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What Happens to Your Marriage When the Kids are Gone by Gayla Grace

Your Marriage Counts: What Happens When the Kids are Gone?

My husband and I celebrated 22 years of marriage this past weekend. Of our five children, we have only one still at home who is an “ours” child, 16-year-old Nathan.  Although life still has challenges, our marriage, most of the time, is free of tension and conflict. I don’t say that to brag, but to offer hope.

It hasn’t always been that way.

If you’ve read much of my blog, then you’ve heard my stories of disharmony and stepfamily struggles. I’ve opened my heart about our challenges in hopes you could avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made.

As I think about what advice I’d give as we celebrate another anniversary, I want to offer a reminder: your marriage counts.

What Happens to Your Marriage When the Kids are Gone? Words of encouragement by Gayla Grace

One day the kids will be gone.

The food fights at the dinner table, the step-sibling squabbles over who sits in the front seat, the arguments over chores that didn’t get done, the lingering smell of dirty laundry that emanates from their bedroom, the curfews that are broken…those things won’t matter anymore.

If we’re fulfilling our role correctly as parents and stepparents, we will work our way out of a job.

Our kids will fly away and lead thriving adult lives.

It will be the two of us.

Will we have a marriage left? Will you have a marriage left?

 

Parenting and stepparenting is a season. And like all seasons, the season will end.

Please don’t neglect to nurture your marriage.

In the midst of watching your stepson at the soccer field, hold your partner’s hand.

While making dinner for the family, smile at your spouse across the room.

On a busy afternoon at work, stop and send a text that says, I love you.

Sure, anniWill you still have a marriage when the kids leave home?versary trips are nice and date nights are important, but even simple gestures of love can keep relationships connected when schedules don’t allow for extended time together.

If you’re stuck in unresolved conflict or tension that won’t subside, seek professional help. Stepfamily life is complicated. Sometimes you need help from a neutral party who can identify the root of an issue and what to do about it. Be sure to find a pastor, counselor, or coach who understands stepfamily dynamics.

I also encourage you to check out helpful resources for stepfamilies. My husband and I are currently leading a stepfamily class at our church with the book, The Smart Stepfamily Marriage: Keys to Success in the Blended Family. It’s a great book to go through together as a couple that shows how to build on your relationship strengths and helps you improve your weaknesses.

Your marriage counts.

Do you have suggestions on how to nurture your remarriage? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

 

 

 

The Path to Super StepMom Status by Gayla Grace

The Path to Super StepMom Status

The Path to Super StepMom Status by Gayla GraceIn my 20 plus years of being a stepmom, I have had more conversations than I can count with other stepmoms who are frustrated and desperately trying to achieve SUPER STEPMOM STATUS. It’s as if it’s an award to be given out at the end of the year. But they aren’t achieving the status and instead end up feeling like a failure. Year after year they vow it will be different but the next year rolls around and things are the same. No award. No loving stepchild who thinks they are great.

No. It’s just the same ole thing.  And often we feel we’ve failed.

You are not alone.

You are not the first nor will you be the last stepmom to:

  • think you have failed.
  • believe with all your heart that you CAN be the best stepmom ever!
  • believe your stepchild will LOVE you!
  • and they will want to be your friend!

The reality is that they don’t think you’re the best. They may not ever love you nor want to be your friend.

I speak from experience. During my stepson’s adolescent years, he found all kinds of reasons to dislike me. Some of them might have been legitimate, but most were unfounded. Regardless of how hard I tried to be a good stepmom to him, he rejected my efforts.

I tried. He rejected. I tried again. He rejected again.

The cycle went on.

I wish I could tell you there was a “magic formula” to ensure stepmom success. But I can’t tell you that. What I can tell you is there’s no such thing as “SUPER STEPMOM!”

So…

Sometimes we’re dealing with a difficult teenager. Or a younger child that whines and cries.

Are we going to want to quit and throw in the towel? Most definitely! But we have to remember we’re the adult in the equation. We need to keep our cool as best we can. We can pray and ask for strength from the One who is greater than we are. And then remember …  this is normal stepfamily dynamics.

I’ve been married to my stepson’s dad for 20+ years. Finally, after many difficult years, my stepson and I now have a good relationship.

Is it because I became a different person toward him?

No. It’s because he has matured into a young man who, at 27  years old, recognizes and appreciates the role I’ve played in his life.

 Did I want to quit being his stepmom during those adolescent years?

Absolutely!

Did I deserve the treatment I received?

No!

Am I thankful I didn’t walk away?

Yes!

Quitting is NOT the answer!

Trying to achieve SUPER STEPMOM status does not guarantee a good relationship with your stepchild.

