Two weeks ago, I received the following note from a devoted husband whose heart aches for his wife, a stepmom to his children, on Mother’s Day. I asked him if I could share his words and a photo of his family and he graciously agreed. Here is how one husband views Mother’s Day and grieves the day for his wife:
Hi. My wife led me to your post regarding the gift of stepmoms and regarding the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday. So I wanted to share the bittersweet blessing with frustration from dad’s perspective on the matter…
My wife will not see my kids’ faces on Mother’s Day, and unless the third time is a “charm”, she won’t be able to speak with them on the phone either. All calls over the previous two years on Mother’s Day since she has become a part of my family have gone unanswered and not returned, as they are not yet old and responsible enough to carry their own phones, and gifts made at school are intended for one mom (bio mom)… not two. The schools don’t seem to have caught on yet. So while she won’t admit or describe it this way, at least not out loud, perhaps to shield her precious heart, this is deeply heartbreaking to her. She has chosen to love and adore my kids, and as we have them half of the time; also feeds them, provides for them when they are in need, and she creates a stable, caring, safe, and nurturing environment. Just to name a few of her selfless acts. Yet the investment usually lacks a measurable dividend.
I adore her immensely for this sacrifice, but as much as I try, I simply can’t provide the same kind of adoration and appreciation on their behalf on Mother’s Day as they potentially could, had they not been a little bit discouraged. So the burden falls heavily on me, not even to fill the void, which is as far as I can see, basically impossible, but to close the gap a little. This is an emotionally exhausting role in itself. I usually don’t even know where to begin.
This is a situation that rips away at the fabric of what my family is trying to be, so I simply try to remember to thank God every day that this is at least a problem I could have the unfortunate circumstance to be without. That even to have a fabric of a family with two loving adults in the same home, and having her to love all of us, is a blessing. She loves them, and she grieves their absence on Mother’s Day. I could have a far worse situation for my children. I’m lucky to have such a lovely woman whom I can call my own.
I thank her for everything she does for my kids, which in turn, provides for me more than anything else she could ever actually do for me directly. God Bless her sweet, beautiful soul. The kids and I have never really articulated it this way, particular because dad is a proud achiever, but we would all be lost without her.
His words bring tears every time I read them. What a blessing he and his wife are to one another and to their family. What does this letter mean to you? Does it speak to your heart?
Lissie shares her story with us today. She had one of those “light bulb moments” that changed her life and her perspective. Her honest outlook will draw you in and her insight and heart will leave you feeling blessed.
A Stepmom’s Heart: Love is What Matters by Lissie
I read somewhere recently that it takes 2 to 4 years for a stepfamily to mesh and feel integrated. Part of me wishes I had read this, say, 2 to 4 years ago, and saved myself a little heartache, but there is a bigger, wiser part of me that understands it was the journey I had to walk.
I look back on the genesis of our little family and I remember so much pain, so much adjusting. I was so hard on myself then. My stepson would push and push and my stepdaughter was this tiny little enigma and I just kept thinking something had to be wrong with me that I didn’t feel this overwhelming sense of love and that every other weekend wasn’t this picture of domestic bliss, full of arts and crafts and cookies straight from the oven. Becoming a stepmom is hard under any circumstances, but because of my husband and I were rebuilding his relationship with his kids just as much as I was building one from scratch, there was just so much pressure to get everything right and to be perfect.
I honestly don’t know how I survived those first couple years. The kids’ mom was doing everything she could to stop my husband from getting his time with them back and to ruin what time he did get. My in-laws were so resentful of me being in limelight after years of playing parents to the kids while my husband struggled to put the shattered pieces of his life back together. My husband was trying to dance that dance of moving on and moving forward while being pushed down every other weekend and sometimes most of the days in between by the very person he was trying to move on from. The kids were just being kids, confused and scared and wide eyed and wanting so much for someone to just put the pieces together for them. And I was in the middle of all of this, trying to help everyone and feeling like I was failing with every single step. I was hanging on by tattered threads a lot of the time, defeated by the chaos that seemed determined to keep me from making a family out of the mess that was loving this man. I remember thinking over and over again, “this is my life now??”
But one day, something clicked. We were taking our first family vacation and my stepson, fraught with anxiety at being away from his mom and knowing she didn’t like it, had a major meltdown that at the end found him hiding under the bed in shame and me laying on the ground looking at him and crying, giving in and realizing I couldn’t be perfect, I couldn’t ever be a replacement mom, but we were still a family, for better or worse, even if the parts didn’t look the way I expected them to. I couldn’t tell you what exactly happened that day or what words I said, but I can tell you that from that day forward, the dynamic changed from four people trying to learn to occupy the same space to family of four, who experiences challenges, disappointments, happiness and sadness, but loves each other all the same. We settled into a little routine and I let go of expectations and instead started to learn what were real smiles and what was anxious and forced and what exactly it was I liked about each child and how to love them and what kind of stepmom I wanted to be.
