Friday, January 29, 2016

Bumps in the Road

bumps in the road, blended family, conflicts, step family, stepmoms, stepmom advice
The first five years of a blended family can be very hard.  There are going to be a few bumps in the road.  The bumps in the road are what make you stronger.  It’s even harder for a blended family if you a difficult ex especially one who shows signs of PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome).  I am writing this blog post to tell you that having struggles in the first five years of a blended family are normal.  Sometimes you even still struggle after you hit the five-year mark.  It is how you bounce back and recover is what is going to make your family stronger.   When you have these bumps in the road with your spouse make sure when you go to talk that you do it in private, to ensure the children will not hear the conversation, especially if the conflict is about them. 
How do we handle the bumps?
  • Conflict Resolution – Talk it out with the family members that are involved in the conflict. Do not let it go or ignore it. Always talk with your spouse 1:1 privately before talking with the children.
  • Stay on Topic – Make sure to stay with the current issue, try to avoid bringing up any unresolved or past issues up.
  • Hear Each Person Out – Let them tell their side of the story, make sure they are able to do it without anyone interrupting them.
  • Resolve the Problem – You could either ask them how they would like it to be resolved and do it if it’s reasonable.
  • Hug it Out & Apologize – This step is very important that the guilty party needs to apologize to the person they offended.

The younger the children are the easier it is for them to move on. Children 12 years and up might have a harder time moving on and letting go. It is normal, don’t push it. Let them move at their own pace.
Things you should try to avoid during or after the conflict:
  • Contacting the Ex and telling them about the conflict.  What happens at your house stays at your house. Problems and issues need to be resolved with you and your spouse, not with the ex-wife or ex-husband involved unless it’s about them.
  • Do Not Ignore the Issue – this is a dangerous thing to do because it just builds up within the child(ren). The child or children will have power over the house if the conflict gets ignored.
  • Do Not Argue w/Spouse – During the meeting in front of child(ren).  If you both start to argue stop and regroup the meeting at a later time.  Both parents need to talk away from the children.
  • Do Not Let the Child or Children Go Home – to the other parent’s house without a conflict getting resolved. If that means they go home late, they go home late.


If you allow the biological parent (meaning the ex) get involved, they always side with their children no matter what which makes the child(ren) have an unhealthy amount of control and power in your home.  Whatever behavior you allow will continue in your house and it will continue to get worse. As Ron Deal states “If you cannot govern the family as a team the household is headed for anger, jealousy, and unacceptance”.

We have had many bumps in the road in our blended family. One summer a few years ago we were camping and we were in the middle of playing a card game and I am not sure how it all got started, but my son and my stepdaughter started arguing.  My son said it was their mom’s fault that custody was taken away from us for a year and a half.  My stepdaughter said no it’s your Mom’s and my Dad’s fault that it happened.  At first I was quiet and then I told my son to stop it. But then they continued to argue but then I started getting upset. I finally blurted out to my stepdaughter, you are wrong your mom changed the custody on us, we didn’t do it or want it to happen, then she started arguing with me, then my husband got involved and before long it was a huge mess.  Then he and I started arguing in front of the kids and in front of many other campers around us.  We finally calmed down somehow, but during the arguing, all of the kids were crying and upset because they thought it was over between us.  We all sat inside of the tent and had a family meeting, and my stepson started crying and said he didn’t want us to get a divorce. We all took turns talking about the argument and sharing our feelings with one another about what happened. My husband and I apologized to the kids and my son apologized to my stepdaughter for the things he said.  We ended up hugging it out and then enjoyed the rest of our camping trip.  It wasn’t easy to get through that, but we managed to solve the problem and get over everything that was said in anger and hurt.  I shared my story with you to say that we all experience bumps in the road but it’s how we handle the bumps is how we get past it and learn from them which makes our family stronger. Don’t give up; it’s just a bump in the road.
The challenges of a blended family are real and can be complicated. Gather all your resources that help you get through the tough times. Even if you haven’t been through a tough time yet or a bump in the road it is coming, be ready and prepared for it.  Buy books on blended family topics, invest in blended family conferences, talk with other blended families and even seek a blended family therapist and always keep God at the center of your marriage and family. The success of your blended family depends on both parents to be a strong united front.  Don’t let the bumps in the road turn into potholes. The faster you overcome and resolve the bumps the stronger your blended family can become. 
Please know that bumps in the road are not signs to say it’s not going to work out. Even normal biological families have struggles and bumps in the road.  Don’t put out the white flag up yet, there is always hope for your family. 
Combining two sets of families together that have different rules and different backgrounds are always going to have some bumps in the road until everything can blend together and become one happy blended family.  Ron Deal has given this example of a blended family as a cooking a meal in a crockpot.  It takes a lot of time to cook roast beef in a crock pot, you have to throw in the carrots and potatoes and seasoning after it’s well blended and cooked for 8 hours you have a wonderful meal. Well, blended families are the same way, you have to throw in the rules, backgrounds, discipline, beliefs and love to get the blended family to work right and all of that takes time, forgiveness, patience, compromise, tears, and understanding and most importantly, love.  It takes a lot of time to get a blended family to become one big happy family. So, Don’t Give Up.  If the bumps turn into potholes and you feel like there is no way to fix the road, going to therapy/counseling can really help. So expect the bumps in the road to come. Remember it’s all about how you handle the bumps in the road is what will make you stronger.


References:
Ron Deal (2002). The Smart Step Family. Seven Steps to a Healthy Family.  Bethany House – A division of Baker Publishing Group. 


