Dear Stepparent: Chase After Progress, Not Perfection

Dear Stepparent: Chase After Progress, Not Perfection

I talk to stepparents all the time who blame themselves for a poor relationship with their stepchild. “If only I had more patience with my stepchild, if only I had more time to spend with him, if only, if only, if only.”

The truth is, it probably wouldn’t matter if you were the perfect stepparent. You might still have a disjointed relationship with your stepchild.

Why?

Because there are so many other variables that help determine what kind of relationship you and your stepchild will have.

That doesn’t take you off the hook. It’s important that you continue to work toward a loving, meaningful relationship with your stepchild. But it also helps to recognize that you don’t control the whole picture.

Dear Stepparent: Chase After Progress, Not Perfection

Outside Influences

Your stepchild has other people and circumstances that influence his or her relationship with you. Here are the most common ones:

  • If the biological parent in the other home is discouraging a relationship with you as the stepparent.
  • If your spouse isn’t supporting you in your stepparenting role.
  • If your spouse is a passive parent and as a result, you step into the parental role too soon.
  • If your stepchild has lost their biological parent to death, there are likely ghosts in the closet that affect your relationship.
  • If the biological parent in the other home is dysfunctional, your stepchild feels pulled toward that parent.
  • If you married while your stepchildren were in their teen years, they’re more interested in seeking independence than bonding with new family members.
  • If you had a short dating period with your partner, it’s likely your stepchildren didn’t have enough time to process their feelings of loss, which will impact your relationship with them.

Down the Road

After we had been married several years, my two girls had bonded well with my husband and began calling him Dad. I was jealous of their relationship. It looked different than the one I had with my stepchildren. Convinced I was doing something wrong, I didn’t realize how the variables affecting my stepchildren—like a mom who discouraged a relationship with me—kept them at a distance.

We try to do everything right as a stepparent, thinking that will create the relationship we’re seeking.

The reality is, we aren’t responsible for and cannot change many of the variables that influence the relationship with our stepchild.

Time is on your side. I’m thankful today for healthy, thriving relationships with my adult stepchildren.

Chase after progress, not perfection and you’ll experience rewards down the road.

Have you seen rewards on your step journey? Share them with us!

Learn how the 90/10 principle can change your stepparenting

Learn How the 90/10 Principle Can Change Your Stepparenting

We experience all kinds of challenges on our stepparenting journey. Whether it’s a rebellious stepchild, a combative ex-spouse, or a loneliness that pervades your home, here’s a strategy that can help.

How the 90/10 principle can

Have you heard of the 90/10 principle? It’s a Steven Covey principle that says:

“10% of life is made up of what happens to you. 90% of life is decided by how you react.”

How do we translate that to stepfamily life?

Here are a few examples:

You can’t control influences from the other home that affect your stepchildren’s attitude toward you. But you can control your response to their behavior. You can refuse to be offended by a cold stare or apathetic demeanor and commit to maintaining a positive perspective.

You can’t control the behavior of an ex-spouse. But you can decide to stay out of the conflict and give your spouse freedom to manage it without your interference.

You can’t control whether your stepchild makes a bad choice, but you can control how you react. You can get angry and demean your stepchild, or you can calmly discuss the incident with consequences.

You can’t control the effects of loyalty conflict that bleed into your home and affect your relationships. But you can choose to be kind toward your stepchild when he talks about his mom,  which in turn influences his relationship with you.

Our circumstances may not be within our control. But our reactions are!

A personal example

A few years ago, we had an ongoing refrigerator problem at our house for more than six weeks! A technician came out three separate times, replacing various parts and fixing it momentarily. But it never stayed fixed for long! Our home warranty wouldn’t allow us to replace the refrigerator without their approval.

One day I was so angry over the slow response and a non-functioning refrigerator, that I unleashed on the technician (Not a good response). It didn’t solve the problem and only made me feel bad later for my behavior.

Finally, my husband and I decided to purchase a spare refrigerator. We had been considering the need for a second appliance anyway, and it solved our problem. A few weeks later, the home warranty company decided our refrigerator was non-repairable and replaced it. We were thankful for the decision but had quit stressing over their lack of efficiency and solved the problem ourselves.

We face stressful circumstances every day in our stepfamilies. Our relationships are affected by how we act and what we say.

We have a choice: will we act proactively or will we react?

 

Overcoming Self Doubt as a Stepparent

Today I share a guest blog post by a fellow stepmom: Julie Langley of Shreveport, LA. Her story as a stepmom offers comfort and hope!

Overcoming Self-doubt as a Stepparent

 

I have both married and single friends. Those with kids and those without. Some knew they wanted to be parents from the moment they began to think of their future. Others don’t have children either by their own choice or because of health concerns.

I never had that desire to have a baby. As my 20s turned into 30s, I knew it was likely that someday I might marry someone with children. That was fine. I could handle it. Then I met Kevin, widowed with two girls. We fell in love and married a year later. Everything was perfect… or so I thought.

