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Stepmom Advice

Advice to Help You Be A Good Stepmom 

I’ve been officially a stepmom for a year and a half, unofficially for about five years. I am not a stepparent expert, but there are a few things I’ve learned on this journey that have made a huge difference for me and my family.

  1. Learn to forgive yourself. Parenting is hard. Stepparenting is super hard. Women naturally have a tendency to nurture and fix what might be broken. It’s just in our nature. When we are put into situations where we can’t fix things, we tend to look at ourselves as failures. You are not failing. You are doing your best. Just like any parent would. Don’t expect to be perfect in an imperfect situation. You will automatically set yourself up for failure. This has been my biggest challenge to date. I am constantly reminding myself to relax and let the chips fall where they may. 
  2. Focus on your marriage first. It seems simple enough, but when children are involved in the dynamics from day one it can be very easy to put them above all else. When you are the newest member to the tribe and dad’s attention has been solely devoted to his kids, it is easy to fall in line. Just remember that if you have a solid partnership with your spouse it will translate to all other aspects of your life. Happy wife. Happy life. 👍
  3. Take the high road. My parents always told me this as a kid if someone wasn’t playing nicely with me. I didn’t realize how much it would play into my adult life. Stay out of the drama. Don’t get sucked into all the bad parts of being a stepmom. Sometimes smiling and nodding your head will be all you can manage. It’s better to be quiet than say something you’ll regret later. Again, still something I need to remind myself of on a regular basis. 

If you take the time to focus internally and take one day at a time, I promise things will get easier, better and happier. Remember this quote below always ❤

Why Being A #BoyMom Is The Best

Inspiration for writing certainly comes in all forms. I went to a birthday party tonight and had the smallest bit of conversation with someone about both of our boys. I was driving home and thinking about it when I realized that I LOVE being a mom to boys. In all fairness, I really don’t know what I’m missing with girls, but regardless I am incredibly happy having two children that embody everything boy. 

Boys are incredibly full of energy. I really can’t ever keep up with them, but it’s fun to try! As a girl who grew up with three very active brothers, I know how to wrestle, play sports, and rough house with the best of them. I have never seen that behavior as aggressive or confrontational because I know that’s how a lot of young boys communicate and learn social skills with their peers. I catch myself telling them at least once a day to “take it to the basement” because they start trying to wrestle where all my breakables are, ha! I would never discourage them from playing in this fashion though. 

Boys are no (or little) drama. The only times I really ever get tears from my boys is if they are hurt or tired. I have a pretty low tolerance for drama. It’s the product of having three brothers, a low drama dad, and a low drama mother. I appreciate straight forward communication and cannot tolerate passive aggressive behavior. Boys do a much better job of telling it just like it is. 

Boys love very directly and literally. Sort of piggybacking off the last paragraph – you will know exactly how your male child feels about you. If he’s happy with you, he will say it. If he’s feeling mad at you, expect to hear it (and then you can tell him to get over it without any tears 😂) Being female myself, I think girls have a harder time with this approach to their feelings. 

We will have a new bundle of joy in our house in about a month. Whether we have a boy or girl will never change my appreciation of being mom to two wonderfully dirty and tough little boys ❤

I’m a Mean Mom: I Make My Kids Do Chores

I am a mean mom some times. I make my kids do chores with no monetary compensation. 

When my husband and I moved in together, I had been living in my own apartment by myself for about four years. I’m slightly neurotic about cleanliness and all of the sudden, there I was, living with a guy and two children under the age of six. Talk about an adjustment!

At first I ended up cleaning every day. Like, the entire house. Every. Day. But after asking my mom and my grandma how they ever kept their houses clean with so many other humans in it, I came up with a much saner approach. I made my kids do chores. 

I went on Pinterest for some inspiration and made chore charts from baking sheets. I tried (and failed) to make the chore buttons, so I ended up purchasing them from an online Etsy shop. 

My kids are still pretty young, so the “chores” they do each day/week are not difficult. In my personal opinion, they are things that should be done every day regardless of your age. And I’m not going to give them money for making their beds and brushing their teeth. They should just be in a habit of doing those types of things.

