I’ve heard from many of you that you’d love to share your family but the reality show venue is not for you. Putting cameras in your home and exposing the “realities” of blended family living within your four walls seems like a recipe for disaster.  

Here’s an opportunity to participate in a documentary style video for stepfamilies. I was contacted by Casting Station which is a reputable firm who works with clients around the globe. They are currently looking for real blended families with interesting household stories for participation in a documentary style short video. If selected the project does pay $300 per family member if chosen.

They are primarily looking for blended families from the Northeast area but welcome submissions from across the US. If you are interested, all you have to do is fill out a simple questionnaire and send a few photos of your family to austintxcasting@gmail.com.

The Casting Station would love all entries by this Thursday, August 8th. Any questions, please leave them below. Thanks.

You can follow Casting Station on Facebook to keep up to date on all their upcoming projects.

I had pretty much convinced myself that I had this “stepmom life” down and that nothing could rattle my cage. Silly girl. I should know better than to get to comfortable in “who I am” or “what I know.” Yes, life threw me a big curveball.   

Last Wednesday was a typical summer day. Swim practice in the morning, chaotic lunchtime at home and then, since I only had three of our six kids in my care, I decided to run a few errands. We stopped at a new cupcake shop and then hit the Family Christian Bookstore and Kohls looking for some gifts for a friend of mine going through a tough time.

The shopping trip was successful and we made it back in time to watching Giada at Home on the Food Network. After the show was over I went to stand up from the couch where I was cuddled with my youngest and that’s when it happened. As I went to stand, a sharp pain like no other shot through my right shoulder and breast and I couldn’t breath. I tried to yell out for help but no voice could be heard. My lil one raised up off the couch “mommy, you ok? mommy, you ok?” she shouted. As she leaned into me I caught a breath. “Please get mommy some water,” I whispered.

My head was swirling. I thought back to all the information I’d heard from the American Heart Association. I thought I was having a heart attack and I was angry. I’ve got dinner to make and kids to get places tonight. While I’m young and live a pretty healthy lifestyle there was something inside of me that said “this is no joke. Something is very, very wrong and you need help.” As I reached for the aspirin, remembering the American Heart Association again, my oldest daughter said “mom, don’t be stupid. Call Miss Jen.” I called my friend who was a nurse and she told me to go right to the ER.

My husband called me while I was on the line with Jen and I shared with him what was going on. He came right home and within minutes was rushing me out to the hospital. The man I used to tease for driving like Mario had now become my hero weaving through rush hour traffic to get me in.

Moments later I’m in a wheelchair and getting hooked up to an EKG. Normal. Took some blood and the news came after that. The Dr. informed me that I tested positive for a blood clot but he told me there was no need to panic. At my age and health, he assumed it would be another false positive. They set me up for a special cat scan. As my body jetted in and out of the circle, I closed my eyes and recited over and over my life verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13. I was scared but I felt peace.

Then the news came. As the Dr. pulled back the curtain on my ER room, his face said it all. “The cat scan showed you do have a small blood clot in your right lung. It’s called a pulmonary embolism. You were smart to come in when you did. We will start you on blood thinners,” he told me. He then followed it up with compassionate words of not worrying but by then it was a blur. I just remember my husband holding my hand and me praying for strength and healing.

All I could think of was a few hours ago I was laughing with my kids and now I have this thing inside of me that could have killed me. I just wanted to go back home and keep being a wife and mom. I just wanted to be with my kids. All my kids…. my biological kids and my stepkids. I wanted my family. Didn’t the PE know that I was the caregiver and I was supposed to be taking care of others not being taken care of.

Sparing the details, I now sit at home a week later still adjusting to this new life. Adjusting to the here and now.

I feel God’s peace through this readjustment period but I’m also scared. Each time I have to do something new with this PE inside of me, I cry.

As with any struggle, there is good. Facing this has truly made me think about what’s important: Faith, Family, Friends. And not just think about it but live it. My gratitude for life has grown and I’m committed to remaining positive on this journey. Life really is about re-adjusting to the here and now. As a stepmom, I know this “readjustment” well. Now applying it to my health is a new venture on the journey of life. Believing that God has a plan for me and staying strong as I live it.

I share my story because I want other women to be proactive about their health. We all have so much to live for and it’s so important to pay attention to our bodies.

I have no control over this tiny thing in me that has taken my breath away. That is the hardest part. So I will control the parts I can. Take my medicine. Live healthy. Pray and be good to me and my family.

