only themselves. We haven’t learned to share the joys of child rearing while we tell our child to share or, we tell our children that they don’t have to share. We haven’t learned to respect each other while we tell children to respect others or, we don’t care if our children respect others and enjoy our children’s ability to be fully self expressed to the point of pure rudeness. We play a lot of ego oriented superficial games and waste our time and life energy on things that do not matter and have absolutely nothing to do with our children.

With all or half of this going on inside of the lives of stepfamilies, it’s easy to see why there is so much stress involved. Most of it has nothing to do with being a parent or having a child. Children are not the problem at all. Most of it has to do with our inability to navigate the issues that belong to us.