Tips To Help New Stepfamilies Start Out Right

Guest Post  
Any new marriage has its hurdles. But when the newlyweds also bring children from previous marriages, they face the additional challenge of trying to balance the needs of the relationship with the needs of the kids.

It’s rarely as easy as the Brady Bunch made it seem.

“Too frequently, partners imagine that because they love each other, their children will jump on board and will also love this new partner as a stepparent,” says Dr. Anne Brennan Malec, a clinical psychologist, marriage and family therapist, and author of the book “Marriage in Modern Life: Why It Works, When It Works.” 


In reality, children are often confused and have contradictory emotions about the new family setup.” Frustration can set in when the union fails to create instant family unity.
Try not to let it, Dr. Malec says. Everyone needs time to adjust and it’s up to the new couple to develop strategies for making this blended family work.

For starters, she says, each parent should be responsible for managing his or her children’s schedules, providing discipline and communicating with the ex-partner about any parenting issues.

“You should expect that it’s going to be a rocky ride, and you can be pleasantly surprised if it’s not,” Dr. Malec says. “Remember, the kids did not get a vote in this, and they very well may dislike the stepparent or stepsiblings.”
But, as with many things in life, patience mixed with a trial-and-error approach can get you where you need to be. Dr. Malec offers a few tips for easing the difficulties, if not eliminating all the pain:

Manage expectations. When creating a blended family, managing your expectations will decrease the odds of being disappointed, Dr. Malec says. Discuss your ideas for how the transition will go and set a reasonable bar for how you, your spouse, the children and any former spouses will respond to the new arrangement. Plan for a slow transition into this “new normal.” 

Keep communications with former spouses cordial. Some relationships with ex-spouses run more smoothly than others. Ideally, former spouses would communicate respectfully and keep in mind the best interests of the children. That doesn’t always happen, though. If an ex-spouse gets under your skin too much, you might try self-soothing techniques such as meditating, exercising, taking a walk or journaling. You may also want to consider seeing a therapist. “It will benefit your current relationship if you can minimize the conflict with a former partner,” Dr. Malec says. 

Nurture your romance. With so many challenges balancing parental and relational responsibilities, you will need to give extra effort to setting aside kid-free time. “Making time for just the two of you is critical to the success of your relationship,” Dr. Malec says.

 “Without proper attention, the new relationship can drop down the priority list as you get caught up in smoothing the transition for the children, creating a blended home and growing comfortable with your role as stepparent.” Make it a point to prioritize dates, whether over coffee, lunch, dinner or during a walk together.  

“Forming a blended family is a long-term process, and it is reasonable to expect some pushback from children, who had no voice in your choice to marry,” Dr. Malec says. “Be patient and try to see it through their eyes.
“Knowing in advance that it is likely to be tough and keeping your expectations dialed down goes a long way toward making sure your relationship doesn’t fall apart under the stress.” 
About Dr. Anne Brennan Malec

Dr. Anne Brennan Malec is the founder and managing partner of Symmetry Counseling , a group counseling, coaching and psychotherapy practice in Chicago. 

The Hipster who wanted to Suck in Her Baby Belly while Pregnant

  
A 30-something new mom wrote in new Harper’s Bazaar piece that she resented her growing baby bump while pregnant so much she wanted to suck it in. 

That’s right! Her baby!

The author, Annie Davies, explained being ashamed over this admission.


Davies writes in the piece:

And I felt guilty for admitting I wanted to; terrified that my ambivalence would translate into how I would feel for my soon-to-be-born child. Shouldn’t the bump have been the easy part? After all, we live in a culture that venerates pregnancy-as-accessory.

 There are Pinterest pages and Tumblrs devoted to best celebrity maternity style. More and more designers are creating maternity capsule collections. Pregnancy looks good. Stylish. Sexy. I knew it. I saw it. But despite hours of perusing pregnancy style and hundreds of dollars spent on various maternity outfits, I simply couldn’t feel it.

It turns out , she had sculpted the image of a free spirit and dressed herself, got piercings and tattoos to match how she wanted others to see her as. It reads like she was a wannabe hipster, apparently.

