The 3 Steps to Becoming a Super Stepmom

Becoming a super stepmom

Did you know that only about one-third of stepfamily marriages last? The statistic begs the question: What is the deciding factor between the families that make it and those that do not? I propose that if you have a Super Stepmom, your family will stay together.

A strong, focused stepmom can save the family. She is the secret weapon. Why do some stepmoms stick it out while others surrender? A Super Stepmom has three key attributes:

1. Resilience
2. A superpower: unconditional kindness
3. A magical uniform: the invisibility cloak

Resilience is staying power. It is the determination that says, “I will stay in this marriage! I will force those kids to like me! I will ignore that last remark!” There are four types of resilience: social, emotional, mental and physical resilience.

Stepmoms with social resilience have an ally — someone who has their back. The power of spending time with a dear friend who makes you smile and allows you to be yourself gives you superpowers. The Super Stepmom is strong and reaches her goals because she communicates with her BFFs daily.

Strong emotional resilience strengthens your willpower. Can a stepmom ever have enough willpower? The Super Stepmom has a good sense of humor and has a positive view on life. Having one of “those” days? Think a positive thought!

Your mental resilience is tied to strengthening your mental muscles. You do this by tackling challenges. They can be tiny challenges, like, “I won’t flip out when I see the kids’ messy bedrooms!” or big ones like, “I will run a marathon.” Either way, your focus and determination increases. The Super Stepmom screams, “I want this marriage and family to work more than anything in this world. I will commit my time and resources to this end.” She knows that goals that command laser-like focus get done.

The Super Stepmom exercises. She doesn’t need to fit perfectly in her leotard, but she does exercise in tiny bursts so that her heart, lungs and brain get a workout. When the Super Stepmom is at a family event and needs a break, she goes outside and does a few jumping jacks. She knows the power of her physical being.

Every hero has a superpower, and the Super Stepmom is known for her unconditional kindness. Unconditional kindness means we commit to kindness regardless of swords thrown at us. We are unfazed by nasty comments, rolling eyeballs or gossip. We are confident, and we can smile at anything. No matter what the children or society throw at us, we can repel any negativity with our smiling shields. The Super Stepmom understands that her family’s divorce leaves lasting scars, which can make her a reluctant villain.

The final ingredient to superhero status is the cool outfit. The invisibility cloak is granted to every stepmom upon her marriage. She wears it at any event where she is introduced. As soon as you hear the introduction, “This is my stepmom,” you will see the recipient’s eyes divert away. Conversations will shift to other people, and the stepmom never sees those people’s eyes again. Discomfort reigns. The invisibility cloak has come down. Rather than being upset by this, the Super Stepmom embraces her cloak and wears it proudly.

Stepmoms earn their wings by strengthening their resilience, exhibiting unconditional kindness and proudly wearing their invisibility cloak. When you see these qualities, you can be assured that this family is one that will last. They have a Super Stepmom.

by Barbara Goldberg (source: HuffingtonPost.com)

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

parental alienation syndrome definition - 2houses

Parental Alienation Syndrome is the deliberate attempt by one parent to distance his/her children from the other parent.

The motivation is to destroy the parental bond between his/her children with the other parent. The alienation process develops over time and some of the symptoms of the syndrome include some or all of the following:

