stepparenting

What's under the surface?

I caught the tail end of the Little League World Series (Japan vs. the U.S.) today....

I stopped mid-channel-surfing because I thought--wait--what are these little kids doing playing such an intense game of baseball?

And why is it on TV?

I was reminded of, many years ago, living in Spain as a child and my older brother serving as the pitcher on our local, American little league team. These were low-key family events. Lazy. Long. Hot.... My friends and I often wandered off to play in the dirt with sticks and our dogs. Most of the time, it didn't seem to matter who won or lost.

But this game on TV was high stakes, with wound-up parents in the stands, looking as if they might pass out from the stress. I wondered at the pressure some of these kids must be under, how long and hard they'd worked to get there.

The American team won at the bottom of the sixth inning by one point, breaking a tie, and like any triumphant team in sports, the young players were euphoric. The kids exploded into leaps and fist pumps, and then finally into a happy pile over the home plate.

The camera flashed to the losing team.

That's the sucky thing about a game: someone's always gotta lose.

My heartstrings were pulled when I saw one little Japanese player openly crying and as the camera cut back and forth between the two teams, more young boys on the losing team began to cry too.

If they were grown-ups, they'd be better at hiding this, I thought. They don't know how to mask their feelings yet....

When divorced moms and stepmoms don't get along, the same thing happens: we're hurt, but we try not to show it.

We don't want to give the other side the satisfaction of seeing how upset we are. How furious or fearful, how devastated and obsessed.

We don't want them to know they've gotten under our skin.

In trying to save face, we harden ourselves, so that the behavior from the other side won't sting.

But it still does.

And though you might argue otherwise, it stings for them too, even though it might seem like it.

Seeing this is often one of the first steps to real change.

.

© 2011  Jennifer Newcomb Marine   All Rights Reserved

Impossibly High Standards

When it comes to how you expect the other woman to behave, could you meet those same standards?

Never say a single bad word against you. Always do what's best for the children (according to your private interpretation). Never be late (come hell, high water or bad traffic).

Never get angry, be snippy, play the victim, or be a flake.

Life is messy. You solve three or four problems and twelve others line up to take their place.

We all know it: everyone drops the ball on a daily basis.

Doesn't life just seem impossible, in some ways?

And one thing we do that helps is to vent about it. To our friends. To co-workers. To perfect strangers. Yes, even with the kids in our lives.

We connect. We gain support. Comfort and reassurance.

If we're doing it right, we use venting temporarily to release pressure, just like a pressure cooker's bobbing weight lets off extra steam. We let off steam with sympathetic friends so that we can then take action. We take action to hopefully, fingers crossed, fix the problem (while 11 others unravel in the background).

We're trying!

So if you nail the other woman's ass because she has the audacity to vent and present a skewed analysis of "the situation" as you see it, you will always be unhappy.

If you nail the other woman's ass because she dared express one of the "negative" emotions, such as anger, frustration, superiority, competitiveness, self-pity, or vengefulness, while refusing to consider whether she might actually be trying to find a temporary, empowering response to a difficult situation, then your own emotional reactions to her will constantly remain on Red Alert.

If you nail the other woman's ass over mistakes and situations that you would easily excuse in yourself because of the natural messiness of being human, you will constantly feel under siege, as if she's doing these things on purpose to make your life miserable.

She is, after all, just a person.

Like you.

Why is she expected to be perfect -- and you're not?

And what might happen if you held her to the standards you normally apply to yourself and those you love?

© 2011 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

What's your foundation?

I took my two big dogs for a walk down at the greenbelt for the first time the other morning.

I had to admit, I was nervous.

New retractable leash. A German Shepherd (Lucy, almost 12, still going strong) who's rarely, but nevertheless potentially fearful and aggressive. A Siberian Husky (Maya, 6, quirky and stubborn) who could easily pull an SUV or two.

We're walking down the trail, it's still cool. Light is filtering through the trees. Birds are singing. Random forest noises abound.

Coming towards us on the path ahead of us, a tall, blond woman and her two dogs are approaching.

Panic!

Her dogs aren't on a leash and they're big too.

Her dogs run straight up to mine while I'm trying to yell to her that I have an unfriendly dog.

Lucy lunges. Maya pulls and my hand burns as I grab the thin wire of her new leash. Lucy and one of the other dogs begin to fight while I'm yelling my head off to stop them.

My two dogs become entangled. Chaos.

The other woman says nothing!

Abruptly, her two dogs simply take off down the path. She passes us and I stand there, baffled.

