Stepmoms, step out of arguments between your stepchild and partner

Stepmom Did you know that most kids will get resentful if their stepparent steps in when they’re having an argument with their parent?

Arguing with their parent is something they’ve been doing for years and it’s something they’re comfortable with. It’s something kids feel they have a right to do, and let’s face it, most kids are just trying to manipulate their parents in order to get what they want. You can imagine how upset they’d be at the person who threatens that, right? So if a stepparent intervenes, the child often thinks “Who the hell are you to get in my way? This is between me and my parent. We’ve been doing this long before you came along. Mind your own business.”

It can be hard as a stepmom to bite your tongue, especially if you’re triggered by their arguing style (loud outbursts, name-calling, raised voices), but unless you’ve known your stepchild for a long time, are well bonded with him and have a successful history of being the conflict whisperer, it’s best to stay out of it.

Stepping in will only cause your stepchild to resist your presence in his life, making your life even more difficult than it might already be – and your partner may also resent your intrusion. After all, he’s a big boy and doesn’t need you saving him. I get that you want to protect him, but he doesn’t need it. Let him handle arguments with his child his way.

I’m sure some of you are thinking “But I have a RIGHT to speak up in my home!” I agree, you absolutely have a right, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best course of action. Having a right to something doesn’t mean it’s what’s going to serve you best in the long run.

Think about what your end goal is: Is it more important for you to exert your rights and try to control someone else’s behavior, or is it more important to preserve future relationships with your family?

Instead, exert the power and control you have over yourself and protect yourself from unwanted behavior. Leave the house if you need to, or put on headphones to drown out the noise.

At a later time, feel free to have a family discussion or even a one-on-one with your stepchild, in a kind manner, about how his behavior affects you. But make sure you’re doing it after the fact, when everyone is calm and not triggered. And make sure your intent is to learn about your stepchild and simply share your experience without attachment to whether he changes or not.

Learning to step out of situations that don’t involve you will save your sanity and in the process you’ll be preserving your relationship with your stepchild. Ya know, for those days when he’s older, more mature and actually a pleasure to be around. 😉

© 2015 Jenna Korf    All Rights Reserved

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Stepmoms, is less parenting better stepparenting?

Stepmom less parentingFor most stepparents, especially stepmoms, it’s easy to fall into a parenting role. You’re helping out with homework, meals, shuttling the kids back and forth, taking them to appointments, etc… Along with that, you probably feel compelled to instill your values, exert your parenting style, and teach them what you think is important for them to learn in order to become responsible adults. But what happens when you suddenly (or not so suddenly) find yourself exhausted, unhappy, frustrated and dreading their arrival?

Here’s the thing: most kids don’t naturally see their stepparents as parents or authority figures. Maybe if the child was very young when you came into the picture, but otherwise, no. So if taking on a parenting role is taking its toll on your well-being and your relationship with them, it may be time to shift your mindset and rethink how you’re doing things.

If you’ve gotten to the point where you find yourself nagging the kids so often that even you don’t like yourself, how do you expect the kids to like you? You might be thinking it’s not your job to have the kids like you, it’s your job to raise responsible children who will become responsible adults. I’m guessing that sort of thinking is what got you where you are now – emotionally spent and having a strained relationship with your stepkids. Which means that way of thinking isn’t working for you.

I’m not saying as a stepparent you can’t teach the kids anything. You absolutely can. But by nature of the stepparent role, the kids are more likely to learn from you by watching your behavior, not by you constantly correcting them. But first they have to like and respect you enough to want to emulate you.

By taking on a role that the kids don’t naturally accept you in and one that’s causing you a crazy amount of stress, you’re missing out on opportunities to enrich your relationship with them. You’re so busy reminding them to put their dishes in the sink and to pick up after themselves that you’re passing up the chance to mean something more than an authority figure to them.

“This may work for others, but not for our situation.”

If you’re a full-time stepparent and/or your partner’s parenting style is permissive, you’re probably thinking this is impossible. You think being less disciplinarian and more relaxed and loving means the house will be a sty and the kids will be running around like maniacs.

Consider these two points:

1. When you relax, your partner might step up and start disciplining more. But if you’re constantly the disciplinarian, he doesn’t have to be, and he doesn’t want to be. Just as you’ve probably become stricter because you see him as too lenient, he likely sees you as too strict and therefore is more permissive than he might otherwise be. This requires a conversation with him. Explain to him that if he stepped up just a little more, you could step down, which would help cultivate a better relationship between you and his kids.

2. Think in terms of having more balance. You can still be relaxed and fun and ask the kids to put their dishes in the sink.  You’d just be doing it in a kinder, more loving way. And, when kids feel like you’re on their side, they’re more likely to listen to and respect you.

So ask yourself…

How would things change for you if instead of feeling your job is to raise responsible stepchildren, it was to teach them how to be authentic and at peace with themselves? What if your job was to be a safe place for them to land? To be kind and open with them? Accepting of them? To laugh more with them?  What if your job was to let the kids see you at your happiest, giving them permission to be at their happiest?  How would that change your life, and theirs?