Davies continues:

Part of it was because I simply didn’t identify as a mom. When I found out I While I absolutely wanted this child, I wasn’t sure how the persona I’d spent my entire adult life cultivating would would mesh with middle-of-the-night feedings and spit-up covered clothing.
In “Bringing Up Bebe”, a book on how the French do parenting right that became my bible throughout my first trimester, one of author Pamela Druckerman‘s key theses is that French women don’t make motherhood their whole identity. Druckerman explains that in Parisian parks, that unless a child is clinging to her and calling her maman, it’s pretty much impossible to tell whether a woman is a mother. I aspired to that European model, absent of cutesy phrases like mom jeans and mom blogs and mom’s nights out. 

Davies wrote how she wanted to emulate friends she had who never talked about their children and deliberately kept their family and work life different.

Not only did she want to shield signs of her pregnancy, Davies says she was even awkward dealing with all the extra attention and other unspoken rules and office politics that come with pregnancy.

She further explained:

 While the physical transformation was disconcerting, being so obviously identified as a soon to be mother felt bizarre; full of rules I didn’t understand. Appearing in public meant I constantly had to steel myself for the looks like a boy! (it wasn’t) shouts from strangers on the street and affirm to the barista that no, I didn’t want decaf coffee. At around 34 weeks pregnant, I was asked if I would be willing to potentially appear on a television segment talking about a magazine article I wrote. Of course, I wrote to the PR person, just FYI I’m going to be eight months pregnant …
I stopped after I typed those words, then deleted them. Would an expecting father ever have said something similar? Of course not. Regardless of whether or not I looked pregnant had nothing to do with whether or not I could competently discuss my work. And yet, I found myself almost instinctively apologizing, as if my pregnancy had somehow fundamentally changed me.”

In the end, Davies discovers after giving birth to her daughter Lucy this past April that a baby does become part of your life and it isn’t that easy to fragment it away, even if you tried. 

Even after boasting in the article about being able to wear a bikini a few weeks after delivery, Davies says she has changed in her feelings and now would do it again differently. 

Next time, she would actually decorate and flaunt her bump more. 

Interesting…you thoughts on this one?
Read the entire piece HERE!

Dad spoofs MTV’s ‘Cribs’ showing off his daughter’s nursery (VIDEO)

mtv cribs bryan

If you haven’t already seen it, parenting blogger Bryan Canatella and his wife filmed a spoof of the popular show MTV Cribs to show off the crib they prepared for their impending arrival of daughter Cecilia (“CiCi”).

The 2 plus minutes parody which was uploaded onto the couple’s pregnancy blog called The Canatellas opens with Canatella welcoming a film crew into the nursery and then proceeds to give a tour of the various “wings” of the room, which is really just a few steps apart. It’s hilarious!


“These are all her onesies,” he says opening the changing table drawer to reveal neatly folded and organized rows. “Girl’s gotta lot of clothes and that’s just for the first three months right here. We don’t mess around.”

It’s so on point right down to the type of music usually played during one of the real episodes and how they end with the host kicking out the camera crew.

Check it out here:

Fun!
 

Back to School: 8 Ways to Get Deals on Electronics

Bellyitch Rewindwoman-notebook-working-girl-large

It’s back to school time again and parents are scraping their pennies in anticipation for shopping to send their kids off to school. Electronics can make up a substantial part of the budget. Kiplinger’s editor Cameron Huddleston offers parents 8 suggestions on easing the burden:

