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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: 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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Guest Post: Enjoy your first Solo trip to America after Divorce

After divorce, travelling on an organised solo holiday can deliver more than a great trip to your chosen destination. You set off alone but new friendships form quickly. Sharing the experiences of your adventure with likeminded people makes the trip special and it will stay with you for a lifetime.
Choosing Where To Go And What To Do

When you find yourself single again following divorce one of the hardest things can be sorting out a holiday, yet a holiday can also be one of the best ways to move on and get a fresh perspective on your life. A quick glance at the itineraries available for singles holidays will be enough to whet your appetite, inspire your holiday choice and help you make that daunting first step. Adventure comes in different forms for different people, from the white knuckle adrenaline rush of rafting trips to treks in any of the wonderful National Parks to city tours which embrace the history of the country. Whether it’s a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, fun and games in Las Vegas or a classic road trip America is positively bursting with iconic holiday destinations to choose from; no wonder it is such a favourite with holiday makers from across the world. The excitement of travel will help shift your focus to the future.

New Adventure New Friends
By electing to travel with a specialist singles tour operator you will ensure that you share your adventure with people who also hold your idea of what makes a great holiday. The companionship, laughter and fun that go hand in hand with meeting new people in a relaxed setting add a special dimension to any singles holiday, especially if you are making your first trip since your divorce. Additionally by joining a group you also get peace of mind and security, making it possible to head to places you would never go alone. The tour operator takes care of travel and accommodation arrangements, making the trip stress free. So whilst you are away your will not be wasting any time that could otherwise be spent simply enjoying the trip. Tour leaders do more than take the hassle out of planning and arranging the trip. If this is your first time post-divorce holiday the idea of setting off alone can be quite scary, even if you are joining a group, but tour guides and leaders will always welcome everyone, introduce the party members to each other and easing everyone into a relaxed and happy frame of mind. Special singles adventure trips are available for short or longer periods of time so whether you just have time for a week away or are lucky enough to have more free time on your hands you will be able to find a trip to suit for you.

All in all singles travel is rewarding and exciting. There is no better destination than North and Central America with such a vast array of options. People set out as strangers but within just a week there are tears as new friends are saying goodbye at the end of the holiday of a lifetime.

Author Bio:  Jennifer Doherty writes regularly on travel subjects for a range of websites and blogs. She is single and enjoys the freedom that solo travelling delivers. She has most recently made a number of trips to North America with special singles tours from http://www.trekamerica.co.uk/adventure-holidays-for-singles.html

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Guest Post: Getting Through the Holidays

The holidays are coming up and when it’s is typically a fun time for most, this year it seems that you have a bad case of the winter time blues.  Whether you have children involved or not, it’s going to be a tough time. The holidays are a time when you are with your loved ones, laughing and creating many memories; it’s easy to get down.

We tend to focus on either the really good or the really bad during the holidays. We let our minds and hearts wander down memory lane, either reminiscing the good times or the really bad times. There is never a middle ground. It takes a lot of patience and talking to yourself to get your mind off of your ex.

You hear a song, see a gift, find his/her favorite ornament etc and the memories come flooding back. The best way to get through the holidays is to take the present by storm. Embrace this new holiday alone and make your own memories. Start a tradition that will make you happy, like seeing a Christmas play with friends, cutting down your own Christmas tree or going to holiday parties. Get rid of your old traditions that you had with your ex and make new ones.

Get busy and get moving. Rent the movies you want to see, make the food you want to eat, spend the holidays with those who make you laugh the most. Try new holiday cocktails or get lost in the busy shopping malls. Jump in to the holidays face first and don’t be afraid to go overboard.

There is no need to keep the hate or pain in your heart during the holidays or ever. Take a step back and look at the big picture. You may have had a few good times and a few really bad times together, but that is over now and you have loved and learned. Focus on the children, your friends and your family. Take deep breaths and when you find yourself feeling down, take a moment to yourself, think, let go and get back into the action of the holidays.

Keep busy and keep moving. Surround yourself with those who love you and all of you. Remind yourself of what is happening in front of you and not what you are missing out on. Get excited for the new and fresh start! It’s going to be fun and your new year is awaiting the new you! Happy holidays!

This guest post was provided by Allison Foster. She has a solid writing resume that includes blogging both personally and professionally and regular freelance writing and photography jobs. She has enjoyed furthering her writing career with http://www.nannyclassifieds.com/.

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Guest Post: The Upside of Divorce

Although you may feel like burnt trash after a divorce is finalized there is light at the end of the tunnel. You may feel like you’ve lost your soul, but then again, you could also breathe a sigh of relief. Regardless of the reasons behind your divorce, here are some good things you gain from the experience.

Flirting – Some people are just naturally flirtatious regardless but feel they cannot flirt while they are in a relationship.  After the divorce, there is no guilt about shamelessly flirting with your bank teller.  Flirting is fun.

