We Need Each Other—Here’s Why!

Randy and Mom

Randy and his mom

A knot formed in my stomach as I watched my husband, Randy, take his suit out of the closet and pack it in the car. “I think you need to take funeral clothes too,” he said. “We don’t know what lies ahead.” I looked away as tears pooled in my eyes.

We had just learned that my mother-in-law was in the hospital. She had come through one surgery already, but the news wasn’t good. The doctors were taking her back for a second surgery to repair a hole in her intestines that was dumping bacteria into her system.

Driving out of state, Randy began talking about his mom’s husband, Tommy. “He’s so dependent on Mom. He has no friends or former work associates who stay in touch. I don’t know how he’ll cope if Mom doesn’t make it.”

“I know,” I said. “It makes me sad to think about.”

Arriving at the hospital the next morning, I braced myself for the worst. I knew my mother-in-law was in ICU, hooked to a ventilator. Her swollen hands and ash-colored skin revealed how sick she was. It became obvious that her time left with us was limited.

“Where’s Tommy?” I asked my sister-in-law, Lisa, as we walked out of the hospital room.

“He’s at home,” Lisa said. “He says he can’t come. It’s too hard on him.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said.

Later that afternoon the nurses gathered the family together to give a report. “She’s too frail to fight this,” they told us. “We’ve given her everything we can, and she’s not responding.”

Randy and his sister knew it was time to make a tough decision. Their mom had always said she didn’t want her last days to be strung out in a hospital room, surviving only on machines. They wanted to honor her wishes. But shouldn’t Tommy be there for his wife’s last breath? Read more

Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do

It’s been a tough week in Bossier City, Louisiana, where I live. Life-threatening storms swept through our community with 20 inches of rain over a two-day period and flooding that left many families homeless.


School dismissed for three days while displaced families from mandatory evacuations of heavily-populated neighborhoods sent families in 3500 homes away from the comfort of their usual surroundings.

As I thought about friends coping with the devastation this morning, I reflected on Robert Schuller’s book, Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do, that I read many years ago. It is a tough time for a lot of people right now.

But there is always hope for better days. Within a few hours of hearing about yet another young family who lost everything in the flood, I learned that Samaritan’s Purse was headed to LA for rescue relief. What a blessing to read their plans to help:

“Our teams bring in equipment and as soon as the water recedes, they roll up their sleeves to help flooded families get the mud out of their homes, sort through water-damaged personal belongings, and pull out damaged sheetrock, flooring, and insulation. Our Billy Graham Rapid Response Team Chaplains will be alongside to pray with and encourage flood victims.”

Samaratan's Purse

Sometimes in the midst of our challenges, it feels like there is no hope. But tough-minded people are created in the midst of tough circumstances if we don’t give up.

Maybe you’re in a tough season right now as a stepparent.

Perhaps you feel invisible in your role as a stepmom and no one notices the constant sacrifices you make.

Maybe you face another day of rejection from your stepson.

Maybe your spouse refuses to support your stepparenting efforts.

Perhaps the biological parent in the other home undermines the relationships you seek you build.

Read more

Why Reality Triumphs in Your Stepfamily

My son has an upper respiration infection.  As he whined about his symptoms while picking at his breakfast, I didn’t want to believe him. My to-do list for the day didn’t include a trip to the doctor, a two-hour wait with screaming children sliming their germs beside me, and another trip to the pharmacist.

But it didn’t matter what I was imagining in my head. My son was sick. If I had denied his symptoms, the virus lingering in his body would have continued to attack his healthy cells, creating more and more symptoms of illness. We leave for a seven-day cruise tomorrow and that’s a disaster in the making!

It’s the same in our stepfamilies. Maybe your stepdaughter doesn’t want to acknowledge the marriage of her dad to you — her stepmom. Maybe she’s fantasizing that her parents will get back together. Maybe she’s believing the lies her mom is putting in her head about you. But the truth is… reality wins!

Eventually, your stepchild will accept the reality of your presence in his or her life. Even if the biological parent in the other home is bashing you on all fronts, reality will win. Eventually, your stepchild will recognize that you’re not going away and she needs to squelch her fantasies and begin to develop a relationship with you. At some point, your stepchildren develop a mind of their own, separate from the garbage the other biological parent is feeding them, and form their own opinion of you!

It’s not easy. There may be some squirming and squealing in the process. There might be one step forward and two steps backward. But from my own experience, I can assure you — even if it seems hopeless…it’s not!  Even if there’s a lot of conflict in your stepfamily right now, it eventually subsides. I promise. (If you don’t give up).

I love Dick Dunn’s words in his book, “New Faces in the Frame.” He says, “At first you may see little or no progress. Remember that as children mature, their capacity to understand matures also. True maturity is a life-long process. In time, fantasies give way to reality, and children move on with their lives. Fantasies attach us to the past–letting go frees us for the future.”