  1. Shop on sales tax holidays—seventeen states will have sales tax holidays in July and August that will allow consumers to purchase back-to-school items, such as clothing, computers and school supplies, tax free. If you live in these states, plan to do you electronics shopping on a sales tax holiday—it could help you save 4% to 10% depending on your state.
  2. Shop online—shopping online makes it easy to compare prices from several retailers. And there are plenty of sites that do the bargain hunting for you. Dealnews.com has a page devoted to the best computer deals; Amazon and PriceGrabber are good sources for comparing prices.
  3. Take advantage of price-match policies—if you find a good deal online but don’t want to pay shipping costs, you might be able to get the same price in a brick-and-mortar store if it has a price-match policy. For example, Best Buy and Target will match Amazon prices.
  4. Buy refurbished—you can save a lot by purchasing refurbished tech items, which are used but restored to like-new condition and usually have a one-year warranty. Try Apple.com, BestBuy.com, Dell.com, Newegg.com and Walmart.com to find refurbished electronics.
  5. Take advantage of trade-in programs—one way to pay less for new tech items is to trade in a used item. A number of retailers, including Best Buy and Radio Shack, have trade-in programs that offer cash, a gift card or credit that can be applied toward the purchase of a new item.
  6. lLook for bundles—look for bundle deals, which are popular back-to-school promotions among tech retailers. The deals typically include a gift card, printer, gaming console or other accessory along with a laptop—at a price near what you would expect to pay for the laptop alone.
  7. Get a free phone—mobile phone service providers, such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, often offer free smart phones when you sign up for a two-year service plan. Considering smart phones usually cost $200 or more, this can be a major savings. Or you could buy an unlocked phone and cut the cost of a service plan by more than half by opting for a prepaid wireless provider.
  8. Don’t splurge on features you won’t use—when buying a laptop for your child, look for systems with a dual-core processor (not a pricey quad-core setup). And you’ll spend about $270 less if you opt for Intel’s Ivy Bridge system—which should meet a student’s needs—rather than its new Haswell system. Also, say no to tech support and retailers’ extended warranties—your credit card might offer an extended warranty.

Bellyitch alum Rochelle Humes co-hosts AOL’s first British Web Video Series

being mum

British TV personality and girl band member Rochelle Humes, a Bellyitch alum, launched a 13-episode web series “Being Mum” with co-host TV presenter Tess Daly yesterday, July 13, as part  AOL’s first British web video series.

The Verizon-communications owned American digital media company, well-known for being an Internet and email pioneer, inked a deal with Nestle to exclusively sponsor the online only show.


The program tackles what it’s like to be a mother and features interviews with top British celebrities and personalities. Being Mum will discuss everything form being a working mom, pregnancy, the highs and lows of pregnancy and motherhood, and raising children.

During a special pre-launch episode last week, UK singer Alesha Dixon talked about hiding her pregnancy  for 6 months while taping the show Britain’s Got Talent and having to ignore the baby frantically kicking every time a bell would ring during production.

Another Bellyitch Alum, ex Spice Girl girl band member Emma Bunton was featured in that July 9 special last week.

Each Monday, for the next six months, a new episode will be made available on a dedicated website, via mobile devices, on the AOL On app and set top boxes.  Jade Jagger and Paralympian and London 7/7 bombing survivor Martine Wright are among other future guests.

Nestle will run baby milk, and SMA Nutrition ads around the content and will include an unskippable 30-second pre-roll ad before each episode.

tess dayly

TV presenter Tess Daly interviews singer Alyesha Dixon

 

“Mums are now more than ever turning to digital and social platforms to find useful, helpful content, supporting them as a mum,” Anne-Luce Guedj, consumer marketing manager at Nestlé Nutrition, said in a press release.”SMA Nutrition’s partnership with Being Mum allows us to integrate our messaging with relevant, original, quality content and deliver an audience at scale across a number of publishing platforms and devices.”

New research from UK YouTube mom community Channel Mum and UK media market research group Kantar Media indicates that young Briitsh moms are open to consuming video content, and millineal moms, especially, “often seek both entertainment and practical help from video content, suggesting there’s a market for brands who can help ‘reassure’ them,” Guedj said.

It will also show on all of the AOL On network sites including The Huffington Post UK, Telegraph Media Group, Trinity Mirror, Local World and TalkTalk. The exclusive sponsorship is for the entire six months.

AOL is also planning another UK series titled “30 Something” with Richard Bacon, which is currently in production.

The future is digital video content and it’s great to  see AOL jump on the opportunity to support content providers that bring messages to the evergreen market of pregnant, new and veteran moms.

*hint hint to anyone who wants to sponsor us for 6 months** lol.

