New Stepmom Circles Podcast: Ron Deal and StepDads

21 04 2011

Finally!!! A new Stepmom Circles Podcast is ready. Ron Deal is one of my favorite guests. In this show we talk about Ron’s new book, The Smart Stepdad. There are even fewer resources for stepdads than there are for stepmoms. Ron always has so much wisdom to share and this podcast is not just for stepdads. It’s for moms who have kids and married a man who became a stepdad to their children. It’s for stepmothers because is the advice he gives is applicable to all of us. Find Ron at


Stepmothers: Forgiveness

9 02 2011

Yesterday afternoon I watched Oprah. It was a heart-stopping show about three young girls who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their father and older brothers. At the end of the show Oprah passed along advice to them that she received from one of her mentors. She didn’t mention who it was but it took my breath away so I wanted to share it here. She said, “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could have been different.” Whoa. It’s not about condoning anyone’s behavior or inviting them back into your life or even wishing them love and peace.

Does that resonate or what?

Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could have been different.

For us stepmothers perhaps one place to focus this powerful thought is on our husbands. (Do you secretly wish he’d never been with another woman or had children with anyone else?) Another place: Our exes. Another place: Our own childhoods.

This week I’m meditating on that phrase: Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could have been different.

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?”

Stepmothers: Getting to Yes

30 11 2010

I saw this today and thought of stepmothering. William Ury is the author of Getting to Yes and has helped navigate some of the most difficult conversations happening in our world today. His advice is something that we can use in our homes, my ladies! Conflict in your home? With a stepchild? An ex? Your partner? Then watch this. Ury believes the secret peace is to take the third side. Love it.

“In the last 35 years as I have worked in some of the most dangerous, difficult, and intractable conflicts around the planet, I have yet to see one conflict that I felt could not be transformed. It is not easy,  of course, but it is possible.” –William Ury

Stepmoms: Have you transformed conflict in your home? Share with us!

The Happy Stepmom

19 05 2010

Last week’s Stepmom Circles Podcast with Rachelle Katz, the author of The Happy Stepmom, got me thinking. Am I a happy stepmom? Is there such a thing as a happy stepmom? What is different about happy stepm0ms than unhappy stepmoms? I’ve explored this topic from different angles in my book, podcasts, and on this blog, but I think happiness makes for an interesting way of looking at stepmotherhood. I also just finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, a woman who spent a year working on making her life happier and so happiness is on my mind! Here are the things that make me a happy stepmom:

Time alone. This is huge for me. I love hanging out with my family and friends, but to recharge I need to have some solid me-time with no one else within earshot. When I have a balance of time alone and time with family, I am happy.

Time with my husband. With four kids in our house,  weeks can go by when my husband wave at each other twice a day. If we don’t pay attention we can easily become the proverbial ships passing in the morning and night. Spending time with my husband makes me a happy stepmother.

Curiosity about my stepchildren’s lives. When I’m feeling low I will often consciously turn on my curiosity about my stepchildren’s lives. What makes them tick? What’s happening in school these days? What’s it like to be a kid in 2010? What does it feel like to be 15 or 12 or 10? Being curious can lessen resentment or hurt feelings and turn me into a happier stepmom.

Feeling included. Even though I know I don’t have full parenting rights, I like to be asked at least for courtesy’s sake. My husband is usually very good at making me feel like part of the parenting team. But I still don’t feel included all of the time. I look at it this way: As long as I feel included 80 percent of the time, that’s pretty darn good. And that makes me a happy stepmother.

Exercise. If I don’t work out, I turn into a nasty beastie. It’s better for everyone in my family if I get my tush off the couch.

What makes you feel like a happy stepmother? If you were going to consciously work to be happier in your daily life, what would you do?

Stepmom Group Coaching: A few spots left

19 05 2010

This week has been nutty but I’ll have a new podcast up next week and more blog posts with lots of stepfamily information. I wanted to alert you all that I am starting another Stepmom Circles Group Coaching session NEXT WEEK. I’ve had a few last minute spots open up so if anyone is interested, please email me at becomingastepmom (at) gmail (dot) com right away. I did not make this session public because it was filled with people from the waiting list.

This session is on Wednesday nights from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. Central Standard Time, May 26 to June 30.

The  Stepmom Circles group meets for an hour and a half each week for six weeks over the telephone. Every week I lead a discussion on a particular stepfamily challenge. (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). Then we have an open talk about your particular questions and issues.

