Archive for the 'stepmother role' Category

What is Your Role as a Stepparent?

When we moved to Louisiana a year and a half ago, my two biological daughters stayed behind in Conway, AR. They both had summer jobs and wanted to stay close to their friends the rest of the summer. At 18 and 21 years old, I knew they could manage on their own but needed a temporary living place before they moved  into college housing in the Fall.

moving

My next-door neighbor, Sara, offered to let the girls stay at her house. She and her husband have four grown children and extra bedrooms. It was a perfect arrangement to get us through a transitional period.

When we returned to Conway to help my daughter Jamie move into her college apartment, I observed the relationship between her and my neighbor. It reminded me of a stepparenting relationship in the early years.

Sara knew her role as an additional parent to the girls. She didn’t try to overstep or undermine my relationship in any way. But she did offer a listening ear and everyday support when the girls needed it.

Late in the summer the girls’ dad came for an out-of-state visit. Because their dad is an alcoholic, his behavior is unpredictable and their relationship with him is tenuous. Sara spent several hours talking to the girls about their feelings and struggles with their dad. She offered an unbiased opinion to the situation  as a third-party observer. The girls needed a maternal figure to talk to and since I wasn’t there, they confided in Sara.

I believe that is how our stepparenting role should play out. We are to provide everyday support and a listening ear for our stepchildren when they need it. We are to be a cheerleader for their every effort in sports, music, school, drama, or whatever. We are to love and care for them as if they are our own. But we are not to undermine or compete with their biological parent. We are not to try to replace their biological parent. We are an additional parent.  

Our stepparenting role may change as years pass. When my stepchildren lost their mother to cancer eight years ago, I became their primary maternal figure. My husband has stepped into the primary parenting role with my girls because of their dad’s instability. But for many years, my husband and I both worked at functioning as an additional parent to our stepchildren.

As we drove away from our neighbor’s house to return to our home in Louisiana, Sara was on the front porch with her arm around my youngest daughter, Jodi, who stayed there another week before moving into the dorm. It gave me a warm feeling to know that, although I couldn’t be there every day because of our move, my daughter was loved and cared for by an additional parent.

What role do you play as a stepparent? Is it a healthy role that benefits your stepchildren?

Related Posts:

Is It a Privilege to be a Stepparent?

Expect the Unexpected on Your Stepparenting Journey

Dear Stepparent: Never Underestimate Your Value with Your Stepchildren

Finding Success Through the Bumps on Your Stepparenting Journey

As I listened to my husband on the other end of the phone with his daughter, I knew something bad had happened. He handed the phone to me and said, “She wants to talk to you.”

1170300_important_callThrough tears, my stepdaughter, Adrianne, relayed that her boyfriend of six years had broken up with her. When she was home over Christmas, she had told us she thought they would be getting engaged in 2013. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.

My heart is breaking for her. I know she’ll work through her sadness but at 27 years old, she’s invested a lot of time in a relationship that’s come to a halt.

I’m thankful she has reached out to us during her difficult hour. She asked if she could come spend next week-end with us. Of course, we’re happy to have her drive the three hours to our place and visit any time.

Here’s the paradox of stepparenting. During her adolescent years, we had the typical stepmom-stepdaughter relationship — highly strained the majority of the time. Research shows the stepmom-stepdaughter relationship is often the most difficult. Our relationship was no different.

However, as she matured through her young adult years, Adrianne began reaching out to me more often.  She began asking my opinion on issues and calling us more regularly. She made it a priority to attend family vacations with us and create stronger relationships with her stepsisters.

Well into the second decade of our marriage, Adrianne and I have a wonderful relationship. I’m thankful we’ve been able to connect and can now enjoy our time together, instead of walking on egg shells when she’s around.

Does it have to take that long to bond with your stepchild? No! Some stepparents connect easily and find stepparenting a joy. But many do not.