  • A parent will speak badly of or criticize the other parent directly to the child or children. Negative statements about the other parent may be direct or indirect. For instance, the parent may say, “We can’t afford a new dress for the school dance because your father/mother decided to spend the money on vacation with their new friend.” A more direct comment would be, “your father/mother left because he/she didn’t care enough about you to try and make the marriage work.” Either statement is meant to cause the child to feel anger toward the other parent. It is an attempt to use the child to get back at the other parent for causing emotional pain.
  • A parent will speak badly of the other parent within the hearing range of the child or children. There are parents who say they would never say anything negative to their child or children about the other parent. They don’t seem to have any problem saying negative things to other people though and if their child or children happen to be within hearing distance the better. These people hold themselves up as a “good person.” They want to instill anger in their children toward the other parent without looking bad. It’s easy to say they had no idea the child was listening so they don’t have to take responsibility for their actions. I like to say they are being very aggressive in a passive way.
  • A parent will make the child privy to the details of the divorce and the ongoing conflict between the parents. They discuss financial problems brought on by the divorce. Make the child aware of legal issues that are ongoing and make it appear that if it weren’t for dad or mom their life would be easier.Not only can this cause the child to feel anger toward the other parent it can also cause the child to feel responsible for your situation and want to take on responsibilities that are not theirs.
  • A parent will use body language to communicate their dislike of the other parent. The child may witness dad/mom roll their eyes or shake their head at something the other parent did or said. Such body language sends a negative message without a word being spoken. Children are smart and know that a roll of the eyes is a dismissive gesture. One clearly meant to send the message that the other parent is stupid or wrong in some way.
  • Refusing to be around the other parent or to co – parent with them sends the child a negative message also. Children may be told that their dad/mom is always angry and the other parent doesn’t want to be around the anger. The other parent might not be angry at all but, such accusations can cause a child to have unfounded hard feelings toward the other parent.
  • A parent may go as far as accusing the other parent of sexual, physical or emotional abuse. If you have, small children who are not yet able to communicate exactly what has happened such accusations can be very dangerous to the child/parent relationship. They may also have severe legal consequences. If a child is too small to talk and communicate what happened you should insist on a medical examination and an evaluation by a psychiatrist is you suspect abuse. If the child is old enough to speak for themselves and communicates to you that they have been abused then it is your responsibility to help them hold the other parent responsible.

Children who have to live with the unresovled conflict and anger of their parents suffer tremendously. Add to the normal stress of separation and divorce the feeling that the child should choose between the parents and you can cause damage that lasts a lifetime. A child is powerless when it comes to ending the conflict he/she is witnessing. They may feel that if they make a choice it will lessen the conflict they have to live with. One parent can cost their child the other parent and their only motivation is revenge, fear, anger or jealousy. It’s a terrible price for children to have to pay in an attempt to assuage a parent’s feelings.

It is imperative that parents be willing to parent cooperatively, that they put their child’s needs first and that their only concern is their child’s sense of security.

By Cathy Meyer

Divorce and Parenting: Teaching Valuable Life Lessons to Your Children

children and divorced parent - 2houses

As a divorced parent, what lessons and behaviors are you modeling for your children? The messages you convey will influence your children into adulthood. Here is valuable advice on leaving a positive imprint on your innocent children.

Bad things can happen to good people. Divorce is a prime example. Good people get divorced. Responsible people who are loving parents get caught in the decision to end a loveless or deceitful marriage.

The consequences of that decision can either be life affirming or destroying, depending upon how each parent approaches this transition. Parents who are blinded by blame and anger are not likely to learn much through the experience. They see their former spouse as the total problem in their life and are convinced that getting rid of that problem through divorce will bring ultimate resolution. These parents are often self-righteous about the subject and give little thought to what part they may have played in the dissolution of the marriage.

Parents at this level of awareness are not looking to grow through the divorce process. They are more likely to ultimately find another partner with whom they have similar challenges or battles and once again find themselves caught in the pain of an unhappy relationship.

There are others, however, for whom divorce can be a threshold into greater self-understanding and reflection. These parents don’t want to repeat the same mistakes and want to be fully aware of any part they played in the failure of the marriage. Self-reflective people ask themselves questions and search within — often with the assistance of a professional counselor or coach — to understand what they did or did not do and how it affected the connection with their spouse.

These introspective parents consider how they might have behaved differently in certain circumstances. They question their motives and actions to make sure they came from a place of clarity and good intentions. They replay difficult periods within the marriage to see what they can learn, improve, let go of or accept. They take responsibility for their behaviors and apologize for those that were counter-productive. They also forgive themselves for errors made in the past and look toward being able to forgive their spouse in the same light.

These parents are honest with their children when discussing the divorce — to the age-appropriate degree that their children can understand. (That doesn’t mean confiding adult-level information to children who cannot grasp these issues!)They remind their children that both Mom and Dad still, and always will, love them. And they remember their former spouse will always be a parent to their children and therefore speak about them with respect around the kids.