The cost of a six-week session is $197. That’s about $32 per week.

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

  • a FREE half-hour, get-to-know you consultation with me 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

Because space is limited, you’ll need to reserve your spot fast.

Email becomingastepmom (@) gmail (dot) com for more information.

First-Ever Stepmom Circles Retreat!!

12 05 2010

Dear Stepmothers:

I am thrilled to offer the first-ever Stepmom Circles Retreat! Are you free July 18-20? Do you want to meet other stepmothers who will likely become lifelong friends? Do you want to learn about how you can make your stepfamily life better?

Join me on Sunday, July 18, 2010, for a three-day stepmother extravaganza.

During our days together you will:

  • Bond with other stepmothers
  • Learn the ICES approach to stepmothering (Inspiration, Communication, Education and Support)
  • Discover proven strategies to create a stronger marriage and stepfamily
  • Take a break from your life to remember who you are and to renew your strength
  • Eat delicious food
  • Laugh a lot!

The retreat will be held at The Creamery, just outside Menomonie, Wisconsin, which is about 45 minutes away from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

I am limiting the retreat to 24 people so if you know you want to go, reserve your spot now by emailing me at becomingastepmom (@) gmail (d0t) com

Retreat: $350, includes two and and a half days of group sessions and individual attention from stepfamily expert, coach, author, and podcast host Jacquelyn Fletcher
Food: $100, includes a 4-course group dinner on Sunday night, beverages and snacks, and lunch on Monday. If you stay at the Creamery breakfast is included in the lodging charge on Monday and Tuesday.
Lodging: $150-175 per night. There are only 12 rooms available at The Creamery. If you’re willing to share a room with another stepmother, your cost goes down. There is also lodging available in nearby Menomonie.

If you’ve had enough of feeling isolated, left out, hurt, or angry and want a boost that will help you feel more positive, retreat!

Email me at becomingastepmom (@) gmail (d0t) com for more information.

A BIG THANK YOU to Kate, one of my readers who asked if I could bring this retreat closer to where she lives. The answer is: YES! If you want me to do a Stepmom Circles Retreat in a town near you, pop me an email and I’ll see what I can do.

Here’s what past Stepmom Circles’ participants have to say about Jacquelyn Fletcher’s approach:

“I am so excited to feel like I have a strong chance of making it through this step life without losing my sanity or my marriage.”

“Jacquelyn, you are providing a valuable resource to stepmoms — and potential stepmoms too. While there are still several things about the situation that terrify me (including those I can’t even anticipate), I feel more prepared to handle them.”

“Jacque, I cannot begin to express how meaningful our conversations have been. Your concern, care and encouragement has been a hopeful light during a dark and challenging time. Thank you seems very inadequate, but it is most sincere.”

“Jacque, thank you for your continuing candor on the subject of being a stepmom…I’m finding it’s never too late to learn stepmom strategies.”

New Stepmom Circles Podcast: The Happy Stepmom

12 05 2010

Listen to this week’s free Stepmom Circles Podcast in which I chat with Dr. Rachelle Katz. Dr. Katz is the author of a new book for stepmothers, The Happy Stepmom. We discuss some of the common challenges of stepmotherhood along with concrete action items you can take home and use with your family. Find out more about Dr. Katz at

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

How Do I Listen? Click the link above for this show or visit HERE to listen to all the shows.

Your Questions Answered: Troubled Stepkids

5 05 2010

Dear Jacque:

I have written before in regards to my step son. To be honest I have reached the end of my rope. I am tired of the lying and stealing from him. He hasn’t been stealing “big” items…just little things taking and using things that belong to me (or other members of our household). It’s an issue of trust (or the lack of it with him!)
I had a cloth for cleaning my glasses and he took that (wanted to clean his trumpet with it!) he never asked if it was ok or if he could use it or have it.

I had purchased some chocolate truffles for my husband and he didn’t care for them at the time so I put them in a kitchen drawer for him for a later date…they disappeared the next day…My stepson took them and didn’t ASK and they don’t have permission to just “take food” from the kitchen either.

This morning I found one of my combs in the kids bathroom …when my husband questioned one of his daughters she said no that’s not mine it’s my stepson’s (and it wasn’t his comb, but mine that he confiscated)…again he didn’t ask if he could have it.