This is another curve on the winding road called life. I’ll readjust, cling to God’s word, love my friends and family with abandon and keep moving forward.

~~~~~~~~

Please pray for me and my family. Pray my body dissolves the pulmonary embolism and that my body doesn’t make any more. And please make sure to leave any prayer requests you have. I’m grateful for all the prayers and love and I want to pray for you too.

And please my stepmom sisters…. listen to your body. If you don’t feel right, please go in and get checked out. The Docs still say I’m “way to young to have a PE,” but obviously my body didn’t get the memo.

Remember life before #hashtags?  Now the invaluable tool of tagging has moved to video and serves to help you find stepmom videos that will speak the words you need to hear right when you need to hear them. I’m excited to share this new project from fellow stepmom Stacey – a Ph.D. student and mom and stepmom whose amazing project is creating a tagging system for videos. Let’s hear from Stacey:

“Tags are words, keywords to be exact, that describe the object being tagged. Video tagging is the process of assigning keywords tovideo tagging videos where you share knowledge, share opinions, describe what you see, describe what you hear, or describe how you feel. Through tagging the videos as you watch them, you are helping to create rich keywords that can be used to index the videos and make them easier for you, your friends and people with similar interests to find.

The more text that exists for a video the easier it is to see at a glance if it fits your search need.  The more people who tag the same video, the more varied those keywords are.  The more people who enter the same keyword, the more we all know the video is relevant.  The descriptions are available on the site so you can interact with the tags you and others enter and maybe find videos of interest you might never ordinarily have watched.

Millions of people play millions of online games every day and invest hours upon hours of time into games that have little or no purpose other than to entertain. What if you could be entertained and participate in a useful task? VideoTag lets you do just that. Play some quick fun games whilst tagging videos. Choose a video that interests you then select which game you want to play, each game has a different challenge.  You score points depending on the type of tags you enter and depending on the game.  All players start out as an intern, as you earn points you’ll get promoted until you eventually reach the role of commissioner.  Once you are a researcher you can upload your own videos to VideoTag.  For those that prefer the idea of watching the whole video and just tagging it, without being entertained by a game we have Simply Tag – simply watch and tag, for as long as you want.

VideoTag is an experiment, we’re hoping to educate people on the potential benefits of tagging whilst analyzing the tags to see just how useful they could be and the vocabulary people use.  Our aim is to provide a useful resource for people who love watching online video and who love creating online video.

It is so fun and easy to use. Create an account for full access or sign on as a guest to have limited access. Either way it’s free, fun and you will learn a lot.”

Click on VideoTag, sign up and start tagging! You’ll not only have fun playing Video Tag, you will feel connected, supported and inspired and by tagging you’ll help a fellow stepmom whose searching for help later. Remember there are many other video categories like Crazy Science Experiments, Tour De France, Stop Motion Animation and The 90’s just to name a few.  I’m honored to have some of my stepmom videos in Video Tag and grateful to spread support, encouragement and inspiration to stepmoms everywhere via video. So what are you waiting for?

Have fun and start tagging!

~~~~~~

A little from Stacey: Until the birth of my daughter in 2003 I was working in the marketing and press department of a broadcasting company in London, U.K.   I relocated shortly before my daughter was born and chose to pursue a different career path that allowed me the flexibility to be an at home more.   I studied part time for an MSc in Computer Science, passing with distinction. I was then lucky enough to be awarded funding to continue my research to PhD level.

During the start of my PhD I got divorced, met a wonderful man also getting divorced and became a step mum to his two children.  At this time I wondered in what aspect of my life I was learning the most, it is lucky I have a passion for learning!  I put my PhD on hold for a while whilst I concentrated on building our family of five, providing emotional support to my daughter, my husband and my step kids during what was a difficult time.  You have to know when you have taken on too much and something has to give.  We are all still learning and growing, there are still challenges to face but the journey has become much more settled and enjoyable.  As a result I have the time and mind space to enjoy my work again and concentrate on my PhD research.   My work explores whether tagging can provide accurate descriptions for online videos and whether effective tagging can provide new methods of organizing, categorizing and finding videos online.  For more information have a look at my website http://www.videotag.co.uk

Tag. Your it. It’s your turn to check out VideoTagging and enjoy and tag some stepmom videos. Would love your feedback and I know Stacey would too. Playing Video Tag will enable you to learn and grow as a stepmom and also support a fellow stepmom on her journey. What do you love about video tagging? Did you enjoy the videos? What are your thoughts? Thanks for sharing.

Christy Campbell’s heart blesses the Gift of Stepmom series. While Mother’s Day is over… the heart and love that stepmoms bring to their families lives and breathes everyday. Her story will touch you as she shares how she became a stepmother and the gifts she gives her family and the gifts they give her. Hope you enjoy her heartfelt words and will visit her blog GoodStepmom.