Not a word. No Sorry, no Excuse Me. Nada.

I punctuate the air with an expletive of frustration as she's walking away.

Then, my irritation growing as I see her back turned towards us, I yell, "You might want to think about putting your dogs on a leash next time!"

To which she yells back, "You might want to think about controlling your dogs!"

We go back and forth a few more times, with her lying to me about the leash laws. Her last words are for me to shut the **** up.

Wow.

I was rattled the entire rest of the walk and had a hard time letting the experience go; returning back to the moment; being there, in the woods, enjoying the present with my dogs.

I am embarrassed that I yelled at a perfect stranger, but I'm also still pissed that she was so blase about our little confrontation - one which could have resulted in an injured dog or two.

Many of you are understandably irritated with the behavior of the mom or stepmom. With your ex, your husband, or your stepkids or kids.

You can point the finger at particular actions and say, "This. Should never have happened."

Friends and family will back you up.

You add your grievance to the list, knowing you're in the right.

But... what could have turned the tide that morning was my foundation.

Had I felt like my "normal" self that day: confident with the dogs, with a mental plan ready for how I was going to handle passersby and loose dogs and road bikers -- stepping off the trail, holding them close to me -- it might have been a different story.

My foundation was off.

Yet I still pushed myself to go, because the dogs needed a walk and I was pressuring myself to try something new.

And when things went awry, I blamed the entire experience on the other woman and her dogs -- big, slobbery, happy fellows who nevertheless shouldn't have run right up to us.

It was only during our walk back to the car that I looked a little deeper at my role....

I begrudgingly admitted I was already a bit off-kilter as we set off from the parking lot. My mind didn't feel clear. I was anxious. Part of me was *expecting* something to go wrong.

And that fearfulness, that mental "static" did contribute to what happened -- like it or not.

When I admitted that to myself, suddenly I found myself able to let the experience go. I didn't need to tell anyone about it to validate my reaction - how in the wrong she clearly was.

I cared more about just having a good day and getting back into a happy, productive mood.

What's your foundation been like when you have a run-in with the other household?

© 2011 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

The Power of a Name: Just-A-Stepmoms and Bio-Moms

I sometimes like to think of weird things that might have extremely large numbers assigned to them.

…How many breaths each and every creature that’s ever lived has taken, all together.

…How many times the clouds have passed over the sun as someone looked skyward.

…How many times you’ve eaten lunch.

…How many times your name has been called.

When a family dissolves by divorce, we’re typically not expecting to add any extra names to the list of cast members.

When we marry into a new stepfamily, it can feel vaguely insulting to have the name of the ex randomly interjecting itself into our every day.

And yet, there they are: the unwanted. The new woman.

Even the terms we use for each other are loaded:

The bio-mom.

Just the stepmom.

The crazy ex-wife.

The evil stepmother.

Why do we speak this way about each other?

When our aim is to cut the other woman’s legs out from under her before she even gets started, we should be suspicious of our motives.

Do stepmoms ever refer to their husbands as the “bio-father” or is he simply, “the father?” What about their own mothers (unless they were adopted or raised by someone else)?

Are moms aware of the fact that stepmoms are likely performing most of the hands-on tasks to take care of the children? As women, we already know: how can anything be “just...” about that?

ALL of those ex-wives can’t really be crazy. There’s too many of them.

And why are we STILL living in a culture where the cheap and easy trick for creating a villain in a kid’s movie is to give them a stepmom?

So it’s good to ask....

What might we secretly fear about the other woman?

What power are we attributing to her that we want to take away by denigrating her name?

In what ways might we be totally clueless about who she really is?

And isn't it a shame that we don't have a name to use for each other that acknowledges our familial ties to each other -- and allows for the potential growth of love and affection?

 

© 2011 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

The Invisible Drivers in Your Life

The other woman is out to get you. Everything she does is motivated by an intense, burning desire to see you fail, to make you suffer. Her life revolves around making you miserable -- and miserable you are, despite yourself.

Although... something about this feeling seems familiar.

You can’t quite put your finger on it....

You take a look around your life and feel small and powerless. Too many demands. Too many people needing your time and attention. Not enough people really looking out for YOU and what you might need. You feel burdened, lonely and somehow... doomed.

Something about that empty, aching feeling in your heart feels familiar.

But you can’t quite put your finger on it.

You’re doing your best to create a connection with your children or stepchildren; with your partner. You meet hurtful or flip responses with warmth and soft eyes. You still go the extra mile with the little things, telling yourself you’re practicing devotion, loyalty, forgiveness.

