10 Things Stepmoms Refuse to Feel Guilty About

womenlaughI ran across this article about a month ago on Babble about things women refuse to feel guilty about as moms. As a mom of a 16 year old and almost 3 year old, I can relate to some of them. For example, when my oldest was in elementary I was not the crafty mom who made his Halloween costumes or baked  heart shaped cookies for his entire class during Valentine’s Day and will likely not do it for my youngest when he gets to school either. And yes, sometimes when I just need a break because I work from home and manage my 3 year old simultaneously, I use Backyardigans to entertain him while I catch my breath. And no, I don’t feel the least bit guilty for any of it. I wasn’t surprised to hear that I wasn’t alone either after reading this article on Babble.

Another thing that doesn’t surprise me is the lack of the same type of empathy that people have when it comes to stepmoms. It is common, accepted and supported for women to rave about what they refuse to feel guilty about as a mom. But it is seen as evil if it comes from a stepmom. Well, the only way to change those stereotypes is to discuss them so here it goes. Just like there are things I refuse to feel guilty about as a mom, there are things I refuse to feel guilty about as a stepmom. For example, I refuse to feel guilty for not being friends with my husband’s ex-wife. There is way too much combative, negative history between her and my husband. I will always be cordial but I have no desire to be best friends and that’s perfectly ok. I also refuse to feel guilty about making my marriage a priority instead of trying to help my husband fix a broken relationship (between him and his ex-wife) that I didn’t break to begin with.

I was happy to hear that other stepmoms weren’t afraid to speak up about what they refuse to feel guilty about, too.We asked some of our stepmom friends what they refuse to feel guilty about and compiled the top 10 list below.

womanlaygrass

  1. I use to feel so guilty if the step kids werent with us and we did fun things with my kids. I finally realized that their mom does fun things with the step kids and my children aren’t involved in that so why should I feel guilty for doing for my own?
  2. Asking for “me” time. Sometimes I just want to enjoy my days off instead of babysitting.
  3. Loving my stepdaugther as my own daughter.
  4. Putting my son with disabilities first,  no matter what.
  5. Not being peacemaker between my husband and his ex-wife. I’d prefer to support my husband but otherwise, stay out of it.
  6. Stepping back.
  7. For making mistakes along the way.
  8. For being a caregiver and role model to my step children, but leaving the responsibility of how they turn out and their personality flaws to their mom and dad.
  9. Not paying for things for my step children when I don’t want to. They have two parents for that.
  10. For supporting my husband 100% when it comes to disciplining my step children.

Moms or Stepmoms, what are some of the things that you refuse to feel guilty about?

Peace Be Still – A Message From The Christian Stepmom

PrayingWomanQLet’s face it stepmoms have a hard job. We get the mom role without the glory, we share the wife role with another woman’s shadow hanging around, and many times the people around us just expect us to know how to navigate the stormy seas of blended family life. Our friends can’t understand why we don’t just get along with our husband’s ex or his children. Our parents, as supportive as they try to be, don’t always understand why our spouse makes the parenting decisions he does. Top it off with the pressure of keeping up with baseball practices, band rehearsals, school lunches, awards programs – a stepmom can end up feeling exhausted, depressed, and out of control. We long for the days when everything will be “normal” but the harsh reality is that this life is our normal.

Personally I struggle the most with the expectation to just “be okay” all the time. I grew up in a very stable home and my parents have been married since they were 18 and 19 years old. My father was a part of many tumultuous blended families growing up, but my mom’s parents were together over 50 years until my grandmother died in 2004. For me to marry a man with children and an ex-wife really rocked the boat. It brought up scars from my father’s childhood and as much as my mom wanted to be there for me, she didn’t have the answers, as she’s never walked this path before. I didn’t have anyone to walk me through this path.  I didn’t have anyone to tell me what feelings and insecurities were normal. I started looking for resources, but what I found was a lot of negativity.  As I searched for answers, I kept coming up short and I simply felt like a bird trying to fly through a storm that could not find a place to land. I loved my husband and my stepsons but I simply could not find peace. All I was focused on was what I didn’t have. I didn’t have a husband who could focus on being newlyweds 100% of the time. I didn’t have sons who were happy or respected their father. I certainly didn’t have quiet and financially secure household. But one day I realized I was so focused on myself and what I didn’t have that I wasn’t able to say thank you for the blessings that I had right in front of me. I also faced the reality that I wasn’t giving them my best.