A Reciprocal Gift by Christy Campbell   

I used to think about what it would be like to have kids and what kind of Mother I would be.  In my twenties, I was busy going to school, working a job or two and paying the bills.  There was plenty of time, besides the fellow I had been with for years at that point wasn’t my future and I knew it.   I then met and eventually married a great guy.  He was one of the most sweet, caring, compassionate, smart and well liked people I have ever known.  We talked many times about starting a family, but he was focused on his career and I had moved on to graduate school.  We thought we still had time to do everything we wanted to do.  There went our thirties. Then he got sick.  Barely into my forties, I found myself the main bread winner and also caregiver of my husband.  Now I began to think oh dear, maybe we don’t have as much time as we thought.  That dear man passed away at the age of 44.  Well then, that was that.  I had missed my opportunity, so at the age of 42 I threw myself into my career and took up a few hobbies.  I filled my schedule.  My life became busy, orderly, predictable…quiet, but I wouldn’t have called it full.

I come from a small family.  My only sibling was killed in an accident many years ago at the age of 32.  He had no children.  As a result I was never able to attain Aunt status and enjoy nieces and nephews, apparently that wasn’t in the cards for me either.  Then, just as I had sort of settled into my reinvented life, some five years into widowhood, guess what…I met a guy. It didn’t take long for him to tell me that he had children. Almost as if testing my threshold, he told me he was not the Father of one, or even two, but three.  To be honest, at the ages we were I was sort of relieved. I had been introduced to some very nice fellows but you know…maybe he still lived with his Mom, was perpetually single, had been married multiple times with no kids, drank too much on our first date, never grew up…My thinking was heck, I would almost expect that a guy had started a family by our stage of life.  I let him know it didn’t scare me any and off we went!  I was introduced to them and to one of his sisters very quickly.  The kids were awesome, so accepting of and curious about this woman their Dad was seeing.  We spent a lot of time together from that point forward, all of us and he proposed 7 months later.  I went from me, a few good friends and my dog to a ready made family.  The oldest boy, was 14 and the twin girls were 10.  So that’s our background.

Reciprocal gifts.  I’ll start by the gift I think I have been to them.  I am their third party.  All of them have come to me at one time or another as a buffer or advice giver, to help them relate to their Mother or their Father.  That alone is pretty cool for them. I’m a built in sounding board.  I’m close enough to them that they value what I think, and they quickly came to sense and rely upon my mediating skills. I set up conversations with their Dad for them, when they would come to me with a plea, so that his ears were at least open.

I frame the situation for him and appeal to his intellect to hear them out before he just says no. It seems to work nicely.  I have listened to their points of view and during tough times with their Mom and their Dad. I have tried to help them with the way they approach their parents to foster productive conversations.  Though I don’t directly impact how my kids relate to their Mother, I do provide enhancement I believe.  I listen to them complain about her at times but I never participate.  I do rather, try to help them understand where she might be coming from and that she does the very best she can.  At times I have helped them come up with ideas to make their Mom feel more included in things, or to make up with her after an argument of some sort. So one gift I have provided is to teach my kids to aim for open yet respectful communication and tolerance in their communications with others, particularly their parents.

I have been the counselor, driver, nurse and mentor for these guys for years. I have tried to teach them the importance of manners, etiquette and the meaning of propriety.  I have hosted sleepovers and parties, have held hands through the angst at becoming more physically mature, through girlfriends and boyfriends, broken hearts, issues with other kids at school and various social mishaps. Lately I have been teaching them and some of their friends how to write (finally homework I can help with!).  And we’ve gotten some A’s yes we have!  In a nutshell, I try to provide sustenance not only physical but emotional.  I’m not their friend and I’m not their Mother, I’m their other Mother!  I would think having an active and involved Step Mother would be a big asset.  Mine wasn’t, I have tried to be.  Three years ago at the age of 49, I gave them a baby brother.  They all love each other very much.  My kid’s Mother I think, knows that their other Mother loves them and helps take care of them.  I think their lives are enhanced by my presence and that I will have some influence over how they turn out.  Now, let’s flip the switch and look at the other side of the story.

Let’s talk about what this man and our children have done for me. I got to love a man again, and all the crazy ups and downs that it entails.  I became an instant Mom.  I got to share my cooking, my interests and my beliefs.  I was finally able to say things like…I need time off to go to my children’s Christmas play.  I got to make cupcakes, cookies and gingerbread houses. I got to introduce them to snow cream and how to cut out snowflakes.  I got  to assemble toys till the wee hours of the morning on Christmas eve.  I got to have the conversation about the fact that I still believe in Santa Clause. I  was able to color Easter eggs, make Easter baskets, go trick or treating again.  I got to teach them what swimming at the lake was like and I got to introduce them to the ocean, riding on a plane and show them the mountains.  I got to hug and sometimes snuggle with them. I was able to cook for my family and actually host holiday dinners at my house.

