I love the month of June because of all the lovely weddings that take place. Last weekend was very special for us, in that our son got married. We happily left Kansas and travelled six hours to Arkansas to be a part of this very special event. Everything about the wedding was beautiful, but as stepfamily specialists, what excited me most was how they included the bride’s daughter in all of the wedding festivities.
With over 1300 new stepfamilies being formed every day, it did not surprise us that our son would marry someone who already had a child. Because our children are waiting longer to marry, they will most likely marry for the first time and become instant stepparents. It can and has happened to all of our married children. Knowing the road that they would have to travel, we have tried to set the example for our children to show them how it’s done successfully.
In our premarital guide “Top Ten Wedding Tips for Stepfamilies,” we recommend to couples that if at all possible to include their children in the ceremony. This can be accomplished in a couple of ways. If the children are younger, they can participate as ring bearers, junior bridesmaids, or flower girls. Older children can participate as maids of honor, bridesmaids, groomsmen, and ushers. When we married our youngest participated as flower girls and a ring bearer, and my son being older, assisted in giving me away along with my brother.
If you desire your children’s participation it is important to ask them well in advance for their involvement in the wedding. However, never force their participation or attendance. In our wedding, only four of our children agreed to participate. In some cases the children may decide that they not only do not wish to participate, they may inform you that they have no plans of attending your nuptials. Unfortunately, two of our children apprised us that they were not going to attend. Even though we were hurt at first, we did not try to force them or make them feel guilty about not coming. If this happens to you, it is okay. Just remind your children that you still love them and support their decision.
Another way to celebrate the union of two families into one is to include your children in your vows. Before our wedding I researched children’s vows and found one for the bride and the groom.
I want you to know how much I love your father. We have grown closer and desire to spend our lives together. Thank you for sharing your father with me. I promise to be fair and to be honest, to be available for you as I am for your dad, and in due time, to earn your love, respect and true friendship. I will not attempt to replace your mother, but to make a place in your hearts for me. I will be a stepmother and friend, and I will cherish my life with you. On this day when I marry your dad, I promise to love and support you.
I want you to know I dearly love your mother. Together, we will learn much more about each other. I promise also to be fair and to be honest, to be available for you as I am for your mom, and in due time, to earn your love, respect and true friendship. I will not attempt to replace anyone, but to make a place in your hearts that is for me alone. I will be a stepfather and a friend, and I will cherish my life with both of you.
For my son’s wedding they chose to do the sand ceremony instead of a unity candle. The three of them each had a jar full of sand in a different color. With the Lord’s Prayer being sung in the background, they all poured their sand in the cylinder forming a mix of colors representing their united family. This was the first time I had seen the sand done with the child. I love this option because with a unity candle the flames are eventually blown out. The benefit of the sand ceremony is couples have a permanent memoir in their home of coming together to be a family. I really valued this exercise and plan to recommend it to others as we provide premarital counseling to couples preparing to become a blended family.
Now that the wedding is over, I not only have a daughter in love to celebrate, but I also have a new granddaughter. By the way, aren't both of them adorable? We are already best buds and I look forward to being a part of her life. We have already gone to the park and played on the swings, made smoothies, watched movies and eaten popcorn together. To top it all off, me and my new granddaughter have a wedding selfie together that I will cherish for years to come.
If you are preparing to step with love to become a blended family, don’t forget to plan in advance. Get premarital counseling from pastors or counselors who specialize in bringing families together. Whatever you do don’t forget about your children and speak with them about their participation. Lastly, remember to step to the altar with love!
While growing up cooking was not my favorite sport and to be honest with you, I really only enjoy cooking every once in a while. I think I was born to have a private cook, however I just haven't gotten the money to hire one. Thank God my husband likes to cook. By the way, that's not a picture of my kitchen. Maybe if I had a kitchen like that I would cook more. Whatever my husband says. Anyway, this blog is not really about cooking and the kitchen it's about getting involved in stuff that we may not be able to handle.
Being a stepmom is one of those things. I have heard on numerous occasions that being a stepmom was the hardest job/role some women have ever had to handle in their lives. Having been a stepmom for over 12 years I must concur. Yes I am pretty much over the hump and am doing quite well in the role now, but it wasn't always that way.