Lying awake in bed at night when everyone else is asleep, you notice that something about feeling unloved and out of place seems familiar.

But you can’t quite put your finger on it.

Here’s what’s actually happening.

Deep in the back of your mind, beneath your conscious attention, you have messages that you’re repeating to yourself throughout your day.

I’m never really safe; I can’t totally relax or disaster awaits me.

My needs are unimportant because I don’t really matter.

I have to give more than I get because I don’t deserve any better.

But really, what your minds says to you in the form of subconscious beliefs is even worse than that.

And a lot shorter.

And more extreme.

So extreme that, if anyone were to ever stand in front of us and say this stuff to our face, we’d be sorely tempted to deck them!

Nobody really loves me.

Something is seriously wrong with me.

If people really knew who I was, they’d run.

I will always end up being hurt.

Nothing ever goes right.

I suck.

I ruin everything.

These beliefs are formed in the very beginning of our lives because -- as the logic goes -- our parents and primary caregivers are bound to fail us.

They have to. That’s because the perfect human being -- one who can anticipate our every waking need, satisfy our quirky preferences and our personality-driven compulsions and interests -- has not yet been invented.

So we will be disappointed. We will feel misunderstood, unseen, rejected.

Betrayed.

And occasionally, absolutely gutted.

Even though we’re supposedly a few steps above common animals, humans still have an almost overwhelmingly strong desire to belong to the pack.

Try to do it all alone: hunt, kill, eat, rest, repeat -- and you’re likely to not be doing it for very long. There’s safety and survival in numbers.

Which is why it’s better to make ourselves wrong first. We need the pack more than we consciously need ourselves in the very beginning.

And thus, the little gremlins of our subconscious mind are born.

They’re a way for us to contextualize our lives, to explain to ourselves why things go as they do.

They’re a way to create predictability and theoretically, to reduce future upsets and crushing blows. They’re a means of preparing ourselves, by learning from the unwanted experiences of the past.

Only problem is, the ancient wiring system for our Default Disaster Playbook is seriously flawed -- at least when it comes to creating healthy, emotional lives as adults.

We start LIVING by those extreme, distorted mantras as if they are always true -- as if that is “just the way life is...”

And then we make our lives FIT the mantra to prove ourselves right.

Which is why it’s sometimes vaguely satisfying when things go wrong, even if we’re also deeply distressed and would swear on our favorite pets’ grave that we wish it weren’t so!

So what mantras, what secret driving forces, what subconscious beliefs could be running your life?

What themes or patterns seem to be playing themselves out, despite your best efforts to create otherwise?

The good news is, there are effective ways to address and transform those beliefs now that really do work.

You can be worthy, safe, lovable, valued.

You can trust others.

You can create a life of meaning and purpose.

But the first step is to listen closely.

And to tell the truth about what you find.

A little tip for you: if you’re reluctant to (even privately) spell out those outdated, subconscious beliefs in all their extreme glory—you’re still confusing yourself with the belief, as if it’s true!

The first step is to call it as you see it.

Then you can create a plan of action that deals with what is.

What have you discovered about what’s driving your life?

 

© 2011 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

 

Why Owning Your Own Crap Empowers You

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Most of us are reluctant to turn the flashlight back on ourselves and look at the ways we might have screwed up.

After all, who likes feeling like they’ve messed up?

Like the balance of power has shifted in the story and all of a sudden, instead of the other person being so predictably wrong - it’s now our behavior that’s under scrutiny?

Back during the days when I used to not get along with my ex-husband David and his wife (and my co-author) Carol, I spent a lot of time and energy trying to mentally nail them for things they had done wrong. The slightest little mistake was grounds for a rant with my friends -- or a ruined afternoon, with me stewing in my anger and irritation.

Never mind the fact that there was also a part of me that was secretly enjoying the fact that they might have screwed up, such as getting a pick-up or drop off time mixed up.

And never mind the fact that I also did what I could to subtly help them get it mixed up, while also trying to claim otherwise.

It was childish, ridiculous behavior.

And part of me knew it.

But instead of looking at that reality, I chose instead to focus on them.

And they, in turn, were doing the same thing with me. (Something they fully owned up to later).

After all, how many of us, when we sense someone in our immediate environment out to get us, open our hearts in response?

Maybe if you live on a mountain in Tibet you do, but I doubt the majority of us mere mortals lean that way out of habit.

So there we were, judging the hell out of each other, blowing things out of proportion, taking lots of things personally, making ourselves and everyone else miserable... and the entire time, we’re all still feeling victimized.