The day after we returned home from our honeymoon, he went to work, and I was left alone with an 8 and 13-year-old. Both had different needs and were in different places in life. They longed for a connection with a mother figure, but teetered on the familiarity of handling things in their own way. They pushed me to see what they could get away with and challenged me to think outside the neat little box I had envisioned for my life moving forward.

Self-doubt set in quickly when I realized this was more than babysitting. It was my life. I questioned then, and still do five years later, if the decisions I make daily concerning the kids are right. What do we do today? What do I cook? Should I be a rule setter or just try to be their friend?

I quickly learned that boundaries had to be established, and I couldn’t always be the fun or cool stepparent.

There was a time for homework, cleaning rooms and doing chores, and a time to relax, have fun and play. When my husband came home from work, there needed to be time for us to sit down alone and talk about our day. There also needed to be time for the girls to tell about their day. So, as part of our crazy busy day, we have dinner at the table every night to sit down as a family and reflect.

I continue to learn that God, as our Heavenly Father, is always doing things on our behalf for the greater good. We may not understand how, why or even when, but His timing is perfect. As His children, we may get frustrated, angry or confused, but He is ultimately in control.

The first week of being a stepmom I was on my knees a lot praying for wisdom and sanity. I also found myself calling my own precious mother for advice, wisdom, or just to say “thank you” for the things she taught me. Perhaps someday I can be the “mom” on the other end of the line offering wisdom to one of my stepdaughters.

It’s not about being stern or being cool. It’s about being present, setting boundaries and meeting needs in the moment. Every day we are faced with new situations, obstacles, and challenges.

I remind myself often of the verse in Jeremiah 29:11 that says, “For I know the plans I have for you. This is the Lord’s declaration – Plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

The key to success as a stepparent is knowing Who is in control and letting God be the author of your story.

Julie’s Bio: I’ve been married to Kevin for four years. I had almost given up on dating when I met him through eHarmony. I said I would never do online dating, but then I may have never met Kevin. I grew up in Canton, Texas, where I served in various roles over a 15-year period at the local newspapers (six to be exact), including editor. When we married, I moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, where Kevin and his two girls Hannah, 18, and Emily, 14, lived. I brought one very spoiled puppy to the family, and later we added two extremely goofy cats to the mix. During my journalism career, I have written for a number of publications, and aspire to publish one of my many fiction books.


Need more encouragement for your stepparenting road? Look for Gayla’s new devotional book, Stepparenting With Grace, to be published by Worthy Publishing, August 2018.

Or check out her current one here.

 

7 Resolutions that Count by Gayla Grace

7 Resolutions that Count

When I married my husband, I set out to be the perfect stepparent.

I read all the books.

I went to the conferences.

I worked overtime to do everything right for my stepchildren.

But I wasn’t a perfect stepmom. I made a lot of mistakes. After more than 20 years, experience has taught me that I don’t have to be a perfect stepmom for my stepchildren to grow to love and accept me.

This year, instead of making resolutions about being a better stepmom, I decided to consider a few resolutions on how to move past my imperfections and keep going on days I want to quit as a not-so-perfect stepparent.

7 Resolutions that Count by Gayla Grace

So, this year I commit to …

1. Remind myself daily that “I can do all things through Christ” (Phil 4:13). Stepparenting is hard. When I try to do it alone, I fail. Thankfully, God wants to walk this journey with me. He will give me the strength and wisdom I need each day if I ask for His help.

 2. Let go of the Stepmom guilt. We all experience it from time to time. We let our mind run away with what we’ve done wrong as a stepparent. Or we compare our stepfamily to our neighbor’s perfectly-blended family and let the criticism begin. Stepmom guilt steps in when we expect everything in our home to be perfect. But that’s never going to happen. Why not let go of unrealistic expectations that keep you bound to guilt when you don’t measure up?

3. Forgive myself when I fail. A defeated stepparent doesn’t parent effectively. When I get caught up in negative self-talk over a poor parenting choice, I continue down a negative path. Forgiving myself for less-than-stellar stepparenting moments allows me to begin again with a renewed mind and a fresh perspective on my parenting challenges.

4. Seek out support from other stepmoms on hard days. My neighbor is a single parent with two school-aged children. She recognizes her need for help in juggling her responsibilities and asks other moms to help with carpool or after school care when work demands become overwhelming. We need fellow stepmoms to walk alongside us with encouraging words and support on hard days. If you haven’t found local stepmoms, check out Sisterhood of Stepmom group on Facebook.

5. Listen to my heart on how to parent my stepchild, instead of others’ opinions. It’s easy to run to the phone and ask our best friend what to do when we’re facing a difficult parenting moment, but if we step back and listen to our heart, we make better decisions. Considering our stepchild’s personality as part of the parenting equation also helps tailor our parenting in a healthier light.

6. Nurture my marriage. Stepchildren eventually exit the nest–both of my stepchildren have. Unfortunately, many step couple marriages don’t make it long enough to see that occur. Strong marriages don’t just happen — they require regular nurturing. I want to reach beyond an ordinary marriage by supporting my husband as his biggest fan and most loyal friend.

7. Take time to run, or quilt, or whatever activity works for me to re-group when the stepparenting strain takes over.  It’s important to re-group and make time for self-care when we’re about to go off the parenting cliff. When I balance the demands of stepparenting with activities I look forward to, I more effectively handle the strains of stepparenting.

