While I'm away, readers give the advice.
Stepmother reaping what she worked hard to sow
St. Louis: On the simple (if not easy) way to be a good stepparent: When I was 30 I married a man with four children. They were 6, 7, 8 and 9 and had already had a traumatic childhood. I told them they could call me what they felt comfortable with and to this day they call me by my name. I decided at the get-go that I would never ever say a negative word about the mother, even though she took swipes at me. I wasn't going to play tug-of-war with them.
The children constantly fantasized about her (we lived in another state) and even though it was sometimes hard to keep my mouth shut, I let them believe those fantasies. We moved back to my husband's home state when they were teenagers, and of course, the kids were thrilled to be closer to their mother. Again, I remained supportive of their efforts to reconnect with her. It didn't take long for them to figure out why their father gained custody of them when they were so young. Her alcoholism meant more to her than they did. It was a painful lesson, but one they had to learn on their own.
Their father and I divorced after seven years, but we parted as friends and remained close for the next 13. When he died, I planned on moving back to where we had originally lived. All four of my children came to me and asked me to not move so far away. So I compromised and moved to an adjoining state about a day's drive from them. I was eventually joined by my "son," his wife and four children, who now live a couple of miles from me. Two of the other children are thinking about moving closer as well, and we all get together for the holidays. To this day, my children introduce me as their mother, although they have never called me "Mom."
Recently, I fell on some hard times. I became seriously ill, spent time in the hospital and emerged healthy but penniless due to huge hospital bills. My children rallied to my support and pulled me through. It was an amazing show of love, and when I asked them why they sacrificed so much for me, their response was: "Because you were always there for us and that's what families do." It was a humbling experience.
View performing tasks as a privilege, not a chore
S.K.: On simple ways to change one's perspective: I find that for me the simplest way to turn around a situation where "I have to" is simply to change the task or situation to "I get to."
For example, I "get to" clean the toilet because: I have a place to live, I have indoor plumbing, I am healthy enough to do the job, I have the cleaning equipment or supplies, etc.
I tried for a fairly extreme everyday example, but it works for me in almost every situation. Admittedly it would not work for "I have to go to my child's funeral," but for everything else . . .
Carolyn: Or the less devastating "I have to go post bail for my lawyer" — but otherwise, point taken, thanks.