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.

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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.

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