Are You Thriving or Surviving as a Stepparent?

I’m recovering from the stomach virus -bleh- and I can tell you that for the last two days, I’ve simply survived!

You know the feeling, right? You can barely lift your head off the pillow and wonder if your stomach will ever feel normal again.

Thankfully, today I’m better! I’m beginning to think I can thrive again as a person! But for awhile, I questioned if I would ever feel good again.

Sometimes those same feelings invade us as a stepparent. Days are just plain hard. The pain of rejection or hurt from being misunderstood creeps in and swallows up our ability to thrive. Tears flow freely because we’ve been down this road before and begin to wonder if things will ever get easier. We tell our friend, “I’m barely surviving on this stepparenting journey.”

Don’t lost hope. We all have those days. But you don’t have to stay stuck there. Realize that God can use your pain to teach you and mature you. Character is birthed out of pain.

And then you will find a way to thrive again.

In his book, “The In-Between,” Jeff Goins quotes a difficult stepfamily story:

“Eighteen years ago my daughter revealed that her stepdad was sexually abusing her. In all the fallout afterward, I waited, prayed, and worked toward healing. Three years passed before the sun began to shine again on our lives, and many more years passed before complete healing happened for all family members. In the waiting, I grew closer to God and stronger in my faith. I learned to ask God, “What do You have for me to learn from this situation?” rather than demanding, “Why did You let this happen?”

There was a period of surviving before this family could thrive again. But instead of wasting her pain, this mother grew closer to God and stronger in her faith.  She made every effort to learn the lesson God wanted to teach her during that difficult period.

We don’t get to thrive every day on our stepparenting journey. Sometimes there are lessons to be learned along the way. Sometimes others in our stepfamily have lessons to be learned before we can thrive again. But there’s always hope for a new tomorrow if we don’t give up.

Success is only found after a period of struggle in almost every endeavor. But the pain of surviving gives us gratitude for the days of thriving. Without the storms, we would never see the rainbows.

If you’re simply surviving today, keep pressing forward toward thriving again. You’ll find the rainbow when it’s time.

Are you in a season of thriving or surviving? Will you share it with us?

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

Pic by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Mother's Day with Stepmoms

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.

Five Great Ways to Celebrate Mother's Day as a StepmomIt’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 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! And if your husband’s looking for a gift idea for you, tell him to send you to the Stepmom Retreat in September. It will be a great time of fellowship with other stepmoms and a place to find help, healing, and hope on your journey. Go here for details: http://blendedandbonded.com/events/

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

Pic by  posterize.  This post was originally posted 5/9/2012

Related Posts:

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

More Mother’s Day Thoughts

 

 

When You Don’t Feel Love Toward Your Stepchild

I’ll never forget the day my stepson shot back at me, “You’re not my mom, Gayla. My mom would support my decision.”

I disagreed on an important decision he was making and voiced my opinion. I chose not to respond to his hurtful words and for a few days following, I didn’t feel love toward my stepson.

When You Don't  Feel Love for your Stepchild

Does that make me a bad person? No. I’m human. I needed some time to consider what he said and ask God to help me love him, despite my hurt.

I knew there was more behind my stepson’s words than his disagreement. What he was saying to me was, “I miss my mom. I wish she were here so I could have this conversation with her.” But she wasn’t. She had passed away just a short time earlier after a fierce battle with colon cancer. He was reacting toward me in anger to his loss.

It’s not always easy to live with the behavior of our stepchildren and feel love toward them. Here are a few things to consider on those days:

1.  Recognize their loss. Stepfamilies are born of loss and your stepchild might be dealing with layers of loss. As they go through life transitions such as adolescence, graduating from high school, etc. their loss is resurrected from years’ past and felt again. Try to be empathetic toward the feelings that are impacting their behavior.

2. Be the adult. Yes, it’s easy to stoop to the level of one attacking you, but someone needs to act like an adult.  I’m not saying it’s easy – on more than one occasion I had to withdraw from a conversation to keep from saying something I shouldn’t. But if we say hurtful words back, it  compounds the ill effects.

3. Take a time out when you need one. No one expects you to withstand painful happenings without taking time to recharge yourself. Determine what works for you to refresh yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Maybe it’s coffee with a girlfriend, a long afternoon walk, or a week-end away with your spouse.

4. Let the biological parent be in the charge. When you’re struggling with less-than-loving feelings toward your stepchild, step back and let the biological parent handle everyday situations. Our emotions get in the way of healthy reactions when we’re hurt, making it more difficult to address misbehavior or parenting decisions.

5. Pray for resolve. Allow God to soften your heart and pray the same for your stepchild. Look past the hurt toward a long-term relationship that’s willing to make sacrifices. It’s not unusual to have days you don’t feel love toward your stepchild. But if you’re in it for the long run, you want to work through those days and seek a long-term loving relationship.

Do you have other thoughts to offer? I would love to hear them.

