Mother’s Day is Coming: How Will You Celebrate as a Stepmom?

In honor of Mother’s Day in 2011, Heather Hetchler and I put together an e-book of encouraging stories written by stepmoms for stepmoms. We offered the book, Stepping with Purpose, to bring hope to stepmoms who often have a difficult day on Mother’s Day.

Stepping with Purpose as a Stepparent

The ebook is still available on my website and Heather’s,  but for the next few weeks  I want to post some stories from the book. I hope you find encouragement from them as we approach Mother’s Day.

Acceptance by Jackie Brown

 There are many events in our lives that are life changing; marriage, childbirth, divorce, death and remarriage. I remarried in October 2006 and I became an “instant full-time stepmom” in February 2008. My husband and I received a phone call on the way home from a beach trip in late February 2008 informing us that my stepdaughter’s mother was in the hospital with heart problems and may not live through the night. Hope’s mother passed away four months later.

My dreams did not consist of being a full-time stepmom at this time of my life. My sons were grown, and raising a child again was a very devastating thought to me. I was still a newlywed and had plans and dreams of traveling with my husband and spending time together. I was also used to going and coming as I wanted. My husband works in the evenings so I had “me” time while he was at work to do things that I wanted to do.

Having a stepchild come into your home to live is very challenging. There can be a war of wills since everyone is adjusting to different lifestyles. I realized my stepchild was entering a different environment in which she had to abide by different rules, habits and traditions. I learned to be patient.

Having my stepdaughter 24/7 was not what I planned. My life became a roller coaster of angry, sad, unhappy, and at times, depressed feelings. The reality is that “I” suffered a loss too … a loss of the way things were and the way I wanted them to be. I learned firsthand that there are many things you have to accept in the role of being a full-time stepmom:

Accept that your time, space and privacy are different than they once were.

Accept that being a stepmom is unfair and lonely at times.

Accept that you may not see the fruits of your sacrifices until the stepchildren become adults.

Accept that there will be many sacrifices that go unnoticed.

After some time and crying out to God, I realized that I had to ACCEPT these circumstances. In the dictionary, acceptance is the “willingness to receive or to welcome.” To accept, you have to believe. You have to come to terms with a reality and choose to live in spite of it. Acceptance has been (and still is at times) a huge battle for me. Here are some things that have helped me through this:

First, I firmly believe this is God’s will for my life at this time. I know without a doubt this is not an accident. I feel that I was put in Hope’s life and she was put in my life for a reason that only God knows. There have been times that I questioned the why’s, but I’m trying to live with acceptance and faith.

Accept this time in your life and take the steps needed to honor God in this. Trust God in ALL areas of your life.

Second, have a plan or a vision about your relationship with your stepchildren. think about your impact and influence on the child today and how it will impact them later in life. What you put into this relationship is what you will get out of it. Spend time with them developing traditions just the two of you have together and traditions as a family. My stepdaughter and I do a Bible study together at Starbucks. It gives us both a time of talking and getting to know each other.

Be yourself with your stepchild and realize that you and her are different. Develop a relationship of trust, love, and guidance.

Give the relationship time to develop. It will not happen overnight. Have patience during this time.

Third, take time alone to unwind, release and relax doing what you enjoy doing – hobbies, exercise, blogging, journaling. Do whatever releases stress for you. Don’t keep stress bottled up. Also, make time to spend alone with your spouse. Have a regular date night without the children.

Finally, have a sense of humor. Laugh at yourself. Don’t expect things to be perfect. Enjoy this time in your life with all the ups and downs and struggles and rewards that come with a stepmom.

In closing, understand that life is just hard at times. As women, we juggle the responsibilities of wife, mom, stepmom, daughter, sister, aunt, friend and employee. Yes, it is scary and unpredictable at times. Recently, my mom told me that I should be honored and humbled that God chose me to be Hope’s stepmom.

