By Audrey Cade
The first few months of the year are like a blank canvas. Many of us experience cold and snow at this time of year which, in itself, is like a clean slate draping the earth in endless possibilities. It seems that anything could spring to life when empty pages of a calendar unfurl before us and the events of the past year are now firmly in the rearview mirror.
Besides new diets, haircare routines, and plans made to travel or start other exciting ventures, what other good use could we make of a fresh start? I happen to think that this is just as good of a time as any to consider all the bad habits and negative attitudes that I have developed about all things related to my divorce, and try to get them under control.
I am a co-parent, stepparent, and remarried wife. You might say that I have my hands overflowing with divorce-related energy that often brings drama to my day and results in making me more grouchy and impatient more often than I would like to admit. So, if the first step is recognizing that I need to improve, then the least I can do is resolve to draw up a plan to better myself and rearrange many of my thoughts. Feel free to join me if you find yourself in a similar boat to mine!
As a stepmom
I can acknowledge that this past year has been a transformative in my attitude toward stepparenting–good in some ways, probably not so good in others. Early in my stepparenting journey, I inserted myself right into the front seat of parenting my husband’s children and was very gung-ho about our newly-created family. I was enthusiastic and assumed everyone else would be too. I found myself repeatedly frustrated and feeling rejected when they weren’t as receptive to my vision as I was.
I laid down some pretty rigid boundaries to protect myself from further heartache. Boundaries are extremely important; but, I can see that my wall may have been built a little too tall, and it’s time to relax my rigidity. Where once the pendulum of my emotions swung too far into their borders, and before they were ready for me to be that involved, I allowed it to swing too far the other direction to the point that I have become too distant and removed.
Somewhere in between lies the right place for me to land so that they can still sense my care and concern, but where I am not overstepping my place as their bonus mother. A stepmom often has to know when to “step” to the side versus when to “step” up. It’s a work in progress!
This year I will focus on:
Strengthening the connection I have with each of my four stepkids at the level they are each comfortable with and within boundaries that I feel are appropriate for both of us. I understand that I am more of a friend or support than a parent, and some days they will want me more involved than others.
I will continue to remind myself that it’s not my place to become involved in disciplinary matters or in any way that blurs the lines of my role as their father’s wife and a caring adult who shares their home.
I will more freely give praise and attention and not allow myself to become so easily discouraged by their moodiness or bad days because these are not always indicators of how they feel about me.
As a co-parent
I recognize the value in keeping the peace and respecting each of our rights to parent and operate in our own homes as we see fit.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done because I, of course, always care about my children, no matter where they are! This past year was one of my co-parent and my best so far in terms of cooperation and communication, but there is always room for improvement. The progress we have made thus far is a product of the hard work we’ve put in over years to create a system that works for us.
This year I will focus on:
Checking myself before I jump to conclusions. Things aren’t always what they seem, and it’s counterproductive to harmony and my sanity to assume the worst in others. Instead, I will strive to put my reactions on pause until I first gather information and calmly question the source.
Releasing some of my (probably) unwarranted fears. I have always preached to my kids and others that I will fully support my ex, and encourage my children to do likewise, when he forms a serious relationship. That time is now upon us. While I do want my kids to give her a chance and get along with her, I do fear what some of the potential changes in my ex’s life could mean for all our lives. I can’t allow my imagination to run wild or let them interfere with my ability to co-parent.
As a remarried wife
My husband and I carry a heavy load of our exes and our blended family on top of the demands that exist within any marriage. I am so thankful that we work and love so well together so that we can endure these trials without it affecting our relationship. What I know from my divorce experience is that even a happy marriage requires continued effort to keep it strong and healthy.
This year I will focus on:
Vigilant affection and appreciation. I think it very important to never let my spouse doubt how much I love or appreciate him. Even something as small as warming up my car for me in the morning or putting my favorite drink in the refrigerator to chill demonstrates to me that he cares, so it’s the least I can do to always show sincere thanks and return the favor. Divorce experience highlights the risk of allowing a marriage to become strained, so the everyday little things add up in a big way!
Making time for us. Busy family life, careers, and the everyday hustle sometimes makes it hard to find time for us. I will do my part to always find a way to carve out even a few meaningful moments each day so that our connection remains strong. When the opportunity arises to do something more substantial together, I will welcome it, even if it seems hopelessly spontaneous!
After an honest assessment of your past year and the opportunity to of a blank canvas ahead, what will you do different or better in the coming months? What small or big steps could you take to improve your outlook, make amends, or strengthen your relationships?
What qualities in yourself do you recognize a need to improve? All of us could be better about something (more patient, forgiving, compassionate or less reactive, judgmental, or worried about what others think), so why not take on one of your less desirable qualities and make a goal to turn it around?
There’s no time like the present to take positive steps toward a better you! Our lives can become very complicated, and we often don’t feel like there’s time to take the extra steps to be the best version of ourselves, but even a few moments each day can contribute to healthier relationships and more satisfaction in our lives! I’m looking forward to seeing where some subtle changes in my routine will lead me by this time next year. Won’t you join me?
About the Author
Audrey Cade is the author of “Divorce Matters: help for hurting hearts and why divorce is sometimes the best decision” (on Amazon) and the matriarch of a blended family of eight. She is an experienced “divorce warrior” in the areas of co-parenting, step parenting, parental alienation, and re-marriage, and enjoys sharing these experiences with others who are also committed to raising happy and healthy kids. Audrey’s professional experience is as a case manager social worker with the developmentally disabled, families with young children, and homeless populations. She holds degrees in Early Childhood Education, Human Service & Management, and a Master’s in Psychology. She enjoys family outings, a variety of arts and crafts, cooking, gardening, and writing. She is a featured blogger for Divorced Moms, has work regularly appearing on Divorce Force, and articles appearing in Step Mom Magazine, The Good Men Project, and others.