I found I was relied upon to get them from here to there…even their Mother would call and ask for my help at times.  I got to take care of my kids when they were sick and got to pick them up at school from the nurse’s office and receive medical instructions.  I got to shop for dresses for proms and go through the drama of preparing for dances and dates, I got to teach a guy how to be thoughtful of the women in his life, his Mother, his girlfriend, his Grand Mothers and Aunts.   I got to be a soccer, basketball, volleyball mom. I was able to share my thoughts on their progress in school and get them thinking a little bit about their future.   I get to be aggravated at the attitude of teenaged girls,  I get to enjoy the young man our eldest son is becoming.  I was given the opportunity to have a baby of my own.  Without these lovely people, that would never have happened. That little family I met one day a few years ago has given me so much in return.

I may go on about all I do for all these guys at times, but when I look at what my life was and what it has become, hands down I come out ahead.  I have a husband and dear friend and I have 4 kids.  I never have drawn distinction about who I actually birthed and who I didn’t.  I have a 21 year old son out there in college, an elected Fraternity officer with a job, making me proud.  He’s my baby boy’s hero and that’s so cool.  I have two 17 year old daughters.  They have allowed me to be a Mother.  I’ve lived with them the longest…they test me…I’m sure I test them…but I have 2 beautiful healthy smart incredible daughters.  And my little man.  He’s three now.  He loves his family.  He is my crowning moment.

My Grandmother gave me some advice right after I lost my first husband.  I’m sure she had no idea how profound her words were.  She was awesome, very loving and a strong woman.   As a widow at that time of almost 25 years, she offered me this.  All you can really do is try to make a life for yourself that you know he would have been proud of. At any point that I could have taken a wrong turn, made a bad decision, done something that wasn’t good for me, I thought of what she had said.  I look at what I have now, and I think I’ve done that.  I think he would and perhaps is very pleased at the life I have created. I think she would be too.

So you see, my story is about caring, perseverance, hope, determination, reinvention, love and destiny.  I think life takes you in the direction you are supposed to go.  I think in ways, I rescued this divorced, fractured and scarred family and I know that they saved me.

My statement about the gift of a Stepmom is this:  Give and you shall receive.  I believe that.  I have been through my fair share of loss and disappointment. I have told my husband many times…they are my reward.  Bless them and all the things they have given me.  I have a full life now and a big part of the reason for that is because I became a StepMom.

~~~~~

You can learn more about our guest contributor, Christy Campbell, at her blog GoodstepMom. You can also connect on Facebook and on Twitter.

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced the reciprocal gift of stepfamilies? “Give and you shall” receive is true. Often we may not receive when we want to but our efforts bless regardless. Please share your thoughts.

Kerri Ann wrote to me sharing her journey from successful single girl to stepmom. Her wit, wisdom and honesty will touch you. Her heart for her family and the everyday challenges is refreshing. Enjoy Kerri’s story and check out her blog Simplicity Interrupted.

From Single Girl to Stepmom by Kerri Ann

Three years ago I was a single law school grad.  My cares and concerns revolved around my job search, my social life and caring for myself and my dog.  Are you sensing the theme? It was tough work, obviously.  At the time, my five year plan involved landing a dream job, finding the perfect man, and living happily after.  And three years later, here I am with all of that accomplished – kind of. 

The job is not anything I set my sights on in law school, but it challenges me every day and I am always learning and growing as an attorney.  And the man … well, he is my perfect man.  Except that I never dreamed my perfect man would be older, divorced, or a father of two.

My life has definitely taken on a new focus.  Now, I am grocery shopping for four, baking cookies, and packing lunches.  I’m helping with homework, coloring and crafting at the kitchen table, and folding doll-sized laundry.  I am playing Headbandz, listening to Radio Disney, and having impromptu dance parties.

The amount of four legged friends in my life has doubled.  My beloved Michael Kors purses have turned into carriers of crayons, snacks, band aids, and permission slips.

Any mom will tell you that this is her life too – a life that no longer revolves around just you anymore.  But moms have an advantage of a slow but steady evolution to this point.  It can be jarring to the system to have an insta-family, with no real preparation for what is to come.  And, especially at first, it was difficult for me to determine what my role really was.  I was busy – busier than I had ever been – and I was doing mom-type things.  But I am not the mom.

Their mom is very active in their life, whether they are at our house or hers.  It’s great for the kids – their parents are in constant communication about homework, doctor’s appointments, after school activities.  I would never wish that to change.  But it made it difficult for me to determine what I was bringing to the table, when the phone would ring with instructions on what to pack for lunch, who needed what at school the next day, and whose birthday party Todd and I would be bringing them to that Saturday.  There were (and still are) times I felt like hired help – baby sitter, maid, dog walker, snack preparer.

 

Knowing that I “chose this life” made it difficult to talk it out with friends and family.  This is not a situation that is easily understood from the outside – the relationships and the emotions are complex and confusing.  It was something that Todd and I were going to have to work on for ourselves, and only I could make the decision of whether I was happy in this undefined role.

 

It’s taken a lot of work, but we’ve gotten to a comfortable place.  I am not their mom.  But I am Dad’s partner, and that’s pretty significant.  Todd and I make sure that our relationship takes a front seat – date night is a priority, spending time together each week is a must.  We’ve decided that it is really important for the kids to see a healthy, loving adult relationship, and that they deserve the security of knowing that they cannot pit us against each other.

And as for my happiness in the role – well, it took some soul-searching.  I still feel like hired help at times, but then I remember that I am not doing any of this because Todd or their mom asked me to.  I am doing all of it because it is what I want to do for the kids.  When I get really overwhelmed with the situation, I stop to think – if someone else was caring for my child … if someone else was putting my daughter’s hair in a ponytail, getting my son ready for baseball practice … how would that make me feel?  I don’t have children and this thought causes a wave of uncertainty & regret … so I can only imagine what it feels like when it’s really happening.  This allows me to take a deep breath, and do what needs to be done, knowing that empathy is the only feeling I should ever have towards their mom.

The kids – they are thriving, and they are teaching me and helping me grow more than they could ever understand.  Without them, I’d never have developed this level of patience, never would have really understood what true empathy and compassion means, never would have learned how to make the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Now, as I’m picking up socks, making pancakes, and rushing home from work to read Harry Potter before bed – I smile.  This may not be exactly what I pictured for my life, but it’s beautiful and happy, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

