Finding Success Through the Bumps on Your Stepparenting Journey

As I listened to my husband on the other end of the phone with his daughter, I knew something bad had happened. He handed the phone to me and said, “She wants to talk to you.”

1170300_important_callThrough tears, my stepdaughter, Adrianne, relayed that her boyfriend of six years had broken up with her. When she was home over Christmas, she had told us she thought they would be getting engaged in 2013. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.

My heart is breaking for her. I know she’ll work through her sadness but at 27 years old, she’s invested a lot of time in a relationship that’s come to a halt.

I’m thankful she has reached out to us during her difficult hour. She asked if she could come spend next week-end with us. Of course, we’re happy to have her drive the three hours to our place and visit any time.

Here’s the paradox of stepparenting. During her adolescent years, we had the typical stepmom-stepdaughter relationship — highly strained the majority of the time. Research shows the stepmom-stepdaughter relationship is often the most difficult. Our relationship was no different.

However, as she matured through her young adult years, Adrianne began reaching out to me more often.  She began asking my opinion on issues and calling us more regularly. She made it a priority to attend family vacations with us and create stronger relationships with her stepsisters.

Well into the second decade of our marriage, Adrianne and I have a wonderful relationship. I’m thankful we’ve been able to connect and can now enjoy our time together, instead of walking on egg shells when she’s around.

Does it have to take that long to bond with your stepchild? No! Some stepparents connect easily and find stepparenting a joy. But many do not.

The adolescent years of stepparenting are tough. It’s easy to slip into thinking that the relationship will always be strained.

The teen-age years may take a heavy toll on your relationship. But kids do grow up and often recognize the value of their parents when they leave the nest.

Don’t give up on finding success on your stepparenting journey. Maybe you won’t find it in the first decade of your marriage. Maybe it won’t happen until your stepchildren leave home.

But it’s never too late to enjoy the success of a thriving stepfamily relationship when it happens.

Is it taking longer than you hoped to find success on your stepparenting journey? Will you share about it?

Related Posts:

Learning How to Love my Stepchildren

Is It A Privilege to be a Stepparent?

Are You Willing to go the Distance as a Stepparent?


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.

It’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 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 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!

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

Related Posts:

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

More Mother’s Day Thoughts

Overcoming the Pain of Rejection

Learning How to Love My Stepchildren

As I continue my stepmom stories from our Stepping with Purpose e-book, I’m including one today from Laura Petherbridge, co-author of The Smart Stepmom. I think you’ll find her story encouraging.

“If I’m being totally honest there were times in my early years as a stepmom that I didn’t even like my stepsons, much less love them. To me they appeared spoiled and pampered, plus everyone in my husband’s family seemed to tip-toe around their wants and whines. This was the total opposite of the extremely strict, “children are seen and not heard,” single parent home in which I was raised.

  But as a Christian I desired to learn how to love them. I knew Christ could teach me, if I was willing. My heart’s cry was to be a loving stepmom who had a positive influence on my husband’s sons. So I prayed, and sought God’s wisdom.

The first thing God revealed to me was that I had a tainted view of the boys. They were hurting kids, not bratty villains. Their sharp, stinging comments were merely an angry response to their circumstances. They didn’t view me as a wonderful new addition to their family; to them I was the new woman rocking their boat of security. In their eyes, I was taking away their Daddy.

Plus, I had to accept that just because I was raised in a stern home with firm rules didn’t mean that was how my husband or his former wife wanted to raise their children. I was not the parent – they were. Therefore, unless the kids were being disrespectful or harmful to me, it was not my place to interfere. For a control freak like me it was extremely  hard to do, but if my marriage was to survive I had to step back, and let go of the things I could not control.

The second discovery I made was that God would use the good and the bad in my life for His glory, if I let Him. He wanted to transform my painful childhood into a channel to love. My dad remarried twice after the divorce from my mom. Therefore, I knew what it felt like to be the child who moved from the front seat in my dad’s car and life, to the back seat. This revelation stirred in me a tremendous compassion toward my stepsons. I understood it wasn’t me they were rejecting, but the circumstances. And they were afraid of more change.

Thirdly, I encountered the “Daddy Wound” to my own soul. One of the things that used to infuriate me about my stepsons was the way they treated their dad. I felt they were neglectful, rude and unappreciative. My husband was diligent to visit his kids and to pay child support on time. He would get excited and make plans for visitation, but at the last  minute the boys would cancel. I’d watch him break down and cry saying, “They don’t believe that I love them, they don’t want to spend time with me.”

I was enraged and would think to myself, “I longed to have a dad who wanted to spend time with me, but he was always too busy. You have a loving father who is willing to give his time and resources and this is how you treat him. How dare you?” The toxic thoughts would brew inside of me, until one day God broke through my wall of pain. He revealed that my fury was a “knee jerk” reaction to my own deep seated feelings of abandonment.

As my Heavenly Daddy revealed all of these things, I surrendered my anger, frustration, and the need to be in control. He began to heal the wounds in my little soul, and filled the hole of shame and loneliness that had resided there for so long with His unconditional love. The freedom and peace that followed flowed into a love for others, including my stepsons.