Yes, I’m honored and humbled that God chose me. In doing so, He is teaching me to be more like Him. How awesome is that!! And now, I continue on the journey!

Jackie Brown said “I do” for the second time in 2006 to a wonderful man of God. She has two sons, 25 and 28, and step-daughter, 16.

What has been difficult for you to accept as a stepparent? I would love to hear your comments.

Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

“Mom I have mono. The doctor thinks I’ve had it six or seven weeks. He says I might need to quit my job so I can finish out the school semester while trying to get well.”

My daughter’s words were distressing. A 21-year-old college student living in another state, I knew she had been sick but never guessed it could be mono. I felt powerless as to how I could help.

A few days later I received another call from my 21-year-old stepson, also a college student living out of state. “Gayla, I have bronchitis. The doctor put me on an antibiotic but says I need to take a few days off work and get plenty of rest.”

Again the feeling of helplessness came over me. Accepting my role as a mom living 250 miles from three of our children has been agonizing for me at times. But I can’t change it.

It reminds me of the years my stepdaughter and stepson lived with their mom more than 300 miles away and how helpless I felt about their circumstances. My stepson suffered from severe allergies and asthma but lived in a home with two parents who smoked. When he came to visit, we went to the doctor, refilled prescriptions, and sent instructions back home regarding the need to keep him isolated from smoke.

But the instructions were often disregarded.

I couldn’t change his circumstances. I couldn’t change the behavior that took place in their home. I could only control my reaction to it.

The stepparenting journey will inevitably bring unpleasant circumstances and difficult behavior we cannot change. Maybe it’s an ex-pouse. Perhaps it’s a rebellious teen-ager. Or it could be an unforeseen circumstance that disrupts your home, like my husband’s job loss that resulted in an unwanted re-location.

Regardless of the situation, we find peace when we accept what we cannot change, and choose to focus on our reaction and ability  to change what’s within our power.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’ve had my share of pity-parties when I’ve cried out to the Lord about living so far from our children. I’ve pleaded and bargained with Him to change our circumstances.

But I don’t find peace there. I don’t find answers to my struggles. I find discontentment and hopelessness.

I find peace only when I go back to the Serenity Prayer and sincerely pray:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,                                                                                                             Courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.”

What about you? Are you trying to change a circumstance you need to accept? Or have you found peace through acceptance? I’d love to hear from you.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Creating Healthy Boundaries with your Ex-Spouse

Coping with Stepfamily Drama

Coping with  Stepfamily Drama Part Two

Are you Willing To Go the Distance as a Stepparent?

My husband, Randy, and I leave tomorrow to travel to Little Rock to run the Little Rock marathon on Sunday. The picture below is after last year’s race – Randy is on the left.

Randy posted a faster time last year than his previous four marathon events. On our way home from LR, we talked about how he improved his time. Many of his training methods relate to similar strategies we can use as stepparents.

1. If it isn’t working, try something different. Randy had struggled with leg cramps toward the end of each previous marathon race. This time, he sought help from a specialty running store and used some magnesium tablets that seem to have prevented the cramps, allowing him to decrease his walk breaks at the end of the race.

If you’re struggling in a particular area of your stepparenting role and don’t know a solution, it may be time to seek help. Find a pastor, trusted friend or counselor who is familiar with stepfamily dynamics to confide in and seek advice. Check out coaching/counseling options that are offered through stepfamily sites (including mine here).

2.  Be willing to invest a lot of time. Preparing to run 26.2 miles in a marathon is not an easy feat. The training schedule involves 18-22 weeks of strenuous running, along with other cross training workouts. Attempting to run a marathon without the training leads to failure.

Successful stepparenting also involves a lot of time. Stepping into your stepchild’s life and expecting an instant relationship only leads to disappointment. Be willing to spend time getting to know your stepchild, understanding his likes/dislikes, and finding common ground on which to build a relationship.