By applying what they learned from the dissolved marriage to their future relationships, these mature adults start the momentum to recreate new lives in a better, more fulfilling way. From this perspective, they see their former marriage as not a mistake, but rather a stepping-stone to a brighter future — both for themselves and for their children. When you choose to learn from your life lessons, they were never experienced in vain. Isn’t this a lesson you want to teach your children?

by Rosalind Sedacca

The 5 C’s of Divorced Co-Parenting

divorced co-parenting - 2houses

However you may feel about your ex-spouse, if you have kids, you are still co-parenting. That’s right: “Co”. As long as you both are committed to the welfare of your children, you have to be in regular communication with each other and have to cooperate with each other about their care. You need to coordinate schedules and collaborate about everything from childcare arrangements to how and where holidays are spent. That “co” says it all. It means “joined”. It means “together”. It means “mutual”. It means that you can’t just refuse to deal with each other because the kids need you both.

Here are the 5 C’s that will make divorced co-parenting go more smoothly than your marriage did:

1) Comply with your divorce agreement. Chances are you spent a great deal of time, emotional energy and money hammering out who is responsible for what and when. Stick with it! If you don’t, the kids will feel the tension and overhear the complaints. If you find that the agreement doesn’t work for you, be sure that you don’t take it out on the kids either directly (by not picking them up on time) or indirectly (by not sending the check). Set up some mediation with their other parent and deal with it like adults.

2) Convey important information. You don’t need to share your personal life, your successes or stresses, or your feelings. You do need to let the other parent know immediately if your child has a medical issue or if there is trouble at school or at home. Let each other in on your child’s successes so the next time they transition to the other parent’s home, they can be welcomed with congratulations.

3) Consult each other in advance when there needs to be a change in plans or an adjustment in schedule or a major change in how you intend to spend time with the children. Start thinking about the winter holidays around June. Talk about summer vacations in December. If the only dentist appointment you can get for your child is on the other parent’s time, make an immediate call to clear it. If your boss needs you to go to a conference during what is usually your week with the kids, get on the phone to talk about it. If the other parent has already made immovable plans, skip the conference. Kids’ needs come first. If you’ve always spent April vacation at home with the kids, let the other parent know before the kids do that you’re planning to take them on a special trip. Neither the other parent nor the child can cope with sudden changes or surprises. If you and the other parent can’t agree on a change, go back to your agreement (see #1).

4) Cooperate around transfers. There is nothing as sad as watching a child stand at the window, backpack at the ready, waiting for a parent to show up. Always show up. Always be on time. Always allow extra time for the inevitable traffic delay or other unexpected issue that might make you late. If you are unreliable about showing up or are consistently tardy, the parent waiting with the waiting child will be anxious, angry and upset. The child will be even more anxious, angry and upset. It’s not a great way for the weekly transfer to start.

5) Coordinate around the contents of the backpack (or duffle, or box — whatever the kids use to get stuff back and forth between houses). I’ve heard endless complaints from parents who feel like they are always replacing clothes, toys, or school supplies that the other parent “forgets” to send along with the child. It’s hard enough for children to be going back and forth between houses. Kids aren’t likely to remember everything they are supposed to remember. Have a clear agreement with the other parent about what stays at each home and what goes with the kids. Take the time — plenty of time — before the children leave your house to be sure they have the outfits, homework, books, or favorite toy that has to go with them. Rushed exits often mean forgotten items. It’s unfair to say to young kids, “Well, you should have remembered it” (whatever the “it” of the moment is). No. You’re the parent. It’s your job to oversee that they have what they need. With teens, a simple reminder to double-check before they leave is a way to both give them autonomy and yet be a caring parent.

by  (source: HuffingtonPost.com)

Helping Children Resist the Pressure to Choose One Parent Over the Other

children between parents - 2houses

Some children of divorce naturally feel caught between their parents as they adjust to two homes, two sets of rules, possibly two neighborhoods, and two families. But what children really want and need is to stay out of their parents’ conflicts and to maintain healthy and strong relationships with both parents (unless, of course, one parent is abusive to the child).

Unfortunately, some parents take advantage of children’s difficulty navigating between two families and dealing with the complexity of parental divorce by creating in their children an expectation that they choose sides. These parents employ a range of strategies, known as parental alienation, in order to foster the child’s rejection of the other parent. 

Parental alienation strategies can take many forms but usually includes badmouthing the other parent, limiting contact between the child and that parent, and interfering with communication between the child and the parent.

Divorcing parents need to become educated about the primary parental alienation strategies so that they can effectively employ responses that challenge the child’s tendency to take sides while maintaining the high road as a parent (see Baker & Fine, 2008 for more details).

