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.
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.
Whether you are a mom in a modern or biological/nuclear family, whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a work-at-home mom, you have a tough balancing act to perform. Balancing work life and family life separately is a daunting task, but for work-at-home moms (and I personally know a few great women who make working at home a part of their daily lives) who walk a fine line daily in order to balance work and family life. Let’s face it, us traditional working mothers are often times envious of the proverbial “stay-at-home” mom and we talk about how work-at-home moms have the best of both worlds and how it is so easy. Granted, they do have the best of both worlds, but at a price. Believe me, I have seen it first hand and quite honestly, although staying with my children and having the flexibility to work from home would be great, I’m not sure I could be as well organized as these women are.
Being a work-at-home mom is tough. Trying to juggle day-to-day work activities and changing pampers at the same time isn’t always a conducive way to get things done. However, these courageous moms find a way. I have watched women conduct conference calls, take notes, schedule meetings, nurse a baby, send a spreadsheet via email and put the baby down for a nap all in one afternoon.
Remember the “price” I spoke about above? Albeit unfairly, most work-at-home moms will experience challenging pressures while walking that tightrope. At times, husbands will take for granted the special skills their wives possess and at other times will confuse working at home with staying at home. This especially holds true if maybe a wife was once a full-time working mom and stepped out on faith to become an entrepreneur. During tough economic or stressful times, these women may be made to feel as if their contribution to the family has waned, which in turn causes resentment in both husband and wife. This is just one example of the ”price” some work-at-home moms pay to have the best of both worlds. Another example is the pressures of finding balance of mixing work with family life. Most of these women are up at the crack of dawn and don’t lie down until the wee hours of the morning in order to get work done just to start over again the next day. Let’s not forget that nothing stops that toddler or infant from waking up in the middle of your conference call, the dishes still have to get done, the laundry folded and dinner prepared. Granted, at the end of the day, some will say that these women “signed up” for their jobs so they should just handle the pressures that come along with it and be grateful that they can stay home with their children and make money at the same time. Yes, they signed up for their jobs, but they also work their behinds off and deserve support from their family members and friends but especially from their spouses.
Research shows that in the past 10 years, there are more women entreprenuers (a lot of which are work-at-home moms) than ever before and the numbers are continuing to grow. Women want to and can do both! So, TMF husbands who have the blessing of having work-at-home wives, throw your support behind the great women you have in your lives. I challenge you to walk that tightrope for one day and step in your wives shoes. I can promise you will be simply amazed at their talents. These women deserve kudos! They are doing it all and their efforts should not go unnoticed.
Today’s Modern Family says “hats off” to all of you work-at-home moms who are doing it all. Especially those who also balance the blended family as well. Keep up the good work!
Peace & Blessings,
TMF writer and stepfamily counselor Diane and I recently had a conversation about people pleasers. It all started with a daily spiritual inspiration which Diane sends me every morning. Two important lines in this daily inspiration read as follows:
“Be aware and watch for the enemy’s devices that will saddle you with imposition as he pressures you to act out of a sense of obligation instead of being moved by My Spirit. Obligation has its roots in a spirit of fear. The fear of rejection results in being a people-pleaser.”
The corresponding biblical verse was 1 Thessalonians 2:4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.
Diane talked about her personal and general experience with people pleasing in her post, but I want to get more specific and delve into how it affects the stepfamily. Unfortunately, if the stepfamily is not handled properly; meaning every member of the stepfamily is not responsible and mindful of their own actions and emotions and how they affect the other members of the stepfamily, it can perpetuate a few forms of the “people pleaser.” Let’s go over them below.
The People Pleasing Remarried Dad
The people pleasing dad is created because he beats his head against the wall trying to keep his ex-wife happy so she won’t prevent him or make it extremely difficult for him to see his kids; keep his wife from getting upset because he works overtime to be overly accommodating to his ex-wife and alter his children’s reality so they won’t be too upset over the divorce. The people pleasing dad doesn’t want to be rejected by his wife, his kids or his ex-wife and instead makes decisions that are based on that fear of rejection instead of based on doing what’s right for everyone, including himself.
