Step mothers are often seen as evil. Step children unwanted. Step fathers portrayed as overbearing brutes.
But what if we stopped with the “step”? What if we recognize that family is family, whether it’s through blood, marriage, or choice?
I don’t often do lifestyle posts like this, especially stream-of-consciousness ones, but it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.
A few weeks ago, I came across this photo of me as a child, a photo in which I’m clearly choosing to hold back a smile…
Was I in a bad mood? Did the camera catch me at a bad time? Was I being a typical teenager, too cool to show my joy?
Nope. I was told I had an “awful smile” by my step-father’s mother.
“Too big,” she said, “too cheesy!”
And I stopped smiling for months after that.
Step-Children Are Not Burdens
When we treat step-children as “extras” instead of “bonuses”, we are potentially setting them up to forever think of themselves as such.
I can recall one time when I was around 10 years old when my step-aunt had plans to take my step-brother and step-sister on a day trip. The day came and my step-brother didn’t want to go, he was having too much fun with our other brother. Rather than ask me along instead, the aunt threw a fit. I had no way to understand or process this rejection as anything but “she doesn’t see me as family and therefore doesn’t like me.”
Clearly this is something that has stuck with me 20+ years later.
With stories of Cinderella and the like, it’s no wonder we often think of step-parents as evil; the children often know no better until they themselves experience it. I can’t help but wonder, though, if we took the time to welcome these children into our families just as we welcome newborn babies, would things settle sooner? Wouldn’t the blending be all the better for it?
Obviously I’ve not been a step-mother (and hope to never be one), so it’s hard to come at it from any place but that of a grown step-child. I’m curious, though, if it’s just such a chaotic time that the parents don’t think to work together better to ensure a smooth transition? Or maybe this was just my experience and is an exception, not the rule?
What do you think – is it on the parents to ensure acceptance all around or do we just accept that “blended families” will often have more issues than “first-families”?
Do you consider yourself a smooth talker? Or do you stumble over your words, your brain moving faster than your mouth?
Either way – what if I told you that you could talk your way into a healthier, wealthier, overall happier life? Sounds like crazy voodoo or maybe just hippy hullabaloo right? Fortunately I have science on my side as I tell you – affirmations DO work.
What is an affirmation?
An affirmation is simply a statement or declaration that something is valid and true.
Let’s say that when you pass by the hallway mirror on your way to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, you notice out loud, “My hair is a mess!”
Or perhaps when you are loading up the family car with groceries, you might mutter, “I spend a small fortune every week feeding these kids!”
You may not know it, but those are affirmations, albeit negative ones. An example of a positive affirmation is something like “I deserve to be happy!”
How do affirmations work?
It starts by becoming more mindful of your words, thoughts, and actions. When you catch yourself thinking or saying something negative, stop yourself. Find a way to put a positive spin on it, even when you don’t want to.
As you train your brain to be positive through your affirmations, it will become natural, and it will influence your life in all areas, including your thoughts. You will begin to manifest in your life what you envision to be true in your life, and you give affirmation to what you believe to be true.
Developing your own affirmations may feel uncomfortable at first, but as soon as you get used to the idea of speaking out positive truth, it will be a natural part of your daily routine.
When you catch a glimpse of that unruly hair, quickly exclaim, “I have such beautiful, healthy hair.”
And as you stock your kitchen, “I am so blessed to be able to provide so well for my family!”
Depending on what you hope to accomplish through positive affirmations, you will be able to tailor the phrases to benefit you individually. Identifying where you have weakness in thought patterns is a great place to start. If you are hard on yourself in a particular area, or if you are struggling with something specific, combat the tendency to be critical of yourself by immediately telling yourself what you would like to see, as though it has already happened that way.
You are amazing!
A big part of using positive affirmations is choosing to believe you are significant and you are valuable. You will be amazed at how dramatically this alone will change your life. If you are reminding yourself all day how valuable you are, your decisions will be made through a different lens, your reactions to negative circumstance will not be made out of fear, and you will develop a deeper sense of security in your emotional and physical well-being.
