Guest Post: Expert Insights: All About Stepmoms with Peggy Nolan of The Stepmom’s Toolbox

With over half of all marriages ending in divorce and half of all children under the age of 13 living with one biological parent and that parent’s partner, according to Stepfamily.org, step families are becoming more prevalent and more common. What makes them the same and what makes them different than first or original families? Recently I had a chance to circle around with Peggy Nolan of The Stepmom’s Toolbox to learn about the unique role stepmoms play in today’s families. Here’s a bit of what she had to say.

eNannySource: What are the three most common myths surrounding the role of a stepmom?

Peggy: The most common mythos surrounding the stepmom role is The Wicked Evil Stepmother, perpetuated in folklore and brought forward into our modern day storytelling by none other than Walt Disney. Stories like Cinderella, Snow White and Hansel and Gretel paint stepmoms as spiteful, greedy, jealous and vain women. Many women in the stepmom role spend a lot of energy dispelling this myth to those in their circle of influence. Another myth is that stepmoms are home wreckers. Modern stories like Stepmom (starring Julia Roberts) and The Other Woman (based on the book Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, starring Natalie Portman) depict the stepmom as a home wrecker. Most stepmoms are kind, loving and caring women who simply find themselves in no man’s land when it comes to being a stepmom. Most stepmoms are not notorious home wreckers. In fact, most women enter into a relationship with a man with kids after he’s divorced. Another common myth is that stepfamilies are just like first families. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately, a 1970’s sitcom portrayed a stepfamily as a happy bunch who immediately clicked, rarely argued and all problems were solved in 30 minutes or less. Many new stepfamilies are under the illusion that their family will integrate as soon as the “I do’s” are said. This illusion is in direct conflict with reality. It takes time for stepfamilies to integrate. It also takes the Three P’s – Patience, Persistence and Perspiration.

eNannySource: How do you define the role of a stepmom?

Peggy: I define the role of stepmom as any woman who is in a long-term relationship with a man who has kids from a previous relationship. Women in the role of stepmom are not their stepkids’ mom. A stepmom may do mom things, but this does not make her the mom. Stepmoms are another adult who cares for and loves their partner’s children.

eNannySource: How can step families work to coordinate childcare so it’s seamless?

Peggy: This seems to be one of the trickiest parts of step family dynamics. Even with the best co-parenting, glitches happen. Someone is late for pick up or drop off. Someone forgets it’s his or her weekend to take the kids. In high conflict situations, these glitches can escalate rapidly. If the parents have a difficult time communicating, many times the stepmom will step in and attempt to be the peacemaker and “fix” the problem. This can be risky, as now the stepmom has put herself in the direct line of fire from three different sides – her husband, his ex and the kids. In lieu of good communication between the co-parents, there are tools that stepfamilies can use to coordinate childcare, such as Our Family Wizard or other online calendaring tools.

eNannySource: How long does it take a step family to function as a cohesive family unit? 

Peggy: On average it takes seven years for a step family to integrate. Some may integrate sooner, some later, and some may never integrate. One of the biggest mistakes step families make is to make their stepfamily become a first family. Stepfamilies are not first families in any way, shape or form. Every attempt to make them so is like trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. It’s important for stepfamilies to practice becoming a stepfamily: Practice communication, practice relationship investment, practice building trust, practice getting to know each other, and for the couple – practice date night, practice united parenting, practice making your relationship a priority. It takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in anything. And if the average stepfamily integration takes seven years – that’s four hours of stepfamily practice every day for seven years. I did the math. It equals 10,200 hours.

eNannySource: What’s your best advice for new stepmoms?

Peggy: My best advice comes from my wonderful husband. It worked for me and it works for everyone I pass it on to. When I suddenly found myself as a custodial stepmom to my husband’s youngest son, I asked my husband how he wanted me to play the stepmom gig. “Be your wonderful self,” he told me. “You can’t go wrong with that!”