I have always grown up in a Christian household, but I must admit my walk with the Lord wasn’t at its strongest when I was diving head first into my role as a stepmom. I kept thinking I had to do everything. I had to fix my husband’s relationship with this kids. I had to fix the kids attitudes. I had to bring peace between my husband and his ex-wife. I had to perfect my family before God would bless it. I’m not really sure how I came to believe all these lies, but when you are in a depressed state its easy to believe the unthinkable. Over time, however, I began seeking the Lord diligently and praying for my stepchildren. I remember vividly the first day I felt called to pray for the kids’ mom. I truly thought it was a futile attempt as I firmly believed she would never change. I was so sure the Lord couldn’t do anything about the problem that I had stopped talking to Him. It was in this moment that I realized why I could not find peace. It wasn’t because of my husband’s ex-wife or the kids – it was because of me. I had lost what centered me, and in doing so, I was on a path of selfishness and self-righteousness thinking life owed me more than this precious family.

I know many of you reading this have harder circumstances than I can even imagine. But I urge you to pray for your family and seek your own relationship with the Lord. By centering yourself on something other than your husband or kids, you are removing yourself from the situation (without leaving) and giving your heart and brain a chance to recharge and gain some perspective. In turn you will find peace. Peace doesn’t mean that life will all of sudden get easier or that the storms will settle – in fact the opposite may occur. Instead what it means is you will be able to rest amidst the storm.

The pastor at our local church often uses the example of a painting that was submitted for an art award to illustrate this point. The theme of the competition was in fact peace. The painting that won shows a stormy sea with high waves crashing against jagged rocks, but in the corner of the painting sits a small bird nestled in the cleft of the rock simply sleeping through the storm. When we allow ourselves to hide in God and lay our troubles at His feet – He doesn’t always calm the storm, but He will always protect us and give us peace. He will be the comfort that our heart is searching for and will be our soft place to land when the trials of this life are far too great for us to face on our own.  Instead of trying to calm the storm in our soul on our own, we can rest in the one who made it all and say peace, be still.

Mark 4:39

“Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the Wind ceased and there was a great calm. (NKJV)

This article was written by Misty, Founder of www.ChristianStepmom.com.

 

 

 

A Response to Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Letter to a Friend

I have always adored Jada Pinkett-Smith and the entire Smith Clan. They exude love, creativity and a profound sense of self-love and acceptance. Their approach to life and family is inspiring. That being said, I don’t agree with Jada’s response to a stepmom friend of hers and it is something that we must critically avoid doing. Below is her letter to a friend and after that is my response.

Jada: “A letter to a friend: Blended families are NEVER easy, but here’s why I don’t have a lot of sympathy for your situation because… we CHOOSE them. When I married Will, I knew Trey was part of the package…Period! If I didn’t want that…I needed to marry someone else. Then I learned if I am going to love Trey…I had to learn to love the most important person in the world to him…his mother. And the two of us may not have always LIKED each other… but we have learned to LOVE each other.

I can’t support any actions that keep a man from his children of a previous marriage. These are the situations that separate the women from the girls. Your behavior is that of an insecure child who needs to recognize her own weaknesses that MUST be strengthened to take on the task at hand. We can’t say we love our man and then come in between him and his children. THAT’S selfishness…NOT love. WOMAN UP… I’ve been there…I know. My blended family made me a giant… Taught me so much about love, commitment and it has been the biggest ego death to date. It’s time you let your blended family make you the giant you truly are. J” Source: Uptown Magazine

TMF: I love these kind of stories but I must caution people that this isn’t everybody’s truth! While I admire Jada’s response, she’s leaving a lot out. For example, it not only took her to release those insecurities and ego trips for it to work but it took Sheree to do the same. It will not work the way they are describing unless both women put aside their differences and put in the effort. Too often stepmoms and second wives are seen as temporary or disposable and you can’t build a long-term relationship like they have if you continually assume that the stepmother is only going to be there short-term.

Their family is one reality but it certainly isn’t everyone’s and we (stepfamilies) need to stop criticizing other stepfamilies and stepmoms based on our reality. It’s the reason many of my stepmoms are reaching for antidepressants!! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the sharing of experiences that leads to this; it’s sharing your experience and then preaching that if you have not achieved “best friend with the ex-wife” or” love the ex-wife” status in your stepfamily, then you have somehow failed altogether. This is not true. We [Today’s Modern Family] offer advice and support based on your reality because we must stop assuming that there is a one size fits all approach to making a stepfamily work. There just isn’t!

 

Are You Taking Care of Home?