And it’s a good thing, too, because before I knew it, they were ripped away from my husband and I, moved across the country with their mom & military stepdad and suddenly we were all alone again and living every divorced parent’s nightmare, struggling with how to be long distance parents.
There was a lot of grief to work through. We had just watched the closest thing that either of us have had to perfect slip right through our fingers like sand. We had to rebuild our lives all over again. We packed up and moved a few hours closer to family and waited for the kids’ return. I don’t know how many sleepless nights before that first trip back I spent wondering if that short time of happiness was enough, wondering if they would forget that they loved me, wondering if what we had built was lost forever.
For the longest time, I thought that the gift of being a stepmother was all about the gift of learning to love someone else’s children as my own, but that isn’t it at all. From that first trip back and every time after, when they step off an airplane and meet my eyes and love me without having seen me for months on end, I realize the gift all along has been their love. Their love tells me not only I am enough, just as I am, but I am living the life I am meant to live. It’s still hard work and it will never be perfect, but it is our life.
I was lost in my life, before I found them. I thought they would be this thing I would have to overcome or adapt to, something that would bring pain, but came along the side of finding and loving my husband. But it turns out they are my whole reason for living, the destination my life has been walking towards all this time. I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be but one smile from my stepdaughter, one laugh from my stepson, and I remember, I want to be their stepmom.
I am their stepmom. Through better or worse, they have me, but better yet, I have them
Lissie has been stepmom to her two wonderful kids, age 9 and 11, for almost 6 years. Her and her husband have been married for 2, but have been a family from the start. No kids together (yet), but incredibly blessed already. They live in a peaceful, rural town on the west coast and look forward to each and every trip the kids make. You can find more of Lissie’s story at http://exceptthat.wordpress.com/ and twitter.com/exceptthat
Share how Lissie’s story touched you? Did you ever have a lightbulb moment that changed your perspective?
Sarah shares her journey into stepmotherhood and lessons learned. Her heart will bless you and her learnings are some that you can identify with. Most of us go into the land of stepmom thinking “I can do this!” only to find out that we had no clue what “this” really is. Here is Sarah’s heart:
Growing Into Stepmom by Sarah Kinbar
I fell in love with Todd before I knew his two daughters, and before he knew my son and daughter. It was (and is) an intense love, like first love. In this blissed-out frame of mind, my perspective was, shall we say, limited. I knew 100% of nothing about blended families, and in my sheer ignorance, I thought that once we were ready to introduce the kids into our relationship, if they clicked, so would everything else. If they didn’t, we’d have to have a serious conversation about whether or not we wanted to move forward with our relationship.
Our children did like each other right away. The companionship was sweet, and our get-togethers were like play dates warmed up with romance. When you love a guy, spending time with him is awesome. When you love a guy and his children, and all three are beloved by your own children, the only place to go is nowhere. You just want to be right where you are, forever.
Now that we’re living together, the friendliness between the six of us has created a fun and engaging atmosphere in our home and helps soften the edges when problems arise. Challenges unique to blended family life can appear at any time, and it was one of these that at once shattered my naivety and reminded me how much I need the loving bonds of our blended family. Giving to our family is always front of mind, but yes, I need our togetherness, our funniness and our tears. All of it.
I was almost done grocery shopping at Target on a Monday with my sleepy toddler when my cell phone rang. The voice on the other end was tight, accusatory and stern. At first I wondered if it was a wrong number. Where’s Todd? I haven’t been able to reach him. Do you know why he’s not answering his phone? Did you notice our daughter feeling unwell or having a fever over the weekend? Because she’s burning up! Why didn’t anyone call me or take her to the doctor? I would think that as a mother you would be more alert to things like this.
Well, hello! I was in the line of fire and had no idea why. No one was sick that I was aware of. What fever? Todd was on a long flight, so I couldn’t redirect the call to its proper recipient.
An angry phone call from his ex was in itself a small thing, until it became more calls, and then a sweeping, negative view of my mothering skills.
Looking back, I now think it’s slightly cute that I believed everything would click so long as our children did. Feeling strong and confident as a mother, I didn’t realize that the stepmom role isn’t as straightforward. Developing a relationship with Todd’s children opened me up to criticism I wasn’t familiar with or comfortable with. I’ve had to become much stronger, and much more willing to manage conflict for the sake of love.
Mother’s Day is coming up. On that day, I’ll be working at the flower shop that day, apart from my kids and step kids. As I’m making flower arrangements for moms all around town, I’ll be thinking about the strength and love that a blended family mom must embody, and thinking of ways I can grow more fully into this role.