This advice works because it’s simply too exhausting to be anyone else. As the stepmom, you are not the mom. Don’t try to be her. Don’t try to outdo her or be better than her. It’s not a competition, so don’t make it one. Don’t compare yourself to the ex-wife. That will only serve to create jealousy and self-doubt. Just be the wonderful you that you are. Trust me, you’ll do more for your marriage and relationship with your stepkids when you live from your true center.

In the fabulous words of Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

eNannySource: What’s the most common mistakes new stepmoms make? What’s your best advice to combat it?  

Peggy: I believe one of the most common mistakes new stepmoms make is trying to create a first family experience in a stepfamily. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you keep hammering a square peg into a round hole you’ll remain frustrated. You can try to shave off the ends, but that won’t work for long. Successful stepmoms know that this is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes time to merge households. It takes time to integrate kids from different relationships. It takes time to get on the same page with your partner about parenting, finances, household responsibilities and shared goals.

eNannySource: Anything else you’d like to share?

Peggy: The best thing women in the stepmom role can do for themselves is practice self-care. Too many women run themselves into the ground by trying to be everything to everyone. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest. Eat right. Spend time in silence through mediation or prayer every day. Get at least 30 minutes of physical exercise a day. Pursue a hobby or dream that brings you joy. Focus on your relationship with yourself first. Why? Because we teach others how to treat us by how we treat ourselves. If you want to feel loved and appreciated by your man and those you love, you must love and appreciate yourself. Self-care is as necessary as oxygen!

Peggy Nolan is a leading authority on self-care and personal development for women in the stepmom role.  She has been referred to as the “Self-Care Queen” by her peers and clients because of her strategies to reduce and manage stress work. Peggy has been part of a stepfamily for over 40 years. She knows what it’s like to be a step-daughter, a step-sister and a stepmom. Peggy is the mom of two adult children, the bonus mom of four adult children and the grandmother of two. Peggy’s articles have been featured in The Huffington Post, Divine Caroline, The Diva Toolbox, Applaud Women, Aspire and StepMom Magazine. Peggy has also interviewed numerous leading experts in stepfamilies on her highly acclaimed internet radio show, The Stepmom’s Toolbox Radio Show. You can connect with Peggy at http://thestepmomstoolbox.com/

by Michelle LaRowe,  Editor in Chief, e Nanny Source

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Guest Post: 5 Things to Remember when Co-Parenting after Divorce

After the dispute is over and the child custody lawyers have done their job and been paid, parents embark on the difficult and enduring task of raising children with their former spouse. The bitterness that so often stems from the end of a marriage is difficult to put aside, but the trauma it causes to the children of divorced couples can be significant. The tips offered below will help guide parents through the delicate process of sharing custody.

  • Put Parenthood First

The most important thing for divorced couples to remember when it comes to custody issues is to put parenthood ahead of everything else. As angry or hurt as they may feel, those issues should have been addressed during the divorce. Now is the time to focus clearly on the best interests of their child or children. It can be difficult to overcome painful, if selfish feelings and work with the person who has left you feeling betrayed, but having a child with someone means that is your job, no matter what else occurs.

  • Forgive the Past

As difficult as it can be, letting go of the pain is the absolute best way to reduce the amount of trauma your children experience due to marital conflict. If you need help to manage this, family therapy doesn’t have to end because you have divorced. After all, you may no longer be married, but you will always be a family, and you and your children may benefit from some guidance and mediation from a professional counsellor.

  • Respect their Role

If forgiveness is more than you can currently manage, make sure that you are at least showing respect to your former spouse’s relationship with your child or children. Whatever their sins as a husband or wife, their role as a father or mother is critical in your children’s lives and remembering its importance can help you to come to peace with their continued presence in your life.

  • Discuss Important Decision

Although you are no longer married, as parents you will have a relationship for the rest of your lives. As with any other relationship, communication is the best way to keep things running smoothly. Openly discussing needs, obstacles, goals, and concerns will be the most effective way to avoid conflict and reach fair compromises. It will also help to keep the best interests of the child or children involved in sharp focus.

  • Parent Together

Self-awareness is something that many people struggle with, but understanding your ability to work with and be around your former partner is the only way to make to right custody plans for your family. For parents who are able to put aside their personal feelings or whose divorce was fairly amicable, coordinated parenting is the best way to go. With this method of shared custody, parents can work together, spend time with their children as a complete family unit, and collaborate on important decisions.