Like something was being done TO us!

I have to shake my head and laugh at this now, because it seems so clearly illogical and insane.

I can’t speak for David or Carol, but when I had my first inklings of owning my own shit, it was like a blast of light shining through the curtains.

Once I started to see how I was fully participating in this impossible, never-ending, score-keeping behavior, I couldn’t STOP seeing it in all my actions.

And I suspected that they probably had inklings of this as well.

We all seemed so hopelessly, helplessly blind.

But we were not helpless.

Admitting to myself that I was deliberately trying to set them up, trying to make them fail, trying to make myself out to be the well-intentioned, blameless victim -- even if it meant occasionally putting the kids in the middle as leverage was life-changing.

I could throw up my hands and claim my innocence all I wanted in public, but now that I knew the truth of what I was doing, I could never go back and pretend otherwise to myself again.

The bottom line was....

Was it worth it?

Was it worth what I was doing to the kids to feel temporarily superior to David and Carol? To feel like the better, more loving, devoted parent? (One who still uses her kids as “leverage?” Right....) To milk sympathy from friends and family about how unfair it was, how stressful and awful their “two against my one” was?

To self-righteously funnel my leftover anger and grief about our marriage into something tangible, something that gave me the feeling that at least something was actually moving? Something was actually happening?

Well.... No.

It wasn’t.

It wasn’t worth all the stress. It wasn’t worth how hard my heart felt.

It wasn’t worth the feeling that I was now living behind a large rock wall, thirty feet high, waiting for flaming balls of mud to be lobbed upon me at any time. Or constantly gathering up mud inside my own yard to lob back.

My brain hurt. My head hurt. My stomach hurt.

My kids were hurting.

It sucked.

So... when I clearly and irrevocably saw what I was doing, I made the decision to stop.

Whether they did or not, whether they apologized or not, whether they ever understood or not.

I stopped.

And I told myself the truth about my crappy behavior, without justifications, without trying to turn my actions back on them somehow.

I apologized at first to David.

And then, later, when things were better between us, to Carol.

And then, eventually, when my girls seemed old enough to really get it, I apologized to them too.

You’d think that all of that apologizing would make a person feel pretty darned small.

And it did, temporarily.

But that’s what humility does. It makes you small enough so that you can see the error of your ways.

It takes you out of your ego so you can get over yourself.

It gives you a chance to just shut the heck up and take stock of what’s you've created, shame-inducing and all.

When you own your own shit and when you apologize to people -- without any investment about what’s coming to you in return -- without any expectations of what’s going to happen now or how you’ll be perceived as “better” -- magic can happen.

Time and time again, I hear stories of huge turnarounds that occur between warring parties.

A heartfelt apology is made and ice melts. Handshakes are made. Smiles freely given for maybe the first time ever.

Maybe not immediately, but sometimes... eventually....

I firmly believe, though it sounds all new-agey to say, that you change the energetic field between you and the other person. You stop the tension, the pushing and pulling. The space opens up between you for something new to be created, even if there’s no way to anticipate what that might be.

It still happens.

Based on my own experiences, I recommend that the exes start with each other, in particular. It’s often the leftover angst and anger between them that can really fuel the competition between the women -- and all the offenses that come along with that.

When you own your own shit, it's true: you may not make one single thing happen as far as changing the other person’s behavior.

And you have to be willing to accept that.

But you will feel a MILLION times better about yourself and your own sense of integrity.

And you will be giving your children an AWESOME gift to emulate themselves one day.

You will have stopped leaking your self-pity and vengeance all over them, when they're just trying to be kids, doing their kid thing.

You will be showing them what's possible when the two people who brought them into this world put down their weapons and say they're sorry... and maybe cry for the chaos they've wrought.

You'll make it okay for them to love their stepmom, like they should be able to, since she likely loves them.

You'll show them what it's like when all the adults create something new and wonderful out of a weird and awkward situation.

And then truly, even though their lives may have exploded with the dissolution of their original family, you'll show them that life really can be okay -- and new bonds will form that they can lean on for the rest of their lives.

Won't you try it... and see?

 

© 2011 Jennifer Newcomb Marine   All Rights Reserved

 

Who’s that jerk driving that car?!

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Funny thing about us and driving....

When we cut someone else off in traffic because we have a lot on our mind that day -- we’re tearful, or pissed, or stressed out about a gut-wrenching problem with no end in sight -- we cut ourselves some slack.

We’re really not THAT kind of driver, we think to the other person, as they speed up and pass us, while glaring our way to make their point.

