Sarah shares her journey into stepmotherhood and lessons learned. Her heart will bless you and her learnings are some that you can identify with. Most of us go into the land of stepmom thinking “I can do this!” only to find out that we had no clue what “this” really is. Here is Sarah’s heart:

Growing Into Stepmom by Sarah Kinbar

I fell in love with Todd before I knew his two daughters, and before he knew my son and daughter. It was (and is) an intense love, like first love. In this blissed-out frame of mind, my perspective was, shall we say, limited. I knew 100% of nothing about blended families, and in my sheer ignorance, I thought that once we were ready to introduce the kids into our relationship, if they clicked, so would everything else. If they didn’t, we’d have to have a serious conversation about whether or not we wanted to move forward with our relationship.

Our children did like each other right away. The companionship was sweet, and our get-togethers were like play dates warmed up with romance. When you love a guy, spending time with him is awesome. When you love a guy and his children, and all three are beloved by your own children, the only place to go is nowhere. You just want to be right where you are, forever.

Now that we’re living together, the friendliness between the six of us has created a fun and engaging atmosphere in our home and helps soften the edges when problems arise. Challenges unique to blended family life can appear at any time, and it was one of these that at once shattered my naivety and reminded me how much I need the loving bonds of our blended family. Giving to our family is always front of mind, but yes, I need our togetherness, our funniness and our tears. All of it.

I was almost done grocery shopping at Target on a Monday with my sleepy toddler when my cell phone rang. The voice on the other end was tight, accusatory and stern. At first I wondered if it was a wrong number. Where’s Todd? I haven’t been able to reach him. Do you know why he’s not answering his phone? Did you notice our daughter feeling unwell or having a fever over the weekend? Because she’s burning up! Why didn’t anyone call me or take her to the doctor? I would think that as a mother you would be more alert to things like this.

Well, hello! I was in the line of fire and had no idea why. No one was sick that I was aware of. What fever? Todd was on a long flight, so I couldn’t redirect the call to its proper recipient.

An angry phone call from his ex was in itself a small thing, until it became more calls, and then a sweeping, negative view of my mothering skills.

Looking back, I now think it’s slightly cute that I believed everything would click so long as our children did. Feeling strong and confident as a mother, I didn’t realize that the stepmom role isn’t as straightforward. Developing a relationship with Todd’s children opened me up to criticism I wasn’t familiar with or comfortable with. I’ve had to become much stronger, and much more willing to manage conflict for the sake of love.

Mother’s Day is coming up. On that day, I’ll be working at the flower shop that day, apart from my kids and step kids. As I’m making flower arrangements for moms all around town, I’ll be thinking about the strength and love that a blended family mom must embody, and thinking of ways I can grow more fully into this role.

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Sarah Kinbar and her partner Todd Ristorcelli live in Orlando, Florida, with their four children. They share custody with their exes. Sarah’s son is 10 and her daughter is 4 1/2. Todd’s older daughter is almost 9 and his younger daughter is 5. Keep up with the family at bigblendedfamily.com or on Twitter @bigblendedfam

Today’s post comes from Chrystal. She shares her heart for her blended family and the gifts that she has received from being a stepmother. Her story beautifully conveys the blessing her outlook and devotion brings to her husband and you’ll also read about the healthy relationship she has with the mother of her stepchildren. I love what she refers to as “invisible boundaries” in regards to that relationship…. it is a very insightful description. Your heart will be blessed when you read her story:

 Being A Stepmom……Rising Above A Little Bit More…

In my opinion, being a step-mother is the only role that you can never prepare yourself for, ever.    I have been a step-mom for almost 11 years to a set of boy/girl twins, who are now 15 years old.  From the moment I met my husband, I never blinked at the fact that he had children.  His children were a part of him and I loved him wholly and so that included his children.  He showed me a picture of his kids the very first night we met and I knew then he was a wonderful father.  We lived in two different states when we met and I did not have children.  When it was time for us to be in the same state, I never even considered asking him to move away from his children.  With that being said, I became a resident of Louisiana and no longer a resident of Indiana.  I know moving 12 hours away from my entire family may seem strange to some, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The rest is our history and now we have one daughter together who is 6 years old.  We all love each other as a family, no “step” or “half” needed.  All of our children love each other as just brother and sister, regardless of the fact that my daughter is their “half” sister.  It melts my heart seeing them all together, talking, laughing and playing!