Parents concerned about parental alienation also need to help their children develop 4 capacities that will help them resist the pressure to choose sides. These are:

Critical Thinking Skills
When children think critically they are aware of their thoughts, where they came from and are able to examine the reality of them and change them accordingly. This skill will help the child question his or her ideas about each parent (i.e., one is all good, one is all bad; one is always right, one is always wrong). If a child is using critical thinking skills it is not likely that he or she can be programmed or brainwashed into rejecting one parent to please the other.

Considering Options
When placed in a pressured situation in which a child feels compelled to do as one parent asks (i.e., not spend time with the other parent, spy on that parent, and so forth), it is important for the child to slow down, not act right away, and consider his or her options. Doing so can prevent the child from automatically doing what the alienating parent is asking.

Listening to One’s Heart
When children learn how to be true to themselves and their values it is not likely that they can be manipulated or convinced to do something that goes against their best interest (i.e., cut off one parent to please the other) or something that betrays the other parent. Children need to be encouraged to identify their core values and to be attuned to when they are going against them.

Using Coping Skills and Getting Support
Children sometimes feel that they are the only ones who are dealing with a problem and that no one can understand what they are going through. Encouraging children to talk to other people such as friends, teachers, and other caring adults can help them feel less alone and can help them benefit from the wisdom and kindness of others. Children also have more internal resources (self talk, relaxation strategies) that they can develop and rely on in times of need.

by Amy J.L. Baker.

Why Does Society Hate Stepmoms?

Society hates stepmom - 2houses

Fairy tales are one of the oldest, and sturdiest, narrative forms our culture knows. We love to tell them, read them, share them, and, especially, retell and remake them — they form the backbone of an enormous variety of movies, cartoons, advertisements, and novels. Each era seems to have its own favorites — Disney’s Snow White ruled in the late 1930s, for example, and Cinderella in the ’50s. Both of these featured virginal domestic goddesses as their heroines, though in the ’60s and ’70s, feminist retellings began to take center stage. These days, a new crop of fairy tale retellings seems to be linked with a particularly nasty version of the Mommy Wars: rather than pitting stay-at-home mothers against those who work outside the home, these tales instead rehash the old story of the wicked step- (or adoptive) mother, implying that biological parenthood trumps all. 

The villain of Tangled, for example, is that nasty witch who steals Rapunzel: a kidnapper/adoptive mother. Mirror, Mirror depicts a comically evil Julia Roberts in the wicked stepmother role, and later this summer we’ll see Charlize Theron as a warrior stepmother-queen battling her stepdaughter in Snow White and the Huntsman. In the popular ABC series, Once Upon a Time, the villain is the evil stepmother of the Snow White story, now living in a world without magic as the domineering mayor of Storybrooke. Her name is Regina.

Regina’s control over Storybrooke is overbearing and oppressive in the extreme. Unbeknownst to the inhabitants (all fairy tale characters), their pasts are unknown to them, though they are destined to live out their fairy tale fates nonetheless. Regina relives her “stepmother” identity as an adoptive mother to Henry, whose biological mother, Emma Swan, is the heroine of the series.

Critics have argued over the implications of the evil stepmother trope for years. Bruno Bettelheim, a Freudian critic, saw the competition between the evil stepmother and the virginal daughter as a representation of the daughter’s inevitable separation from the mother in the Oedipal stage.

More historically-oriented critics note that maternal death was frequent in early modern Europe, when and where most of the fairy tales familiar to us originated, and that often a stepmother would indeed be competitive with her husband’s daughter for his affection and, perhaps more important, resources. (A stepmother with her own daughters, such as the one in Cinderella, might quite reasonably be expected to try to advance their fortunes over her husband’s daughter’s as well.)

Feminist critics see in the evil stepmother evidence of the way that a patriarchal system inevitably pits women against each other, sowing the seeds of competition in a system whereby women can only advance through marriage.

While all of these arguments are intriguing, they pose the question of why we still tell these stories, when our historical and cultural context is so changed, when so many marriages are remarriages and so many parents come to parenting through remarriage and adoption. Once Upon a Time and the other stepmother tales suggest that, as a culture, we may still harbor deep anxieties about non-biological mothers.

