BC Bonus Mom Advice and Support

Good morning/afternoon beautiful Bonus Moms!

I’d like to know how many of you are now, will be, or have been for some time…Stepmoms in beautiful British Columbia, Canada? Or do you know some friends, family or acquaintances/colleagues that are going through a rough time adjusting to a blended family unit or becoming a step-parent?

Have you felt a total lack of support going through the every day battles, roller coaster of emotions and strain on your relationship? Do you wish that there was some sort of help in a world where the main focus tends to sway toward the bio-parents and their children? Do you feel there is a lack of professional or social support groups? Counselling/Coaching? Legal help? Even retreats to de-stress, learn and re-group your physical and mental well-being?

Please feel free to comment and/or contact me as in the upcoming months I will be training under the amazing and nationally renowned Jenna Korf (Certified Stepfamily Foundation Coach & Author of ‘Skirts at War: Beyond Divorced Mom/Stepmom Conflict’.

Once completed I will have some great news for all of you BC Bonus Moms!

If you are looking for a FB page for information on all of the above, the below link is going to be it.

Bare with me as I get started out and proceed through training for certification but please use the tools and support that we can all provide to  one another on this journey!




I WISH Things Were Different…..


I wish things were different, better.

I KNOW that I wish it was better for the kids, but I WANT it to be better for ALL of us that is involved in this constant never-ending roundabout that you just can’t seem to exit.

YES. I am a step-mom. NOT the “wicked” kind either, contrary to how I am portrayed.

For ALL that I read these days, it is very sad and unfortunate that it appears that the BIOLOGICAL Mother that is the “wicked” one. That the so-called roles are reversed.

I often sit and wonder, “why”? Now that I am a step-mom I am shocked and stunned at how many of us are out there with damn near the SAME stories. We go through the same thing. Which leads me to wonder, does this happen to ALL women, or men, that go through this separation/divorce when they have children?

Is it a natural neurological “switch” that goes off for bio parents that makes them react in this same way? As in “fight or flight” or “survival of the fittest”? Or does the situation lead to an environment that exists or is created that pulls the psychopathic, narcissistic or socio-pathic tendencies to the forefront?

I just DON’T know.

I simply can’t logically compute the situations that people put themselves, or their loved ones in. ESPECIALLY children or when it is due to bitterness. When a split is initiated by the one that is continuing to cause the drama it is just is one of those moments that make me go “hmmmmm”…..

Now, I am a HUGE lover of biological parents. Funnily enough, I have my own! 😉 I have never wanted my own children, (until I met my husband, but unfortunately…so late in life…it isn’t an option for us now), I always put my career and myself first. Relationships were last. Although, I have the utmost respect and admiration for those that want to and do bring little ones into this world, and BE a true parent, I just never felt that urge.This doesn’t make me any less of a woman, nor does it make me SOMEHOW incapable of being a step-mom. I still have all the parts, and last time I checked, I was a living, breathing person with a heart and mind.  😉

So to be totally CLEAR. I love bio parents. The ones that do their due diligence to truly keep those children safe and out of harms way. Now, NO ONE is perfect. NO ONE…but…there are ALWAYS choices to every single thing that us as adults do. Unfortunately, when emotions are running high…a lot of parents let that go ‘out the window’. There are a lot of WONDERFUL bio Moms and Dads out there, unfortunately, we don’t have one of those…but MAN…I wish that we did!

I also don’t particularly like the “old adage” of “Well I gave BIRTH to them, so ‘I’ am a real Mom”. Sisters, let me tell you that popping one out, simply doesn’t constitute being a REAL Mom. True…you GAVE BIRTH but that is it.

Some people give birth and walk away. Some people are drug addicts/alcoholics and can’t care for their babies. Some people are unfit mentally or physically. Some people are too young and not ready. Those children are given up, fostered, adopted by those that CAN and WANT to bring up those children the best way that they can. Worse than that, some children continue to live in that dysfunctional, unstable and unloving environment.

Just because you have a vagina doesn’t mean you are fit and able to BE a parent, excuse me, a “Mother”.

What can be JUST as detrimental to a child, are those parents that split (for the sake of the children continuing to endure an “un-loving/abusive/dysfunctional” parental relationship), yet that very behavior that they split for, continues and is now heightened.

