The stress of (step) family vacations

Family vacations are supposed to be a time for family fun, bonding and making memories. But they can be a very stressful experience for stepmoms.

For parents, it’s a chance to take their kids somewhere fun and to get some quality time with them. But for stepparents… it can often mean staying in close quarters, for long periods of time, with the feeling of “outsider” magnified.

It can also bring with it disappointment if you expected to get some one on one time with your partner, and it just doesn’t happen.

Stepmoms often think they don’t have options when it comes to family vacations. They think they have to go along with what the rest of the family wants to do, without ever speaking up about what they’d like to do or taking time for themselves. Not so!

Here are some tips to help you enjoy that family vacation a little more.

  1. Schedule in some YOU time. That’s right, make sure to plan ahead for time to get a spa treatment, spend a few exploring hours on your own, basically anything to give yourself from a break from the long hours with the family.
  2. Schedule some time for you and your partner. Again, plan ahead to make sure this doesn’t get missed. Don’t leave it up to chance. Call ahead and make plans for someone else to watch the kids (very feasible depending on where you’re staying), or if you’re not staying somewhere with built-in child care, brainstorm with your partner ways to make sure you get some connection time. If he knows your expectations ahead of time, he’ll be much more likely to make an effort to make it happen.
  3. Plan an adult vacation at a separate time. It’s sad to say, but most of the stepparents who go on family vacations don’t actually feel like they’ve taken one. The family vacation is often very kid-focused, which is fine in a nuclear family where parents are glad to sacrifice everything for their child and love having their time focused on the child, not so much for a stepfamily. So maybe you need to look ahead and plan for the whole year, but defintiely make sure you build in a vacation for just you or just you and your partner.
  4. Stay home. Seriously, most kids love having alone time with their parents, so opt out of a family vacation every now and then. Sure, your partner may be disappointed, but that’s OK. He’ll feel better when he returns home to a brand new, super happy and loving partner who took some time to herself to recharge. 

When you’re relaxed on your vacation, everyone else is relaxed too!

© 2017 Jenna Korf    All Rights Reserved

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Stepmoms, do you like who you’ve become?

Stressed StepmomI hear from a lot of stepmoms that they don’t like who they’ve become. They say that they used to be so happy and alive. They were friendly and funny… they really liked themselves. But not so much, these days.

This is what happens when we spend too much time shoving our feelings down, ignoring our needs and doing too many things that we really don’t want to be doing.

If you can relate to this, you’re not a bad person. You’re human. You’re a caring woman who has put the needs of others above hers – but you’re paying a price for that.

Bet you didn’t know there is such a thing as OVER caring. I know, ridiculous, right? Caring is so wonderful, how can you OVER care? Well, you can over care when you’re no longer giving because you want to give, but giving because you:

  • think you should
  • feel forced to
  • are trying to control a situation
  • are trying to control other people
  • are attached to a specific outcome

What happens when you over care is you start to get angry that others haven’t returned the favor. Or that things haven’t turned out how you wished they had. Or that you’re living a life that you’re no longer satisfied with. You’ll know you’ve arrived at over care because you’ll be on edge, contracted, getting triggered by every little thing. And it will be hard for you to find anything about your family that you enjoy.

What started out as a good intention has turned into something you resent – and everyone around you knows it. Your family doesn’t win when you over care. Kids can sense your resentment of them and your partner isn’t blind to your contempt.

The antidote? Stepping out of over care and into love. Love for yourself, which means understanding that your needs ARE important, and that you first have to be good with yourself before you can be available for others. It means stepping back from doing the things you resent, at least until you can get enough perspective and a full emotional tank to work from. Then, when you’re back on track, you’ll either decide that you’re ready to step back in and take on only what you can feel good about, or you’ll decide other action is needed. Either way, you’ll be doing it with love, for yourself and others.

One of my favorite exercises we do at our Stepmom Retreat is helping women remember who they are. Because it’s from this place of love and authenticity that you’ll find your strength to move forward into happiness.

And when you’re happy with yourself, you’ll make decisions that serve you well and consequently serve those around you well. So step back. Take inventory. Decide who you want to be. And move forward, one small step at a time.

© 2016 Jenna Korf    All Rights Reserved

If you don’t recognize yourself anymore, please consider joining the Stepmom Revolution community. We will help you reclaim the best parts of yourself! 

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Stepmoms, there is nothing wrong with you

Stepmom feeling normalThis is a short blog post with one purpose, to let you know that you’re OK. That you’re normal and there’s nothing wrong with you. Whatever it is you’re thinking or feeling about your experience as a woman dating or married to a man with kids, it’s not unusual. 

A little perspective 

A common theme among my stepmom clients and the stepmoms I connect with in the StepmomHelp.com Facebook community is that they think there’s something wrong with them because they’re challenged by their situation.

They think they should be able to handle this easily, but the truth is that many have started experiencing anxiety and depression and their stress has manifested in physical ailments. They also feel an overwhelming sense of shame in regards to their thoughts and feelings about their situation and their inability to deal with it effortlessly.