I believe my step-children have definitely been a blessing in my life.  When I first met them, I did not have children of my own and they taught me some very valuable lessons on motherhood that I would have other wised never been able to learn before having my own daughter.  Not everyone gets that kind of hand-on experience before their “first” child.  In almost 11 years I’ve only heard “you’re not my mom” one time, and keep in mind there are two kids, so I think I’m doing pretty good!  I have loved them for the entire 11 years I’ve known them and that will never change.  They have always respected me and welcomed me into their lives and for this I am forever grateful, because they didn’t have to do that!  The fact that they love my daughter unconditionally and don’t treat her different, is also a huge blessing.

I believe I am a blessing to my husband because I was more than willing to accept him and his children and whatever else came along with him, from the very beginning.  We all know that dating after divorce can be difficult, but add two children to that mix and it is extra difficult.  My wonderful husband works out of town a lot in the oilfield industry.  This means that I am usually the person who communicates with his ex-wife.  Hence, the fact that his ex-wife and I get along so well, is a huge blessing to him and the children.  And since my husband has an unpredictable work schedule, the children are free to come and go to either house whenever they want, there has never really been a set “schedule”.  I think this also makes them feel good, because they don’t have a schedule that is rigid or stressful.  My step-children have always been able to come to our house when my husband is off working and that means a lot to everyone.

If you are lucky enough to have a Mom of your step-children who is genuine, honest and open to having a relationship with you, consider yourself very blessed.  I have to give credit to my stepchildren’s Mom because she welcomed me as her children’s step-mom right away.  I also believe that we can get along so well because she is a step-mom herself, we are grown women and I am not the “reason” her marriage ended with my husband.   We are able to work together for the children’s sake and we all make it a point to be civil in front of the children.  She and I have had lunch together, clipped coupons together, attended the same church and my daughter has gone to her house before so that my step-son could babysit for me.  My step-daughter, her mother and I have attended my step-daughter’s cheerleading banquet together, for the second year in a row.  She has always let her children have a relationship with me and that is very important.  Because of this, the children know that it is okay to love me and have a relationship with me.  I believe she and I could be really, great friends, if the circumstances were different and there weren’t invisible boundaries and limits in place.

I’ve always tried to make sure that my step-children didn’t feel unwanted or feel tension between houses and when they see us all do something together for their behalf, it solidifies this fact.  I am not saying it is always easy because it isn’t.  My husband and his ex-wife don’t always agree on everything and sometimes I act as the “buffer” so-to-speak, but we all try to compromise.  Sure, there have been and there will be issues that arise, but that can happen to the everyday married couple with kids, regardless of the fact there are “step” people involved.  We all like having peace in our homes, and we know that doesn’t happen unless we get along!  I know that they will be exceptional adults one day and my heart swells just thinking that I will have helped them become that person!  I believe that they feel loved unconditionally at both houses and that is the ultimate goal!  They will be better people because we all got along and I honestly think our family is in the minority when it comes to this, unfortunately.

To my fellow step-moms, be the bigger person, be nice and love your step-children as your own.  It’s no fun being miserable, so I pray for peace in your home.

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Chrystal Adams is married to her wonderful husband Frank.  They have three children, ages 15, 15 & 6, they reside in Louisiana.  She is 34 years old and has a full-time career as a Registered Investment Advisor and her husband works in the oilfield industry.  Chrystal is passionate about health and fitness, and practices Pilates and Yoga daily.    You may connect with Chrystal at hadleysmama on Twitter.

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Can you relate to the gifts she brings to her family? To the gifts she receives from them (including the mom of her stepkids?) Pls share

The other day I was looking through a collection of poems by Blue Mountain Arts called The Heart of Happiness. As I read the words in one particular poem, my heart reflected on one of the greatest gifts from our stepmom community: the gift of friendship.  It’s a wonderful thing to see women connect on this journey, reach out, share their heart and their hurt and be there for one another. When you have a tough day, it helps knowing there are others who have gone through the same struggles and are there to listen, comfort, and help you stay positive.

The stepmom friends we have all made, both in person and via social media, are true friends. We have all gone through dark times and felt broken and alone and from those experiences come compassion and love for each other on the journey.

