Five Surprising Things This Divorced Mom Learned After Becoming a Stepmom

So after 7 years of writing about divorced moms and stepmoms, I thought I understood how and why so many stepmoms were having such a hard time.

The kids weren't hers. The ex-wife didn't want her around. Perhaps her partner was unwittingly just plugging her into a role and hoping she could roll with it - when, in fact, she couldn't.

But what I discovered is that this stepfamily business IS strange.

It's strange in that, if you're already a divorced mom, then you totally get the role. You're used to - automatically and without conscious thought - scoping out who's doing what, who needs what and how to either give it to them, do it for them, or ask that they do it for themselves or someone else.

But jumping into the Mom role with someone you didn't make children with and kids you didn't make is a different animal altogether. It's not that it's inherently bad, because it's not. There are a million things I love about this experience, including a fantastic partner, some amazing kids and a wonderful life that we're creating together.

But I also don't have the benefit of unconditional love on my side, smoothing over the edges of difficult experiences or a different family culture, with its own unspoken rules and habits.

And I don't have the benefit of my mother's power and voice, which might simply look like, "Hey! I've asked you three times to put your damn dishes in the dishwasher. Do it NOW or risk seeing me run over your cell phone with my car!" like I would with my own kids.

Parenting without those two tools in my arsenal can be frustrating and disorienting.

It's harder than it looks.

I've heard it said a million times now, "Where is the manual on how to do this stepmom gig?" If you're looking for some clearcut guidelines, luckily, they're super clear, consistent and splattered all over the internet:

Just be yourself. / Be a more muted version of yourself and you'll be fine.

Make sure to set clear, consistent boundaries. / Step back, so you don't step on toes.

It's your house too, so don't be afraid to be a hard-ass. / Be gentle or you will hurt others, they'll withdraw and your stepfamily and relationship will implode from the inside out.

Make your relationship a priority. / This family existed before you did, so it's up to you to figure out how to fit in.

With a cacophony of voices all trumpeting their own version of YES! or NO!at you, it's up to you to pick and choose which approach to try. But how, when one well-written article seems to cancel out the next?

It's easier than it looks.

I must have won some kind of lottery that I don't know about because not only is my ex-husband's wife a dear friend, but my partner's ex is really nice too. Not only does she seem like a nice person, but thank the gods, she is also really nice to me. My partner's kids are funny, smart, warm and likable and I hope I'm not being presumptuous in saying, it seems to me that we all took to each other pretty easily.

How did I get so lucky, when so many other folks seem to be trapped in a living hell with the stepkids or the ex-wife?

I have no idea.

But I am very thankful and I don't forget it for one minute. Or at least, not too many.

The twinges are a challenge.

Sometimes, hearing old family stories gives me a funny feeling in my stomach. Sometimes, I wish I could have had kids with my partner (those years are behind us now). Sometimes, I don't like the feeling of ghosts from another lifetime - albeit an important one that shaped my partner, and obviously his kids, into the cool people they are now - hovering around the edges of my life.

When you're married in a nuclear family, the circle is around all of you - and that's it. Everyone else is outside of it. No gaps. No blurriness. No ifs or maybes.

But when that circle breaks up, you can't entirely make a solid, new one in a stepfamily. The gaps are always present and open, because they must be. That is something I both accept out of respect and feel tender and regretful about.

This is like having my own personalized Zen retreat. 

If I were to pay good money to go off to a two-week silent retreat, where I had to learn how to master my tongue, my ego, my habits and my well-developed ideas on "how things should be done and why," well then, I might just come home feeling stoked, renewed and revitalized.

Living that experience on a daily basis?

Hey, wait! Isn't my "retreat" over yet? When do I get to go back to my old life, so I can digest all these mind-blowing new insights and then gradually slide back into my "normal" life and do things the way I've always done them?

No such luck. Now the lessons come fast and furious.

Some days, I feel like I've gotten not only one pie in the face, but two or three. Those times are fairly few and far between, but when an evening ends in tears, you remember it.

I have a newfound respect for stepmoms now and their myriad expressions of heartache, hurt, resentment, anger and confusion. I will continue to do my best and to learn what I can about how to be present with love, forgiveness and understanding. (And to keep writing about what I learn.)

Yes, this shit can be hard.

But when you feel it working, you know you're doing something you can be proud of.

 © 2013 Jennifer Newcomb Marine

Both Sides Lose: Brandi Glanville and LeAnn Rimes Cibrian

If there's one thing I wish I could tell LeAnn Rimes Cibrian and Brandi Glanville, it would be: keep it to yourselves.

Or rather, keep it between yourselves and out of the spotlight. "It" being their very public disagreement currently playing itself out on Twitter and as of today, in a gossip magazine.

The tiff initially centered around LeAnn referring to her stepsons and husband as "her boys" and Brandi's response about how they're "hers" and only Leann's "for now," but also includes an interview that Glanville gave to US Weekly today, voicing her concerns over LeAnn's suitability as a stepmom.

Just like lesser-known mortals, each side is succumbing to their ego's need to make their position known and to receive validation that they are, in fact, the more aggrieved party.

Except, unlike us, their words are spread far and wide because they're celebrities, making the conflict seem more dramatic and even more intractable.

Each side has their Twitter supporters, bent on lobbing digital rocks over the castle walls in a show of solidarity. Divorced moms (especially those who have also experienced the sting of infidelity) have united behind Brandi -- and stepmoms (especially those who feel undervalued in their role) have rallied behind LeAnn.

While I'm sure that both sides are very busy, scoping out the current status of the other player's "moves," the bottom line is, this sucks for the kids.

It sucks because the children still have years and years left at home, with two households that are stuck with each other, on their worst behavior.

It sucks because even if they were to ask their parents and stepmom to can it, there's a good chance it won't happen.

It sucks because this conflict is now forever frozen for posterity, online.

It sucks because this concerns their private lives, now available for public dissection and analysis, without their permission (not that they're old enough to give it).

It sucks because all of this venting online lends itself to even more misunderstandings, mistakes, volatility and extreme reactions, none of which helps steer the conflict in the direction of progress or peace.

Who's taking the long view here?

Does either side have a no-bullshit, tell-it-like-it-is friend who's reminding them that this is an argument that neither side can ever win?

That duking it out in public only takes both sides down as the finger-pointing becomes more and more desperate?