My Way – While you were married there were probably behaviors and hobbies that you had to give up in order to make your spouse happy. Now you are single you can take up those hobbies again or find new ones.

Meal Times – No more compromising on menus for the household. There is a good chance that you and your spouse didn’t see eye-to-eye on some types of food. Now, you are able to enjoy whatever foods you like without argument.

Decor – While many couples are in unison when it comes to home decor, many are not. You may compromise your artistic abilities in order to make someone else happy, even though you’re not. Living alone allows you to express yourself without arguments about colors, patterns or styles.

Friends – A common complaint about being a couple is the lack of being around the friends they had prior to a relationship. It’s not often that your spouse will enjoy the company of your friends as much as you do.  Now you are divorced you can enjoy your friendships that you felt you had to quell.

Dating Again – There are few experiences in life that can match up to the exhilaration of a new relationship or meeting for the first time. Entering the dating scene provides the opportunity to experience new love all over again.

Responsibility – Outside of a divorce that involved children, being single again allows you to focus on yourself. The only one you need to be responsible for is yourself. This feeling can be very liberating.

In today’s world, divorce is quite common. As long as both parties gave it all they could the experience isn’t actually wasted. Like all mistakes in your life, this could be viewed as one that could help make you aware of your own faults in order to excel at your next relationship.

Author Bio:  Sara is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor of http://www.nannypro.com/.

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Guest Post: 5 Questions to Ask Before Dating After Divorce

Everything changes after a divorce. After months of dealing with filings, proceedings and divorce attorneys, it becomes time to determine what your next steps will be.

This is an amazing opportunity for you to pursue exactly what you want out of life. Along with your interests and career, and your relationships with friends and your children, a new romantic relationship may be something you are interested in. Before you start dating after a divorce, ask yourself these five questions.

Am I ready to date again?

It’s the most obvious question, but it’s also the most important. Your friends and family may be urging you to date again. Their remarks about how you should “get back out there” may feel like minor comments to them, but that kind of social pressure can be stressful.

It is your decision when you start dating again. You are in charge of this incredible and unique journey that is your life, so don’t hand over that decision-making power to anyone else.

Jumping back into the dating scene right after a divorce can be difficult because you are still figuring out what your new life will look like. You’ll need to assess the commitments you’re already making:

  • Commitments to your children.
  • Commitments to your family and friends.
  • Commitments to your job.

Are you ready to balance a new relationship with your other commitments? Only you will know the answer. And it may take some time to figure that out.

How are my children handling the divorce?

You may be ready to date again, but if you have children with your ex you will need to consider what is best for them as well. Whether it has been a couple of years or only a short time since your divorce, your first new relationship will be a very big change for your children.

No matter the age, it is common for children to have some hesitation when you are dating a new person. They may still harbor feelings that you and your ex will get back together. A new relationship attacks that hopeful feeling.

You can start dating again, but be cautious about how your children meet and interact with this new person. Date for a while before introducing someone to your children. If you don’t see the relationship lasting long term, you shouldn’t expose your children to adults that won’t be sticking around. If you think the relationship is going somewhere, find a safe and comfortable situation to introduce your children. Communication is key; make sure your children understand why you’re dating again, and lead conversations about how it makes them feel.

What is my relationship with my ex like?

If you still have strong feelings for your ex, you are not ready for a new relationship. Divorces can be finalized before feelings are. You might need more time, and you can also consider a healthy dose of therapy after a divorce.

To give yourself a real chance with a new relationship, your heart has to be open to the possibility of a new love. If there is any chance you’ll be saying “My ex is just like that,” or “Do you know what my ex did?” you need some more time to work things through.

Am I confident?

All of the emotions during a divorce can put you in a place where you need to rebuild happiness and confidence. Consider it a great opportunity to become the person you want to me.

Finding your confidence after a divorce is a gradual process. With effort and a positive attitude, you can find the confidence you are seeking in time.

Don’t offer your date a version of yourself that you aren’t comfortable with—wait until you feel good about where you are. When you present yourself as the confident and wonderful person that you are, you can find the confident and wonderful relationship you deserve.

Is a new romantic relationship what you need?

Before turning to a new relationship, remember the other commitments you are making that we discussed above. Is there more you want out of those commitments? Love is a big word, and it encompasses more than just romantic relationships.

Continuing to build a strong relationship with your children can provide the happiness you may have expected to come from a new relationship. Reconnecting with friends can do the same. Being single is also a great time to pursue the career opportunities you may have put on hold during your marriage.

If you are honest with yourself about the above questions and have a positive outlook on your future, you will know when it is time to date again.

Author Bio: Jack is a freelance writer based in Seattle who spends his hours hopping between an ergonomic keyboard and an old school typewriter. You can reach Jack by leaving a comment or connecting with him on Twitter.

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Filed under Confidence after Divorce, Divorce Support, Life after Divorce, New relationship after divorce, positive thinking, Post Divorce, self-esteem