3. Expect setbacks along the way. Long distance training often leads to injury. The workouts are hard and your body begins to break down. An unexpected weakness shows up through a muscle strain, bone fracture, or ligament tear. With adequate rest and therapy, injuries heal and the training can begin again.

Stepparents can also expect setbacks. A difficult ex-spouse, rebellious teen-ager, or unexpected conflict can lead to setback. It may take months or years to work through a difficult phase, but progress can always begin again if you don’t give up.

4. The biggest prize comes at the end but there are rewards along the journey. The medal earned for completing a marathon is placed around the runner’s neck as he crosses the finish line. However, a sense of pride and satisfaction is enjoyed throughout the training period as a runner sets and reaches goals he never dreamed possible.

The greatest reward for successful stepparenting is experienced as stepchildren leave home, appreciative of strong relationships they share with one another. However, stepparenting also has rewards throughout the journey as bonding occurs and love for one another develops.

Successful stepparenting, like marathon training, has rewards worth seeking. But the journey to the finish line can also be cherished when you choose to keep going the distance, even when it’s not easy.

How do you keep going as a stepparent when the road gets tough? Will you share? 

Related Posts:

There’s Beauty After the Pain

It’s Always Too Early to Quit

The Danger of Comparing Your Stepfamily to Another

Do you find yourself comparing the growth of your stepfamily to your neighbor’s next door? Do you talk to your stepmom friend at work and wonder why her stepfamily seems to be having such smooth sailing while your family is stuck in the muck?

The Danger of Comparing Your Stepfamily to Another

My husband always calls our family “remedial blenders.” Our relationships didn’t come together within the first five to seven years of marriage as stepfamily research suggests. In fact, some of our toughest years as a family were seven to ten years after our marriage.

Does that mean we were doing everything wrong, slowing the progress of our family blending? Certainly my husband and I made our share of mistakes as stepparents, but we also had some challenging variables to contend with that influenced the relationships in our family.

One of the biggest factors that determines how well a family unites is whether the ex-spouse allows his/her children the freedom to embrace a relationship with the stepparent. His/her attitude toward the stepparent can greatly influence the child’s ability to accept and love a new stepparent.

Unfortunately, as a stepparent, you have no control over what happens in the other home that influences the relationships in your home. I clearly remember the half-hearted hugs and stand-offish behavior I received every time my stepchildren returned from their mother’s home. I always wondered what kind of conversation went on about me while they were gone. I’m sure it was best I didn’t know.

Because my stepdaughter was ten when we married, her age also influenced our ability to bond. I didn’t understand when she began pulling away from the family as she progressed through adolescence but it was part of her growing-up process, a time of buiding her own identity separate from the family, that naturally takes place during the teen-age years.

Stepfamily research also suggests that the hardest relationship to develop is the stepmom/stepdaughter one. Instead of blaming myself for our prickly interactions, I would have done better to accept the fact that some of our challenges were simply intertwined in our tendency as two females in the same household to butt heads. When my oldest biological daughter traversed through the teen years, we encountered some of the same tensions.

It was also normal for my stepdaughter to desire a stronger relationship with her biological mother, leaving me in a dispensable role. Because of her natural bond with her mother, she couldn’t naturally bond with me.

After my husband and I were married eight years, we learned my stepchildren’s mother had colon cancer. My stepchildren stood by helplessly the next year, watching their mother slowly digress, then pass away. The pain of her loss left raw emotions they didn’t know what to do with, negatively impacting our stepfamily relationships.

So I no longer carry the responsibility for the remedial blending that occurred in our family. We could have never predicted nor controlled the circumstances that occurred. But we could control our reaction to them and our commitment to press forward, despite the odds.

What about your family? Were you hoping for smooth sailing as your relationships came together? Do you wonder why your family doesn’t look like the stepfamily next door that seems to be having an easier time? Don’t compare. It’s dangerous.

Those who have the easiest time as a stepfamily never appreciate the value of their relationships because they didn’t have to work for them.