 

10 Nursery Paint & Decorating Ideas

 Mint Shaken and Rich Navy Glidden 

One of the most fun things parents-to-be get to do before baby arrives is decorate and design a nursery. Picking the right furniture, room ornaments and bedding can be daunting too, but it usually creates a europhoric feeling because it means you are one step closer to welcoming the new baby. Selecting just the right paint color is part of that nursery prep process. 

The folks at Glidden have put together a Top 10 Baby Room Colors colors that are all part of its Glidden Brilliance Collection exclusively sold only at Wal-mart stores nationwide. 


Here they are:

   Celery Sticks

1. Celery Sticks: A fresh green that is truly soft, cool and gender neutral. Perfect for a nursery with a more ‘natural’ theme. Pair with a nature inspired palette and jungle or animal décor elements.

2. Mint Shake: This is a crisp, cool and calming color for babies, however the lightness and airy feeling of this color keep it radiant. Mint Shake can be combined with a variety of colors including navy for a nautical touch, brown for a nature-inspired theme, pink for a garden feeling and yellow for décor that is whimsical.

3. Rich Navy: This is a dramatic, classic deep blue. It can be more feminine when paired with a pink, or crisp and traditional when paired with elements of white.  

4. Bubblegum Pink: To create the sweetest of rooms, select this charming and energetic pink for use on all four walls. For more a unique décor, use this color on the ceiling and use a neutral on all four walls, paired with white crown molding. This color can be combined with charcoal for a sophisticated and contemporary flair or brown for a softer, more natural and earthy feeling.  Bubblegum Pink and Iced Purple

5. Iced Purple: This color personifies a magical, enchanting feeling. It is a touch muted which keeps it softly subtle. Consider combining it with white for a fresh look, charcoal gray for an urban touch or soft green for a sweet and feminine approach.

6. Sweet Baby Girl: The name says it all. This color is lightness with an effervescent quality and can be used on both walls and ceilings. It can also be used on furnishings for a totally soft and serenely pink space. Dark woods will provide a lovely contrast with this palest of pinks.  Early Morning and Spring BlueBell

7. Walnut Bark: This rich chocolate brown creates a delicious nursery, when paired with a white ceiling and a light floor treatment to keep the space balanced. White accents and furnishings will provide the contrast necessary to keep this lovely brown lifted. White linens, lace, glass, mirrors and light accents will also play perfectly in this space.

8. Early Morning Sun: This is the perfect gender neutral nursery yellow. Use navy for a more masculine theme and sweeten it with touches of pink, violet and white for a feminine approach.  Sweet Baby Girl and Walnut Bark

9. Spring Bluebell: This color will make a nursery feel cool and fresh. It’s perfect for a baby girl when elements of pink, white and yellow are incorporated. For the baby boy, the use of brown, navy and white create a more classic approach.

  
10. Sweet Baby Boy: A traditional blue, this color is perfect for that classic approach to the nursery. Combine with other shades of blue to create a monochromatic scheme. Use deep woods or white for needed contrast in this cool space. For accessories use accents of yellow for warmth, yellow-green for harmony or charcoal for a contemporary flair.

Australian Blogger Blasted for Funny sign Posted on her Twins’ Pram

twins

An Australian blogger who is a mom of three including twin girls is catching heat for a fun photo she posted on Facebook (and Instagram).

Uncanny Annie said in response to getting the same series of questions from well-meaning strangers in the street, she wanted to post the following sign in front of her stroller as she pushed 1-year old Delphine and Cheska about. She didn’t of course, but that didn’t stop many of the 21,000+ people who have liked the photo or friends of the over 7,000 who shared it to pepper the blogger with criticism.


Many called her ungrateful for complaining about something that is considered a blessing among many, to have two healthy twins. Others called her neglectful.

Annie returned to reply that had she known the photo would have gone viral and offended so many, she wouldn’t have shared it. Still she maintains it was a joke.

It reminded me of a past 2011 blog post about the three parts of the body of a strangers baby you should never touch.



DoNotTouch1

Here is a list of some of the questions from Annie’s sign:

 

“Yes they are mine.”

“Yes they are twins.”

“No, not identical.”

“Conceived by f***ing.”

“Born via C-section.”