While doing a webcast interview with Jim and Teresa Adams (Twitter @FamMatters1st) on my book "One Plus One Equals Ten", Jim commented that reading my book would scare people out of becoming a stepfamily. Because data says that 2 out of 3 remarriages involving children from a previous relationship are destined to fail, there are some people who may not be able to handle the pressures of being in a stepfamily. I am not being harsh, but the last thing you want to do is end up back in divorce court.
I wish I could count the number of times I have heard women say, "Where were you ten years ago before my marriage failed? " Others have commented, "Being a stepmom was not for me because there were too many issues." Still others have said, "If I had it to do over again, I would have waited until his children were grown or I would have not married a man with children."
A while back Jada Pinkett Smith posted a letter on Facebook she had written to a friend who was complaining about being a stepmom. Basically, Jada responded with.... Girlfriend, you knew he had kids when you married him so put on your big girl pants and figure out how to make it work. If you have watched Jada's posts, you see that she is making it work. I don't agree with everything she does but she is rocking the stepmom role.
The question is... Are some women not cut out to be stepmoms? Should you hold off until the children are grown? What do you think?
Will our children ever get married?
What is taking so long? I first got married in my mid twenties and my husband did the same. Others in our generation married in their early and mid 20's. Our parents wed even earlier than we did. Current data indicates that young adults are waiting longer to get married, most in their late 20's or early 30's.
In speaking with our children, a couple of them have proclaimed that they have no plans of ever marrying, some have casually mentioned they will most likely marry in their 30's and finally our oldest (35) is making wedding plans. Hooray!!! Seven out of eight of our children are 18 and over. None of our girls are dating at this time (as far as we know).
The question that has lingered in the back of my mind is whether or not our own divorce and remarriage has influenced our children's attitudes about making a trip down the aisle. Divorce data
suggests that if you are divorced, your children are at greater risk to divorce also, but the good news is, divorce is not hereditary. However, does parental divorce influence children's attitudes about getting married in the first place?
In the book “Adult Children of Divorce,” psychologists Elizabeth S. Thayer and Jeffrey Zimmerman discuss that children of divorced parents tend to develop a fear of commitment, bad judgment about sex or emotional intimacy, and a subconscious desire to sabotage their own relationships to retain a sense of control. In another book "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce," author Judith Wallerstein followed the lives of seven children through adolescence, into their love affairs, their marriage successes and failures, and parenting their own children. One thing is for sure, all of the children's lives were profoundly altered by the divorce experience. This data caused me to be concerned about our children's fate. I began searching for more answers.
My research only found more troubling information. According to an article by Sharon Jayson, in USA TODAY, today's young adults are delaying marriage for a few reasons. One explanation is related to financial instability. Think about the number of grown children including college graduates who reside with their parents or receive financial assistance from them. The second cause for delayed marriage is that there is less stigma related to sex before marriage. Young adults are not ashamed to admit they are involved in sexual relationships, especially since they are dating longer before marriage. It is not uncommon for a couple to date 8-9 years before getting married. Thirdly, many are choosing to just live together and perhaps marry at a later date.
Okay, so where does this leave my children? I'm not sure, but it sure gives me reason to spend time talking with them about marriage and relationships. In addition, I will be praying specifically for them related to marriage and for their future spouses.
How long will it take?
On my daughter’s first visit home after she had been to college for a semester, she commented upon entering our home “Ahhhh it smells just like home.” She then asked “Did you know that every home has a smell Mom?’’ Nobody had ever mentioned how our house smelled, so I had to ask the question, "What does our home smell like? Her reply of course was ”I don’t know, it just smells like home.
As I thought about it, I had never paid much attention to the smell of other's homes and would only comment if they smelled like a food I loved. Just recently, I was in my maternal grandparent's home and I suddenly remembered the scents of my childhood memories. I could even imagine my Grandma, "Mom Elsie" standing in the kitchen cooking something on the stove. It seemed like she always wore an apron, meaning she spent a lot of time cooking. I remember her being in the kitchen most of the day, only taking a break to watch "The Young and the Restless". Even though my grandparents passed on and have not lived in the house for the last 24 years, it still smells like Grandma's house. What does it smell like? I can only tell you "it smells like home."