~~~~~~

Kerri is an attorney in Boston and a lifestyle blogger at Simplicity Interrupted.  She lives just north of the city with her fiancé, Todd, his two children (half the time), and their dogs, Stella & Coco.  She loves joining the #TwitterStepMoms conversation on Twitter, and can also be found on Facebookand Instagram!

The following guest post is from April. She has lived the stepfamily life. Growing up as a stepdaughter and now as a stepmom, April has experience and heart for those of us on the journey. And I have to publicly apologize to April as it has taken longer than it should have to post it. No excuses just a heartfelt “I am sorry.” Her story needs to be shared and her heart will bless you as you read. Her words are going to stick with you and rightfully so. Thank you April.

Do You Need A Hug? One Stepmom’s Story of Love and Acceptance by April M.

“Do you need a hug?”  The man standing in my doorway was familiar to me however I was not yet comfortable at his presence.  I was three and it was the first time my mother had left us alone with her new friend.  My brother, then 8, peeked out from across the hall; he was probably just as nervous in this moment as I was.  I had wanted my Dad and this man was clearly not, but I must have really needed that hug!  All I could do was to stare back bright eyed and motion my head timidly up and down.  This embrace would be the first of many with the man I later chose to call Dad.     

My mother and he (Mike) later married and my blended family began.  Mike also had a daughter from a previous marriage, who is now my best friend and sister.  Soon after, we were blessed with a baby brother who tied us somehow all together.  This union was difficult for me to adapt to during my adolescent years.  I rebelled against change and struggled to deal with the guilt I felt towards this “happy” family and the grief for my biological father.  To this day he has never spoken an ill word concerning my mother but even at a young age I could sense his sadness at the demise of our family after she left.

From the early years I would brag to Mike about how awesome my “real” dad was and all the great things he could do; Mike would thoughtfully help me to recognize additional things I had forgotten to mention.  Into my preteens I would purposely ignore Mike or not include him in our everyday activities; he would come to all my karate tournaments, basketball games and volunteered at my school.  When I lashed out as a teenager I would make sure Mike knew he was not my “real” father and he had no “real” rights; he would discipline me anyway while reminding me how much he loved me.

When I was 18 my mother decided to leave once again and my existence was crushed at the thought of losing the man I had grown to love……my other dad!  I had always believed that I was dismal because my biological parents hadn’t raised me together, but now the thought of losing a parent who actually did and chose to raise me, was devastating.  These fears and empty insecurities were quickly diminished however as Mike and I grew closer.  Through this period and at the blessing of my biological dad, I lived with him in the family home, went to college and took a stronger role in our family business.

It was into my mid-twenties when I started to actualize that my life’s events thus far would set precedence to the full circle I was on route to completing.  During this time I met a man, Ken, who’s wife had left him and was sharing custody of their two boys, (3 & 6).  We started off slow as the boys were still healing and dealing with a step father they didn’t particularly like.  After much time together, Ken and I discussed with them, their feelings on living together.  Both boys were so excited and welcoming.  I was thrilled.  I had high expectations and failed to see some of the frustrations and compromises I would be getting or giving!  At times my relationship with the boys seemed close and warm.