Monday, January 25, 2016

Stepdaughter

stepdaughter, stepmom, step family, blended family, stepmom advice, step mothers
I was just 10 years old when I became a stepdaughter and my brother was just 7 years old.  Growing up was very difficult for a lot of reasons.  When my parents got divorced, it was very hard on me and my brother because it was an awful divorce with many court hearings between my Mom and Dad. I remember crying a lot when my parents got into a huge altercation where the police were even called. I remember being so scared that something might happen to one of them.  Then my Dad got remarried to my stepmom who was only 17 ½ years old at the time.  She wasn’t even an adult yet but had to become adult pretty fast yet alone be a Stepmom which I am sure had to be pretty hard on her.  She was 16 years old when they first started dating and my Dad is 18 years older than her too.  Adjusting to having a stepmom was very difficult for both me and my brother because of my mother.  My mother would say all of these mean things about my Dad and Stepmom.  She told us that my Stepmom was the one that broke both of my parents up and that I can never trust a Mexican. Yes, my stepmom is Mexican.  I later learned that when I became an adult that, my Stepmom didn’t break up my Mom and Dad’s marriage, my Mom broke up the marriage to my Dad by having an affair with her boss.  But my whole childhood I believed that my Stepmom broke up my Mom’s and Dad’s marriage. My Mom would tell both my brother and I that we didn’t have to listen to my Stepmom and that she wasn’t the boss of us.  She would also tell us that My Dad didn’t care about us anymore and that he loves my Stepmom and his other kids more than us.  I believed everything my Mom would say to us because I was a child.  I never thought that my mom could be lying to us.  Thinking back, I think my Mom was jealous of my Stepmom because she was young, where my Mom was 9 years older than my Dad.  
Before my Stepmom married my Dad, she used to babysit us when my Dad was working on the weekends and we used to like her and thought she was fun until my Dad and her became an item. Then everything started to change and the way my Stepmom would treat us was different and not the best. Every other weekend was very hard for me because I really wanted to try to like my Stepmom but couldn’t because of my Mom. I was so torn and stuck in the middle, I felt like if I liked my Stepmom it would be betraying my Mom.
My Stepmom and Dad had all of these rules and chores for us to do when we would visit them.  For instance, if we wanted something to drink or eat, we had to ask permission first. Then I had to fold and sort laundry, vacuum the house, clean windows, pick up dog poop outside and do dishes by hand.  My Stepmom would inspect the dishes to make sure they were clean and if they weren’t I had to do them over again.  I ended up hating going over there because I felt like I was a slave, felt like I was Cinderella.  I did all of these chores while my Stepmom got fatter and watched her soaps on TV.  When all I wanted was to spend time with my Dad 1:1, I rarely got time with my Dad without my Stepmom there.  In the summer time, my Dad would take us sailing on his sailboat.  My Stepmom wouldn’t go on it because she always got seasick.  Whenever he went sailing my brother and I would go because it was the only time we got to spend with my Dad without my Stepmom there. I loved going sailing with my Dad.  I did feel like my Stepmom took my Dad away from me and my brother.  Anytime we got to spend with my Dad without her around, she became jealous of it. In fact, every time we got home from somewhere we went with my Dad, she had this attitude towards us and my Dad.  Then when my Stepmom started having Babies with my Dad we always had to bring one of them with us everywhere we went with my Dad.  All I wanted was time alone with my Dad without anyone else around.  I really resented my Stepmom for always making sure one of her kids went wherever we went with my Dad. 
My fond memories of my Stepmom were when she was making dinner and would ask me to help her make it. I enjoyed learning how to cook Mexican food and my Stepmom was a great Mexican cook.  She did not know how to make other meals, but she did cook Mexican food really well.  I remember when I was 14 years old she made this romantic dinner for me and my first boyfriend at the time with candles and wine glasses filled with Pepsi.
What I did realize through everything was that being at my Dads taught me respect and responsibility and how to keep things clean.  My Dad and Stepmom were really strict but I learned so much being there.  The only rule I remember at my Mom’s house was to be in the house before the street lights went on.
We went roller skating a lot which we both loved to do with my Dad.  We went camping one summer. We also had a pool at my Dads which we loved using in the summer time and had a camper that we used to spend the night in.  We used to play family games with my Dad and Stepmom which were a lot of fun, but then once my Stepmom started having babies everything kind of stopped. 
There was even a time where I went to live with my Dad and Stepmom. But it only lasted less than a year because I couldn’t take all of the rules, chores and I had a big blowout fight with both my Dad and Stepmom where I called my Stepmom the “B” word.  My Dad then hit me in my face which really shocked me, but looking back at it now, I really deserved it, I was out of line.