Diane and I have both been living the modern family lifestyle for quite some time now. Collectively, we have over 20 years of experience in this area; we’ve both been single moms, are currently living the stepfamily life and Diane was also a widow at one point. During this journey we’ve both made plenty of mistakes, had some successes and learned so many lessons regarding family and life in general. While we both pondered this over lunch a couple of weeks ago, we concluded a very powerful lesson regarding what it means to take care of home. What we know for sure is that the definition of taking care of home is very complex, but easy to understand at the same time. Taking care of home means that the people in it have to not only take care of each other, but take care of themselves as well. It’s not just about making sure the kids are alright, but it’s also about making sure that you are alright.  It’s about taking the kids to soccer practice or piano lessons, however; you must also get some quality time in with a good girlfriend or go hit some golf balls with the guys. It’s about creating memories and family traditions, together, as a family but it’s also about carving time out for a spontaneous rendezvous with your spouse from time to time. Taking care of home and making sure your modern family is the best it can be is much more complex than just focusing solely on the children. It’s like when riding on the airplane; the flight attendant always instructs the parent to put on their oxygen mask first and then place it on the children, in the case of an emergency. Why? Because if you’re passed out, how will you help your children? The same idea applies to parenting and step-parenting. If you are burnt out, trying to make sure everyone else is happy and taken care of, are you truly of any benefit to your children and family? Encouraging each member of the family, including the parents, to take time for themselves, IS taking care of home.

All Moms Need Self-Care

The last 16 months have been a whirlwind for me and my family. The addition of our little miracle baby has been welcomed but so chaotic and full of changes. Before Bam Bam (that’s what we call him), my husband and I were raising a 13 year old who was self-sufficient. He could make his own food, iron and pick out his own clothes, and carried his IPod Touch around like it was a cochlear implant. Motherhood and parenthood for that matter was very different.

I have always been an advocate of mothers and stepmothers taking time to indulge in a bit of self-care. It is so important to not completely devote yourself to being a mother or a stepmother in order to be a good mother or stepmother. I’ve received angry emails from readers stating that I was wrong for telling stepmothers to assign ownership of certain responsibilities to their rightful owners and use that down time for themselves. I told them that it is completely okay, natural and healthy to tell their spouse that they will not be responsible for their stepchildren every single time they come to visit. Instead, I told them to use that time to take a nap, have a girl’s night, get a hobby or do all of the above. This advice is especially true for the stepmothers who have kids of their own and can never seem to get a moment of down time.

Well, for the past 16 months this has never been more true and apparent to me. A woman cannot soley focus on her children and/or stepchildren and husband without: 1) losing a huge piece of herself and/or 2) going insane. She needs time to de-stress, regroup and recharge in order to be a good mom/stepmom and wife. There’s just no way around it and women should not feel guilty for demanding to recharge her batteries. During the first year of my son’s life as I operated on maybe two hours worth of sleep, little food and no energy, my husband, friends, family, pastor and other new or renewed moms would tell me to take time for myself. They almost begged me to step away from my sweet little angel so that I could recharge. Because he was a preemie and is still experiencing health issues as a result, I didn’t want to leave him with ANYONE. But, this meant that I was with him all of the time and it just wasn’t healthy for either of us.  Thank God for my wonderful husband who took time off of work to not only take care of us but to remind me what I have been advocating for the past several years – “me” time! When I wouldn’t budge, he started arranging girl’s night outs for me. He called a few of my friends, made reservations at one of my favorite restaurants, made reservations at a spa for all of us and paid for everything. Once he did that a few times, it became a habit and now I look forward to spending time away from my angel. I have even revisited my love of photography and  look forward to the moments I get to use that creative outlet. I need it in order to be the best mommy I can be to my children and you moms/stepmoms need it too. So take a little time to indulge in regular self-care and do so without guilt. Your entire family will be better as a result.

Six Things in the Remarried Co-Parent’s Survival Toolbox

Co-Parenting Plan

The first thing the remarried co-parent should have is a detailed, mutually agreed upon, co-parenting plan. He or she should have one within their household and with their former spouse. Remarried couples and divorced co-parents need to stop making it up as they go along and talk about it, prior to divorce or remarriage. Talk about how to handle discipline, visitation, phone calls, birthday parties, etc. because when you are suddenly confronted with these decisions and emotions are high, those emotions usually dictate your decision making. As such, you end up making a decision based on how you feel instead of what’s best for everyone.

Family Mission Statement

 Arm yourself with a good family mission statement, which all the members of your household are active participants in creating. Remember that especially because this family wasn’t organically made, some effort will need to go into building and maintaining it. Talk about how you want to connect as a family and make every member feel included in this process.

Stepfamily Coach

 Be sure to have a good stepfamily coach/counselor on speed dial as it’s not always helpful to listen to those well-meaning family members and friends. Talking to someone who is experienced and knowledgeable on the issues that you will undoubtedly face will be helpful as you navigate through your remarried co-parenting journey.

Drama Free Date Night

Drama free date night, at least once per month, is a must! Stay connected to your spouse; remember that he or she is your biggest support system.

