Carol Shwanda chronicles her blended family's lives and experiences offering hope, guidance, wisdom, inspiration and humor to anyone who is in or about to enter into a blended family.
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Must Reads for Today’s Successful Blended Families
Published on April 12, 2012
Thanks to everyone who voted for me in the Circle of Mom Top 25 Blended Family Blog contest. I finished 14th and that’s definitely in the top 25! The winners of the contest were all asked several questions about what it is like to be a (step)mom in a blended family. Some of their answers may surprise you. Some of my answers surprised me. You can click here to read the questions and vote on which answers are your favorites.
Published on May 13, 2010
One of the most sensitive issues in the whole blended family situation is the name thing. My kids have a different last name than my step kids and I now have a different last name than my children. Which is the dominant name in the family? We sort of solved that problem by combining the two names into one, Shwanda, which is the name of this blog. (To read more about the transformation click here.)
I changed my last name when I got married to my first husband because I wanted to have the same last name as my children. Maybe not the feminist thing to do, but it was my decision. When I got married to my second husband he was sensitive to the fact that I had my first husband’s last name. Go figure. He told me he wouldn’t have minded if I had kept my maiden name, but the first husband’s last name kinda bugged him. I debated a bit because then my children would be offended and they were, but I changed my last name to my Paul’s anyway and my kids eventually understood. I explained to them that their last name would always be their tie to Daddy and that I wanted my last name to be my tie to my husband. So it was settled. But not quite.
Sophia, my oldest daughter, wrote about this very subject in her blog Stepkid Stories. In her post titled The Name Game Sophia revealed that she has often been asked if she has any plans to change her last name. She considers this a bizarre and intrusive question and so do I. Why would she change her last name? Even if her father were dead, I would never change my children’s last name. I could see if her dad were a dead beat and not in the picture, but anyone who knows us well knows that Sophia’s dad is a very active part of her life. Even still… it is NO ONE’S business and is a question that should never be asked.
Published on April 23, 2010
My daughter Sophia has recently started her own blog called Stepkids Stories, which is her account of her experiences as a daughter, stepdaughter sister and stepsister in a blended family. Many of her stories bring tears to my eyes, tears of sadness and joy, when I recall, through her perspective, all the struggles, challenges and changes we faced in becoming a blended family. I am happy to report that it appears that we have come out on the side of success and happiness, but for a while there it did not always seem that that would be the case. I welcome you to read her stories and to share with others, especially all the kids and stepkids in your life. Sophia is also looking for comments and contributions, as she is very anxious to hear your stories too. You may contact Sophia via email: Sophia(at)Shwanda(dot)com.
Published on April 22, 2010
This is the first in a series of Blended Family Stories in which I or one of my fellow moms and stepmoms will recount their experiences, challenges, frustrations and joys being the female head of a blended or stepfamily. If you or anyone you know would like to participate in my video log, please contact me at Carol@shwanda.com.
Published on April 16, 2010Fellow stepmom blogger and life coach, social psychologist and stepfamily educator, Joan Sarin of Stepmom SOS offers counseling for members of blended families. She and I have talked on the phone several times and I find her a wealth of information, guidance and inspiration. I strongly urge you to check out her blog. In addition, she is asking all stepmoms, stepdads, stepdaughters and stepsons to share their stories with her in a video format for a project she is creating called Stepfamily Diaries.In this video she and her son (now 26) recall her wedding day to her second husband, the happiness she felt, and the pain, anguish and uncertainty that her son and stepdaughter experienced. One thing Joan told me that really resonated with me and I want to share with you is that you are not alone. Members of stepfamilies tend to think their struggles are only happening to them, but that is not true. Many of us are experiencing the same challenges and frustrations and could be helped with counseling. She said if those resources were available to her and her family, it would have saved them a lot of heartache, which is why she is now an advocate and counselor for stepfamilies. Please visit her website, Stepmom SOS for more information.
Published on April 12, 2010
One of the many issues blended families and stepchildren have to deal with is the conflict over divided loyalties. Our family is no exception.
Last week I told you about our trip to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara to look at colleges for Sophia. We had a blast. I took all three girls, my two daughters, Sophia and Eva, and my stepdaughter Cheryl. We planned the trip a few months ago and even went shopping for new outfits; shorts, swimsuits, etc. just for the occasion. What I did not plan for was that we were going to be gone for Easter. I had gotten the dates mixed up and thought Easter was the following week, which meant that I had actually planned the trip so that we would be gone for Easter.
A few days before we were to leave, Paul got a call from his ex-wife, Cheryl’s mother, saying that Cheryl had decided she did not want to go because she would much rather stay home and hang out with her friends. She also informed Paul that Cheryl was afraid to tell me herself for fear that I would be “mad at her”. Paul relayed the news to me, and I did not buy it for one second. Not want to go because you want to hang out with your friends??? Come on. I knew there was more to the story, but I didn’t want to put on any pressure for fear that I would be characterized as one who “gets mad at things”. So I said nothing, even though I was concerned that Cheryl would be missing out on a great opportunity to visit colleges and that she would regret it. Quite frankly, I was a little pissed. I told Paul, “You should encourage her to go. This is a great opportunity. Seeing these college campuses will inspire her.” But he resisted my prodding, which only exacerbated the problem further. Our differing parenting styles often clash. When it comes to kids (and just about anything), I believe in getting to the bottom of things. Paul does not. He thinks we should let things flow “organically”. “Don’t get involved and don’t imagine things,” he always tells me. So I kept my mouth shut and I didn’t say anything to Cheryl about not going.