“Yes, my hands are full.”

A Yahoo! Parenting blogger who covered this story shared some of the strange questions she and others have been asked randomly by strangers on the street:

“C-section or vaginal birth?”

TOP 10 THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT SAY TO A WOMAN AFTER REVEALING THE NAME SHE’S PICKED FOR HER BABY



 

“Are you trying?”

“Are you going to have another?”

“How long are you going to continue nursing?”

“Isn’t she a little old for that?”

“Is that drink for you?”

“[Upon hearing I was formula feeding]: But doesn’t that make babies obese?”

And, for the win: “Are you planning to have you vagina stretched prior to delivering your baby?”

Read the comments to the story to get other examples other parents contributed there.

What would you add to the list?

Also, check out this funny video too that demonstrates the rudeness factor in some well-meaning queries you may as an expecting mom:

10 Things to be Mindful of when Teaching Your Child to Swim

Bellyitch Rewind   
Passing on our hard-earned knowledge to our children is one of the greatest parts of being a parent or a caregiver. For many, teaching the skill of swimming is one of the most challenging and rewarding of those tasks. One of the best ways to prevent drowning is to simply ensure that children have basic swimming skills and knowledge, though it’s certainly not the only water safety measure required.

Here are ten things to keep in mind when you’re teaching children to swim:

1. Be Patient – One of the best ways to ensure that a child has an aversion to the water and never wants to swim again is to become frustrated at them during the teaching process. Swimming should be fun and exciting, not stressful.


2. Don’t Push Scared Kids – Some kids are more comfortable in the water than others; those that aren’t big fans may take longer to learn than their more enthusiastic counterparts. Don’t push nervous little ones to learn faster or punish them for showing signs of fear.

3. One Thing at a Time – Whether kids are toddlers or school-aged, it’s best to focus on one task at a time. Blow bubbles until that skill is mastered, then move on to kicking while holding on to something stationary. When they have one step down, then – and only then – it is time to move on to the next.

4. Keep Lessons Short – During a day at the pool, try to break lessons down into one or two half-hour increments, while the rest of the time is devoted to play. Throwing too much instructional information at them can be overwhelming, and they may not retain anything.

5. Make Sure That Lessons Are Age-Appropriate – A two-year-old might have more trouble mastering the back-float than a first-grader, so try to keep your child’s age and physical development level in mind when you’re teaching.

6. Avoid Unrealistic Expectations – It’s quite unlikely that your little one is going to emerge from their first lesson as an Olympic medalist, so keep your expectations at a realistic level. Some kids may pick up quickly and others may need more time; it’s important to avoid shaming comparisons.

7. Tailor Your Approach to Your Child’s Individual Needs – A kid with no fear of the water and a strong sense of athleticism and independence will require a very different teaching method than her timid, less-developed sibling. Tailoring your methods to each of their individual needs will work best for everyone.

8. Floaties or No Floaties? – Some parents believe that inflatable “floaties” will help their child to become acclimated to the water, while others believe that they create a false sense of security and prevent kids from learning proper form. When making your decision, it’s also important to remember that a child who is accustomed to floaties will have to be weaned from them, similar to training wheels on a bicycle. Kids who never use them won’t have that dependency to break.

9. Remember That Putting Your Face in the Water is Scary – Especially for very young children, submerging completely, or even putting their face into the water, can be downright terrifying at first. This aversion is usually overcome in a relatively short amount of time, but being prepared for it can help to stave off parental frustration.

10. Start Acclimating Early – Even if you’re only playing games and swaying in the water, an infant who is used to being exposed to the water is likely to transition into swimming lessons much more easily than kids with no prior experience.

Good luck, parents!

The Pregnancy Test Hack that May be giving TTC women false hope

pregnancy-test

So…the new thing in women’s online parenting and pregnancy forums is a practice called pregnancy test “tweaking”.

It entails a woman who is trying to conceive posting an image among other members of the online or bulletin board community of a recent pregnancy test that doesn’t’ definitively indicate she is pregnant. There is usually a very faint second line or indicator that could be perceived to be indication that she is pregnant.