No Judgment Zone Problem/Solution Box

 No judgment zone problem/solution box is a simple box that is placed in your house for everyone, including the children, to freely drop their concerns in to be addressed. Overall, everyone in the stepfamily just wants to be appreciated and respected and heard! One of the biggest problems that I have discovered with stepfamilies is that they don’t communicate, unless they are fighting about an issue. The stepmom does what she thinks is expected of her. The divorced dad is often the man caught in the middle as he tries to please both women (ex-wife and wife), and the kids feel like they have absolutely no say in what’s happening. Stepmoms don’t hold it in; voice your concerns. Divorced dads, tell your wives how you feel. Kids, we know this isn’t easy for you and we want you to know that we acknowledge how you feel. A problem/solution box gives everyone a voice and shows that you are working to find a solution that mostly works for everyone. More importantly, it allows the children to feel a part of the unit instead of feeling caught in the middle. It also shows them that the success of the family is also dependent upon their active participation.

Realistic Expectations

It is important to have realistic expectations when entering into a stepfamily. Remember, that stepfamilies do not and cannot operate as first families do and it will take time and a conscious effort to build and maintain your modern family. Relationships take time and effort to build, but not force. Establishing realistics expectations in the beginning will minimize hurt feelings and chaos.

Ten New Year’s Resolutions Every Modern Family Should Make

 The start of every new year is the time to start fresh. It is a time to tuck away our mistakes of the past and start with a clean slate. Because modern family living can be quite challenging, it is good to evaluate where you’ve been over the past year and develop a plan for moving forward – as a family. January is the perfect time to reflect on the changes you want or need to make in order to make your family better. Below are ten New Year’s resolutions every modern family should make.  

Trust Yourself

As parents and step-parents, we spend way too much time second guessing ourselves and obsessing over every decision we make. Starting this year, make it a point to trust your instincts and what you feel is right for you and your modern family. While that well-meaning advice is okay, only you have ALL the facts and truly know your situation. Therefore, you have to make decisions based on your truth and not someone else’s.  

Make Time for Your Spouse

This should be on every married or recoupled couple’s list! Remember, in order to keep your family intact, you must keep your marriage intact. This year, resolve to reconnect with your spouse. Have a drama free date night at least once per month. Don’t talk about the kids. Don’t talk about the exes. Don’t talk about your problems. Just lose yourself in your spouse. Get a hotel or kick the kids out (hire a babysitter) for a few hours and get back that lovin’ feeling. Play your wedding song, do some kinky role playing or just make out for as long as you wish. When you devote time to maintaining your relationship and staying connected, other areas of your family life will improve. You’ll listen to each other more; making decisions as a team will get better; you’ll present a united front to your children more often and overall, your modern family will flow better.  

Find Creative Ways to Gel as a Family

Because the modern family wasn’t organically made, it will take work, not force, in order to start feeling more like a cohesive unit. Make time this year to find creative ways to gel as a family. For example, start a book club with your family and you can do this with various age groups. It will get the kids reading more and give you something all to talk about at your book club meetings. It’s a noncompetitive activity, of which no one has to take anybody’s side and it will get you all together in the same roon at least once per month. Another idea is to do a small project together like planting a tree or making a sign with your family name on it to hang on the front door.  

Give Back as a Family

Let’s face it, innately, we are self-absorbed human beings who always believe that we have it worse off than anyone else in the world. Our modern family lifestyles are complicated, yes, but most are definitely manageable. Oftentimes, our children adopt this attitude as well and they begin to think that the world revolves around only them because of their circumstances. A good way to change everyone’s perspective is to take time to give back as a family. Volunteer at a home for foster children (these kids have no parents, let alone parents and step-parents). Collect clothing and food to take to the home of a single parent who is struggling to make ends meet. Remind yourselves that there are children and families who are indeed in a worse situation than you are.  

Create a Family Mission Statement

Gloria Linterman, author of The Secrets to Stepfamily Success, offered a great idea in her book. She said that every family should have a family mission statement and she is right! Again, because modern families aren’t organically made, we have to make a conscious effort to work to stay on the same page as a family. A family mission statement encompasses everyone’s goals/mission for the family. Everyone, from the oldest to youngest and tallest to shortest is allowed to offer input when creating your family missions statement.  

Spend More Time With Friends

I know that modern mamas and modern dads lead busy complicated lives, but as regularly as possible, take some time to just get away from it all. Have lunch or go watch a football game with a friend. Remind yourself that although you chose this life, it is not your whole life and allow yourself to reconnect with some friends. You’ll discover that it will enable you to be a better spouse, parent/step-parent and overall, modern family member.  