Once Upon a Time is both intriguing and disturbing in its depiction of mothering. The central conflict is not really a romantic one, as in most fairy tales, but a parental one. Regina, the evil stepmother, desires not to be “the fairest of them all,” but to be Henry’s mother, a status she vies for with Emma, his biological parent. The series actually takes a very conservative stand on motherhood. While neither Emma nor Regina is a stay-at-home mother, Regina’s ambition and her clearly time-consuming full-time job as mayor seem to distance her from her adoptive son. Dressed in sharp-edged business suits when not seducing the town sheriff or, later, the “Prince Charming” figure, Regina is in sharp contrast to her competition –her son’s biological mother. Emma, unlike Regina, is a free spirit, dressed most often in jeans and a leather jacket and possessed of seemingly unbounded time to spend with her son and his fantasies.

Clearly, our sympathies are supposed to be with Emma, despite the fact that she gave Henry up for adoption at age 18 (we still haven’t gotten the full story of his origins) and did not see him for the first 10 years of his life. Indeed, the series begins with that oldest of adoption tales — his search for his biological roots. We see him riding the bus from Storybrooke to Boston, where he surprises Emma on her 28th birthday and sets the plot in motion. We have also seen Emma “save” two children from the foster system, deploying another anti-stepmother type falsehood: that foster parents are only in it for the money.

It’s too soon to say where Once Upon a Time will go, and since it is an invention of the creators of Lost, it undoubtedly will become far more convoluted before it all comes clear (if it ever does). But in its depiction of maternal competition and its evident preference for the biological over the “constructed” family, and its stereotypical depiction of the powerful woman, it tells us nothing new at all.

And that’s a shame.

by Elisabeth Gruner

Why I Finally Stopped Lying To My Teenage Son About Dating

dating after divorce and telling your children - éhouses

I have an only child. He’s smart, funny, and wise beyond his years. I was 25 years old when I gave birth to him. I looked into his eyes as they handed him to me and I knew not only would he forever be my only child, he would also be the most important man in my life forever. That fact has never changed.

As his father’s work took him further away from home, the bond between mother and son grew stronger until my then-husband looked at us during a rare family dinner and said, “You two act as if I don’t even exist. You have your own little world.”

It was true. Not only do my son and I look alike, we have the same personality. Fire and passion run deep in us both. So as the marriage fell apart and my ex saw us even less frequently, our son shifted into what he considered his role of “Man of the House.” And, in one of many mistakes I’ve made in parenting, I let him.

Territorial and jealous, he was now suspicious of any man that gave me an approving glance or flirted with me. “How can that guy look at you like that? You are my mother!” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that angry remark from my son I wouldn’t be a struggling single mother any more.

Rather than confronting the issue, I chose to skirt it. For over two years I didn’t take phone calls when my son was nearby, my smart phone address book is full of bogus names that I used instead of the real names of the men that were interested in me. It became a bit tricky keeping track of “Bill” who was filed under “Barbara” vs the real Bill, my pest control guy. Although the latter did find it amusing when I sent him a text him asking what would happen if I was a bad girl. He replied that his contract only covered mischevious rodents, not their homeowners.
I felt as if I was having an affair that I was keeping from my son. My life was filled with lies of business meetings that were in reality were dates, supposed friends that were actually lovers, and made-up stories of boring nights on the couch alone while he was with his Dad. I remember sitting with the child psychologist as he was trying to explain what our son was going through. One a scale of 1 to 10, his discomfort level of seeing his father with another woman was at a 2, but for me, he chose an 11. Our son could not even discuss the idea of a man dating me without tears erupting. Tears flowed for me as well when I heard this news. As a mother, I knew what I had to do.

I gave up dating and any chance of a normal relationship. It was just too hard. I figured in a few years when he got older and interested in girls himself, I would broach the subject again. That was, until his father stepped in.

My ex-husband and I have what I consider a healthy divorced parenting relationship. We put our son first and have gotten past the hurt and anger that filled the last years of our marriage and first year apart. I also still consider him a confidant. He knows that it’s been difficult and at times lonely for me, which is why he sat me down a few months ago and said, “You need to start dating again, and you need to be upfront with him about it.” I protested that it was impossible. “He won’t be able to handle it,” I assured him. “Then we will tell him together, and I will give my blessing. Angela, you must do this. It’s not healthy for either of you.”