Then at times after visits with their mom, they would return cold and distant.  I was tortured with these over whelming feelings of self-pity and yearned to remember what I myself had felt in similar situations as a child.  I had spent measures on sympathizing with my bio dad and though I love him dearly, lately I had really come to appreciate Mike even more and the role he still plays to this day.  I was beginning to see things from his perception.  And then one evening, I FELT things through that same perception.

I was sitting at the dinner table somewhat wallowing in my own self sorrows due to an earlier issue with Ken’s ex.  The three boys lounged in the next room in front of the television.  Then out of nowhere I could hear my oldest step son ask his father, “Aren’t you glad we’re not sad anymore?”  “What do you mean?” Ken replied quite confused.  “You know, when Mom left we were all sad and cried all the time, but now we have April and we’re a family again.”  My eyes began to swell and my chest collapsed.  Any doubts, not good enoughs or too much’s rapidly escaped my mind.  I didn’t even know how to respond.  All I could do was think back to the last time I had ever felt so complete.  I got up and went and stood in the doorway………”I need a hug!”

Step parenting didn’t suddenly get easier in that moment and I have had some tougher mountains to climb since, but it did remind me that just as they have become a part of me, I have become a part of them.  As a Step Mom, I may not always have the moments I want with the boys, but I will always have the ones I need.  I cannot and will not ever be their mother, but I am and always will be their other!

 ~~~~~~
April honestly and lovingly shared how she treated her stepfather yet how she truly felt about him. This gives great insight into our relationship with our stepkids. Often they push us away or brag about their mom yet inside they are grateful for our consistency and for being a parent in their life. April has come full circle and her experience, love and insight is a blessing to us all. Your thoughts?

(poem originally published in the May 2012 edition of Stepmom Magazine)

Mother’s Day can be a very hard time for some stepmoms. You put in motherly work while caring for your stepkids but often don’t get acknowledged on the day. Your stepkids are with their mom as they should be but their absence leaves a hole…. a reminder of the complexities of blended family living.

I wrote the following poem to celebrate the blessing that a stepmom is to her family and to the world around her. May we all take a moment this month to celebrate ourselves and the mothers in our life. Happy Mother’s Day and never forget the blessing that you are!

A StepMom is a Blessing

a tender heart

a gentle spirit

unselfish acts of kindness

these are just some words that describe a stepmom

She joins a family by choice not chance

She embraces another woman’s children

pledging to love and nurture them

She seeks not to replace their mother

but be a positive role model in their lives

She celebrates her stepchildren’s successes and

her heart aches when they are hurting

She is her partner’s biggest cheerleader

supporting him through the easy and the difficult times

She is the heart of her home

even when her heart is breaking

She stands strong during the storms of life

holding onto the truths she knows

even when lies are raining down on her

She does much for her family

often without a thank you or acknowledgment

She is often overlooked for the love and care she gives

and the positive impact that she makes

She presses through those challenging times

knowing that doing what is right is often not the easy choice

She is stronger than she thinks

wiser than she knows

and more precious than she often realizes

She is sustained on a diet of faith and hope

She makes peace with her past,

embraces her present and plans for her future

She models a healthy relationship with her partner for the children

a gift more precious than gold and silver

She breathes light, love and peace into her home

even when dark forces from the outside fight to get in

She loves with abandon

She lives passionately and purposefully

some call her stepmom, bonus mom, smom

regardless of the title the world gives her

She is love

She is light

 She is precious

She is truth

She is beauty

She is compassion

She is selfless

She is self-control

She is committed to her partner and her family

She is a blessing!

- Heather

Two weeks ago, I received the following note from a devoted husband whose heart aches for his wife, a stepmom to his children, on Mother’s Day. I asked him if I could share his words and a photo of his family and he graciously agreed. Here is how one husband views Mother’s Day and grieves the day for his wife:

Hi. My wife led me to your post regarding the gift of stepmoms and regarding the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday. So I wanted to share the bittersweet blessing with frustration from dad’s perspective on the matter…  

My wife will not see my kids’ faces on Mother’s Day, and unless the third time is a “charm”, she won’t be able to speak with them on the phone either. All calls over the previous two years on Mother’s Day since she has become a part of my family have gone unanswered and not returned, as they are not yet old and responsible enough to carry their own phones, and gifts made at school are intended for one mom (bio mom)… not two. The schools don’t seem to have caught on yet. So while she won’t admit or describe it this way, at least not out loud, perhaps to shield her precious heart, this is deeply heartbreaking to her. She has chosen to love and adore my kids, and as we have them half of the time; also feeds them, provides for them when they are in need, and she creates a stable, caring, safe, and nurturing environment. Just to name a few of her selfless acts. Yet the investment usually lacks a measurable dividend.