Separations/divorce whether with good intentions or not, appear to take on a world of their own…and one of chaos. The people become evil. Like characters in some psychological thriller. The children end up being the victims…although one or both of the parents claim that they are.

Why do they use the children as pawns in the games that they play? This happens on the BM AND BD sides…it’s not restricted to one, it can be both.

Now, being an “outsider” and non-bio parent, perhaps I see things in a different light…a clearer one. I don’t have that bio-bond that most do…but dammit I have the values and honesty, love and logic that can see the harm that gets caused EVERY day. WHY can’t a destructive blood parent see them? Is the resentment…..anger….bitterness or jealousy REALLY that bad?  They SAY they don’t care about their ex…or their new partner…but EVERYTHING they do is about you. They just can’t move on. It’s an obsession….and can be a scary one.

Are they fearful of their child loving someone else? (Don’t be silly bio parents…a child can NEVER love another adult figure more than their parents…unless you give them reason to….so DON’T!).

Are they still in love with their ex and can’t let go?

I could never understand anyone totally and utterly despising someone that they have never met….(ie: BM hating me). I TRULY don’t. You don’t know me….(other than what her stalking uncovers). Do you really want to be THAT idiot that ruins the way your children look at you for the rest of their lives, and not only alienate the other parent but the step-parent too? It’s all to the detriment of the kids. Don’t they GET that?

Kids are not as resilient as everyone likes to think. What I see in my SK’s is sheer proof. The behavior, the way they talk…..the way the come to me, YES…’me’…when they want to ask me about “why Mommy this” or “why Mommy that”….or “why is Mommy and Daddy still arguing” etc. etc. When they are too scared to say something to us for the fear of what Mommy will say if she finds out. Or is scared about us doing something as when Mommy does it, it hurts…or she gets angry. When they question why Mommy has pictures of you on her computer….are you friends? UGGGG!!

Those are MINOR and just the tip of the ole iceberg. But they are all the truth…and they happen all the time and they ARE effecting the children.

The courts, the lawyers, the bad mouthing the other parent, the attempt at arguments in front of the children (or the flying off the handle fits of rage)…even the un-stable home environment that they STILL have in their custodial residence. A home still filled with bitterness, a broken family filled with rage and no new partner to help smooth the edges and help the guardian parent and children be more settled and stable….mostly as they won’t LET that new partner “fully into the relationship” due to wanting $$ from them and the ex. It’s a vicious circle and no way for children to grow up.

You have to make the best out of a bad situation. Sure…you aren’t always going to be “happy” with every choice your ex makes but at the end of the day, attempting to work together as civil as possible will wreak the least of havoc on your children. It shouldn’t BE all about money and who gets what….it’s actually quite pathetic. We are all born with capable minds and bodies that can turn our hands to something to take care of ourselves and our families.

Being strong and truly independent…or a carer/parent/guardian…means that you work to take part in caring for your family and children. You don’t live off the system, your ex…and your new partner.

I mean, why is it that the ex husband and his new wife are the ones that have ALL of the financial onus for the children? How is THAT fair? I have NO place, I mean NOTHING to them and I am NOT their Mother….yet it’s A-OK for me to house them, feed them, buy them clothes, toys, take them on trips, wash their clothes, clean up after them, kiss their boo boos and listen to their days? Hmmm….seems to be some sort of problem RIGHT THERE. I can tell you that due to the fact that almost all of my husbands earnings go toward a woman who chooses to sit on her ass at home and have him pay for her and the kids…ALONGSIDE her new man, that me….”I” am the one that pays for 80% if not more of what your children need and want. ME. Yes….that’s right. The worthless TOAD pays and takes care of YOUR children. Interesting eh?

Having your ex, his wife and your new partner take ALL the financial burdens of supporting you and your family is not cool. THAT isn’t being strong, that is having other people continue to do everything for you as you are truly NOT capable or don’t want to. Don’t plead poverty…and the whole “woe is me single parent doing it all on your own” to anyone that will listen to you, when that is the farthest thing from the truth.

There are SOME bio moms or dads out there that DO the best they can, to the right things. They are fighting hard everyday for those babies. They are pulling all nighters, working 2 or 3 jobs and being parents. AND they are trying to co-parent with their exes and their new partners. THEY can do it…so why can’t everyone? If the person that you WERE with (“were” being the operative word here) was the reason for your un-happiness…shouldn’t you now BE happy if you aren’t with them? Why not truly be the bigger person and be thankful that you are now able to move forward with your life and they can with theirs and you both work TOGETHER to make those kids the best life that they can have regardless of their circumstances?