Enjoy Life More

We spend way too much time focusing on what’s wrong that we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy what’s right. Stop consuming yourself with your ex, your spouse’s ex, disgruntled stepkids, ex-inlaws…You can’t change them, no matter what you do. All you can do is change how you react. Give the appropriate response to a situation and then move on with the rest of your life already. Take more long walks in the park, laugh more, dance more, be silly more and enjoy life more!  

Say it Like You Mean it

Wendy Williams coined this phrase in the theme song of her show and it’s one of my favorites. Oftentimes, we become wrapped up in being closed mouths for the sake of everyone else that we forget about ourselves in the process. This year, make it a point to lay your expectations out on the line and mean it! You don’t have to be harsh or rude; just be honest about what you expect from your modern family members. If an ex-spouse crosses the line, let him or her know that you won’t tolerate it. If a stepchild is rude and disobedient, let him/her know that it won’t happen in your house. If your spouse needs a reminder from time to time, let him/her know what you will and won’t tolerate. Standing up for yourself is not rude, if you do it in the correct manner. Doing so, doesn’t make you a bad person; however, not saying it like you mean it can be detrimental to your mental and physical health.  

Let Things Go

Don’t spend another minute this year obsessing over who did what to you and why and how and so forth. Resovle to let those things go and start with a clean slate. Remember, you can’t change anybody; you can only change how you react. If you need to get it off your chest before letting it go, write that person a letter (even if you don’t mail it); tell a nonjudgemental friend; or talk to yourself in the mirror. Do whatever you have to do to release it and let it go! Afterward, make it a point to deal with the negative (if necessary), but focus on the positive.  

Lead by Example

Instead of trying to fix everyone to make everyone else better, focus on being a better you. Hopefully, by example, you can motivate your other modern family members to do the same.

Former Basketball Wife, Tami Roman, Speaks Candidly About Life After Divorce

 When I first approached the newest cast member of VH1’s second season of Basketball Wives, Tami Roman, about doing an interview on Today’s Modern Family, I must say I wasn’t surprised by her humble response. “I would be honored to do an interview for you,” she said. By that one simple statement, I knew that Tami Roman was a very different person than what has been projected in the media and by what we see on the edited reality show. Tami is an extremely down to earth, very real chick who was eager and gracious enough to speak candidly with me about her journey from the Real World reality show to marriage to high profile professional basketball player, Kenny Anderson, to single mother on welfare and to finding love again.

romantami1

Newest Star of Basketball Wives, Tami Roman

Marriage to and Divorce from Professional Basketball Player

When Tami met, fell in love with and eventually married Kenny Anderson, she thought it would be forever.  She got everything she had been hoping for when she was younger; a beautiful home, financial stability and a husband. She expressed how she soon began to lose sight of reality as her privileged lifestyle came with a certain status that she felt was now her norm. Although Tami seemingly had everything she had been hoping for since she was a child, she wasn’t prepared for what she didn’t get from her husband; respect, love, honor, integrity and commitment.

 Eventually, Kenny had multiple affairs that ultimately led to the demise of the marriage. But because she too came from a broken home and was raised without a father; she didn’t want that for Lyric and Jazz, the beautiful daughters that she shares with Kenny. As a result, she accepted the infidelity for as long as she did because of them.

After the divorce Tami expressed that things got really bad between her and Kenny and Tami admitted to not always making the best decisions regarding her daughters and their relationship with their father. She openly expressed that she did not know how to co-parent and feels as if her daughters suffered because of it.

“By the time Kenny and I got divorced, it was really, really bad. We couldn’t have a conversation for two minutes without yelling at each other, cursing each other or hanging up the phone,” she said.

Because Kenny has been so adamant about Tami keeping the girls away from him and has given that as his reason for lack of involvement; I asked Tami if she intentionally or maybe even subconsciously kept him away from the kids.

“Again, by the time we divorced it [our communication with each other] was really bad. Now we had to try to co-parent and make arrangements for my daughters, who were only 6 and 4 at the time, to see their dad. Kenny wanted me to put my 6 and 4 year old on a plane by themselves and fly them to wherever he was, and I wasn’t okay with that. So, in his mind, I was keeping the kids away from him. In my mind, I was just being a mother and looking out for my children. And so, we could never come to a happy medium,” Tami explained.

Moving forward Tami expressed how she wanted her daughters and Kenny to continue to develop some type of relationship. Although she’s grateful that they have began to do so, she is realistic and knows that it will take baby steps to eventually get to her desired outcome, and that is that Lyric and Jazz will truly know their father as a person and not just in name only.

The Downfall

During the first couple of episodes of Basketball Wives, Tami candidly spoke about going from wife of a professional basketball player to single mother on welfare. During our interview she went on to explain that although she did sign a prenuptial agreement prior to marrying Kenny, that basically said, “what you came with is what you’re leaving with,” that agreement did not apply to their daughters. Kenny did pay a large monthly sum of money for Lyric and Jazz post divorce, for a period of time.  However, she admitted that she did not make good financial decisions because she was trying to maintain the lifestyle that she had when she was married to their father; not understanding that the reality was that she was no longer married to their father. Tami described how she let a lot of people take control of her life and in turn, wasn’t making proper maternal decisions for her daughters.