The People Pleasing Stepmom
The people pleasing stepmom faces many of the same challenges as the people pleasing remarried dad. She works hard to make sure she doesn’t upset the ex-wife because she might keep the kids away from her husband; she doesn’t want to upset her husband because she understands his difficult position and she wants his kids to like her. All of it leads to life of saying yes all the time, bending over backwards to make sure everyone’s happy and often times putting herself dead last. She’s afraid to speak up for herself and set boundaries out of fear of being rejected by her husband, his kids and the ex-wife. She also makes decisions based on that fear instead of doing what’s right for everyone, including herself. Society also places her in a difficult position because if she does speak up, set boundaries, demand some “me time,” she is demonized and labeled as wicked, instead of just another overwhelmed mom who is tired of bending over backwards for everyone in her family. The people pleasing stepmom is most devalued and most misunderstood stepfamily member of them all and she receives the least amount of understanding from her husband, the ex-wife, the kids AND society!
The People Pleasing Kids
Like Diane mentioned in her article, the people pleasing kids are often created when divorced parents choose not to co-parent effectively. When divorced parents put their children in the middle of their divorce by bad mouthing the other parent, sending messages to the other parent through them and overall using their children as a liaison between them, children often feel as if they have to over please their parents in order to make them happy. When you see your parents fight and argue all the time, seemingly over you, you tend to over please when you’re with your parents individually. By that same token, statistics, research and studies have also proven that altering their reality also creates the people pleasing kid. When divorced parents work too hard to make it seem like nothing has changed when everything has changed, children tend to work overtime to please their parents. They feel as if they could please the parents enough, then they will both be happy enough to get back together again. This form of pleasing is meant to show them that, “See, this could work and we could all be a family again. After all, we do have fun when we’re all together.”
It’s important for divorced parents to know that often times, either extreme isn’t good for the child. You have to model a healthy balance and acceptance of change (because things do change with divorce) and prepare your kids accordingly.
The Non Pleasing Ex-Wife
The heading was not meant to bash ex-wives. I only write and speak from either personal experience or solid research, and according to research, often times the most intrusive and least flexible member of the stepfamily is the ex-wife, not the ex-spouse, but the ex-wife. She feels a huge sense of entitlement because she is the mother of the children in the stepfamily, often causing the people pleasing dad and stepmom to walk on eggshells around her. Although she is rarely in the position of having to please everyone, she does have a difficult job in aiding her children in the transitional period of divorce. She has the power to influence her children by either encouraging or discouraging the relationship with their paternal family and stepmom. She has the power to encourage her children to embrace this change or hold on to the past. Additionally, she has to filter through her own emotions while helping her children as she is often times the custodial parent and therefore the children are with her most of the time. Simply put, the divorced dad often times gets a chance to breathe after the divorce. It’s easier for him to embrace the change much sooner than the ex-wife because he gets a chance to grieve and get used to the idea, but the ex-wife must keep going. She must help her children adjust while sometimes pushing her own feelings aside to focus on them. She reacts out of a fear of change because she barely has time to wrap her head around the idea. This causes her to make decisions based on that fear instead of doing what’s right for everyone, including her. That being said, as a society, we understand and sympathize with the ex-wife more than anyone else in the stepfamily and give her the benefit of the doubt way more than we should. The adjustment period for the ex-wife should not last several years. You can’t expect everyone to be understanding and sympathetic to your plight for that long.
As I stated earlier the root cause of people pleasing is fear of rejection and this fear can create a very damaging pattern of behavior in our lives. It’s important to realize that you cannot allow someone else’s negative thoughts or issues to govern how you feel about yourself or how you make decisions. Setting healthy boundaries is an important part of life and part of setting boundaries is learning to say NO! Self-care, even for the stepmother, is not a wicked thing because as Diane mentioned in her article, you can’t effectively do your job as a parent or step-parent, in your career or even as a friend, if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
Can you not stand the thought of upsetting others? Or, maybe you are like me and you put everyone elses’ needs and wants before your own? If any of these statements describe you, you may be guilty of being a “people pleaser.” Granted, just being a busy parent and spouse, one can easily fall into the trap of as I have often been called the “be all, do all and go to person” for everything. Being a people pleaser has been something that I have personally struggled with in the past. I am the immediate “go to” person at work as well as at home. Recently, I came to the conclusion that I cannot and will not “be all and do all” to and for everyone in my life whether that be to my children, my husband, my boss or my friends. I have many friends that fall into this same category. I watch them bend over backwards, like me, to help everyone and get little to no time for themselves and when they do seem to find a little time, they feel guilty….just like me. My problem lies in the fact that I have a hard time saying the simple word “no” to anyone, any favor, any task asked of me. I felt like it was more important to please and impress that person or family member and endure the pressure and sometimes the stress that it brings along with it just to seek their approval. At times, I even found myself making excuses to myself for my people pleasing ways. Hence, my recent conclusion to “just say no to people pleasing!”