The adolescent years of stepparenting are tough. It’s easy to slip into thinking that the relationship will always be strained.

The teen-age years may take a heavy toll on your relationship. But kids do grow up and often recognize the value of their parents when they leave the nest.

Don’t give up on finding success on your stepparenting journey. Maybe you won’t find it in the first decade of your marriage. Maybe it won’t happen until your stepchildren leave home.

But it’s never too late to enjoy the success of a thriving stepfamily relationship when it happens.

Is it taking longer than you hoped to find success on your stepparenting journey? Will you share about it?

Related Posts:

Learning How to Love my Stepchildren

Is It A Privilege to be a Stepparent?

Are You Willing to go the Distance as a Stepparent?

 

Five Great Ways to Celebrate Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

One of the hardest hurdles to cope with as a stepparent is the reality that we make the same sacrifices as a biological parent but  reap very few rewards for our efforts. In his book, The Smart Stepfamily, Ron Deal gives three reasons why the stepmother role is even more difficult than the stepfather role.

“First, children tend to maintain more frequent contact with their noncustodial mothers. Second, children’s attachment to their biological mother is believed to be stronger than their attachment to their father, making the acceptance and bonding with a stepmother even more difficult. Third, because society expects women to achieve a higher relational standard than men, stepmothers feel greater pressure to build a strong attachment with stepchildren.”

We know it’s not easy being a stepmother, right? Thus, we have every reason to celebrate and affirm ourselves on Mother’s Day for what we do for our stepchildren. But we don’t have to wait and let our stepchildren’s response control our day.

It’s natural for stepchildren to honor their biological mom on Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, that could mean the stepmom gets left out.

So why not choose to create your own special day? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Spend Saturday night at a Bed and Breakfast and wake up Sunday morning to a scrumptious breakfast prepared for you. Re-connect with your spouse as you reminiscence and celebrate the good things happening in your stepfamily.

2. Find another stepmom who’s  having a difficult time and spend the afternoon with her. Encourage her efforts and talk through her challenges. Laugh together and affirm each other for the special role you’re playing as you’re making a difference in your stepchildren’s lives.

3. Abandon your house and spend the day at a nearby lake, beach, bike path or hiking trail. Absorb the beauty of nature and remind yourself of God’s love for you through His creation, His sovereignty over your life, and His willingness to walk with you through difficult times.

4. Attend your favorite church service with a beautiful corsage on, signifying the important role you play as a stepmom. Then spend the afternoon with your spouse creating a “God box” that outlines prayer concerns for your stepfamily on small pieces of paper. As you drop each concern in the box, pray for your family’s needs. Keep the box going for an entire year and re-visit the box next year to see how God has answered your prayers.

5. Give yourself the gift of relaxation with a good book, time at the movies or a day at the spa with a girlfriend. Eat at your favorite restaurant and tell your family you’ll be taking the day off from chores. Pamper yourself in whatever way feels special to you.

Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a difficult day for stepmoms. Plan your own celebration! You deserve it!

How are you celebrating this week-end? I would love to hear about it!

Related Posts:

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

More Mother’s Day Thoughts

Overcoming the Pain of Rejection

Learning How to Love My Stepchildren

As I continue my stepmom stories from our Stepping with Purpose e-book, I’m including one today from Laura Petherbridge, co-author of The Smart Stepmom. I think you’ll find her story encouraging.

“If I’m being totally honest there were times in my early years as a stepmom that I didn’t even like my stepsons, much less love them. To me they appeared spoiled and pampered, plus everyone in my husband’s family seemed to tip-toe around their wants and whines. This was the total opposite of the extremely strict, “children are seen and not heard,” single parent home in which I was raised.

  But as a Christian I desired to learn how to love them. I knew Christ could teach me, if I was willing. My heart’s cry was to be a loving stepmom who had a positive influence on my husband’s sons. So I prayed, and sought God’s wisdom.