If your family takes longer than you desire to unite, don’t despair. Celebrate the victories along the way. Affirm the value of what you’re creating. And be thankful for the challenges. Because you’ll always know it would have been easier to quit.

But you didn’t.

Can you recognize the uniqueness in your  circumstances that influence your relationships? Will you share how you cope with it?

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Coping with Loss in a Stepfamily

Stepfamily Trap: Denying our Feelings

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Somedays It’s All About Perspective

“The toilet’s overflowing Mom!” My son’s words echoed down the hall from my room. I walked into the bathroom to a small stream of water running onto the floor. My son was holding a plunger, prepared for action. But as we watched, the water began to subside and we decided to flush. That was a mistake!


Water poured over the toilet lid, out the bathroom and down the hall. I couldn’t stop the gushing water! I  began plunging furiously, water spilling out on all sides. Thankfully, the clog was quickly relieved and  water began moving in the other direction – down the toilet!

As the clean up effort began, my son and I both lost track time of time (my husband was already at work). Before we realized it, the clock reminded us we were running late. As I drove my son to school, I knew he would be tardy.

I reflected on my week as I drove home with a heavy heart and deflated spirit.  Just days before I had learned one of the few friends I have in our new town was moving soon. That same day I dealt with our leaking swimming pool that had an unknown source and was requiring water every other day to keep it full. I began thinking about the tuition bills piled on my desk for a new semester with our three college kids. My spirit began spiraling to match the dreariness of the weather.

When I arrived home I read a prayer request from my aunt concerning a custody battle her son is enduring with his two daughters. Her son’s heart is broken as he’s restricted from being a part of his children’s lives. It’s a bitter battle with little hope of a fair judgment.

It prompted me to be thankful for the part I get to play in my children and stepchildren’s lives. Our relationships aren’t perfect and our family interactions aren’t always harmonious, but I’m thankful for the role I have. We’ve been down the custody battle road, and I’m thankful we’re not there today.

With four children living outside our home as young adults, I don’t know all that is happening every day. But I do know if they need something, they will call. Somedays it’s a shoulder to cry on, somedays it’s an opinion on a pressing issue, somedays it’s a little extra money to get by until their next paycheck. But today, I’m thankful for unrestricted visitation and communication with our children.

Life is hard. Life is stressful. But, somedays it’s all about perspective. Now please excuse me while I go wash towels.

How is Your Perspective? Does it Need an Overhaul Today?

Related Posts:

You Don’t Have to be Super Stepmom

When Stepparenting Isn’t What You Expected

Are You Celebrating the Beauty of Family this Holiday- Even if Yours is Imperfect?

I was on the phone this week with stepfamily author, Ron Deal. We were chatting about his upcoming move to assume a new position with FamilyLife as the Director of Blended Families Ministries. (Read press release here). I could hear his excitement of continuing his ministy with stepfamilies in a larger fashion through such a great organization.


But I could also hear his grief when he mentioned the upcoming anniversary of the loss of their son, Connor. Connor was 12  years old when he came down with a rare illness that took his life within two weeks of its onset. He was the middle child of three boys and his family will never be the same. It’s a parents worst nightmare that leaves unfathomable pain in its wake.

Although the loss of a child may be the greatest loss anyone could experience, each member of a stepfamily has experienced loss too. Through death or divorce, relationships end and pain remains. But through healthy stepfamily relationships, family members can begin to heal and find joy in life again.

Although it may take longer than we desire, beautiful relationships can form if we don’t give up. And our family becomes something to celebrate, even if it’s imperfect.

So as you celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas this week-end, I encourage you to celebrate the beauty of family also. Although your stepfamily relationships may not be where you wish they were, celebrate the progress you’ve made. Commit to stronger relationships through intentional effort as you look toward a new year.

Life is short. We don’t know what’s around the corner that could alter our family dynamics forever. But we do know what our relationships look like today and can choose to celebrate the beauty of our family.

How will you celebrate the unique beauty of your stepfamily as you celebrate the holidays?