I adore her immensely for this sacrifice, but as much as I try, I simply can’t provide the same kind of adoration and appreciation on their behalf on Mother’s Day as they potentially could, had they not been a little bit discouraged. So the burden falls heavily on me, not even to fill the void, which is as far as I can see, basically impossible, but to close the gap a little. This is an emotionally exhausting role in itself. I usually don’t even know where to begin.

This is a situation that rips away at the fabric of what my family is trying to be, so I simply try to remember to thank God every day that this is at least a problem I could have the unfortunate circumstance to be without. That even to have a fabric of a family with two loving adults in the same home, and having her to love all of us, is a blessing. She loves them, and she grieves their absence on Mother’s Day. I could have a far worse situation for my children. I’m lucky to have such a lovely woman whom I can call my own.

I thank her for everything she does for my kids, which in turn, provides for me more than anything else she could ever actually do for me directly. God Bless her sweet, beautiful soul. The kids and I have never really articulated it this way, particular because dad is a proud achiever, but we would all be lost without her.

 -Jason

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His words bring tears every time I read them. What a blessing he and his wife are to one another and to their family. What does this letter mean to you? Does it speak to your heart?

New stepmom Joelyn (Jody) brings us her story and shares with you her perspective on the gifts of stepmotherhood. Some of us are further along on the journey and some of us are just beginning. Regardless of where you are on the path you will be moved by her words. I think all of us can relate that stepmotherhood brings with it surprises. Joelyn has a beautiful perspective of her life changes.

Surprises For A New Stepmom- Joelyn

Here I am, the month of May, the month of the mother – boy has my life changed recently.  Looking back it isn’t really so recently, June 1st it will be a year that my life began a plethora of change.  Some good, some bad but all a learning experience and although I say I would love for things to have been different, in reality I look back and realize that I appreciate more of what I have right now because of the past experiences.

I am a mom to a fourteen year old girl and anyone who has a teenager knows what a challenge this can be.  On top of that, I am on disability due to a neurological disorder.  In August of 2011 I was able to finally move out on my own and not have to worry about anyone taking care of me and my daughter was able to start living her life to the fullest as a teenager and I was enjoying every moment of it.

Over the course of time a friend I had known since I was 14 years old began communicating with me again.  We shared our troubles, our joys and of course what was going on with our kids and families.  We both were in need of a friend who would listen and not judge and after knowing each other for 20+ years, it seemed to be the right fit.  It also helped we were hours away from each other and just had messaging to communicate.

When reality hit that his life at home was not going so well and there were problems regarding his girls we worked to create a contingency plan should he have to leave.  Needless to say the contingency plan has happened and our lives have changed drastically.

I am learning to co-parent a three and seven year old, who are majorly different than fourteen year olds, I am reverting back to laying out clothes, putting clothes away, making breakfast, packing lunches, doing homework, reading stories, drying tears, giving baths, going on field trips and picking up crayons and Barbie dolls.

This is so challenging for me, especially considering the pain I am in some days, the confusing and frustration of moving to a new city, along with what happens on a day to day basis due to the shared parenting of both his girls and mine.

I have learned to love the hugs of little ones, the ability to teach them new things like cooking and baking, the shouts from parts of the house because something is not right, the running up and down the stairs and of course the little voices when they say thank you or that they love you.

I find it funny when they are learning to read, write and spell – all things I have taken for granted with having a fourteen year old child.  It is so cool seeing them draw and then share with me what it is they drew.  The sound of them asking to help in the kitchen or the yard is like music to my ears and it is great when you see all three of the girls asleep in the back of the car after a fun day as a family and you realize that you are so blessed and grateful for what God has given you, even though sometimes it feels like more than you can handle on a day-to-day basis.

Being a step-parent or co-parent is amazing.  I never imagined my life with little ones in it again.  I am so happy that they are though, I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I went from a two bedroom apartment to a four bedroom house, increased from two cats to four, and added a bathroom, bigger kitchen, yard, garage and responsibilities.  It all sounds like a lot, but when I can tuck all three girls in at night and each one has their own special way they like it done and I sit down to do homework, write or work on my business I stop, listen to the silence and smile – the hugs and kisses I received just a little bit ago are all I need to sleep well and make it into the next day.

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Joelyn Morgan is an Independent Chocolatier for Dove Chocolate Discoveries, attending school to be a Certified Health Coach and advocate for those with mental health needs.  She resides in Galloway, OH with Kevin, Sammie, Juliette, Josephine and their cute cats.  Her interests are health, wellness, reading, writing, volunteering, crafts, cooking and baking.
Please visit her blog at http://nowtherearefive.com, follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!