You’re entitled to be spacey, distracted. You’re dealing with a lot right now. It couldn’t be helped.

But to them, you ARE one of those kinds of drivers.

The kind that starts with the letter “A!”

And it is assumed that you drive like this wherever you go, spreading your bounty of misery far and wide.

But what REALLY just happened?

One way to look at it is...

The other driver took an event that was situational and made it all about your character.

You have no qualms about your character, because in your mind, your actions weredue to the situation.

And therein lies the rub betweens divorced moms and stepmoms.

A stepmom thinks,

I have had it up to here with an ex-wife who won’t even cooperate over the simplest of communications between our households!

Why did *I* have to get stuck with the standard, ex-wife bitch on wheels for my partner’s ex -- someone willing to drag her own children through a lot of drama, just to flaunt her power in my face?

For her part, the mom thinks,

I have had it up to here with my ex once again pawning off his job on yet another woman!

Why did *I* have to get stuck with a stereotypical, interfering stepmom -- out to prove she’s better than me at my job, assuming she has the right to manage my children’s lives, when she’s barely known them a few years?

So who’s right?

Is it situation... or character?

Both?

Can you see the assumptions about character that each woman makes in the descriptions above?

And can you empathize with the initial frustrations of each woman in her situation? Frustrations that are probably prompting some unpleasant and negative behavior towards the other woman?

Does her behavior in a difficult situation now define what kind of person she is, for all time?

Can you also see how easily we cut one side or the other slack -- depending upon whose “side” we’re on?

And yet, we assume the other person is acting with calculating and malicious intent -- if that’s how the end result feels to us.

But what if she’s really not?

What then?

Now that I’m aware of this distinction,* I can’t help but see old assumptions with new eyes... everywhere!

And that includes when I’m on the road too....

Have you ever confused character for situation?

What happened?

(Thanks to Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the book “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” for inspiring this post.)

 

© 2011 Jennifer Newcomb Marine     All Rights Reserved

Taming the cobra - Part 3

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Feeling like there’s an enemy in your midst can be really stressful. This is what a lot of stepmoms and ex-wives that are stuck with each other feel like -- there’s someone who’s closely connected to your life that has it out for you.

This “breach” in family life is really nerve-wracking and hard to ignore. Family life is (ideally) supposed to be where you can relax and retreat from the world. Where you’re free to be yourself. Where you feel accepted and connected.

Having the other woman around is like someone peeking in through your window, like a cold draft coming in from under the door, or god forbid, like a leak in the submarine. Not a good feeling!

I showed you a simple exercise that you can do to get back to feeling strong and grounded in part two of this series. If you want to center yourself while you attempt to improve your relationship with the other woman, or if you simply want more ways to bounce back from conflict between the two of you, here are a few more tricks to try:

Watching the ego: Most of us are very invested in how we come across to rest of the world. We don’t want to be seen as weak, clueless, losers. We still feel like that sometimes, but we’re always hoping no one else can see those parts. That investment is based on your ego, a false persona. It’s nothing more than a mirage, because your ego is not you!

Can you step aside, become the watcher, and observe your ego in action? If you can, it’s a lot easier to not feel threatened by someone else’s behavior, even when it’s thoughtless or unkind. You have nothing to defend, because you realize the public persona is not what counts, it’s the YOU behind it.

Being in the present moment: Think of the past, present and future on a single line in front of you. Draw a line with your hands. The present moment is exactly in the middle. Ding! How often are you there? Are you actually living most of your life jumping around, back and forth, leap-frogging over the present moment?

Now imagine that line, traveling through time and space, but with you still doing the same thing. Days pass like this. Months. Years. What do you think about that? The past is gone, it doesn’t exist anymore except in your mind. The future is yet to come, but we sure spend a lot of time anticipating it, don’t we? Especially in negative ways. Being in the moment is wonderfully freeing. So simple, it almost seems impossible that it could be so powerful and healing. And yet... there it is, available to you anytime you need it.

Testing your thoughts: There’s a little hamster living in your brain, running on one of those squeaky exercise wheels. It’s a hamster that can talk, and it’s actually rambling on all day long, deciphering events, giving you a running monologue about yourself, other people, and how the world works.

Is the hamster always telling you the truth? How much of what the hamster says is based on old baggage or actual reality? Sometimes it pays to question the hamster and verify whether what you’re believing is right on--or total baloney. It matters because we ACT on those messages. Make sure your beliefs and actions are heading you in the right direction.