It almost always results in unmet expectations. Consistent love over time, through the ups and downs of life, could be the difference.

Remember this: regardless of your stepchild’s behavior, the only way you fail in this role, is if you quit.

Are you trying to be SUPER STEPMOM?  How is that working out for you?

3 things you can do to reduce the tension between homes

Three Ways to Help Reduce Tension Between Homes

Three things to do to lessen the tension between homes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s early August and school will be starting soon (it has actually already started for our son). The kids will have practice or lessons after school, and they may be juggling their stuff between two households.

I know there are worse things in life than heading out the door and having Joey or Susie say, “I left my trumpet at Mom’s (or Dad’s) house.”

But the morning that happens…well, it doesn’t seem like things could be much worse.

Here’s the deal…

I’ve been there.

I’ve done this.

I’ve LIVED this.

The tension in these situations is REAL.

But there IS hope. The back and forth between households was a problem my husband and I wanted to tackle. We wanted the transition between homes to be as smooth and stress-free as possible.

We came up with three important strategies that worked for us.

Maybe they will help you navigate your “between-home waters” this school year.

  1. Limit trivial conversations.  We made the kids take responsibility for books, uniforms, band instruments, whatever to avoid multiple trips between houses. We reduced our interaction over trivial matters with the exes to devote our energies to peaceful conversations on things that mattered most.
  2. Limit unnecessary interactions. As stepparents, we didn’t attend every event for every child. If the other biological parent was going to be there, there was no reason to always put ourselves through an uncomfortable situation with an ex-spouse just a few rows over. Attend the important stuff, show your support, but choose wisely when the situation allows for a choice.
  3. Limit family activities and expectations. Do everyone a favor on transition day and limit your activities. There is enough emotional turmoil in the child’s life without adding extra things to do.

What do you do to lessen the “between household” tension?

This is a revision of an article I originally wrote for Focus on the Family. You can read the original article here.

 

 

 

Sisterhood of Stepmoms Retreat

Why Attend a Sisterhood of Stepmom Retreat?

Sisterhood of Stepmoms (SOS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping any woman dating, engaged or married to a man with kids find help, hope, and healing. We walk alongside women to offer answers to the challenges that accompany the journey.

Our SOS team is making plans for our 4th annual retreat at the Dallas Cooper Hotel and Spa September 22-23, 2017. We have some wonderful speakers joining us and will have workshops on topics that include:

      • The Ex-Wife: How to Cope with a Difficult Relationship
      • Parental Alienation Syndrome
      • What About the Kids:  The Effects of Loss
      • What Healthy Boundary Setting Looks Like
      • When You Want a Baby of Your Own
      • The Full-Time Stepmom
      • First Aid Kit for Your Marriage
      • Adult Stepchildren
      • Your Emotions Don’t Define You
      • And More!

 

Here are a few comments from women who have attended our retreats in the past:

“It meant the world—meeting the other stepmoms was life-saving!”

“I have felt so alone but this gave me tools to use to better the environment in my home.”

“It is priceless to know women who understand your heart and your hurt.”

“The stepmom retreat experience means hope to me.”

I hope you’ll consider joining us! You’ll find all the details at Sisterhood of Stepmoms. 

I’d love to meet you there!

When Disharmony is the Norm by Gayla Grace

When Disharmony is the Norm

 

When Disharmony is the Norm by Gayla Grace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted a peaceful home. Harmony and order. Randy and I were newly married, and I’d hoped our kids would get along and be kind to each other.

I soon realized that was more like a dream. And achieving it, a tall order.

A VERY tall order.

We were parenting four kids from two different homes. Two different backgrounds. Two sets of rules. Two sets of expectations.

And we were all learning to live together. Conflict, accompanied by heightened emotions, erupted all too often. Most of the time, there was little warning.

Peace and harmony were not the norm. Getting along and treating each other with kindness…uh, not so much.

Then I attended a stepfamily conference. I heard stepfamily expert Ron Deal speak.

“In a stepfamily, you must learn to endure disharmony.” he said.

His words gave me hope. They relieved my guilt about the lack of peace in my home.When Disharmony is the Norm by Gayla Grace

When we join two families and begin to untangle the emotions, the circumstances, and the history that brought everyone together, it’s not unusual to have minor (or major) emotional eruptions.

In the beginning, I thought we were failing in our relationships when we couldn’t get along. Ron’s words made me realize that instead of failing we were normal!