That while they may each be having some feel-good moments as friends, family and anonymous, venomous, online strangers cheer them on, they're ultimately modeling some truly awful conflict management skills for the children to emulate when they grow up?

Because honestly, that's the question to be asking here.

It's not, "Who's right? Who's wrong? Who deserves to go down in flames?"

It's "Do I want my child playing out this exact. same. dynamic as an adult? Do I want them easily taking offense where perhaps none was maliciously intended? Acting from a sense of vengeance? Using a chorus of supporters to try and strong-arm and shame the other side into submission? Do I want my child to grow up and become consumed by a web of drama and chaos?"

Or do you want more for them in life than that?

Life in divorce-connected families is hard enough for BOTH sides.

You have instinctive relationships between parent and child clashing with primary, romantic relationships between the adults, no longer aligned in a shared sense of familial purpose. It's all too easy to feel as if there must be winners and losers.

But both women, like it or not, are bound to each other for years (hopefully, since no one ever wishes an additional divorce upon the children).

And just like us, the more they take their issues to the streets, the harder it becomes to resolve their problems.

The more sheepish they would feel saying, "Oops, sorry, I misunderstood. I was overly harsh. I was afraid and felt insecure. My inner tiger took over. I'm sorry I was such a bitch."

The more invested they are in publicly "winning," in proving themselves to be the superior party. The more stunted they stay in their understanding of the other side as simply... human. Fuck-ups and all.

Stepmoms and divorced moms are both afraid of being hurt. They're each trying to find their footing, at times more fragile and vulnerable than they'd care to admit.

Each side wants to feel a sense of competence. A sense of belonging. As if the bonds of love in their families either remain intact or are actively growing.

But it has to happen in the context of mutual respect, humility and stretching to be your best, yes -- even when you have legitimate grievances.

Because the truth is, you'll always have them.

Shoot for that higher vision, Ladies, and you will both be doing right by YOUR kids.

© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine

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

Thanksgiving Day Tango Tips, Part 1


Each day this week, I'm going to dole out a short tip on how to deal with Thanksgiving for dual-families (where you're "stuck" with the stepfamily or the divorced family). So here's the first one....


No, really. It isn't. I know most things are, but this actually isn't.

If you're having a tough time with some of the strategic arrangements, such as Sarah spending Thanksgiving with her mom and you only getting her part of the day (or not at all) -- or having to "trade" Christmas so that Noah can go with you to your parent's house and meet them for the first time, well, that doesn't have to mean one thing about YOU.

Where the kids do or do not go, how the day actually turns out doesn't mean anything about your self-worth.

Or your relationship.

Or whether it's doomed or will survive. Or is better than the other household's.

Or whether the kids love you more or less than the other parent or the mom or the grandparents or any other adult.

It says nothing about the kind of experience you will have.

Or how Christmas will go.

Or the next year.

It's just a day, neutral and plain, factual and simple.

Nuclear families also go through contortions trying to please everyone on Thanksgiving, like which in-laws to visit. Who's cooking. Who doesn't help clean out. Surly children. Communication issues between the spouses.

You're not alone in your angst!

So lighten up and don't take the day and all its arrangements so personally.

You're the one assigning things so much meaning.

So don't.

And see how much better you feel in the process.

(Part 2 and Part 3 are here.)


© 2010 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

Happy Mother's Day!


To ANYONE who takes care of our children, whether you made them or not, I salute you! Thank for all you do for these little beings (and sometimes medium and big ones) who can be moody, uncooperative, whiny, over-sensitive and angry--but also wonderfully innocent, vulnerable, warm, playful, all-accepting, and sweetly kind.

Our children need ALL of us!

They need as many adults to love them as possible and one of the most generous things we can ever do for THEM is to make room in their lives for others as well.

I hope it's a day of recognition for you, whether stepmother or mother, but if not, please make sure to acknowledge yourself. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back, feel appreciation for yourself, and soak up some loving kindness beamed inwards!

Parenting is a tough job, no matter who's doing it. But our consistent and selfless efforts make all the difference in the world to the children that evoke our tender hearts....

Much love to all....


© 2010 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

Who's in YOUR extended family?

Who’s in your extended family? How often do you see them? Who can you call when you’re in a pinch? Most families are spread far and wide these days, so when you need a parent, sibling, grandmother or grandfather to step in, you’re out of luck. But sometimes, the two linked households after a divorce and remarriage fill that function and it can be such a relief.

On Sunday night, I got a very calm call from my ex-husband David from the emergency room. He had cut his hand with a chainsaw (the very phrase makes me feel queasy) pretty badly, but was doing alright after two shots of morphine. I could hear Carol and Jacob (their four year-old) in the background. Since they live about an hour away from Austin, they needed to know if it was okay for Carol and Jacob to come over and hang out while they stitched up David’s hand (nerves, tendons and muscles had been severed).

Of course it was -- they’ve killed time here before while in town. I told David I was willing to do whatever they needed, whether that was watch Jacob, have him spend the night, make dinner, whatever....

Carol and Jacob  opted instead to wait at the hospital, since they didn't know how long it was going to take. I got a report before they left for home and was happy to hear that David had the most positive prognosis possible (trying saying that really fast three times), given that type of injury: no loss of mobility -- only permanent numbness from half his pinky finger on up and perhaps the inability to stick his pinky finger out sideways.

“How’re you going to properly drink tea from now on?” I teased him.

Now imagine what this whole situation might have been like if we hadn’t all gotten along. No easy place for Jacob to stay and go to sleep, if need be. The stress of a strained phone call, where I'd be asked to pass along information to our daughters  -- or even the lack of a phone call altogether.

As it was, I was one of the first people they called because our little dual-family dynamic means that we operate as each other’s extended families.

I’m incredibly grateful for this....

In other blog-related news, there's an interesting discussion about the relationship with the ex-wife going on over at a cool new find, Stepmum of the Year. Check it out!

(Sorry for the picture-less posts - haven't been able to upload an image to Wordpress for the last three weeks! Any advice appreciated.)

© 2010 Jennifer Newcomb Marine         All Rights Reserved

What your stepchild's mom wants you to know about her life

open_door Mutual understanding is one of the most important ingredients in the ex-wife/wife coalition mix. This post is in response to a guest post from the stepmom’s perspective by author Wednesday Martin.