According to an article entitled "How Smell Works" by Sarah Dowdy , data shows that a smell can bring on a flood of memories, influence people's moods and even affect their work performance. "Because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain's limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it's sometimes called the "emotional brain." Smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously. Despite the tight wiring, however, smells would not trigger memories if it weren't for conditioned responses. When you first smell a new scent, you link it to an event, a person, a thing or even a moment. Your brain forges a link between the smell and a memory -- associating the smell of chlorine with summers at the pool or lilies with a funeral. When you encounter the smell again, the link is already there, ready to elicit a memory or a mood. Chlorine might call up a specific pool-related memory or simply make you feel content. Lilies might agitate you without your knowing why. This is part of the reason why not everyone likes the same smells."
Because we make most of our olfactory memories as children, what does this mean for stepfamilies? Is the smell of the custodial home associated with happiness, whereas the smell of the noncustodial home associated with bad memories? To test my theory, I asked my daughter what her biological Dad's house smelled like. She said "clean". Not sure what she meant by that, so before I decided to go on a cleaning frenzy, I left it alone. After all she did say "Ahhhh it smells like home" when she came to our house.
Looking back, perhaps the olfactory system may have been responsible for the moods of my children and stepchildren as they travelled from house to house on weekends. It may be worth it to find out what smells are associated with good memories. After all, real estate agents have commented that homes that smell like fresh baked chocolate chip cookies are more attractive and appealing. It gives you something to think about. Try your own experiment and see if it affects the mood in your home. Hey, it's worth a try.
The number one conflict in stepfamilies is related to the children, and the second is money. Early in our marriage we prided ourselves on never having an argument. We were a united force, because it was us against the world. Somewhere around year three, we began to draw biological lines in the sand and were disagreeing regularly, with eighty percent of our discord related to our children. Arguments came when we least expected. Our conversation may have started out very pleasant about what we were planning to prepare for dinner, and before we knew it, we were in a full blown argument about food.
In fact we argued about food from several different angles. Looking back now, we were arguing about FOOD! I could never have imagined arguing with anyone about what to eat, how to cook it, who would cook it, how to eat it, when to eat it, or what to do with the leftovers. But believe it or not, we had arguments about all of the above and then some. In fact I titled a chapter in my book "The Kitchen Wars." I can laugh about some of those conversations now, but at the time, it wasn't funny at all.
Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. Proverbs 17:1 (NIV)
Realize, that wherever there are differences, there will be conflict. When conflict comes, and trust me it will come, handle it without causing permanent damage to your relationship with your spouse and your stepchildren. When discussing delicate issues, make sure you are not trying to prove you are right and your spouse is wrong. Accept that you are different and established pattern, behaviors and traditions long before you met one another. Learn to accept the things you cannot change and use discernment when deciding what issues to confront. As my husband says, "figure out which hill to die on!" Happy eating . . .
Have you ever been accused of nagging too much?
Do you know anyone who nags all the time?
Dictionary.com defines nag as: to annoy or irritate (a person) with persistent fault finding or continuous urging.
Nagging according to the Urban Dictionary is: “A form of moaning: primarily used by women to complain about nearly anything and everything.” Sounds like a definition only a man could come up with.
Curiosity got the best of me and I decided to research what the Bible says about nagging. Believe it or not it mentions nagging or quarrelsome seven times. Four of the seven refer to a quarrelsome wife, so heads up ladies. Here are the four mentioned.
· Proverbs 21:9 and 25:24 (ESV) - It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
· Proverbs 21:19 (ESV) - It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
· Proverbs 27:15 (ESV) - A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike.;
Wow, nothing is mentioned about a quarrelsome or nagging husband, only the wife seems to be an issue. Either way, I’m sure I would be bothered by a nagging husband. These scriptures demonstrate that a man prefers peace even at the price of physical discomfort. It is suggested that a man would be better of living in the desert or on the corner of the roof rather than with a nagging woman. I had to laugh because my husband has a fear of heights and has gotten stuck on the roof twice trying to hang Christmas lights before I started bugging him about getting it done.
In expanding on these scriptures, Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary states “what a great affliction it is to a man to have a brawling scolding woman as a wife, who upon every occasion, and often upon no occasion, breaks into a passion, and chides either him or those about her, is fretful to herself and furious to her children and servants, and, is both vexatious to her husband.