Every time I asked my Dad to do something with us my Stepmom would say “we are broke, we don’t have any money” and that they had a lot of bills to pay. It used to get me mad and I got tired of hearing the same response over and over again.  But yet, they would go on these great vacations without us.  My Dad and Stepmom never talked bad about my Mom or put her down like my Mom constantly did about them.  I did feel like I could talk to my Stepmom and open up to her but the moment I felt like I was getting to close to her, I would pull away because of my Mom. I felt torn in the middle of the two of them. Sometimes I would feel like my Stepmom was pretending to like me and my brother but secretly hated us.  I would overhear her talk on the phone in Spanish to her family about me and my brother.  She couldn’t say our names in Spanish, she would every now and then say our name and then continue to talk in Spanish.  It really used to bother me so much that when I was in High School I took Spanish just to learn it so I would know what she is saying on the phone about us.  It got to the point where I didn’t trust my Stepmom thanks to everything my Mom put into my head. Then as we got older they would go on great vacations in the summer time and take my step siblings with them but never included us which really hurt our feelings.  It made us feel like we were outsiders at my Dads.  When we would go to my Dad’s house there were tons of pictures of my stepsiblings but very little pictures of us which made my anger grow even more.  My mom would validate my feelings by making it worse by feeding us more lies about them.  When I turned 16 years old, I eventually stopped going over to my Dad’s house every other weekend.  I just had enough of all of the rules and I had two jobs I was working and they were just more important at the time. I think I stopped going because I felt like me and my brother were replaced with his new kids he had with my Stepmom.
I do really regret the way I treated my Stepmom but I was a child.  I was only just doing what I was told to do from my Mom which was to hate the enemy (my Stepmom) and resent my Dad for putting her first before me and my brother.  Later on, when I became an adult I realized that my Mom was in the wrong for everything she did.  I didn't know the truth of why both of my parents divorced until I was 23 years old.  It wasn’t until I became an adult that I learned that my Mom was doing parental alienation with us towards my Dad and Stepmom. 
Today, I look back and realize what I did was wrong in how I treated my Stepmom. I did eventually apologize to my Stepmom for everything I did  and said to her that hurt her when I was a child.  It was a great moment we had, and I cried with her.
Now today because of everything that happened in my childhood my Dad and I aren’t very close. He is closer to my step siblings more than he is with me and my brother and that’s mainly because they had him all of their childhood life, when we didn’t.  I have learned to accept it and appreciate the relationship I do have with him and try to build on it when I can.

I wrote this post for Stepmoms to read and understand that all stepchildren want is more time with their Dad 1:1 and to feel accepted and loved as they are.  It’s not about us, Stepmoms; it’s about them and their relationship with their Dad.  If we are supportive of them spending time with their Dads, they will eventually turn around and be more accepting of us.  After all, they don’t get much time with them anyways because of living at their Mom’s house.  Let them make their childhood memorable. They will let you in when they see we aren’t trying to take them away from their Dad.
If only my parents knew how I was really feeling back then when I was a child maybe things would have been different at both homes.  If only my Mom knew what she was doing to us was totally wrong. If only I spoke up and talked to my Dad and shared with him my feelings of wanting to spend more time with him may be everything would have been different.  Don't have your stepchildren have "if you only knew" statement for their childhood.  Try to give them space, time with their Dad, try to make them feel more accepted and included in everything you do, they will learn to appreciate you more if you do.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Picky Eaters

picky eaters, blended family, step mom, step mothers, step family
Do you have a child or stepchild who’s a picky eater? Well, I am very lucky three out of five kids are picky eaters. Two of which are my stepchildren.  I remember being a picky eater when I was a child to, but yet my parents always made me eat what was on my plate. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to get up from the table until everything was finished.  So what I used to do is take a lot of napkins and slowly put the food when they weren’t looking in the napkins so they didn’t notice.  When I was at my Dad's house I would just feed my food to the dog. I would sit there for hours sometimes because I refused to eat certain things on my plate such as peas. The food would get so cold, but they wouldn’t let me warm it up either.  I told myself that when I become a parent I will not make my kids sit at the table until everything is done and I haven’t done that even though in the back of my mind I thought about doing it.   
When I first came into the picture with my husband it was very hard on me because I thought they weren’t eating what I made because they didn’t like me.  But the truth of the matter was they are just picky eaters and have always been that way. My stepdaughter would be happy with chicken tenders/chicken nuggets at every meal if we allowed that. It was very hard at first in fact we would end up making two meals for meal times which was hard and a pain in the butt. 
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Until one day we started the “One Bite” rule, which is they, at least, try one bite of the food and if they don’t like it, they get two options and we decide what those two options are. After doing this a few times, they eventually discovered that they do like other foods. They also found out that their Stepmom (meaning me) is a great cook after all. Then they started requesting certain meals for me to make on the weekends they were here.  My stepdaughter has even contacted me in the past for certain recipes so they can make something at home with their mother.
I still have one picky eater and she’s the worst one in the house now, which is my ten-year-old daughter. We have learned to say if you don’t like it you can make yourself PB&J or something else for dinner.  Her favorite thing to eat is chicken and ice cream, however, I have recently got her to eat steak and pork chops from time to time. It’s still a struggle with her, though. One day she will like something and then the next time we make it she doesn't like it. But the “One Bite” rule really works.  I try my best to include foods they like for meal times.  I just learned not to get upset with my children or stepchildren about it and compromise with them.  Yes, sometimes I do make two different meals. But I have learned to give up on the stress and frustration of them being picky eaters. It’s just not worth getting upset about it.  You learn after a while to pick your battles and them being picky eaters just isn’t a battle for me anymore.  For example, one day out of the blue my stepson stopped liking Chinese food when all of us love it still. So what we decided to do is buy him Wendy’s and buy us Chinese food. Yes, it means going to two different places for food but yet everyone is happy and eating, that’s what’s really important. If you have picky eater try the “One Bite” rule with them and then always have two options ready and available for them to eat just in case they still don’t like the food.  Those two choices in the past for us have been cereal and PB&J sandwiches.  Whatever you do, try not to make it hard on you, meaning having to cook two whole meals.

Do you have a picky eater? How did you handle it?
Meet one of my Picky Eaters

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Letting Go

letting go, stepmom, step mothers, step mom advice, blended family, step family
We all have someone we do not mesh well with. We all get hurt from time to time from people we love too.  It’s even harder when it’s your husband’s ex-wife or when it’s your stepchildren.  We need to learn that letting go of the hatred, hurt, resentment and unforgiveness is learning how to free ourselves.  We also need to try to understand that hurt people, hurt other people.  This took me a long time to understand and apply to my own situation.  My husband’s ex-wife has done so many things to us from nasty phone calls, voice mail messages, text messages, emails, and then taking my husband to many court hearings.  Going through it all I have become to realize that she’s a hurting person and what does hurting people do? They hurt others.  We have learned that we can’t control what she does to us but we can control how we will react to it.  Stop reacting to the drama and learn to let it go.  I know us women have good and long memories when it comes to getting hurt by someone. 