Sometimes the struggle that one of our stepmom sisters is going through is so tough and challenging and nothing we can do can change their circumstance yet them knowing they have a friend who cares and understands can make the world of difference.

A true friend is hope and hope is something a stepmother holds dear to her heart. Thanks to all of you who reach out to befriend another stepmom. And remember that it is strength and not weakness to reach out to others for help. Together we are strong.

I could probably write a book about my personal experience regarding the invaluable gift of stepmom sisters and the gift I see friendship bring to our community but today I simply want to say thank you and share this poem:

 

The Gift of Friendship

 Friendship is a gift

that is given so freely.

Sometimes it is wrapped in smiles,

sometimes in tears,

but always in encouragement.

When it’s given away,

time and again,

it only grows stronger,

It will be there during trials.

It will be there during joys.

It’s the gift you keep tucked away,

right near the center of your heart.

-       Donald W. Hiatt

 

What does the stepmom community mean to you? How have you been blessed by the gift of friendship?

Today, I am honored to share the heart of Cheley. She shares an event with one of her stepchildren that changed her life and the choices and decisions she makes as a stepmom. Often we aren’t sure if our stepkids are paying attention but they are – Cheley’s story is a testimony to that. You’ll be inspired by her heart and her hug therapy.

Choices and Decisions by Cheley Frazier

There was never an instruction booklet that came with “single woman falling in love with a man who had just won sole physical custody of his three children”. The first six months proved to be overwhelming but nothing I was not able to handle with three young children ages four, six, and eight that needed so much. I was fairing far better, even to my own surprise with a sickly special needs child, a young boy who did not know how to read and an eager, yet mischievous oldest boy.

With a background in Human Services, I was able to navigate through most situations as we all adjusted to living together and the new setting that had taken place, but nothing in my background could have prepared me for the life-changing meltdown I was about to witness.

To this day, I remember it vividly. It was a Thursday in March 2003, the biological mother was a no call no show again. It was a series of many no call no shows for the newly given visitation schedule that had just broke from supervised visits (in which I was the supervisor). With the history of no call no shows, we were always cautious and careful in letting the kids know mostly Romeo because it was harder on him. 

My husband had gone to work and I was to be there for the pick up. The time came, the time passed. I could see Romeo getting antsy as I was giving an extra half hour for pick up time just in case something happened. The half hour came and left. I had to tell Romeo “I’m sorry bud” in which he replied “its okay”. He appeared to be okay as I peeked out of the kitchen every few moments to watch, to see if he would be okay.  The other two children just went on about their play time, he joined them and then… I hear Romeo yell “its your fault”  and  I quickly peek out to see him standing over and yelling at his brother, ready to pounce on him. I rushed over to the kids, stopped him and let him know we talk about these things in which … he broke, dropped to his knees, and began to sob inconsolably, desperately asking why didn’t she want to see him.

[insert “I don’t know what to do face”]

I instantly dropped to the floor, sat him in my lap and did the only thing I knew to do…. Hug Therapy.  I held and rocked him while he sobbed and sobbed inconsolably for 32 minutes until he fell asleep. Here sat this eight year old boy, lost, confused, heartbroken, and couldn’t understand why things were happening this way.

My heart shattered into pieces.

This very instance changed my life.

That evening, I went through things in my head and made decisions within.

These children, not only having to go through growing pains, had to deal with this reality, not knowing if it would ever change or get better for them. How does a child comprehend this when they are still in the stages of learning skills to navigate in a typical life.

I decided that day that no matter how difficult it may be I would choose the higher road, not allow for them to be used as leverage or methods of getting to be the better parent,  and would be devoted to teaching them things in life in a positive manner, cultivate love, but most importantly sometimes … you must learn to love someone from a distance by my definition.

[My definition of learning to love someone from a distance.  When faced with a toxic or hurtful relationship whether it be short term or lifelong, its not wrong to love that person but you must put some distance within the relationship by not setting expectations within the relationship. When someone has hurt you so deeply, you need to heal, and sort out things, your own emotions. You cannot change anyone. Also, a practice that takes time to learn. ]

Have there been days when the children tested me beyond the universe, court dates, visitation schedules, “buying” the child, story telling, bad behaviors and frustration got the better of me? Yes, there have been many, many days where I needed to step outside, take deep breaths, take a walk, a hike to remember my goal, my choices I had decided on. When faced with tricky questions like what do you think of …. ?  My answer was simple, we are different people, who handle things differently just like people you meet everyday in school or at the bus stop.