“People would say things like, ‘you can’t live in that house, you need this house,’ or ‘your kids don’t need to be shopping at Target.’ And I allowed all of that to alter my perception of my real reality and that was that I was divorced and a single mother.”

 Tami tried to maintain a lifestyle that she admits she didn’t necessarily need and looked up one day and the funds were depleted. Roman holds herself accountable for her financial crisis and insists that she does not blame Kenny for it. She explained that if she had managed her finances the way she should have before Kenny stopped paying child support, there would not have been a downfall, but she didn’t and takes sole responsibility for it.

Basketball Wives

Tami expressed that she was actually approached by VH1 for the first season of Basketball Wives but turned it down because she had worked for 10 years trying to distance herself from the whole reality television genre. She had actually re-entered into corporate America as a financial analyst and would have rather done that than another reality show. However, as she prayed about her journey and what God wanted her to learn from it, she decided that it would be a great opportunity to be a living testimony. She explained how it took her moving through her storm to realize that Kenny was not to blame for everything that has happened to her, but she had to be accountable for her mistakes after their marriage. As a result, she thought that she could perhaps educate others who have experienced or are experiencing similar circumstances.

“I needed for men to see what happens when you’re not emotionally there for your children. I needed for women to see that when you’re in a situation and making money, it’s not about pushing the Louis Vuitton; it’s about investing and making the right choices for the future instead of solely living in that moment,” said Tami.

What’s Next for Tami

Currently, Tami Roman is definitely in love again and explained how the adversity that she has faced, has actually made her better for her current partner. When I asked about her current beau, I could hear the glow in Tami’s face which made the picture much more vivid. She and independent film maker, which she wishes to remain anonymous, have been going strong for 3 years now and are happy with the family they have created. Although they haven’t solidified any wedding plans just yet, they have talked about it.

“I am so in love and it’s definitely a beautiful place to be. After you have gone through something that’s not right, you can definitely recognize when it is right. Because we’ve both been married before, we didn’t think we needed to get married to validate our our love for each other, initially. However, as we have progressed in our relationship, we have talked about it,” said Roman.

Tami is still acting as well and jokingly said that Tyler Perry needs to hurry up and give her a call for a role in his next film. She is also working on a book about her life, which she hopes will give people an inside view as to who the real Tami is. In addition to all of that, Tami still finds time to give back and is working with a charity called Project Girl; a troop of spoken word artists who range from age 13 to 18, and go around to schools to mentor young girls through spoken word.

From publicly talking about her abortion on the Real World over 10 years ago, to candidly airing her co-parenting issues with ex-husband, Kenny Anderson, on VH1’s second season of Basketball Wives, Tami Roman displays an authenticity and vulnerability that makes her relatable, human and definitely someone you’d want to hang out with. She definitely makes the top of our superchick list!

Please be sure to catch Tami on the second season of Basketball Wives, Sundays at 8/7 Central on VH1.

Kick the Barnacle Syndrome to the Curb This Holiday Season

kickingwomanThis is a repost by author, stepmom and all around awesome superchick, Wednesday Martin.

Many of you asked me to elaborate on the topic of “Barnacle Syndrome,” which I touched on briefly in a recent article for StepMom Magazine. Barnacle Syndrome may be especially acute during the holiday season, so here goes.

 

If you’re feeling like you just got “tacked on” to your husband’s life–that it’s all about the way he and his kids do it, that you have lost your connections to your traditions, your family, your strength your identity, your self–and are experiencing it especially over the holiday season, here’s what’s likely going on…and what you can do:

1. Feeling like a Barnacle means there is an imbalance of power in your marriage or partnership with a man with kids. Stepfamily and gender researcher Jamie Kelem Keshet writes about how women with stepchildren are more likely to be married to men who are older and more established; to move into his place “because it’s easier for the kids” or because it’s bigger; to move away from their families of origin/relocate to be with their husbands (who sometimes move to be closer to their kids); and, if they are themselves childless, to feel special pressure to take on a “maternal” role with his kids. I’m personally a poster-child for Barnacle Syndrome. When we married, my husband was seven years older, much more established, living with his adolescent daughter. I was younger, single, more mobile. I lived hundreds and hundreds of miles from my family of origin, was less established in my career, had no kids of my own. And so it only made sense for me to sell my car and most of my stuff and move in with him. And become a mother-like figure to his daughter. Right?