Be gentle with your stepchildren as they learn to put aside their fantasies and live with reality. It’s not an easy process, but it will change your relationships over time. Reality triumphs every time.

Do you agree? Is your stepfamily living in reality or still struggling with fantasy?

Pic by Victor Habbick

Have you heard of our Stepmom Retreat? Come join us in Dallas September 25-27, 2015 and find hope, camaraderie with other stepmoms, and fun! Details here: http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/



Coping with a Troubling Ex

I’m including a guest post today from Shawn Hartwell, founder and CEO of StepSpeak in Quebec, Canada.

My girlfriend and I often struggled and fought in a toxic relationship. I wanted us to be together but didn’t realize I was making the same mistake over and over again, trying to sustain a relationship that took its toll on me emotionally.

After I became a stepfather I was relieved I didn’t have to contend with the biological father of my stepson. However, in stepfamilies, we often have to deal with emotional confrontations with ex-spouses. Here are a few tips I’ve learned.

1. You can’t control other people.

It would be wonderful to be able to control every aspect of our lives of the people we encounter, but it’s simply not possible. I wish I had learned this years ago when, as a teenager, I was so filled with rage that it blinded me. I was not able to see the truth through the glasses of emotional anger that I was wearing at the time.

The sooner we accept the fact that whatever this person is doing in our life cannot be controlled, the sooner we’ll be able to look at things in a more objective way, instead of allowing our emotions to control us.

2. Know when to go to battle.

We tend to give our minds too much freedom to alter the reality that we see, much like how an abuse victim and his or her abuser don’t see the situation in the same light. Talk it out with yourself and determine if the issues you’re about to bring up really warrant a discussion.

There are often situations that we think are problems, when we’ve actually created a much bigger problem in our head than really exists. Choose the battles you need to fight with your ex carefully.

3. Use your free time wisely.

Time is the most valuable resource we have. I treat time with more value than money and material possessions. As a stepparent, we often feel that when our stepchild goes with his biological parent, we’re missing out and will digress with the bonds we’re seeking.

However, when our stepchild is gone, it’s a great time to develop our own interests and spend quality time with our spouse. It also helps to alleviate the tension we feel toward the biological parent if we focus on our own needs and enjoy time to ourselves, rather than focus on what we’re missing with our stepchild.

4. Know your options and when you need outside help.

You can never underestimate the power of seeking advice from friends, family or a professional. There may even be situations where you need to consult an attorney or a law enforcement officer. I have seen the effects of not alerting the proper professionals or authorities.

If you suspect abuse or negligence of your stepchild, don’t hesitate to get help.

Coping with a troubling ex can be, well…troubling. However, it doesn’t have to encompass your life. Make smart decisions in taking care of yourself, seeking to meet your own needs, in addition to the needs of your stepchild, as you work through difficult issues that arise.

How do you cope with a troubling ex? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Shawn Hartwell is a laid-back, free thinking, young and driven person who wants to help people, secure my family’s future and leave my mark on our world. I enjoy biking, walking, jogging, nature, tea culture, spending time with friends & family and learning new things in areas of interest. He blogs at StepSpeaks here.


pic by David Castillo Dominici

How to Celebrate Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

If there’s one holiday that stepmoms would rather not celebrate, it’s Mother’s Day. It can be a hard day because we’re reminded of the time and energy we invest in our stepchildren’s lives with little or no reward. And if our stepchildren do try to show their appreciation, it’s often an awkward and insincere effort, usually prodded by their father.

So what’s a stepmom to do? Do we create expectations of what our stepchildren should do for us? Do we allow the biological mom to get all the attention for the day? Do we insist that honor be bestowed upon us?

If you play an active role as a stepmom, you deserve some recognition for your efforts. That doesn’t mean you’ll get it from your stepchildren. Some children feel it dishonors their mom to show appreciation to their stepmom on Mother’s Day, particularly if their mom invalidates or competes with the stepmom’s role. However, there’s nothing wrong with asking your spouse to honor and acknowledge you for your ongoing efforts with his children.

I’ve learned to enjoy Mother’s Day with no expectations from my stepchildren. If they offer me a gift or choose to honor me in some way, I’m thrilled. But even if they don’t, I remind myself it’s a privilege to take part in shaping another child’s life and affirm myself for what I offer. I know my husband appreciates the role I play and we will celebrate the day together.

Some stepchildren love to recognize their stepmom on this special day and will make a sincere effort to let you know how much you mean to them. A host of variables play into how a stepchild reacts on Mother’s Day. The length of the marriage, the age of your stepchildren, the biological mom’s behavior, and the environment in your home contribute to your stepchild’s behavior. If your stepchildren honor you, embrace the offering. But if they choose not to, don’t take it personally.

