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Mothering & Stepmothering

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Every Other Friday "As stepmothers, every other Friday night can be something to dread or something to embrace," writes Erin, who is both a custodial AND a non-custodial stepmom. She shares tips for making visitation and transition time easier for everyone.

Stepfamilies and Holidays "The public notion is that the holiday season is peaceful, loving and joyous," writes therapist Judy Osborne. "And if it's not peaceful, loving and joyous, we end up thinking, 'There must be something wrong with me.'" Her article offers tips for smoothing the season, especially helpful for the newly-blended family.

New Holiday Rituals for Untraditional Families Practical advice for creating new family traditions, while keeping the children's needs foremost. "Single-parent families; divorced, non-custodial parents; stepfamilies. For millions of them, the fact is that there will be an absent parent who will take much of the joy out of the feast, and who may not be enjoying the one he/she attends, either," therapist Irene Shapiro writes.

The Exceedingly Complex Role of the Stepmom The role of the stepmother is the most complicated and demanding one in any blended family. Paprock writes,

A stepmom can get whiplash trying to negotiate her way around competing interests and attempting to find a path through veritable mazes of paradox. Stepmoms often have all of the responsibilities of parenting (think: cooking, cleaning, laundry) but none of the legal rights. Stepmoms may constantly be trying to find the middle ground between being a child's pal and being a disciplinarian. Those who feel no love for their stepchildren are seen as cold; those who do can be accused of "trying to take the place of the biological mother."

The Evil Stepmother "We joke about me being the evil stepmother," Maureen McHugh writes in this essay, "In fact, the joke is that I am the Nazi Evil Stepmother From Hell. It dispels tension to say it out loud. Actually, Adam and I do pretty good together. But the truth is that all stepmothers are evil. It is the nature of the relationship. It is, as far as I can tell, an unavoidable fact of step relationships."

The Children of My Heart "Because I love them so absolutely but know I am not their 'real' mother, I find my feelings easily hurt. I am constantly wondering who I am to these children," Cafe member Nicole Leon-Guerrero says in this essay, written on the eve of her in vitro fertilization.

Why Are Stepmoms Treated So Differently? Cafe moderator "Jennifer11" talks about the different treatment we stepmothers get from the rest of the world. "I think stepmoms get a hard time because no one wants them," she writes.

Creating Good-Enough Holidays With Step-teens ". . . . Make creating "good-enough" holidays your goal together instead of trying to re-create that "perfect' holiday you once shared with your former biofamily (or wished you did). . . ."

Because I'm the Adult -- That's Why! Observations and advice for parents about having control in one's household, written by Cafe moderator Gracie. "Adults need to firmly claim their role in the household as the adults, and therefore the ones in charge of the children. This is true in all families, but may be particularly true in stepfamilies," she writes.

Overnight Parent: What I Learned in My First Year as a Stepmom Having a relationship with a man who has children has been one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences of my life. It’s not comparable to any other relationship I’ve had. He was able to love deeper and understand better from the get-go because he already knew how to be selfless from raising two amazing little girls and co-parenting. But along with that came complications that other relationships never had—every decision needed to be thoughtful and the girls were at the forefront.

How the World Sees Stepmothers Admit it. The first word that comes to mind when you think "stepmother" is "wicked."

Second Wife Rollercoaster Being a second wife is "like wearing spiked heels on a cobble stone path," writes Cafe member QueenB. "One moment I can be happier than I ever thought possible and in the next sadder and more broken hearted than I've ever been

Family Law

Court Date? What to Wear: How to Make the Best Impression on the Judge You've spent weeks preparing the documents, hours researching online. You have stacks of evidence, reams of paperwork. You finally feel prepared, like you've got all your ducks in a row. You are ready for court. There is only one question remaining. . . . WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO WEAR???

Court Date? What to Wear: How to Make the Best Impression on the Judge You've spent weeks preparing the documents, hours researching online. You have stacks of evidence, reams of paperwork. You finally feel prepared, like you've got all your ducks in a row. You are ready for court. There is only one question remaining. . . . WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO WEAR???

Run a Mile With a Column Inch Want to write a letter to your local paper but you're not sure how to go about it? This article covers the hows and whys of writing letters to the editor.

Write an Effective Letter Want to help the the Frankes? Join us as we write letters to elected officials and newspaper editors. This article contains tips and suggestions for making sure your letter gets noticed, and makes a difference.

Child Support 101 This article, written by a Michigan family law attorney, talks about the basics of child support: how it's determined, how to get it modified.

Personal Essays

My Detachment Story I am lucky. I found and married a wonderful man. He is caring, he is loving, he is charming, he makes me laugh, he is a great father and he has a daughter from a previous marriage. My step-daughter was the most delightful little girl. She was four years old, she has beautiful long curly blond hair, blue eyes and the cutest curiosity. She was loving. She was charming. We instantly became bonded and friends.

Divorce's Leanne Bell explores the flip side of divorce in this essay.