Holy inequalities, Batman, what a recipe for potential disaster! I remember looking around “our” house one day and realizing my contribution was a couple of throw pillows and a lamp. Meanwhile, my husband’s daughter already had a perfectly good mother and didn’t need another one, thank you very much. She was also an adolescent and like all healthy adolescents, felt the need to separate and differentiate far more acutely than the desire to have another quasi-parental figure in her life. My feeling of losing myself and my past and my very identity, and feeling overwhelmed by a role I didn’t even understand, came to a head as our first Christmas together approached, and my husband informed me that his plan for Christmas day was to spend it driving six hours round-trip to pick up his daughters from their mother’s place, “Since that’s what I’ve always done.” Cue tape of confused, frustrated wife and stepmother going postal (my husband, to his credit, listened to me and realized this was not an auspicious way to begin our annual Christmas tradition as a couple. He opened up his mind, and we made a plan that worked for both of us, and for our marriage).

Feeling and being “tacked on” like a barnacle to your husband’s previous life is common–but it’s not a normal, inevitable, or natural state of affairs. It’s a sign that you and your partner need to reset the balance, and get to a place where you feel like and are true partners, equals in the household and the relationship.

2. If you’re feeling like a barnacle or outsider, make a priority to change that, and do it stat, since power imbalances create resentment. In fact, you might say that the road to divorce is paved with power imbalances! Whether it’s an unequal distribution of household work, a sense that his kids have more say than you do in the family, or a feeling that you are living in a “haunted house” since you moved into his place, Barnacle Syndrome is a sign that you and your spouse have work to do. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Once you give this feeling of imbalance and being on the outside a name, you are in a much better position to address it!

3. You might need help from a professional when dealing with the charged topic of feeling like a barnacle or outsider in your own home. Until you and your partner get there, though, there is plenty you can do. Let your partner know–without a trace of anger or resentment in your voice (I know, it’s hard, but let’s be strategic here!)–that you want this holiday to feel balanced, festive, and comfortable for everyone. To that end, let him know you’d like to have your own family, your own friends, anyone who helps you feel supported and understood, around a lot this holiday season. Avoid situations where it’s just you, him, and his kids. Not only because you will feel better, but because the research shows that often, when stepparents, parents, and step/kids all come together without others around, it activates everyone’s anxiety about being an outsider. His kids of all ages will likely feel relieved if your friends and family are there to make things a little more interesting, and cut down on the sense that you’re all trying to feel like a “real family,” whatever that means. With that pressure off, you might find that his kids are open to some one-on-one time with you (stepfamily members also bond well one-on-one).

4. In addition to bulwarking yourself with supportive friends and family during the holiday time, consider doing less. If his kids are in a loyalty bind, the less you do on their behalf, the less they will have to feel indebted to and ambivalent about you. Rather than being a martyr who bends over backwards to cook all their favorite foods, for example, set the bar at being welcoming and appropriately open to interactions with them, based on their cues. It can make the difference between feeling depleted and drained and enjoying the holiday.

5. Finally, remember to get out. We’re so stuck in the “first family head” when we think about what’s best for stepfamilies. Guess what? Experts agree that stepmothers especially need time away from their husbands and stepkids when they’re around. It helps us rejuvenate and reset, and prevents stepmaternal burnout. In addition, you will seem like less of a “Dad hog” if you let the kids of any age have alone time with their father while you’re out doing something you really enjoy.

 

wednesdaymartintnWednesday Martin is the author of the highly recommended and surprisingly honest book, Stepmonster. In it, she tells the truth about being a stepmom, backed by solid research and personal experiences. Wednesday Martin has worked as writer and social researcher in New York City for almost two decades. She has been a stepmother for nine years and lives in New York City with her husband and their two sons. Please visit www.wednesdaymartin.com to learn more.

Noncustodial Mom and Founder of CFAA Speaks Out

The next guest in our interview series with dynamic women is a non-custodial mom, competitive fitness athlete, survivor of domestic violence AND my cousin (I’m so proud that I get to say that), Nichole Cruz. Before I share her insight on fitness, motherhood, divorce and moving on, let me share what I have learned from her. No matter what she has struggled with she is not bitter; she’s better because of it. She has learned to channel any negative feelings she has as a result of her circumstances through fitness, accept her reality and try to make the best of it. Check out our interview below and enjoy!

ncruzKela: You are a divorced mom of 3; is it difficult to balance dating, work and motherhood?

 Nichole:  When the children were younger, being a divorced mother and juggling day to day tasks was quite challenging and exhausting.  After my divorce I maintained working hours that were conducive to motherhood 8 to 5pm and even starting my own business to create my own hours.  I also incorporated my children into my workout routine; taking them to a local track and bringing along soccer balls and bikes so they can exercise while I ran.  In terms of dating, it was always important for me to keep my social life separate from my role as a mother.  I dated when the children were spending their time with their father.  It’s never easy dividing your time, however putting each role into their respective levels of importance is key. 