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Share how Joelyn’s story touched you. We all learn and grow from the sharing of each other’s hearts.

Lissie shares her story with us today. She had one of those “light bulb moments” that changed her life and her perspective. Her honest outlook will draw you in and her insight and heart will leave you feeling blessed.

A Stepmom’s Heart: Love is What Matters by Lissie

I read somewhere recently that it takes 2 to 4 years for a stepfamily to mesh and feel integrated. Part of me wishes I had read this, say, 2 to 4 years ago, and saved myself a little heartache, but there is a bigger, wiser part of me that understands it was the journey I had to walk.  

I look back on the genesis of our little family and I remember so much pain, so much adjusting. I was so hard on myself then. My stepson would push and push and my stepdaughter was this tiny little enigma and I just kept thinking something had to be wrong with me that I didn’t feel this overwhelming sense of love and that every other weekend wasn’t this picture of domestic bliss, full of arts and crafts and cookies straight from the oven. Becoming a stepmom is hard under any circumstances, but because of my husband and I were rebuilding his relationship with his kids just as much as I was building one from scratch, there was just so much pressure to get everything right and to be perfect.

I honestly don’t know how I survived those first couple years. The kids’ mom was doing everything she could to stop my husband from getting his time with them back and to ruin what time he did get. My in-laws were so resentful of me being in limelight after years of playing parents to the kids while my husband struggled to put the shattered pieces of his life back together. My husband was trying to dance that dance of moving on and moving forward while being pushed down every other weekend and sometimes most of the days in between by the very person he was trying to move on from. The kids were just being kids, confused and scared and wide eyed and wanting so much for someone to just put the pieces together for them. And I was in the middle of all of this, trying to help everyone and feeling like I was failing with every single step. I was hanging on by tattered threads a lot of the time, defeated by the chaos that seemed determined to keep me from making a family out of the mess that was loving this man. I remember thinking over and over again, “this is my life now??”

But one day, something clicked. We were taking our first family vacation and my stepson, fraught with anxiety at being away from his mom and knowing she didn’t like it, had a major meltdown that at the end found him hiding under the bed in shame and me laying on the ground looking at him and crying, giving in and realizing I couldn’t be perfect, I couldn’t ever be a replacement mom, but we were still a family, for better or worse, even if the parts didn’t look the way I expected them to. I couldn’t tell you what exactly happened that day or what words I said, but I can tell you that from that day forward, the dynamic changed from four people trying to learn to occupy the same space to family of four, who experiences challenges, disappointments, happiness and sadness, but loves each other all the same. We settled into a little routine and I let go of expectations and instead started to learn what were real smiles and what was anxious and forced and what exactly it was I liked about each child and how to love them and what kind of stepmom I wanted to be.

And it’s a good thing, too, because before I knew it, they were ripped away from my husband and I, moved across the country with their mom & military stepdad and suddenly we were all alone again and living every divorced parent’s nightmare, struggling with how to be long distance parents.

There was a lot of grief to work through. We had just watched the closest thing that either of us have had to perfect slip right through our fingers like sand. We had to rebuild our lives all over again. We packed up and moved a few hours closer to family and waited for the kids’ return. I don’t know how many sleepless nights before that first trip back I spent wondering if that short time of happiness was enough, wondering if they would forget that they loved me, wondering if what we had built was lost forever.

For the longest time, I thought that the gift of being a stepmother was all about the gift of learning to love someone else’s children as my own, but that isn’t it at all. From that first trip back and every time after, when they step off an airplane and meet my eyes and love me without having seen me for months on end, I realize the gift all along has been their love. Their love tells me not only I am enough, just as I am, but I am living the life I am meant to live. It’s still hard work and it will never be perfect, but it is our life.

I was lost in my life, before I found them. I thought they would be this thing I would have to overcome or adapt to, something that would bring pain, but came along the side of finding and loving my husband. But it turns out they are my whole reason for living, the destination my life has been walking towards all this time. I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be but one smile from my stepdaughter, one laugh from my stepson, and I remember, I want to be their stepmom.

am their stepmom. Through better or worse, they have me, but better yet, I have them

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Lissie has been stepmom to her two wonderful kids, age 9 and 11, for almost 6 years. Her and her husband have been married for 2, but have been a family from the start. No kids together (yet), but incredibly blessed already. They live in a peaceful, rural town on the west coast and look forward to each and every trip the kids make. You can find more of Lissie’s story at http://exceptthat.wordpress.com/ and twitter.com/exceptthat

Share how Lissie’s story touched you? Did you ever have a lightbulb moment that changed your perspective?

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