Here are a few suggestions to help you enjoy the day, regardless of what your stepchildren do. Pick one or two, or construct one of your own, to create a day that will leave you feeling special for the valuable role you offer your stepfamily.

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 one another. Find positive ways to offer your support on an ongoing basis.

3. Abandon your house and spend the day at a nearby lake, beach, bike path or hiking trail. Absorb the beauty of nature while you count your blessings in your life. Set goals with your spouse that will help you become more connected in your stepfamily such as regular game nights, stepmom-stepdaughter shopping dates, or movie nights as a family.

4. Attend your favorite church or place of worship wearing a beautiful corsage, signifying the important role you play as a stepmom. Take pride in participating in your stepchildren’s lives as an additional parent.

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. If you create expectations of how you want your stepchildren to honor you, it will result in disappointment. But if you choose to create your own special day, you’ll make memories that leave you feeling blessed to be a stepmom. So go ahead – plan your own celebration! You deserve it!

How do you celebrate Mother’s Day? Leave a comment – I’d love to know!

If your spouse is looking for a gift idea for you, suggest a ticket to our next stepmom retreat! We’ll be in Asheville, North Carolina September 26-28th. Come join us! Details here: http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/

Pic By Iamnee



How to Make Your Second Wedding Something Your Kids Will Enjoy

Holly RobisonI’m including a guest post today from Holly Robinson, author of a new novel that comes out today, April 1st — Beach Plum Island. As a mom and stepmom herself, Holly offers some great tips on making your second wedding a success with the kids.

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for Holly’s new book, an engaging novel with stepfamily dynamics and a compelling story line. (see details below)

“How to Make Your Second Wedding Something Your Kids Will Enjoy” By Holly Robinson

When I became engaged to my second husband, I was excited about planning our wedding.  There was just one catch:  with four young children between us—a  boy and a girl from each side—I had no idea what that wedding should look like.  This marriage would grant me the title of “stepmother,” so I was faced with the thorny public relations nightmare of stepmothers everywhere.  To my stepchildren, I was the reason why their father no longer lived with their mother.  And my own children saw my remarriage as a hostile act, as if I’d cranked up the drawbridge with their dad stranded on the other side of the moat.

Our wedding seemed like a logical place to begin creating the loving bonds that we’d need to sustain us as our two families began learning to live in harmony.  My first marriage had been all about tradition:  I wore a white dress, we held the reception in an elegant inn, and my husband and I left immediately for a Cape Cod honeymoon.  What had I learned from that experience?  A traditional wedding, no matter how much it makes you feel like Cinderella, doesn’t guarantee that you will live happily-ever-after.  This time, I wanted to design a wedding that spoke volumes about the love I felt not only for my husband-to-be, but for our children, ages 6, 7, 8 and 9.  This meant putting together a ceremony that would mean something to the kids, too.  Here’s what worked for us:

Plan Your Wedding as a Family

Make the wedding a family activity.  Our two daughters had strong opinions about everything from what dress I should wear to what the invitations should look like, and our sons were brilliant when it came to thinking of things to do during what they insisted on calling “the wedding party” instead of a reception.  Within reason, we let them have their say.

Keep the Reception Casual

Even if the wedding is in a church, with children in tow you’re not going to want a formal reception.  Outdoor weddings are perfect for kids.  We held ours in the back yard with a caterer and a DJ.  A friend took the photographs.  If your yard isn’t big enough, arrange the reception at a local park or beach. 

Invite Only Close Friends and Relatives—and Their Kids

Our wedding list eventually was made up of under 100 guests—our closest friends and relatives, plus their children.  This meant that over half of the guests were under twelve.  Chaos alert!  But then our sons had the brilliant idea of giving the kids their own separate food table.  This saved our budget as well as our sanity:  we catered high-end food for the adults, but kid-friendly food like macaroni and cheese, plates of fresh fruit, and cupcakes, too.

Provide Babysitters or Entertainment

It’s essential to have child wranglers available at the reception so you and the other adults can enjoy yourselves.  We hired two teenagers to corral our children and their friends into line dancing and games.  We also hired a pair of clowns to do face painting and magic tricks for an hour at the reception. 

Don’t Leave on Your Honeymoon Right Away

As much as your children might enjoy themselves at the wedding, they will probably be anxious afterward.  If you can put off your honeymoon even for a couple of days, it will help normalize things for them.  We spent our wedding night at a local hotel while my mother stayed with the children.  The next morning, we were back early to give everyone breakfast, including relatives from out of town.  And that was the best moment for me of all, really:  knowing that we were going to sit down as husband and wife, surrounded by family as our new lives began.

Bio: Holly Robinson is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, Huffington Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, More, Open Salon and Parents. Her new novel,  BEACH PLUM ISLAND, is Holly Robinson at her best, a story about family, love and buried secrets.

Holly's bookLeave a comment to be entered into a drawing for her new book!