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The Happy Stepmother Kindle Edition

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Length: 269 pages Word Wise: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

While some stepmothers have a fairly easy time adjusting to their new roles, many of us find it far more difficult than we ever imagined. In a world filled with technology designed to help us enjoy more leisure time, many of us still forsake the simple joys—going to the movies, having lunch with girlfriends, reading novels—in order to take care of our stepfamilies. Very quickly after marrying our partners, too many of us have crossed the fine line into emotional imbalance by working too hard and becoming involved in situations where we receive little joy or reward. We are suddenly in deep water without a life jacket to keep us afloat.

Little guidance is available about the challenges we face—being a stepmother is truly a "forgotten" role in society. Have you ever complained about the problems you are having as a stepmother, and heard the comment: "Well, you knew he had kids when you married him"? Unfortunately, this is a statement that too many of us hear all too often.

Second marriages can be difficult in themselves, with or without stepchildren. Add children into the mix, and the situation is that much more complicated!

Why Are So Many of Us Having So Much Trouble?

As you might expect, the reasons for stepfamily problems are complex. One contributing factor is that many of us are just not prepared for this role and have no idea how demanding the job can be. Many of the respondents to the online questionnaire said that they simply had no concept of the depth and breadth of the problems they would encounter once married.

For many of us, affection for our new partners makes us turn a blind eye to potential problems down the road. We simply hope that our love will get us through. While most women understand that marrying a man with children won't be as easy as marrying a man without children, conventional wisdom suggests that time will help "blend" family members into a cohesive unit. We are led to believe that, eventually, stepchildren will grow to love and respect us, partners will overcome their guilt for hurting their children, and ex-wives will get over their anger and resentment. Even for those of us with prior experience—having been a stepmother in a previous relationship or having had a stepmother—this knowledge may not be of much use in our current situations.

Problems can take months or years to develop in stepfamilies. Consequently, many of us are bound to be unprepared for the challenges we face, and are overwhelmed by their magnitude when they do occur.

Other stepmothers said that they were aware of potential problems in their stepfamilies, but they believed those difficulties would improve as everyone adjusted to the new family dynamic. Unfortunately, they were usually just plain wrong—the problems did not diminish. In fact, for many, the problems grew. Rather than improving, without intervention, stepfamily life tends to deteriorate or remain static over time.

There is a small group of women who did not know about their stepchildren when they got involved with, or married, their partners. Now that paternity tests are widely available, some women have discovered they were stepmothers months or years after they got married. Needless to say, these surprised stepmoms experienced a host of emotions, including shock and anger, when introduced to children they had no idea existed.

The conversations in the Steps for Stepmothers online chat room are powerful illustrations of the problems we as stepmothers experience and, to a large extent, these conversations have shaped my thinking about being a stepmother. Even the usernames on the message board are poignant. Many of these monikers, such as "Worn Out," "Want to Be Happy," "Stressed to the Max," and "At Wit's End" are vivid shorthand expressions of the painful experiences of these women.

Many of the stepmothers I have worked with in my psychotherapy practice have also felt unappreciated, overburdened and misunderstood by their families and communities. Before contacting me, many of these women had suffered in silence, for fear of being judged or ostracized, until their situations finally became intolerable.

There is a wide variety of problems that can make our lives as stepmothers miserable. Many stepmothers find that their partners act more like pals to their children than like fathers, with the result that stepchildren are undisciplined and spoiled. Some partners are afraid to set guidelines for their children to follow, along with appropriate consequences if those guidelines are ignored. Partners fear that if they are strict, their children will no longer be willing to spend time with them. To keep this from happening, they remain passive when their children act up. It is both difficult for stepmothers to witness and experience a child's misbehavior, and frustrating when they cannot get partners to understand the need to take corrective parental action. Other stepmothers must deal with intrusive, difficult ex-wives, who disrupt their households by calling at inappropriate times, change scheduled dropoffs and pickups at the last minute, and bad-mouth us to their children.

Many of us sadly realize that our attempts to bond with our stepchildren have failed, and we are left feeling ignored and disrespected. Some of us grow weary of dealing with stepchildren who seem unappreciative, uncooperative or spoiled. Some of us feel we have limited authority in our own households, because many decisions are made without our input or consent. Some of us—an unfortunate few—get to deal with all the above situations, and maybe more.

Would You Do It Again?

"If you knew what your life would be like as a stepmother, would you get involved with your partner again?" Stepmothers often ask this of each other in the online chat room, and I also asked this question in my survey. For many who responded to the survey, the answer was an unequivocal no. At times, do you also regret your decision to get involved with or to marry to your partner? To help you answer this question, consider the following:

Indications of Potential Problems

■   You feel frustrated, aggravated, annoyed or angry about your stepfamily, and don't have appropriate outlets to deal with these negative feelings.

■   You feel insecure about your place in the stepfamily. You feel like an outsider in your own home, despite concerted attempts to bond with your stepchildren.

■   You are constantly tired, and don't have enough time to take care of yourself.

■   You are unable to talk to your partner about his children without having a fight.

■   Your partner is defensive and hostile when talking about his children.

■   You avoid discussing certain topics with your partner's parents, children or ex-wife because you don't want to look bad in front of them.

■   You don't have input into decisions about how money is spent in your stepfamily; your feelings and attitudes about money are not considered by your partner.