Me? I am JUST the “wife”. Apparently I have nothing to bring to the table whatsoever.

Truthfully, I am not their Mom. I don’t act like I am, I don’t tell them to call me “Mommy”. They have a Mom and a Dad. As I have been in their life since they were VERY little, they did go through a period where THEY chose to call me that. I don’t even think it was conscious. I just am that female in the home and they looked at me that way. However, once BM caught wind of it, they were told “in NO WAY are you ever to call her Mommy. She is not your Mom. I am. She is nothing but Daddy’s new wife”. So they stopped…well, they sometimes still do call me it, but when they do they are fearful that I may say something. I ignore it. I have always told them that no matter what, they can come to me, us, with anything…anytime. Bad or good. Our doors are open. I don’t have to have given birth to care…to be there….to love. Family is family…it’s not about DNA.

Sometimes, I DO wish things were different.

I wish that she didn’t (as I do for all step-parents in this situation) view me with the disregard and disrespect that she does. I wish that she didn’t call me names, slander me, disrespect and alienate my husband and I. In doing all this she is hurting her children and the views that they have.

These children WILL grow up to one day truly see, if they don’t already, who was the silly one in all this. They will start to think about all that they have seen, heard and even done themselves over the years due to levels of parental alienation that they were subjected to and will CHOOSE for themselves WHO was right or wrong. They will see where the problems laid….and who caused the earthquakes and roller coaster rides emotionally in their lives.

When they do…I hope it’s not too late. I hope that they CHOOSE to be stronger, to be better than the person that claims to have raised them the most. I hope that they don’t walk the same line or even live in a life or turmoil due to what was done to them, apparently, inadvertantly.

Is it THAT hard to just “stop”? Kids learn this in nursery school. “STOP”.

Whether it’s “stop, drop and roll”….”stop and look both ways” or to tell a stranger to “stop…don’t come any closer to me or I will yell”. SO, why can’t adults follow through on this simple act with their exes, their children AND their new partners?

STOP the anger

STOP the violent rage

STOP the name calling

STOP the legal battles

STOP putting the onus onto the other parent financially

STOP the parental/step-parental alienation

We as step-parents (and even bio-exes that we are with) are not expecting or asking for BFF status here. We are simply looking for some sort of civil communications when we HAVE to have it. We don’t want to chit chat with you or go for coffee. What we do want is to be able to talk to you if the other bio parent isn’t available and your assistance is needed. To be able to be IN your presence without a world war breaking out.

We want to live our lives in a somewhat calm and positive environment with our new partners and their children. We want to “make the best” of things, not the worst.

When the kids aren’t around, I don’t think about you. You are not my concern. I don’t live every waking moment thinking about you or how I am going to “one up you” to your children. YOU never cross my mind except when you are intruding on our time with the kids or OUR downtime without them. I don’t GET people like you….and I don’t want to. I am not you and I thank my lucky stars EVERY day that I am not.

In a “perfect world” you wouldn’t exist at all, but you do….and I am sure that you feel that way about me too. The problem is, if it wasn’t me, it would be someone else. You would treat that person the exact same way as you treat me. I know this….because you DID, to my predecessor. The only difference between her and I is that “I” am strong. I will NOT be chased away. I am not going anywhere….EVER.

THIS is how I KNOW it’s not “me” that’s the problem. It’s ANYONE that is in my husband and your children’s lives. The problem doesn’t lie with me, it lies my dear, totally and completely with you.

Still doesn’t change the fact that I do wish that things were different…..

An evening of self preservation; reading/studying and a couple of glasses of vino……

Ok, so as I am attempting to finish up my day at work (and a hella busy one it was!) I am looking forward to my “self preservation Wednesday”.

I used to look at Wednesdays as just a day without the step kids and husband (they have Scouts every Wednesday evening when School is in session), but I soon began to realize that this was the PERFECT time for a little undisturbed ME time. Like REAL me time. Not JUST sitting in my favorite chair, alone and enjoying the bliss of silence, but actually getting to do things that I simply don’t seem to do anymore!

