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SUMMER SANITY IN STEPFAMILIES – IS THERE SUCH A THING?

June 7th, 2011

School’s almost out and summer vacation begins. Vacation for kids is hardly a vacation for the parents and stepparents raising them.

The complaints: “THERE’S NOTHING TO DO.”

The requests: “Can so and so come over?”

The demands: “Take me here, there and everywhere…NOW!” “I need money to go to the mall!” “Everyone else gets to go to or do  ______ except me!”

The moodiness, the sulkiness and tears—Give me a break!!

Kids, and especially preteens and adolescents, are the center of the universe. That’s what they’re supposed to be. Yes, your self-absorbed kids are normal…aren’t you relieved?

I remember those long summers when our kids were young. The days were long and exhausting.  I thought they’d never end. I worked myself to the bone to accommodate and satisfy the kids.  I worried way too much about how they were doing…where they were and with whom.

As a stepmom, you may wonder if you’re fitting the bill at all! Still you strive for perfection. Doesn’t every parent want to be the best?

Words of Wisdom:  Stop yourself! Step back. Take a break. You have to say NO sometimes. You have to take care of YOURSELF. You do count.  You do have a life! Go ahead and have some fun. Go to yoga or exercise class; call a friend. Get off the computer, get out of the car, and leave the dirty dishes in the sink. It won’t kill you. Take a lie down, read a chapter in the book you’re reading, or journalize if that helps you.

Free yourself up to breathe, and relax.

My best to all stepcouples and stepfamilies this summer.  Take care and take it easy…and enjoy the special moments.  A thank you, a shared joke or experience, anything that makes you feel good.  That’s what it’s all about.

Susan Wisdom, MA
June 2011
(First published June 2010 on my blog site)

Feeling Alone And Finding Help

May 10th, 2011

A long time ago, David and I went to a fancy cocktail party hosted by friends of David and his ex-wife. I knew the hosts a little but hardly considered them my friends. We got our drinks and were standing around when I saw a woman making a beeline towards me! Following the obligatory hug, she asked, “SO SUSAN, HOW’S IT GOING WITH YOUR NEW FAMILY?” Her penetrating eyes and piercing expression scared me.

I told her that I was doing OK, but that “it was a struggle.” (Big mistake.) I explained that it was hard taking care of three more kids who weren’t my own. She said she didn’t understand why I would feel that way. I tried to explain, but with each word, I dug myself deeper into a hole. She said, “Some people have trouble raising ANY CHILDREN…you might be one of those women!” Her final shot was, “You should have thought of that BEFORE you married him!”

I found the nearest door, ran outside, and burst into tears.

Why was I so vulnerable? The problem was that I knew I was failing. I knew I was in over my head, and no one understood my situation. How could they? The incident just reinforced how alone I felt in my struggle.

Our new stepfamily was on shaky ground. My stepchildren missed their mother terribly, and they wanted little to do with me. My husband was busy at work, and it was my job to raise the five kids—his and mine. It was an impossible expectation…in the beginning, anyway.

Fortunately, resources for new stepfamilies have come a long way since then. There’s a lot of good information and help for stepfamilies in the way of books, counseling, coaching, forums, blogs, support groups, etc.

Looking back, I can see that I was young, vulnerable, sensitive, and way too hard on myself. What I needed so badly…and didn’t have…was thick skin and permission to stand up for myself! I was always comparing myself to the ideal of the perfect nuclear family. It was impossible to fit the mold. All I could do was pretend…and try harder.

Thank God for the passage of time and growing up… and also for the good support and understanding of stepfamilies today.

Susan Wisdom MA
May 2011

TIME FOR HEALING…Relationships and More

March 10th, 2011

I didn’t know what to expect! I recently had back surgery and have been recovering in bed at home. Lots of time to think and reminisce.

I’ve been in a stepfamily for 35 years. Seems like just yesterday that I was yelled at “GET OUT OF MY LIFE”…or worse,” I HATE YOU, BITCH and so do all of my friends!” My own kids had their moments, but it didn’t hurt as much. I could deal with them. I felt helpless and angry at my stepkids.

I remember calls from school…they weren’t calling to praise my kid! I remember curfew violations when I had no idea where the kids were or with whom. I remember arguments with David about raising his kids and mine in one house. It always seemed so unfair and hard.

I seriously wanted to run away. It seemed like the only solution to my misery. I cried a lot and drank too much wine after a bad day. I felt like a failure. If it weren’t for David’s and my bond and willingness to talk, we certainly wouldn’t have lasted.

I shiver to think that I could have thrown it all away. This week, all our five kids have been there for me with phone calls, visits, flowers and food. Such a showing of love and caring from them has touched me tremendously. I’m still reeling from the feelings.

We’ve all grown up and moved to a different place. Thank God for healing and maturation…and patience!

Susan Wisdom, MA
March 2011

When Things Get Awful…WAIT!!!

February 23rd, 2011

When everything is awful, you wonder why you’re there. You get another phone call from school to report that your stepson is truant…again. Or your son just got caught shoplifting candy. Or your kid is depressed and can’t get up to go to school. Your stepdaughter is stealing money or worse, your clothes. You catch your daughter in a lie. Or you found a bong in your stepson’s underwear drawer.

Always your heart drops, your stomach aches, you feel so angry, discouraged and beaten down. You think you can stand it no more. Then something switches.

You get the help you need. You talk to your spouse and together you make a plan. The two of you go out to dinner; you say how much you love each other. The offender comes clean and makes amends. You have a good talk with a close friend or your counselor. Something good happens.

I’ve heard it all…I’ve experienced most of it…I’ve grown up tremendously from the burden…and always our family has survived. Ready for the next crisis. Because there will always be something.

Susan Wisdom, MA
February 2011

Help! Holidays Are Coming Fast!

December 17th, 2010

The holidays are coming fast.  I’m afraid I can’t possibly make everyone happy.  I can’t do everything I want to do.  There’s not enough time.   Not enough money.  I can’t find the gift I want… because they probably don’t make it anymore!

Stuff happens when you least expect it.

I have to STOP MYSELF.  I have to say NO to those negative thoughts and disappointments.  And move on.  You can do it too.

Take care of yourself during the upcoming days.  Enjoy what you can do… and are doing already.  Forget the rest.  In the spirit of giving, give yourself a break.

Have a “good enough” holiday season.  Be content.

I wish all of you happy, relaxed and peaceful holidays.

Susan Wisdom, MA
December 2010

I’ll see you online in January 2011.

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