I wish that I could say our son’s reaction was positive. It wasn’t. He didn’t understand why I needed anyone else. Wasn’t I happy with the way our life was? “Yes,” I assured him, “But I need a social life and interaction with other adults. I needed to stare across the table at a beautiful man, one that was not wearing braces.

And so I started, cautiously, being honest regarding my whereabouts. Only a few weeks ago did I admit to having a “date.” My hands were shaking when I did so. He got quiet. “Mom, promise me you won’t… you know. I just worry about someone taking advantage of you.”

I stopped the car. “Sweetheart, I promise, I value being your Mother far too much to ever let anyone harm me. You have nothing to worry about.”

I saw his anxiety soften.

My son has only a few short years left under my care before he goes out to make his own way in the world. And while I know I shouldn’t sacrifice my life during those years, I also know that it is my responsibility to give him peace of mind.

I’m ok with that. He has nothing to worry about.

by  (source: HuffingtonPost.com)

Dealing With Divorce: 7 Tips to Protect Your Kids

protect your kids from divorce - 2houses

When a family finds itself in the middle of a separation or divorce, one of the first worries is “what about the children?” Research has shown that while divorce can be hard on children, its often the fighting of the parents that most directly effects the children, and the impact depends on how well the parents are able to isolate the children from these disruptions.

Many psychologists and other therapists have tips and suggestions on how best to help your children at times like these. One organization that provides a very good pamphlet and other information is the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.

Parenting is a lifelong job, and remember, you do not divorce your children. The following ideas are 7 tips to keep in mind to help buffer your children from the real and imagined problems they face during parental separation and or divorce:

First and foremost, try to maintain consistency. Children going through separation and divorce need a lot of stability to anchor them during the stressful times of the early stages. Change as little as possible, especially at first. Do not alter the way you discipline and reward your child. Keep the routines the same (bedtimes, meals). Children feel safest when things are familiar.

Another important point is that tough times are the best times to be more affectionate. A few extra hugs are just what the doctor ordered for times like these. Be careful, of course, not to overdo this, but a little more affection can make a big difference to children who are feeling scared or lonely.

It is nevertheless, equally important to avoid letting your children take care of you, no matter how much you need the hugs too. Many children try to act like adults and want to help and comfort their parents, who they can see are in more distress than usual. That is not their job. Its hard enough to be a child at times like these, so don’t treat them like an adult. Do the children a favor and keep the parental and child roles distinct and separate.

Help your children to stay connected. You should support your children’s friendships and activities. Changing schools and day care is a bad idea, if its possible to avoid it. Often schools will make a residency exception in cases of separation, ask your psychologist or counselor to help with that. Even if you must move to a distant neighborhood and school district, make an effort to have sleep overs and play dates with their old friends, and encourage new friendships too.

Reassure your children about the basic necessities. Your children need to hear that both parents still love them and that the problems aren’t their fault. Parents are often surprised to learn that when the parents fight about who gets to sleep where, the children worry that they too may have to sleep in the car. Children know when parents are feeling economically stressed, and even a well to do child may well be worried that there wont be enough food or clothes. If you can honestly tell them that food shelter and clothes wont be a problem, then tell them sooner rather than later.

Of course you need to spare the children exposure to fighting. Have your disagreements well out of earshot, and remember that kids are experts at listening in. Do not make your children take sides, or act as a go between, or messenger in your disagreements. Do not quiz them about your ex-spouse you have a telephone and you can ask your self, if you really need to know).

Finally, one of the most important things you can do for your children, is to take good care of your self. Your children need you now more than ever, to stay healthy. Eat, sleep, and exercise well. Do not isolate your self- spend plenty of time with old and new friends who can be supportive. If you start to feel overwhelmed, or if depression, anxiety, anger and such persist, consider getting help from a therapist or support group. Family therapy can be helpful at time like these as well.

by David John Berndt, Ph.D. (source: DivorceSource.com)

Must Divorced Fathers Become Second Class Citizens?

divorce is difficult for dads - 2houses

Must Divorced Fathers Become Second Class Citizens?