Get some fresh air and your blood flowing: Ahhh, the joys of exercise! For some reason, many of us dread it and put it off, but once we do it, we can’t understand why we ever avoided it. A lot of us are already stuck feeling bad about our bodies, so it feels like exercise is “for other people” or will be for us once we reach some arbitrary weight in the future. Bullshit!

Your body was meant to MOVE, to feel alive, to stretch, to lift, to breathe deeply, to feel strong. When you get your heart pumping and the blood moving, you actually discharge negative emotions. Did you know that? There’s plenty of scientific evidence saying so. Wiggle that stuff out of you and feel better in the process.

Tune into life force/the divine: Whatever your religious beliefs happen to be, you have to admit that it’s pretty miraculous that we’re even alive at all, wouldn’t you say? That you’re unique. That so many of us have lived before us and will (hopefully) live after us too. That we co-exist with this vast and complex menagerie of plants and animals and a mind-blowing profusion of the awe-inspiring geographical features of our planet.

If you don’t believe in God, or even if you do, can you close your eyes and tune into the power of life that animates us all? You may not be as alone as you think you are during tough times. Lean on that for a bit and see how it feels.

Your thoughts?

 

© 2010 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

Related Posts:

Taming the cobra - Part 2

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"Since emotional processes can work faster than the mind, it takes a power stronger than the mind to bend perception, override emotional circuitry, and provide us with intuitive feeling instead. It takes the power of the heart."

-Doc Childre, Founder, Institute of HeartMath

I talked about the importance of increasing your self-esteem in Part 1 of this series. Here's a simple little exercise you can do whenever something--or more accurately--someone throws you off balance and you need to increase your self-confidence. Instead of relying on things improving with the other person first to make you feel better, take back the control for how you feel and give yourself the validation and support you're seeking

Ready?

It goes like this....

Find someplace quiet that you can sit for a few minutes. It doesn't have to be noise-free, but it would be helpful if you felt comfortable enough to close your eyes and breathe deeply. Barring all else, head off to the restroom.

Take three deep breaths, making sure to exhale fully between breaths. If you really push the air out with your muscles, a deep intake is easier.

Focus your attention on your heart. Imagine that you are able to breathe in and out from your heart. This often has the effect of instantly relaxing you.

Find something, someone or a situation to appreciate. Make this easy! If you love touching a beloved pet, then use that. Maybe it's a sunny day where you're outside. Perhaps it's laughing with friends. Whatever you choose, make it something guilt-free and uncomplicated.

Imagine, first, thoughts of appreciation... and then let those thoughts grow into actual feelings of appreciation. Think of all the ways you're grateful to this thing, person or situation and let your feelings of gratitude and appreciation increase, let them snowball, let them build in intensity. Let the feelings of appreciation fill you up completely with lightness and joy. Just keep breathing in and strengthening the feeling.

When you feel nice and full of appreciation, direct your attention to appreciating yourself. Appreciate yourself for who you are, for simply being alive. There's nothing to prove, nothing to do, nothing to fix. Simply be... and appreciate yourself!

This exercise can take a little getting used to at first. You may find pockets of inner resistance here and there, or just generally feel awkward and weird, even sheepish. But if you stick with it, you'll find a wonderfully healing inner warmth and deliciousness that's available whenever you need it.

Spend a few minutes luxuriating in the feeling of loving yourself, of accepting and appreciating yourself. For some people, this experience feels like some kind of miracle. It's like the feeling you get when you're in love, or when your children or family members look at you adoringly, and yet nothing has had to happen for you to feel this way. You're doing all this yourself, by focusing your attention deliberately.

If you like, you can ask your higher self for guidance on how to handle any challenges you are currently facing and see if wisdom or suggestions come to you. This may not come as a booming, clear voice -- it could be a phrase, or a few words. Or... thoughts or ideas may come to you later on during the day.

When you're ready, bring your attention back to the current moment and the physical space you are in.

Use as needed!

You can even touch base with your heart in a general way throughout the day as an emotional touchstone and get a little boost of calm.

More centering techniques coming on Wednesday in Part 3 of Taming the cobra. Part 1 is here.

If you'd like to read more about heart-oriented meditations, check out "The HeartMath Solution: The Institute of HeartMath's Revolutionary Program for Engaging the Power of the Heart's Intelligence."

 

© 2010 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

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Oprah to announce National Stepmother’s Day!

Photo credit: Harpo Studios

Photo credit: Harpo Studios

I just got a call from an Oprah producer at Harpo Studios, Heather M.! I had spoken to her right before our book came out last year, so it took me a moment to place her name on caller ID. But once I did, OH MY GOD, you could have knocked me off my chair with a pinky finger—or perhaps handed me an adult diaper, because I was going to need it!