■   You have issues with the custodial arrangements for your stepchildren, and do not have any input about their schedules.

■   You are not allowed to discipline your stepchildren, and are expected to tolerate misbehavior.

■   You feel that you take care of the needs of your stepchildren more than your partner or his ex-wife.

■   You sometimes wonder if you made a terrible mistake getting involved with, or having married, your partner.

■   You sometimes feel foolish for being trapped in your current circumstances.

■   You sometimes wish you had listened to the warnings of family and friends, rather than following your conviction that your stepfamily would blend into a loving unit.

If any of these ring a bell, don't be dismayed—there is hope! While you may not be able to solve all the problems in your step-family, you can change the way you deal with them, making your life more satisfying and content. Before discussing some solutions that can help you, let's look at some of the problems you face as a stepmother in greater detail.

Product Details

  • File Size: 286 KB
  • Print Length: 269 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 037389225X
  • Publisher: Harlequin Nonfiction; Original edition (April 21, 2010)
  • Publication Date: May 1, 2010
  • Sold by: Harlequin Digital Sales Corp.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0037NB4J8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,224 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
My husband has one teenage daughter from a previous relationship and we have one toddler aged son together. When I sat down to read this book I was at a crossroads in my life. I love both my kids and my husband with all my heart but I couldn't handle the stress surrounding my stepdaughter and her mother. It was taking a toll on me physically, emotionally and mentally and it was starting to seriously affect my marriage. We were arguing about rules, discipline and a major lack of respect from both my stepdaughter and her mom.

I starting reading the day my SD went back to her mom's so I had about 4 1/2 days to get through it. I purchased a journal (highly recommended by Dr Katz) and a highlighter and got down to business. So many of the situations she covers in this book were relatable. I went through and highlighted all the things that meant something to me or were issues I felt my family shared. I started recording answers in my journal along with my feeling. I used things Dr Katz discussed to start conversations with my husband.

It has been a couple of weeks now and I am already noticing a great improvement. This book not only helped me to learn what to let go of and what to stand strong on but it also helped me learn how to communicate better with my husband. Not just on stepfamily issues either but on everyday topics too. My marriage is finally back on the path to where it was when we met 5 years ago.

I am feeling happier, healthier, calmer, more loved, more understood and more understanding. I have adopted a new mantra in my life thanks to Dr Katz: "I know I can't control this situation but I will not let it control me".
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Excellent, easy to read, easy to apply principles for creating sanity in a chaotic world of step families! Who has the mental strength or time to wade through psychology books and in-depth reviews of relational studies when they are drowning in the everyday realities of living in a step family? Katz pulls it all together in an easy to apply and understand process to reclaim your sanity.

Katz doesn't sugar coat the realities of step kids, biological kids, step parents, biological parents, and ex-spouses. The intricate and delicate balance of these relationships can be anywhere from tolerable and business-like to all out personal warfare. She effectively allows the reader to feel `justified' in their "feelings" while helping the reader find proper ways to "handle" those feelings in their attitudes, actions, and behaviors.

Katz brings to light the fact that some of the stereotypes of stepmothers and their relationships with ex's and step kids are based in truth but most of them are based in anger and bitterness at the situation - not the new parent. She points out that we, individually, are not going to change the world's stereotypical view of stepmothers but we are responsible for our own actions when it comes to our biological and step family. The "other" person may never change (whether it is the spouse, the kids, or the ex) but we, as stepmothers, can learn to "survive" and hopefully thrive in our new family by how we handle our own attitudes and behaviors toward the situations.

Katz offers insights into "steps" we can take to build our own character and take care of our own emotional well-being so we can be of benefit to our spouse and children in handling life's challenges. We cannot change anyone else - only ourselves.
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Format: Paperback
The Happy Stepmother is an important addition to the lay literature on stepmothering, and ultimately it is helpful not only for stepmothers but everyone in the stepfamily system, as well as any professional who seeks to help them. Having researched stepfamily life myself for many years, and as an author of a book about stepmothering (Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do), I recognize The Happy Stepmother as a unique contribution. First of all, Dr. Katz bases much of her insight and advice on her very own original research with actual stepmothers who walk the walk every day and know the difficulties and rewards of repartnership with children. For years, she tracked stepmother reality from her web site and this makes the book's insights alive and relevant in ways many books about stepmothering cannot. Dr. Katz does not give you a laundry list of "shoulds"--she tells you what stepmothering is like in the trenches without sugar-coating it or making her reader feel discouraged. Stepmothers who read The Happy Stepmother will find themselves armed with knowledge and feeling like they have an ally in Dr. Katz, whose book blends accessible insight with truly helpful advice. I recommend this book without reservation to the women and couples who ask me for resources.
Wednesday Martin, Ph.D.
author, Stepmonster
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Boy, being a stepmom now for 4 years and many things and feelings still linger. I wish I would have had this book sooner. I found out all the feelings, anger, and wanting to leave were all real issues. Thanks for a book that I can use and not feel like I am crazy! I also like the blog because I can relate and have answers to some difficult questions. Glad to know we have "sisters" out there! I don't think anyone has tried to sugar coat being a stepmom. It is a hard job and now I know I can disengage and it is okay! I was doing a part of that but felt so guilty. Thanks for the great book!
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