Whether it is soaking in the tub, listening to MY favorite music, having a glass of wine, reading, studying, watching a couple of shows I have PVR’d two months ago and still not watched LOL Whatever it is….Wednesday is MY evening. I still come home, have the snuggle attack from the kids, have dinner and a catch up about school and what have you, then…then…they are GONE! 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my time with them all but I went from single, independent career woman who had everything she wanted and everything was in it’s place and pristine….to….well, a Smommy status. I now have a husband, two stepsons, two dogs, a cat and 3 aquariums. We reside in a “well-lived in” home….dust bunnies DO live in my house and they don’t pay rent! There are finger prints on everything, dog drool and fur on the furniture, I have lost many a favorite decorative piece to child play accidents, I can’t seem to lose the smell of dogs/cats either…and there is always some sort of spillage somewhere…not to mention clothes, laundry….kids bath toys that live in my special “relaxing” place….toothpaste on the floor…counter…sink…everywhere, pee pee on the toilet seats, my husbands nail clippings….yep, you name it, I got it. I am truly blessed eh? LOL

With all of the above said, I enjoy and need some me time, to feel like ME…like a human being again with some kind of self worth. (Not to be misconstrued with my worth to others, but MY worth). It’s not just the above to which, honestly, I think I have adjusted to pretty well, but it’s the ex. Without a doubt. She is the thorn in my side, the lava that rolls down from the volcano and destroys everything in it’s path….the disease that is infecting my life and if I don’t figure out an anti-virus/anti-venom for her wrath then she will eventually kill me, my husband and our life together. It is, unfortunately, THAT bad.

Soooo…..the time that I take for me (which is few and far between) is pivotal to my sanity and attempting to keep my stress levels down. I actually need more of it, and sometimes, I am aware that I probably jump on it like white on rice whenever I can….but I need to. I have to. For ME.

It’s hard to tell the people that you love that you simply need time away from them sometimes. Being a step-parent takes a LOT out of anyone. You HAVE to put time aside for you. If you can do that, you have a better chance of success. Sure, there will always be shit to deal with…that comes with the territory, but, you will be better prepared as an individual AND a couple, with less resentment.

Always remember to put yourself first….then your marriage/relationship. Everything with the kids will fall in line if you and your partner are on the same page and things are running smoothly. Remember that the kiddos have a Mother and a Father. You don’t NEED to have that pressure. You are already in their lives, you are an important adult to them but they are not your responsibility directly. Enjoy you, your marriage and your time with the kids WHEN they are with you. My suggestion is….the less contact you have with the “ex” the better. You will be much happier.

Tonight….I will finish up a module of my studying, pour a glass of Apothic Red and delve into the next Chapter of my book. Bliss….


10 Crucial Steps for Stepmoms……..

I saw these words on a Bio Mom/Stepmom’s blog and although I didn’t fully agree with a lot that she said, some of the points are definitely pivotal to a healthy wife/stepmom relationship.

Some of it will be ‘hard to swallow’ for some of you, some of you it will resonate with. But I can assure you that if you look deep inside a lot, if not all, will ring true and most of all is the best way to conduct yourself in your “position” in the children’s lives as well as ensuring that you put yourself AND your husband first. Your marriage IS the most important thing between you. The children have their Mother and their Father…and the important adult figure…YOU.


See the below for her 10 Crucial Steps for stepmoms:

1. You are not their mother. Even if your husband has primary custody of the kids. Even if their biological mother rarely sees them. Even if they CALL you mom. Do not make the mistake of believing in your heart that you have all the same rights and privileges as the woman who gave birth to them– because you don’t. You can have a meaningful, loving, influential relationship with your stepchildren, but it will be different from that between a mother and child. That’s okay. Embrace it, and make the most of it.

2. Silence is the best policy. We live in a world where everyone loves to vent, whether it’s on Facebook, over the phone, or during a Girls Night Out, but take it from me– No one likes to hear a stepmother vent about her husband’s ex or her step-kids. Divorce is one of the most devastating things a person will ever go through, and no one needs to hear from you how the ex-wife is handling it, or how her kids are acting out in the aftermath.  One of the hardest parts about being a stepmom is the need to keep quiet about the tough stuff, and how it’s affecting you. If you’ve got to let it out, limit your thoughts to a very close, trusted friend, or even better- tell it to your counselor or therapist. Which brings us to number three.