It’s even ten times harder when you’re hurt by a stepchild.  But we need to ask ourselves these questions:
  • Am I holding on to resentment?
  • If I choose to hold on to this resentment, how will it affect my relationship with this person or stepchild? 
  • Will holding on this offense help or hurt my marriage? 
  • Is there a way I can protect myself from getting hurt again and still forgive this person or stepchild that has offended or hurt me?
  • If this was your own child would you hold on to the hurt and resentment for long or would you quickly forgive and move on from it? 
If you can move on and let go when it’s your own child, you should be able to move on and let go when it’s your stepchild.  We need to learn to stop playing the offense over and over in our minds on instant replay and learn to move forward and forgive them.  Stop talking about it and move on. Did you know that where your mind goes about is where you go about?

Holding onto resentment and hurt from a stepchild does affect our marriages. It puts our husbands in the middle and it also makes our husbands feel like you don't like or love their child anymore because of what they did to you.
Does letting go make us vulnerable again? Yes, it may make us vulnerable again.  We are vulnerable in every relationship we have.  We get vulnerable when it’s even our own children. We can never develop a good relationship with our stepchildren if we can’t move on and forgive and forget the past offenses. 
How do we move on? Well, first we need to stop talking about it and thinking about it.  I truly believe that all children can be a product of their own environment and whoever they spend the most time with is who they end up taking after the most.  Our children and stepchildren are watching us see how we deal with being hurt, if we can move on from it, they will also learn to move on from it.  Just like if we were in the wrong for something we said or did to them, we need to own up to it and apologize to them.  If we never own up to our mistakes, the children will learn to do the same too.  Children learn by examples, so what example are you showing and teaching your children or stepchildren? We need to stop playing the blame game and learn to let go and let love in again. I know it is hard to let the offense go, but we need too. If you love God and have a relationship with him, a big part of loving God is loving others too.  God is with us and he will enable us to do the impossible.  All things are possible for those who love God.  So when we face these challenges of letting go and feel overwhelmed by it, God will give us the strength to persevere and trust him for the outcome.  God is with us and God will supply everything we need (Philippians 4:19).
There have been many things my stepdaughter has done and said to me in the past that has really hurt me. But I have learned to let it go and try to understand that she’s a child and a product of her own environment and she can’t help what she has learned from her mother.  I need to move on and let go and let love develop again and pray for her daily.
In the book “The Smart Stepmom”, I read that we need to put on invisible bulletproof vests on in order to protect us from getting hurt from our stepchildren, so when the bullets come which they may, it bounces off of us. Meaning when they try to hurt us by saying or doing hurtful things, let it bounce off of us.  Don’t let it affect your relationship with them, but you don’t have to stand there and take it without saying a word back to them either. A good example of what to say is: “Stop. You cannot talk to me that way, if you want to discuss an issue with me, I would happy to do that, but you may not criticize or call me names or judge me in that way”. Then you may need to remove yourself and, of course, your husband needs to back you up and take over the discipline.
Letting go of resentment, hurt, and unforgiveness is the best thing you could ever do for yourself, for your stepchildren and most importantly for your marriage.  Let it all go and let love in for your stepchildren.  All children and step children need to be loved, accepted, and cared for and it all starts with us parents.  So let go, today, everyone will benefit from it, more importantly, YOU will benefit from it.


References:
Ron L. Deal & Laura Petherbridge (2009). The Smart Stepmom. Practical Steps to help you Thrive. Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Communication

communication, blended family, marriage communication, stepmoms, step mothers, stepmom advice
Great communication is definitely one of the keys to being in a successful blended marriage and family.  A lack of communication in a marriage is a serious problem in many marriages today and we need to overcome it.  Holding things inside really can affect our health.  Serious health problems can result in women who keep things inside such as developing irritable bowel syndrome, depression and even eating disorders.  We need to learn about when is a good time to communicate with our husbands. But first I will tell you when the worst time is. The worst time is when you are mad and tempers are enraged. You first need to cool down and collect your thoughts first.  Never, I mean NEVER have a heated conversation in front of the kids, especially if it involves their mother or if it’s about them.  When children hear arguments they tend to get scared and feel insecure and unsafe.  They will even start to hate one of the parents, if not both parents and it sometimes forces the children to take sides.  Heated arguments can be terrifying for children and it’s something they won’t forget and always remember. Don’t put your children through that.
We need to learn when the best time to communicate with our husbands.  The best time I have found is when the kids are in bed for the night but before you go to bed for the night. Pick a place where it’s far enough away from where the kids are sleeping. That way if the conversation gets heated the kids won’t hear it.  The most important thing to remember is that you need to communicate and tell him how you are doing and feeling.  Don’t keep it all inside.  If you feel you need to discuss something with someone else before discussing it with your husband seek out a best friend or a support stepmom group.  Sometimes it is good to seek out advice on how to approach our husbands before we actually have the conversation with them.  That way we can make sure we are not coming off too harshly or insensitive.  Because when it’s about their kids, for example, our husbands tend to get defensive and angry about it.  We need to find new ways to make the conversation less heated when it comes to talking with him about his kids.
I know personally from experience that anytime I brought up my stepchildren in conversation with my husband he would always get very defensive.  I finally realized one day that I was approaching the topic wrong and that I wasn’t starting the conversation outright. Have you done this before too?