Because for me, showing them anything less than they deserved i.e.; a typical childhood with two parents who loved them very much, worked through things together, and giving up was not the answer. Teaching love and life skills in the most positive manner possible even when faced with the negatives is what we believe in. No matter, what they held onto that we taught them and some days I worried nothing we worked on teaching or showing them would remain with them.

And then about a year and a half ago, Romeo eighteen at the time, was in the kitchen talking with a friend. He was listening close as the friend was discussing the difficulties she was having with a family member and that it had gone on for years. I went in to get a cup of tea quickly, but they remained talking. As I was leaving  the kitchen I heard Romeo say “sometimes … you must learn to love someone from a distance” as he went on to explain by our family definition of what that means.

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Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.

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Cheley Frazier is a.k.a. istepmother and you can learn more about her at http://about.me/istepmother

Have you  ever had an event or moment during your stepfamily journey that really defined your approach or had an impact on the choices you made? How did that shape you and your family?

Today’s post comes from Meghan. Her words will move you. Her heart will inspire you. And her journey will give you insight on the blended family journey. I am honored to share Meghan and the beautiful beginnings of her blended family.

The Beginning of My Blended Family by Meghan

My blended family story doesn’t start the day I married my husband. My story starts when I was a young child, adopted into a wonderful family. I grew up feeling nothing but love from my parents and siblings, but always felt I was missing a piece of my puzzle. When I was a teen, my biological mother came back into my life, causing much chaos. She herself was not stable, and even though she completed my puzzle, it was a puzzle full of hurt and confusion. Part of this confusion was caused because of my loyalty to both of my mothers. I felt drawn to my biological mother, and felt confused by the pain my relationship with my biological mother caused to the mother who had raised me. Even when my biological mother caused me pain, there was still this part of me that desperately wanted a relationship with her. This situation has given me a lot of insight into what being a step-child must feel like.

When I married my husband I was thrilled to gain his three children, two girls and one boy who were at the time 13, 12, and 9. He shares custody with their mother who remarried one month after our wedding. Even when the kids’ mother speaks badly of us, or tries to cause problems in our relationship with the children, I remind myself of the pain I saw in my adoptive mother, and try to be compassionate . I have a wonderful relationship with my step-kids and I know that must be hard for her. I go out of my way to not make the kids “choose” a side. Always encouraging them to love their mom, even when she has done hurtful things to me. I want the kids to have the best relationship possible with their mother. I personally know how hard it is to be in the middle, and it is my goal that the kids will be able to look back and see that I did my best to let them love all of us without guilt.

Being a stepmom has taught me more than I could ever imagine. I am learning to love a difficult person, who goes out of her way to make my life hard, but also gave my husband the incredible gift of his children. I am learning that kids change your life, and there is nothing in the world better than a hug from my step-kids, who are now 15, 14, and 11. Most importantly, I am learning that even though being a stepmom can be hard, at times lonely, and many days a battle, it is also very rewarding. I would not trade my blended family for anything.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. - Proverbs 4:23

Meghan joined the stepmom community in her mid-twenties when she married Fred in 2011. She was blessed with three stepchildren, two girls who are now 15 and 14, and one boy who is 11. Fred and Meghan share custody of the children with Fred’s ex-wife. They live in Maumelle, Arkansas. They are all very involved in church and school activities and enjoy anything that involves spending time as a family. You can connect with Meghan on Twitter at @lrning2BSmom

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Meghan’s insights are profound? Do you find yourself taking the high road with your husband’s ex for the kids’ sake? Loyalty issues can run deep in a child. Share the gift Meghan’s words have brought to you. Thanks.

This is the first post in the third edition of The Gift of StepMom collection. I started this series in 2011 to celebrate stepmothers at Mother’s Day and the response has been overwhelming. I’m excited to share a new post each day leading up to Mother’s Day! Our first story comes from Louise. She and I first connected via social media. I knew from our initial contact that this woman loved and valued her family while being honest about the struggles that come with being a stepmom. Her heart is for her family and her words illustrate the gifts of her blended family as well as her insight into “instant motherhood.” I’m honored to share with you her story:

A Stepmother’s Heart: The Gift of Children to Love by Louise

I never thought in a million years that my first foray into parenting would be with a man with a child let alone three but it’s been the most fulfilling risk I’ve ever taken. I’m of the opinion that it takes a certain type of person to take that leap of faith, that’s not to say I’m any different then people who don’t go down this route. However, it’s not for everyone & I question everyday why me, why put me in this position. What do I have to give or learn from being a StepMom? Three years on I’ve still found no answer that makes sense to me, other than the plain realisation that I’ve been given a gift of children to love, teach and inspire.