3. Find a counselor or therapist, even if you don’t think you need one. My husband and I didn’t visit a counselor until we’d been married eight years- HUGE MISTAKE. I went into the first session thinking I was a horrible stepmom and that our problems raising the girls were unique to us and insurmountable, and do you know what the counselor told us? “You guys are doing great! Do you know that I hear your exact same problems from nearly every blended family that comes in this room? Do you realize that 70% of blended family marriages fail? You’ve almost made it through! YOU’RE DOING GREAT!” I really, really, really needed to hear that. Going to see a counselor helped me stop beating myself up and allowed me to realize that what we were experiencing was actually NORMAL. For me, that changed everything. Also? You might need to visit a few counselors/therapists before you find the one that’s right for you. Be prepared to shop around until you find someone you and your husband are both comfortable with.

4. It’s okay to take a step back. This was initially a tough one for me, because I thought my girls needed me to act just like I was their mom. WRONG. Remember number one? I’m not their mom, and acting like I was probably caused some resentment and confusion on both ends. I now believe that a good stepmom is physically/emotionally available when her step-kids need and want her to be– and she backs off and becomes a behind-the-scenes supporter to her husband’s parenting when they don’t.

5. Protect your marriage at all costs. You and your husband need to be each others refuge, particularly when you’re having issues with your children or stepchildren. If child-rearing issues are pulling you apart, pinpoint exactly what’s hurting your marriage and protect your relationship in this area immediately and relentlessly. A counselor can be WONDERFUL at helping you do this. Ultimately, zealously protecting your marriage benefits everyone- Your stepchildren need to see you and your husband stay together and fight for your relationship, even when times are tough. It will teach them to do the same some day.

6. Don’t compare yourself to other stepparents. You will come across other stepmoms who can’t stop raving about how WONDERFUL their relationships are with their stepchildren. “They tell me ALL their secrets!” they’ll gush. “They told me they think of me as their REAL MOM!” “They convinced the city to hold a parade in my honor!” Etc. Don’t let it get you down. Remember what I said earlier? More than 70% of blended family marriages fail. Girl, you don’t need a parade. You’re keeping it together. You’re doing great.

7. Don’t play the blame game. Maybe you, like me, have spent too much time beating yourself up about your shortcomings as a stepmother. Or maybe you think your marital problems are all your step-kids’ fault. Maybe you even think your husband is to blame, because he always seems to take their side. Realistically, you’re probably ALL partially to blame for the problems in your relationships. You can’t change everyone else, but you can change yourself. Work on that, and hope that your efforts inspire others in your family to try harder, too.

8. Forgive yourself. Stepmom, let’s just get something straight right now. You are going to make a lot of mistakes. Like, a LOT lot. Please don’t do what I did and spend years convincing yourself that something is very wrong with you because you seem to screw everything up. Forgive yourself. Over and over and over again. Forgive yourself. And move on.

9. You can’t fix what you didn’t break. My own stepfather said this to me a few years ago. I wish I had heard it a lot sooner, because I spent years trying to do a whole lot of fixing. I really thought I could solve everything and everyone if I just tried hard enough.  What a waste of energy. So many issues a blended family faces come from the divorce, which the stepmother (hopefully) had nothing to do with. As wonderful as I’m sure you are, you can’t fix that.

10. Stick with it and know that you will emerge from this a better person. Now that I have raised my stepdaughters and had time to look back on the experience, I feel like I ran a gauntlet of tremendous emotional challenges and came across the finish line truly changed. I am wiser. I am gentler with myself. I am more reluctant to judge others. I am a far better wife and mother than I would have been without my stepdaughters. Our family is still a work in progress, but the worst is behind us. We made it through. And the experience actually ended up being a huge bonding point for my husband and me.

I certainly don’t want to make being a stepmother seem all gloom and doom, because it isn’t. We’ve had many, many wonderful times together. I would change a lot of things I did as a stepmother if I could go back in time, but I wouldn’t give up my blended family. I still believe I’m here for a reason. We are all imperfect. We all have the potential to be amazing. We are all working toward that potential, in our own time and in our own way. We are learning more about each other as we go. We are all messed up, but you know what? We are family.

We are family.

And in the end, that’s what matters.