© 2015 Jenna Korf    All Rights Reserved

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Stepmom Burnout: What to do about it

Stepmom Burnout StressBurnout is unfortunately very common among stepmoms. It happens when your emotional (and sometimes physical) tank is on empty and you just have nothing left to give, which is why the littlest things are suddenly enough to set you off.

You know you’re burned out when you’re snarling about things that typically wouldn’t bother you—the kitchen cabinet left ajar, the lone sock in the hallway, the stepchild innocently asking you what’s for dinner. You feel more sensitive than usual and get upset at the drop of a hat. You feel like you are doing everything. You’re shuttling the kids to and from school, helping with homework and after-school activities, preparing dinner, keeping the house in order and working a full-time job. Things are feeling very unfair.

When you get to this point, the scales of responsibility are usually heavily imbalanced. You feel angry, resentful, hurt and exhausted. You’re mad at everyone. In addition, your self-confidence may have plummeted because you’ve put all of your needs aside in order to meet everyone else’s.

Most women are pretty bad at saying no because of the fear associated with it. We’re afraid our partners will be mad at us for placing more responsibility on their shoulders. We’re afraid of alienating the kids. We fear that our families will look down on us and that society will judge us. And on top of that, we have this false belief that other women are handling everything perfectly. We may feel like we’re failing but what we really need is a break.

Most men, on the other hand, are really good at taking time for themselves. Have you noticed they make time for their hobbies and projects? And they do it without the guilt! It usually pisses us off because we don’t understand the concept of putting our needs first— we call it selfish. But in reality, we could take a lesson from them in this department.

The fact is, the more you do, the less everyone else does. So, if you think you’re burned out or are on the verge of burnout, here are some steps to help you recharge.

1. Stop. The bottom line is you’ve taken on too much responsibility. It’s time to give some of that up. Start with choosing one thing (or more if you’re feeling daring) that could easily be handed over to someone else and then let your partner know you need that to happen.

2. Delegate. Take an inventory of all the household chores and who actually does them. Then reassign the chores so they’re more evenly distributed. Kids of all ages can take on varying levels of responsibility, so don’t let their young ages deter you from this. At the same time, be prepared for things not to get done exactly as you would do them— and learn to be OK with that. If you live by the saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” you’ll never recover from burnout.

A lot of stepmoms get frustrated at this point because the kids and partners don’t always step up. It can take patience and a lot of self-control to not fall back into old patterns, but that’s how you reached the burnout phase in the first place, so stand your ground and find a way to be comfortable with stepping away even if others are refusing to be responsible for themselves. The house may be messier, but the world won’t stop spinning.

3. Communicate. Let your partner know you’ve reached your limit and need a break. Explain that in order to be a better wife and stepmom, you need to start taking better care of yourself and that this might mean stepping away for a bit. Reach out to friends, family, the daycare center and carpool groups for help. Start thinking outside the box in order to find help if it’s not readily available to you.

4. Rediscover your passions. Everyone needs something stress free and fun to focus on. Start thinking about activities that nourish your soul and energize you. What brings you joy? What activity captivates you and brings a smile to your face? Now commit to that activity at least once a week!

5. Let go of guilt. Self-care is as important as breathing, so stop feeling guilty about making yourself a priority. Understand that, when you agree (or insist) on doing everything for everyone else, you are doing them a great disservice. You’re robbing your partner of the chance to step up and be a better father, and you’re robbing the kids of the pride that comes with responsibility.

The happiest women are those who make time for themselves. They value themselves enough to put their well-being at the top of their priority list, knowing that it will result in them ultimately being happier wives, moms and stepmoms. They have a circle of friends with whom they communicate on a regular basis. They feel entitled to take care of themselves and engage in activities they love, so they’re in the best possible shape—physically and mentally—to be positive, loving and willing participants in their families.

 © 2014 Jenna Korf    All Rights Reserved

Join us for the 2-week, online Role-Clarity Intensive where I’ll help you figure out exactly what role works best for you and your family. By the end of the two weeks, you’ll have a very clear vision of your role with practical ways to move forward with it..

This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of Sm Magazine.

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Step-parenting a Strong-Willed Child – Huffington Post


Do you have a stepchild that changes the entire energy of the house when they walk in? Are they stubborn and do they throw a fit when they don’t get their way?

If so, check out my article, Step-parenting Strong-Willed Children, on Huffington Post to find out how to protect your sense of well-being when you’re around your strong-willed stepchild.

3 Ways to Prevent Stepmom Burnout


Stepmom burnoutWhat is stepmom burnout?

It’s what occurs when a stepmom’s emotional and physical tank is on empty.

Just look at any stepmom who hasn’t learned to say “no” and you’ll see it on her face, etched in her frown lines.

She’s the stepmom who’s lost her smile. The stepmom who’s feeling resentful that she picks up ALL the slack at home and gets nothing in return.

She’s constantly stressed out and on edge.  She’s forgotten who she is. She’s forgotten what makes her laugh and how light she used to feel. She doesn’t like who she’s become and if she doesn’t do something about it soon, her family may fall apart.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. We want to fix our families. We want to save everyone from themselves. We are the never-ending helpers.