You may have read it, but a couple years ago I wrote a post on how I lived to blog, but I was scared it wouldn’t amount to anything. Regardless of that fear, I kept telling myself I was going to make it happen – I would find my freedom, quit my job, and be the work-at-home mom I’d always wanted to be.
So when doing your own affirmations, think of it as a narrator in your life, reading the script as you live it out. If the script says that you are successful and happy, you act out the narrative believing that it is true, before it happens. You tell yourself what to believe, so that it will happen.
If you still need more convincing, take eight minutes to watch this video (I PROMISE you, it’s worth it):
Tips on positivity
There are a few helpful things to keep in mind as you start on your journey towards a positive, healthy lifestyle full of new words, phrases and initially awkward declarations.
First, be grateful for who you are and what you can accomplish.
Second, don’t ever compare yourself to others.
Finally, don’t judge yourself or others.
As you implement these simple guidelines, you will be successfully affirming yourself with positivity in no time. You can begin using your positive affirmations to influence outcomes in all kinds of situations.
You listen to yourself more than you think! (And so do your kids!)
Usually what comes out of your mouth is a good indicator of what you believe. And guess what? If you’re saying it, your kids are hearing it. So even if you’re only directing negative self-talk at yourself, you’re still teaching your children that it’s okay to disrespect yourself and your surroundings in such a way.
If you believe you are not good enough, you will voice that in a number of ways, and in turn, you’ll produce less than stellar results. You can use positive affirmation to turn the tables, change your mind about what you believe and get positive results. After practicing positive affirmations regularly, your thought patterns will change and you will discover that your beliefs now have changed. The affirmations that are released from your mouth will now appropriately indicate your beliefs, and will be manifested in your life.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Usually what comes out of your mouth is a good indicator of what you believe. #affirmations #positivethinking” quote=”Usually what comes out of your mouth is a good indicator of what you believe.”]
Remember that positive affirmations are a tool to re-train your mind into believing what you are telling it to believe. When you are speaking, pay attention to the words. Convince yourself that what you are saying is true. Believe that you are who you say you are through your affirmations.
Don’t have time for affirmations?
That was always my excuse – “ugh! It’s just so hard to remember!” or “There’s no time in the mornings!”
Yeah, thought so. That’s why I made it a habit to do affirmations WITH my children. If you struggle to believe in the power of affirmations, make it a point to include your children and watch as positive thinking becomes a family habit. There’s little better you can teach your children than to think positive.
[clickToTweet tweet=”There’s little better you can teach your children than to think positive.” quote=”There’s little better you can teach your children than to think positive.”]
Here are a few examples of positive affirmations to influence your day:
I trust myself to make great choices
I am unique and significant
I am totally capable of providing well for my family
I was made to experience life abundantly
I was created to be healthy and whole
I am a source of great comfort, peace and joy for my family
I am creative and resourceful
I attract interesting people and amazing opportunities, because I am interesting and amazing
I am calm and relaxed when I interact with others
I study and comprehend what I read easily
I am surrounded by love
I have the means to experience life as I choose
My body is healthy and functioning as it should
As you habitually remind yourself of all that you are through positive affirmations, you will achieve far greater success in your life — physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and financially.
You will thrive in your abundantly blessed life, and everyone around you will want to know your secret.
Do you have any experience with positive affirmations? I’d love to hear about your successes!
The first time I realized that’s what it was when I was on my way to pick my babies up from daycare.
At the time, my daughter was eight months old and my son had just turned two. And because he had just turned two, he was moved to the “twos room” all the way on the other side of the daycare building.
So there I was, waiting at the red light to turn toward the daycare, and suddenly I was lost…
Tumbling down into this pit of chaos and confusion. Darkness all around and when I opened my eyes, there was pandemonium.
In my mind, a bomb had just went off, reducing half the city to ashes, and I had mere moments to get to the daycare. But once there, which direction do I choose? With both babies at either end of the building, how do I pick which child to go after first? What if something happens to one while I’m rescuing the other? Where will we go from there? Stay put or run?? How do I save my husband? Or do I trust he’ll find us? What if we never see each other again and something happens to me?? Who will make sure my babies are safe???
