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.
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?
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.
Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
Tuesday night I could have felt really sorry for myself. OK, correction; I did feel sorry for myself but I chose not to act on it.
I was a little blue but I knew I had a choice. And making the right choice while not always easy always brings a sense of peace and joy. You see Wednesday my son was having his tonsils removed and I wanted him to stay with me Tuesday night so I could keep an eye on him, make sure he didn’t eat or drink after midnight….. basically mother him to the ninths. But Tuesday is his dad’s night to have him and his siblings so I did the right thing….. didn’t fight it and sent him to dad’s house.
Earlier in the week, I had emailed my ex asking if our son could stay with me the night before surgery. At the time of the email, he was okay with it and said he’d like to bring him back to my house at bed time but he changed his mind and told me when he came to pick up the kids “I’ll just hang on to him tonight. I’ll meet you at the surgery center tomorrow.”While my heart did an ouchie, my head knew that the right thing to do was let the schedule be. And so I did.
Moms, Dad, Stepparents Give Good Care
I could have gone though that whole “but” thought process of “but I took him to the doctor for the consult. But I made all the arrangements for surgery. But I know what he has to do with pre-opp activity…” yet the common theme in all those thoughts always stops me: the word “I”.
Anytime, my discomfort is due to what I want and not what is best for the kids, I stop myself. Surely, my ex-husband is capable of caring for our son and going by the doctor’s guidelines. It would be selfish of me to operate on a different notion.
And those things I did for my son in preparation for the surgery, I did out of love not for a return on investment. I needed to respect the schedule and deal with my mom heart not having him Tuesday night. It was my issue not my ex-husband’s nor my son’s.
I was tweeting Tuesday night about it and was touched by how many wonderful women joined in on the conversation. I tweeted this: ….My check is to ask myself “why do I want to do this?” If it’s for me then I stop. Kids come first in co-parenting.
I’m often asked the key to working well with my ex. The answer is simple, I put the needs of my kids first.
Sadly, I think our society loves villianizing ex spouses and stepparents and they really love pitting them against one another. If all ex-spouses and stepparents were villians there wouldn’t be very many nice people walking this earth. Sure it’s true that my ex and I look at life somewhat differently and there are things he does I don’t understand and I’m sure he feels the same about me. However, I know kids need both of us. When I feel an instant tug of not liking something or wanting something different when it comes to co-parenting, I do the self-check and ask myself “why am I feeling this? Is it because I don’t like it or because it is truly not good for the kids?” I don’t quantify how often I have these feelings but I’m pretty sure when I have those heart tug mommy moments, it’s because of me and potential selfishness and not due to what is happening in the other home. Once I recongize it’s me… I know I have to do what’s right for the kids and let it go.
I challenge all co-parents to do the self-check whenever they start to feel a parenting tug that would pull the kids from the other parent or cause needless drama.
Will you take the challenge? Will you share with others?
Check out my book with Gayla Grace entitled Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace (available at all major ebook retailers). The book gives solid advice you can use at the holidays and everyday of the year.
On December 14, 2012 the unspeakable happened at Sandy Hook elementary school. My heart is heavy for the families impacted. The ripple effect of pain cannot even be measured or described.
I had planned that day to write and share a post on gifts to give your stepkids. When I heard the news (actually read on twitter Friday), I wept openly at the grocery store for all the parents impacted (parents, stepparents, grandparents, all those who love the victims). My heavy heart was also weighed down with worry for ALL SIX of my kids (my four biological kids and my two stepdaughters).
When the kids came home that day, I hugged them all a little tighter and loved on all of them. Love… it’s what we want all kids to feel. I unplugged all weekend to really plug into my family. Time well spent. But today rolled around and I felt prompted to sit down and share some gifts that we can give our kids (our stepkids and our biological kids).
At Christmas, we are reminded of the love God bestowed upon us when He gave us the gift of His son. We love (or want to love) this time of the year and we want our children to feel loved. We want love for all kids regardless of the blood that runs through their veins. My stepdaugthers may not have my DNA but they do have my heart.
I am saddended when I read of the struggles that many co-parents and stepparents face and how those challenges seem to get ramped up over the holidays. I recently read a tweet from a stepmom sharing how the mom of her stepdaughter ripped the shoes off of her feet because they were purchased by the dad and stepmom. I’ve received emails from stepmoms who say that gifts that are purchased are either not allowed to be brought to their mom’s house or are even taken from them when they are. I’ll never understand how any parent puts their hurt onto their child. (Please note, I’m not saying moms do this only. Parents who are hurting transfer their pain to their kids and that is not confined to moms.)
Maybe, just maybe the horror that occurred Friday will soften the hearts of all parents and not pit children between two homes when co-parenting is present.
Having said that I wanted to share some ideas for gift giving to your stepkids this season. Gifts that can grow the bond between you and your kids and that can’t be taken away…..
Give the gift of experience – a memory cannot be taken away. Unlike a toy that will eventually end up in the landfill or clothing that they will likely out grow or like, an experience will last a lifetime.
Consider planning a fun trip; a day out, or a simple activity like a cooking class, ski lesson, ice skating, etc…..
If you or your husband have frequent flyer miles, consider using them for a day trip. Find free things to do in your city or a big city you can fly or drive to. Use groupon or living social to find experiences you can give your kids.
With an experience, you are giving your kids the gift of time and of memories. That can never be taken away.
Give a Hallmark Recordable book- I love these books! Record your voice and/or your husband’s voice reading a story. Your child can have it with them and listen to you read them to sleep at night even when they aren’t with you. The only caveat I would caution is to know whether this book would be welcomed in mom’s home. Even though we don’t have control over what mom does, we don’t want to give our kids a gift that could cause an issue for them. Perhaps they could keep it at your home if you don’t believe mom will like it. Actually, you could consider purchasing two different recordable books; one that you record and one for them to give to mom and have her record herself reading. This would be a great way of “telling” your kids how much you love and support their relationship with their mom – that there are no loyalty “wars” in your mind.
Purchase Cooking Supplies/Cookbook - put together a gift basket of fun kitchen gadgets and cookbooks that your stepchild can use when they are with you. Help them plan special menus and items to make together.
Give the Gift of Family Time – give your kids a new game or purchase a family membership somewhere. Whether it be an interactive video game or a board game… playing games together builds family memories. Our family loves Apples to Apples, Bananagrams, Wii Sports and Wii Just Dance games. This year, we bought the kids Ticket to Ride! We are looking forwward to playing it with everyone.
Consider purchasing a membership to the Zoo, Science Center, Children’s Museum, etc….. and then make it a point to go when you are all together.
Sponsor a Child in their name – World Vision provides an amazing way to truly teach your child to give back while at the same time gaining a perspective on giving and how children in other parts of the country live. I started sponsoring a young girl from Albania when I was a single mom. I wanted my kids to give to other kids and connect with another child. Through the seven years of sponsorship, we have developed a close relationship. We love to write to her and send her small gifts and we love hearing from her. Sponsoring a child is $35.00 a month and when we think of how we can spend that friviously, it makes the amount that much more impactful.
Make a “Love You” jar or “Things To Do” jar – write out things you/your husband love about your child. Also, write down things you can do with each other; bake a cake, plan a movie night in, paint pottery, go to a local sports event, have a spa night at home…. Get creative. The child can pick something out of it and you can plan to do the item. If it’s a love jar, they can feel all warm and fuzzy inside knowing they are loved and cared for.
The Gift of Positive Messages - gift a chalkboard to your stepchild that they can hang in their room. Write positive messages on it. Let them get creative. If a chalkboard isn’t big enough, consider painting a wall with chalkboard paint or painting a dresser with iet. Get creative.
I also love Wallhogs. Last year I purchased Wallhogs of my two boys. They think it is really cool to have this larger than life cut out of themselves on their walls.
Give the Gift of You and Your Story - consider purchasing books, movies, toys, etc… that you loved when you were the age of your stepchildren. It’s a great way to connect and share an item and an experience.
Regardless of what you leave under the tree or send to them, I humbly caution you about giving a gift with expectations attached. When we have expectations and they aren’t met, we are often left feeling so disappointed. Even when we don’t make our kids “choose” between homes, they can feel such loyalty – “if I like this gift, will it hurt mom’s feelings?” And many stepmoms struggle with doing so much for their stepkids and feeling like their efforts go unnoticed or unappreciated.
In our book Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, Gayla Grace and I speak candidly and with wisdom regarding the joys and heartaches of stepfamily life during the holidays. As a bonus feature we share family traditions that you can start with your blended family. Traditions make memories and memories live on in the hearts of those you love.
Would love to hear what type of gifts you give your stepkids? What are your thoughts on the above listed ideas?
Day 24: 31 Days of Life in the StepMom Trenches (Vlogtober)
Truth: We can’t change our stepkids.
Even when we want the best for them and we try our best, true change only comes from within them – they have to want to change and they have to make the change. Today, I’m sharing a story about my youngest stepdaugther. The truth is she likes to draw attention to herself and she also likes stuff. We were going to the eye doctor today and while we thought she might need glasses anyway, she made it her mission to “fail” the eye exam in many ways. Most humorous is the color blind test.
I’m not laughing at her yet stressing that we have to laugh with our situations and understand that which we can and cannot change. Even though I know what to do, I don’t always do it and I see the difference when I “go with it” and when I choose to fight it.
Takeway: WE are committed to our family. We have to love each person where they are and not wait until they are where we want them. Our love can’t change them (we wish it could) but our love is given because it’s the right thing to do. Albeit hard at times but we have an opportunity to show unconditional love. Today, think about your stepkids and about your spouse. Are you fighting hard to change something that you truly don’t have the power to change? How does that leave you feeling? How can you better channel your energy into your family?
Tough questions but it’s the tough stuff that yields the great results.
Grab a cup of coffee and get cozy. You are about to read a heartwarming story by Rebecca Suhy about the love she feels for her stepdaughters and the reality checks she has as their “bonus” mom. I know many will relate and be inspired by her heartfelt words. The love for her family truly shines through and there is nothing wicked about that. Enjoy!
I’m not sure anyone ever wishes for, or asks, to be a Stepmom.
I was 26 years old when I met my husband. For years I had been looking for Mr. Right, and I had my checklist of who he was—a tall, handsome man who made me laugh and was driven by his career. I had been in serious relationships before, but I was unsettled by the men I had previously encountered and although I enjoyed the thrill of the hunt, I was ready to finally be settled. So, on that fateful night in November 2003, I began talking to the man that would become my husband. He was tall (check), handsome (check), funny (check) and a fireman (BONUS!). What I didn’t know at that time, but what I eventually found out, was that he was divorced and had two daughters. So NOT on my checklist.
Just like it was a surprise to learn about the “other” women in his life, meeting my future stepdaughters for the first time was also unexpected. It was a year into our relationship, and we were parking at his parents’ house in order to attend a community event. It was Halloween 2004, and all I remember is a three year-old Wonder Woman being held by her grandmother, and a four year-old princess running after her. I stopped dead in my tracks. “Do I introduce myself, will he introduce me?” It was a very quick interaction, but I knew the “first” meeting, albeit informal, was over.
Over the next few years, my interaction with the girls was effortless. Because of the custody agreement, we share, and continue to share, responsibility for the girls. Therefore, we have our own family dynamic. What began as a casual situation, quickly and easily, turned into a family. They were so excited when my husband proposed, I was so excited for them to share in our wedding day as flower girls, and they are the BEST big sisters to our 3 year-old son Ryan, who is now as old as one of his big sisters was when I first met her.
What I find hardest about being a Stepmom is experiencing those “reality check” moments when I realize I’m not their mom. When they’re with us, we’re a traditional family—doing homework, eating dinner together, playing, disciplining, etc… But, what I sometimes forget is that they do the same thing at their mother’s house. They essentially have two lives and we’re not a part of their other one. The girls and I do our “ladies-only” shopping sprees, movie dates, manicures, etc… like any mother-daughter/s would. But, I don’t get the privilege of being the first female they call if they’re sick or listed as an emergency contact, etc… I’m extremely grateful for the relationship I have with my two stepdaughters. They embraced me like another mother, they recognize me on Mother’s Day and they’ve naturally learned to share their love. No one can tell the heart that they’re not my own, because I love them like they’re my own.
In June 2011, my oldest stepdaughter underwent corrective surgery for her scoliosis. When I learned she would have to get this done, I cried, like any mother would, despite knowing this would be the best thing that ever happened to her. I struggled with my place in the waiting room at the hospital with both their mother and father, and remained strong in my decision that if I love her like my own and I care for her like one of my own, then I will be alongside her biological parents, because it is where I belong. I made it through that day with a lot of emotion, but just like any mother would. And her amazing recovery and only made me appreciate both my girls and my important role as a stepmom.
I find it a roller coaster ride and a bit of a struggle to go from mom to stepmom based on activity, or day, but I’m learning and I’m getting good at it. No one wishes for, or asks, to be a Stepmom, but if you’re as lucky as I am, you may want to consider it.
Rebecca (Becca) Suhy is a Cleveland based mom of a three-year old boy, Ryan, and stepmom to two girls, Allison, 12 and Jenna, 10. Married since 2006 to her husband Michael, Becca navigates the joys (and headaches) of stepmotherhood on a daily basis. Sharing part-time maternal responsibilities for her two girls is challenging, but she feels extremely fortunate they have such an amazing relationship. Becca looks forward to connecting with fellow stepmoms who find their role to be even crazier than motherhood. Becca serves as principal of Rebecca Suhy Communications in Cleveland where she specializes in public relations, social media and marketing communications strategy. She is 1999 graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Follow Becca on Twitter @beccasuhy.
This is the first post in the second edition of The Gift of StepMom Collection. I started this series last year and the response was amazing. Reading stories from other stepmoms encouraged and inspired many. This year, I have had so many wonderful stories submitted that I’ll be sharing a different one each day leading up to Mother’s Day!
It is so true, stepmoms are the heart of their blended family and it’s important that we celebrate our role and the gifts we bring to those we love. I am honored to share this heartfelt piece by Kim Hartsock. I am grateful and blessed to have connected with Kim via Twitter. Please enjoy her Gift of Stepmom:
I never thought I would end up divorced, a single mother, remarried and now a stepmom. I know the Bible says that God declared ‘I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’. That tells me that no matter our choices in life, ultimately God’s plan comes through.
I believe that some of us choose shorter or longer paths to those plans but in the end, we live out God’s plan for our life. I believe that God’s plan for me is to be a wife to the love of my life, Steven, and to be a mom to Caroline, Benjamin and Sullivan. I strive everyday to be the wife and mother that they all deserve. It isn’t always easy but it is the most rewarding job I have.
The definition of ‘mother’ is a woman who has raised a child, given birth to a child or supplied the ovum that united with a sperm that grew into a child. When I think about Mother’s Day, I think how grateful I am for my mother, her mother and for all of the amazing women in my life who have in some way influenced my life. That is a very long list! I also think about how grateful I am for the 3 beautiful children God has blessed me with. I only gave birth to one of those but that doesn’t change the fact that they are my children.
My son has a stepmom and I am grateful for her. She loves him and plays a very active role in raising him. I do not feel threatened by her and I definitely do not wish she was not in his life. My son did not ask for his father and I to get a divorce. This was the life we chose for him. My acceptance of his stepmom is in a way, my way of helping to make his broken home complete. And equally am I thankful for our other kids’ mother.
When I married their father, I was not replacing their mother but rather agreeing to become a part of their already formed family. Steven and I chose each other, part of us was our children. Our wedding wasn’t just between the two of us, it was between the five of us. That is a big reason why all five of us stood at the alter with the minister and made our vows to each other and to God.
I believe we are a family. Granted our children have larger families than most. I don’t think it’s better or worse, just different from some other families. Each family has its own dynamics. Ours includes stepmoms and stepdads.
I believe that love makes a family. Our family is full of love. Our children are loved. They are growing up seeing two people live out their vows on a daily basis. So when I celebrate Mother’s Day, I celebrate the love my mother showed me and the love my children’s mothers show them. I don’t think it matters whether or not that title has the word ‘step’ in it or not.
So when you set out to celebrate the mothers in your life, think about the sacrifices these ladies make each and every day for the children they are raising and celebrate the love it takes to commit to that responsibility.
Here’s to all of the amazing women out there that God has chosen to be mothers!
Kim Hartsock (@kimsock) is a CPA in Atlanta, GA. She and her husband, Steven, have three beautiful children (aka the Lil Socks). Kim is passionate about blended families and encouraging women, especially stepmoms. She also serves as Treasurer and board member of the Susan G Komen for the Cure Greater Atlanta.
Note: Read to the bottom for an opportunity to win a fabulous Treat for yourself!
I was recently asked to finish this sentence “My ideal Mother’s Day treat would be…….?”
Immediately, my mind went to “….for my kids to all get along!”
Seriously, my ideal Mother’s Day treat would be for me to enjoy my husband and all six of my kids doing the things we love to do. I love how the kids make me breakfast in bed. While I typically don’t eat fruit loops, dry toast, pop tarts or pickles for breakfast getting them delivered on a tray with beaming smiles makes the food taste like it came from a five star restaurant.
Card from Treat.com
I enjoy going to Church with no complaints and no requests to use the restroom while we are in the worship center.
I enjoy cooking dinner with my husband. He makes an amazing Mexican Lasagna and it’s my favorite dish of his. And I have to be full disclosure here. Typically when we cook that means he is chopping, slicing and dicing and I am managing kid drama, fielding phone calls and chatting with him while he does it. I love to cook but for some reason when we cook together I love to watch him and be in the kitchen with him but truth be told I don’t do a lot of cooking. Maybe I’m just distracted by his handsome good looks!
And I’d like to watch a family movie at the end of the day of my choice. This year it may be the original Yours, Mine and Ours with Lucille Ball and Henry Ford. I love the classics. Until my kids went to school they thought my classic movies were current movies.
Now, if I could give every mother – bio, adoptive, foster or step a treat on Mother’s Day – it would be for them to know they make a difference in the lives of the children they love. I would make sure they feel celebrated and know that their efforts do not go unnoticed!
I believe all types of moms should be celebrated on Mother’s Day! But sadly, the day can be difficult for many “non-traditional” moms whose children may not be with them on Mother’s Day and/or they don’t receive a thank you or a show of gratitude for the way they love and serve their family. Typically, it is the kids who celebrate their moms on this special day. For stepmoms, sometimes the kids get caught in an emotional loyalty battle and feel they can’t celebrate their stepmom out of fear of offending their mom. Even if the kids are grateful for there stepmom they may not show it. This can be heartbreaking for a woman who pours herself daily into her husband and her entire family.
Card from Treat.com
As girlfriends, we have the power to knock this holiday out of the ball park for our fellow stepmoms and for all moms we know. We can send a card to each of our friends who are Smoms and/or moms telling them how much we love and care about them! We can thank them for the unconditional love the give their family. As women, we know the power of girlfriends. Getting an uplifting note from your girlfriend can really lift spirits.
If you are like me it’s not thinking about who to send the cards to but finding the time and the right words to say that can present a challenge. It’s in the evening hours when I have time to sit down and think about sending cards but by that time its to late to go to the store. And even if I have the cards on hand I typically don’t have the stamps. If only there was a way for me to make great greeting cards from my home computer and have them physically, not digitally sent, I could shower my friends and family with cards of encouragement any day of the year. As if someone was reading my mind, in walked…..
Treat – is a new greeting card company by Shutterfly. They offer customizable greeting cards that you design via their website. You supply the address and pay for the cost of the stamp and card only and they mail it for you. In addition to the convenience, what I love is that they recognize that not every relationship is cookie cutter and therefore cards shouldn’t be either. Duhhh! You are talking to a stepmom here. To say that the relationships we inheret when we say “I do” is complex is an understatement.
I could go on and on about this new company and the line of cards but I’ll let you take at look at the site for yourself.
Treat has truly built something new and revolutionary – refreshingly personal cards made by you.
“Treat is an easy and innovative service for people to create personalized greetings that reflect their style, personality and special relationships. Just choose your card, and if you want, make it personal by adding photos, nicknames, inside jokes or whatever kind of goodness you’ve got going. Let your creativity shine through—as little or as much as you want. Go ahead and be funny, heartwarming, sarcastic, sappy or thankful—at Treat, YOU get to decide. And if you can’t find the right words, we’re always here to help.” They say it so well that the above description is taken from their site. They’ve got something great going on.
Now I will say that Treat does not have any cards specific for stepmoms however, they do have cards for “like a mom” and you can create and customize their great Mother’s Day selection any way you like. You have control over the card which is something that we often lack in our stepfamilies given the complexity of relationships.
Check out their Mother’s Day Cards! It’s so easy. You choose the card, you personalize it (with words and/or photos) and Treat mails it for you directly. One of the reasons I love sending cards is actually writing a message and I thought I would miss that digitally but I don’t. The reason I love writing things in my cards is because I enjoy personalizing it for the person I’m sending it to. You can write a very personal note in these cards. The person who receives it will know that you wrote it!
I love when I get a chance to treat my readers. I am super excited to give away a one year VIP membership to Treat – this is one full year of free greeting cards and stamps (100 individually customized greeting cards and stamps – a $350 value)!!! There are many ways to enter but all entries must be received by midnight on May 7th.
Leave a comment for each entry that you make. If have already done any of the above previous to reading this post, leave a comment to let me know. You’ll be entered.
Don’t forget to check out Treat and start sending the love!
In full disclosure, please note that I have been compensated for my participation in writing this post. Also note that I only work with brands and/or companies that I believe in and use myself. I will never bring a campaign to my readers that I don’t back personally. You will get my personal seal of approval. Integrity matters to me. I have physically seen and held the cards sent out by Treat and the quality is superb!
Yes, I admit it. I was living in fantasyland when I envisioned what being a stepmom would entail. I thought my journey would be different from the vast majority because my story was missing the ex-wife that everyone warns you about when you date a man with kids. I foolishly thought I would never have those horrid ex-wife situations that I had heard so many stepmoms complain about when I said “I do” to my husband and his two girls.
You see, my husband’s ex-wife lived two time zones away when we met. She had left the family and started a new life. Yeah, she called a few times while we were dating but the calls were so short and infrequent and my soon-to-be stepdaughters didn’t seem very interested in talking with her. They were so excited to get a mom again who would live with them and do girly things with them. They were excited for our marriage and to gain four new siblings that I would bring with me into our new family.
Life was good. I was marrying the love of my life and the most genuine and compassionate person I had ever met. I loved being a mom to my four kids and embraced the idea of gaining two more children to call my own. Since loving my soon to be husband was so easy and I loved being a mother, I assumed being a stepmom would be a cake walk for me. Cue the theme music from Jaws……
Bam! Reality hit hard and fast. It swallowed me whole. How could I be so stupid? I had looked at my new family situation through love goggles. My love for my husband and my love of being a mother clouded my thinking. My delusions that I wouldn’t have to deal with an ex-wife were so incredibly wrong and unhealthy. My cloud with the “no ex-wife” silver lining quickly vanished once I became a stepmom.
You see I learned a very valuable lesson:
The ex-wife is always present in your life whether she lives down the street or across the country.
There is no denying it; I am reminded of my husband’s ex-wife and her legacy on the girls each and every day. She is alive in the hearts and thoughts of my two stepdaughters (ages 9 and 12). She is alive in their conversations. Early in my marriage this was especially true when my cooking, cleaning, clothing and basic “doing” were compared to her. My stepdaughters were understandably examining me through lenses that were built by their mother. I cannot, nor should I, deny her presence.
Many stepmothers endure the emotional challenges of having a physically present ex-spouse who calls their husband daily, changes visitation schedules, tries to overthrow their authority in the home, bad mouths them to their stepkids, etc… Those are painful, ever present issues that frustrate and tear at a stepmom’s marital security and emotional sanity.
