Stepparenting Rewards

My stepson called me this week and asked for some “motherly advice.” He and his roommate were having trouble getting along and he wanted my view of the situation.

I was flattered that he asked for my opinion. But I was even more thankful to hear him ask for “motherly advice.” That’s as close as my stepson comes to referring to me as his mother.

Stepparents don’t get to experience rewards often, especially in the early years. So when we do receive a hard-earned reward for the job we’re doing, we can pat ourselves on the back, realizing our efforts are not in vain.

I have seen more rewards as a stepmother since my stepchildren reached young adulthood. The years I spent working on a healthy relationship and showing how much I cared for them are now rewarded with love and respect for me.

There were many times I wanted to give up and thought it was too hard to keep pursuing a relationship with them, especially when it was obvious they didn’t care about having another mom in their lives. But I now see the rewards I would have missed if I’d quit.

Perseverance is worth every effort we make. When we’re struggling in our stepparenting role, quitting is never the answer.

“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

Are you experiencing stepparenting rewards?

Take Care of the Small Stuff Before It Gets Big

I went to the dentist yesterday to take care of a broken filling. While I was there, I learned that in addition to breaking out the filling, I also broke part of the tooth.

If I hadn’t taken the time to have it fixed, the tooth would have likely continued to crack, resulting in only one option: extracting the tooth. Instead I have a nice pretty crown, solidifying the cracked tooth underneath.

When our stepfamily relationships experience brokenness, we need to be intentional in finding solutions for the problems. If we choose to ignore the challenges or deny they exist, we create larger problems that result in more complex solutions.

A dear friend of mine took an active role in raising her stepdaughter for many years. She loved her stepdaughter and treated her as her own. But as the child reached adolescence, the young girl became involved in drugs and running with the wrong crowd.

Her father chose to ignore the situation, hoping it would remedy itself. Of course it didn’t, and the young teen-age girl dove deeper into trouble with each friend she made. As a stepparent, my friend couldn’t take action without the support of her husband. But the child’s father refused to get involved, allowing his daughter to start down a path toward self-destruction.

Unfortunately, at 20 years old, the young lady now lives on the street, continues to abuse drugs, and has an out of wedlock one-year-old daughter she is ill-equipped to raise. The challenge of getting help she will respond to in her present condition has become insurmountable. It’s too late for a clean fix to a simple problem.

As stepparents, we can’t always control the solutions to stepfamily problems. But we can take part in finding solutions to the challenges we are directly involved in. We can also offer input to our spouse and pray diligently for wise choices with our stepchildren. If we approach difficult issues with our stepchildren as they arise, we are more likely to find answers with long-term success.

What challenges are you facing in your stepfamily? Will you take time to confront the small issues as they develop to prevent larger issues on the horizon?

Healthy Stepparenting #8: Find Balance

Today I want to include an article I wrote a few years ago when I was struggling to find balance in my life. I was overwhelmed with my responsibilities as a wife, stepmom, graduate student, and pregnant mother. I sought to make changes to relieve my feelings that were paralyzing me from fulfilling my roles.

As a stepparent, it’s easy to get covered up with too much to do and too many people to take care of. It’s our responsibility to find direction and balance in our roles. I hope you find the article helpful and would love to hear how you find balance in your life.

Living Life with Balance

When our family moved to Conway, AR from Texas ten years ago, I wrestled with an imbalanced life for several months. With three children in tow, and pregnant with another, I felt emotionally and physically spent. Our children struggled to adjust to elementary school after leaving family and friends behind in another state. I was finishing a Master’s degree that required completing two classes at the University of Central Arkansas, while studying for comprehensive exams covering two years of course work.

My husband worked in Jacksonville, adjusting to a new job that included long hours and a lengthy commute. Balancing my responsibilities became a daily struggle. Although I couldn’t change the circumstances at the time, I knew I had to do something different.

Balance is defined as “stability of body or mind” and “harmony and proportion.” Balance creates an environment for better health and allows for higher productivity. Without it, we experience instability and dissatisfaction.

When looking at our roles, women often wear many hats: wife, stepmom, employee, chauffeur, nurse, home manager,counselor, school volunteer … just to name a few. It’s easy to become overwhelmed unless we find a healthy balance, mindful of our time and responsibilities.

When we strive for balance, it’s important to look at how we spend our time in relation to what is important to us. We can ask ourselves, “Am I devoting enough time to the activities I am most interested in or simply going along with what I think has to be done? Am I reacting to last minute demands or planning ahead?” It’s necessary to establish our priorities and set our goals accordingly.

Learning to say no is the easiest way to take control of our time.

There are a lot of wonderful organizations and activities we can be involved in, but if we are seeking a life of balance, we must choose to participate in those that are most important to us.

Healthy balance also includes proper diet and exercise, along with adequate sleep. A study on lifespan reports, “People who maintain normal weight live an extra 11 years. People who exercise regularly live an extra 2.4 years.” While these are general figures for a large group of people, they illustrate the significance of proper diet and exercise.

Proper diet includes consuming more high-fiber foods, increasing our intake of fruits and vegetables, cutting down on too much fat and sugar, and lowering our salt consumption. Choosing foods with low-calorie density can also help with weight control. Low-density foods have a high water content, allowing a larger portion size with fewer calories. Examples of low-density foods include low-fat dairy products, broth-based soups, beans, and fruits and vegetables.

Regular exercise also contributes to balance by regulating mood swings, increasing energy levels and aiding with a variety of health issues. Research has shown that exercise reduces stress and improves our thinking. Even a small amount of exercise goes a long way toward improving our health and helping us feel better.

Adequate sleep is a key to balance that is often overlooked. Good sleep habits result in clearer thinking and sharper judgment. And some good news recently published: a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology reports that women who get adequate sleep (seven or more hours per night) are less likely to gain weight than those who don’t. Lack of sleep appears to negatively affect the hormones that regulate our appetite. What better reason to get to bed on time?

Another factor to consider as we look toward balance is spirituality. Joining a Bible study or participating in a prayer group can bring us a deeper sense of wholeness and harmony, as we grow spiritually.

An interesting book written by Dr. Jeff Levin, God, Faith, and Health: Exploring the Spirituality-Healing Connection, describes the connection between faith and health. His research gives numerous examples of the positive effects of faith as relating to health and wellness. One reviewer of the book, Janet Quinn, Ph.D., R.N., states, “…Levin reminds us of what we can no longer afford to ignore: that our spiritual life matters mightily to our health and well-being at every level.”

Lastly, we need to remember the importance of leisure time as we strive for balance. Coffee with a girlfriend, date night with our husband, or reading a book in a secluded place (away from the computer, PDA, and pager) may be the perfect solution to a long day. Making time to do what we enjoy recharges our energy levels when we return to our daily commitments.

Life with balance allows us better health, greater happiness and more productive lives. We may always lead busy lives, but if we are intentional with our time and responsibilities, we can live a life with balance.