For couples who are left angry and unable to moderate their conflicts after divorce, parallel parenting may be the best option. In this arrangement, parents will coordinate through email and other indirect communication, while limiting their contact as much as possible to avoid traumatic fights that will impact their children negatively. If even this is more cooperation that they can achieve, intervention from a mediator or custody specialist may be necessary to ensure that the children are protected from continuing conflict between their parents.

Author Info:

Alan Brady is a freelance writer who focuses on issues that impact families. He currently writes for Attorneys.com, which connects people with local child custody lawyers.

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Guest Post: Divorce Lawyer Tips for Effective Co-Parenting

As a divorce lawyer it is not uncommon to see a lot of hostility and arguing between the parties during a divorce. Months and years of acrimonious living can lead to lots of hurt feelings and grudges. However, if children are involved it is important for both parties to understand that even though their marriage is over, their partnership in raising their child is not. Therefore, the parents together need to reach an effective co-parenting strategy for their child and themselves so that during this difficult time, the child feels a sense of stability.

Communication

I have found that a strong communication strategy can really help divorced parents. This requires each parent to let go of past hurts and disagreements. For those who find this difficult to do one effective strategy is to treat post-divorce interactions with you ex as you would a conversation with a difficult coworker – unpleasant but necessary. Conversations should be kept factual and professional and emotions should be left at the door.

This in no way means that you are required to agree with everything your former spouse thinks. Even married parents have different parenting styles. The important thing to remember is that you should keep communication lines open and you should never use your child as a messenger between you and your spouse unless you re sending a pleasant greeting or a thanks.

Involvement

Co-parenting requires involvement by both parents. It means cooperative scheduling and a bit of understanding. Flexibility is key. I have found that parents who put their child’s interests above their own wants have the most success. This means not being obsessed with the minutes and hours your child spends with your ex-spouse. For example, there may be times your child wants to go to a special party on the weekend when you have custody. You should consider your child’s wishes in this regard and decide whether it makes sense.

Explaining the Divorce to Your Child

I sometimes see former spouses get so wrapped up in their own emotions from the divorce that they forget just how impacted their children will be by the news of the divorce and exactly what it means. Remember to listen to your children, reassure them, and tell them you love them. If possible, try to make time for you and your ex to sit down together and reassure your child that he or she did not do anything wrong and did not cause the divorce. Hearing it from both parents together reinforces this idea. It may also be a good idea for former spouses and their children to talk together, or separately, with a professional.

Co-parenting is hard. It might be one of the most difficult things you ever do. I have found in my years of practice that if you can do this successfully you will have given your child a wonderful gift that many other children of divorce don’t have:  a peaceful childhood. For more resources on divorce and family law visit the  Morgan Law Firm blog.

Scott Morgan is a board certified divorce lawyer in Houston who regularly blogs on the subject of divorce and family law.

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Guest Post: Dating after divorce – the difficulties of that extra mile

Recovering after a divorce is often a difficult process, especially if your marriage didn’t end amicably. Having to split up your assets, change homes (or adjust to living in one alone) and find trustworthy divorce solicitors can all be stressful. But restoring your confidence in relationships and learning how to date again might seem particularly daunting.

It is important to consider when to start dating on your own terms instead of when others think you should be ready.  Once you take that step, here are some tips to help keep your new relationship in balance with the rest of your life.

Find easy ways to keep in touch. If you and your new significant other are both in the throes of full-time careers and/or still have children at home it can be a challenge to find time to build a new  relationship. The easiest way to overcome that challenge is to stay connected in ways that don’t necessarily require you to see each other in person every day. Talking on the phone, or even video calling, is a good way to stay in touch that only requires a few minutes a day. It can also be a way for you to ease back into dating again with less pressure.

Make the kids feel like a part of your relationship. If you do have young children, one of the most important steps you can take to make your new relationship easier for them is to be honest and upfront. Once you are in a committed relationship you should introduce your children to your new partner. If they have questions about you dating again help them understand how important it is to you. Try meeting on neutral ground, such as a park or a restaurant, at first so they don’t feel overwhelmed.

