They say, "Find Your Tribe + Love Them Hard". I couldn't agree more.
Being a stepmom can be a pretty isolating gig, I know that first hand. Developing this online community of stepmoms has been hands down one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's allowed me to connect with some pretty inspiring women from literally all over the world (have you ever stopped to think about JUST HOW POWERFUL the internet really is, it's kind of crazy!)
Today, as part of my monthly stepmom feature, I want to introduce you to one of the first virtual stepmom friends I made, Colleen LeMaire.
Not only is Colleen an incredible stepmom, she is a former blogger for About.com's Stepmom Section, and the Author of the "I Have Series", kid friendly stories on grown up topics! Colleen refers to her stories as "fairytales with a twist!" (I LOVE THAT!)
Her books include, "I have a Stepmom", "I have a Stepdad" & "I Have Two Homes".
Tell me about your family
My family is made up of myself, 28, my husband Bob, 37 and my stepdaughter Cassidy, who is 7.
How long have you been with your husband?
What is your access schedule?
We currently have every other weekend, and every Tuesday overnight. We are hoping and praying for more time though, and strive for an equal parenting schedule.
How is your relationship with your husband's ex wife?
Non-existent. My husband and I tried for years to have a cordial relationship, especially for the sake of my stepdaughter. But unfortunately it’s just not an option for us. It’s been made very clear I am not a welcome addition to Cassidy’s family tree. I have not spoken to my husband’s Ex in years; I had to step back to protect my happiness and my marriage. Minimal communication between households is our only chance at peace, and we’re okay with that. It’s not ideal, but we’d rather peace than fighting.
What's the most difficult thing about being a stepmom?
Watching my husband miss his daughter, knowing how incredible of a Dad he is and seeing him treated as a second rate parent.
What's the most rewarding thing about being a stepmom?
Moments when my stepdaughter turns to me for guidance and advice. She has many people in her life she can turn to, so it is always a great feeling when she seeks me out for help, an opinion, or just a listening ear. She is only seven, but I hope her trust to confide in me continues to grow.
What's one of the biggest mistakes you have made as a stepmom?
Not being on the same page as my husband. There was a window of time where we were not on the same page as each other when it came to parenting. And not being on the same page felt a lot like not being on the same team. Mass chaos broke out in our house because little ones learn very quickly how to divide and conquer!
In fact, Jamie's program (The KICK-ASS Stepmom Project) helped me to identify what Bob and I were struggling to agree on, and also helped me realize some of the things on that list just didn't matter. I think I felt such a big part of my life was out of my control, as is common with blended family life, that I wanted to over control other areas. I also did not give my spouse enough credit to be a great parent. So I stepped back, removed myself from a lot of responsibilities I knew Bob could just as adequately do, and my anxiety plummeted and my happiness skyrocketed.
Being on the same page is not only important for your marriage, but also for the children to see. Our stepdaughter sees us work out our differences and settle on a compromise. She sees that our partnership is the foundation of our family. She doesn't worry about doors slamming or screaming matches. Bob and I empower one another, we put ourselves in each other's shoes, and we respect our union to no end. Being on the same page with your husband is undeniably important in any family, but especially in a family with multiple bloodlines and a unique path of origin.
If your best friend told you that she was about to start dating a man with kids, what would you tell her?
I would tell her to really think about the path she is starting to go down. I don’t sugar coat things, and being a stepparent is not for everyone. When biological parents don’t support a mother/father figure coming in to their child’s life, it can make for a very ugly situation, and unfortunately a very traumatic childhood for those kids. But I would also tell her that the outcome of such turmoil can be a very strong, and stable marriage. I probably love my husband more now, than on the day we got married, and that love continues to grow. We have weathered through a lot of storms, and we have never called it quits. Not once. He is my partner, and I am his. Being his wife is the best gift God has ever given me.
What do you wish you would have known before you became a Stepmom?
You can’t fix what you didn’t break. I naively thought I could help two people who hurt each other in some of the most profound ways possible, magically get along. And in the beginning, it worked…For about 3 seconds. I wish I had known that no matter what you do, there are people in this world that just cannot and will not get along. And that there are people in this world, that no matter what you do, just aren’t going to like you. And that’s okay. I wasted too much time basing my self-worth on acceptance from a complete stranger. I am a kick-ass wife and pretty cool Stepmom, and the tribe of wonderful souls I surround myself with remind me that every day.
I also would tell myself that children grow up, they form their own opinions, and actions speak much louder than words. My stepdaughter used to be scared to love me, she worried about the backlash she would receive. I let her take her time, I never pushed her to shower me in affection. Sure enough, as years go by, our bond continues to grow. Her and I have an incredibly close relationship, and I am so proud of her for overcoming the pressure to keep me at a distance. She’s my best bud, and I love her so much!
How do you think that Stepmoms are viewed in today's Society?
The phrase ‘you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t’ rings loud and clear as a Stepmom. Stepmoms get judged if they love their stepkids “too much” and overstep “boundaries.” But then we can also be judged if we are hands-off and don’t “love them like our own.” You just can’t win!
I will never understand how an additional person loving a child could be perceived as a negative thing. It makes me happy to see though that society is starting to view us as positive role models who just want to love their blended family. I do what works for us, and don’t pay any attention to the judgments anymore. Our family rocks, and the only people that need to know that are the ones living in it.
What's one thing you couldn't survive without?
Oh gosh. Coffee? Wine? Haha No, I'd have to say my husband. Hands down. He is amazing at everything that I am not. And vice-versa. We just…work so well together. I love him more today than I did yesterday, and I’ll love him more tomorrow. He’s my person.
Tell us about your most awkward Stepmom moment.
My stepdaughter came to me at a party once with a look of pure distress written on her face. She grabbed my hand and led me to the bathroom where she proceeded to tell me she dropped her earring in the toilet…after she used it. So, I did what any great parent would do. I stuck my hand in, and dug through her call of nature, and found that teeny tiny silver star. My stepdaughter couldn’t believe it. She couldn’t believe I did that for her, and she was overwhelmed with gratitude. To this day, when I ask her if she knows how much I love her, she says “enough to stick your hand in my poop.”
What inspired you to start writing the "I Have Series"?
I started my business and blog because I needed it. My stepdaughter needed help understanding her life, and the explanations being given to her were highly inappropriate, and heartbreaking to see her try and wrap her little mind around. I’m a firm believer in preserving childhood as much as possible, and leaving children out of adult emotions and issues. I started my books to comfort her, and they worked wonders for her little mind and heart. She loves my books because they encourage her to love both her biological parents, as well as both of her stepparents, and they teach her she doesn’t have to feel guilty doing so.
I started my blog to connect with other Stepmoms who just get it. I’ve always been a writer, and it’s therapeutic to me to write about situations and emotions Stepmoms encounter.
What's your favourite quote?
"Let them be the parent, you can be the role model"
"Comparison is the thief of joy"
To learn more about Colleen, check out her website and go follow her on Instagram and Facebook!
Or if you're interested in buying one her books for your stepchild, you can do so by clicking on the books below! For the record, I highly recommend!