Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book #2: The Enlightened Stepmother: Revolutionizing the Role

This 454 page "manual" was recommended to me by a personal friend when I married and joined my very single and independent life to that of a husband and three kids, ages 18, 16, and 12. She said with a smile and a hug, "it will save your life." Quizzically, I took her advice. I didn't think it would help me much as I was marrying a very loving man with very good kids. Good thing friends know enough to see the road ahead. :-)

Written by two stepmothers that conducted 95 personal interviews with other step-mothers, it has a wide based of experience from 20-somethings to retirees sharing their personal experience with blended families of any and all varieties and socio-economic statuses.

I had never envisioned being a "stepmom" in my life, just "mom", so one of the opening paragraphs got my attention directly about what I may not be observing so keenly around me: "We knew about the stepmothers in our books of fairy tales. They were the reason we begged our mothers to leave a night-light on. We knew they were ugly and evil and without feeling for other living things. We knew they had no fashion sense. Few of us probably knew any in real life, and we hoped they would never be any in our own lives."

The book continues on, describing experiences that were anything but unique. That's the terrific part. Many of the development stages in step-family life are predictable, to varying extremes, but predictable. Topics from self-awareness to marriage, current or future children to the wider parenting circle, holidays and weddings, finances and legal items to check, the book is an invaluable tool in thinking through step-family life.

For those of my readers thinking, "so what's the big deal about step-families, families are families!", let me give one example in my life that I also discovered in the book. Someone calls the female head of household for a dinner invite. The female talks to her husband to see when dinner with another family is possible. He gives her a range of dates. The husband then calls his ex-wife to see when the children are available for a free evening. She says she'll get back to him. The husband then calls the children (yea cell phones!), each individually, to check their calendars. He gets three rough dates from which to work, none of which fit his dates of availability. He then calls the ex-wife to see if there are any other dates. She looks ahead 3 weeks, 6 weeks...ah maybe next Wednesday will work if she releases the children from her pending engagement. The husband then calls the children back, individually, to confirm. If everything is a-okay...then I get the message of a date that works. And that's only if it works with my schedule and the family who extended the invite. This may take from 3-5 DAYS to accomplish. No kidding. And that's fast for us.

So, I've had to adjust my time-frame for planning. But what about financial obligations? Holiday priorities? Honeymoon? Date nights? Family traditions? Co-parenting with two other parents, outside your home and influence, most often whom have different life values? What if you have children from a previous marriage or want to conceive, foster, or adopt? What are your legal rights as a person, wage-earner, or survivor? Lots and lots of stuff....that's just great to think about, even if it doesn't fit a particular current situation.

I don't know that it has saved my life, but on tough days, it has saved my perspective. My step-children have been very open-hearted towards me and I have a good relationship with their mother. Their father is a good father and husband and I feel very loved. It is still a very complicated and hard path in each week.

I will be keeping this book in my reference section.

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