The first thing God revealed to me was that I had a tainted view of the boys. They were hurting kids, not bratty villains. Their sharp, stinging comments were merely an angry response to their circumstances. They didn’t view me as a wonderful new addition to their family; to them I was the new woman rocking their boat of security. In their eyes, I was taking away their Daddy.

Plus, I had to accept that just because I was raised in a stern home with firm rules didn’t mean that was how my husband or his former wife wanted to raise their children. I was not the parent – they were. Therefore, unless the kids were being disrespectful or harmful to me, it was not my place to interfere. For a control freak like me it was extremely  hard to do, but if my marriage was to survive I had to step back, and let go of the things I could not control.

The second discovery I made was that God would use the good and the bad in my life for His glory, if I let Him. He wanted to transform my painful childhood into a channel to love. My dad remarried twice after the divorce from my mom. Therefore, I knew what it felt like to be the child who moved from the front seat in my dad’s car and life, to the back seat. This revelation stirred in me a tremendous compassion toward my stepsons. I understood it wasn’t me they were rejecting, but the circumstances. And they were afraid of more change.

Thirdly, I encountered the “Daddy Wound” to my own soul. One of the things that used to infuriate me about my stepsons was the way they treated their dad. I felt they were neglectful, rude and unappreciative. My husband was diligent to visit his kids and to pay child support on time. He would get excited and make plans for visitation, but at the last  minute the boys would cancel. I’d watch him break down and cry saying, “They don’t believe that I love them, they don’t want to spend time with me.”

I was enraged and would think to myself, “I longed to have a dad who wanted to spend time with me, but he was always too busy. You have a loving father who is willing to give his time and resources and this is how you treat him. How dare you?” The toxic thoughts would brew inside of me, until one day God broke through my wall of pain. He revealed that my fury was a “knee jerk” reaction to my own deep seated feelings of abandonment.

As my Heavenly Daddy revealed all of these things, I surrendered my anger, frustration, and the need to be in control. He began to heal the wounds in my little soul, and filled the hole of shame and loneliness that had resided there for so long with His unconditional love. The freedom and peace that followed flowed into a love for others, including my stepsons.

Each stepfamily has its own hurdles, ours is no different. Choosing and learning to love my stepsons didn’t automatically fix every problem. But it did teach me how to see them through Christ’s eyes, and  not my own. And that transforms everything.”

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, stepfamilies, singles, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t,” and a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series. Her book The Smart Stepmom, is co-authored with stepfamily expert Ron L. Deal. Her website is www.TheSmartStepmom.com

Can you relate to Laura’s story? Have you had to learn how to love your stepchildren? What tips would you offer?

Other Posts You Might Like:

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

Affirming You in Your Role as a Childless Stepmom

Sick of Stepparenting?

Is it a Privilege to be a Stepparent?

I’ll never forget the counselor’s words when I cried out for help in the early years of our marriage, “I know it’s difficult at times, but you might consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to be part of raising your stepchildren.”

What? Is he crazy? My thoughts took over and I couldn’t respond for fear of what might come out of my mouth. Was he listening to my heart-felt anguish?

Parenting stepchildren can feel more like a burden than a privilege at times. We have the responsibility of a parent with few parental rights. Fold the laundry. Cook dinner. Run the carpool. Yet, despite our efforts toward mundane parenting tasks, we get little regard or appreciation for our help.

I read a story recently in The Smart Stepmomby Ron Deal and Laura Petherbridge, that encouraged me to recognize the privilege we have as stepparents. I pray it does the same for you:

Lynn’s story:

“Lynn and her husband combined six children – ages three, four, five, six, eight, and ten – who lived with them full time because her ex-husband was an alcoholic and his ex-wife abandoned her children She faced typical challenges when her stepchildren minimized her authority (You’re not our mom!”) and remained loyal to a biological mother they didn’t know.