It wasn’t until a horn blared behind me that I realized the light had turned green. My knuckles screamed in protest as I pried my fingers from the steering wheel and turned into the daycare. Everyone safe. Everyone sound…well, almost everyone…
I consider myself (more-or-less) a logical person but even now, writing this piece, I can feel my chest tightening. Yes, I know the scene that played out wasn’t real, but in that moment? In that moment, it was everything and my inability to quickly find a safe solution has stayed with me ever since.
While I have since implemented various strategies and coping mechanisms to help me work through this anxiety, I awoke on Saturday January 13th to find myself once again being threatened by the chaos.
In case you’ve been living under a rock – which, uh, can I join you?? – Hawaii inadvertently sent a message out via its emergency alert system that a ballistic missile threat was inbound and residents were told to seek immediate shelter. Luckily it was a false alarm, but the fallout from it is far from over…
HAWAII – THIS IS A FALSE ALARM. THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE TO HAWAII. I HAVE CONFIRMED WITH OFFICIALS THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE. pic.twitter.com/DxfTXIDOQs
In the 24 hours that have followed, my newsfeed has been overtaken by stories of Hawaiian mothers and the panic they felt and articles on what people went through as they prepared to try and survive. I can already hear some of you telling me, “Well just stay off social media, Amber!” but that’s far easier said than done when it’s my job. When was the last time you tried going with social media for a day?
I know I shouldn’t read the stories, but my apocalyptic brain needs to know what happened, to absorb the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” of it all.
Then my primal brain jumps in and tries to allay my fears, to pretend that this isn’t an actual threat. That we’re not at risk for nuclear war. That we’re not lead by a man-child who uses Twitter to threaten other supposed leaders.
But honestly it’s my logical brain that continues to win out. I recognize that while an apocalypse probably isn’t looming (despite what my mother says), the chance of a war has become a very real possibility. All we can do is prepare and live our best lives possible, because frankly we can’t know how we’ll react in a situation such as this one. Sure, we could let our brains run away, send us into an anxious world of chaos, or we could choose to keep moving forward.
“Prepare for the worst, but expect the best”, right?
Yes, we have supplies in our basement should the worst happen. And yes, I’ll continue to plead “joke” with my Canadian friends about adopting me. But in the meantime, we’ll continue to live our lives and strive to do better. To volunteer more with our children. To be civically engaged. And to trust that this country will eventually be the brilliant land of freedom its so often thought to be.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Don’t let the anxiety, fear, or anger win out. Choose to be better.” quote=”Don’t let the anxiety, fear, or anger win out. Continue to be the best, most kind person YOU can be and teach your children to do the same.”]
Believe it’ll get better from here and maybe together we’ll make it so.
As a frugal living blogger, you’ve seen me post from time-to-time about how I firmly believe living a “frugal life” requires not just letting go, but also giving back. Meaning, not only do you have to consciously let go of the “stuff” (and live a more minimalist lifestyle), but you have to be WILLING to give that which you may very well need – such as money.
Now I’m by no means encouraging you to put yourself in debt in order to better someone else’s life – that’s just silly – but rather to simply recognize that giving may very well be a part of the path you must travel in order to find the freedom you’re looking for.
When was the last time you helped a stranger in need? Or are you too busy? Too lost in your own chaos? Or, like many of us, are you too overwhelmed by constant access to information that sometimes you’re just blinded to it all?
Despite the motivational memes and inspirational pins flashing otherwise, we are often discouraged when it comes to shaping the world we’ll pass on to our children. We instead leave the tough choices to corrupt political leaders, money-hungry corporate directors, or social activists whose lifestyles seem alien and jarring. It is both sad and ironic that in a country born from a revolution, few of us do more beyond “signing” yet another online petition.
For many, civic withdrawal is now the norm.
Is it any wonder, though? You can’t log into Facebook or open your e-mail without being bombarded by sad stories of families in need, babies dying, or homes burning. It’s easier to ignore it, turn a blind eye and go on your merry way.
Those who don’t, those who choose to feel, are often thought to be crazy. Deemed “zealots” or “drama queens” by their peers.
When our individual autonomy is brought into question, by ourselves or others, our instinct is to bristle and call the others obsessed or ignorant. You can’t get onto any public thread these days without hate raging from all sides, name-calling like school yard bullies.
Perhaps it’s because we need this cynical submission to numb the pain of our own unrealized hopes…?
Imagine, though, if we applied that cynicism to all areas of our life. Rather than encouraging little Billy to try to hit the ball just one more time, we tell him to lay down the bat and go home, he’ll never go pro!
Or when our toddler runs up to us after a day away, rather than swoop her up in a hug, we jerk away and look at her with suspecting eyes, assuming she wants more from us than simply our love.
We have to take chances on people, to believe in them and motivate them, lest we crumble as an entire society. If we continue to turn in and look only at our screens, the physical world WILL gray and decompose.
Being an adult is brutal, especially if you’re an adult born of the “Millennial” generation.
You’re caught between those who recall life before “the Facebook” and those who think you’re old because you’re not sure just how SnapChat works, but you’re pretty sure you want to avoid any risk of d*** pics.
It’s exhausting trying to balance it all, to keep all those balls in the air while remembering to breathe.
We have to, though.
We must carry on and set a better example for our children.
We must be involved, not just from our computer screens, but actually, physically, involved.
March in a protest. Attend a political rally. Volunteer one weekend a month with your children.
While I by no means think everyone should constantly worry about everyone else, nothing will ever get better in this world if we all remain on autopilot, hiding behind our screens. Break free from your routine and become an active member of your community. ANYTHING that gets you out that door and physically involved in molding our world.
Change your world by changing someone else’s.
As Howard Thurman once said: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
What makes YOU come alive, my dear reader? I’d love to know in the comments below.
Making kits for the homeless might not seem all that thrifty, but it’s such a beautiful way to give back to your community. In fact, one of our core values as a family is volunteering and teaching our children to volunteer.
That said, part of a thrifty lifestyle is saving and making money in efficient and sometimes unique ways. This might mean shaving $10 off your grocery bill, renegotiating your cable (or cutting the cord all together), or starting up a side hustle walking dogs.
These are all great things that will improve your bottom line, but at a certain point, you need to reevaluate what is important to you if you truly want to become debt-free once and for all. If you live for your morning Starbucks routine, do you realize that dropping that $5/day coffee habit will save you $1,825 a year? Are you a smoker, because if so, that $7 a day is $2,555 a year up in smoke (literally!)
Evaluate the Essentials
Being aware of what we consider “essential” to our lives and what is ACTUALLY essential to our grandest dreams and fullest life is the first step towards really achieving those dreams. One great way to refocus yourself is to stop and look around you at those who may have significantly less than you.
Chances are good that if you live in a larger city, you have a fair amount of homelessness around you. While I’m not suggesting you compare your level of suffering to theirs, I will ask that you consider the concept of “essential” in light of their way of living versus your own. What do you throw out daily that could be of huge benefit to them? What do you refuse to give up weekly – like dinner out or that daily coffee run – that could drastically improve their life?
How Much Will It Cost?
I am not suggesting you completely alter your lifestyle for someone else, but just stop and think for a moment where that $5 coffee or breakfast or random goofy app on the Google Play store could go if you focused where you spent it. If you were spending $5/day on non-essentials, but cut 2 days a week out, you’d save $520 a year.
Would you significantly feel the loss of that “wasted” $10/week? Probably not – in fact, missing 2 of your 7 indulgences per week would make those other 5 more significant! In addition, you’d have another $520 to throw at a credit card or student loan or car payment. That’s a great deal!
But imagine for a moment that you socked away $5 a week and the other $5 you put towards improving the lives of those around you who are in poor circumstances. You’d still have a decent amount to pay off debt, you’d still NOT feel the sting of deprivation, and you’d be setting an example for your children and possibly DRASTICALLY helping someone else.
DIY Blessing Bags for the Homeless
During the winter, I like to create care packages for the homeless, but they are just as important during the summer. So I took my $5 to my local Aldi and looked at what I could get. A box of granola bars was $1.20 for 8, and a 24 pack of bottled water was $1.99. Add in a box of bandages and we’re at $5. This isn’t a lot, but hydration, some food, and some first aid can be a major deal when you’re living on the street.
If you prefer to watch instead of read, check out my livestream below for this next part! —
If you were to get together with some friends/family and assign them each a $5-$10 grouping of items you could contribute a small amount but maximize the impact of each package.
Things to Include in a Homeless Kit
Some things we included were:
Other non-perishable food items, like cereal bars, peanuts, dried fruit, trail mix, etc
T-shirts that would otherwise have been donated to Goodwill or thrown away. In addition, old ball caps or other hats are great during summer months.
We also printed out information on shelters, cooling centers, food banks, breadlines, and other places that help the homeless with day-to-day needs.
You can include a LOT in a gallon freezer bag, so turn to those for these kits. Again, Aldi or other cheaper grocers have those cheap. Pack each bag with essentials, and keep them in your car to give out as you come across someone in need.
The power of a bunch of small sacrifices lumped together for a good cause can be dramatic, and not just in a dollars-and-cents sense. The impact of this giving can help alter your perception of what is necessary for you to be happy. It cultivates kindness and empathy in your children (and in yourself). It creates a sense of community and fosters responsibility. Thinking outside yourself creates perspective that is invaluable, and on top of everything else, you’re helping another person.
So trust me; the small self-denial it will take to give up some indulgence, even if it’s only scaling it back, is 100% worth it in the long run. You won’t miss it and you’ll be better in the long run for it.
Have you ever created a homeless kit before?
I’d love to hear other ideas/suggestions of what to include, post ’em in the comments below!
Loneliness as a mom isn’t a new concept, but when you are alone, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you’re the only one.
A few years ago, when our son was only 6 months old, my husband and I made the choice to have a second child. Why get used to sleep again, right? And while I’d never ever change the choices made, I also never realized I’d be trapped…in the mom gap.
It all started the other night as I scrolled across a Facebook post about a sorority sister being in town for our college’s homecoming, she and another sister had gone out to one of our favorite local breweries.
First, I was jealous.
Then a little bit angry.
And most definitely hurt.
Now I’m not so conceited to feel they should have automatically invited me along, but they’d both just been in my wedding a month prior and neither could make it to my 30th birthday a couple weeks ago, so I was a bit hurt. Maybe I was just being dramatic, though, so I messaged a mutual friend to ask her as much.
And that’s when she introduced me to the term “mom gap.”
Apparently “mom gap” is used to explain why childless friends might not think to invite their mom friends along on weekend shenanigans – it’s nothing malicious, but rather they simply don’t think about it, because you have kids and therefore you’re almost certainly busy.
“Oh they’re not being mean, they literally just don’t think about you.”
Given that I was either pregnant or breastfeeding for four years straight, I get that I’m not anyone’s first choice when it comes to thinking of someone to grab a drink with; I knew that becoming a mom meant saying goodbye to the girl I once was and to the boobs I once had but I guess I didn’t quite realize it also meant saying goodbye to the friendships I was used to.
When I woke up the next morning, again seeing posts on the fun my friends were having this weekend, I realized that the anger and jealousy were really only there because they were easier to face than what I was really feeling — lonely.
When I quit my job last April to run my own online business, I knew there would be obstacles to overcome (aren’t there always?) but I never thought that loneliness would the worst of ’em.
I truly believe that being a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom is one of the loneliest jobs in the world.
It does get easier as they get old – at least I hope so – but treading water in the mean time can be exhausting.
I started asking around my favorite Facebook groups morning and almost every work-at-home/stay-at-home parent I spoke to said they get less than 5 (and often 0) hours of adult interaction each week. Heh at least we’re not alone in our loneliness, right?
If you’re on my e-mail list, you may have read my e-mail last month about how I’ve started working to overcome the emotional struggles that have (mostly) stemmed from being a work-at-home mom. (missed it? Check it out here!)
Within that e-mail, I wrote about how I literally didn’t leave my house for 30 days straight, save for going a few steps down the street twice a week to pick up my babies from daycare. And oh my gosh, the number of e-mails I got back saying “Been there!” “This is me!” or “It’s been TWO months for me…” It was just so eye-opening, comforting, and heartbreaking all at once.
I found comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone, but sadness in that there are so (SO!) many other women (and men) out there struggling with the “mom gap” and similar issues of loneliness. I had literally dozens of people asking me how I’ve started to better my own situation and while I’ve personally responded to all of them, I did promise to go deeper into what I’ve done to make a change.
The first step is of course ACCEPTANCE —
Accept that you NEED a tribe. Believe me, I get it, we want to show the world we can do it all on our own and we’re super women and yada yada. I’m a stubborn control freak, so I know how hard it is to say “I need help” but we do. And that’s not a bad thing.
Also accept that times have changed and we have to work harder to form said tribes. With the “miracle of technology” that is social media, we feel connected to our friends at all times, even when we’re not. So going back to the “mom gap” thing, it may not be that your friends are ignoring you, but rather they just don’t realize how disconnected from you they actually are. This leaves you with two choices – make that first step to reconnect or accept that you’re in different life stages and it’s time to work on building new connections with new friends.
Then LOVE (yourself) —
When was the last time you gave yourself space to just enjoy the company that is you? I know that being alone isn’t exactly a great cure for loneliness, but hear me out. If you have young children at home, you’re all the more likely to be wildly unfamiliar with this new person that you are outside of being a parent. It’s so easy to become lost in the life that is parenthood, even if you’re lucky enough to have a strong partner and/or family help. It’s already hard to make friends as an adult, don’t make it any more difficult by feeling like a stranger to yourself.
Find the joy —
Try to remember the beauty that is this season. I know how hard it is to feel grateful when you’re constantly bouncing between a dark shroud of loneliness and the guilt that comes from having fun on the rare occasion you’re without kids, but look for the joy. Take a few moments before bed each night to journal out a bright spot of your day, even if all it was was you putting your bra on this morning. You could also take a couple minutes to write letters to your babies in journals of their own, something for them to read as they grow older. It may not seem like much, but spending just five minutes every day focusing on the good can make all the difference during times of bad.
Know that social media is a lie —
As an online entrepreneur, I’m well aware that we often only post the good. If you were to look at my Facebook, you’ll see photos of my beautiful children hugging, a clutter-free playroom, and healthy meal choices made.
What you don’t see is that they spent the last ten hours screaming at each other, the clutter is hiding behind me, and they threw that healthy meal on the floor while crying for corn dogs.
Likewise, when you see a friend posting statuses on the fun and free weekend they’re having, remind yourself that you don’t know the whole story (particularly if we circle back to feeling connected without actual connections). You can’t know the struggles someone else is experiencing unless you ask them and they can’t know yours unless you tell them. Rarely do we show the whole truth online or off, but if we at least recognize that fact, maybe we can begin our climb out of the “mom gap” and away from the loneliness that surrounds us.
You. Are. Not. Alone.
Maybe you know me. Maybe you don’t. But either way — know you’re not alone.
Going back to our social media point, I know that it can be easy to look at someone online and think there’s no way they can relate. I recognize how blessed I am to be able to make a significant income while not having to put on pants or even brush my hair, but don’t let that fool you into thinking things are easy.
This blog post, for example, took me an entire morning to write (and mind you, I type nearly 100 WPM with a 98% accuracy).
What you can’t see behind the screen is my high-needs daughter wanting to be in my lap every two minutes —
See what I mean about not brushing my hair?
She’s in a different shirt because she “needed” to take a bath this morning.
And again, please let me reiterate — I would not change having my babies for ANYTHING in the world. There’s no doubt you feel the same, we all love our babies more than anything, but I bring it back up because I need you to recognize for yourself that it’s okay to say “I’m lonely” without then feeling guilty for it because you think you “should” feel something else.
We’re human. We feel. And that’s a beautiful thing.