 Kela: Divorce is difficult for most, as we all know. How has fitness empowered you, not only physically but emotionally and mentally?

 Nichole:  I am a survivor of domestic violence.  I began my transformation a tad bit backwards, from the outside in.  After my third child, I returned to the gym with a friend of mine and began to gain physical strength and transforming my body.  As the physical changes emerged, the emotional and mental changes followed.  I began to rediscover my outer and inner strength which in turn, empowered me to leave the marriage, as a stay-at-home Mom, with no money – only my children and a minivan to my name.  One’s sense of self and self-confidence comes from FEELING good on the inside.  I began mine from the outside: I felt confident looking in the mirror which transformed my inner being.  The Phoenix tattoo on my back was a symbol of rebirth – of going through hell and emerging stronger and more powerful than before.

 Kela: How difficult is it being a non-custodial mom? What are some things that you did to cope once the custody decision was made? How did you help your children cope?

 Nichole: Traditionally, women were awarded custodial custody of the children post divorce, which was initially what happened in my case.  As the children grew, my ex-husband and I amended the original parenting agreement several times and most recently via a custody battle, my children’s father was awarded custodial parenting time.  Although it was not by choice, I had to determine how I was going to maintain my relationship with my children as they were accustomed to.  Because they are teenagers, it is a little easier to cope with the decision although it is still unsettling.  They all have cell phones, so I will either text or call them daily.  I ensure that I am involved with their education by keeping in contact with their teachers, keeping up with their grades and attending their sporting and school functions.  I try to stay involved in every aspect of their lives so that where they sleep doesn’t limit their contact with me or mine with them.   I also make sure that my parenting time with them is quality time, reconnecting and enjoying each other’s company, yet getting down to business and still being “Mom.”

 Kela: What advice do you have for other divorced moms? Non-Custodial moms?

 Nichole: My advice to other divorced Mom’s would be to make sure you stand up for what you want in terms of your children.  Your voice is extremely important and deserves to be heard.  As a non-custodial Mom, you may have to fight harder in order for your wants for your children to be heard and valued.  Don’t allow anyone to make you feel lesser than a mother because the legal system dictated the percentage of time you are allowed with your children.  Make sure the children know that you love them and are always accessible to them regardless of where they reside.

womanexercise Kela: Okay, let’s talk fitness. Give me 4 easy, but beneficial exercises a mom can do from the comfort of her own home?

 Nichole: This is my passion!  There are so many things you can do at home to stay in shape!  Body weight exercises are perfect to tone your muscles without going to a gym.  The following is a sample circuit which incorporates cardio and weight bearing exercises to get that metabolism stoked!

 60 seconds jumping jacks/running in place

60 seconds squats – thighs parallel to the ground

60 seconds push ups – if it gets tough, drop to your knees but KEEP MOVING

60 seconds crunches/sit ups (10 crunches, 10 situps – rotate for 60 seconds)

60 second rest

Repeat circuit 5 times – you will have completed 25 minutes of a muscle toning, total body workout! 

 Kela: How important is physical fitness for those who lead stressful lives?

Nichole: Physical fitness is not only important for the average individual, but more so for those who have stressful lives.  Exercise can cause release of chemicals called endorphins into your blood stream. These give you a feeling of happiness and positively affect your overall sense of well-being. Physically, exercise improves your cardiovascular functions by strengthening and enlarging the heart, causing greater elasticity of the blood vessels, increasing oxygen throughout your body, and lowering your blood levels of fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides. All of this, of course, means less chance of developing heart conditions, strokes, or high blood pressure. Mentally, exercise provides an outlet for negative emotions such as frustration, anger, and irritability, thereby promoting a more positive mood and outlook. Exercise improves mood by producing positive biochemical changes in the body and brain. Regular exercise reduces the amount of adrenal hormones your body releases in response to stress.  Beyond the stress, it’s important to model a healthy lifestyle for your children.  Our children are becoming more sedentary as our society increases technology.  Being fit increases the likelihood that your children an even your grandchildren adopt a healthy lifestyle and opt for healthy choices. 

ncruztn1 I am a 38 year young mother of three, a Personal Trainer as well as a Competitive Fitness Athlete.  I have been competing in Figure Competitions for approximately 4 years and most recently placed 5th in a local competition.  I have developed an association: CFAA -Competitive Fitness Athletes Association, to promote, develop and cultivate the competitive fitness athlete of color.  To learn more about the sport and about CFAA please email me:  cfathletes@gmail.com.  The website is soon to follow.