Picture by Stuart Miles

 

Dear Stepparent: Let Go of the Guilt

I often wonder why we so easily assume feelings of guilt surrounding our stepparenting journey. Why can’t we accept we’re imperfect? Why do we insist we must do everything right or our stepchildren will never love or accept us?

Perhaps society dictates that to us, particularly as stepmoms. But it isn’t true. And guilt is a powerful emotion. As long as you choose to feel guilty for the things you’ve done wrong, God cannot use the things you’ve done right for His glory.

So today and every day forward, I want you to focus on letting go of the guilt for:

  • Choosing to take a break from stepparenting when you know you need one.
  • Supporting your husband in disciplining his children.
  • Embracing a career that satisfies you.
  • Spending time with a girlfriend to nourish your soul.
  • Loving your stepchild in spite of his/her flaws.
  • Choosing to stay out of the relationship between your spouse and his ex.
  • Encouraging your spouse to spend time his biological child…alone.
  • Not loving your stepchild the same way you love your own child.
  • Making a less-than-perfect choice…again.
  • Putting your needs ahead of your stepchildren’s needs at times.
  • Doing fun things with your children, even if your stepchildren aren’t with you.
  • Planning a date night.
  • Spending time with your biological child…alone.
  • Choosing to embrace your new family, despite what others think.

Where do you struggle with guilt and how have you overcome it? Will you share it with us?

Celebrating Valentine’s Day as a Stepcouple

Have you made plans for Valentine’s Day yet? If not, please do. As a stepcouple, you deserve a night out to celebrate your marriage and enjoy time as a couple.heartStepfamily life includes too much time trying to cope with the everyday strain of kid issues, or co-parenting with a difficult ex-spouse, or juggling the emotions that crop up constantly that surround stepfamily challenges.

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the love that brought you and your spouse together. Leave the kids at home and spend the night out. Make plans to do something special. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or even involve the entire evening. But it needs to send the message to each of you that your marriage is important.

Make a few rules surrounding the evening. There will be no discussion of children, ex-spouses, financial challenges, or job stress. The evening is to be dedicated to celebrating your love and what brought the two of you together. Make plans for the future. Dream about years to come when the kids will be gone (it really does happen, I promise). Or plan a summer vacation for just the two of you.

But don’t let Valentine’s Day slip by without celebrating your marriage. It only comes once a year. What’s your plan?

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? I would love to hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Stepfamily Pain Overshadows Holiday Joy

The facebook status of my friend was heart-breaking:”After 25 years of working for the same company, my wonderful hard working amazing husband was told he does not have a job. Our world has turned upside down…” A hard situation to face at the holiday season.

sad christmasBut the reality is, we’re all dealing with tough stuff. Stepfamilies, especially, often carry pain throughout the holiday season. So, how do you cope? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Don’t dwell on the negative.  Try to find something positive about your challenging reality. The holiday season when we walked through my stepson’s custody battle was one of the hardest for me. It seemed as if I got out of bed every day with a dark cloud over my head. But I tried to focus on the blessing of the relationship with my husband and his willingness to walk a difficult road together that might not include a happy ending.

2) Trust God’s plan for your family even if you don’t understand it. I love the words of Charles Spurgeon: “When you can’t trace God’s hand, trust His heart.” God wants what’s best for you and your family. However, life is often understood backward;  circumstances don’t make sense with our finite eyes. But we find peace when we trust God’s plan, even if we don’t understand it.

3) Do your part to overcome the pain. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim, wallowing in self-pity. If you’re struggling with a stepfamily challenge that seems to have no end, seek support. Talk with other stepmoms (healthy-minded ones). Find a counselor educated in stepfamily dynamics. Use Scripture and prayer to find answers. But don’t stay stuck in your pain without reaching out.

4) Consider the joy of perseverance.  When I complete a long run as I train for running events, I find joy in the perseverance of completing a 10 or 12 mile run. I know I’ve pushed myself to the limit and I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. The same holds true with stepfamilies. We will be pushed to the limit, but the joy comes in refusing to quit. I’ve written about it more here: “Stepparenting Feels Like I’m Running a Marathon.”

5) Read our holiday e-book for encouragement. Stepmom Heather Hetchler and I wrote our e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, to offer hope and encouragement to stepparents. We know how difficult the holiday season can be – we’ve walked the road in our own stepfamilies. I hope you’ll consider purchasing and reading the e-book as a gift to yourself.

I don’t know what pain you’re facing in your stepfamily but I pray you don’t allow it to overshadow the joy of the holiday. I want to offer the privilege of praying for you if you share your concerns with me. I’d love to hear from you. “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

I love Lysa TerKeurst’s quote from Unglued: “We can’t always fix our circumstances, but we can always fix our minds on God.”

Are you facing stepfamily pain? Will you commit to a positive perspective and intentional effort to keep it from overshadowing your holiday joy?

Related Posts:

Your Holiday Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Meaningful

Trusting God’s Plan on a Difficult Journey

Is the Heartache of Stepparenting Worth It?