We need to understand that men and women communicate differently from one another. For instance, us women like to discuss problems until they are resolved and worked out. Whereas men, would like steer far away from conflict at all costs.
We need to learn how to talk to our husbands it’s all in the way we start off the conversation is the key to having a less heated discussion.  How do we do that? Well, first off we have to use “I feel” messages along with an adjective which describes how we feel. For example, I feel hurt and unaccepted when my stepdaughter refuses to cooperate for family pictures.  Refrain from using these words: You, Never, Always, and Ever. These words bring out the defense mechanism in our husbands.  Did you know that when our husbands get defensive it means that they are fearful.  When they get defensive ask your husbands what they afraid of are right now.  Then after they tell you, reassure them that whatever it is, that it’s not going to happen. 
When communicating with our husbands if we tend to get where we are determined to win in the conversation or argument, that’s when things tend to get heated. When this happens we need to take a time-out to cool down.  It’s okay to table the conversation, sometimes we need the break before we say things out of hurt or anger that we don’t mean.
Sue Patron Thoele states that “when communication is defensive, dishonest, or closed, it becomes a black hole, sucking vitality from us and our relationships.  Many connections are severed and chasms created when couples communicate poorly with each other and/or their children. “  We need to learn how to communicate constructively and not destructively.  Constructive communication is loving, helpful, thoughtful, and respectful.  Destructive communication is not thoughtful and it destroys the other person and makes them feel defensive and unsafe. In the book “The Courage to be a Stepmom” there are three crucial keys to communicating with our husbands.
The Three Crucial Keys are Loving, Listening, and Learning
  1. Come from Love and remain Grounded in love.
  2. Listen Deeply and Attentively from your heart.
  3. Learn to Understand your beloved and teach him to understand and listen to you. (Sue Patton Thoele; 2013)
I will break down the three crucial keys in more depth:

Loving – We need to be loving and positive in our conversation with our husbands and if we can’t be that way, we need to take a time-out to cool down. We all need to feel loved and to be understood and accepted. Keeping our communication loving will keep the communication lines clear and open.

Listening – When our husbands are communicating with us, make sure we clarify what they are saying every now and then during their conversation, but don’t interrupt them.  Out of love for them we need to be silent and listen to everything they have to say and try to understand it.

Learn – We learn what our husbands are saying when we clarify after we listen to them talk. Don’t make assumptions of what you heard, clarify it.  It’s only then when we listen and clarify that we understand one another. When we learn from one another is when we are providing emotional support which will make our marriage thrive and grow.
There are Hard Topics that are the tough conversation to have with our husbands. The Hard Topics are the kids, money, the ex’s, discipline, sex, hurt feelings, in-laws, and competition.  When we talk about these hard topics we need to make sure we start off using our “I feel” messages in order to communicate effectively.  Having an effective and constructive communication reduces the friction in a marriage. The most important things to remember is having healthy communication equals a healthy marriage. Don’t keep it all inside your only hurting your health and your marriage in the long run. So, communicate, communicate and communicate, but do it constructively.



References:
Sue Patton Thoele (2013). The Courage to be a Stepmom. Finding your place without losing yourself. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Depression Hurts


depression hurts, depression, stepmoms, stepmom advice, blended family, step family
Depression hurts and it affects everything and everyone in your life.  Sometimes it is hard to see it in yourself, but easy to see in others.  It can even make your spouse depressed if the other spouse is suffering from it. It feels like you’re in this long dark tunnel where it feels like there’s no way out.  There’s always two ways through a tunnel, just like there was a way into the tunnel, there’s a way out of the tunnel. Sometimes you can go straight through it and other times you can’t get to the other end of the tunnel without help.
My husband is suffering from it and has been for the last three years and it’s been very hard on me.  He refuses to do anything about it.  His depression is affecting everything he does.  He takes a lot of naps, has less energy to do the activities that he enjoys, and he has no desire to do much.  When I have talked to him about his depression he gets easily upset with me.  It’s affecting our marriage and it’s been a roller coaster ride for the most part because of his depression.  It’s so hard to write this because it brings me to tears because I want him to get the help that way he can get better and be the man I fell in love with again.  If your spouse or loved one or worse yet child are suffering from it, try to get help for them as soon as you can because depression can only get worse without seeking help for it.



How do you know a loved one has it? Here are the warning signs to look for:


10 Common Warning Signs of Depression
  1. Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight gain or loss.
  2. Sleep changes. Either insomnia of not being able to sleep, waking up in the early hours of the morning or oversleeping. Taking to many naps throughout the day.
  3. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A negative outlook on things—feeling as if nothing will get better and feeling like there is nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  4. Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in regular hobbies, social activities, past times or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel pleasure and joy.
  5. Self-loathing. Strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness or both at the same time. You criticize yourself often for perceived faults, mistakes, and many other things.
  6. Anger or irritability. Feeling restless, agitated, or may even become violent. Your temper is short, tolerance level is low, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves often than not.
  7. Unexplained aches and pains. An increase of physical complaints such as headaches, aching muscles, back pain, and stomach pain.
  8. Loss of energy. Feeling sluggish a lot, fatigued, and physically drained. Your body will feel heavy, and tasks are exhausting and take longer to complete.
  9. Concentration problems. Hard time making decisions, trouble focusing or having a hard time remembering things that you need to do or get done.
  10. Reckless behavior. You engage consuming more alcohol or substance abuse or other types of behavior such as reckless driving, compulsive gambling, or dangerous sports.

