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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.
Stepparenting the Grieving Child

Stepparenting the Grieving Child

The stepmom role is hard.

Add in grieving stepchildren and it gets even harder.

 

Stepparenting the Grieving Child

 Author Diane Fromme recently published a book, Stepparenting the Grieving Child: Cultivating Past and Present Connections with Children Who Have Lost a Parent. In her book, she shares the assumptions and presumptions, steps and missteps that occurred within her own stepfamily.

In a recent interview with Stepmom Magazine, Fromme shares three things that surprised her most about being a stepmom to children who had lost their mom to cancer.

First, I realized that their liking me might feel to them like a betrayal to her. I expected their devotion to their mom but not the intensity of their loyalty. Next, I didn’t realize the amount of stepparenting and grief education I needed to serve the children, while also taking care of myself. I didn’t know, at first, that I needed help! And, maybe most important, I learned that I needed to be part of the team that honors the deceased parent as (a member) of the ongoing family.”

Fromme offers great tips and encouragement throughout her book that comes from personal examples, insights from other stepfamilies, and knowledge gained through experience and research.

Here are a few nuggets of helpful advice:

    •  Honoring our stepchildren’s need to keep a lost parent close ultimately builds the best stepfamily relationships. Know that your efforts and actions lay the groundwork for future milestones: rites of passage, celebrations, and the weathering of other losses.
    • In the highest functioning stepfamilies, members talk about what is seen but not heard. What is not being spoken that needs to be? By making a time and a place for straight talk, [everyone] can benefit
    • I urge you to keep on communicating with your spouse when you feel strongly that the kids should be parented in a different way. Stand up for your beliefs when they matter most. Choose these battles wisely. Be willing to let the rest go so as not to create constant control clashes in the household.

Fromme’s straightforward writing will help you gain understanding and confidence in your stepparenting role with a grieving child. Purchase your copy today and find hope, strength, and inspiration for your journey!

Click this link or the image below to go directly to Amazon. (affiliate link)

 

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,

Stepfamily Traps – Are You Caught in One of Them?

Sensitive issues in stepfamilies can rise up unexpectedly and bring inner turmoil like a gust of wind. Some issues can be easily resolved with few lingering afteraffects, but other challenges create traps that stepfamilies get hung in and linger on for months if not worked through properly.

So, I want to address common stepfamily traps in the next few posts and solutions for coping with them. I would love to hear from you as to what traps you’ve overcome or suggestions for the traps we discuss.

Trap #1: Trying to Replace the Biological Parent

When we spend a lot of time with our stepchildren, we may begin to feel we can replace their biological parent. Particularly if our spouse has custody of his children, we bond with our stepchildren through day to day interaction. We may feel that we do a better job parenting their child than their non-custodial parent and try to take over their role.

It usually doesn’t take long for a stepchild to let you know if you’re overstepping your bounds. Even if the relationship with his/her natural parent is a rocky one, your stepchild is emotionally vested with his parent.

In her book, The Courage to be a Stepmom, Sue Patton Thoele says it best, “The fact is that no matter how wonderful we are, no matter how much we add to our stepchildren’s lives, and no matter how much they love us, in most cases, blood is thicker than remarriage.”

When we try to replace our stepchildren’s parent, we lose. We can’t take the place of their biological parent, even if that parent is a loser! The best approach for a stepparent is to be an additional parent.

Our stepchildren can never have too many adults in their lives who are willing to love and accept them unconditionally. As the relationship with our stepchild strengthens, we can move into a parental role but we should never assume we’re trying to replace the biological parent.

My girls have a very strong relationship with my husband as their stepdad but he has never tried to replace their dad. During our early years he would say, “I know my role. I’m the stepparent.” What he meant was, “I will love and care for them as a parent, but I recognize they have a biological dad.”

After fifteen years of marriage, my husband plays an important stepparenting role. He enjoys a stable and loving relationship with my girls — a result of day by day love and interaction, investing in their lives as a stepparent, mindful of the role their biological dad plays.

“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 stuck in a stepparenting trap? What do you need to do differently to get out? Will you share it with us?

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