Have a date night once a week. Even with all the new technology available to help you keep in touch, face-to-face interaction is still an important part of any relationship. If you struggle to find time with each other starting a date night routine is a great way to remedy that. If you always know that you’re going to spend time together on the same day at the same time, it becomes easy to not plan anything else for that time.

Communicate your expectations and hopes.  Starting a new relationship should be a fun endeavor for you but it is important to have a conversation about what you would like to happen. It’s easy for spouses, after being together for a while, to just know what each other want. Learning how to be with someone new might mean that you have to talk about things that you haven’t had to in a long time. If you want to be in a committed relationship, putting that on the table can make all your other interactions with your new partner a lot easier.

Have fun.  Because why would you be dating otherwise? The beginning of any relationship should be about discovering a new person and falling in love. If you find yourself in constant anticipation or extremely happy then let yourself enjoy it. After a difficult divorce, you deserve it.

Cherrie is a freelance writer who currently specialises in writing about divorce, from finding family law solicitors to divorce forms.  You can find her on Twitter @Cherries_Scoop

 

 

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Filed under Children and divorce, Confidence after Divorce, Divorce, Divorce Support, Life after Divorce, New relationship after divorce, Post Divorce, Relationships

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 35,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 8 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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Guest Post: How to Rebuild Your Life after Divorce

A divorce represents much more than the end of your marriage – in many ways it is also the end of your old way of life. After a divorce you have to figure out a lot of things: How to live life on your own, who you are in the absence of your partner, how you will support yourself financially, where you will live, and even who your friends will be now that you don’t share the same friends as a couple.

Rebuilding your life after a divorce takes time. However, there are a few things you can do right away to make the process easier. Here are a few steps for how to rebuild your life after divorce:

Allow Yourself a Mourning Period

Your life as you knew it is over. Even if you were very unhappy in your marriage, and even if your divorce was very acrimonious, it is natural to feel grief and loss after a divorce. You have spent years building your identity based on someone else being in your life. Now you have to come to terms with that life being over and having to build a new one.

Give yourself a period to mourn that old life. You can’t rush into building a new, happy life for yourself – let alone start a new, happy relationship – without properly grieving your old one.

Spend Time with Family and Friends

Start rebuilding your life after a divorce by spending time with the people who know you best: Your family and your best friends. You will feel better being surrounded by the people who love you and who can offer you support through this difficult time. Lean on these people to give you advice or to just offer an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on.

Reconnect with Yourself

A large part of rebuilding your life after divorce is rediscovering yourself and finding out who you are when you’re no longer part of a couple. It may have been many years since you were single, and you may be a very different person now that you no longer have to make your choices with another person in mind.

You can reconnect with yourself by keeping a journal to explore your feelings or by indulging in expressive activities such as painting or dancing. You may be surprised at what you learn about yourself.

Reinvent Yourself

One way to really let go of your old life is to embrace a totally new you. Don’t try to reconstruct who you were; instead, try to reinvent who you will be. Start by giving yourself a makeover (if you want one). Seek out new activities and try doing some things you’ve always wanted to do. Go on a trip you have always wanted to take. Don’t accept definitions for who you are or what you do based on who you were in your relationship.

Don’t take on a makeover or reinvent yourself to try to impress your ex. Only do the things that make you feel good and that help you to move forward.

Meet New People

The best way to rebuild your life after divorce is to meet new people with which to create a new life. This includes new friends and, yes, even new romantic partners. Don’t jump right into dating again, and be especially wary of dating seriously for some time. However, you should take efforts to get out and meet new people to make new friends and to date casually.

Rebuilding your life after divorce won’t be easy. However, these simple steps can help get you started so that you can get back in touch with who you are and can create new and lasting relationships.

How did you rebuild your life after your divorce? Share your experiences and your tips for success in the comments!

Kay Winders is presently the resident writer for http://www.badcreditloans.org, where she researches the best way for people to pay off their debts without damaging their credit. In her spare time, she enjoys freelance writing, the beach and gardening. 