As a StepMom to two boys 12 & 10 and an 8 year old girl, I walked in to a potential minefield when we first met. Luckily for me, they first accepted me as a StepMom-in-Training & then as a StepMom when their Dad & I got married. They have the most beautiful, precious & loving souls I could have met. Hugs & kisses are frequent, cuddles on the couch are treasured & their bubbly personalities shine through. Our relationship has been plain sailing in comparison to how it could have gone, it is absolutely attributed to my husband & the full parenting role I’m able to engage in.

It’s been the biggest gift that they have supported their father & the choices he has made. They have allowed me to fully participate in their lives, to love them & care for them as much as I believe a parent should. It’s an important lesson to learn early on, as a StepMom I can’t force the children to love me or respect me. I can only be open to them, show them how I want to treat them & hope they trust me enough to allow me in to their lives. If they chose not to there isn’t much I can do, you have to respect the loyalties & boundaries they have to their Mom, irrespective of your own personal opinions. It’s about the children.

It is impossible for those who aren’t StepParents to understand how I think & feel for my StepChildren or truly understand how much parenting I’m involved in but they aren’t supposed to. The culture I live in isn’t as open to the notion of StepParents being an effective part of the family dynamic, so there are very few supports for us. Playing an active role is frowned upon by most & embraced by few. The idea of them ‘not being your children’ is floated around a lot. As I’ve grown in my role I’ve learned to come back with ‘while I may not have given birth, I parent & love them as much as they allow me to.’

Children will be children, act out & misbehave but it’s not directed towards me. It’s because they are children & nobody, child or adult, is perfect. I’ve been blessed with a husband who has let me discipline the children, set boundaries & play an effective parent. This has allowed the children to respect me as an equal voice in our home. My husband doesn’t dote on the children so I don’t have to play bad cop when necessary to keep the peace. Rewards are earned in our home & no one parent shoulders sole responsibility.

We have a similar style of parenting & we don’t clash on issues of discipline, chores and upbringing. One of things my husband always told me, even when we dated, was how our values & morals were the same. I believe this is essential to be able to parent as a unit & function in a drama free household. We are stronger because of that. We deal with issues relating to the children as one, he confides in me & wants me to be a part of their lives. It’s a choice he didn’t have to make. We could have been a separate unit but it wouldn’t be a fair example to the children he brought in to this world. They deserve someone who is as committed to them as she is to their father. They are not disposable items, you can’t end your relationship with children as easily ending a partnership/marriage.

Being a StepMom has made me challenge my thinking & my beliefs. I’ve had to learn to let go of the notion that I can fix everything & everyone. Unfortunately there are areas that StepMoms can’t influence, no matter how much logic or sense we try to impart. It takes a while to get to the point where you can actively accept that this is the reality. I’m luck enough that my Husband gives me support, let’s me vent and understands that I have the children’s & his best interests at heart.

I know I will never be the children’s mother, nor will I ever replace her in their eyes & hearts. I don’t want to and I don’t need to. However, I am their StepMom and I’m proud to be their StepMom. I’ve been given the opportunity to parent three amazing children for the last three years. My husband has given me the gift of children. Those children are part of him and have shaped him to be the man that I fell in love with. It would, in my eyes, be unfair to give them any less love and support than they deserve. All I desire to be is a parent, a support & an inspiration to them.

Being a StepMom has thought me more about myself and about society then I could have ever dreamed of. It’s made me realise who I am, what’s important in life and what is ultimately worth letting go of. It’s a gift that I love more everyday and fight harder to keep everyday. I try to better myself to be the best Wife and StepMom I can. It was an instafamily, but one I would never give up, I respect my family more everyday and I prioritize them to the highest.

Being a StepMom is a wonderful gift, it is a non-returnable gift, there are no exchanges or refunds. It’s made me a stronger person, it’s made me value the rights of a child and fight for what’s right for them every day. My husband was good enough to share with me this gift of motherhood and trust that I would use it wisely. For that, I am forever grateful.