Let the dialogue begin!

It’s not easy to feel judged and misunderstood

It’s not easy for me to be constantly seen at “the enemy” either. You and your husband may have bonded over a vivid dissection of my flaws and shortcomings, which feels scary and threatening. Part of your relationship fantasy about how you two so right for each other could have included a lot of evidence about he and I were so wrong for each other. This may very well be the case, but please consider how uniquely exposed and vulnerable and yes, even defensive this would make anyone feel.

And give some thought to the overall quality of the energy you’re bringing to our relationship. If I continue to sense like you’re gloating over my tiniest mistakes or keeping score on a You Wouldn’t Believe What She Did This Time roster, I’m not going to be very inclined to cut you any slack either! If you’re rude and competitive and snarky with me, how am I supposed to imagine you being patient and kind to my children?

My kids aren’t perfect

If you have your own child with my ex, you know how hard it is to raise kids. Everyone’s a parenting critic, until they have one! I may love my children with all my heart, but does that mean I’m automatically perfectly consistent as a parent? A model disciplinarian? Forever loving, patient and attentive? No, of course not.

The truth is, I often feel helpless, embarrassed, confused, and ashamed of the things I can’t handle or improve as a mother. Sometimes I’m just as overwhelmed and clueless about my child’s behavior as you are. The strong-willed toddler, the pre-teen mood swings, the ill-conceived forays into teenage independence, they throw me for a loop too. It seems like just when I get a handle on one of my child’s more difficult “phases,” they move into a new one, rattling my parental confidence. When you criticize my children, you incite my protectiveness, but my unconditional love gets tested too! Giving birth to a child doesn’t mean you are always in control of that child’s behavior, personality, or the trajectory of their life.

Also, some of the existing behavior or discipline problems you’re now seeing in my children are a reflection of the things in my marriage that didn’t work between your husband and I. And as you might have experienced yourself as his co-parent, my ex-partner and I were often at odds when it came to reinforcing rules and consequences. This likely contributed to the demise of our marriage, so don’t lay the blame for parenting mistakes squarely on my shoulders. Please distribute it fairly.

I’m not expecting everything between us to be all hunky-dory

I’m not looking to be your best friend, but I would like to feel like we’re on the same page as hands-on caretakers of these children. I would like to know that the priority between both households is raising these children well together, instead of proving the other side wrong. I would like to be able to call you to follow-up on a child’s cold, late (or missing) homework, or suspicions that one of them is falling in with the wrong crowd before it becomes a major problem.

The thing that keeps me from going there, in part, is the feeling that you and my ex are talking poorly about me. This makes it hard to trust you, or confide in you about things I may not be handling well because it doesn’t feel safe. If I knew you weren’t going to be so quick to judge me, it’d be a lot easier to problem-solve together. I know this goes both ways.

I’m scared of my kids loving you. There, I said it.

I have to admit, this strikes fear in my heart: I’m scared of my kids liking you, because if they like you, that could lead to them loving you. One the one hand, I want them to love you. But I also don't. It's not necessarily rational.... Plus, it’s hard to feel like the areas where you’re shining as a stepmom also happen to shed light on areas where I fall short as a parent. So is there a part of me that’s happy they don’t like you? Have I subtly or directly encouraged this? Yes, and I know it’s wrong and selfish and ultimately not in their best interests. But I don’t know you. And I don’t know what your intentions are with my children. Would you be willing to tell me?

It’s also hard to feel like a bomb blew up in your family. It’s difficult to see your kids forever schlepping their stuff between two homes. It’s tough to have them go away and not know what’s going on in their lives. I don’t have a crystal ball to see into your household and I worry about them. That’s what moms do! Sure, I want as many people as possible loving my children, but it’s also scary on some level to have it happen out of “viewing range.” And what if love for you mean less of an attachment to me? If you have your own children with my ex, you may think you understand what this primitive fear is like, but if you’ve never shared your children like this with another woman, I can assure you, you don’t.

I’m not my children’s “bio-mom,” I’m their mom. Period.

My children were not created in a test tube! Nor were they adopted (where this term originated). I gave birth to them, much as you don’t want to think about this. Yes, your husband - my ex - and I once went through our own little bubble of history that included joy, wonder, excitement and all the rest of it when our children were born. (Perhaps you two have experienced this yourselves.) Why do you feel the need to belittle my role by changing my name? Are you trying to diminish my sense of power or authority?

The things you’re doing out of a sense of competitiveness to prove that you’re the better mom to my kids (“I’ll show them what consistency and higher standards should look like!”) really only serve to objectify your stepchildren, if you think about it. And that can’t be good for them either, just like the blind parenting mistakes I’m making.

Perhaps part of your behavior is fueled by the pressure to solidify your marriage and validate your husband’s belief that he did indeed choose the right woman by being with you. But keep in mind, demonizing me lets him off the hook when it comes to him dealing with the deep-seated patterns that led to the demise of his first marriage. You should have a vested interest in seeing those issues resolved, because they may affect your marriage someday too.

I probably still have baggage with my ex

Yes, yes, it’s been however many years, but no matter who initiated the divorce, in some ways emotionally skirting too close to the divorce still causes me great pain and sadness. My family is forever in two pieces now, there’s no going back. This is reality for my children. When they came into this world, I never imagined this was how their lives would be.... I’m sure it’s the same for you, if you have children.

Parenting is even harder now that I’m divorced. I don’t have access to a ready ear from the only other person in the world who knows and loves these children (hopefully) just as much as I do -- their dad. Now I’m in the dark, trying to do this all on my own. Even if I have a partner, he’s not their father. His patience is tried too. I can tell when he’s trying to bite his own tongue about aspects of their behavior that he doesn’t like. It feels lonely and sad and sometimes I fear for my children’s future because of it.

The only way out of this mess is to move through the pain, assign accountability fairly on both sides and forgive. But I’m reluctant to fully grieve the loss of my little original family unit because to do so feels like jumping off a cliff into the mouth of an active volcano. I’m afraid to go there, it seems overwhelming and scary. I don’t know how. So it’s easier for me to just resent my ex and blame him and unfortunately, that means you get thrown into the mix too. I do weird passive-aggressive things with both of you, I get angry. I inappropriately stick my kids in the middle and then I secretly regret my bad behavior. You might not believe me, but I know it’s wrong and I know I need to change. I’m just not sure where to start!