Each stepfamily has its own hurdles, ours is no different. Choosing and learning to love my stepsons didn’t automatically fix every problem. But it did teach me how to see them through Christ’s eyes, and  not my own. And that transforms everything.”

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, stepfamilies, singles, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t,” and a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series. Her book The Smart Stepmom, is co-authored with stepfamily expert Ron L. Deal. Her website is

Will you please join us at our next stepmom retreat? It’s a great place for hope, healing, and camaraderie with other stepmoms walking the same journey. Details here:


Other Posts You Might Like:

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

Affirming You in Your Role as a Childless Stepmom

Sick of Stepparenting?

The Beauty of God’s Grace

I’m posting a devotion today that I wrote for NIV devotional contest for Mom’s. Hope you find it helpful.  🙂


When I married my second husband I took his last name, Grace.  God offered me another chance at marriage after failing the first time.  With my second wedlock came a new role: stepmother to my husband’s son and daughter. As the mother of two daughters already, I knew and cherished the role of Mom. But I had no idea how vastly different the role of stepmother would be.

 My new role proved challenging and full of obstacles. I made a lot of mistakes. And I struggled with rejection when my stepchildren didn’t embrace me right away.

But I knew I had been placed in their lives for a reason. I wanted to add value and make a difference as their stepmother. I began to pray about how to love and accept them as my own.

God spoke to me about offering grace more often. He reminded me that He freely offered grace as a gift to me when I didn’t deserve it and challenged me to do the same.

With God’s help, I began displaying more grace to my stepchildren. It wasn’t long before I noticed they were doing the same for me. They began to love and accept me as another maternal figure in their lives. Our interactions contained less conflict and more forgiveness. And now in their young adult years, my stepchildren and I enjoy meaningful, purposeful relationships.

I don’t deserve the gift of grace God offers me. But I accept it. And from a thankful heart  I seek to offer God’s grace to my children and stepchildren, freely and abundantly.

Ephesians 2:8-9   “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it  is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

How do you show grace toward your stepchildren? Does it make a difference in your relationship?

Related Posts:

The Perfect Opportunity for Grace

Finding the Beauty of God’s Grace in Your Stepfamily

Offering the Gift of Prayer

Our three college children have been taking semester finals last week and this week. I’ve been praying for them diligently as I remember how overwhelming final exams can be.

As I was finishing my Christmas shopping this week, I ran across a merchant inside the mall who was selling hand-made gifts from Bethlehem. It was intriguing to look at the beautiful hand-carved pieces. When I spotted one of praying hands, I knew immediately I would purchase it. And not only did I purchase one, I purchased six of them.

My idea is to place one of the praying hands inside each of our children’s stockings and my husband’s stocking. I want each of them to keep it as a reminder that I will be praying for them daily in the upcoming year and if they have a specific need, they can always ask me to pray about it.

Four of our children are young adults, ages 18 – 26, and are making life-changing decisions at this juncture. I’m vividly aware of the mistake I made at 23 years old when I married a man that was a complete mistake, ending in divorce after years of heartache and pain. My hope is that none of our children make a dreadful decision like mine.

So I’m offering the gift of prayer to my family this year. It may not seem like a big gift and I know some of our children will appreciate the gift more than others, but it’s a gift I feel is important.

What do you think? Will you consider offering the gift of prayer for your family?

Related Posts:

Prayer Changes Relationships

Parenting From Your Knees

Commit to the Lord

Encouragement for You As a Childless Stepmom

I’m not a childless stepmom. But I have the greatest respect for those of you who are.

For many years, I didn’t give much thought to what it would feel like to be a childless stepmom. But after talking to several of you and watching how you do life, I realize the ultimate sacrifice you make as a stepmom without children of your own.

We know that a stepmom doesn’t get to experience the “firsts” of a biological mom. The first one to have a child with your husband. The first one to experience parenting with your spouse and your baby. The first one to make any kind of a decision regarding that child and a host of decisions later.

But a childless stepmom never gets to experience those events or realize the joy of having a biological child, even if it’s from a previous relationship.

Many childless stepmoms I’ve spoken with are not childless by choice. Infertility plays a role all too often. And the roller coaster of trying to conceive takes a heavy toll every time.

If you’re struggling with infertility or any kind of extended wait, you might find comfort from a devotion posted by Tracies Mills with Proverbs 31 Ministries, titled “Waiting for God’s Best.” It speaks of the 20 year wait Isaac endured before his wife, Rebekah, gave birth to their twins (Genesis 25:26). Waiting is hard. And waiting without answers can be unbearable.

A childless stepmom faces different challenges than a stepmom with her own children. She is misunderstood by the parenting community and perhaps not even accepted by other moms. She endures the same parenting challenges but receives little reward for her efforts.

So if you’re a childless stepmom, I affirm you in your role. God bless you in your efforts to make a difference in your stepchildren’s lives. And although others may not appreciate or recognize the important role you play, you can be assured that you, as a stepmom, have value.

Are you struggling in your role as a childless stepmom? Do you need to reach out to other stepmoms?  Will you share how you cope with the challenges you encounter?