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Louise, 28 is from Ireland and calls it home. She is a StepMom to 3 and soon to be a first time BioMom. She met her husband in January 2010 and they married in Nov 2011.

Grateful for Louise and her sharing from the heart. Did her story resonate with you? What gifts have you received from becoming a stepmom? Were you given the gift of “instant” motherhood when you became a stepmom?

Announcing the Stepmom Retreat

Join us September 27 – 29, 2013 in Dallas for a weekend you will never forget!

One of my favorite types of emails to get from a stepmom reads something like this…. “I’m so grateful to know I’m not the only one feeling this way. Since connecting with other stepmoms I don’t feel alone anymore.”  You are not alone and now you have an opportunity to attend a national Stepmom Retreat and gain valuable tools and connect in person. There is power in community and the Stepmom Retreat offers help, healing and hope. You’ll also leave feeling refreshed and with friends who you can continue to walk the journey with.

We all spend money for insurance to protect our valuable assets like our home, car, jewelry. Our most valuable treasure is our family and a retreat like this in a priceless investment in you, your marriage and your family.

I am so excited to be a part of the Stepmom Retreat. Here are all the details:

 

Visit www.BlendedandBonded.com to register and take a peek at the agenda.  Here’s some helpful info on the retreat by Laura Petherbridge:

Who should attend this stepmom retreat?

This retreat is for any woman who is dating, engaged or married to a man with children of ANY age (even adult kids). PLUS it’s a great event for single parent moms because if they remarry they will form a stepfamily. Four of the five stepmom hosts have a ministry to stepmoms. The fifth is an amazing magazine filled with practical tips for stepmoms.

Why is there a need for a stepmom retreat? 

Stepmoms often feel confused, ashamed and fearful about the complex issues associated with a stepfamily. They often don’t tell their husband or even a best friend how they are feeling deep inside. The loneliness and feeling of being “outside the family circle” is real and significant.

Why are so many stepmoms shocked by the complex issues they are encountering? Didn’t they recognize these problems beforehand? 

One reason is that it’s human nature to ignore problems and believe that “love will conquer all.” Another is that the kids often don’t protest the marriage until afterwards. And a third reason is because couples inaccurately assume that if the couple is happy, the kids will be too. Basically “They didn’t know—what they didn’t know.”

What topics will be covered at the Stepmom Retreat?

We will tackle the common issues stepmoms face such as: overcoming the day-to-day frustrations of stepfamily living,  co-parenting between 2 homes, and the levels of step parenting authority. In addition, we will address unique issues such as : the childless stepmom, the full time stepmom, how to blend yours, mine and ours, what to do when the former spouse is difficult, and husbands who parent out of guilt.

How will a stepmom benefit from The Stepmom Retreat?

This event will allow a stepmom to mingle with other stepmoms and learn how her feeling are normal, and that she is not alone. It will also help her to hear honesty from experienced transparent stepmoms who have survived stepfamily living, and now thrive. We even have a panel of Dads joining us to share the male perspective. Our goal is to provide help, healing and hope!

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Will you be joining us? Would love to hear your thoughts on the retreat? What would you love to see? Who would you love to meet? What would make the perfect stepmom retreat for you? Don’t be bashful ladies… please share! Hint, Hint… this makes a great Mother’s Day gift. Note that early bird registration ends June 1st.… tickets are selling and there are limited seats. Get yours today! Can’t wait to say hi in person and hug…. it’s going to feel like a family reunion (borrowing this term from a dear friend who referred to the retreat as such. She is so right!).

Mother’s Day. A time to celebrate moms and the contributions they bring to their family. All moms, bio, adoptive, foster and step – should be celebrated on Mother’s Day yet sadly not all “moms” are recognized for the gifts they bring.

Two years ago, after seeing all the Mother’s Day displays in stores and having a wonderful lunch with two amazing stepmoms, I was Mother's Day, celebrating stepmoms, stepmother's dayinspired to create “The Gift of Stepmom,” a series where stepmoms share the blessings they bring to their families and I’m bringing it back this year!

The series was created to share stories from real stepmoms about the real gifts they bring to their stepfamilies.

