My turn! Dzintars Cers turned the tables and interviewed me about our journey with the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Enjoy!
In New Year’s Resolutions: Goals for the Not So Perfect Stepmom, it actually admits “a perfect stepmom doesn’t exist” so Gayla Grace offers some resolutions of how to keep going on days when you want to quit:
- let go of the stepmom guilt
- forgive yourself when you fall
- seek out support from other stepmoms on hard days (this was especially hard for me in the beginning as I was the first to become a stepmom in my friend circle…now, there’s the Facebook…)
- recognize the significance of loyalty conflict and how it affects your stepchildren
- listen to your heart on how to parent your stepchild instead of others’ opinions (I think this runs true as any type of parent)
- take time (for yourself) to regroup when the step-parenting strain takes over
- realize that time is on your side
The article Eyes Wide Open: How to Marry a Man With Kids asks important questions regarding telling exes or not about the wedding, considering a prenup, etc. As excited as you are about the wedding of your dreams, there are certain realities of marrying a man with children:
- keep your eyes wide open to the realities and potential complications of stepfamily life
- remember that a wedding is only one day but a marriage is the rest of your life
- take a weekend retreat with your partner before the wedding
- don’t take anything personally
- go on a honeymoon without the kids
High Conflict People: A Guide to Understanding & Managing Difficult Personalities spoke to me. One thing that I truly believe and agree with in this article is to always remember that the High Conflict Person believes “they are being reasonable and their actions, even if violent, are completely justified so it is fruitless to get angry…”. Been there. Lived that.
There was also an interview about an interesting film called SPLIT: A film for kids of divorce (and the parents). I have not seen the film but I’m very intrigued now. It’s a documentary about divorce, from a child’s perspective, interviewing 12 kids, ranging in ages from six to twelve.
I’m very blunt whenever I hear anyone is getting married…doesn’t matter who you are, how much either of you make, or how much you love the person, get a prenup! The prenup my father insisted my (then) fiancé and I sign before we got married, definitely came in handy when we divorced. Everything was laid out very clearly, so there was little fighting over assets and liabilities we both brought into the marriage. In Do we really need a prenup: How spelling things out create stronger stepcouples, the steps are laid out very clearly:
- Determine whether it is wise for you to have a prenup
- Realize you already have a prenup (ie: laws in your jurisdiction)
- Discuss and determine what to include in your prenup (dos and don’ts)
In YOLO: You only live once – piercings, tattoos and a stepmother’s love are forever, the stepmom describes why she went ahead and got matching tattoos with her stepdaughter. I love this quote from the article: “In 2014, at the age of 42, it is likely that I will get my first tattoo and it will match a tattoo on my stepdaughter. Why? Because she asked me, and if I don’t do it, she may never ask again. I know it will be there forever and will never change, juts like my love for her.”
To top it all off, the editor Brenda Ockun is the featured Stepmom for the issue. I’ve never met her in person, but have corresponded with her for almost a year. A beautiful woman, inside and out!
Meghan was given a year subscription for her review of the StepMom Magazine.
I Used to be Single, Smart and Sexy: The Biggest Mistakes I Made When I Became a Stepmom (And How I Fixed Them!) described all the mistakes the author made when she became stepmom to her husband’s 4 year old twins…and short of quitting my job (which she did), I’m guilty of each of them. I wanted to fill what I believed were my (now ex-) husband’s expectations of my role as a stepmom (including him wanting me to refer to her by name instead of recognizing she is my stepdaughter). My role as a stepmm was very different from my role as a mom. While I’m STILL trying to find myself again amid my kids’ needs and myself returning to school, I agree with the author’s advice of “take off the apron and just be yourself”. Forget Martha and just do it YOUR way!
I understand that many stepmoms have issues with their husband’s ex. I didn’t. Since getting divorced from him, we suddenly have something in common (ssoooo many things in common with respect to our relationships with him…snicker!). We don’t spend time together now but it’s part of our new “normal” in my little family that my stepdaughter’s mom is in attendance at my kids’ birthday party, she has my kids overnight so all three kids can spend time together, etc. This is probably the exception to the rule so I found the article Restraining Orders: My Partner’s Ex Is Harrassing Me! interesting as it gave some obvious (domestic violence) and not-so-obvious examples of behaviours that can be used to make a case for a restraining order.