As you start a new year, do you have resolutions to consider as a not-so-perfect stepparent? Do you need a mindset do-over that includes room for imperfection and second chances as a stepparent?

Perhaps that’s the ticket to success this year on your not-so-perfect stepparenting journey!

Happy New Year!

Do you have other resolutions to add? Leave me a comment and let me know.

*A revised version of this article was originally published in Stepmom Magazine, January 2014.
Emotionally Empty? Run Down, and Out of Gas? by Gayla Grace

Emotionally Empty? Run Down and Out of Gas?

Some days your body wears out, you get run down, and then you’re sick. Maybe it’s a stomach virus, the flu, an upper respiratory illness…it doesn’t matter WHAT the illness is, just THAT it is. In order to recover, we make changes to our schedule. We grab an extra hour of sleep if possible. We don’t attend the committee meeting. Maybe we nap in the afternoon. OK, that one could be a stretch, but I hope you get the point…when our bodies are physically ill, we make changes in our routine to help our bodies recover.

But what about the times we’re emotionally ill? Should we ignore it and pretend things are fine?

Emotionally Empty? Run Down, and Out of Gas? by Gayla Grace

 

If you’ve been a stepparent for long, then you have probably experienced the emotional illness known as “TOS”.  Those days when you are exhausted and

Tired Of Stepparenting.

You’d like to take a pass, leave the house, have someone else deal with the stepkids while you do something. While you do anything other than the normal. You know what I’m referring to. The routine, the mundane parenting tasks, and the responsibilities you assume when you’re not the parent. And often, with few rights.

The continuous energy required to do the right thing (after all, you are the adult!) with little or no appreciation can be draining, to say the least.

If you’re suffering from “TOS”, maybe it’s time to MAKE time for self-care.

Simple things like go for a walk. Or put all your gadgets on airplane mode for 15 minutes and take a short break and sit still. Have lunch with a friend. Make time for a massage. If affordable, plan a getaway with your spouse.

The goal is to take a break from your regular routine and do something nice for yourself.

Assuming the role of a stepparent is no easy task. It can be a demanding role and you aren’t even the star of the show. As stepparents, we need to decide when it’s time to take a break from the routine. We have to learn to recognize when our emotional tank is running low and schedule a time, a place, and a method for refilling it. We can then continue the stepparenting journey in a healthy manner. For us AND our stepchildren.

Do you need a break? Do you need a weekend away from the routine?

Take it! As a stepparent, you deserve it.

Do you have any ideas for filling your emotional tank? Please share them in the comments,

Success Where it Matters Most by Gayla Grace

Success Where it Matters Most

Success Where It Matter Most by Gayla Grace

Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” Francis Chan

In 2007, as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy was the first African-American coach to win the Super Bowl. That win made him one of only three individuals who’ve won the Super Bowl as both a player and head coach. I admire the man, but not because of his Super Bowl victories. I admire him because of his passionate desire to walk his life path in a manner that reflects his Christian values. Tony Dungy knows how to distinguish the important from the unimportant and make time for the things that truly matter.

In his book, Uncommon, Finding Your Path to Significance, Coach Dungy says, “We have all missed too many memories and moments in our lives because of poorly ordered priorities. But even so, it’s never too late to set things straight … Start here: ‘Seek first his kingdom.’ (Matthew 6:33). Take a few moments to be quiet and spend time with God. He will lessen your worries about tomorrow and release you from the breathless pace of the world’s urgent priorities.”

Time spent on what matters most will look different to each of us.

We must be intentional with our time, lest we find ourselves on the treadmill of busyness.

We may find ourselves focusing on the urgency of the present, instead of the lasting permanence of significant moments.

Stepparenting is an endeavor that must be taken seriously. We have to learn how to prioritize our tasks and our time and find the right balance.

Here are 5 things I have learned to incorporate into my decision making. They all help me find that balance.

1. Learn to say NO. If it is important to the family, then discuss it and make a decision. But to simplify our schedules, we must learn to say no.

2. Eat right and include regular exercise in your routine. Most of us know we NEED to do this, we just don’t. When we take care of ourselves physically, we better equip ourselves to make good choices. Thus allowing us to focus on the things that matter the most.

3. Get adequate rest.  When we get busy, sleep is often the first thing we give up. Don’t do it! Lack of sleep will create problems in other areas of life. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can negatively affect many areas of our life, including hormones and weight gain.

4. Maintain a spiritual journey to bring wholeness and harmony to your being. Find an active Bible study group, attend church regularly, join a prayer group, or use personal study time to grow spiritually. Walking a spiritual road can have a significant effect on our well-being at every level.

5. Make time for a fun activity. Coffee with a girlfriend, date night with our spouse, or simply a walk around the block can create the perfect environment to recharge our batteries when we began to head toward overload.

We have to be intentional with our time and responsibilities if we want to maintain balance.

We all have the same number of hours in a day but how we choose to spend them is our choice.

Do you feel out of balance? What healthy choices will you make to put your schedule in balance?