I promise to play nice if you do.

We both need to try harder here. If we simply give in to the temptation to see each other in the worst possible light, things could easily continue on like this for years. And in the meantime, the children are growing older and experiences where OUR conflicts take precedence are piling up, instead of the normal developmental milestones THEY'RE supposed to be having. Our focus should be on them, not our drama. Let’s work on minimizing our conflicts and model healthy emotional management skills for the kids to use later on in their own families.

Can we at least shake hands on trying to do better?

© 2009 Jennifer Newcomb Marine   All Rights Reserved

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Guest Post by Wednesday Martin: What your child's stepmother wants you to know about her life…

ivy_doorways Please note: If you tried to leave a comment earlier and couldn't, please try again, as comments should be working now. Host issues - we're working on it.... Thanks!

(Like it or not, the two women in your child’s or stepchild’s life are typically the hands-on parents. Gender roles die hard! With both sides vying for control over the same position, there are bound to be problems and misunderstandings galore. And with power struggles come one-dimensional thinking, an abundance of perceived slights and the temptation to demonize the other side.

In the service of  better understanding each other and putting yourself in the shoes of the “other woman”, here’s Stepmonster author Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., with a raw and heartfelt guest post.

I’ll post my response, “What your stepchild’s mom wants you to know about her life” on Friday.)

Mutual understanding is one of the most important ingredients in the ex-wife/wife coalition mix. In that spirit, here are some of the things that the women with stepchildren I interviewed for my book Stepmonster told me they'd like their husband's or partner's exes to know.

Let the dialogue begin!

It’s not easy to feel judged and misunderstood

You likely feel, especially if you’re unpartnered, that the deck is stacked against you, that it’s me and your ex against you. From my perspective, I’m perceived as a wicked stepmother and a homewrecker even when I’m not, no matter how hard I try and how nice I am. Being the fall guy when I’m trying so hard takes a toll on me. And while you might feel shut out, I wrestle with the knowledge that I’m not and never will be “first.” We’re both struggling, you and I.

Your child isn’t perfect

Do you find yourself thinking of me as a rigid control freak? Too harsh or strict toward your kids? If that’s the case, ask yourself what role you and your ex may play here by being permissive, indulgent parents post-divorce. I might have to tow the line in my home because you two are afraid to, or can’t be bothered, or feel too guilty to parent effectively, since you “put the kids through a divorce.”

Have you told your kids it’s okay to like me, let them know it’s imperative to at least be civil and polite to me? Or do you secretly like that they don’t like their stepmom, that they’re disrespectful and rude, even hostile, toward me? Does that arrangement make you feel better, more secure?

What am I up against here that’s any harder than what you’re up against? you’re wondering. For starters, kids of any age resent getting a stepmom way more than they resent getting a stepdad. For a long time, too. And while plenty of kids of divorce do just fine, they are twice as likely to have serious emotional and social problems as kids from intact homes. Remember that when it comes to adolescence, I don’t have the foundation you and your husband do to tolerate all the drama, sullenness, and more. At some point, if your kids are rude to me and I am rebuffed enough, I may withdraw to preserve my dignity. Think about that next time you’re about to tell a friend that I’m “cold” to your kids.

I don’t want to be friends with you, do holidays together, or vacation together

And I’m a little tired of all the pressure I’m feeling from people who haven’t a clue that I “should” want to do, and be doing, just that. We can have a parenting coalition that works. I welcome that, and I welcome civility and friendliness. But if I’m like most women with stepkids, it just doesn’t feel appropriate to me to be close to you. My loyalty is to my husband. I want to get stepmothering right for his sake. Beyond that, I don’t want to feel pressured to be pals with you. I already have pals. So please don’t take offense that I’d like us to be friendly enough, but not necessarily friends.

I don’t love your kids just like my own, just like they don’t love me like they love you!

There’s way too much pressure on women with stepkids to “draw no distinctions” between their own kids and their stepkids. And it flies in the face not only of research findings about what stepfamily “success” actually is, but common sense as well. I might really like your kids, love them even and come to feel extremely close to them one day. But I might not.  Can you blame me, given all the stepmother hatred out there, and given the very real fact of kids resenting getting a stepmother? There’s a whole range of “normal” here, a whole spectrum of stepmother involvement. They have you and their dad. So please, don’t expect me to “love them just as if they’re my own” while also expecting me to follow the sacred directive, “Don’t ever try to replace their mom.” Especially if I have my own kids, as likeable and great as your kids are, they’re not mine, I’m not theirs, and it’s okay for me to just be a supportive ally.

I’m not your husband’s “new wife.” I’m his wife. You’re his ex-wife.

It’s that simple. When you ask him to do chores, come over for dinner or do holidays at your place “for the kids’ sake,” you’re being disrespectful of our partnership. Yes, you are. Please respect my marriage and have healthy boundaries. This includes not putting your ex in-laws in a loyalty bind or using the kids as leverage (“You won’t see your grandkids if you spend time over there with your son and his new wife”).

I promise to play nice if you do.

Most women with stepkids really want to get it right, and try very hard in the face of significant challenges. Getting along would be the best outcome for everyone. I know that, and so do you.

It’s a start....

What Jennifer and Carol have managed to do is impressive. And if you're reading the No One's the Bitch site, it's because you wonder if you and your partner's ex, or you and your ex-partner's partner, can do the same. If all the adults are committed to getting along, the rewards can be tremendous--easier lives, happier kids, and less stress for all.

(Thanks, Wednesday!)

What about what happens AFTER the divorce?


Picture a hay wagon, careening along a bumpy road, strewing bits of straw in its wake. On one side of the truck, you have a stepfamily — the father and stepmother tersely yelling at each other to hang on tight and make sure Little Timmy doesn’t go flying off into a ditch.

Starboard, you’ve got a single mom and her younger son, also hanging on for dear life; tense, tired and hoarse from raising their voices over the engine.

Behind them is an old-school reporter; running, coughing from the dust, aware of the pen coming untucked from behind his ear. And since this is the 21st century, he’s also got his mp3 recorder tucked into a messenger bag slung over his shoulder, along with a laptop that, damn, sure could stand to be lighter.

Like I said, he’s running.