"Divorce means choice," she writes, "Divorce means that two people do not have to remain bound to each other until the grave, as society dictated until the 20th century. Divorce means that human beings can determine the path their life will take. And at its very root, divorce provides for that most crucial, most valuable of human experiences: happiness."

Everything I Know About Parenting, I Learned from a Fortune Cookie Cafe moderator eats fortune cookie, gains valuable wisdom -- and shares it with the rest of us!

The Stepmom@Home

Making HER Home Into YOUR Home Purify, redecorate, and thoroughly disinfect the former marital home -- while spending quality time with your best girlfriends -- with these tips from Cafe member stchoub!

Second Weddings

Why Civil Marriages?'s Leanne Bell writes, "I have been asked this question often: if I don't believe in God, and if, therefore, I don't need the blessing of my Creator or church to sanctify my marriage, why would I go through a civil ceremony that essentially makes the government my Higher Power?"


You and I Equal Respect: The Formula for Fair Fighting Conflict is an inevitable part of living with another person. When one or both partners may have failed relationships in their past, confrontation and arguments can be especially painful and challenging -- and potentially threaten the new relationship.

In this article, educational psychologist Lynne Namka offers guidelines for learning to fight fair.

The Drama Triangle: The Three Roles of Victimhood "All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," Tolstoy wrote.

Educational psychologist Lynne Namka disagrees. "The three roles of the Drama Triangle are the three main positions that unhappy families play," she writes. People assume the roles of Perpetrator, Rescuer, and Victim, she says, playing out their parts in a dysfunctional family drama that serves to keep them from genuine feelings and growth.

If He Loved Me, He Would.... "Why do we women make MORAL mountains out of molehills?" writes Cafe member Monica Rosas-Baines:

Simple disagreements about particular matters are somehow transformed into evidence of a faulty relationship. A woman interprets her husband’s habit of leaving dirty dishes on the counter as a sign of disrespect to her. A husband who does not incorporate his new wife's parenting ideas about his children is described as "inconsiderate and insensitive."

Children "Children are not the reason for marriage, and shouldn't be used as a reason against it, either. They may be a possible outcome of it, but ultimately should have very little to do with it at all," Bell writes.

Mrs. Now that you're married, what do you call yourself? Leanne Bell makes the case for wholeheartedly embracing the title Mrs.: "When used with her husband's name, it can be a very symbolic gesture, a gift she gives her husband, an acknowledgement that she is proud to be his wife."

Ask Jill: September 2003 Our columnist Jill Curtis returns this month, answering questions from stepmoms, including a stepmom frustrated by a lack of boundaries in her husband's ex, a woman growing tired of biting her tongue to "keep the peace", and a stepmother asking about her rights when her husband is out of town.

Ask Jill: July 2003 British family therapist Jill Curtis returns this month, answering questions about a troubled adult stepdaughter and second wife insecurity.

Ask Jill: May 2003 British family therapist Jill Curtis is back; this month she answers questions from a second wife frustrated because her husband's ex won't let go, a stepmom worried about visitation drama, a young woman whose sacrifices for her older man are becoming too much to bear, and a woman who wants to reclaim her place as her husband's wife.

Ask Jill 3/2002 Questions about blending families, stepparenting, second marriages, and more — asked by members — answered by Jill Curtis.

Wives of Widowers

When the Saints Go Marching In: Living in the Shadow of an Angel "Only the good die young."

No one understands this phrase better than the wife of a widower. Chances are she has heard it time and time again throughout her courtship and marriage. Friends, family members, and even her spouse may comment on the many virtues of his late wife and their marriage. This can escalate to the point of creating a saint-like image, and, to a new wife, it can become overwhelming. Why does this happen, and how can WOWs cope when living in the shadow of the late wife's seemingly flawless memory?

Dear Next Wife Inspired by a thread on our Wives of Widowers forum, an anonymous Cafe member wrote this funny, sweet letter to pass on to her husband's next wife, should Ree happen to die.

Our Own Worst Enemy? Living with the previously-widowered offers seemingly constant reminders of his previous wife, Cafe moderator Gracie writes. "If we succumb to the 'second best' messages that surround us, and if we live with tension dreading the next reference to another woman, we hurt ourselves," she writes. "We can stop doing this and teach others around us how to treat us by how we treat ourselves."

Father's Issues

Yelling from the Rooftops: Not All Divorced Dads Are Bad Guys! Cafe member cmac confronts the "remarried dad as abandoning, cheating creep" stereotype in this personal essay. "I hope that most people really don't suspect that every man in a second marriage 'ditched' his wife of twenty years for a younger woman," she writes. "But I fear that may not be the case."

Book Reviews

The Enlightened Stepmother Cafe member "jennyrene", a second wife and stepmom, examines the book The Enlightened Stepmother in this review. "There are a lot of books on divorce and stepfamilies, but most of them focus on the children," she writes. "This book focuses on the stepmother and her feelings, her issues, and situations she will encounter."