Afterwards, members of the community use digital imaging tools to enhance the photo so they can decipher better if there is a second line.

The “tweaking” process give women false hope, some critics say. They worry it could be a damaging practice that toys with the emotions of  women who are struggling to conceive.

Some tweakers defend the practice.

“We can NEVER bring something out that IS NOT ALREADY THERE,” says Brandy Linex, who says she tweaks photos on BabyCenter.com  “We do not create positive tests out of negative ones. It’s either already positive or it isn’t and we are VERY up front and honest about that.

There is a common explanation for the faint line that is seen after the tweaking: It could be residual indication of an early miscarriage.

Doctors warn that some tweaked photos may actually reveal a chemical pregnancy, which often times go undetected and women recognize them only as a late menstrual period.

Only a follow up test at a doctor’s office, usually a blood one, can confirm the home-based test.

The tweaking process is just an exercise that lasts only until the obvious is confirmed a few days or weeks later when there is either positive confirmation of an active pregnancy or not.

What are your thoughts about “tweaking”?

h/t Dr. Drew at HLN

20 Fun Low-Budget Things to Do with The Kids This Summer

 

summer low budget

If you’re like me and other parents, we are constantly looking for things to do during the Summer with the children. Going out can be costly however. If you don’t pack snacks and lunch, you can end up spending $50-$100 per outing. That’s why we have to plan our Summer appropriately and hunt for super low cost things we can do before or after eating at home or that are Free so we only have to pay for food or snacks while out.

Here are 20 ideas for outdoor activities that are fun to do and/or are low cost or no cost:


1. Camp out in the backyard

2. Go to  your local state park

3. Visit a park that has a creek and look for frogs, tadpoles, minnows and other creek life. My middle kid LOVES animals and marine life.  It’s his fave past time and summer is THE best time at the creek.

4. If you have a fishing rod, head out to a local spot and go fishing on a dock or at the shore.

5. Go bowling. There are a lot of Summer free bowling opps.

6. Go Roller skating. Many rinks have half off or special nights for families where it cost less.

7. Start a windowsill garden. You can make a D.I.Y. container or box for the sill.

8. Play soccer with the family. My family has evening soccer matches where we team up and play against each other. It’s great exercise and it helps increase the kids’ skill for rec and school soccer in the fall.

9. Go to the library. Many libraries have Summer Reading programs and ongoing special events like live animal shows, magic shows and weekly reading hours for various age groups. For us, it’s a great way to get the kids away from the TV and video games and reading.

10. Have an outdoor scavenger Hunt! Fortunately, we live in a town with a creek and several parks. I’ve printed out outdoor scavenger hunt lists online and we’ve headed outdoors for fun.

11. Get the other kids in the neighborhood together for a group match and if possible, schedule it for the same day and time each week. My husband was a soccer coach a few times and has coached many kids in the town and has their numbers still and has been wanting to organize an impromptu drop in clinic.

12. Catch fireflies outside and put them in a mason jar and watch them glow, then set them free.

13. See a puppet show or kids play. We are lucky to live near the Kennedy Center which has free or very low cost productions and performances  all year. If you live near a school with a theater department, check out their schedules to see if they have performances in the summer and student rates.

14. Visit the local animal shelter. My middle kid who loves animals enjoy our monthly visits to the animal shelter so he can see the dogs he hopes to one day get.

15. Go swimming. Local public pools have low fares and if you have friends who live in apartment or housing complexes with a pool, or who have their own personal backyard pools, schedule weekly visits. We do this and it saves us fun and keeps our Summer fun and cool.

16. Drive to a local beach for the day for a day trip.

17. Visit museums. We live in DC so the Smithsonian museums are free, there  are plenty of them and the exhibits change routinely. Other areas have discount days as well.

18. Catch a local outdoor movie night. Many locales have movie on the lawns for free events all summer long.

19. Go to the County Fair. Throughout the summer, various counties locally have fairs. We’ve gone every year and have a blast!

20. Visit a local farm. Pet the animals. Buy some local produce which is better for your and support your local farmer and community at the same time.

Hope these ideas help make the rest of your Summer a fun one! Enjoy!