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Guest Post: 8 Tips for Life After Divorce

Whether you’ve been married for one year, ten years or even fifty years, if your marriage ends in divorce then chances are you will be facing one of the most difficult, challenging times of your adult life. Divorce often leaves everyone involved struggling with a range of emotions and issues. Perhaps you are elated that you are finally free of your spouse, however, your parents are angry at you that your marriage has failed. Maybe you feel a deep sense of loss and have fears for the future – what about the house, the kids and your finances?

No matter how divorce has affected you, here are eight tips to help improve your life after divorce:

1.  Evaluate Your Finances

Few married couples have maintained complete autonomy when it comes to their finances; most share bank accounts, credit cards, assets, loans and mortgages. When the marriage ends make figuring out your finances a priority because, until you do, you will not be able to move on with your life.

2.  Let Yourself Grieve

When you said your wedding vows, chances are good you believed you’d be married for the rest of your life (most people do). The loss of your marriage can be one of the most profound losses you will ever experience in your life, even if the marriage wasn’t a great one. Give yourself permission to feel sad, angry, and upset – just don’t get stuck in these feelings.

3.  Let Go Of Guilt

Many people are burdened by guilt following their divorce; they feel like they are failures, that they should have done more to save their marriage. If you did something that clearly led to the breakdown of the marriage (such as had an affair) then that guilt may be justified, however, feeling guilty all the time can leave you drowning in negative thoughts and feelings. Work to identify why you feel guilty then take steps to resolve any outstanding issues, ensuring that you learn from your past mistakes.

4.  Seek Support

Finding a reliable support network is key to both surviving your divorce and establishing your new identity as an unwed person. Formal support groups exist in many communities; check with your community center, church or local social service agency. You can also join an online community where you can connect with others who have similar circumstances to yours. For some people, their separation leads them to re-connect with family and friends, who can often be a tremendous source of both emotional and financial support.

5.  Get To Know Yourself

One of the most common complaints people have about their marriages is the loss of their personal identity; often those who are in long-term relationships tend to identify more as a spouse and partner than an individual and in the process, they can loose sight of who they are. Take the time to reflect on your own personal values, thoughts and feelings, re-connecting with the person you were before you were married.

6.  Embrace Your Newfound Independence

Being a partner in a marriage means compromising; for many couples, that means that each spouse takes on specific roles. Perhaps you always handled the finances while your ex dealt with household repairs; maybe you’ve never vacationed overseas because your husband or wife had a fear of flying. Once divorced, you are free to handle your life however you’d like, travel where you want, spend time with people you like – enjoy.

7.  Don’t Be Afraid To Date

While it’s never advisable to jump into another serious relationship just as your marriage is ending, dating can be a great way to boost your confidence and help you see the positives of your status as a single person. If you do decide to re-enter the dating world, don’t head out looking for your next life partner on the first date; that can both scare off potential mates and strike a blow to your self-esteem.

8.  Focus On The Positive

Although divorce can be truly devastating it can also be a positive, life-changing experience. Divorce can help you realize what you might have known for a very long time – that you choose the wrong spouse, you were in an abusive relationship or you simply were not happy. Make a list of all the good things about being divorced – if you have a hard time with this, ask your support network for help. Often your family and friends are able to see positive changes that you are not yet fully aware of such as an increase in your energy levels, renewed interest in activities you enjoy and an overall happier, healthier you.

As divorce rates in the United States hover around the 50 percent mark, divorcees are no longer considered to be a minority. Many of those who are now separating and divorcing are baby boomers; part of an upward trend in the divorce rates among those who are aged 50 or older. According to a recent study by Bowling Green State University, one in four divorces now involves people born before 1962 [http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/24/living/baby-boomer-divorce/index.html] while the divorce rate for second and third marriages was over double that of first marriages. If you are one of the millions of Americans whose marriage has ended, remember that by following these eight tips, you can have a happy, full life after divorce.

Author Bio:  Jamie Cody is a writer for centernetworks.com and often writes about technology, business and various products and services like hostgator reviews.

 

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