That didn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue peaceful relationships. But it helped to remember we were only responsible for our efforts, not the outcome.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” Romans 12:18

It’s not usually just ONE thing that contributes to the emotional disruptions. It’s MANY things.  The behavior in our stepchildren’s other home, teenage emotions, stepsibling rivalry, a difficult ex-spouse, loss from death or divorce—they all have a tremendous impact on the climate in our home but are out of our control.

Even if we do everything right as stepparents, there will likely be tension and days of little peace in the early years of a stepfamily.

Is your stepfamily in the midst of disharmony? Hang in there! This season will pass.

“…but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26b

Look for ways to get the support you need to walk this rocky road. Find other stepmoms or friends who can encourage you while your stepfamily works out its kinks. Look for ways to take care of yourself that allow you to recharge and renew your spirit.

Attend our upcoming Sisterhood of Stepmoms retreat and find hope and encouragement!

But don’t give up! Stepfamily life gets easier with time.

Is your stepfamily in the midst of disharmony? Will you share how you cope with it?

Stepparenting: Nine Tips to Help You Rise Above the Daily Grind

9 Tips for Rising Above the Stepparenting Daily Grind by Gayla Grace

A knot formed in my stomach as I watched my son, a high school soccer player, clutch his chest and bend over, gasping for air. Mouth wide open, he stood almost lifeless. I knew what was happening.

Asthma had struck again.

Play on the field continued; no one noticed Nathan was barely breathing. My lips quivered as tears welled in my eyes. “Take a knee, son. Flag for help,” I hollered. My heart began to race. I knew the danger of the scene.

His hand went up. Finally, the referee saw him. Nathan started walking off the field and straight to his bag. I watched every movement as he pulled out his rescue inhaler and put it to his mouth. Breathing the medicine into his lungs, I exhaled a sigh of relief. The immediate crisis was over.

Walking to the car after the game, Nathan said, “I hate asthma.” Although he works hard to take every step his doctor instructs, the daily grind of asthma won out that day. The cold winter air, the back-to-back tournament games, the overexertion on the soccer field—it was more than his body could take.

The same happens with stepparenting. We try to do everything right as we manage the challenges that come our way. But sometimes it’s not enough. Stepparenting continues to be a struggle, even after 4, 8, or 15 years together. Some things get easier, but some things don’t.

How do you keep moving forward when you’re tired of the daily grind of stepparenting?

 

Here are a few suggestions.

  1.  Don’t assume responsibility for your stepchildren’s behavior.

Freedom comes when we recognize we can do our part to encourage good decision-making, healthy friendships, and mature behavior, but there are other influences—that we can’t control—that also play a role. Don’t take responsibility for your stepchildren’s poor choices.

  1. Steer clear of negative people – including other stepparents who choose negative thinking.

Find solutions to your challenges instead of complaining about them. Look for out-of-the-box answers. Don’t give up when the outlook seems distressing. There are always new tomorrows but we must commit to start again, try new solutions, and avoid dismal thinking.

  1. Cherish the good days and on hard days, remember “this too will pass.”

Life is hard, whether you reside in a stepfamily or not. Even after 22 years as a stepparent, I have days when I’m frustrated with my stepchildren’s choices or angry with my husband’s decisions regarding them. But we have a lot of good days together as a family. Those are the days I choose to focus on and let go of the hard ones.

  1. Spend time away from your stepchildren.

Create your own space to retreat to for healthy self-preservation. Go to a movie by yourself. Spend the afternoon with a good book and your favorite latte. Plan a few days away with a girlfriend. Make time for You!

  1. Find a friend, minister, or counselor who will listen, without judgment or condemnation, when you feel you’re going over the edge.

You will have irrational days, no matter how long you’ve been a stepparent. Some days we just don’t cope well, or life takes a turn we don’t like. Find support to help work through your feelings.

  1. Reach out to other stepparents – find ways to support those struggling on the stepparenting journey.

We naturally take our eyes off our challenges and ourselves when we focus on others. Help another stepparent find answers to their struggles—it will likely help you with your own.

  1. Nurture your marriage.

You’ve heard me say it many times but it’s worth repeating – your stepchildren will someday leave home. Mine have both flown away and I’m thankful we didn’t neglect our marriage during the child-rearing years.

  1. Rise above your circumstances.

Create a heart of gratitude. Don’t get out of bed in the morning until you’ve listed five things you’re thankful for in your head. Do it again when you go to bed. Joy can be found in the midst of challenge, but we have to choose it.

  1. Find solace through faith.

Recognize that God knows what you’re going through and will walk though it with you if you seek Him. Meditate on Scripture. Pray. Join a Bible study. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8

If you’ve been a stepparent long, you understand the daily grind. But you don’t have to get stuck there. It’s a choice.

What other suggestions would you give to help cope with the daily grind of stepparenting?