A nagging wife is even compared to an annoying drip. My husband has gotten out of the bed to stop a dripping faucet because it irritated him greatly. Early in our marriage as a stepfamily, I found myself asking him several times to tell his children something on my behalf. If I didn't think he was doing as I had asked, I would ask him again, with a little more high pitch in my voice. Even now he has mentioned that I don't ask one question, I rapidly fire them off. Uh oh, is he secretly accusing me of nagging? I better check that out.
So what’s the solution when we need to get information from our spouses or get some things done? You know, if they would just do what they are supposed to do, we wouldn’t have to complain right? The answer is as simple as communication 101 for couples. Learn to communicate in a positive, non-accusatory tone of voice and don’t forget your body language. Remember, it’s not necessarily what you say, it’s how you say it. If you
speak in a tone of voice that indicates quarreling or repeat the same question
over and over or ask questions in a condescending manner you may be accused of
nagging. Better go check the roof.
As a Christian counselor, when my husband provides premarital counseling, he will most always give the couple a temperament assessment and then expend much energy helping them to understand not only themselves, but their mates' dispositions. Part of helping them to understand their makeup involves open discussion of their views and beliefs about money, and encouraging them to have open, honest, conversations about how they plan to manage their finances.
Disagreements about money have been cited as one of the major reasons first time couples divorce. Living-in-step only complicates financial matters. If minor children are involved, most likely the husband is paying child support and perhaps alimony. The wife may be receiving money from the bio-dad. As a stepfamily, its best to discuss these matters before marriage and lay them all out on the table.
I cannot stress enough the importance of complete disclosure about finances before you marry. Not only should you disclose your current financial situation, but also discuss money management. Do not assume money matters will just work out. Do yourself a favor and take the guesswork out.
Early in our marriage, discussing money appeared to be somewhat of a taboo. As my husband was paying child support, alimony, college expenses, three car payments and car insurance, he would have needed another job to cover the expenses in our household. Since he moved in with me and my children, I continued to cover most of the household expenses. I was okay with that for the most part but there were times when I became angry as I was paying the bills. I felt like too much money was going to the other household. When money was tight I was really frustrated. When his children needed additional expensive items, I felt taken advantage of. I often prayed that I would not say anything to make matters worse. Instead, I dreamed about the day when he would no longer have to pay out so much.
In stepfamilies, emotions will come and go with the monthly exchange of money. When the remarried, non-custodial, bio-dad takes on the responsibility of a new wife, he can feel pulled in different directions. His new wife may have desires and needs that may be neglected because there is little money left. The children may be angry because they have less, and it appears that Dad's new household has more. They may even compare and complain openly. It is possible that the bio-mom may decide to return to court to get additional money when she feels like she and he children are being slighted.
The good news is, the more time goes by, and as children grow up, the closer you get to your financial goals. In the meantime, trust God to provide for you and your family. Remember Philippians 4:29, "God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory". Be blessed Living-in-step!
Summer is officially here and that means time for a much needed summer vacation. What shall we do this year? Go to the mountains, head east or west or south to the beach, take a cruise or just go to a resort within driving distance? Great vacations require much planning and even more so when Living-in-Step.
As a stepfamily of ten we had to be creative to have a successful and peaceful vacation. The first decision that had to be made was who was going on the trip? Some vacations, particularly the more expensive ones like cruises, we had to take without our children because we could not afford to take everyone and we needed the time away. We were deliberate to plan special vacations for the two of us and usually did them around the same time each year so our children knew what to expect.
The first time we took five children on a trip together, it was almost a disaster. First, we had to find a date that worked for everyone including discussions with the bio-parents regarding the non-custodial summer visitation schedule. Once we had a date and a location, transportation was the next issue. Two adults and five children will easy fit in a van or a large SUV, but not a passenger car. Guess what? All of the vans and SUV's were rented out and we had to all pile into the car together with three in the front and four in the back. Thank God we weren't stopped by the highway patrol, because we definitely violated the seat belt laws in two states.
The next dilemma was where we were going to stay for our three day trip. Our children weren't old enough to stay in a hotel room alone and we had both boys and girls to accommodate. I finally located a two bedroom suite with a rollaway couch in the living area. Me and hubby took a bedroom, the girls took the other bedroom and the boys slept on the couch. Guess what? There wasn't a TV in the girls room so they weren't happy and the boys complained that the couch was too hard. Lesson learned. Spend the extra money and try to find a condo or a house to rent. Trust me, Vacationsrentals.com and Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) saves marriages.