But he’s not running fast.

His brain is used to instantly calculating a loose cost/benefit equation involving deadlines, pay, and expendable energy, which often saps his motivation. He’s not too eager to get close to the squabbling, drama-filled mess that is the two “families” on the squeaky truck — and he needs to pace himself anyway, if he’s going to be stuck covering them over the long haul.

Sadly, if the reporter could just muster the oomph for a temporary sprint, he’d actually find one, two, or even three adults eager to extend a hand and help pull him up onto the hay wagon for a little TALK.

There, he could catch his breath, take a rest, and lo and behold... find out what the hell is going on with these people — because these people represent the average American family — and he represents the mainstream media.

The mainstream media is totally clueless about American families today.

Make that Western families in general.

Can you say 15 years behind? I know I can.

Check it out:

  • Only 20% of American families today are nuclear families. Twenty percent.
  • Up to 1300 stepfamilies form EVERY DAY in the U.S.
  • 75% of remarriages involving children end in divorce. Three out of four.
  • 46 out of every 100 marriages today is a remarriage for one or both partners.
  • Old forecasts said by 2012, there would officially be more stepfamilies than any other kind of family. But since the Census Bureau doesn’t count a stepfamily if it’s not the primary residence for the child, we don't know if we officially hit that target. They also don’t count unmarried stepfamilies — so you do the math and tell me whether we need to wait for that elusive tipping point.

We are at a crisis point in American families.

We are in dire need of catching up to the family development timeline, to where we actually ARE on the spectrum.

Sure, we’ve all got the divorce meme down. Fifty percent divorce rate (actually, it's changed to 40%) - blah, blah, blah.

We all know about the hassles and heartache of nasty custody battles, child support and visitation issues, vindictive exes, the damage done to kids, etc.

But what about what comes AFTER the divorce?

What haven't we caught up to is the fact that the majority of us are living the next step -- which is a sea of stepfamilies and single-parent families. You're either in a stepfamily, or you're dealing with one, because your children are part of a stepfamily.

Why aren't we talking about THAT?

Who’s weaving the big picture together and spitting it back out for us so that we all GET IT and know what to do about it?

Take a look online and you have these isolated groups of voices, these vortexes of struggle and yet communal generosity, with folks doing their best to solve some pretty overwhelming problems. There are the divorced dads. The first wives clubs. The stepmoms.

And, oh yeah — the kids. Forgot about them... Sadly, I don't know of any resources for them. Sorry kids!

Why isn't the media saying,

Whoa, everything is changed now. We’ve got a totally different family paradigm.

A new paradigm means that a completely new perspective is required, with a collective understanding of the now common, average problems and challenges for most families — and some ideas for how to succeed and still create love, support, and a solid foundation of emotional health.

For example....

Stepmothers If stepfamilies are now the predominant family unit, why are there no stepmom magazines out there?

This is insane!

We have scores of major magazines for working women, working mothers, glamorous women, athletic women, feminist women, stay-at-home moms, single women, teens.

Where are all the magazines for the stepmoms?

StepMom Magazine is excellent and yet can only be found online, which is a total insult. Why isn’t Hearst, Time-Warner or Conde Nast scooping them up?  Even if they don't quite get it, if nothing else, it's an incredible great financial opportunity!

Where are all the articles helping the stepmoms deal with the moms? With an extra-tricky marriage? Where’s the parenting help? (Positive Parenting Solutions is a recent find and is a highly recommended, clear overview of the basics, perfect for all the adults.)

There's still an amazing amount of stigma attached to being a stepmom. There’s too much disrespect, too many legal ambiguities, too much confusion about their role.

Moms And moms need more support to understand why they feel and behave the way they do — which is one big reason there's so much animosity between moms and stepmoms, and even the two exes.

I asked the stepmothers at our support group the other night a question:

How would you feel if you had to share your husband with another woman every other weekend? It was someone he really loved and hey, they still had close ties and of course, he had chosen you as his wife, so there shouldn't be a problem, right?

Wouldn't you feel horribly insecure? Wouldn't you feel hurt and angry and weirded out? Wouldn't you worry that another person in the picture would shine a light on all your flaws and shortcomings and take your partner away from you, even if subtly?

It's the same gut feeling that moms have about their children. Bizarre analogy perhaps, but just as primal, just as fraught and difficult.

Dads Where are all the websites for the dads, helping them figure out how to deal with demands from two different women, while being stuck in the middle with their kids too?

So many stepmoms complain about their husbands not backing them up when it comes to discipline. She wants order because she has every right to expect consistency and peace in her home.

But if he helps impose the order she's asking for, then he implicitly feels like he's taking sides between her or his kids — and there's already a ton of guilt there about the divorce.

He ends up being wishy-washy so he doesn’t feel like he’s betraying his own children, but then inadvertently puts his second marriage in peril.

Stepdads Like the stepmother/father relationship, the stepfather also has to sidestep volatile, open-ended questions, such as the primacy of the marriage versus the mother’s loyalty to her children, issues of authority and influence, a potential for built-in rejection from the stepkids, and financial muddy waters.

Stepfathers are often the silent players in a stepfamily, since most of the focus seems to be on the two women or the two exes.

They’re often left to fend for themselves or expected to just go with the flow, since they’re not the “real fathers.”

Kids And where are all the books helping stepchildren figure out how to navigate this brave new world of divorce and remarriage? Sure, there are a few books out there if you dig around, but why don't we know of any famous titles off the top of our heads?

It’s criminal, but I can’t think of one single web site for kids dedicated to helping them move through these issues.

With going back and forth from house to house, with different rules and consequences, with powerful undercurrents of simmering resentment and victimhood between the adults.

How many kids and teens are out there, burdened by the illogical, but nevertheless pervasive and crippling, subconscious assumption that the divorce was still somehow their fault? They helplessly absorb the conflict between households and in the process, absolutely pulverize their own hopes for a happy marriage and family life, later on.

So why does it matter so much that our culture hasn't caught up to the current reality of family life?

Because people are not getting the help they need, that's why!

It matters because huge numbers of people are unnecessarily suffering.

It matters because we could be heading off a lot of these problems at the pass with more information, education and the next generation of tools for conflict resolution.

We need to bring all the separate pieces of this new American family to the table, so that we begin to address the concerns, fears and needs of each other.