If you see your loved one going through some of these warning signs, talk to them about it and tell them you are here for them and would like to get help for them.  There are many ways to help get rid of depression and overcome it.  Please look into some of these ways below:

4 Ways of How to Get Rid of Depression


  1. Seek Help from a Doctor, Therapist or Counselor
  2. Antidepressant Medications
  3. Herbal Supplements or Home Remedies
  4. Make Healthy Life Style Changes – such as exercising, get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, reducing stress, eating healthy, cultivate healthy friendships that are positive, and practicing relaxation techniques.
Did you know that there are many different types of depression that are out there? There is Seasonal Depression which is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), Major Depression, Postpartum Depression, Dysthymia (mild depression) and Manic Depression.  It’s best to seek a doctor to find out which type of depression you are suffering from in order to find out how it can be treated. Don’t let a loved one suffer alone because depression doesn’t just hurt your loved one, it affects and hurts others around them. Depression can get better, as long as it is treated, but it can take a while to get better. 

In the winter time, I sometimes get Seasonal Depression because of all of the gray days we get here in Michigan. I always recognize it and seek help with it right away. Being healthy to me is the most important thing since I don’t want those around me to be affected by it.
Some of the warning signs I posted above doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have all of them to be considered depressed, you could just have a few of them and still be depressed.  Depression affects everyone differently and you can experience it differently than other people too. 
Sometimes us Stepmoms get depressed for a lot of reasons it could be because we feel like we don’t fit in with our stepchildren or just that we are having issues with our husbands and how they handle the stepchildren when they are visiting.  Being part of a blended or step family is much harder than being in a regular family where both parents are biological.  So often times we keep our feelings inside and then it starts to fester and build up which often leads to depression.  Talking to someone you can trust will really help relieve how you are feeling inside.  Depression is a very emotional illness that can really take over your life if you don’t get help for it.  Us Stepmoms shouldn’t just tolerate all of these feelings we keep inside anymore there is help available and all we have to do is seek it and want to get better.  Once depression is gone you will feel a huge weight off of your chest and feel good about yourself and you’ll even notice your health improve.  Depression hurts but you can overcome it, there’s light at the end of the tunnel you are in.  You just need to take the first step and do something about it.  Your loved ones will thank you for it.  Enjoy your life because we never know how long we have in this world so enjoy your life to the fullest and Don’t Let Depression Win!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

11 Things to let go, let God work in me

let go let god, stepmom stepmom advice, blended family, step family, step mothers
There are things in my life that I need to focus on getting rid of in order to become the “New Me”. So in continuation of my last post about becoming a “New You” I have created a list of what I want to let go to become the new me. I hope these things inspire you with your “New You” for this New Year.

That everything doesn’t have to be PERFECT
. I am a perfectionist, there I said it. Everything has to be in its place else I just can’t relax.  For example: No dishes in the sink at the end of the night. That is just one example of many that gets to me.  Trying to learn to ease up on the reigns on some things around the house so I can relax more.  Yes, I am a little OCD and ADHD, so what! LOL

Letting go of CONTROL
– and be happy about it. One way we can stay happy is by not making a big deal out of little things that we should learn to let go of.  I also need to learn that there are some things that I cannot control and that are out of my control. I need to learn how to be okay with that. We also need to learn we can’t control how someone treats us but we can control how we will react to it.  Don’t let others steal or rob you from your happiness or joy.  Take a deep breath and just let it go and pray for those who don’t like you.  For example: My husband’s ex-wife absolutely hates me from day one and has never given me a chance, did I do anything to cause this, No, not really other than marrying her ex-husband.  Another example of letting go of control is I can’t do anything about my husband not being able to fight more for his kids. My husband is pretty passive and rarely argues with his ex-wife or stands up for him or us against her.  I need to learn to accept him and love him for who he is and not try to control or change him. Ultimately, we need to be ok with the things we can’t control in our lives and pray hard about those things whether it be about a person, a situation or a job.  Don’t let it eat away at you anymore and cause health issues.  God will make a way even though it looks like there is no way if we just trust in him. He will give us strength for every battle we face and wisdom for every decision we make and give us a peace that surpasses all understanding. He will pay us back for any unfair situations that have come our way. He will bring our dreams to pass and also give us the secret desires of our hearts if we just pray and trust in him and let go of control.

The Guilty feeling
– of not being the best Mom I can be.  It eats me inside that I am not the best mom to my kids.  Even though I work from home, I still feel like I don’t spend enough quality time with my kids.  I am a licensed daycare provider and I spend all of my day with six kids under five years old, Monday through Friday.  So when my day is over, I feel exhausted and just want some time to myself and away from kids.  Which isn’t good to feel this way but I just have those days where I feel that way.  As I type this post and admit to this, the guilt sets in again. I just feel like I don’t get quality time with my youngest two girls. I need to get over this feeling and try to do more with my girls even when I do feel spent and exhausted.  My girls are growing up fast, they are ten and twelve years old, I need to spend more time with them and enjoy these years before they become teenagers and then it’s a whole new journey.  I will declare that I will overcome this guilty feeling, the obstacles I face, and be full of power, strength and determination. Nothing I face will be too much for me to handle, I will outlast my challenges that I face as a mother and come through every difficulty better than I did before.

Putting less of my life on Social Media
. Now this one is a tough one for me because I like to share what’s going on in my life.  Also because I don’t have a lot of adult interaction during the day time, so in a way Facebook is like my co-worker.  I need to cut back and even try to go one weekend without being on it and just enjoy my family and friends more.  Try to let it be a mystery of what is going on in my life that way more people pick up the phone and call me to see how I am doing rather than reading it all on social media.