The vicious cycle

Due to the shame, these things aren’t often talked about openly, which causes more shame because everyone thinks they’re the only ones struggling. They feel  isolated, assuming they’re the exception to the rule and that everyone else is handling it easily. But the truth is if there are stepmoms out there who are breezing through it, they’re the exceptions.

I guarantee you, if you’ve thought it or felt it, regardless of how “awful” you think it is, so have thousands of other stepmoms before you, including me!

It’s easy to make yourself wrong for your struggles, but you’re not wrong. You’re just experiencing what most normal, healthy individuals experience when they’re in a situation as inherently difficult as a stepfamily.

Asking for help

That doesn’t mean things can’t be better for you, of course. But first you have to come out of the proverbial closet. Reaching out for help isn’t for the weak, it’s for those who are strong enough to say “Right now I can’t do this on my own and if I want things to change, I need to change something.”

One of the reasons I love my job so much is because I get to give stepmoms hope and show them that, at the very least, when they improve themselves they improve their experience of the situation.

Connecting with the masses

This is a simple exercise you can do any time you’re feeling down on yourself for feeling down.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself connecting with all the thousands of stepmoms around the world who are also struggling. Then imagine opening your heart and sending them love and compassion for everything they’re going through. Then send yourself the same love and compassion for your experience.

The bottom line is you’re not alone and you’re not unique in the struggles you face or your thoughts and feelings about those struggles. You are completely normal (and fabulous!), just like every other stepmom in the world.

© 2016 Jenna Korf    All Rights Reserved

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The one step that will ensure kids respect their stepparent

respect stepmomWhen a parent re-partners after divorce, it can be really difficult for the kids. Not only is it a reminder that their parents aren’t getting back together, but it creates a shift in the post-divorce dynamic of the family, often leaving the children feeling displaced.

Elevating the stepparent

Because of the difficulties the kids may have, parents often ignore one of the most crucial steps to re-partnering: elevating their partner to head of household, alongside of them. When a parent elevates the stepparent, he’s making it clear to everyone, including the kids and the ex, that his partner is an important part of his family.

When the stepparent isn’t elevated, a very blurry line is created, and the kids may take this “non action” as a green light to ignore her or be disrespectful, because …

  • “dad didn’t correct us so it must be OK”
  • “dad hasn’t said anything about things changing”
  • “dad does it”
  • “dad doesn’t think she’s important enough to stand up for, so I’m going to act out every bit of anger, hurt and resentment I feel – onto her”

A shift in family hierarchy

In many divorced families, the hierarchy of the family has changed. What began in the nuclear family with the parents at the top and the children under them has shifted to the kids alongside one or both parents; elevated to equal status of the parent.

When this happens the kids behave like the parent’s peer (or spouse); taking care of the house, meals, and having equal say in the decisions of the household. Some parents also inappropriately share details about their personal lives or court status. This often places the kids in a position that they’re not emotionally prepared for. It also makes it extremely difficult for them to move back down to “kid status” when the parent re-partners. They’ll likely feel rejected, replaced and resentful towards their stepparent.

How it’s done

The kids take their cues from their parents, so when dad takes responsibility for setting the tone in the house, he tells his kids things like:

  • “Yes, I know it’s difficult and strange. But I love you very much and she’s not replacing you. And as my partner, she and I will make certain decisions together. I expect everyone in this house to be respectful of each other.”
  • “I love my wife/girlfriend, she’s important to me and she’s not going anywhere. Being disrespectful to her won’t be tolerated.”
  • “When you disrespect her, you disrespect me.”
  • “If I’m not home and she asks you to do something I want you to listen to her.”

Dads: The children will be OK

When kids know what to expect, they thrive. When things are predictable, they feel safe. So although they may push back initially, as long as you’re consistent in your message (and consequences for being disrespectful), they’ll eventually come around.

It’s also important to remain loving, so when it’s explained to the kids that your partner is now the female head of household and will be making decisions alongside of you, be open to hearing what the kids have to say. Listen empathetically, understanding that it can be a difficult change for them – but do not back down. You want them to know that your door is always open for communication, but not for a bashing session of your partner.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Find out what it means to me

Before having this conversation, the couple should discuss what “respect” looks like to them. Does it mean saying hello when you walk in the room? Does it mean using a kind tone of voice? Does it mean making eye contact? You decide. Just make sure you’re clear on this so you can pass it on to the kids. And yes, respect is a two-way street.

Relationship fail or success

A stepmom who doesn’t feel respected by her stepchildren, doesn’t feel respected by her husband. She expects him to do something about it, not just sit by and let it happen. She needs to know her partner has her back. She needs to know he loves her and respects their relationship enough to ensure she’s treated adequately by his kids. When she doesn’t feel this, she’ll likely consider leaving the relationship.

If a parent isn’t ready to elevate their partner, then they aren’t ready to re-partner.

But when a dad ensures this respect by his kids, he will have a blissfully happy stepmom on his hands. She’ll want to do just about anything for him – and his kids! She’ll feel like her relationship (and husband) is the best thing in the world.

© 2016 Jenna Korf    All Rights Reserved

Ready to join a private community of like-minded stepmoms who are committed to creating the best stepmom experience possible? Join the Stepmom Revolution!

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