All in all we survived our first vacation and went on to do a few more. Some summers we took separate vacations with our children. We were nervous about doing this at first not wanting to be away from each other, but we soon learned that our children enjoyed having private time with us. In actuality they were a little more peaceful.
What ever you do, make sure you plan, plan and then plan some more. After all vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing, and exciting. If you fail to plan, you are deliberately planning a disaster. With that said, go out and make it a great summer!
For Stepfamilies, Mother's Day can be a day of mixed emotions. As a biological Mother, I am always excited about whatever my children do for me. In fact, just hearing them say Happy Mother's Day and spending time with them makes me smile. When they were younger, they had to depend on their biological father to assist them with card or gift buying etc. As I mentioned in a previous blog, it wasn't about the gift, it was the thoughts and expressions of love that mattered. In biological families, the father will lead the effort to make sure Mom has a wonderful day. Dad will suggest to Mom to relax and he will work with the kids to make it a great day.
In stepfamilies, there may be some confusion about what to do for stepmoms and ex-wives on Mother's Day. The year I remarried, my husband wanted to make sure I had a fabulous day. He inquired of my children if he could assist them with anything and they assured him that they had it taken care of. They had sought help from their biological father because he had always assisted them, even after the divorce. My husband focused solely on assisting his children with purchasing a gift for me. His children struggled with selecting a gift for me because they had not yet gone shopping for their mother and didn't quite know how to ask for their father's assistance. I really didn't have a lot of expectations from his children, because I expected them celebrate with their own mother. I would have been pleased with a phone call.
Since they had been out shopping most of the day Saturday, I was surprised when they came in the door empty handed. Later that night, I asked my husband what his children had purchased for their mother, only to find out nothing had been done. He assumed the older children would have taken care of it. He was wrong. Feeling guilty, I got dressed and went to the store to purchase something for the bio-mom for her children to give to her. This was their first Mother's Day weekend away from their mom. When my stepchildren woke up on Mother's Day at our home and prepared to go to their Mom's house, they were in no mood to wish me a Happy Mother's Day before they saw their own mom.
So many lessons were learned that first year. As a result I have suggestions for stepfamilies: 1) Regardless of whose weekend it is, stepfamilies should follow the standard visitation rule with children being with their biological mother on Mother's Day weekend. 2) The biological father should assist with younger children in purchasing cards, gifts, etc. 3) In stepfamilies, husbands should suggest acknowledging the stepmother, but not force his children to do anything they don't want to do. 4) Stepmoms shouldn't have big expectations from their stepchildren. 5) Regardless of what is done for you as a stepmom, be appreciative.
With all that being said, I hope everyone has a wonderful day. "Happy Mother's Day".
One of the challenges of living-in-step is being labeled a "STEPFAMILY". Once married, you are either a "Stepmom" like myself, a "Stepdad", or if you are a child, you become a "Stepchild". Let's face it. No one has ever celebrated becoming a stepchild, because of all of the negative connotations associated with the word step.
How often have you heard someone say ..."They treat me like a stepchild!? In other words, meaning you are treated badly. Or, have you ever heard of the "wicked Stepmom?" Since fairytale days, Stepmoms have been portrayed as Cruella Deville, who rode in on her magic broom to sweep the man off of his feet. Once she puts the spell on the man, she then convinces him to send his children off to boarding school, never to be seen again.
Okay world, I'm tired of step-people taking a bad rap. It's time for all stepfamilies to take a stand. It's time to take STEP to a new level. Let's not call ourselves "stepfamilies or blended families anymore. I recommend we call ourselves Step+families. Why the plus sign? The plus sign repesents positive. Plus means: with the addition of; a surplus, or gain. Plus is synonymous with the words: Advantage, Bonus, Benefit, Good things. Not to mention the + sign is the symbol of the cross.
Are you starting to get the picture?. Stop thinking of your family as being less than, and begin to celebrate living-in-step. Let's start a campaign to change our titles. I am no longer just a Stepmom, I am now a Step+mom. I'm beginning to like the sound and sign of it. Let me know what you think, but I'm feeling better already!
Janice R Love, Author
First Lady, Mom, Stepmom and Divorce Ministry Coach