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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.
Five Ways to Find Peace During the Holidays by Gayla Grace

Five Ways to Find Peace During the Holidays

Today my friend, Barb Goldberg, shares her thoughts on celebrating the holidays as a stepfamily.

 

 

What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you think about stepfamilies and holidays?

I’m guessing it isn’t peace!

Stepfamilies have an advantage over other families. We know that we have to practice our mediation skills. And we know that we have to establish our peace processes now.

Stepfamily or not, holidays are stressful! But a stepfamily holiday experience can be holiday stress on steroids.

In addition to the everyday chores of a holiday, we get to juggle divorce agreements, children’s schedules, ex-wives, extended family, egos, and gifting. All within a 24-48 hour time frame.

Although it may sound like a nightmare, peace is within our grasp.

Here are five tips that can take your holidays from a war zone to a haven of thankfulness and serenity.

  • Generosity of time
    Be flexible with the schedules. It’s important to keep those agreed-upon commitments, but if a parent runs late, let it go. Relatives may be visiting and holiday events can make you forget about time. Roll with it. Children hate to hear those arguments. It completely stresses them out.
  • Fight the urge to compete
    It’s easy to fall prey to gift wars. In a subconscious battle to win your stepchildren’s love, don’t start buying expensive presents to impress them. The only person who will be impressed is the executive who runs your credit card company. Children know what you’re doing and it’s a bad lesson to teach. Keep the gifts thoughtful regardless of what the other ‘side’ is giving.
  • Write the ex a note
    Holidays are a great time to be grateful and thankful. Write your stepchildren’s parent a note and let them know how much you appreciate their children and the time you spend with them. If you have any other lovely things to express, please do so. There is still nothing like getting a written note.
  •  Act the way you want the holiday to be.  If you still feel like ‘humbug’ when you envision your holidays, act the way you would like them to be. Human behavior is contagious and you will spread cheer when you pretend. Even if you are miserable, don’t show it on the outside. You will be shocked at how you will be convinced by your own show.
  • Swallow your tears and volunteer!
    Volunteering is the best way to spend your time. If you are without your children this holiday, it is the best distraction. If you are with your children, it is the best lesson. Helping others will put your stepfamily woes in perspective. They really are not very serious when you look at the grand picture.

Stepfamily life is a precious gift because it truly does teach us how to celebrate holidays with the perfect spirit. We are lucky. Happy holidays!

Barbara Goldberg

Saving the World, One Stepfamily at a Time

Barb is the author, blogger, speaker, and teacher for The Evil Stepmother Speaks. Barb teaches the art and science of stepfamily management.

Her book, The Evil Stepmother Speaks: A Guide for Stepfamilies Who Want to Love and Laugh is a funny, must-read.

For additional holiday tips, check out our holiday e-book,

Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace,

 co-authored with Heather Hetchler of CafeSmom. 

It’s packed with proven tools, tips, personal stories, and new holiday traditions you can create with your stepfamily. And a list of recipes!

It’s a great way to help you find peace at the holidays.

 Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace by Gayla Grace & Heather Hetchler

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.