It's like we're all still stuck in the 50's, where nobody talks about how alcoholism and how it's actually a destructive, shameful force-field in a family that destroys love, trust, security and the day-to-day connections that sustain intimacy.

Family members think it's all their fault that they're miserable and can't figure out how to make things work better... when in fact, they’re wrong.

We can undo some of the damage of divorce — and heal ourselves and our children. Families need all the help they can get today to not only survive, but thrive.

Can’t we help them do it?

I challenge anyone with the power to shape our collective consciousness to raise awareness over this lapse in our understanding.

To get the word out. To paint the big picture. To get the cart rolling and the horse moving.

Oprah, are you listening?

Or The New York Times?

Michelle Obama?

Somebody? Anybody?

Help that reporter hop onto the truck.

And give a kid a chance to have his or her own version of a happy nuclear family when they grow up, twenty years from now.


© Jennifer Newcomb Marine     All Rights Reserved

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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Monday Maybe: The Mother's Day Card Dare

  Here's a really cool idea, courtesy The Step Mom's Toolbox: on Mother's Day (Sunday, May 10th), send a card to the "other woman." Meaning, if you're the momsend a card to the stepmom. And if you're the stepmomsend one to the mom. Madness, isn't it?

Will you do it?

I know a lot of you might be rolling your eyes, as in, Why the hell would I want to send this woman a card? I can't stand her? Well... think of it this way. If you send her a card, perhaps she'll have a heart attack and die and then think how happy you'll be to be rid of her!

(Okay, kidding. Hopefully that joke translated properly through the internets.)


Seriously, when two sides are tugging on the same rope, what happens if the one side stops pulling so hard (slowly, so the other woman doesn't fall)? The other side feels it. And then, that person becomes curious.

And sometimes curiosity leads to openness.

And openness leads to movement.

And who knows, you might even be able to set some wonderful changes in motion with one simple gesture.

Your card doesn't have to be all schmoopy and weird. You could just simply say, "Thank you!" and leave it at that. Here's an excerpt from our book in Carol's words about this very subject:

"On my first Mother’s Day, Jennifer gave me a very simple, elegant card that said something like “Thank you so much for being a great stepmom to my kids.” It really moved me. A card shows that you’ve gone out of your way; it shows you were thinking about the other person. There’s intention behind it, it’s pre-meditated. There’s also something about a card that allows you to say something truly sappy that you could never bring yourself to say in person. And that’s how I took it: It was real.

Also, they had nothing to do with David; they were meant only for me.

I couldn’t just ignore this the next time I saw her either—I had to thank her. Just imagining that act alone made me realize something. I kept playing out over and over in my head how I might do this, even visualizing giving her a hug, which was something we’d never done before. I mean, physical contact is huge! And whenever I’d imagine that, I’d feel really good. I’d imagine the relief of it all, instead of what it was normally like, not getting along.

But along with all the positive feelings, there were also still the negative ones, because challenges continued to happen. We would go backward on a regular basis, but it was all those good things peppered in there that eventually pulled us forward, because the good things went both ways.

She became my friend. And what better place to have a friend than in the enemy’s camp? Except gradually, there was no more enemy.

For a while, there were two of her in my mind. The Jennifer I liked and got along with ,and the Jennifer I disagreed with about parenting/money/etc. issues. I had to keep them separate so I could move forward with our relationship. Eventually, I realized that you can love someone without having to like everything about them.

Creating a harmonious relationship with the other woman is a very gradual process and it doesn’t happen overnight. But it can work."


(Note from Jennifer: I don't remember doing this on the first Mother's Day that Carol was in my children's lives. More like the second. But as you'll see in our book, we often have completely different memories of the exact same event. Or... no memory of it at all. Chalk it up to two completely different experiences. And the aging process, ha.)

Now if you wanted to be TOTALLY hard-core, you could even take the initiative and help the kids do something special for the mom or stepmom in your life. That takes some huevos.

Or as writer Rivka Solomon likes to say in her awesome book, That takes ovaries!

I dare you.

Let us know what you decide to do... and why!

© 2009 Jennifer Newcomb Marine All Rights Reserved

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First, do no harm...

(Here's a little experiment to try this week....)

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. -Philo

If you're wanting to create a friendlier relationship with the mom or stepmom and aren't sure where to start, first, consider doing something simple and stopping any subtly combative behavior.

Is your voice tight when you talk to her on the phone?

Add some warmth.

Do you have a hard time smiling when when you see her in person because you get yourself all riled up, hitting the "refresh" button about past grievances?

Be ballsy, grin like a maniac, and beam her some generosity with your eyes.

Are you engaging in a tit-for-tat dynamic when it comes to logistics with the kids (school issues, pick-ups and drop-offs, food, TV, etc.)?

Bite your tongue for just a moment and then, instead of jumping straight into the conversation and countering her opinion or suggestion, ask her a few questions about WHY she wants to do it this way.

Genuinely shoot for understanding. Work hard to go deeper. THEN let her know why you're doing things as you are afterward. I bet it will be easier for her to hear you too.

Now can you both move a little closer to the middle?

So see what happens this week if you just pull back a bit and refrain from "fencing" with her.

Pay attention to any automatic behavior that isn't moving you towards cooperation and inner peace and ease and just... stop doing it.

It may feel weird and you may have lots of mental dialogue about how you're leaving your neck exposed, she's going to screw you over, this is strategically insane, etc. etc. but just gently thank your alarmist monkey mind and move on.

See what happens.

You just might make some room for curiosity and connection....

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

© 2008 Jennifer Newcomb Marine      All Rights Reserved

A Tiny Bridgemaker - Part Two

I watched David and Carol go through the emotional rollercoaster of trying to adopt with one agency and my heart softened, even though I could tell the girls were nervous about the possibilities of such massive, looming change. I witnessed Carol and David's intense heartbreak from afar when their efforts fell through; growing in sympathy, but also feeling that familiar guilt at my pangs of relief. I did my best to surf the bumpy waves; pulling back a little, making my friendship with Carol more superficial so it'd be easier to be a bitch, if I needed to be. I'd let some time pass between attempts at reconnecting, trying to create some space and formality.

Then, feeling remiss and out of sync, I'd bend back the other way to make up for less than friendly behavior. It was scary to think of losing control; bricks for my wall; the buffer that emotional distance provides when it's time to put up your dukes and defend your territory.

Many times, I just tried to bury my head in the sand, wishing it could just all be over so things could "get back to normal". But life wasn't heading that way anytime soon, and sometimes, life shows you: you have a lot more choices than you think you have.

Time passed as Carol and David regrouped, and they tried again with another agency. This round we were all more used to the idea. When a young couple picked them out, the girls were ecstatic, and I was surprised to find that I was truly excited too.

The clouds finally parted over a new day in my head: hmmm... maybe this wasn't such a win/lose situation?

Now the waiting game began. The birth mother still had two months to go until she delivered. Would she change her mind at the end? David and Carol befriended the birth parents— had them over for dinner, talked names, potential personalities, introduced them to the girls. We were all beside ourselves with anticipation and curiosity. In fact, we could talk of nothing else!

Finally, the baby was born.

David and Carol spent most of the weekend at the hospital, wanting to spend as much time as possible with the baby. We were all on pins and needles, wondering if the birth mother would finally sign the papers during the 72 hours she had to change her mind. Handing over her new, scrunchy-faced, beautiful baby boy to Carol and David, who wanted him so much, and to M. and S., who would gain an instant baby brother.

I was asked to bring the girls to the hospital only hours after Jacob was born so they could see him. There, I met the birth mother, a wonderful, young woman; her kind mother, and the baby's quiet father. A bittersweet sadness tinged the bright euphoria in the air. It was a bit disorienting in the crowded room. I felt like a clumsy, obtrusive invader – surely, I was imposing. And yet, when I hastily mentioned leaving, I was warmly asked by all to stay.

I looked into Carol's eyes with humbled awe as she handed me the baby to hold in the rocking chair, fighting hard to blink back tears.

Can you imagine?

I was deeply touched by everyone's generosity, especially Carol's, but still, part of me felt intensely uncomfortable. This was their experience, Carol's experience.

The last thing she needed was "the mother" sticking herself into her life again, inserting her presence out of logistical necessity, when it was least convenient or desired. I tried to merge into the background. There was the feeling of walking on a tightrope and I didn't want to fall off. Or make anyone else fall off theirs.

It was done. Jacob came home on his second day in this world to live with his new family.

I still wasn’t sure how I fit into this picture, and honestly, now that Carol and I had so strongly connected in a way that even I didn't understand, was hesitant to step on her toes at all.

I hung back and let her take the lead.

As she explained later, when she started thinking of the baby as not just hers, but as “M. and S.’s” too, then her feelings about “sharing” him with me started to change. It became easier and easier for her to invite me into a sense of a larger family as we shared stories of sleepless nights, the art of deciphering different cries, the irresistible cuteness of baby butts.

I began to love this spunky, outgoing, little boy; I began to feel connected, to look forward to seeing him. I even began to miss him if I went too long without seeing him. He would squeal with delight when I came over and make my day.

Who would have thought?

Looking back, I can see that widening a net that included me could not have been forced. It was an evolutionary process that was slowly and sometimes painstakingly (emphasis on pain)built upon forgiveness, mutual understanding, and wanting to build a bigger sense of family for the girls and now, for Jacob. We had three very good reasons to try so hard.

The last thing any of them needed was another broken family unit and as we all know, the odds aren't in favor of many marriages, especially remarriages.

We worked on creating warmth and peace, and eventually, even love between our households. Small presents went both ways between the adults; burned CD's, desserts, birthday cards, a nice shirt the other person might like that was just hanging in our closet.

And somewhere during those first few seasons of Jacob's life, one of the greatest honors in the world was bestowed upon me: I was made his honorary aunt. It is one of my proudest titles and most treasured, unusual gifts. I am acutely aware of its rarity, and that makes it even more special.

And so, when I was asked to babysit the "first boy in the family" — of course, I jumped at the chance. I took directions about what to do just like a regular babysitter, knowing I needed to do it their way, instead of mine.

With Jacob tucked in my lap, growing drowsy with sleep, I rang with such mixed emotions — a bit of sadness at the permanent duality of our families, but delight at the delicious joy of holding an infant again, thanking the powers that be for helping us all get to this point in such a typically fragile and acrimonious situation.

Jacob recently celebrated his third birthday and indeed, he feels just exactly like my nephew. I look forward to watching his life unfold and hope it's a long, rich and happy one. Unlike previous "official" parties, this one was just a small, but typically raucous family get-together at their house. We watched him stare in amazement as he unwrapped real-life versions of Woody and Buzz Lightyear (ToyStory is his favorite movie) with a whispered "Whoa….", then burst into laughter.

Little did I know, years ago, how much this little person would come to mean to me, or how powerfully he would pull us all closer together.

Quite an achievement for such a sweet and growing boy.

© 2008 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

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A Tiny Bridgemaker - Part One



"All I know is, when we have a baby, I don’t want her to see it, hold it, or have anything to do with it. She just needs to stay away!” Those were the sentiments of Carol, my children’s stepmother.

Luckily, I wasn't around to hear this.

Because "she" meant… “me.”

But now, here I was, lodged in the green velvet chair of the living room, next to a snazzy, new diaper bag full of jammies, clean diapers, and an extra bottle. Teething rings were cooling in the freezer. My daughters, M. and S., were happily tucked away in the family room, watching a movie.

Six-month old Jacob was leaning heavily back into the crook of my arm drinking from a bottle; big, blue eyes framed by long lashes, looking intently at my face. I gently combed his fine, blonde hair away from his forehead with the tips of my fingers and felt my heart catch. His hands tightly pressed down over mine on the bottle as if to say, you are not allowed to move and he swallowed steadily and loudly. Why have I always loved the sound of babies drinking?

It was all pretty surreal….

Quite a leap from there to here. And certainly where I never imagined I’d find myself: babysitting the child of my ex-husband David and his second wife.

I found out later that Carol’s worries about kids started from the very beginning of their relationship. She wanted children — but he already had two (and a vasectomy meant they would most likely need to adopt). If it were up to him alone, he would have been “happy with what he had,” but once he understood how important it was to her to have more, it became a priority for him too.

The more he thought about what it would actually be like to have another child, the more excited he became, despite memories of intense sleep deprivation and the weight of two other eighteen-year commitments.