But in being all that, we sell our souls. We become worn out, hurt, feeling used, tired; a shell of the vibrant, happy women we used to be.

If this describes you, are you ready for a change? Here are some strategies for recharging and for hopefully preventing you from experiencing Stepmom Burnout ever again:

1. Learn to say “No.” Saying “no” doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a person who knows their own worth and values their emotional health. It makes you a good role model to your stepchildren, teaching them what it looks like to care for themselves and  honor their own needs.

As you might have guessed, this is easier said than done. People like to be taken care of. When your family sees that you’re no longer at their beck and call, they’re going to push back. Don’t be manipulated.  Stay strong and explain why this new you is necessary. Reassure them that they will soon reap the benefits of a more relaxed, happy-go-lucky you.

2. Learn to say “yes!” to YOU. When you’re constantly saying “yes” to everyone else, you’re saying “no” to you. In turn, you’re zapping your own energy source, robbing yourself of the fuel that feeds your spirit. The result?  You lose the best parts of you.

It’s time to awaken the old you. Give yourself permission to do something FUN! Think of one activity you’ve given up that used to revive your energy. Commit to doing it once a week.

And because you’re not a selfish bitch, let your family know ahead of time that you’ll be carving out this time for yourself so they can alter their plans if need be.

Has it been so long you can’t even remember what you like to do? Try browsing through magazines and tear out anything that strikes you. It’ll help you kickstart your creative side.

3. Reconnect with friends. Good friends keep us grounded. They remind us who we are and reflect the best parts of ourselves.  When was the last time you spoke to a close friend? If it’s been so long that you can’t remember, it’s time to give them a call. Make plans to get together, Skype or just gab on the phone like the old days. Life is pushy and gets in the way, but it’s time  to push back.

 Still not convinced you have it in you?

Ponder these questions and see if you make any progress:

  • What are my beliefs about honoring my own needs?
  • What does it say about me if I put my needs first?
  • What does saying “no” to other people mean?
  • How will my family benefit if I choose to take better care of myself?
  • What’s getting in my way of being happy?

Share your experiences with Stepmom Burnout in the comment section.

© 2012 Jenna Korf    All Rights Reserved

(Photo credit: Nujalee) 

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Put Down Your Good Intentions and Step Away From the Ex-Wife


step away from ex-wife


Unsure of where you fit in? Join us for the upcoming online Intensive, Role Clarity.

We often talk about stepmoms overdoing it and needing to step back from all their responsibilities; needing to take a break from taking care of everything and everyone.

But sometimes it’s not the stepchildren they need to back off from.

Sometimes it’s the ex-wife.

Stepmoms usually start out innocently communicating with mom around things like schedules and logistics. If that goes well, she starts thinking “Great, mom is receptive to me. She’s accepting of me.”

She then takes mom’s receptiveness as an invitation to move into position and start taking the reigns around other aspects of co-parenting.

She also starts to think she can heal the relationship between her husband and his ex. Oops…

What starts out with good intentions on the stepmom’s part, often turns into an ugly power struggle or war between mom and stepmom.

Before she knows it, she’s crossed a boundary she couldn’t see and mom is up in arms accusing her of overstepping and trying to take over.  (Cue the barrage of nasty text messages from mom)

The stepmom is often an easy scapegoat. We’re the new kid on the block (even if we’ve been around for years). And it’s so much easier to point the finger at someone else and tell them what they’re doing wrong, than trying to see how their presence could benefit the family and wanting to find solutions.

Stepmoms, when you start getting frustrated about this, remember these four words: YOU CAN’T FIX IT.

It was broken long before you showed up.  And as much as you might love your husband and want to make things better for him, you can only do that in your household. When it comes to his ex, it’s HIS job to handle her.

There are some moms who do communicate better with their child’s stepmom and choose to deal with her rather than her ex. For those of you who can make that work, I commend you!

But for all the others…

Your husband has a choice. He either chooses to lay down some ground rules with her or he chooses to continue letting the dynamic be as it is.

Either way it’s his choice.

So what do you get for  “getting out of the way”? You get to improve your marriage. What your husband wants is to feel supported by you. By letting him deal with his ex and NOT harassing him about his decisions, or hers, you allow the space to simply support him.

And you get to go about your business focusing on all the things that bring you joy, knowing that whatever stress she brings, you’re more protected from it than you would be if you were right in the line of fire.

This will be a challenge for those of you who define yourselves as control freaks. You might feel like bursting at the seam every time something happens, but eventually you learn to enjoy not having the pressure of needing to know every gory detail of the interaction.

And you might need to fake it ’till you make it. Put notes around the house reminding you to bite your tongue.

Your husband is a big boy, let him handle things in his own way (which I guarantee will be different than the way YOU would handle them).

If it’s something that affects you, then have that conversation with him. Otherwise, learn to let go.

You’re making room for more peace in your life and at the same time showing your husband “ I trust you, I believe in you.” And more than anything, that’s what our husbands want to feel from us.

So stepmoms, do your best to remove yourself from fights that aren’t yours.

Your marriage will thank you for it!

© 2012 Jenna Korf    All Rights Reserved

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