I grew up in very rural north Texas, I become a mother in high school and I have been bucking the system ever since. I grew up playing outside, roaming acres of Mesquite trees and rattlesnakes, spending entire days writing stories in my head and reading. My parents were quite dysfunctional, my father an alcoholic with mental illness and my mother with no support system just trying to keep us alive and fed. As any child of an alcoholic knows, it definitely formed many of the patterns I have had to examine and reconstruct as an adult. It gave me the grit I needed to get through life, but it also left me with a lot of self-worth issues to work through.
I am a type A, control-freak, Enneagram 8, doer-of-all-things. Generally speaking, staying motivated is not a challenge for me. I tend to have to curb my motivation, or else I get burned out and overwhelmed. I survive with post it's and lists. I probably make 2-3 lists a day. It may be a problem really, but with so many different lives, schedules, roles, and responsibilities, I have to have a daily list to stay on track. And even that doesn't always work! I also have two assistants that I lean on daily. We cannot be and do it all without help. If my motivation is challenged, it's because I am overwhelmed and I have to either create a new system in place to fix the overwhelm, or I have to pick the few most important tasks at hand and manage only those things. Sometimes that means saying no. I have gotten very good at saying no.
Plan ahead of time and get help. Up until about three years ago, my husband and I were running our construction company on our own, trying to do it all ourselves. As the company grew, and my writing opportunities also grew, I knew we needed to start putting a plan into place so that a year down the road we would not face burnout. By the time you realize you need help, it's often too late. Asking for help is still not my favorite thing to do, but I now appreciate how important it is to any growth, business or personal. Asking for help could be from a counselor, hiring an assistant, trading car pools and babysitting with neighbors, what have you. We cannot do it all on our own. Well, we can, but its so much harder and our wellbeing will suffer. We have to be proactive in asking for help, or making plans to get help, so that we feel mentally and emotionally available to take the next step in our lives.
I have the answer, but no one likes to hear it. Start marriage counseling before you move in together. When you first blend a family we are very often so far down the rabbit hole of love, we ignore or dismiss the hard conversations because we are afraid to cause conflict so early on. We subconsciously seem to be afraid to uncover anything that tells us this isn't the most-perfect-love-ever-in-the-world. In large part, because we likely already have failed loves in the past, so we put so much pressure on this new relationship to be everything the previous relationship wasn't, that we often avoid the hard parts if it changes the narrative we are telling ourselves about this new love. In blended families we must learn to get comfortable in the duality of life. This new love can be the most perfect match ever for you, and also require some hard conversations to decide how your family will run.
I am a high school English teacher by trade. I came into construction when my husband decided he wanted to start his own company. The first year he started the company I was still teaching, but we quickly realized that with four kids and so many different lives, we were running in different directions and nothing was running very smoothly. We talked about working together for an entire year to make sure we were both ready, and we had an exit plan if we got in and realized we hated working together. For us, it was the best move we could have made. I left my teaching career, and we have built a successful commercial construction company together. The first year my husband was teaching me construction so there were tough moments and some loud office fights in the beginning. But six years later, we have found balance working together. Our roles don't overlap so what we do for the company compliments each other.
Construction can be tough for a woman, but women also bring an organization to a project that most men in construction do not possess. Women in any predominately male field have to play the long game because our value is not assumed, it has to be proven. For me, having a backbone and assuming a leadership role in our company did not immediately happen. I had to learn the industry, and as I learned I created systems and coached our employees in such a way that my value is not questioned now because they see what I have to offer and they respect it. And when they don't, they are coached right out of our company.
Otis Redding's, Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay. That song soothes my soul because it's all about giving our soul a rest and accepting the change that comes our way. Plus, his voice is like a cool drink of water on a Texas summer day.
Conversations with God: Book 1 by Neale Donald Walsch. I picked up a copy in a local used book store in college and it transformed how I look at life. Sometimes it sits on a book shelf for years, but it always calls me back to it when I hit a rough patch. The insight is beyond powerful, and it's written in this self-effacing humor that reminds me that life is truly filled with endless opportunities, and that the only person we are ever really fighting is ourselves.
My kids are all older now so I actually enjoy my mornings much more these days. When they were all young and needed me for every step of the morning, chaos ran rampant in our home. Mother's with young kids never get to take care of themselves. So I guess the most important tip is being able to see that in a few years your kids won't need as much of you in the mornings. Time is not the answer we want to hear, but it's the best answer I've got. Also, lots of podcasts and audio books. My kids get so tired of listening to my audio books and podcasts but I absolutely do not care. My car, my radio. And more often than not, they secretly listen and learn things too.
Honestly, I have never received good advice about motherhood because being a mom means following your own instincts. Our guts tell us how to handle our kids, what they need, how to mold them, when to give and when to take. We get better over the years. What works for one mom does not work for another mother, in another home, with different circumstances. I do think we have to consciously parent, we have to see the parts of our mothering skillset that isn't working, and we have to seek out ways to make them better. Good mothering just means following your own arrow and growing with your kids over the years. It's okay if they see us fail, it's okay if they see us breakdown from time to time, it's okay that we screw it all up some days. We are teaching our kids how to be humans, and our daily life is the best teacher we can offer them. For better or for worse sometimes.
Keeping regularly scheduled counseling appointments for myself. It's harder than it sounds. There are so many times when I want to skip, or no show or cancel because I am too busy or I don't want to face something happening in my life, or I think since everything is going okay I don't really need to go anymore. For me, counseling is not a quick fix. It can take a good year with a counselor before you even feel comfortable enough to truly be open and honest. It can take another year to actually implement the changes you are trying to create for yourself. But in my experience, the time put in creates the most lasting change in myself.
Oh good lord were there challenges, there are still challenges! What I most want to tell blended families around the world is that the modern blended family is innately more complicated, more filled with jealousy
and resentments, more anger and frustrations, more of everything. Our dynamics were decided years before our families ever existed. Every person in a blended family has a different schedule, different homes,
different lives, different histories, different values, and on and on and on.
We must accept these differences. We must accept the specific hardships that blended families manage so that we can learn to love everything our families are, instead of fighting everything our families are not. It's particularly difficult for control freaks, like myself, because we are fixers. We enter into these partnerships very often believing we can change, fix or teach, everyone and everything. We run ourselves into the ground and then become angry because we have nothing left to give ourselves and our families still aren't "fixed". We have to accept that much of the hard stuff in our homes may never go away. We must accept that we can truly only control ourselves. A successful blended family is not about getting rid of conflict, rather accepting the conflict. We have to learn to love and forgive and show grace.
I'm actually writing the screenplay for the book right now. It's a universal story that lends itself perfectly to the big screen. Blended families are filled with joy, sorrow, humor and drama. In one way or another, we all want to see ourselves reflected in the films we watch. We all want to know we aren't alone in our crazy.