But what has helped me tremendously in dealing with my slightly crazy cleaning tendencies is having them help me with the small tasks, like bed making and cleaning up their toys before we leave the house. It also helps foster a sense of responsibility in them which will hopefully carry onto adulthood. 

If you want to know what age appropriate chores are right fot your kids, just Google it, but in the meantime here are the chores completed in our home for an 8 and 6 year old.

  1. Make bed each morning
  2. Brush teeth morning and night 
  3. Pick up bedroom floor (no toys or clothes left)
  4. Put away shoes in cubbies
  5. Pick up play area before leaving the house
  6. Put away clean laundry
  7. Clear table when finished eating
  8. Unload dishwasher (summer chore)
  9. Sweep kitchen floor (summer chore)
  10. Clean windows (summer chore)
  11. Dust bedroom (summer chore)

Why I’m Not Finding Out Our Baby’s Gender

I’ve always wanted to keep the gender of any future children a surprise. My parents did not find out the sex with any of their four children and since I’m the oldest, I never knew there was any other choice until I was in my teens. I’m lucky that I’m having a baby with someone who thought it was a great idea too! 

My number one reason for this is delayed gratification. How much more exciting can it be to wait for the ultimate surprise for NINE months? There is a lot of instant gratification in the world these days and Lord knows I need more patience. 

Even though we have two boys at home, we have virtually no baby items. I know that if we knew the sex people would buy us a lot of baby clothes. Not that I don’t need clothes, but diapers, a car seat, and crib are much higher on my list of needs. I’m definitely not above buying used clothes, especially when you know they’re going to be spit up on and peed through 😂

It has been really fun reading the Old Wives’ Tales and taking gender quizzes with my friends. I think it’s been fun for our families to guess the gender too. I think I’m also paying very close attention to my body just to see if I can guess the gender. And I love getting to pick a boy and girl name to take with us on the day of delivery. 

There is no disappointment factor involved. I’ve seen friends and acquaintances grimace when they say the gender of their baby, because they were hopeful for something different. I’m speaking in the future when I say that I know I will just be excited that the baby is here and breathing! The gender will not matter in those first moments. 

Speaking of the baby getting here – I know myself well enough to know I will be WAY more motivated during labor if I don’t know the sex. Again, it’s my usual lack of patience, haha! 

I think that finding or not finding out the gender is completely personal preference. I wanted to share my reasons for keeping it a surprise if you might be a little on the fence or you and your partner can’t agree on which way to go. Good luck on your pregnancy journey!

Loving Your Spouse During Home Renovations: A Survival Guide

If you want to test the strength of your relationship with your spouse, have kids or do a major home renovation project, ha! But in all seriousness – tackling bathroom, kitchen, or additions to a home can put stressors on a marriage. Your house will be messy, haphazard, and you will not agree how to get the project completed (two great minds do not always think alike.)

Survival Guide Tip #1

Talk about the totality of the project before you pick up a hammer. When my husband and I agreed to renovate our main bathroom, we jumped in with both feet and started hacking away at our ugly floors, tile, and vanity without really discussing the extent of the project. I naively thought that the whole thing would take a weekend. Boy was I so very, very wrong. The project took two months start to finish. If I would have bothered to ask questions first, I would have understood how much work we really needed to accomplish. I was mad at my husband for how long things took because we didn’t communicate before starting our renovation (definitely my fault, haha.) I’ve learned with time and more projects that if I understand the timeline and what it will take to finish everything that both of us are much happier people during the process.

(Photo 1 – Our new bathroom floor in progress! My husband and I have similar taste, so we can usually agree on tile, paint, etc.)

(Photo 2 – The before and after photos! J and his dad worked so hard on the tile job and it turned out AMAZING. No more 80s bathroom!)

