Some Days Are Harder Than Others as a Stepparent

I knew my stepson had been having gastrointestinal problems for several weeks and we encouraged him to make a doctor’s appointment. Since his mother died of colon cancer,  he knows his risk factors for that disease.

But  it hurt my feelings to learn he had  gone to the doctor and never even  mentioned it to me. As a mom, I’m usually the first one to instruct the kids on insurance cards, co-payment amounts, etc. when they go to the doctor. But instead, my stepson confided only in his dad regarding details of the appointment.

In the early years of our marriage, I would have berated myself for doing something wrong that was keeping my stepson at a distance. But after several years of stepparenting, I no longer blame myself when my stepchildren choose to leave me out of what’s happening in their lives. I know I have done my part to be an involved and loving stepmom along the way but cannot force positive reactions from them.

After 15 years as his stepmom, my stepson recently said to  me, “I love you Gayla, but you’re not my mom. My real mom would have given me her approval.” I had voiced my opinion on a choice he was making that I disagreed with, and he let me know that my opinion didn’t carry much weight. The disappointing words still ring in my ears.

Loyalty issues run deep with stepchildren and can keep them from loving a stepparent because it feels disloyal to their biological parent. Sometimes as kids grow older, they work through those feelings, allowing a close relationship with a stepparent. But sometimes they don’t.

If you’re having a hard day as a stepparent, don’t lose hope. Persevere in your relationships even when your stepchildren don’t. Draw near to the Lord for guidance and comfort. Be assured that He sees your efforts and will bless them.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:8)

Are you experiencing challenging days as a stepparent? Where do you look for hope?


Related Posts:

Finding Hope in the Midst of Uncertainty

Hope for the Future in Your Stepfamily: Part One

Hope for the Future in Your Stepfamily: Part Two

 Coping with Stepfamily Storms

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Commit to the Long Run

“I learned that if you want it bad enough, no matter how bad it is, you can make it.” Gale Sayers

Stepfamily researchers tell us that the first decade of stepfamily life is the most difficult. The first decade – ten years! That is a long time.

But if we want success in our stepfamily, we must be willing to commit to the long run. And we must make that commitment from the beginning.

My husband is a marathon runner. When he begins training for a marathon, he maps out weekly runs and cross training workouts. He methodically puts a plan together to train his body to complete the grueling distance.

But the most important component of the training is his commitment to go the distance, even when it gets tough. He has completed training runs in the brutal heat and piercing cold. He has completed training runs when he didn’t want to and didn’t feel up to par. But he understands the commitment to the training if he wants to be successful in the race.

As stepparents, we must recognize our commitment to the process if we want to be successful in our relationships. We must be willing to endure the good times and the bad. We must engage in our stepparenting role on days we don’t want to and days we feel less than optimal.

But we can trust there are rewards for our efforts. Just as training for a marathon leads to race day success, investing in long-term commitments leads to stepfamily success, creating stable relationships that last.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

The Sting of Hurtful Words

My stepson compared me, in a negative sense, to his biological mom this week-end. His mom died over five years ago and the wounds are evident everyday. The words he spoke pierced my heart. I wish I could say it didn’t matter to me, but it did.

I have been an active mom in his life for almost 15 years and I would like to believe I have positively influenced him. But he made it clear to me that my opinion of the choice he was making didn’t matter because his “real mom” would have been fine with it and it was time I butted out.

Since my stepson turns 20 years old this summer, I recognize his disregard of my opinion. But I believe he is making a choice with negative long-term consequences and I couldn’t let it go without expressing my thoughts on the subject.

My stepmother mantra immediately came to mind, lower your expectations for now. In other words, get off your pity pot and let it go. If he chooses to ignore your advice, it is his loss. You cannot control his hurtful reaction but you can control yours.

The challenges of stepparenting seem to ease up at times, only to resurface at other times. It is not uncommon to take a step forward and two steps backward. It feels like my stepson and I took a step backward this week-end. But I’m thankful for the opportunity to start again, continually striving for a positive difference in my stepson’s life.

Have you experienced hurtful words lately? How do you cope with it?

Stepparenting Inspiration

Bob Wieland

I read an incredible story today of a Vietnam Vet who overcame huge odds to make a difference in life.

Bob Wieland was a young baseball player from Wisconsin, negotiating a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, when he was called to serve in Vietnam. As a medic, Wieland perfomed his duties with care, while longing to be back on the baseball fields in his home state.

In June, 1969, Wieland’s life was changed forever when he stepped on a booby trap while trying to help a friend. Explosions rang out around him as the 82 mm buried mortar – a round designed to destroy tanks – blew off his legs. Wieland was pronounced DOA (dead on arrival) at the hospital.

But Wieland’s life was far from over. A nurse found movement in the body bag he had been placed in and resuscitated him to life. He embarked upon a recovery process marked by faith, determination and courage.

While in the hospital, Wieland began lifting weights. He couldn’t even lift five pounds to start but persisted in training everyday and began getting stronger. His athletic persona took over and he eventually broke the world record in bench press in his weight division on four occasions – lifting 507 pounds. However, he was disqualified for not wearing shoes and finally banned from the sport!

Not easily discouraged, Wieland opted for another sport and began training for marathons. He has completed the New York, Los Angeles, and Marine Corp Marathons on his HANDS! Wrapped in rubber pads, his hands perform as his feet.

From there, he went on to complete the grueling Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii – the only double amputee to ever complete it without a wheelchair.
But he claims the most exciting marathon he completed was a walk across America! He endured three years, eight months and six days of walking on his hands as he traveled from Los Angeles to the Vietnam Memorial to raise money for Veterans, the poor and the hungry.

Wieland’s inspiring motto can be applied to any endeavor, including stepparenting:

“It’s always too early to quit.”
He credits his success to his faith and his foundational belief, “Nothing is impossible with God.” Known as “Mr. Inspiration” for good reason, he travels the world telling his story to live life “AOA (alive on arrival)” instead of remaining DOA.

Quitting was not an option for Bob Wieland. It shouldn’t be an option for us either.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillippians 4:13

Healthy Stepparenting #6: When You Fail, Don’t Give Up

As a stepparent, it’s inevitable we will fail. We may respond in anger or impatience, we may mistreat those around us, we may act out selfishly or greedily, or we may simply stepparent “our way” instead of “God’s way.” However, if we choose to keep trying when we fail, we haven’t truly failed.

H. Stanley Judd offers a great reminder on failure: “Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s okay to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.”

The book of Genesis is an ongoing account of human failure. It begins with Adam and Eve’s disobedience and failure to trust God and His plan. Their son, Cain, fails to offer an appropriate sacrifice to God, which leads to murder of his brother, Abel. Noah demonstrates failure with his three sons by lying in a drunken stupor one night and exposing himself to one son, Ham, and then later reacting in a way that leads to disharmony among the sons. Abraham fails to lead his family properly on more than one occasion, using deception and dishonesty to get his way.

These illustrations are within the first twelve chapters of the Bible! We could go on and on, finding ways God’s people failed. But the encouraging part is that with every record of failure, God responded with mercy and grace. He knows we are going to fail, and wants to help us. However, we must be willing to admit our failures and look to Him for guidance.

It takes courage to keep trying when we fail. It takes humility to admit when we’re wrong. But sometimes the greatest growth in relationships comes from recognizing our weaknesses, admitting our failures, and striving to make changes in the future.

“Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” Chinese Proverb