The night before we were to leave Cheryl was sitting on the couch playing on her iPod and I asked her, “So, Cheryl, what are your plans for this weekend?” She replied, “I’m going on the trip with you.” This was news to me, but I did not let on. Instead I said, “Well let’s do your laundry and get you packed” While we were in the laundry room sorting through her clothes she admitted to me, ” I never not wanted to go. I just felt bad about being gone over Easter…” and her voice trailed off. I realized she felt guilty about leaving her parents. After all, I’m not her mother. She had divided loyalties.
I called Cheryl’s mother to tell her Cheryl had had a change of heart and decided to go. She was surprised. If she was disappointed she didn’t let on. She had Easter plans with Cheryl, but to her credit, she did not object and respected Cheryl’s decision to come with us on the trip. Cheryl and her mom celebrated Easter on Wednesday after we returned. Sometimes, that’s what you have to do in a blended family.
Published on March 16, 2010
This is our cat Flip standing guard by the back door of our house. Noticed the claws slightly displayed. Our pets mean a lot to the kids, as they were always a source of comfort and security during tough times. Whenever the kids have had a rough day they usually find one of our three cats, or the dog and just curl up and snuggle.
Published on March 4, 2010
Yesterday was Sam’s 19th birthday and we all went out to dinner to celebrate. My girls, Eva and Sophia, were at their dad’s and did not attend, but Paul’s kids, along with Susie, his ex-wife, met up at a wonderful Chinese restaurant in Capitola called Canton’s. I highly recommend it.
It was a pleasant evening. We each had assigned jobs to order various courses, ( mine was appetizers) but desert was the usual fortune cookie. Sam went first to read aloud his fortune, but before he did he said, “I think I got Dad and Carol”s.” (Carol is me, those of you who don’t know.) It said: “You will be very happy with your spouse.”
“What a nice thing to say”, I thought, not only because he could recognize that his father and I are happy, but because he acknowledged my existence in the first place. You see, Sam and I have a very turbulent past, so to speak. There are times when he looks at me with such disdain I swear he hates me. If I had to list all the mistakes I made as a step mother, most would begin with Sam.
When I first entered Sam’s life he was coasting along just fine without me. Both of his parents worked outside the home and there I was working from home and therefore able to observe him not doing his homework, eating crap and playing too many video games. I felt it was my role to correct his behavior and made it my mission to do so. In hindsight, this was not such a great idea. It not only back fired in my face, it bred resentment. I hope someday Sam will look back on my “interference” as caring rather than an annoyance. Only time will tell. If I had to do it all over again I would simply leave his parenting up to his parents and stay out of it. I set myself up to be the bad guy, even though I was well intentioned. Perhaps Sam’s acknowledgement that I was good for his father was the first nod in my favor. Maybe I am making way too much of this, but sometimes I just have to take what I can get.
Published on March 2, 2010
Sometimes I look back on some of my posts and I think I paint such a rosy picture that maybe you might get sick of me and think that I am laying it on a little thick. I wax on about how I married the most perfect man and have the most perfect life. Well I don’t. I am here to tell you that I have snot on my couch. With five teenagers, it comes with the territory. I have found candy wrappers under the couch, nail clippings, moldy sandwiches and now…. snot.
I did marry a lovely man. That part is true. But he did not come to me in isolation. He had three children and the blending with my two has not been an easy task. It was the hardest on me, truthfully, because I am a clean freak neat nick as in, it bothers me if the butter knives in the silverware drawer are not facing all the same direction. Or the bath towels aren’t folded a certain way. And I cannot for the life of me understand why no one seems to do things the way I want them done. So you can see my challenges here. These days with grad school and all, my standards of cleanliness have gone lower than I ever thought they could go. But I have my blinders on. One must in order to survive. I’ve had a lot of practice. When I lived in NYC in my early 20′s the view from my apartment was a brick wall. I made it a point to never look out that window. My motto now is, “Don’t look under the couch.”
Published on February 23, 2010
We had a bit of drama at the Shwanda house last week. My daughter Sophia and my husband Paul got into a big argument on Tuesday night over something as innocuous as the TV (he wanted to watch the Olympics and she wanted to watch a reality show) and she just had a hissy fit. She stormed out of the great room, starting slamming things around, claimed she ” JUST CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!” packed her bags and drove across town to go live with her father. It was not her finest moment and it wasn’t mine either. She screamed some expletives at her step father, which she later came to regret, and I allowed myself to get caught in the middle when I should have been backing up my hubby. I got defensive. I let my “I’m-so-sorry-for-getting-divorced-and-remarried-and-making-you-move-guilt” get in the way of reason. Read the rest of this entry »