In Presents of Mind: A Father’s Take on Toys and Traditions, a father describes the joy he had receiving “the greatest birthday present ever for a 9 year old” from his childhood. When he became a father, he still remembered that joy but eventually got his kids gift cards to their favourite stores for Hannukah. They appreciated the gesture but their happiness was delayed. When they went to the store and were able to redeem the gift cards, that’s when their happiness began…until his wife did an “Anne-tervention”, basically reminding him of the joy he had as a kid when he opened presents. Personally, I like to give the kids presents we can all use as a family or for one-on-one time so it’s less about the present and more about family time…BUT that also doesn’t stop me from getting my daughter some Bratz dolls and my son his favourite candy, because they are kids after all!
Love the suggestions made in Holidays Do’s and Don’ts: Keep Calm and Carry On This Season, including:
- Create your own holiday traditions
- Surround yourself with supportive friends and family around whom you feel at home and loved
- Have a friend who has agreed to be “on call” for you in case things get too stressful and you need some extra support
- Be flexible with the schedule and understand that holidays are not about a day on the calendar but a day when you can all be together (my family did this…one year when I was married, we were all sick with the flu for weeks over Christmas so, by the time we had stopped infecting eachother, it was near the end of January before we had Christmas with my parents!)
Babysteps to Gratitude is about a stepmom’s emotional journey from infertility through to realizing she “had a family, whole and complete just the way they were”, and cancelled her appointment at the fertility clinic after Thanksgiving Dinner with her family. Tear-jerker!
There is great gift list, specific for us stepmoms. Personally, I’m focusing on the book entitled “StepMonster” by Wednesday Martin because, well, the title. Totally judging a book by its cover. But there are other fantastic books which will be going on my ever increasing “To Read” list:
- Big Shoes by Lisa Bradshaw
- Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace by Gayla Grace and Heather Hetchler
- Skirts at War by Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Jenna Korf
- Parenting Apart: How Separated and Divorced Parents can Raise Happy and Secure Kids (A Guidebook)
- The Smart Stepmom by Ron L Deal and Laura Petherbridge
I wasn’t a girl who fantasized about her wedding when I was a kid. My girlfriends all had this fantasy about their future husbands, their perfect wedding day, the “amazingness” of being married. I think the closest I got was like how the dress in Beauty and the Beast moved when they were dancing and I had a fleeting thoughts that I would like that for my wedding dress…which I never did. In Stepmoms and Grief: The Real Reasons Stepfamily Life Makes Us Sad outlines the sense of grief stepmoms can experience when those dreams they had as a kid are not reality, and the non-understanding from their family and friends, who tend to just negate the stepmom’s feelings with statements such as “I’m sorry you’re having a rough time, but you knew when you married him that he had children and an ex-wife”. Unless you’re a stepmom, you can’t relate. The key to overcoming this form of grief is to work on yourself and your own thought process.
Nobel Goals: How High (or Low) Are We Reaching? asks the questions to consider so you can help get your family through the tough times, or even a crisis:
- Why did you get into this marriage?
- What do I want this marriage to mean?
- What do I want my family to stand for?
- What qualities are important to instill in our children?
Meghan was given a year subscription for her review of the StepMom Magazine.
A couple of weeks ago, my stepdaughter had a PA Day on the same day as my kids (different cities, therefore different school board schedules). She asked if she could come spend the day, so us girls spent some time together. Ok, the girls spent time at the park, playing games together doing sisterly things, while I made sure food was made and drinks were available whenever they wanted.
My son still had IBI that day so I arranged for my stepdaughter and I to go watch a program at IBI while my daughter went to a friend’s place for a playdate. I go to a program at IBI every month or so, but this was the first time my stepdaughter attended.
As soon as we got there, we were greeted by letters scattered all over the floor, with four words spelled out. I finally realized that my son was always repeating the word “foal” instead of “fool”. 😉
We watched as the therapist finished off a program my son was working on.
He got really excited seeing his big sister and I, so it was a bit difficult to keep him on task. The therapist usually gives him a choice of two things as a reward to work towards when he succeeds at a program. Whenever I’m there, he usually ignores that option and just comes and plays with me. I feel kind of bad because I’m interfering in the programming, but really? He’s choosing ME as his reward. Love it!
One of the programs we saw was to put 5 pictures in the correct order. He had done the first sequence before, and then they handed him a new one. He looked at the pictures, moved them in the order of the sequence. He couldn’t figure out the order of two of the pictures so the smart little guy turned them over and finished the sequence. That’s when we realized someone had written the numbers in order of the sequences on the back…and apparently he knew that too. Too smart!