As everyone knows, getting on the Oprah show is like the Holy Grail for authors, plus, this is her last season. I felt like I was either sleepwalking, hyperventilating, or both. This just couldn’t be happening!

But no....

It was.

So I tried to gather my wits about me and not sound like a babbling idiot on the phone. Deep breaths helped. A lot.

Not only does Heather M. want us on the show, which is totally amazing and awesome and mind-blowing in and of itself—but even better—Carol and I get to play a small part in a big announcement for a cause that’s near and dear to our hearts: improving mom and stepmom relationships while creating happier dual-families.

Here’s the deal.

Oprah’s staff is working on a show tied to Mother’s Day (happens here in the U.S. on May 9th) where they will be announcing the official proclamation of Stepmother’s Day!

What’s so cool about this is that I, as a mom, get to publicly acknowledge the important and vital role that stepmoms play in our kids’ lives—something I think other moms need to see, hear, and be thinking about.

I remember when Carol and I couldn’t stand each other, more than ten years ago. She was 21, both my ex and I were 35. I just thought the whole idea of them dating seemed insane and ridiculous (and a few other choice words as well which cannot be repeated here!).

The very thought of her interacting with MY kids on a regular basis (with either love or authority), made my hackles rise and my stomach hurt. Before Carol and I starting getting along about 8 years ago, I would have been hard-pressed to send any good wishes to her as a stepmom—much less any stepmom. Like many moms out there, I just wanted her out of my hair—and my kids’ lives.

What changed?

So I was a bit slow on the uptake, but I began to realize that it’s not wise to cultivate someone who will be spending tons of time with your children as an enemy. I mean, really, even on a practical level, it’s clearly a pretty dumb thing to do. What if she took out her frustrations and tensions about ME, and our relationship, ON THEM?

Bad, bad news.

Bad parenting.

And what were we showing the kids about how you resolve conflict as adults? Weren’t we all the ones acting like children back then?

It drives me crazy. I so want moms (not "bio-moms," remember: our kids weren’t adopted) to really GET how important it is to give their kids permission to not only like, but love their stepmomtoo. It sucks to put your kids in the position of having to take your side, while creating all this inner turmoil for them.

Okay... I’m sorry.

Today is April Fools Day here in the U.S. and my post is totally fake. Made-up.

There was no Oprah call (although I did actually speak to Heather M. from Harpo Studios a few times before our book came out last year).

There is no official Oprah announcement about National Stepmother’s Day.

I did a search and found conflicting information. Stepmother’s Day already exists, but it’s alternately listed as May 1st (which seems like it would piss some moms off, coming before their day). Or else it falls on the Sunday after Mother’s Day, which would make it May 16th of this year.

So which one is it? Does anyone know?

I think the fact that there isn’t a clear date only highlights the fact that stepmoms are getting a bum rap, without a clear-cut holiday. A day for their husbands to acknowledge their efforts in keeping the family humming along, to get a card from their stepkids, or to gamely eat burnt toast and raw eggs in bed. Or, you know... maybe just get the hell out of the house and go get a massage, just to be away from the little buggers, like moms sometimes do.

Isn’t it time for a definite Stepmother’s Day?

And shouldn’t we all know when that is?

After all, the majority of the kids are being raised by two women. It’s about time we all knew who they were and acknowledged their contributions. I mean—look—in elementary school, most of the kids still come from nuclear families. As you get to junior high, those numbers drop. And by the time your kids are in high school, it’s pretty rare to find kids who still live with both their parents. That seems insane, but there it is.

If you’re a mom and you find yourself annoyed by the idea of a day to recognize the stepmom in your kids’ lives, you might want to think about the fact that you wouldn’t dare leave your kids with a babysitter who seemed to be giving you the evil eye before you walked out the door (sorry, stepmoms), so why are you fine with just leaving things as shitty as they are between the two of you?

If you’re a stepmom and your hopes were dashed by this post, I do apologize. I hope that someday everyone will know when Stepmother’s Day is and the day will you a feeling of validation and support.

Who knows, maybe there’s still time for an Oprah announcement!

 

© 2010 Jennifer Newcomb Marine     All Rights Reserved

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We did it!

  Wow! Yesterday was a whirlwind! We were flooded with emails, tons of hits, and the book soared to Number 2 on Amazon's Bestseller list in two categories: Divorce and Stepparenting!! It's still bouncing around from No. 1 to No. 9 in their Hot New Releases categories too. Very exciting!