Part II – Stepmom Transformation: “Boundaries” Module

Part II – Stepmom Transformation: “Boundaries” Module

Well, I just completed my second module for my Stepmom Transformation mini course from Jenna Korf. Going to start on Module 3 tonight as well.

On a side note, I started reading “No One’s The Bitch” by Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Carol Marine. Seems like it will be good. I DO NOT EVER foresee a relationship with BM, however, this book will still bring good information to me to follow through with in our lives. Never any harm from learning as much as you can about situations and “the other side” of the story to get perspective….and there is no shame in having hope in life for yourself and for others.  😉

This week will be a busy one so I MAY not be around as much as previous. I have my ECD workshop at Lapointe Developmental Clinic on Tuesday evening, Beaver Scouts Halloween party on Wednesday and Friday I am off work and watching my husband do a flight lesson (bought it for his birthday this summer) in the morning and then heading downtown in the afternoon to catch a psychic show with my Mom which will be amazing.

We then have a weekend without the kiddos, so it will be some serious Smommy/Daddy time!!!

Hope y’all had a great weekend!

Part I of my Home-Study ………………………..

Today I purchased the first leg of my journey to self discovery as a Step-Mom.

A five session/module to start me on my way to a better understanding of myself as a step-parent and defining myself mentally, emotionally and even physically within my family and relationship dynamic.

Stepmom Transformation: A home-study program by Jenna Korf

This is a comprehensive home-study program created to help you master skills essential to stepmom success.

“I did this program with my husband. We found the assignments so helpful that we filed them away because we want to do them yearly.” – Chrissy

How Does it Work?

You’ll receive a total of 5 modules with one module being emailed to you each week. This will prevent you from experiencing information overload and will provide you time to work through the exercises in each module. (If you’re an overachiever you can request to have all modules sent together ;))

This program will help you:

  • Get clear on exactly what your role is – learn how to integrate into your step-family and when to step back.
  • Learn how to protect yourself from unwanted behavior and deal with a high-conflict ex.
  • Discover the importance of values in relationships and learn how to honor yours and your partner’s.
  • Learn what’s likely going on in your partner’s mind, how to better communicate and resolve conflict with your partner.
  • Start taking better care of yourself and honoring your needs, resulting in a stronger sense of self, a higher level of confidence and increased self-love – AKA a happier you!

What’s Included?

Each module contains valuable information, real-life examples and written exercises designed to help you resolve your issues, facilitate your growth and increase your personal power, resulting in a happier you.

“I gained a lot of tools from this program that I can use when my step-family situation challenges, that would otherwise be very difficult to get through. I feel guided to a better and happier me.” – Erica

What is my role?Module 1: What is my role?

As you’ve probably guessed from the title, this module is designed to help you get clear on what your role as a stepmom is. It will help you figure out what you want that role to look like and ultimately how you want to show up for your stepchildren. It will also help you explore any beliefs that may be blocking you from being your authentic self.

Healthy boundariesModule 2: Boundaries

Tired of being treated like a doormat? Do you often agree to things that you’d rather say no to? Do you feel attacked by the ex-wife or disrespected by your step-kids? Boundaries help you protect yourself from unwanted behavior. They also teach others how to treat you.  In this module you’ll learn how to create and enforce healthy boundaries so you feel protected and empowered and overall happier than you’ve ever been.

ValuesModule 3: Values

When you’re not living in alignment with your personal values, internal (and external) conflict is inevitable. This module will help you clarify your values and teach you how to honor those values so you’re living a more satisfying life. This module will also provide you with tools to help you and your partner resolve conflict that was seemingly un-resolvable.

Communicating with menModule 4: Men and Communication

This module is full of tips on how to effectively communicate with men. It contains information on what your partner is likely experiencing as a divorced dad, the difference between men and women and how to use those differences to communicate with your partner in a way that will help you resolve conflict. This module is designed to help you get your needs met and better understand and appreciate your partner.

Self CareModule 5: Self Care

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: When you’re not feeling good about yourself, even the smallest of stressors can seem insurmountable. In this module, get ready to reconnect with your inner Goddess! This module is designed to help you understand why making yourself a priority is vital to becoming a happy stepmom. It will help you rediscover the best parts of yourself and give you the strength to move yourself to the top of the priority list – without feeling guilty!