Survival Guide Tip #2

Learn to forgive your spouse (and yourself) for imperfections. DIY projects don’t always go exactly like the picture you pinned while scrolling through Pinterest. What matters in the end is that you’re saving money and learning new things along the way. I was super critical of my painting skills when we first started painting trim, doors and walls, but J reminded me that most people aren’t going to notice small imperfections. He is equally critical on himself and I remind him of the same thing. I am somewhat of a perfectionist so whenever we’ve had to take a project in a different direction I had to remember that it’s not my husband’s fault. Some projects are just easier to envision than recreate in real life!

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(Our master bedroom before and afters! I’ve since decorated the walls. I was super proud of myself for not giving up on this project. It took three coats of primer and two coats of paint to cover up that horrible maroon color.)

Survival Tip #3

Compromise is a beautiful thing. Just like any other obstacle in your relationship, you must learn to compromise when tackling home improvement projects. And listen to your spouse’s ideas! Along with being a perfectionist, I can have tunnel vision when I have a goal in mind (it’s a miracle my husband puts up with me sometimes.) The best thing I did while tackling our many projects was to let my husband take the reigns on our fireplace reno. I gave him a few small ideas on what I had in mind and let him run with it. His creativity really grabbed him and our fireplace is now my favorite thing in our house. If I would have micromanaged the project it might not have turned out as great as it did.

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(The finished fireplace project! No more ugly 80s blue tile! My husband found those boards from an old fence and the tile all by himself. We have since replaced the carpet too, so the whole area looks even better.)

Remember that it’s just flooring or carpet or paint colors, nothing life altering. If you can apply basic relationship skills to your home renovation projects, you’ll make it, I promise.

10 Things You Need to Know When Dating A Divorced Dad

Let me start off by saying that I am not an expert in this topic. I have dated one divorced dad (my husband) but I do feel like I’ve had the opportunity to learn from my own mistakes and gained a lot of insight in the process.

  1. You Will Not Come First – At least not all the time. You are starting a relationship with a man who will love his kids more than he cares about you. This is not a negative thing. It is amazing to see a man who really loves his kids and know that he might be able to feel similarly about you some day. Plus, why would you want to date a dad who didn’t care about his kids?
  2. Don’t Step On Toes (or try not to) – I really, really had to learn this one the hard way. I never had ill intentions or wanted to shove my nose in places it didn’t belong, but some times it just never occurred to me that it wasn’t appropriate for me to be a part of certain things. I think everyone’s initial reaction when you are told that you can’t be a part of something is that it hurts and you feel unimportant. When you can gain the perspective that just because you aren’t there for a special moment doesn’t mean that you are not important (and believe me you will get to be there for other special moments without even meaning to!) it will take you a long way. It is always better to ask if you can be a part of something then to apologize later because dad or mom missed out on something they felt was reserved for them.
  3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – I think this could apply to any relationship, but especially when you are dating a divorced dad. PICK YOUR BATTLES. Divorced dads naturally have their guard up in a new relationship. If you are making a big deal about things that he doesn’t feel are a big deal, you will find yourself on the curb pretty quickly.
  4. Give Him Space – This may depend on how long he has been divorced, but if the wounds are still fresh he is going to need extra time to process his feelings for you. And expect him to always be “behind” in the relationship. If you’re ready to say “I love you” he’s probably not even thought that phrase in his head yet.
  5. LISTEN – I spent a lot of time listening the first couple years of my relationship. By closing my own mouth and really hearing the words he spoke, I was able to know what he needed from me as a partner.
  6. Be Your Own Person – I think women especially can fall prey to this in a divorced dad relationship. You all of the sudden are in a relationship where you are not only needed by your partner, but by his children as well. It is easy to get into the habit of spending time at his house, cooking dinner, wiping noses and butts, and just doing “mom” things. Don’t forget #4 – if he thinks things are moving too fast then you may find yourself on the outside just as quickly.
  7. Acknowledge Your Feelings – You will come across a lot of new territory, good and bad. You will feel love, happiness, resentment, sadness, frustration, and a whole slew of other emotions. It is okay to tell your boyfriend how you feel in any of those situations – just remember #3 and choose your words carefully.
  8. Have Patience – My mom used to tease me about not having this gift as a child. I have said to friends and family that God made me a stepmom to learn patience. There will be plenty of times where you feel like it’s just too hard, but if you take a deep breath and give yourself time to reflect, you will have newfound perspective and remember how much you love that man and his family.
  9. Be Flexible – The very first real dinner date that my husband and I went on was with the boys. We had a night scheduled for just the two of us and things didn’t go as planned, so I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Let’s bring them with us.” I love that memory.
  10. It Will Not Be Easy – but it will be SOOOOO worth it! I really feel that a divorced dad brings such an unique perspective to a relationship (and marriage). I can’t imagine my life ending up any other way 🙂