This book has been five years in the making and the project almost fell apart twice, but it looks like our persistence paid off....

Thanks, everyone!

It's been a fun ride, and later on today Carol and I are being interviewed by The Washington Post. We thought it was going to happen yesterday and then it was postponed 'til today. I called Carol right before yesterday's time and we were both a bundle of nerves. Perhaps today we'll go ahead and each invest in our own personal package of Depends® so we'll be totally ready....

And poor Carol! She's right in the middle of teaching a 5-day painting workshop to 19 students at the Sedona Arts Center in New Mexico and was having to switch hats on pretty short notice, while her students waited for her. (She calls her students her "kids," which is hilarious, since almost all of them are older than her and she looks like she's 12....) Luckily today, she'll be done with class and we can just relax and have fun on the phone (hopefully!).

Here's hoping our book helps to ease conflict between families -- and create some new connections between moms and stepmoms!

© 2009 Jennifer Newcomb Marine All Rights Reserved

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"No One's the Bitch" book official launch day!

No_Ones_the_B_CoverLike a little gremlin that escaped from the attic, our book is officially out there in the world! If you'd like to help us obsess over our Amazon status on this holiest of launch days and reach Bestseller status (however briefly!), you can buy the book at Amazon. Just some of what you’ll find inside No One’s the Bitch: A Ten-Step Plan for Mothers and Stepmothers.... Help for understanding and working through the conflict:

  • What’s one of the biggest hurdles to getting along? (It’s not what you think!)
  • What should you do if the mom or stepmom isn’t willing to improve your relationship or is actively undermining you?
  • Why does this kind of “other woman” cause more problems than the kind normally associated with adultery?
  • Who ultimately pays the price for all the stress between households?
  • Are there any negative emotions that affect only one side?
  • What might you be afraid of losing if the two of you actually start to get along?

Changes you can look forward to making—with help!

  • What simple steps can each woman take to diffuse resentment and competitiveness from the other side?
  • Why should you sometimes work around the ex-husband/husband in trying to create a sense of partnership?
  • What’s something easy you can do today to set positive changes in motion?
  • How did we go from barely being able to speak to each other, to becoming close friends. How long did it take? What exactly did we do to get here?

Positive effects you’ll see in your life

  • Why will the children be opposed to some of the surprising benefits of creating a new, extended family?
  • Why is creating a partnership between the two women like living in a small village?
  • What opportunities are lost if you simply try to avoid each other and accept the adversarial status quo?
  • How will you change your child or stepchild’s life if you learn how to work together with the other woman?

If you do happen to buy the book on Amazon, we'd be ever so grateful if you'd be kind enough to leave a comment. (Or come back later and write one! Comments are hugely important in terms of the "sticky" formula Amazon uses to refer customers to related books....)

And again, thanks for all the emails of love and support!

© 2009 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

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No One's the Bitch: A Ten-Step Plan for Mothers and Stepmothers is a revolutionary, new approach to diffusing the traditional animosity between moms and stepmoms -- and creating a brand, new version of an extended family that's healthier and happier.

If you're ready to move forward and are curious about how to start resolving some of these issues, then our book is for YOU!

We'll walk you through:

  • understanding the confusing landscape most mothers and stepmothers find themselves in
  • unearthing your own role in perpetuating the conflict (even though you might insist you don't have one!)
  • creating a positive vision of what-could-be that will inspire and motivate you and give you something to lean on during the hard times
  • which actions to take to move your mom/stepmom relationship from conflict to potential cooperation (even friendship!)
  • fine-tuning your efforts, including chapters on accountability (both ways!), collaboration, and communication
  • techniques for regrouping when problems blow up in your face
  • how to bond over a shared focus on helping the kids be the best selves they can be
  • celebrating your accomplishments and the creation of a new-fangled, extended family that works for ALL!

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Our book is #1 on Amazon's Hot New Releases!

Woohoo! Our book is #1 in TWO different categories on Amazon: divorce and stepparenting!

This is so exciting we can barely stand it! The status is updated hourly, but it's been up there awhile now....

 

A special shout-out to all of Carol's readers who helped propel the book to the top of the charts (that's her with baby Jacob above). Over 700 of you came from her site alone today, based on her request to help us find someone for The Washington Post interview. That's love and devotion for you, but her art is totally worth it!

Our good friend Izzy Rose is up there in the Top Five too, with her book The Whole Package: My (not-so) Glamorous Transition from Single Gal to Instant Mom!

Thanks for your support!

© 2009 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

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