Another program was to verbally count while placing a bead on each number. He also had to verbally choose at which number he would stop. He did the task a few times, and each time the therapist and I would comment that we couldn’t see a pattern in the beads. My stepdaughter said she could. Got to love similar brains!
My son also got to practice turn-taking with my stepdaughter, playing checkers. The goal of this form of checkers wasn’t to actually get three in a row, it was for them to take turns with my stepdaughter using red checkers, and my son using black checkers. It was great to watch them!
So, after the hour, we returned to the car and went home. I asked my stepdaughter what she thought. Her response was the same as my first time attending IBI “I’m exhausted! I can’t believe that he does that for six hours a day!”. Yup, he’s a smart little guy.
Last Thursday was my birthday. In the evening, I had to use a calculator to figure out my age because for some reason, I was thinking I was a year older than I now am. Weird.
I started the day with the kids jumping into bed with me, covering me in happy birthday kisses, including my son actually “happy birthday!”. Perfect way to wake up!
I went to mom’s group after dropping the kids at school and IBI, and then proceeded to get in “trouble” via my personal Facebook from moms who didn’t realize it was my birthday until after they got home and saw it on Facebook. I also stopped by at my local Starbucks for my free birthday treat because my card is registered. They even drew a little party hat on the “Starbucks siren” for me.
My man spoilt me with a bacon “sammich” for lunch and with it being a weekday so life (and kids) got in the way, my birthday extended to Friday.
On Friday, my stepdaughter came to visit as she had a PA Day. After dropping my kids off at their dad’s, she wanted to come with my man and I. He wanted to take me clothing shopping, and she wanted to go to the mall we were planning on going to, as she hadn’t gone there in years. While shopping, she threatened to “disown” me because she LOVES shopping and I HATE clothing shopping. 😉
We went grocery shopping after clothing shopping as it was Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada last weekend. While grocery shopping, my man was able to sneak off and order some beautiful roses for me.
So spoilt for my birthday!
I got to pick my kids up early from their dad’s because it’s Mother’s Day. I had already seen my son’s Mother’s Day card, which he made at IBI. His therapist had written the words, and he had placed the hearts. He also gave it to me that day by saying “Happy Mother’s Day”…my heart melted.
But my daughter had brought her card and present home in a plastic bag with very strict instructions for me NOT to open it until Mother’s Day. She was really excited to come home to finally open and show it to me. A tear may have happened when she read the poem to me.
I also bought myself something for Mother’s Day, not that it’s much of a surprise if you read my blog regularily:
An extra special part of my Mother’s Day weekend though was when my stepdaughter came with my man and I to an SCA event (medieval re-enacting). She asked if she could come a few months ago and this weekend was the first one that was relatively nearby and on a weekend when she could come. She’s a huge history buff, so I wasn’t surprised that she asked. Because all three of us competed in different tournaments throughout the day (she and I did archery), we each received a carnation representing that we were fighting for eachother.
Once I found the right medication combination to battle the massive migraine I got this afternoon because of the crazy weather we’re having, I have gone back to enjoying being a mom (instead of being passed out on the couch, waking only when they ask me for something), and loving how unique and wonderful each of my 3 kids are.
I had the honour of speaking at #MomsMeTimeTO last Friday, sharing my story of parenting 7yo boy/girl twins with special needs, and being part of my stepdaughter’s support network as well. The message for the conference was to remind moms that we need to take time for ourselves as well.
The message I hoped to get across was to remind moms to “put your oxygen mask on first”. We all get overwhelmed and stressed but it’s how you deal with that stress that is key to how well you can parent your children. I don’t pretend to have it all figured out…far from it, I am constantly working on balancing my stress levels. Keys to managing my stress levels include my weekly yoga class, journaling, meditating, knitting, meeting with my counsellor once a month, spending time with my man and friends, and gasp, disconnecting from social media. I don’t do each of these things daily, but I do know that when I’m feeling overwhelmed and don’t want to go out and interact with others, that’s the most important time for me to get out, and spend time with people. I’m an extrovert…I get my energy by spending time with people…I refill my emotional tank, so to speak.
Most of the attendees were fellow bloggers so it was kind of fun seeing everyone looking at their smart phones, or typing away on their laptops. Later that evening, I checked Twitter to find that people had been tweeting during my talk…and I was honoured by what they were saying!
Of course, with a room with lots of bloggers, the blogs are starting to be shared now so here are some of them: