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9 Ways to Love Someone Else’s Child

Ask yourself better questions and get the relationship you want.

I have never been a kid person. In fact, a few times in my life I have been coerced into teaching dance classes for children and I could not stand it. Why? I simply don’t like to be around other people’s children.

This aversion to kids was just “one of those things about me” (I thought), but became incredibly inconvenient once I became a step-mom.

First thing’s first, my stepson is a really sweet kid. But man oh man do I have a tough time loving him. It seems like he was created with every little habit that drives me crazy all packaged into one little boy that I’m “supposed to” love.

As I watch friends who are step-moms who naturally adore their step-kids, I think to myself, “What’s the matter with me? Why can’t I love him like that?” But that’s asking myself the wrong questions.

If you want to get a helpful answer in your life, never ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me?” That question sets you up for an answer that you not only don’t want to hear but is also not helpful.

Our brains are programmed to answer questions. So the answer the brain gives is dependent on the question you ask it. Your brain will not say “Hang on… that question is really going to give you a shitty answer.” Your brain just answers the question presented.

So it’s really important to ask yourself helpful questions.

Here are a few helpful questions to ask yourself when you care enough to learn to love someone else’s child:

1. “What’s good about this person?”

Everyone has something good about him or her (whether we want to admit it or not). I remember at a parent-teacher conference, my stepson’s teacher said he was the “heart of the class.”

I did a double take. Really!?

After that day I watched him with his friends and realized not only was he liked by everyone, he really facilitated an air of lightheartedness amongst the other children. I had never seen him like this, but having his good qualities brought to my attention gave me the chance to see him in a new light.

2. “How is this issue a reflection of something I don’t like about myself?”

Other people are mirrors who provide a reflection of us. When there’s something that pisses you off about someone else, it’s a reflection of an unloved aspect of yourself.

My stepson is like a little fairy… light and playful… creative and imaginative. When I’m around him, I get serious and tense.

Why? Because his lightness reflects parts of myself that I don’t see as valuable and worthwhile, which means those qualities really bug me when he exhibits them… especially when people love him for it.

Since I understand that his lightheartedness is a reflection of me, when I find myself getting “triggered” and falling into more rigid behavior and thoughts, I can remind myself that I just need to lighten up. My stepson provides me with a reminder of that.

3. “What do we have in common?”

We all can find something in common and it may not be as obvious as a special hobby or favorite food. It could be a way of thinking or seeing the world.

When you can identify your similarities, it will provide a bonding experience. At first, the only common thread may be something you both don’t like… take what you can get!

4. “How would I like to be treated?”

It’s the golden rule and worth stating here. Think about if you were a kid. Would you want to be treated like you’re treating this child?

And if the answer is “no” but you STILL can’t change your behavior, then it’s time to take a look at the child within you and ask, “Did I not get the attention I deserved in some way when I was a kid?”

There may be part of you that needed to be treated in ways that are more loving than you experienced in your young life. Healing your own past wounds brings resolution to the present.

5. “What child part of myself is having difficulty right now?”

This question will help when you notice that a part of you is acting like a child and wanting to withhold love and attention from another human being, specifically this child. Ask yourself, “How old do I feel right now?” and put your hand on your heart to receive an answer.

Inside, there is a child — you — who needs healing and by giving yourself attention in the way you would have liked back then, you will heal old wounds. Get help from a therapist or coach with this issue if you need to.

It’s worth it so you can receive the love that this relationship offers!

6. “How can I give myself permission to feel what I feel?”

Sometimes we will feel angry, sad or totally jealous and we need to give ourselves permission to feel that way. If we try to blow past our feelings, we will never be able to love ourselves, let alone someone else who bothers us.

Practice accepting yourself with this question.

7. “How can I be kind to myself?”

Loving someone else who is difficult to love is not easy. Be kind to yourself and give yourself what you need. Do you need a break? A night off? A hot bath? A place to be alone? A call with a friend, or maybe a walk outside?

Take care of yourself first. We can’t be helpful to anyone else if we aren’t taking care of ourselves — especially when it gets hard.

8. “What boundaries do I need to have in place so this relationship can work?”

Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment with them or take care of them in ways you don’t want to. We need to have boundaries so we can have loving relationships.

Some relationships are best when we only see people occasionally, or when the person is not in our face constantly. Create ways that you can live your life on your terms as much as possible.

9. “What is this relationship trying to teach me?”

Relationships exist in our lives as a sole function to grow, not for us to be comfortable. As humans, we think we want to feel comfortable, but after a while, we get stagnant; because, just like everything else in nature, we are supposed to be growing.

When we ask ourselves what the relationship is trying to teach us, we get a clue as to how we can become a better person. That new way of being will provide us with lots of opportunities to experience life in a way that we just couldn’t experience had the relationship not existed.

In my experience, learning to love someone else’s kid has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

There is a reason that 50 percent of new marriages fail within the first year, and studies say it takes 8 years to blend a family. Because it’s hard! And in 8 years, the kids aren’t kids anymore anyway!

However, the relationship challenges that come along with learning to love someone else’s child have equal rewards. And if you can hang in there and ask the right questions of yourself, you will have a chance to experience getting love back from this child when you never thought it could be possible.

In Joy!
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I’m A Part-Time Parent And I REFUSE To Feel Guilty About It

Giving myself permission to live guilt-free provides my kids with an empowered role model.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I planned to work part-time while raising her, that way I could continue to do the work that I loved while being a mom. But nothing could have prepared me for how much attention she needed or how much I loved her. Once she entered my life it was like a switch went off and I forgot about everything I was working toward in my career, and everything I cared about and dreamed of for myself.

Unaware of what was really happening, I went into full-time mother mode. I had lost myself and I didn’t even know it yet. I didn’t realize I had lost myself until I got divorced. I had spent almost every waking moment with my kids. Then, all of the sudden, the man who worked 12 hours a day wanted my kids half of the time.

All of the sudden, the kids weren’t with me anymore. All of a sudden, I had no idea who I was. And with a blink of an eye… my identity was gone. To say I was sad would be an understatement. I was devastated. Eventually after the dust settled, I started to hear this voice in my head telling me “you’re a bad mom,” and ever more concerning: I believed that voice. I revealed my little secret to friends who told me I was crazy to think I was a terrible mother. They assured me I was one of the best moms they knew. But how could that be true? My idea of a good mother was one who was physically present for her kids all the time — and I wasn’t. This one little-but-also-huge fact made it blatantly obvious to me that I was a bad mom. But I couldn’t live with the guilt anymore; something needed to change and that something was my perspective.

“Where did that thought come from?” I asked myself. “Where did I get this concept that a good mom is with her kids all the time?” I realized that belief wasn’t even true! For instance, my kids weren’t with me when they went to school.  Then it occurred to me where I developed the concept of “bad mom,” my own childhood pain had created that definition for me. When I was a teenager I was devastated when my mother found a boyfriend and began paying more attention to him than to me. I felt so abandoned and hurt at that time in my life that I must’ve, somewhere deep inside, made a commitment to myself that I’d never do that to anyone that I loved. And here I was, doing the same thing, creating the same pains. It had to stop. It had to stop for me and I had to stop it for my kids. Because now it’s clear to me: we have the capacity to carry pains down from generation to generation when they’re unresolved. And I did NOT want my kids to carry the same destructive patterns into their adult lives that I had and their grandmother had. It was time to take action.

First, I forgave my mom. Although my mom’s separation from my dad and my divorce were under different circumstances, we were now in a similar position. She left my dad and got involved in a new relationship just like I had done. Carrying the pain of this separation and its result around from my childhood was only hurting one person : me. I wanted to end the pain and I knew forgiveness was the first step.

Second, I identified the feeling I felt. Guilt. Massive amounts of guilt. And I needed to reconcile it. Guilt is an emotion we experience when we perceive that we have done something wrong. However, getting divorced wasn’t wrong; in fact, aside from the “bad mom” thoughts, I was really happy! On so many levels the divorce was great! Great for me but what about my kids? And that’s where the problem was. I felt guilty because I perceived that my choice my hurt them and worse, I was happy about it. How could I be happy and feel guilt at the same time? I got out a sheet of paper and wrote down all the ways the divorce was a bad thing for them; for instance, they need to live in two houses and they couldn’t be with me all the time. Then I made a list of equal length with the positive benefits directly related to the negative list. I wrote down things like, “they get a break from me” and “they get to have fun with their dad without me nagging him,” which are valid positive benefits to the divorce. Then my mind expanded into the possibilities. For instance, now they get to really get to know their dad. They get to do fun things that he likes to do but I don’t. They get to travel more because we both want to take them to fun places. I looked at my list and felt pretty amazed. Maybe being divorced was good? Maybe my kids got to experience a different side of life than they would have if we stayed together? Why would I continue to make myself feel guilty when there where all of these positive aspects?

Then another thought occurred to me. I deserve to be happy. And so do my kids. But I can’t MAKE them happy — no one can make another person happy. Happiness is an inside job. And so giving myself permission to be happy, allowing myself to be in love and living guilt-free actually provides my kids with a positive role model to show them how to live an empowered life. And that wasn’t something that my mother could do for me as a kid. Now, I can break the chains from these patterns and leave the guilt behind for good for myself and for my family.

In Joy!

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4 Subtle Signs Of Depression That Manifest Themselves Silently

How long had I been depressed before the days when I couldn’t stop crying? How long had the subtle signs of depression been with me before I wondered if I should end my life? These emotions had been living in me for quite some time. Actually, it was a really long time that I had been depressing myself and making myself small in order to fit in and feel loved. Now, years after suffering that big depression, the one that landed me in bed for whole days at a time or on the side of the road sobbing after dropping my kids off at their dad’s house, I realize the subtle cues I missed that could have kept me from going down a long and lonely road. Had I caught these subtle cues, I not only could have prevented about two years of depression, but I would also have many more years to live my life to its fullest, do meaningful work and enjoy exceptional relationships.

The following are 4 subtle signs of depression that manifest themselves silently that I wish I had known a long time ago.

1. I didn’t have an opinion about anything. It’s totally normal not to have an opinion about what you do or where you go sometimes, but not having an opinion a majority of the time is one subtle sign of depression. Think about that word quite literally: “depress.” To depress oneself means to not express oneself, or, to stifle expression. Why might we stifle our expression in the form of not having an opinion? A big reason is fear of rejection. We may be afraid if we voice our opinions then they will not be met with agreement by other people in our lives, and somewhere inside of us we “decide” that it’s best to keep our mouths shut. It becomes more comfortable not to express our opinions rather than potentially having a disagreement, because conflict is uncomfortable. Many of us try to avoid it all costs. But what is the cost? The cost is depressing our expression of ourselves in our relationships, which ultimately leads to the other person not knowing who we really are. Then we become the type of person who says things like, “I wish my husband understood me.” But what we don’t realize is that he can’t understand if we don’t express ourselves. We don’t even understand, accept and love ourselves!

2. I stopped caring. Saying “I don’t care” is similar to not having an opinion, except “I don’t care” is about depressing our expression to our internal self. Sometimes we sincerely don’t have a preference, however, when we actually do but we say, “I don’t care” (either to another or to ourselves) we are lying about our feelings and trying to make an excuse to feel better. Using “I don’t care” communicates that we are not important and what we want is not important. We may choose to say “I don’t care” in order to be more agreeable. However, avoiding the outer conflict of having an opinion leads to inner conflict… Because we DO care that we have an opinion, but we are not expressing it.

