The Unexpected Blessings of Stepparenting

“Who will walk the girls down the aisle when they marry?” I cringed at the awkward conversation my ex-husband had started. Concerned about the relationship that had developed between my two daughters and their stepdad, Randy, my ex-husband raised the question. “We will do what the girls want to do,” Randy replied. A brilliant response, I thought. 

Fast forward ten years later. My daughter, Jodi, married this past weekend. A few months before the wedding, Jodi approached the subject with Randy. “Dad, I’d like you to walk me down the aisle. You’re the one who’s been there for me.”


My steady-Eddie. That’s what I call my husband. Randy has walked through the good and the ugly with my two girls. Temper tantrums, sassy attitudes, adolescent meltdowns, controlling boyfriends, parking lot fender-benders, late night phone calls, teenage drama, failing grades, bad decisions, and so much more.

Randy never walked away. He wanted to. He talked about it a few times. But perseverance won out.

And now… after 20 years of stepparenting, an unexpected blessing.

Blessings of stepparenting

Well-deserved by a man who’s given unselfishly to his stepdaughters.

Not perfectly, however. Randy will be the first to tell you he’s done a lot of things wrong as a stepdad. But the girls see his heart. As young adults, they recognize his well-meaning intentions.

I know it doesn’t always happen this way. Stepfamily weddings can be awkward and less-than-joyous. If you’ve experienced that with your stepchildren, I’m sorry.

But there are blessings amidst the challenges of stepparenting.

Simple things. A smile from across the room. A request for your opinion on a sensitive issue. A light-hearted evening that includes laughter and hugs with your stepchild.

Your blessings will look different than mine. Or my husband’s. Sometimes they’re disguised and hard to find.

Expect them. Look for them.

Live in the now. Experience the joy of today. Don’t hold onto regret or I-wish-it-were-different.

Above all, let grace and mercy prevail in your home.

And you’ll find your own unexpected blessings of stepparenting.

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3, NIV).

What unexpected blessing have you experienced as a stepparent? Will you share it in the comments? I’d love to hear from you.






Dear Stepdad: Don’t Quit

With Father’s day just a few days away, I’m posting an essay I wrote a few years’ back to encourage and honor stepdads.


Dear Stepdad: Don’t Quit

My husband, Randy, will be the first to tell you he has done a lot of things wrong as a stepfather. He has been a stepparent to my two daughters for 20 years. His stepdaughters love him dearly.

But it hasn’t always been that way.

My youngest daughter, Jodi, was almost three when we married, and Jamie was five. Randy had a difficult time with Jamie from the beginning. She didn’t want another dad in her life, and she made that clear to him.

He overheard a conversation between the two girls one night during our first year of marriage. “I hate him too; I can’t believe Mom married him,” Jamie told Jodi. There was little love, or even like, between Randy and the girls in the beginning.

During our second year of marriage, Randy left the house one evening and called from a nearby hotel. “I’m not coming home tonight. I’m not sure I’m coming home again. I can’t cope with the ongoing conflict between you and me and the kids.”

It was a tough season. Randy brought two children to the marriage also and attempting to blend our four kids, ages 3-10, while learning how to stepparent and parent together proved harder than we anticipated. But neither of us wanted to endure another divorce. Randy and I began counseling that year to work through the bumps.

During her teenage years, Jamie challenged us on every turn. If Randy punished her in the slightest, she threatened to call Child Protective Services. She ran away more times than I can remember (but thankfully never went far). After one particularly difficult day with defiant behavior, Randy took Jamie’s cell phone and threw it to the ground. As it busted into several pieces, Jamie began yelling at us both. The night didn’t end well. And I wasn’t sure the sun would come up the next day.

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Perseverance Wins the Prize in Stepfamilies

In the early years of our marriage, I wondered if we would make it to our next anniversary. Blending four children, grappling with our stepparent roles while learning to parent together, combating ex-spouses, and trying to stay afloat with job, church and community obligations seemed impossible. But as we celebrate 20 years of marriage this year, I’m thankful we never quit.

Randy and I lead an ongoing stepfamily class at our church and often counsel other step couples. One day I asked him why he thinks the divorce rate of remarried couples is so high. His answer was simple: they quit too soon.

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What Makes the Stepmom Role So Hard?

Have you experienced hard days as a stepmom? Do you wonder why stepdads seem to have an easier time bonding with their stepchildren than stepmoms?

Not all step-relationships are the same. In our own family, the relationships I have with my stepchildren are very different than those of my husband and his stepdaughters.

When my girls began to call my husband Dad a few years into our marriage, I knew it reflected their growing relationship with their stepdad. But I was jealous of the bonds they’d formed and wondered what I was doing wrong as a stepmom.


There are countless variables that contribute to step-relationships and the blending process.

One variable that remains constant, however, is the uphill road of a stepmother.

In his book, The Smart Stepfamily, Ron Deal explains what makes the stepmom role so hard.

“Stepmothers are at an even greater disadvantage than stepfathers for a number of reasons.

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. Despite societal changes in women’s roles throughout the world, women still bear the primary responsibility for child care, maintenance, and nurturance of children. Stepmothers are not excused from these responsibilities, and they try to fulfill society’s expectations by working hard at building a relationship–only to discover a strong loyalty to the biological mom standing in the way.”

Can you relate? Are you trying to build a bond with your stepchildren that simply isn’t possible?

When I realized the variables I was competing against as I struggled to bond with my stepchildren, I better understood where I was headed. I didn’t quit trying to grow a meaningful relationship with them, but my guilt was lifted as I quit expecting the same kind of relationship I saw between my husband and his stepdaughters.

It’s not easy to create close bonds with your stepchildren as a stepmom but it isn’t impossible either.

As I spent my birthday recently with my  husband and stepdaughter, I was reminded of how far we’ve come. Our early years were very difficult, but the blessings I enjoy now outweigh the challenges of years’ past.


Don’t give up if you’re experiencing some bumps on your stepmom journey. Expect them! But get up again and keep forging forward to find blessings in the end.

Has your stepmom journey been difficult? Can you share encouraging tips on how you’ve kept going on hard days?

Pic By Stuart Miles
























Why Reality Triumphs in Your Stepfamily

My son has strep throat. As he whined about his symptoms while picking at his breakfast yesterday, 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, another trip to the pharmacist, and a sick child at home for two days.

But it didn’t matter what I was imagining in my head. My son was sick. If I had sent him to school, the virus lingering in his body would have continued to attack his healthy cells, creating more and more symptoms of illness. Eventually, I would have heard from him and the trip to the doctor would have been later in the day, which would have included even more time in the waiting room with too many germy, screaming kids to count!

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 their 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 April near St. Louis and find hope, camaraderie with other stepmoms, and fun! Details here: