Day 3: 31 Days of Life in the StepMom Trenches (Vlogtober)
Misery Island. That’s where my stepdaughter told me last night is the place that she likes to live on. Yes, misery island and she admitted to creating it all by herself. I’m still trying to wrap my head around my eleven year old saying that. She went on to admit that she’s been “ramping things up a bit,” at home because life was getting boring and she loves living on misery island and wants everyone else stranded on it too.
Wow! Survivor has nothing on a stepfamily reality series called Misery Island. What if tweens/teens in stepfamilies were on an island and had to work together or who competed to out “drama” each other?
I’m sharing my stepdaughter’s revelation because I’ve heard from many stepmoms out there who struggle with a stepchild who is very demanding… who loves attention… who is challenging. They sometimes start to question themselves….”am I reading to much into things or is my stepchild doing this stuff on purpose?”
Let me tell you…. don’t own your stepchild’s behavior. Your success as a stepmom is not tied to your stepchild’s behavior. In the video below, I share our chat from last night and share with you that “you are not a bad stepmom if your stepchild makes poor choices.” We cannot and should not own another’s choices or behavior.
Let’s talk (Click on my video below) Pardon in advance for the Charlie’s Angels look (long hair gone 70s).
You have to laugh through some of this stuff. Doesn’t mean what you are dealing with is humorous but rather you have to find ways to smile through it all. I’ve learned many lessons having a “challenging” stepdaughter. She is hurting and she often hurts others because of it. I didn’t cause her pain and I can’t take it away. I help her and I love her and I am committed to seeing her through this but at the end of the day, her choices are her choices and I do not own them.
Stepmoms, you put your heart into your family. Know that your pouring into your stepkids and your husband is making a difference.
Homework: is there something your stepchild does over and over that causes you pain? They may not change but you can change your reaction to what they are doing. Take some tips from the video and think about ways you can change and perhaps impact their motivation for “drama on the high seas”. Ask yourself, “what can I do differently to address the issue and not engage it?”
This is the last article in the three part series on jealousy and the stepmom and stepdaughter. This last segment focuses on the impact that the jealousy between a stepmom and stepdaughter has on the stepmom’s relationship with her partner and offers tips to help your relationship weather storms of jealousy. Read on and share your thoughts…..
(Part 3 of 3) Jealousy and Your Relationship
“Jealousy is that pain which a man feels from the apprehension that he is not equally beloved by the person whom he entirely loves.” Joseph Addison
Jealousy lives and breathes in the hearts of all of us. At its core, jealousy is the fear of losing something that one possesses to another person and that something is typically the affections of a third party. Given the multiple complexities and people in a stepfamily, there are boundless reasons and opportunities for members to feel jealous towards one another.
Often stepmoms are jealous of the relationship their stepdaughter has with their dad and stepdaughters are jealous of the love their father has for their stepmom. This stepmother – stepdaughter jealousy is a triangle with the third person being the man they both love. While the jealous feelings may not be aimed directly at our partner, they often feel the impact of the jealousy.
Feelings of jealousy may be hard to avoid and it is what we do with the jealous feelings when they surface that matter and define our relationships. When jealous feelings affect our partner and our relationship, it’s time to take action to protect both.
Last month we learned that much of the jealousy stepdaughters feel towards their stepmother is based on perception not reality. Perhaps some of the jealousy that stepmothers feel towards their stepdaughter may also be based on unfounded truths.
Jealousy in a stepmother’s heart may stem from the advantage she believes her stepdaughter has over her in her partner’s life given that the stepdaughter was in his life first. The stepdaughter’s jealousy often grows from feelings of resentment of her perception of being replaced by her stepmother in the heart of her father.
Regardless of who is jealous of who, if there is tension in the home everyone feels it and every relationship can suffer from it.
As the third and final installment of this series on jealousy within the stepfamily, this piece deals with the impact that jealousy between stepmom and stepdaughter has on the stepmom’s relationship with her partner. We will look at how perceptions impact jealous feelings in a stepfamily and then provide tips for stepmoms on how to address and deal with the jealousy to preserve their relationship with their partner and bring peace to their heart and home.
Looking Through the Lens of Your Stepdaughter’s Life
The jealousy in the home is often permeated on the perception of either the stepmother and/or the stepdaughter trying to control the man in the home. A stepdaughter perceives her stepmother’s kindness and/or actions to change things for the better in the home as a threat. The stepmother perceives her stepdaughter’s constant control of her father’s time as a clear message to “stay away.”
Looking at potential insecurity in our stepdaughter and a desire for things not to change may help explain a stepdaughter’s negative treatment of her stepmom and/or clinging closer to their father. Feelings of “losing dad” may be motivation for a stepdaughter to push back on her stepmother regardless of how kind and goodhearted the stepmother is to her stepdaughter.
As one stepdaughter put it “before Amanda entered the picture, dad used to ask me where I wanted to go out for dinner and what color he should paint the living room now she gets to make those choices. I just don’t feel important to my dad anymore. I wish things could go back to the way they were before HER!”
While it is important to view stepfamily life through our stepdaughter’s eyes, it often helps for us, as stepmoms, to be proactive in showing our stepdaughter that we value them and the relationship they have with their father.
The following proactive tips can serve to communicate we are neither here to replace mom nor to take dad away:
Make The First Move. If we get upset because we feel like our stepdaughter is always trying to keep us away from our partner and sit next to him at the kitchen table, on the couch, at the movie theatre, etc…. we may want to consider offering up the space instead of having it taken from us.
Offering the seat next to our mate to our stepdaughter serves two purposes. First, offering the spot lessens the pain we may feel in not sitting next to our love. If not sitting next to our mate is our idea, it doesn’t hurt so much. Also, if our stepdaughter is desiring to be close to their father because she truly wants to be close to dad than the unselfish offering will be seen as a kind gesture and can go miles in building our relationship. If our stepdaughter is seeking closeness to dad to spite us and she sees that we are offering the spot and don’t seem upset, than the motivation will wane when she doesn’t get the desired result in upsetting us. When motivation lessens so may her moves to be close to dad and purposely push us aside if that is in fact her goal.
Plan Daughter and Dad Day Out. Set up a time once a month for your partner and his daughter to go out and spend time alone. Whether it is out for a meal, to see a movie, do an activity like bowling or ice skating, or just going to the library…. when we set it up and offer the time alone it communicates that we place a value on their time together.
There is a difference in creating the time for our stepdaughter and her dad versus being made to feel that we aren’t welcome during their time together. Creating this time is a gift we give to our stepdaughter and her father and to ourselves. Be the driving force for their time alone and see the benefits for everyone unfold.
Control the Jealousy so it Doesn’t Control You and Your Relationship
Jealousy based on perception is a total misrepresentation of reality yet feelings of jealously can be so strong and powerful they can cause us to act out. Regardless of why a stepmother may feel jealous, dealing with jealousy is essential to nurturing and preserving the relationship with our partner.
When jealousy isn’t acknowledged and dealt with it can plant seeds of bitterness and resentment deep in our relationship and lead to emotional behavior atypical of our personality. Here are some basic steps we can take when we are feeling jealousy towards our stepdaughter:
Accept Your Part. Understand and accept the feelings of jealousy and acknowledge that we have a choice in how we will allow this emotion to affect us, our stepdaughter, our partner and our relationship. Decide if whatever is making us jealous is worth having an impact on our own emotional state and the state of our relationship with our partner.
Because jealousy is an emotion inside of us, it can also be tied to other emotions. Take the time to understand if our jealousy is fueled by fear, past hurts, insecurities deep within and/or any other emotion from our past that we may struggle with.
Acknowledge The No-Win Situation For Your Partner. From our partner’s perspective, jealousy between their child and us puts them in a no-win situation. It really hurts our partner when their own child is the source of our pain and it also causes them pangs of distress when their daughter(s) is upset at our hands.
One dad told me “I’m often in a no-win situation. If I side with my wife, my daughter thinks I’ve deserted her. And if I side with my daughter, than my wife feels unloved and unwanted. I love both of them but I often feel like any choice I make is doomed from the start,” – Steve, married for 5 years; father of two and stepdad of one.
Understand that your partner loves you. They have chosen to spend their life with you. Your partner loves both you and your stepdaughter in different ways. If we are concerned about any feelings our mate has for us it is best to ask them rather than assume something that could be wrong.
Communicate With Your Partner. If something is truly bothering you, talk with your partner but not at them. There is a difference. Understand that there is no right or wrong way to feel towards the relationship between you and your stepdaughter. If something is troubling you and it has the potential to pull you and your partner apart, than you owe it to yourself and your romantic relationship to address the issue.
Before talking with your partner, keep these things in mind:
First, check with your partner to make sure it is a good time to talk. Right before bed is never a good time to bring up a potentially heated topic. Also, make sure both you and your partner are in a good frame of mind to have the conversation.
Second, start off by verbally affirming your mate as both a parent and a partner. Also, counter any negative comments you share with two positive comments.
Finally, focus the conversation on how you feel not on what your stepdaughter or your partner is doing. When we focus on how something is making us feel, it takes the pressure off of our mate to fix another person and lessens the probability of them becoming defensive.
Jealousy is often self-serving and can lead to feelings of confusion, frustration and self-doubt. The important thing to remember is to not allow jealousy to consume our relationship but rather allow it to be a springboard to uncover any hidden emotions deep within us moreover to have positive discussions with our partner.
Seek Professional Help. If you find that jealousy is causing issues in your relationship that you cannot resolve together then please seek the professional help of a counselor and/or stepfamily coach. A professional can help you and your partner with tips and tools to identify jealousy and how you can work together. The reality is that it is often challenging to talk about some topics with our partner especially if they regard our stepchildren. A qualified third party can bring up the topics and provide a neutral environment in which to discuss feelings and provide tangible solutions.
Avoid Disengagement From Your Partner: Intentionally Nurture Your Relationship
No person wants to be hurt by someone they love. In our stepmom role, we can slowly disengage from the relationships that are causing us pain. We can find ourselves disengaging from our stepdaughter and our partner. While disengaging from our stepchild is not a good thing, disengaging from our partner can have long lasting negative effects on our relationship and on our stepfamily.
At those moments when we least want to be close to our partner, are the moments when we need to be the closest. Disconnecting with the father of our stepdaughter does not happen overnight but rather is a slow fade. Passion, respect, love can slowly fade over time when we don’t nurture our relationship and when we allow emotions like jealousy to pull us away.
“It is difficult for some people to accept that love is a choice. This seems to run counter to the generally accepted theory of romantic love which expounds that love is inborn and as such requires no more than to accept it.” – Leo F. Buscaglia
Make it a point to intentionally show your partner love and respect. This can be challenging at times especially if you aren’t feeling much love or respect for your partner. Feelings follow actions and the more you intentionally show love to your partner the less affect the jealousy may have on you and the more connected you may feel to your partner.
It is my hope that this three part series opens up discussion about jealousy that may prevail in your home. It is a very normal and typical emotion in stepfamilies and its important to continue to have honest conversations about those things that impact us most. Jealousy can become a vicious cycle in a stepfamily if we allow it. Recognize that combatting jealousy is often an ongoing challenge for everyone in our stepfamily where dynamics are many and stresses can be high.
Tuesday, my oldest stepdaughter graduated from the eighth grade.
When I met her, she was going into the second grade.
When I met her, she was….
My stepdaughter's second grade photo
idolized her father
had a faith in God beyond her years
had a strong sense of self
and she trusted few people…. dad, her dad’s parents and two aunts and an uncle
When I first met her she kept me at arm’s length. She had been hurt and her instincts put up a mighty emotional shield for protection. I had to earn her trust. From the moment we met I knew that it would take time for us to get close but I never doubted it would happen.
I am very proud of who she is today and the woman she is growing into. My heart is to be there for her to lean on, ask questions of, depend on, share silly “girl” stories. I want to model a healthy marriage for her and teach her how a woman loves and respects her husband.
My stepdaughter has her struggles as every teen does. My prayer for her today and everyday is that she continue to have a high respect for herself and for those around her. That she seeks to serve others. That she never looses her curiousity about the world around her.
My husband and stepdaughter graduation morning!
Today, as she walked across the gym to receive her diploma, I saw a young lady who still possess the same qualities she did when I first met her. She has matured and developed those traits into strong character strengths. I also see a young lady who is beginning to trust again. And I fight back the tears thinking of that because I know that I’ve been a part of helping her regain trust in others.
I say it humbly but I say it because I want other stepmoms to celebrate and recognize the amazing and positive impact they have on their stepchildren.
StepMoms are the unsung heros of the blended family!
In the beginning of our relationship, my stepdaughter ignored me, told me she didn’t want to talk, she said mean things to me, she asked me a 101 questions a day and she watched my every move (often with commentary). Through it all I stayed strong and loving. While my feelings were hurt many days, I never left. I was always available to listen. I offered a shoulder to cry on. I told her the truth when she asked tough questions. I cried with her. I was there for her.
While I cried myself to sleep many nights, my commitment to her never wavered. She was watching. She was learning she could trust me. She was learning she could trust others. She told me recently that I’m part of her “inner circle.” That’s her circle of trust. I consider that a very high honor.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that she has brought rich blessings to my life. I am a stronger, smarter, and less selfish person since becoming her stepmom!
My stepdaughter and I before graduation.
StepMoms: you are making a difference in the lives of your stepchildren. Many of you may not feel like it right now but you are. Your stepkids are watching you. They may be testing you but they are watching your reaction and learning much from you. Your love and commitment is sending them a clear message. Stay strong and press on…..
Share the positive difference that you see in your stepchildren because of your influence. Share the difference you hope to make in the lives of your stepchildren.
This is one amazing woman with one amazing heart. One of the greatest joys of being a stepmom is connecting with wonderful women like Adrienne. She shares how hard Mother’s Day has been for her and what she has learned through it. Her words will touch you in a way that will leave you wiser and feeling comforted that you are not alone. Grab the Kleenex and get ready to be touched by Adrienne’s story.
When asked the question, “Is Mother’s Day a challenge for stepmoms?” I would say yes, Mother’s Day has been a huge challenge for me from time to time. In the 16 years that I have been married to my husband, I have more often than not focused on what I didn’t have instead of what I did have – causing my own unnecessary grief and anguish. Before I explore that premise more, allow me to share a little background.
I was the custodial stepmother to (3) girls, ages 6, 10 and 14. The girls are now age’s 22, 26 and 30 – adult stepchildren. Their mother was not in the picture in any significant way (i.e. no weekly visits, special outings, financial or emotional support). My husband worked evenings and weekends which left the lion’s share of the parenting to me, which I gladly accepted because nurturing and loving and edifying is my God-given nature.
Well, fast-forward after providing this care for many years, I grew to “expect” (gigantic mistake) that I earned the privilege of being reciprocated and honored for my service on Mother’s Day. After all, I did all of the heavy lifting during their formative years; so I was willing to share this honor with their biological mother – fair is fair right? Wrong!
My “expectation” of being honored on Mother’s Day by the (2) oldest girls after they left the home began something like this:
One year, they sent a card with my youngest stepdaughter to give to me at 10pm at night. I was so offended that I wanted to hurl that thing out of the window. Of course I didn’t and instead graciously said thank you to save face.
Another year, when my youngest stepdaughter became a teenager she received a call from the oldest stepdaughter (who is a young adult by now) outlining the full day of events that she had planned for their mother and that she expected my youngest stepdaughter to attend – from beginning to end. Celebrating their mother is not a problem, but disregarding the fact that I exist, that the “family” traditionally honors me on Mother’s Day and not attempting to ascertain the timing of our festivities was a total slap in my face.
Yet another year, after being reminded that I am celebrated on Mother’s Day as well, so some accommodations need to be made; and then agreeing to have my youngest stepdaughter back in time for our festivities and then reneging on their agreement which requires us to change our plans (once again) to factor in time to pick up the youngest stepdaughter so that she can celebrate with us. I was not a happy camper that day…and I was supposed to be celebrating at my favorite seafood establishment!
Finally, I remember just leaving my home and driving around crying my eyes out on one Mother’s Day because…I don’t remember why…I just remember the overwhelming feelings of rejection.
Well, silly me, I didn’t have to endure all of this pain, offense and anger. I was too focused on the circumstances and not the root of the problem. I was too focused on my emotions and let them get the best of me. I’ve heard it said this way: “You can have emotions, just don’t let your emotions have you!” Mine had me right where they wanted me feeling less than, feeling unappreciated, feeling as if something was wrong with me because I just couldn’t get these girls to love me!
I now have a new perspective on Mother’s Day, past and present. The girl’s were unable to acknowledge my many positive contributions to our stepfamily because they were in a severe loyalty bind and needed it to be very clear to everyone that their Mom was, is, and will always be numero uno. I was unable to see the forest for the trees because I didn’t and hadn’t realized that they were grieving the loss of their family of origin. Every time they saw my husband (their dad) with our son (their little brother) and my daughter (their little sister) they saw a family unit that they weren’t included in and the grieving starts all over again. I wish I knew 16 years ago what I know now about stepfamily dynamics. It still would have been complicated but I am convinced that it would not have hurt so much.
Now when I think of Mother’s Day, I have my expectations aligned in reality and at a different gauge for each person in my family:
No expectation at all for my (2) older stepdaughters, so any acknowledgement I receive is a wonderful surprise.
I expect to receive a lovely poem/card from my daughter sharing her appreciation and fond memories of our life together…always special.
I expect to be loved, honored and cherished by my husband and my son because I am the only wife and mother either of them have and they both like to spoil me on special occasions.
I expect to make the day joyful and loving and fun by focusing on all the wonderful gifts that the Lord has given me:
Stepchildren that don’t hate me and actually like me most of the time.
A son that loves me.
A husband that adores me.
My annual trip to Seattle to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom, grandma, sisters and nieces.
If only I had known and accepted the simple truths of stepfamily dynamics years ago. I wouldn’t have wasted so many years sad and frustrated on Mother’s Day when I had so much to be thankful for in my life. One of the many foundational beliefs’s that I live my life by these days is this:
“The manner in which one endures what must be endured is more important than the thing that must be endured.”
For me and my family and stepfamily, that means simply to “lay some grace on the friction in your relationships and watch those rough edges smooth out”.
Make it a Happy Mother’s Day!
Adrienne Wilson is a
Wife to my loving husband as we seek to strengthen our Stepcouple;
Mother of 1 son;
Smom of 1 daughter;
Stepmother of 2 stepdaughters;
Step-grandmother to 2 step-grandchildren (ages 9 and 6months)
Adrienne shares that she finally has her priorities straight for this season of her life and is learning to thrive in this jumbled world by keeping it simple and grounded in her faith.
She plans to join the forces of stepmoms helping stepmoms in some form or fashion. She knows that just hearing someone else’s story has made her feel validated and successful when before she often thought that she was simply wicked and quite the failure. You can connect with Adrienne on Facebook or on Twitter.
Get the Kleenex out. Marissa shares her heart, her struggles and her joys as a wife and stepmom. Many will relate and be uplifted by her honest words and heart for her family. StepMoms truly make a positive difference. Meet Marissa:
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything you gave me.” -Erma Bombeck
When I was 24, I became a wife and a stepmom in the space of an “I do.” Coming from being a college student still living at home with parents, this was an enormous change for me, and it was difficult. Stepmoms as a whole get told “you knew what you were getting into” a lot. I’m not sure I did. I’m not sure anyone really knows. You can’t really appreciate the depth of the situation until you are in it, and no one really tells you exactly how difficult it is. That said, I wouldn’t have chosen any differently even if I had known at the time how hard it would be for me to adjust to this new life, to find my place in this new family, and to find peace with it all.
The beginning was rough. My husband and I had only known each other for ten months before we were married. I had known my stepson even less time and his mother I’d met only a few times, and I’d stayed in the background – generally in the car – while we picked him up or dropped him off. So, I didn’t really have a firm relationship foundation with either my stepson or his mother. I entered the world of step-motherhood completely inexperienced and without a clue as to where I stood in the grand scheme of things. At the same time I was learning how to be a wife, which no one ever teaches you how to do either. All together, I was completely overwhelmed.
But I wanted to make a difference. Being my husband’s first wife, I wanted to be the best. Being my stepson’s “second mom”, I wanted to be accepted. I took an active role in everything I possibly could. I went to karate practices, baseball games, etc. whenever my work/school schedule allowed. I literally stepped into the roles of wife and stepmom and began looking for work to do.
The problem was, things had been functioning a certain way without me for over six years, and the way things had been functioning was not the way I felt they needed to function. So, in my eagerness to fill my new roles, I began trying to modify those things wherever I saw a “better” way to do something. This was easy at home, where as my husband’s wife I had complete domain over rearranging furniture, picking out new curtains, and planning meals. It was not so easy outside the walls of our home, where as stepmom I had no say over the days and times we got to spend with my stepson. I had no say over most decisions regarding him. In the very beginning, I was lucky to even be informed of schedule changes, since at the time my husband managed those with his ex and he was not used to having to inform anyone else of those decisions.
As you can imagine, I struggled. I felt helpless and excluded when I wanted to feel important and included. And I hated that. I got upset easily, whenever the schedule changed, or whenever I wasn’t informed of some new decision. I stormed around the house, venting frustrations that I’m sure neighbors three houses down could hear. I admit I was a very unpleasant person to be around at times, and I am thankful for my husband who patiently listened and stuck by me through those times.
At some point, I mentally and emotionally broke. I became tired of fighting everything all the time. I gave up trying to muscle my way through and change everything. I refocused my energies inward instead of outward and looked to myself for change instead of everyone around me. I didn’t want to be the person who brought dysfunction into the home. I didn’t like the person I was becoming- angry, bitter, and frustrated.
I asked myself what was important. What was I most concerned with?
Mostly, I just wanted it to be fair. My husband is a wonderful father. Although the relationship between my stepson’s mother and my husband did not work out, he stayed by his son. I have to admit, it was a quality I admired in him when we first began dating. Rather than being scared off by the fact that he had a child, I adored him for being a responsible parent and being present in his child’s life. I still adore him for that. When I look back, I realize I was trying to find my role yes, but I was also fighting for fairness. I wanted my husband to have the time with his son I thought he deserved.
I began keeping track of the schedule on paper. I wrote down every day we had Ethan in my school planner. I asked instead of waiting to be told. It took some time, but my husband started volunteering the information without me asking. Eventually that morphed into a calendar we could both see online.
During all of this, my relationship with my stepson’s mother grew as well. I lowered my guards a bit. I relaxed and didn’t take everything so personally. I lived each day trying to turn the other cheek, catch bees with honey, or whatever cliché you think of when you make a concerted effort to be nice to someone, even when they may not be nice back. The great thing is, she responded to my efforts in a way I didn’t expect – by being nice back. The transformation that took place in my life was palpable.
Eventually, scheduling became my “thing” and I took over the responsibility for my husband. I communicated with his ex to arrange the schedule for the summer – seeking my husband’s approval as well obviously – and then began to keep a yearly calendar and plan for months in advance. For example, since we are fairly flexible with parenting time, we routinely switch weekends around special events that each family may have….like Mother’s Day. We make sure our son is with his mother the entire weekend, regardless of whose weekend it is “supposed” to be or what the parenting time guidelines say. Keeping a calendar months in advance allows me to see and plan for the best way to work the schedule to make that happen and keep the parenting time fair.
Through all of this, I began to see that the parenting time is fair, which allowed me to relax even more knowing that my husband is getting a fair amount of time with his son. It also gave me a job within my role as stepmom, something I was so desperately looking for when we first got married.
I don’t know that I would say that keeping the schedule is the greatest thing I bring to the table as a stepmom. I hope that I bring so much more than that. I hope that I bring love, togetherness, unity, and completeness as well. I just think that finding my niche in the family helped me get to a place where I could begin to provide those things too, and at the end of each day, I know I gave it my all. And as Erma Bombeck said, “when I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything you gave me.”
I picture the role of stepmom as the last piece of a puzzle – we may not have been there first, but we are the piece that makes the picture whole.
Marissa describes herself as an incredibly blessed wife to the love of her life, stepmom to a 9 year old boy, and student studying medical laboratory technology. Between all the chaos that entails, she loves to blog and craft, and is very involved in her church as a singer, Sunday school teacher, and Volunteer Coordinator. She runs a craft circle out of her home every month and she co-writes “Revolutionary Moms: a co-parenting blog” with her stepson’s mom. She is still learning new things everyday on her journey through wifedom and stepmotherhood, and hopes to be able to share what she has learned with others who may begin their journey after her.
The love that Tiffany has for her husband, two stepsons and son will melt your heart. She beautifully articulates the love that a stepmother brings to her home and into the hearts of her stepchildren. She has lovingly filled a void in their lives. Read her beautiful story:
When becoming a stepmom we volunteer to take the responsibility to be a mother of someone. The role of motherhood alone is a very rewarding yet scary task to take on. Then you add ‘step’ in front of that. Stepmothers exercise the act of giving beautifully. We give out of our hearts. Like most biological mothers, we give with the same motivations considering the children’s best interest.
For me, I took on the full-time stepmother role when my two stepsons were almost 2 and 4 years old. Their dad did an amazing job raising them as a single parent from when his youngest son was just 5 months old. The boys were so kind hearted and so well behaved for what they had been through at such a young age.
My stepson’s biological mother choose a path in life that led her far away from her young innocent children. When meeting my stepsons they latched on and quickly created a motherly bond with me. They didn’t truly understand at that age what the word ‘Mom’ meant due to her absence. To show them unconditional love has been a gift. It has not been easy dealing with the hurt she has caused and continues to cause but it’s all worth putting up with for my stepchildren. Their biological mother is in their life limited to what the court allows.
My main goal in becoming a stepmom was not to replace their biological mother but to give the innocent children a stable family environment and deep motherly love. I feel that’s mainly what children need. They need to feel important, wanted and loved. I was given the blessings of potty training the youngest, bottle breaking, going thru teething, enrolling in preK, kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, taking them to school and all doctor visits, etc. The list can go on and on.
The love and trust I receive in return from them is the most rewarding feeling. My stepchildren know they can always count on me. I have had them full-time for years other than her visitation of three weekends a month. They can see I choose to be there for them out of care and not just there because it’s on a court order. Each Mother’s Day I have received the same amount of sincere attention from them.
To add to our happiness, my husband and I gave my stepsons a little brother in March 2010. My stepsons adore their little brother and call him ‘their baby’. Having him has added strength to our blended family environment. I feel honored to be raising three sons. Regardless if ‘step’ or ‘biological’ I have the same amount of love for each son. I hope everyone can have respect for all that has a motherly role because it is not easy work. Like the saying goes ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ I couldn’t agree more.
We all need to lean on one another! To all the stepmothers out there, your hard work does not go unnoticed! Every day is Mother’s/Smother’s Day!
My name is Tiffany Helkenberg and I live in Southern California. I’m a wife to a loving and hard working husband. Helping others and being a caregiver is my passion. I spent years working in the medical field prior to becoming a stay at home mother. I spend all my time devoted to raising my step sons Mason age 7, Konner age 5 and my biological son Logan age 2. You can connect with me via Twitter at @Smom4Life
Meet Kristen. You will be moved by her amazing insight and her journey into and through stepmotherhood. She believes that Warmheartedness, Love & Compassion are the answers regardless of the question. You’ll want to take a few notes, she has an amazing story to share.
I have always wanted to be a Mom. When I thought about my future I always saw children in the picture. I was looking forward to driving carpools, attending sporting events and recitals, helping with homework, making lunches for school, and chaperoning field trips. However, life had other plans for me. An early marriage in my mid 20s ended in divorce after two short years and no kids. I spent the next decade wondering if I would ever meet the right man and have the family that I dreamed about.
And then I fell hard for my husband Nick in my mid 30s – a single father with a 9 year old daughter and a 4 year old son from his first marriage. I was hesitant to meet the kids until I knew that Nick and I were going to make it as a couple. I’d learned the hard way that I can easily get attached to a man’s children and end up confused about whether the relationship is really working or if I just can’t bear to leave the kids. Just hearing of them from their Dad’s stories, I loved Sadie & James long before I even met them.
I remember meeting them for the first time. Sadie was almost 11 years old, James 5 1/2. We met for breakfast at the IHOP. I was nervous and afraid they wouldn’t like me. Nick had never introduced them to a ‘friend’ before and they knew something was up. They were kind yet clearly a bit wary of me. Driving away from the restaurant that morning it dawned on me what I was actually getting into with this relationship. If all went according to the plans that Nick and I had made, I would become these kids’ Stepmother. I’ve read all of the stories and I knew that I needed this version to be different than the faerie tales.
I had no doubt in my mind or heart that I could love these children as my own. But knowing kids as I do, I also knew that they had a choice in whether they loved me. And in a way, whether they loved me back or not could have absolutely nothing to do with me. Nobody wants a new Stepmother. Most kids of divorce want their parents to get back together and for things to go back to they way they were when they had one house where everybody lived together and they had all of their stuff in one place.
I had one game plan to try and make this work – Love & Compassion and low expectations. While Nick and I were still dating I made a point to think of things from the kids’ point of view. I was infringing on their time with their Dad when I’d tag along to soccer games and cookouts in the back yard. They only saw him every other weekend and they cherished that time with him. I never stayed for the whole day and I left before they went to bed. And here is the thing that they’ve told me made a big difference… I always thanked them for including me in their fun and told them I looked forward to seeing them the next time. I fondly look back on this period as when I was dating them all.
After Nick & I got engaged, we built a house 10 minutes from the kids’ Mom with hopes of increasing our time with the kids from every other weekend to something closer to 50%. The kids helped us pick the floor plan, including which rooms would be theirs. James, now 7 years old, was curious which one of the rooms was going to be mine since Dad was getting the big room with the big bathroom. This comment, while cute and funny, was an indication of just how far we still had to go to become a family.
Once we moved into the house, I again went with the only plan I had – Love, Compassion and low expectations. I am a firm believer that few humans can resist an unrelenting campaign of unconditional love. I would show them how much I loved them with my actions rather than say it. I’d been waiting for this job my whole life! I made breakfast, lunches and dinners. I helped with homework and drove the car pools. On weekends they were with us, Nick & I focused our attention on them. We had plenty of time for couple things on the days they were with their Mom. These kids were not losing their Dad, they were gaining a Faery Stepmother that looked after them and made it possible for them to live with their father 50% of the time.
The best thing I did in the first year living with the kids is I paid attention and I listened. I treated them both, particularly my thirteen year old Sadie, as if they were the main characters in my favorite TV show. Each time I saw them, particularly after a few days away, I would get caught up on everything I missed since my last update. I would ask about things that I knew had occurred while they were at Mom’s – a sleepover, a dance class, a math test – and about each of their friends so I could keep up with who was in and who was on the outs and why.
I can still remember the first time each of the kids told that me they loved me. James was a little bit ahead of his sister but I heard it from them both during the first year in the new house. Truth is I knew they both did long before they said it. And as different as they are from each other the conversation was exactly the same. Them: “I love you, Pokey”. Me, with tears in my eyes I don’t even try to hide: ‘I love you too’. Them: ‘I know….’
Kristin has been happily married to her husband, Nick, for just over 3 years and she is the ridiculously proud Stepmother to Sadie (16) and James (11). They make their happy home in Castle Rock, Colorado. Kristin has a day job as a Software Engineer and moonlights as an artist for @KMRArtandDesign (http://www.etsy.com/shop/KMRArtandDesign). She won the Blended Family lottery with the kids’ Mom (aka BM) and considers her to be one of her dearest friends and her SisterMom. You can connect with Kristin on Twitter at (aka @FaeryStepmother)
Are you ready to read another inspiring story about the love of a stepmother? Then meet Kaycee. She articulates the highs and lows of loving a man with a child and speaks to the complexities and insecurities that come with it. You can feel her heart for her family as you read her words. May you be encouraged by the relationship she now has with her stepson and his mother. Read on….
I began dating Jeff in June of 2009. When he told me he had a 3 year old son from a previous relationship, I didn’t really give it a second thought. I had plenty of experience with kids from teaching preschool and being a private nanny. I guess you could say I have a love and passion for children, which really helped me create a good relationship from the start with Jaxson.
We quickly connected and became good friends. I tried to be more of a buddy to Jaxson than a mother figure in the beginning, considering this was my first time dating anyone with a child; I was unsure how to navigate the situation, but I felt like I was doing the best that I could.
I was the first woman Jeff dated since splitting up with Jaxson’s biological mother. I didn’t know too much about his biological mom in the beginning of our relationship, I just knew her and Jeff had a nasty break up a little over a year before he and I met. There were always insecurities in my mind when it came to her; she was Jaxson’s REAL mother. She and Jeff had a history together, that in itself was a tad bit intimidating, but throw a child into the mix, and WOW. I struggled with my place A LOT. Especially when Jeff didn’t feel comfortable allowing me to go to hockey practices when she would be there or go with him to do the Sunday evening drop off’s at the end of “dad’s weekend”.
It was hard trying to figure out what I was even doing trying to make an effort to be a friend or role model to this little guy, when I couldn’t even be present when his mom was around. I felt like I was being kept secret or something. The first year of our relationship was NOT an easy one. There was a brief break up for about a month about 5 months into it, but it made our relationship a million times stronger. I will never forget seeing Jaxson again for the first time after our break up was over. I was getting out of the car and he just ran as fast as he could to me and yelled “KAYCEE!!!” and gave me the tightest hug. It was in that moment that I knew I had made an impact in Jaxson’s life. I can’t even describe how good that hug made me feel….
Fast forward 10 months, and the custody battle began. Over those 10 months, I discovered a lot about Jaxson’s mom. Let’s just say she was kind of a lost soul for a while and that had an impact on Jaxson. Jeff decided to take her to court to try and get joint custody. I remember getting some paperwork from Jeff’s lawyer in the mail, stating that Jaxson’s mom was trying to modify their arrangement and let Jeff have him every other weekend ONLY. We had the joy of having him 2 nights a week AND every other weekend per the terms of their custody arrangement at that time. Thinking about only seeing Jaxson 4 days a month broke my heart. How could she think that only allowing Jaxson to see his dad 4 days a month would somehow be beneficial to him? (Jaxson is a total daddy’s boy by the way…) Thankfully, we ended up settling out of court and now we have Jaxson every other week! I will be forever grateful to his mom for realizing what was best for him and agreeing to joint custody.
Standing by Jeff’s side during that whole ordeal, the arguments, the court depositions, etc. was just one of many bumps I know we will have to face in our lives together, but the bumps are what strengthen you in life.
After the custody issue was resolved, things quieted down and everything was smooth sailing. Jaxson’s mom and I were on better terms, which helped things tremendously. I coached Jaxson’s first soccer team, which was such a fun experience. Soccer was my favorite sport growing up; I played until I was in high school, so it was really awesome sharing my love of the sport with him by being his coach the first season he played. Jaxson also started kindergarten shortly after that. I am very involved in his school work, his teachers know me well, we all go to parent teacher conferences together, I am the one that gets him up and ready each morning during our weeks with him. It’s nice to have more involvement in his life now that he gets to spend more time with his dad and I.
This past December, Jeff and I had our own child together, another son, we named him James (Jimmy for short). I was worried about how Jaxson would react to having to share his dad with his little brother, but silly me for worrying in the first place. Jaxson has embraced the big brother role so well. He’s such a huge help and loves making Jimmy laugh. I couldn’t have picked a better big brother for my own first child. Seeing them interact and bond is by far one of the most rewarding things in my life.
Bottom line, being in a relationship with a man that has a child is no easy task. I never would have dreamed before Jeff that I would be a stepmom to another man’s child. It has been a blessing in disguise that these two came into my life. There have been a lot of highs and lows in the past 3 years we have been together, but the biggest high of them all will be our wedding taking place this June on the beach! I will officially have the stepmom title in less than 8 weeks, even though I’ve been playing the role for 3 years now.
I am head over heels in love with my future husband, I cannot wait to be his wife and continue growing together in our relationship and in our family. I use my love for Jeff to be the best step mom I can be to Jaxson. Jaxson is a part of his father, and when I made the decision to be with Jeff, that meant accepting and loving everything about him, Jaxson included. Jaxson may not be “mine”, but I will always love and care for him like he is. Our family situation hasn’t always been easy, but to me, it will always be worth it.
Kaycee and Jeff have been together since June 2009. They were engaged last summer and will be tying the knot in a beach wedding this June. Jeff has a son, Jaxson (Kaycee’s step son) who is 6 years old, getting ready to finish up his kindergarten year in school. They also recently had a son of their own in December of 2011, named James (aka Jimmy). Jaxson is involved in Hockey, T-ball, soccer and dirt bike riding. We enjoy bike riding as a family, going to the park, anything outdoors really. Kaycee and her family live in Indianapolis, IN. You can connect with Kaycee on Twitter.
Whether you’ve been a stepmom for a week or one for twenty years, this piece by Margaret Barney will touch your heart and inspire you on your journey. Margaret articulates with wisdom and humor the complexities of being a stepmom. Her journey proves that the “one day” every stepmom dreams of can happen. Margaret stayed the course and her stepson saw her heart despite how his mom felt about her. Her journey as a stepmom is real. Her heart is genuine. Her relationship with her stepson will move you. Enjoy this second story in The Gift of StepMom Series:
It never occurred to me when I was younger that I could ever possibly marry a man who already had children. It wasn’t that I had an opinion one way or another; I just never gave any thought to it. My parents didn’t divorce until I was in my twenties, so I didn’t have personal experience with step-parenting. Obsessive watching of the Brady Bunch reruns as a child notwithstanding, I really didn’t know jack about so-called “blended families”.
I tried to educate myself. I looked back in my child psych books, on-line, anywhere I could think of to gather as much information as I could find—if I was going to be a stepmom, I was going to do it right. So before I ever met the kids, I had immersed myself in information about children living with divorce. I was sure that armed with knowledge, I could successfully navigate this terrifying path. It might be rocky to start, but in a few years, things would settle down. Of that I was sure.
Little did I know how little I knew.
I did all that research into being a stepmom, but I didn’t do enough research about what being a second wife might mean: I didn’t expect to have every little step I made in developing a relationship with my husband’s kids be questioned, belittled, admonished, and at times deliberately un-done by another adult. You don’t have to listen to Margaret…she’s not your mom. I bit my tongue. I wouldn’t return tit-for-tat when it came to negativity. I would rise above it. She’s a bad lady. She’s a mean lady. She’s why daddy will never come home ever again. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t true—it didn’t matter that I came along afterwards. My stepkids were only three and five when their parents split up.
Now, they are 17 and 19. These days, when I see my stepson, he always seems to have gotten even bigger. Older. More mature. Recently up for a visit, he strode into the kitchen smiling, taller now than I am, and gave me a strong hug. I used to believe such hugs would never be meant for me. There were too many complications that came along with spending time with me.
It meant conflict– it meant upsetting his mom. I saw you hug Margaret when you went into Dad’s apartment. That really hurt Mommy’s feelings. You don’t love her, do you? You still love me best, right? Two years after we first dated, my husband and I got married. We scheduled the wedding for a weekend the kids would be with us, so there would be no visitation changes. Well, you can go to Daddy and Margaret’s wedding…but I’ll be down in Florida that week with your grandparents. Which would you rather do? Go to a boring old wedding or go on vacation to Disney World? So much for including the kids in our wedding…no six or eight year old in their right mind could turn down Disney.
I kept reminding myself that given time, this stuff was sure to settle down. Once Margaret has her baby, your Dad isn’t going to have any more time for you. My daughter was born in 2001, and two years later, along came my son. The conflict continued. To protect myself, to protect my heart…I stepped back. Way back.
We moved about 60 miles from where we had been living when my stepkids entered 5th and 7th grades. Daddy lied to the Judge…and now I have to make you go to his and Margaret’s house. There wasn’t going to be any kind of happy little Brady Bunch. I was lucky if my stepkids said hello to me on the telephone.
One thing got me through some of the darkest days of being a Stepmom—something I truly clung to in the lowest of times—was having faith that one day, my husband’s kids would grow up. Literally—one day, they would become adults and see the situation for what it was—and how much their father and I love all of our children.
They would see how we worked to have a communicative and honest relationship that would model for them what a strong, healthy, adult relationship looked like. And though I don’t yet know how much of that my stepdaughter sees, I do know what my stepson sees. After never having spent more than a week at a time with us, the summer before last he lived with us for the bulk of his break.
He was 16, and every bit of it…I couldn’t have been more nervous. The fact was, the boy needed to spend time with his dad, and I was thrilled to have my younger ones be able to spend time with their big brother. We didn’t have much of a relationship, he and I, but we got along fairly well as a general rule. I wondered what this would mean for my summer. My husband would be working and I would be home with the kids. One more than I was used to.
Turns out, I needn’t have worried. That summer, he and I really got to know each other. And amazingly, we connected in a way that external negativity won’t ever again diminish. I got to know an incredible young man who was struggling to come to terms with who was…working to define his own sense of self. I marveled at the fact that this teenager was wise beyond his years in so many ways, and yet, still very much a boy. I wished fervently that he would begin to see his own inner strength—a strength that was so apparent to me.
I wept after he left to return to his mom’s that Autumn. I missed him more than I could imagine I ever could have. I had spent so many years walling my heart off—protecting myself from the hurt that came with being such a polarizing figure in two children’s lives— that I was unprepared for the depth of my emotions..and how glad I was that I tore that wall down and was able to build a relationship with my stepson.
I have a feeling I’ll be a wreck when he leaves for boot camp in a few months…
Margaret Barney is a non-custodial stepmom living in New Hampshire with her husband and their two children. She has been on the step-scene for over fourteen years and wants new stepmoms to know that no matter how crazy things may seem at first, they do get better. She blogs at Just Margaret, and you can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Can you relate to Margaret? What touched your heart? Leave her some comment love below. Thanks
Mother’s Day is one month away and it can be an emotionally difficult time for many stepmoms who often don’t get recognition for all they are and all they contribute to their family.
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.
All moms – bio, adoptive, foster and step – should be celebrated on Mother’s Day yet sadly not all “moms” are recognized on this day.
Just walk into any book store this time of year and you’ll see displays of keepsake books paying homage to mothers and rightfully so but what about recognizing the job that stepmothers do daily?
We know that as stepmoms we love, protect, nurture, and care for our stepchildren. We care for our husband and work alongside him to raise the children. We know that a stepmother does not seek to replace a mother but be a positive role model in the lives of her stepkids (hello – a blessing). And in the case of a custodial stepmom of which I am, we don’t seek to replace the mother but we do take on the complete role of mothering our stepchildren 24/7.
While the world may not pay homage to stepmoms on Mother’s Day, we certainly can celebrate each other. And in hopes of recognizing and supporting stepmoms, I created the series “The Gift of StepMom” last year to celebrate the many blessings that a stepmother brings to her stepfamily. And I’m bringing it back this year by popular demand.
Last year, women shared stories of the gift that their role has brought to their family. We also read stories from women who grew up in a stepfamily and the blessings that their stepmom (and in one case – stepdad) brought into their lives. The response was amazing! So many women were touched by reading the stories of other stepmoms. (Here’s the archived series if you want to check it out)
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!
YOU are a gift to your family and I want to hear from you. I also want to hear from children who grew up with a stepmom and from husbands whose wife has really blessed him and his children. If you are interested in submitting your story, please email me at email@example.com for submission details. I want to connect you so I’m happy to post your story, links, and photos.
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!
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?