It was the last straw. The Millers (details have been changed) had invited Greg’s ex-wife Susan to their annual barbecue with the kids, and hadn’t even taken the time to explain to Greg why he’d been overlooked. It really hurt, especially because he had spent hours last summer helping the Millers set up their outdoor furniture and for the last three years had coached their youngest son in soccer.

Greg had elected not to tell their friends (and some family members) the details of the breakup and how much Susan’s indiscretions had hurt him. But by taking the high road, and keeping the details private, he was well aware there were those who assumed he had been the one who wanted the separation, when in fact, it was Susan who had surprised him with legal papers.

Greg understood that it would only be natural for their friends to be supportive of Susan. And he certainly wanted to know that things were okay for her and their children. But it floored him that some of their closest friends found it necessary to take sides.

Everyone seemed to rally around Susan and didn’t seem to realize how much Greg had been hurting. He would never get over the humiliation of walking to the back of the crowded auditorium, when seats had been saved for his family, but no one had thought of him.

He missed waking up to his children and the family routines he had cherished. He missed the familiarity of the home he’d shared with Susan the last fifteen years. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to his condo, or coming home to an empty house. He counted the minutes to the alternate weekends when his kids came. And, ironically, he also counted the minutes until they went home, because they always seemed to negatively compare his home to their mother’s. He wondered if he would ever be able to feel normal and move on from the pain.

As we all know, there are rarely winners when it comes to divorce. Each family member is impacted dramatically. And, of course, the extended family and friends are put in the unenviable position of trying to be supportive, as they grapple with their own feelings about the breakup. It’s not uncommon to focus our attention on the challenges women face as they start over and tend to the emotional needs of their children. And of course, we know this support will be invaluable. Many newly divorced women have been devastated emotionally and financially, and will surely appreciate sensitivity and compassion from those around them.

It’s important, though, to remember that many of today’s divorces have been initiated by women. Even if both parties have seen it coming for some time, and the announcement comes as no surprise, many husbands may still feel as if they’ve been blindsided. Their pride, self-esteems and bank accounts may have been seriously depleted, and they’re hurting badly. So, let’s not be too quick to assume they’re heartless cads whose selfishness and immaturity are solely to blame. And, while we’re on the subject, if we seek to enter the blame game, we may take on a polarized, critical stance, and participate in an ugly spiral that escalates a tense situation even further.

After a divorce, egos may be bruised and the parties may be hyper-sensitive to the judgments of those around them. The divorced family may assume they’ve been the subject of prurient gossip on the soccer field or at dinner parties, and may worry that every aspect of their lives has been scrutinized.

Men starting over may be very frightened by the enormous responsibility of maintaining two households at a time when they’re feeling inadequate and insecure. Knowing that we all need to grieve a major loss in a very personal way should remind us to assume that newly divorced men are hurting also and could benefit from our warmth and camaraderie. They may not have a solid support system readily in place.

The newly divorced man has usually lost the structure and comfort of his home and daily routines, and may have been accustomed to his ex-wife handling responsibilities that are now on his very full plate. He may miss the special moments of spontaneously snuggling with his children or being privy to their daily confidences. The limited visits with his children may feel forced or awkward, and over time, the comfort and closeness they once felt may have become strained. Hopefully, as the children mature and gain insight, a closer bond can be re-established.

There may be an assumption that he’s living the “life of Reilly” with his newly freed-up schedule — and that it’s no trouble at all to segue quickly to an active, satisfying social life. Don’t we all say: “It’s so much easier for a man. Everyone has a number to give him.” Obviously, this is not always the case. But even if the newly separated man has opportunities, it does not mean he isn’t dealing with loneliness or his self-esteem hasn’t taken a huge hit.

Most women have developed a support network and are more comfortable reaching out for what they need. Men were more often socialized to keep sad feelings to themselves; they don’t want to be perceived as wimps or whiners. So, they present a stiff upper lip and suffer silently. Assume they may be struggling more than they let on. No doubt, he’d be so appreciative if you took the time to call him or invite him over (with or without the children) for a casual catch up. Don’t press him to talk if he’s reticent. His pride may have suffered a great deal. He’ll open up if, and when, he feels safe to share.