When her stepchildren reached adolescence, their mother reappeared and instantly turned them further against Lynn. Despite the fact that the biological mom had been absent for many years, she still had the power to tear apart everything Lynn had built with her stepkids. Disrespect and conflict became a daily occurrenc in Lynn’s home, and her husband didn’t handle his children well. Their marriage was in turmoil to the point that Lynn wanted a divorce. But she didn’t file.

The dream of growing old together kept her from leaving and eventually produced fruit she never imagined.

When her second-oldest stepson was about to enter the Iraq War, he used his allotted two hours of phone time not to call his biological mother or father, but his stepmother, Lynn. He apologized to her for his prior behavior and thanked her for offering discipline and guidance throughout his life. He especially thanked her for raising him to know the Lord. ‘After that call,’ she says, I knew that every minute of being a stepmom was worth it.'”

When we’re in the throes of stepparenting challenges, it’s hard to see the privilege we’ve been given. But if we focus on the opportunity of influence we’ve been given with our stepchildren, we get a glimpse of the difference we can make. 

What influence have you had on your stepchildren? Will you share it with us?

Related Posts:

What Do Your Reactions Say About You?

Some Days are Harder than Others as a Stepparent

The Beauty of God’s Grace

I’m posting a devotion today that I wrote for NIV devotional contest for Mom’s. Hope you find it helpful.  🙂

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When I married my second husband I took his last name, Grace.  God offered me another chance at marriage after failing the first time.  With my second wedlock came a new role: stepmother to my husband’s son and daughter. As the mother of two daughters already, I knew and cherished the role of Mom. But I had no idea how vastly different the role of stepmother would be.

 My new role proved challenging and full of obstacles. I made a lot of mistakes. And I struggled with rejection when my stepchildren didn’t embrace me right away.

But I knew I had been placed in their lives for a reason. I wanted to add value and make a difference as their stepmother. I began to pray about how to love and accept them as my own.

God spoke to me about offering grace more often. He reminded me that He freely offered grace as a gift to me when I didn’t deserve it and challenged me to do the same.

With God’s help, I began displaying more grace to my stepchildren. It wasn’t long before I noticed they were doing the same for me. They began to love and accept me as another maternal figure in their lives. Our interactions contained less conflict and more forgiveness. And now in their young adult years, my stepchildren and I enjoy meaningful, purposeful relationships.

I don’t deserve the gift of grace God offers me. But I accept it. And from a thankful heart  I seek to offer God’s grace to my children and stepchildren, freely and abundantly.

Ephesians 2:8-9   “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it  is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

How do you show grace toward your stepchildren? Does it make a difference in your relationship?

Related Posts:

The Perfect Opportunity for Grace

Finding the Beauty of God’s Grace in Your Stepfamily

Offering the Gift of Prayer

Our three college children have been taking semester finals last week and this week. I’ve been praying for them diligently as I remember how overwhelming final exams can be.

As I was finishing my Christmas shopping this week, I ran across a merchant inside the mall who was selling hand-made gifts from Bethlehem. It was intriguing to look at the beautiful hand-carved pieces. When I spotted one of praying hands, I knew immediately I would purchase it. And not only did I purchase one, I purchased six of them.

My idea is to place one of the praying hands inside each of our children’s stockings and my husband’s stocking. I want each of them to keep it as a reminder that I will be praying for them daily in the upcoming year and if they have a specific need, they can always ask me to pray about it.

Four of our children are young adults, ages 18 – 26, and are making life-changing decisions at this juncture. I’m vividly aware of the mistake I made at 23 years old when I married a man that was a complete mistake, ending in divorce after years of heartache and pain. My hope is that none of our children make a dreadful decision like mine.

So I’m offering the gift of prayer to my family this year. It may not seem like a big gift and I know some of our children will appreciate the gift more than others, but it’s a gift I feel is important.

What do you think? Will you consider offering the gift of prayer for your family?

Related Posts:

Prayer Changes Relationships

Parenting From Your Knees

Commit to the Lord


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