For many stepmoms, Mother’s Day can be an emotionally difficult time. Often stepmoms pour themselves into their families yet see little appreciation. And even when stepmoms and their stepkids have a great relationship, kids typically spend Mother’s Day with their mom. And while most stepmoms support and understand kids want to be with their mom, not having their stepkids on Mother’s Day is another reminder of the complexities of stepfamily living.

I’ve said it once and I’ll keep saying it…. the word step may be placed before mother to define a woman’s physical connection to the children she loves but it does not define the heart she has for them or the love she pours into their lives.

Over the past two years, stepmoms have shared stories that have made us all laugh, cry and feel less alone. These stories give hope and that is one thing we all need to cling to especially during the difficult times. Two stories shared were written by grown adult stepchildren who are not stepmoms themselves but shared the gift of their stepparent growing up. A heartfelt story by a bio mom who shared the gift of her daughter’s stepmom touched many, many hearts.

All the stories shared have had a profound and ripple effect on so many lives. As Mother’s Day draws near, I am calling for submissions for 2013 The Gift of Stepmom.  YOU are a gift to your family and I want to hear from you.  Would you please consider sharing the blessing you bring to your husband? The blessing you bring to your stepkids? Perhaps, you want to share the blessings that your stepkids bring to your life? Whatever your story, I guarentee it will touch another woman’s heart and make a profound impact.

I also want to hear from children who grew up with a stepmom and from any husband whose wife has really blessed him and his children. If you are interested in submitting your story, please email me at heather@cafesmom.com. I want to connect you so I’m happy to post your story, links, and photos. Together we grow, share, learn, encourage, inspire and support.

Starting May 1st, I’ll be running the stories that have been shared with me to inspire, encourage and support fellow stepmoms. We are a positive influence in the lives of our stepchildren, our husband, our kids and to those around us. It’s time we take a moment to celebrate the heart we bring to our family and the difference we make! (Here’s the archived series if you want to check it out)

One of my goals here at CafeSmom is for every stepmom to feel connected on her journey. These stories help connect stepmoms and celebrate the gift that we are to our families. Please consider sharing the Gift that you are to your family. Your story will touch and inspire many. Thank you!

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Your thoughts…. Is Mother’s Day a challenge for you? Do you celebrate the gift that you are to your family? Will you submit your story?

 It is my heart that this project is a gift to you. 

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Mark your calendar for The StepMom Retreat. Join the sisterhood of stepmoms in Dallas Texas September 27th – 29th for help, healing and hope. A full weekend to connect with other stepmoms, learn tips on how to thrive and feel connected. You’ll leave feeling refreshed. To register, click here The Stepmom Retreat.

Helping my twelve year old stepdaughter is a continual battle. Not because I don’t want to help her but because I do. It’s because she resists my help.  My stepdaughter struggles with a lot of emotional issues stemming from her mother leaving her, her sister and their dad (my husband). She has built such a wall of protection around her heart that she won’t visit the pain that has to heal in order for her to live a healthy and peaceful life.

When her mother first left, my stepdaughter created a fantasy to explain why mom was gone and to make sense of it all. She has clung to that fantasy even though she knows the truth and over the past eight years she has applied this fantasy approach to other areas of her life. She openly admits she wants life to be the way she wants it to be and when it isn’t she makes it up to fit into “her world.”   

Make believe and pretend are fun and accepted when you are a little girl but once you enter your tweens the fantasy world continually crashes with the reality of life because fantasy cannot exist in truth. When my stepdaughter’s fantasy is “shattered” by proof of the real world, it is very difficult for her to process and because of this my stepdaughter’s lies and manipulation have escalated. She is determined to make life fit into the small box she has designed for it. Problem is, it doesn’t fit but rather spills over and impacts so many areas of her life.

I’ve tried countless times to talk with her. Share my experiences growing up. We spend hours a week in counseling and my husband and I lovingly enforce pre-set consequences for her choices. She calls us mean. We know we are being responsible parents who hold her accountable. She doesn’t like it and that’s okay. She doesn’t have to like it. We understand she has been hurt. What happened to her at a young age is terrible. But she has to work with it to work through it. We don’t push perfection in our home because we don’t believe in perfection. We promote putting your best effort forth.

Her future employer isn’t going to let her be 20 minutes late to work every day because she had a tough childhood. Her future relationships aren’t going to give her a pass if she is verbally abusive to them or lies and deceives them because she’s been through some tough stuff.