Privately though, Carol fretted that he wouldn’t love their baby as much as his own. What if he always ending up feeling more connected to his first daughters? Could she bear to see their son or daughter ever for one single moment treated as second best? The very prospect pained her deeply.

And life as the other "hands-on parent" made it even easier for her to daydream about how much better it’d be with her own child.

It was the Stepmother’s Curse in action — you work your ass off to win over the children, to try and bring structure and order and harmony to their lives in that woman’s-overview kind of a way, and what do you get in return? They fall down and wail for their mother. They’re rewarded at school and they instinctively run to their dad to celebrate, even though you helped with the project too, maybe even more. You try and give absolutely to your marriage, but some doors never open to receive you, rooms already full and brimming.

From her vantage point as a woman longing to be a mother, we, the parents, slacked off on some of the hard work, like consistency and consequences; yet reaped all the goodies, like instantaneous forgiveness, unconditional love and affection, and boundless, unreasonable enthusiasm.

My brain had kicked into overdrive when they started dating too. When I'd heard they were actually going to marry, a part of me panicked. I fished for details about what she wanted in terms of children in awkward conversations with my ex- (imagine!). It’s bad enough knowing that your children are going to be exposed on a continuing basis to someone you barely know or approve of, but when you think of her and your ex- adding to their lives—a whole, new family unit that your kids now have to integrate with—truly, the mind boggles.

She and I were like wary dogs circling each other in the beginning – distrustful, nervous, suspicious. We had no good reason to think well of the other. She was young, beautiful, artistically and domestically gifted in spades. I, well, I was the older, haggard single mother, not so full of promise and the blush of youth anymore, but trying to make do, nevertheless.

Over time, and perhaps out of selfish necessity, we began taking peace-making baby steps in the opposite direction, just to ease some of the nail-biting stress of dealing with each other. It wasn't easy – we'd proceed along nicely and then some little thing, some perceived slight, would set us back again for weeks or even months. There'd be strained conversations, little eye contact, knots in the stomach.

And then we'd try again.

Bit by bit, we got to a neutral, casual place; one that you might reserve for neighbors you wave hello to in the morning.


And, gradually, it took. Still, when it came down to cave-woman concerns about my clan and theirs, all those efforts at social lubrication flew out the window. From that base of cool and efficient self-interest, I flatly didn't care what Carol wanted; matter of fact, I could barely remember.

When it became apparent that Carol and David were now going to add to their family in earnest, my first line of thinking was, great, but how is this going to affect us financially, on a survival level—our bottom line? Is more of a burden for unanticipated expenses going to fall on me? Are they going to become uptight and unreasonable about every little thing? Is responsibility for the girls going to fall lopsidedly my way?

I listened like a hawk for layers of hidden meaning in my daughter’s responses to the possibility, trying to detect their true reactions. I worried about was what was best for them, and honestly, what was best for me.

It doesn't make any sense, but even against the backdrop of such thinking, our friendship continued to grow and became more than superficial chit-chat during drop-offs and pick-ups. I discovered the person beneath the role, like a wax figure slowly coming to life, and actually looked forward to talking to her. We connected on the phone in occasional marathon phone sessions and I marveled at the both of us: look! We're becoming real, honest friends!

Who would have ever thought it possible?

And yet, on another level, it stunk, because now I had a choice to make.

The stronger our friendship, the harder it was to return to my own selfish priorities; I was well aware that a new child might mean something "negative" for our household. It was an odd conundrum. If I was going to let Carol in—really reach out to her with acceptance and support, just the way I would a "normal" friend, I'd have to let go of the last vestiges of that us/them mentality and turn it into a collective us.

But how?

And sometimes I had to remind myself: and why?

I didn't want to make any stupid, weak-willed, decisions that I'd regret latermotivated by a desire to please, or avoid conflict — to preserve the young sapling stretching out in the sun, but forget the two plants behind me that were my ultimate charge and calling.

What would win out?

Come back on Monday to read the rest of the story!

© 2008 Jennifer Newcomb Marine      All Rights Reserved

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Extended Families through a Teen's Eyes

TeenhairspikeWell, I thought I'd do a Vulcan mind-meld with my eldest daughter, S. to see if she had any staggering insights into life in an "extended family" and she basically looked at me as if I were wearing pants that reached all the way up to my tattered pocket protector.  (What's wrong with pocket protectors?  Ink stains are hard to remove!)  Our conversation lasted all of about five antsy minutes, but it's posted in full for your edification nevertheless. 

Jen: So... uh.... How do you feel about living in a family where all the adults basically get along? Where the two women are friends?

S: I'm not really affected by it anymore, I never really think about it. Actually… I guess it is kind of weird. Most adults in this kind of situation can't stand each other.

Jen: Hmmm..... (curious, waiting to hear a nice, juicy explanation)  Why do you think that is?

S: Because they went through hell when they got divorced. I probably wouldn't try to get along with the other person if I were them either. You just want to let all of that go and not have anything more to do with them….  But I guess you need to try for the kids.

Jen: So you're saying more parents should make the effort? 

S: Kids shouldn't have to be in the middle, like the messengers. It sucks.

(Silence for a few moments.  We stare at each other.)

Jen: Okay then!  What's one good thing about us getting along?

S: Well, I don't have to deal with it NOT working, like some of my other friends.

(She looks longingly at the door.)

Jen: What about disadvantages?

S: It feels more like having three or four parents, instead of just two. And two's enough! I mean I love Carol, but geez…. You guys… (rolls eyes)

She's free to go.  I sigh.

Pretty earth-shattering, huh?  I don't know what I was expecting (oh, who am I kidding?  It was to be a two-hour love-fest, replete with peppermint tea, maybe a few slices of heavily-buttered toast for fortification, lots of hugs and tears at the end, and if we were lucky, the braiding of daisies into each other's hair). 

But this is what I got.

Perhaps the fact that conversation was so decidedly angst-free is a sign in and of itself.

Yeah.  That's what I'm going with....

Well, on a much PERKIER note, Carol's painting, Swiss Cheese and Grapes, placed in the Top 50 (out of 300) at the 2008 Salon International Show in San Antonio last week.  It's a juried competition and tough to get into.  Carol had TWO paintings in the show and we're all really proud of her.  GO CAROL!!!! 

© 2008 Jennifer Newcomb Marine     All Rights Reserved

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