I am newly married with my partner of 4 years and I moved in to my significant other’s home after we married. My spouse has full custody of his 2 elementary age kids. I love kids and it has been fun getting to know them and watch them grow. Although I haven’t been around them 24/7, I feel I have been a major constant in their lives. I started out visiting with them often and being the nice, fun adult that they enjoyed being around. But, now that I am living in their home, I am having trouble getting them to recognize my authority. Maybe I was too nice before? Maybe this is normal and we’ll find a rhythm of this new arrangement after some time? What do I do? I want to be a good step parent and don’t want to mess this up!
Dear Nice Nancy,
Thank you for writing in to Sage Advice! And congratulations on being newly married and moving in to the home with your spouse and step kids! In the words of Elder M. Russel Ballard, “There is no perfect way to be a step parent. Each situation is unique. Each step parent has different challenges, skills and abilities and certainly different children. What matters is that the step parent loves his/her children deeply.” We’re guessing, Nice Nancy, that the shear fact of you being concerned and not wanting to “mess this up,” means you won’t. If you were being authentic in getting to know the children, then you weren’t being “too nice.” Growing pangs are normal and as the quote indicated, “every situation is unique.” Have you spoken to your spouse about how you are feeling? If so, what are his thoughts? Have you spoken to the children about their feelings about the move and the marriage? You may gain some significant insight as to why there are some growing pangs? Maybe the issues have nothing to do with the marriage or move—perhaps it is something the kids are experiencing at school or with friends? Have you (or your spouse) explored any outside issues that may be happening?
Parenting is tough even for biological parents and ALL parenting has challenges. In addition, perhaps looking at the home as your shared home—a home you share with your spouse and step-kids—versus “their home” as you write in your question. Is it possible you feel some insecurity about being “separate” that is manifesting in your relationships with the kids? Do YOU feel like you belong? Our main advice is to continue exploring what lies beneath and remain open to the idea that these challenges will bring you and the kids closer rather than apart. Wishing you much happiness and joy in your new family!
2017 was not the best year for me--and I want to start the New Year off right. Nothing major happened in 2017 but I just felt disorganized and unproductive...which then left me feeling discouraged and a little depressed. I don’t know what to do or where to begin to create a year that I want—to create a year where I feel productive and accomplished. How do I go about starting this year off right and making it stay that way?
Ready for 2018
Dear Ready for 2018,
In the book “A Tale for the Time Being,” Author Ruth Ozeki writes, “Where should I start? I texted my old Jiko this question, and she wrote back this: 現在地で始まるべき. You should start where you are.” This is not to say that it isn’t worth looking back to reevaluate and assess what worked in 2017 and what didn’t, but try not to lose complete focus on the woulda, shoulda, couldas. You mention that you feel depressed. Do you feel sad or irritable most of the day? You also mentioned you feel disorganized and unproductive. Is your mood what affected your ability to be organized and productive? Have you lost interest in activities you once use to be interested in? Have you been diagnosed with depression in the past?
If you answered yes to any of these question, it is our suggestion to reach out to a trusted professional to support you in treating these symptoms AND support you in arriving to place that you can accomplish your goals. If you’ve answered no to all of these questions, it still may be helpful to meet with someone (a trusted mental health professional, a friend, parent, confidant) to write down your goals and steps on how you can reach them. If you’re doing this activity with a friend (or friends), make it a party—something fun. Do a vison board, perhaps! A word you wrote really summed it all up---“create!” Start where you are and create, Ready for 2018. We are hopeful that you can and will create the year you want and deserve!