3. I didn’t know what I wanted. This statement may feel very true when it’s coming out of our mouths or when we hear it in our heads, but it is another lie. Lack of clarity around what we want stems from our inability to express our thoughts and feelings to another person or ourselves. The inner conflict around what we want starts very early in childhood when we are taught the difference between “good” people and “bad” people. Unfortunately, some things we want in life may challenge the beliefs we’ve learned about what it means to be good. So we fear that others will perceive us as “bad” and we stuff those desires so far inside we can’t hear them anymore. We think we don’t know what we want, but the little soft whispers of the heart are under so many layers of self-judgments that we can’t even hear them — let alone express them. Sometimes when we can hear those whispers, but we think we can’t have what we want, we decide not to share those desires with others… or even with ourselves.

4. I lacked a purpose. Feeling like we don’t have a purpose is another subtle sign of depressing ourselves. Without strong opinions, without strong emotions, and without strong desires we believe that we do not know our purpose in the world. It seems muddled, but clarity is there — just pushed so far down in the depression that we can’t see or feel it. We are all here for powerful reasons in this world. And if you know you’re here for a reason but you don’t know what that reason is, you are not living your full expression. The continuation of that pattern could lead you into a deeper despair. Communication is at the heart of our ability to live with an exceptional quality of life. Opening communication with others is important, but communicating with ourselves and the world are equally important elements of expression. When we are not fully expressing our thoughts, emotions, and desires, we are depressing. There is no way to express and depress at the same time. What will you choose?

In Joy!

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Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day, like any holiday, has the capacity to leave us feeling like something is missing from life. Whether we don’t feel like we are the best mom we can be to our kids or we feel like our relationship with our mom is less than ideal… Mother’s Day can leave us feeling “less than”.

If you are feeling anything but radiantly loved and appreciated this Mother’s Day… read on.

A few years back I dreaded Mother’s Day before it even arrived. Having experience with not being acknowledged with cards, gifts and and acts of service such as having breakfast made for me, I braced myself for the lack of appreciation I would receive. I “did pretty good” I thought… keeping it all together… until half way through the day when, I don’t even remember what prompted it, I burst into tears about how much it hurt that my husband, who was not my children’s dad, didn’t even consider recognizing me for Mother’s Day or helping to facilitate acts of appreciation from my children. Of course it didn’t help that my children’s father didn’t take the initiative to help them in this department either. So there I was feeling like a 3 year old myself for wanting more and not having it. This was only one of the many times I allowed my “little self” to be seen by my husband in order to let him know how I was feeling, as humiliating as it seemed to be acting (what felt) so “childish”.

I’m not going to continue by telling you that he and my children now get me cards and gifts, or that I feel great on Mother’s Day even when I don’t get acknowledgement. I’m not going to tell you about happy smiles, butterflies and unicorns and how thinking positive fixes everything. The point of the story is that everything that shows up in our circumstances – everything – is an opportunity for us to get more of what we WANT in our lives. Every circumstance is an opportunity. Even the ones (especially the ones) that feel like shit.

If you are feeling anything less than radiantly loved and appreciated this Mother’s Day I have a tip for you. Look at the reality of what is happening that you don’t like. Look at it. Acknowledge it. Cry about it if you feel like crying. And then say to yourself… this circumstance is happening to me so that I can learn something, heal something, see something, love something so that I CAN enjoy the life I WANT to have. And then give yourself permission to say what needs to be said and do whatever needs to be done today so that you can feel lighter in your body. Do you need to tell someone how you feel? Write it down? Go for a walk? Exercise? Cry? Laugh? Read a book? Sit on the couch? Let the house be messy? Have oatmeal for dinner? Watch a funny show or movie? Do you need yell at the top of your lungs in your car then go home and read fart jokes to your kids so you can laugh?

Give yourself permission to be human. A natural human being. Today… let that be enough.

You are the perfect mother or daughter just the way you are. Your family needs you to be exactly as you are. You are whole. You are love. Give yourself permission today (and every day) to be exactly as you are. You will feel lighter in your body and mind… and your family will thank you too… eventually!

Happy Mother’s Day!

-Ani Anderson