Limiting Screen Time for Kids

I have two very different kiddos in my house. The oldest could really care less about computer games, TV, and video games. The youngest would spend HOURS in front of the TV or computer if given the chance. He asks almost every day if he can play the Playstation or watch Netflix, and can be pretty persistent on getting screen time. I’m not really sure what makes the two boys so different in their electronic desires, but because of E’s want for screen time, we make an effort to limit how much time is spent in front of the TV.

Since I grew up in a household with monitored electronic time, I already had an idea in my head about what possible guidelines to set. My parents monitored my computer time, specifically chatting on AIM (OMG, I’m so old!) and limited my brothers’ time on the Nintendo. We got an hour of screen time every day as a kid, which J and I agreed upon when we discussed the boys’ options a few years ago.

At first, my reasoning for wanting to put a limit on it was so that the boys (ahem, E) wouldn’t ask me every hour of the day if they could play on the Playstation. But overtime, I think we’ve come to the realization that limiting their screen time allows for them to use their imagination, burn energy off outside, and spend family time together playing games, crafts, or reading. It was a pretty big battle a couple years ago to get them to turn off the video games when their hour was up, but since we stayed consistent there is little to no argument when we say their time is up for the day.

There are definitely days where they get to do a little extra, but those are pretty few and far between and usually in the winter where play is limited to the house. I’m not sure if my parents got the idea to limit screen time from a book or research article, but I’ve since found articles where doctors and the AAP specifically recommend less than two hours of screen time for kids. If you are looking for a little evidence to back up your reasoning for your family, here is a great article from CNN:

New screen time rules for kids

Stepmom Resources

Being a stepmom has been one of the most rewarding and challenging roles I’ve ever chosen to take on in my life. The rewards far outweigh the tough times, but nevertheless there has been a lot of unchartered territory that I didn’t always feel well equipped to tackle.

This really started when my husband and I were dating. I vividly remember calling my mom, crying about something that happened the day before and her response was, “I’m not really sure what to say. There is no handbook out there for your situation.”

Her response really got me thinking about my options in my role as the girlfriend of a divorced dad and my future role as a stepmom. Luckily, I had the idea to Google it (Google solves everything these days, ha!)

I found websites and books that speak directly to stepmoms and how to tackle common problems as a part of a second family. I know that there is a woman out there right now, crying to her mom about how she knew what she was getting into but she just didn’t realize how hard it would be some times. Girl, this list is for you!

 

Stepmom Websites

  1. StepMom Magazine – I follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Even if you don’t subscribe to their magazine, it is comforting to know there are women out there struggling with similar situations when you read their posts on social media.
  2. Stepmother Support – This website is great for comradery too but also offers professional support if you need it.
  3. The Evil Stepmother Speaks – This lady writes a hilarious blog centered around her role as a stepmom. Again, I’ve found that knowing others are facing similar struggles goes a long way in coping.
  4. National Stepfamily Resource Center – Seriously, when I started my journey five years ago I had no idea that there were national organizations out there for stepfamilies. Please know that there are resources to help you have a successful second family!!

The link below is something I just found today and I’m definitely going to be utilizing it in the future. I don’t feel overwhelmed right now, but new unchartered situations come up all the time. I know this book list will come in handy soon enough!

6 Must Read Books for Overwhelmed Stepmoms

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