Stop saying NO
- say YES more. There is so many times where my girls ask to do something and I say no or maybe, which by the way maybe means no, I don’t want to do it!  Try to say yes more to my girls and do more things with them.  I have a lot of anxiety just when they spend the night at a friend’s house because of today’s times.  I really have to know the family first and ask questions like do they have guns in their house, where are they sleeping when they spend the night, etc.  Just because you never know about people these days, I am more untrusting than trusting.  You can say I am a pretty protective parent who also has parental controls on every electronic device they have just to make sure their eyes are protected from all of the garbage that is on the internet. I don’t want my girls’ innocence to be taken away too fast and too soon. My girls don’t even have cell phones yet; I don’t think they need one until they get to High School.

Less Busy Life Schedule
. Sometimes my life just gets so busy that I don’t spend time with other people that matter a lot too.  I need to spend time with my parents and in-laws to create more memories with my girls before they aren’t around anymore.  I don’t want to have any regrets but want to have many memories with them and with my girls.  Life is just too short and you never know when a loved one can be gone.

NEGATIVE Thinking
. I am going to be more positive this year and expect great things to happen. For example: Instead of saying she will never change towards us, say she will change towards us and accept me for who I am.  I will declare that I will experience God’s faithfulness; I will not worry or doubt it. I will keep my trust in Him, knowing that he will not fail me. I will give birth to every promise God puts on my heart and I will become everything God created me to be. Just because I might not see anything happening doesn’t mean God is not working on my behalf. No matter how old we get we can still become everything God created us to be.  Try to look at setbacks in life differently by thinking it means we are all one step closer to seeing our dreams or our destiny come to pass.

Putting myself LAST
. I’m always putting the needs of my kids and husband first before myself. I am going to try my best to take care of my needs more and take care of myself better. Starting with my diet and exercising more.  I want to lose 53 lbs. and I really want to do it for me so I feel better and look better.  I started Nutris System this past November. I am already down 12 lbs. so far, I am going to keep doing it until I lose the weight and feel and look better.

Do it Today Attitude
. Going to cut myself a little more slack on things and not get so stressed trying to do it all in one day.  I’m way too hard on myself about so many things.  Most things can wait until tomorrow, not everything needs to get done in one day.

I’m too SERIOUS
. Need to learn to lighten up a little and laugh more.  Try to surround myself around people who enjoy life and laugh often and less around people who bring me down.  I need to find ways to make my kids laugh more every day.  After all, life doesn’t have to be so serious all the time; it can be fun and full of laughter.

Not finding Joy and Peace
. I need to learn that through finding and having joy in my life it can overcome problems that seem to be impossible to overcome and do things that people would never believe I can do.  As Joyce Meyers said “We can be defeated only if we lose our joy”.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:16 it says “be joyful always”.  The Lord wants us to have joy, he lifts us up and he does it through the joy of the Lord is our strength.  Check out and read the book by Joyce Meyers about “Seven Things that Steal Your Joy” it will help you get joy back in your life and keep it in your life.

Taking things for Granted
.  I need to be more appreciative of all I have and not be sad about the things I don’t have or can’t get.  In Philippians 4:11 it says “Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted in whatever state I am)”.  God wants us to have blessings but in order to receive them we need to put God first in our lives! In Matthew 6:33 it says “will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to live”.

Lastly, we all need to be determined to want to enjoy life to the fullest, all of life, every day of life. That’s my plan for this year.  I leave you with this scripture that really spoke to me about all of these things that I want to stop for the New Year in which really encouraged me.  I hope it inspires you to make your own list.

Lean on, Trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all of your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know recognize and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plan your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes reverently fear and worship the Lord and turn (entirely) away from evil. It shall be health to your nerves and sinews, and marrow and moistening to your bones.  Proverbs 3:5-8

So be determined to enjoy your life to the fullest after all we only have one life to live, make it count for something.


References:
Joyce Meyers (2004). Seven Things that Steal Your Joy. Overcoming the obstacles to your happiness. Time Warner Book Group.

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year, New You

new year new you, new years resolutions, stepmom, stepmom advice, blended family, step families
I know everyone does New Year’s Resolutions such as trying to lose weight, eat better, save money, etc. However, have you thought about looking into changing you into the “New You”? Sometimes we need a makeover on the inside of us.  A change for the better, for our husbands and for our children and step children. 
How can we go about doing this? Well, there are several ways, but it first has to start with recognizing that you need to change.  I know most of us Stepmoms often wish and pray that the biological mother will change towards us.  That may or may not happen one day. But for now, let’s take a look at us, Stepmoms.  Is there something we can change about ourselves to make us a better mother or Stepmother to our children? Sometimes we need to take a look at ourselves and realize that we may need a little or a lot of tweaking ourselves.  I mean how can we expect someone else to change if we don’t want to change ourselves?  I know I have recently done a lot of soul searching lately on whom I am as a person and what I can do to better myself.  The first step though is recognizing that we need to change for the better and for ourselves and not just because those around us will benefit from it. Here are some steps to help become a better and New You.
  1. First admit that you are not perfect.
  2. Admit that you can change and become a better and New You.
  3. Start looking into some new self-help books and read one or two of them a month. I will include a list of my recommendations at the end of this post.
  4. Pray daily and spend time with God every day, use a woman’s devotional book. Make God number 1 and do it in the morning before you do anything else, spend time with him and pray. I call it S.O.A.P. S– stands for scripture, read a scripture out of a daily devotional book.O – stands for Observation, write down what you think that scripture means to you.A – stands for Application, write down how you can apply that scripture to your life.P – stands for Prayer. Get a prayer list and write down prayer requests you have for you and for others in your family and friends and pray for each person and their needs.
  5. Go out of your way daily and do something that will meet your husband’s needs.
  6. Make & find the time to spend 1:1 special moment with your children and stepchildren.
  7. Do something every day for yourself to recharge your batteries, it can be anything you enjoy or that relaxes you.  It could be spending time with your best friend, go to a spa, yoga, etc.
  8. Change how you react to things, in everything you hear from others, take a deep breath or take a time out and think of a positive way to respond something you hear that is negative or that upsets you.
  9. Get a support group of women who you can turn to at whatever time you need it.
  10. Find a way to show kindness and love towards those who don’t like you.
  11. Change the negative thinking around to positive because whatever a person thinketh or speaks out of their mouth that is negative, it will come to pass. Speak only positive things and watch how your life turns around.
  12. Think before we speak. Enough said there.
  13. Show respect and love for our parents and in-laws.  Have good relationships with them and help take care of their needs, after all, they took care of us when we were children. Be careful on how you treat them because our children are watching us and learning from it. If you treat them badly your children might do the same to you when they become adults.