I do a lot of sewing and was missing a seam ripper for over a month and was looking and looking for it and couldn’t find it…it was driving me nuts wondering what had happened to it….here it was in HIS room – (why I have no idea).

I’m so tired of trying to find things and to find out that he took it! Then when confronted he lies about it…Oh I got that from a friend at school
We can’t trust him (or don’t) as he proves over and over he isn’t trustworthy and when talked to he get’s angry and defensive – or blames others.

I have asked his dad to send him to live with his mom and he won’t do that…so I resort to being unhappy, in tears nearly every day because I am worn out emotionally from all the lying, stealing, dishonesty. He was diagnosed ADHD and was given medication. Come to find out he was throwing out the pills after my husband handed it to him. This has gone on for weeks and many days I suspected that he wasn’t taking it and here he’d lie about it…oh I took it. I’m tired of the deception. I don’t enjoy being around him anymore. Last night I stayed at work until 8:00 so I didn’t have to deal with him (I’m too stressed) and I told my husband that I’m going to stay in a hotel this weekend…. I’m simply worn out and tired of it. I can’t live in a house where there’s deception, dishonor and dishonesty.

I grew up in a home of TOTAL respect for authority, my mom, adults etc. and he simply doesn’t have any respect. We went through counseling and he said I was way too involved emotionally in the kids and raising them and I needed to step away. It’s my husband’s job and his ex-wifes job to raise them. She basically has nothing to do with the kids. She sees them maybe every other month and went 2 years with no contact at all.

What do you suggest that we do? I told my husband if he is taking little things…just wait a few years…..he’ll be taking money, the car without permission …who knows what he’ll take…it’s like there isn’t a conscience. When given a consequence he gets angry instead of showing remorse like my stepdaughters do.
Thanks for your ministry.

Dear Stepmom:

What a tough time you’re having right now. I am so sorry that you’re feeling so emotionally depleted. I would like to offer you a few things to think about.

Find something good to focus on. Right now. Right away. Whether it’s how much you love your husband’s laugh or your favorite funny movie or your best friend. I don’t care what it is but the only way your brain will be able to come up with creative solutions to your issues is if your body is not under siege from the stress hormones you are pumping it full of right now. (Cortisol and adrenaline.) Have an arsenal of positive actions you can take that make you FEEL GOOD. It’s the only way to help yourself get light enough to float on up out of the muck.

Consider your therapist’s counsel. Your therapist was correct. Most stepmothers take on far too much responsibility for the children they live with full- or part-time, especially in the early days of stepfamily life. You didn’t mention how long you’ve been together, but my guess is somewhere between 2 to 5 years because what you’re describing often comes during that time in stepfamily development. Problems also flare up when kids turn into teenagers.

But at the end of the day, your husband’s kids are his kids. He does need to step up and take responsibility for them. But as women we find this incredibly difficult. We’re supposed to be the female head of the household. We’re supposed to be the ones in charge of the kids. Stepmothers come to the table with these expectations, but the fact is our stepchildren are not ours.

There are times when stepmothers do become more equal parenting partners with the biological parent: If you have full-custody for instance, or if Dad refuses to parent his children. However, research tells us that stepmothers do best parenting from the back seat with Dad’s full support of her authority. We also know that stepmothers who spend time bonding with their stepchildren in the early days of stepfamily life and who have Dad’s support, are the ones who end up moving into a more equal parenting role because the kids and Dad all accept it more readily.

I have a few questions for you: Have he household rules been made clear to all the kids? What are the consequences for breaking the rules? How does DAD enforce them. Not you. This child needs discipline (not punishment, there’s a difference). And he needs it from his Dad. Divorced Dads often feel guilty about having rules and discipline in place, but kids need them. It’s critical to their development.

And: What would happen if you backed off a bit and let Dad parent his kids?

Understand your stepson’s motivations. Your email is full of anger at your stepson and rightly so. But if you choose to continue to feel such resentment toward him, you’ll never be able to build a bridge that can help him turn his behavior around now before it gets any worse. My advice is to turn on your curiosity about why your stepson is stealing things and lying about it. Turn on your compassion for him. Sit down today and write a paragraph as though you are him. Write about what you think his life has been like for the past five years or ten years.