The irony in all of this is that while my husband and I have been frustrated that our “daughter” chooses to live in this fantasy world, the reality is that we have been stuck in our own fantasy world of sorts. We want the best for her and have been putting forth our best. We’ve clung to our faith yet we’ve also clung to these hopes…..

“if we just talk to her the right way…. she’ll get it”  

“if we just show her even more love… she’ll get it.” 

“If we take her to the right counselor…. she’ll get it.”  

“If she has the right teachers this year…. she’ll get it.” 

“If she hangs out with the right crowd…. she’ll get it.” 

and our hopes went on and on an on…..

The cold hard reality is that my stepdaughter is not going to get it until she CHOOSES to get it. We can’t force her to change. We can give her consequences that make her life uncomfortable but we can’t force her to change her ways. She has to decide that for herself. We have to continue to be there to love her through it.

What we know for sure is that my husband and I are giving her beyond what she needs to heal but she is choosing to allow pain from her past to control her today.

Tuesday night at therapy, my stepdaughter told her therapist in front of my husband and I that she thinks we like to give her consequences and her therapist responded “I think you know your parents hold you accountable for your actions and you don’t like living in the truth. They hold you to the truth.” My stepdaughter agreed. Those words intended to hurt us don’t because we know who we are. While she says those things once in a while, she also tells me and her dad that she loves us every day. She is tangled inside and it shows through the cracks in her heart and the opposing words she speaks in both anger and joy.

I am loving, responsible, caring, compassionate, hopeful, firm and most importantly for me to understand…..

I am the best stepmom she allows me to be.

I share this story for the countless stepmoms out there who put their best foot forward but whose efforts are often thwarted by their stepchild or the mother of their stepchild. Many stepchildren and/or mothers of stepkids are allowing the pain of their past to try and dictate the today and tomorrow of those around them instead of dealing with their pain. We can’t make them heal but we can OWN who we are. In writing this I noticed that the first two letters of the word BEST is BE…. Just BE who you are and you will BE your BEst!
Embrace what you bring to your stepfamily not what others will allow themselves to receive or not receive from you.
You are the BEst YOU that you can BE and if another chooses not to embrace all of your or in the case of a mom who won’t allow her kids to be blessed with all of you that is their decision and NOT a reflection on YOU!
A good friend of mine Deesha Philyaw  shared a story with me on how she was the best that someone allowed her to be and her words sunk deep in my soul and they came out singing today while I was dealing with some issues my stepdaughter stirred up at school.  Never underestimate what you bring to your family and never underestimate what you can bring to a fellow stepmom. You never know when your words are lifting another up.
I pray that this helps you on your journey. BE the BEst you can be and don’t allow your efforts to be judged by how someone else receives them.

 

Never forget that you are the best you can be. You make the decision to be who you are and you cannot control how another accepts you. Be you. Be true. The truth will shine through.

Valentine’s Day is a day to show love. This year as I started to think about the day my mind went straight to my stepmom sisters. A group of women who overflow with love and support for one another.

I wrote this Valentine for all the wonderful stepmoms out there to thank them for the love they show to one another. Whether it is on a blog, on Twitter, Facebook or in person… stepmom sisters are blessing each other.

A Valentine Poem for Stepmoms   stepmom love

You understand the journey and share your joys and sorrows

You never judge but listen and offer a loving word and hope for a better tomorrow

You love each other through the hard times

You share advice on how to achieve peace time

You make sure another stepmom never feels alone

You give love to another when it feels like there is none in their home

When a stepmom hasn’t been heard from in awhile

You reach out with a kind word, an offer to help, a gentle (virtual) smile

You validate one another’s joys and fears

You develop trust and gently tell one another what they really need to hear

You encourage

You inspire

You support

You are love

You are a gift!

You may not always have the best days but you will always be the best. On those days when you are down and feeling blue, please know your feelings are real and you are not alone. So many of us have shed the same tears and cried the same cries. We’ve wished for the same things and let go of the same dreams. Together we are stronger, smarter and wise.

You bless all those around you! Today on Valentine’s Day and everyday… please know you are love and you bring so much love to each other. Thanks for who you are and what you do.

Happy Valentine’s Day my friends.
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Would you share how the stepmom community has positively impacted you?
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