I have determined that the approval I may have thought I needed was really only my issue. I need not anyone’s approval. I have also determined that when my children are grown or when I am no longer here, how many miles I drove them to soccer practices or to games or how many times I stressed about buying them the latest and greatest clothes or toys or given them my last $5.00 until payday for little extras that they really could have gone without will not be remembered by them at all. What they will remember is the time I shared with each of them, my caretaking of them when they were sick, my unconditional love for them; not my people-pleasing because I didn’t want them to be upset with me and they definitely will not remember all of the times I gave into their excessive wants. My boss will appreciate me for my hard work and tenacity not for my accumulating 150 hours of paid time off because I never call in sick when I need to out of fear of displeasing anyone. You get the point? I do not have to be a martyr.
In my research on this subject I found out that people pleasers are really just fearful of rejection. Some feel that if they don’t put everyone else ahead of themselves or their needs, they will end up alone. They are afraid of setting boundaries out of the fear of disappointment. Something that I found out during my research really hit a note with me personally and that is people pleasers usually were raised in environments wherein their needs and feelings were pushed aside and not considered. Bingo! Boy there is so much truth to that statement. A lot of children of divorce end up being people pleasers in some aspect or another. They have been pulled in between their parents and often find themselves having to take sides. They didn’t have a choice in the decision of their parents to divorce, and after the divorce, their feelings often get pushed aside because their parents can’t find time to step off the battlefield long enough to see that their children need their attention. In turn, they end up trying to please both parents all of the time and this behavior continues and carries over into their adult lives.
The following are some tips that I found very helpful:
1. Focus on your own best interest instead of avoiding conflict;
2. Do something for yourself;
3. Learn how to say no;
4. Learn when it is appropriate for you to take responsibility for an action and when it is someone elses’ issue. Do not bear burdens that aren’t yours to bear.
You are important. Your self-worth is not based on how much you do for other people. Learning to say no is not easy for a people pleaser, but having an assertive attitude without being aggressive is the key. Wanting to please everyone all of the time is stressful and even hurtful to our physical well-beings as well. Remember, there is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself first and then you will be more able to effectively and lovingly take care of the others in your life.
Peace and blessings,
“LOVE YOURSELF FIRST AND EVERYTHING FALLS INTO LINE…..Lucille Ball”
I just finished reading an awesome book called “The Courage to be a Step-Mom” by Sue Patton Thoele. Ms. Thoele has written many books about women finding the courage to be themselves and in this book she talks about, in particular, step-mom’s finding their place within the blended family without losing themselves and who they are in the process of finding that place of solace. She also talks about how important it is for us women (moms or step-moms) to be good to ourselves, to take care of US.
One statement in her book stood out to me the most as a step-mom and that is “understanding that one of the most beneficial results of self-care is an increased ability to love others which allows us to care for ourselves more gently and completely.”
As mothers and step-mothers in our never-ending busy daily lives, it seems impossible to put ourselves in front of our children, our husbands, work, our respective households and all of the extra-curricular activities ta boot! What we fail to realize is that if we women fail to appreciate ourselves and approve of ourselves, we cannot, in fact, be of a benefit to our families or our friends. As Ms. Thoele so eloquently stated, “self-love is not selfishness or self-centeredness, it is quite the contrary.”
TODAY BFSO family readers:
1. Be good to yourself;
2. Accept who you are;
3. Share your knowledge;
4. Learn and face your feelings;
5. Express yourself;
6. Act Constructively; AND MOST IMPORTANTLY,
7. HONOR YOU!
Peace & Blessings Always,
p.s. More healthy inner living to follow!!!!