Children tend to act out when they are hurting or afraid because they don’t have the words or the emotional maturity to tell us what’s really going on. Our brains don’t fully develop until we’re in our 20s so it could very well be that your stepson is stealing things from you and his father because his mother is not there for him and he is heartbroken about her abandonment. That would be my guess, not knowing the full story. Children are always loyal to their mothers whether they are fully present, drug addicts, in jail, or have left them to start another family or move to another state. And because he can’t hate his mother without hurting himself even more, he has made you and his father his emotional targets for now. It could also be that he’s stealing from you because if he makes you leave maybe his mother will come back.

In your case, instead of focusing on what he’s doing wrong, I would ask you to start focusing on this boy’s pain. How can help him deal with his heartbreak and fear? How can you guide him? It’s a lot to ask, my dear stepmom. And even if you decide to work on coming at this boy with compassion, it doesn’t guarantee that he will ever thank you for your efforts. This is why your focus also needs to be on your own personal growth.

Define what you’re getting out of this. Personal growth is one of the top things women cite as a benefit of stepfamily life, especially women who have really tough stepkids or ex-wives. But here’s my take: You chose this man and this family for a reason. What is that reason? Why are you with them? What are you learning? How is your soul growing? Right now personal growth can be something you cling to. Later on it can become something you’re proud of.

My heart is with you and your family, Dear Stepmom.

A Holiday Message From Jacquelyn Fletcher

23 12 2009

In the 1980s, Patricia Papernow, Ph.D., a psychologist, stepmother, and author of the award-winning book for therapists, Becoming a Stepfamily: Patterns of Development in Remarried Families, identified seven cycles stepfamilies pass through as they build a life together. Starting with a fantasy and illusion period, they run through immersion, awareness, mobilization, and action as everyone tries to find their place in this new entity, and finally, in some cases after 12 years or more, end at resolution — otherwise known as stability and commitment. According to Papernow, the rare families who go through the stepfamily cycles quickest can successfully establish their new household within four years — but a majority of stepfamilies don’t even make it to the fourth year. And of those stepmothers who slog through years of hard work, many of them still hold deep resentment in their hearts. Is that really a successful stepfamily?

Something is not working. The current strategies and workbooks, the therapy and support groups are not working because most families don’t even know these resources exist. And to make matters worse, according to Margorie Engel, Ph.D., retired former president of the Stepfamily Association of America, stepfamilies don’t consider themselves a stepfamily until there’s a problem. Up to that point, they define themselves as simply a nuclear family. But overlooking the ways in which stepfamilies are different often leads to disaster and heartbreak.

The shiny happy family we’re all supposed to emulate is a complete fabrication. The instant love and feelings of connectedness and home are not automatic in a stepfamily, so we feel like failures. And yet, we stepmoms often are not willing to do the work it takes to succeed in building a strong stepfamily. We often are unwilling to feel uncomfortable in the moment as we work for long-term success. We sometimes act like victims and don’t take responsibility for our part in creating conflict in the early stages of stepfamily development. And in the chaos of the first years, it can be hard to put yourself in your stepkids’ or husband’s shoes.

Stepfamilies are here to stay, and it is crucial that stepmoms learn how to address their challenges in a way that promotes positive growth for everyone involved. In order for stepfamilies to thrive, it is imperative that stepmothers do not feel like strangers or prisoners or outsiders in their own homes. Women must feel like they have a say. However, that doesn’t mean steamrolling the stepfamily into doing only what the stepmom thinks is appropriate. It’s a balancing act — one that takes a great deal of maturity.

There is an upside. Stepfamily life can be a rip-roaring good time. Since none of the former models of family life are working, we get to create a new kind of dynamic in our homes — one that fits us and sustains us. Think of the power! All it takes is creativity, education, the willingness to look at the big picture and ride out the tough times, and the commitment to be present in each moment and each new experience. Easy, right?

Joining a stepfamily can be incredibly scary. The learning curve is so steep it can bury a woman. Consider this. In the first year of marriage, a stepmother feels she must learn how to live with another human being (or several), learn how to be married, learn how to be a stepmother, with all its thorny issues, find her place within a family that has already been together for years, figure out how to assert herself, learn how to support and communicate with people who are wounded, and learn to deal with the ex. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So what’s the big payoff? Why do it? Why are there 15 million stepmothers in America and 1,300 new stepfamilies forming every single day? Why are we marrying these men with their broods and their ex-wives?

 Simple. Love and hope.

This holiday season I wish you and your family LOTS of love and hope. Blessings to you brave women.