For me, and for other custodial stepmoms, we also deal with insecurity and emotional distress from our husband’s ex-wife but for different reasons. My anxiety and frustrations stem from watching my stepchildren struggle with the loss of a relationship with their mother. I also have become the target for all their suppressed anger towards her and their fear of being abandoned again.
Custodial stepmoms endure the presence of their husband’s ex-wife in the brokenness and rejection we see in our stepchildren who don’t have a positive relationship with their natural mother.
I have two stepdaughters who cry themselves to sleep at night wondering why their mom never called on Christmas. I deal with the question over and over “why doesn’t my mom want to see me?” “After four years, I think she’s forgotten about me.” When we go on family vacations, the youngest one always asks “will I recognize my mom if I see her here?” And just recently, we were at the community center and my youngest stepdaughter saw a sign that read “IF IT’S LOST, YOU’LL FIND IT HERE”. We were walking out when she tugged on my arm and said “Stop. Look at the sign. I need to check to see if my mom is in the lost & found bin.” Even though it’s been over 4 years since she’s last seen her mom, my stepdaughter still looks for her everywhere she goes.
This spirit of rejection can be all consuming to children and it has definitely impacted my youngest stepdaughter’s ability to focus and learn in school. All she can think about is her mother and what made her leave their family.
Custodial stepmoms also endure the presence of an ex-wife in the anger, resentment and bitterness misdirected at them from their stepchildren.
Shortly into our marriage, this sweet little girl who used to tell me “I love you” and follow me around like a shadow was screaming at me, calling me names, breaking things and even once spit on me. These were unprovoked events in my mind. I would ask her to change her shirt before school because she had outgrown it or pick up her toys before bed. These simple requests would often send her into a rage. I had become the target of all of her pain.
I used to get so frustrated when I felt rejected and mistreated by my youngest stepdaughter. I knew what their mom had done to them and I thought how can you still love a woman who can leave you yet reject a warm and loving mom who is right in your home willing to care for and raise you? I kept beating myself up and asking over and over, what am I doing wrong??? I was focusing on me and not on them and how they are naturally wired to love and want love in return from their mom. My stepdaughter’s counselor helped me to see that I was dealing with transference from my youngest stepdaughter.
In my situation, my 9 year-old stepdaughter transfers her anger, confusion, resentment and bitterness that she actually feels towards her biological mother onto me – the mom in the house.
Psychologists refer to transference as an unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another. According to The Source published in June 2001, “During transference, people turn into a ‘biological time machine.’” A nerve is struck when someone says or does something that reminds them of their past. This creates an “emotional time warp” that transfers their emotional past and their psychological needs into the present.
I am working on identifying triggers of rejection and abandonment for my stepdaughter. I have come to realize that requests to change something set off her transference. She internalizes my comments as a rejection of her personally. This rejection triggers the feelings of abandonment she still harbors from her mother and she transfers all of that emotion on to me. This has helped me make sense of how a simple request of “Can you please pick up the cornflakes you spilled on the floor?” turns into her screaming “You hate me. Why don’t you drop me off at an adoption center? I know it would be easy for you to give me up!” Even though I only asked her to pick up some crumbs, in her mind she heard me say ‘you are worthless so pack your bags for a one way trip’.
Even though my stepdaughters haven’t seen their mom in over 4 years, every time she calls or sends a photo of her two new children, it’s like ripping the scab off an old wound – it is never allowed to heal. I recognize the transference and am actively working on not taking things personally. It is not easy but I am really trying my best. And I also understand that many stepmoms must deal with transference from their stepchildren whether they are custodial or not.
I am happy to report that I am no longer delusional about the presence of my husband’s absentee ex-wife in our stepfamily. While it’s true that I do not have the drama of the ex-wife as it relates to my husband, I do have the dramatic effects of maternal abandonment on my two stepdaughters. I am thankful to be married to my wonderful hubby and to be the mom of four and stepmom of two more. The journey of a stepmom is not an easy one but it is one worth taking. I have no regrets.
Remember your love and commitment to your husband when your love goggles fall off and you see your new family for what it is and the work that it requires.
This article of mine first appeared in the April edition of StepmomMagazine. You can subscribe to StepMom Magazine at www.StepMomMag.com