Now I am going to touch on something that is really a sensitive and touchy subject for all of us Stepmoms... Our husband’s ex-wives. Yeah, it’s not an easy subject to talk about but we need too. Because in order for us to change into the “New You” we also have to change the way we treat them too.  Let’s face it, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon unless we get divorced to our husbands. So we need to try our best to co-parent with them.  We need to put ourselves in their shoes after all if we have children of our own we are also biological mothers too. Please know that they do and say things because they want to protect their children. They also tend to say or do things because they are hurting deep inside.  Hurt people, hurt other people too.  Sometimes we need to take a step back and try to understand where they are coming from.  If you are not in good terms with the biological mothers we need to reach out to them and mend fences.  You don’t have to become best friends with them, but you do need to be the bigger person and try to let go of the offenses and hurt they have caused in the past and forgive them and move on for the sake of the stepchildren and our husbands.  I encourage all of you stepmoms to make this year a year where you get over the past offenses with the ex-wives and do something nice for her.  Like, for example, a gift for her birthday or a gift for Mother’s Day.  A gift that can be very meaningful and thoughtful such as a plate with her kids handprints on it, a mug, or a stepping stone.  It’s great to break the ice between the two of you. Make sure you include a nice card and write something like this to them:  (I got some of these words from the book titled: 101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom by Laura Petherbridge).

Dear _____,
I know in the past we haven’t always seen eye to eye,
but I desire to work together to make things easier for
the kids. Could we start over? I am willing to do
my part to help ease the tension between us. Life is too short
to spend it arguing all the time.
Please accept this small gift as my way of saying I’m
sorry for the times I didn’t take the time to look at the
situation from your point of view.  I know you love your
kids and that you are a good mom. Can we come to a
compromise for the sake of the kids?
Sincerely,

I know this is hard to do and you might think she will laugh about this note and refuse to make amends with you. But it doesn’t hurt to try and if it doesn’t succeed at least you tried to be the bigger person.  All you can do is pray for her, that God softens her hard heart and opens the door to healing. By taking this step, it will definitely speak volumes of how much love you have for your husband and stepchildren.

Lastly, here are the self-help book recommendations I have to help you succeed in becoming the better “New You”.
  • Daily Devotional – Jesus Calling by: Sarah Young. This is a great devotional that all women should go through. It’s a whole year devotional. It really helps with enjoying and finding peace and his presence. It’s only one page per day, but it’s really helping me with my daily S.O.A.P. There are a lot of others out there to, but I really have enjoyed this one so far. You can also get devotionals on your phone by downloading the You Version app on your phone; there are many yearly devotionals to choose from on there too.
  • Discovering our Happiness – Seven things that steal Your Joy by: Joyce Meyer. This book really helped discover what gets in my way of discovering true happiness in my life. Also pointed out what steals my joy and how to stop it from happening.
  • Positive ThinkingI Declare by: Joel Osteen. It has 31 Promises to speak over your life. This book really changes your mindset from negative thinking over to positive thinking. I would read one chapter a day and meditate on it.
  • Our MouthsKeep it Shut by: Karen Ehman. This book really helps with knowing when to speak and when to not speak. It really helps for those who speak their mind which is what I often would do until I read this book.  It really opened my eyes and made me realize the power of our words bring life and death and it really helped me think more before I said something I will regret. I am still not perfect and still struggle with this, but I am getting a lot better thanks to this book.
  • Stepmom advice and helpThe Smart Stepmom by: Ron L. Deal and Laura Petherbridge. This book has really opened my eyes as to how I should treat my stepchildren and how to handle many situations that came up. This book is loaded with a lot of great and very helpful advice.  There are many other stepmom books out there that are good, but I found this one to be the best one out there. You can check out the other stepmom book recommendations by clicking here.
  • Strengthen our MarriagesThe 5 Love Languages by: Gary Chapman. This book really helped me to discover what my top 5 needs are and it also helped me discover what my husband’s top 5 needs are.  So we can better fulfill our husband’s needs and be the best helpmate to them.
I hope you found this post, to be encouraging, uplifting and that you decide that you want to become a better “New You” for this new year of 2016.


References:
Ron L. Deal and Laura Petherbrige (2009). The Smart Stepmom. Bethany House Publishers
Karen Ehman (2015). Keep it Shut. What to say, how to say it and when to say nothing at all. Zondervan publishing.
Joyce Meyer (2004). Seven Things that Steal Your Joy. Overcoming the obstacles to your Happiness. Time Warner Faith Group publishing company.
Joel Osteen (2012). I Declare. 31 Promises to Speak Over your Life. Faith Words Hachette Book Group.
Laura Petherbridge (2014). 101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom. Bethany House Publishers.
Sarah Young (2004). Jesus Calling. Enjoying peace in his presence. Thomas Nelson publishers.