As the newly divorced man faces the challenges of the next chapter, there will obviously be some tense moments and pitfalls, but if he is receptive, there are possibilities for tremendous growth and personal satisfaction.


by Linda Lipshutz

8 Tips For a Parent without Primary Custody to Spend Extra Time With the Kids

primary custody of the children when i'm divorced - 2houses

Only seeing your children every other weekend can be devastating. You miss them when they are not with you, and those few short days does not give you hardly enough time to settle into a routine before they are whisked back to the primary custodial parent.

If you only have standard visitation, this usually means that is the minimal allotted time you can spend with your children by law. By being respectful to your ex, using a little imagination and some ingenuity there are ways to see your children more. Be sure to read your parenting plan and decree carefully before taking any of the following steps, and if neither say you can’t do any of the following list, go and spend some more time with your kids! So what are you waiting for? As Nike says…Just do it!

1) Take lunch to your child at school

Nothing makes a kid feel more special than when a parent shows up with a bag of Mickey D’s under their arm at lunch time. Generally, the decree will not stipulate that you are not allowed to visit your child at school, and most schools will allow you to bring lunch to your child. Email the teacher and let them know ahead of time that you are coming and enjoy lunch and maybe even recess with your child! You will not only be your child’s hero, but you will be the envy of all their friends.

2) Coach a team sport your child plays on

I don’t know about you, but our little league has two practices and one game every single week. Not only will you get to spend that extra time with your child, but team sports are great for kids because they teach them socialization, the art of winning and losing and how to be a team player. All lessons that will add value to their lives. Discuss it with your ex first, keep them informed of practices and games and let them know that you will take care of everything. They will be grateful that you co-parented and are bearing the brunt of all that work. Your child will be thrilled and you are once again a hero.

3) Offer to make pickups and drop offs for extra-curricular activities

Your ex will most likely welcome the break, and if they don’t usually do the picking up, then let them know you have made arrangements with who does pick them up and you will be doing it. Be sure to explain to your ex that you have the time to do it and would love to help lighten her load. After you pick up your child, take them out for ice cream and help them with their homework. Not only does that give you some extra time, but also gets a very important step done that the primary caregiver generally stresses over. 

4) Volunteer to be a chaperon on field trips for your child’s class

You get the whole day to spend with your child. I realize, many of you are saying…but, we have to work! Take the day off. What is more important? This is a special day and memory that you can create with your child and it is above and beyond your usual custody arrangement. Once again, check with your ex and see if they are planning on chaperoning for the field trip. If they are not, email the teacher and explain how important it is for you to be there and how much you are looking forward to it. Even if that teacher has enough parents for that event, I guarantee they will always take one more.

5) Attend all school plays and functions your child is in

No, this isn’t one on one time, but you see him or her and more importantly, they see a parent who is there to support them and cheer them on. Often times, parents without primary custody do not attend functions. Sometimes it is because they are not aware of them. But, you are entitled by law to be aware of them. Make sure you are on the email list for the school, and surprise your child with your presence there. These are important times in your child’s life and these are also things they will remember. Make them more memorable by being there.

6) During mid-week breaks, offer to take the kids in lieu of a babysitter

If you make your ex think you are doing them a favor, they will be grateful and be more agreeable. It is better than paying a babysitter, trust me. Arrange to pick your child up at the same time they would be going to school and to drop them off at the time when school is normally out. Don’t rock the boat by asking for extra time during these days. If your ex is agreeable this time to you taking your kids, then think about how easy it will be next time, and eventually, it could lead to more time with your children. Keep the big picture in mind.

7) Participate in all birthday parties for your child

Most decrees or parenting plans allow a parent who is not the primary custodian to spend a few hours with their children on their birthdays. Tell your ex that you would like to be there for the party, even if it is just to watch them blow out the candles. If they are disagreeable, offer to pay for half of the party to attend. Most will agree when it comes down to the all mighty dollar and they have to spend less.

8) Babysit your kids instead of having a third party babysit

If your ex works, then child care is needed. Offer to pick the kids up after you get off of work, or leave work early once a week and pick your kids up from the caregivers. It will save your ex money for the child care and once again, it is always better for the child to be with a parent than a caregiver. Tell your ex that you will bring them home when they get back from work. They will appreciate that they can save some money and the fact that you are not taking advantage, but truly offering to help. If your ex is resistant to it, gently remind them that you are happy to add the first right of refusal into the decree if it is not already in place.

by Lee Block, Post-Divorce Consultant and Author.