When Beauty Follows Pain on the Stepparenting Journey on Stepparenting with Grace

When Beauty Follows Pain on the Stepparenting Journey

The handwritten note that fell out of the envelope surprised me. My stepson didn’t mention he sent a note with my Mother’s day gift. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I read words that took me back in time. I began to reminisce about a very rocky season that I wasn’t sure I would get through.


When Beauty Follows Pain on the Stepparenting Journey on Stepparenting with Grace

It was 2004. My stepson was 14 years old and had just lost his mom from a difficult battle with cancer. He had been living with her and his stepdad over 300 miles away. My husband naturally assumed he would bring his son home to live with us following the funeral. But my stepson and his stepdad had different ideas.

The custody papers presented to my husband by the sheriff’s department came as a complete surprise. His son’s stepdad had applied for custody. It made no sense. We were prepared and willing to take him into our home.

The battle

The battle began with a preliminary custody hearing that included my stepson on the witness stand. We were in another room, but our attorney outlined the setting to us. I had been presented as the evil stepmother. Despite my efforts to be a caring stepmom who tried to fulfill a maternal role when my stepson was in our home, I was painted as someone quite different. The hurt I experienced that day took a long time to work through.

When Beauty Follows Pain on the Stepparenting Journey on Stepparenting with Grace

The Beauty

That’s in the past now. My stepson did eventually come live with us and in time, with God’s help, we mended our ways. We worked to rebuild a relationship that included a steady flow of grace and forgiveness. Slowly, he began to let me into his life. I never wanted to replace his Mom. I simply tried to play a maternal role to a boy who didn’t have a mom.

That was 13 years ago. At 27 years old, my stepson now lives out of state.

I’ve often wondered if my tireless efforts as his stepmom even mattered.

The letter I received this year on Mother’s Day told me they did.

Although my stepson never called me Mom, the letter started with:

“MOM!! Happy Mother’s Day!! I wanted to take time and express my
appreciation to you as my mother!! You have been there through
everything. My first love, my first heartbreak, high school and college.
You’ve literally been there for it all. Thank you. For giving me advice
and good examples over the years. Even though I know I pushed back
for many years, I now realize I had a great MOM all along. Thank you
for always being there for me. Love you, Gayla. Your son.”

If you need some hope and encouragement on your stepmom journey, please consider joining us at our upcoming Sisterhood of Stepmoms retreat. You’ll find all the details here:

Will you share some highs or lows of your stepparenting journey?
How are you celebrating them?


What Makes the Stepmom Role So Hard?

Have you experienced hard days as a stepmom? Do you wonder why stepdads seem to have an easier time bonding with their stepchildren than stepmoms?

Not all step-relationships are the same. In our own family, the relationships I have with my stepchildren are very different than those of my husband and his stepdaughters.

When my girls began to call my husband Dad a few years into our marriage, I knew it reflected their growing relationship with their stepdad. But I was jealous of the bonds they’d formed and wondered what I was doing wrong as a stepmom.


There are countless variables that contribute to step-relationships and the blending process.

One variable that remains constant, however, is the uphill road of a stepmother.

In his book, The Smart Stepfamily, Ron Deal explains what makes the stepmom role so hard.

“Stepmothers are at an even greater disadvantage than stepfathers for a number of reasons.

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. Despite societal changes in women’s roles throughout the world, women still bear the primary responsibility for child care, maintenance, and nurturance of children. Stepmothers are not excused from these responsibilities, and they try to fulfill society’s expectations by working hard at building a relationship–only to discover a strong loyalty to the biological mom standing in the way.”

Can you relate? Are you trying to build a bond with your stepchildren that simply isn’t possible?

When I realized the variables I was competing against as I struggled to bond with my stepchildren, I better understood where I was headed. I didn’t quit trying to grow a meaningful relationship with them, but my guilt was lifted as I quit expecting the same kind of relationship I saw between my husband and his stepdaughters.

It’s not easy to create close bonds with your stepchildren as a stepmom but it isn’t impossible either.

As I spent my birthday recently with my  husband and stepdaughter, I was reminded of how far we’ve come. Our early years were very difficult, but the blessings I enjoy now outweigh the challenges of years’ past.


Don’t give up if you’re experiencing some bumps on your stepmom journey. Expect them! But get up again and keep forging forward to find blessings in the end.

Has your stepmom journey been difficult? Can you share encouraging tips on how you’ve kept going on hard days?

Pic By Stuart Miles