Sarah Kinbar and her partner Todd Ristorcelli live in Orlando, Florida, with their four children. They share custody with their exes. Sarah’s son is 10 and her daughter is 4 1/2. Todd’s older daughter is almost 9 and his younger daughter is 5. Keep up with the family at bigblendedfamily.com or on Twitter @bigblendedfam
The other day I was looking through a collection of poems by Blue Mountain Arts called The Heart of Happiness. As I read the words in one particular poem, my heart reflected on one of the greatest gifts from our stepmom community: the gift of friendship. It’s a wonderful thing to see women connect on this journey, reach out, share their heart and their hurt and be there for one another. When you have a tough day, it helps knowing there are others who have gone through the same struggles and are there to listen, comfort, and help you stay positive.
The stepmom friends we have all made, both in person and via social media, are true friends. We have all gone through dark times and felt broken and alone and from those experiences come compassion and love for each other on the journey.
Sometimes the struggle that one of our stepmom sisters is going through is so tough and challenging and nothing we can do can change their circumstance yet them knowing they have a friend who cares and understands can make the world of difference.
A true friend is hope and hope is something a stepmother holds dear to her heart. Thanks to all of you who reach out to befriend another stepmom. And remember that it is strength and not weakness to reach out to others for help. Together we are strong.
I could probably write a book about my personal experience regarding the invaluable gift of stepmom sisters and the gift I see friendship bring to our community but today I simply want to say thank you and share this poem:
The Gift of Friendship
Friendship is a gift
that is given so freely.
Sometimes it is wrapped in smiles,
sometimes in tears,
but always in encouragement.
When it’s given away,
time and again,
it only grows stronger,
It will be there during trials.
It will be there during joys.
It’s the gift you keep tucked away,
right near the center of your heart.
- Donald W. Hiatt
What does the stepmom community mean to you? How have you been blessed by the gift of friendship?
Valentine’s Day is a day to show love. This year as I started to think about the day my mind went straight to my stepmom sisters. A group of women who overflow with love and support for one another.
I wrote this Valentine for all the wonderful stepmoms out there to thank them for the love they show to one another. Whether it is on a blog, on Twitter, Facebook or in person… stepmom sisters are blessing each other.
A Valentine Poem for Stepmoms
You understand the journey and share your joys and sorrows
You never judge but listen and offer a loving word and hope for a better tomorrow
You love each other through the hard times
You share advice on how to achieve peace time
You make sure another stepmom never feels alone
You give love to another when it feels like there is none in their home
When a stepmom hasn’t been heard from in awhile
You reach out with a kind word, an offer to help, a gentle (virtual) smile
You validate one another’s joys and fears
You develop trust and gently tell one another what they really need to hear
You are love
You are a gift!
You may not always have the best days but you will always be the best. On those days when you are down and feeling blue, please know your feelings are real and you are not alone. So many of us have shed the same tears and cried the same cries. We’ve wished for the same things and let go of the same dreams. Together we are stronger, smarter and wise.
You bless all those around you! Today on Valentine’s Day and everyday… please know you are love and you bring so much love to each other. Thanks for who you are and what you do.
Happy Valentine’s Day my friends.
Would you share how the stepmom community has positively impacted you?
It’s a new year! A time when we think about new beginnings. The reality is that every day is a new beginning. A time to start afresh. We all make mistakes and we need to give ourselves grace and move on. Yet many of us often find ourselves dealing with some pretty heavy stuff and we need daily inspiration and encouragement to help lift us up. Dusting ourselves off each morning just isn’t enough.
We all need inspiration to get through our days and just like we are all different so are the things that inspire us.
Some of us are inspired by uplifting quotes, listening to music, reading books, praying, connecting with others. writing, attending seminars, etc…. Some women like to be around others when they are down while other women prefer solitude to reflect and become refreshed.
Regardless of what inspires you it’s important to ensure you are feeding your need to be inspired.
In the coming weeks, I’m going to be focusing on different ways to get inspired and connected and offer practical tips and tools for everyone for every type of inspiration. In addition, I’ll be getting more personal and sharing some of my own personal struggles and the different things that help inspire me along the way. Personally, I’ve found that different challenges in my life require different types of inspiration and support.
Whether you are looking to loose something like weight or negative feelings or looking to gain something like a support network or positive attitude…. you need to be inspired, encouraged and supported on your journey.
Life is a journey and one that regardless of what inspires you is best traveled with those who are on the same path. Together we learn and grow and support.
Hope you’ll join me and be inspired!
Would love for you to share what types of things inspire you? Share what type of support are you looking for.
Day 7: 31 Days of Life in the StepMom Trenches (Vlogtober)
Happy Sunday. Today, I am reflecting on something that my husband said last week while we were speaking to a Preparing for Marriage/Remarriage class at our church.
I love the look in the audience’s eyes when we announce “you will have troubles. Every marriage goes through difficult times.” Those who are marrying for the second or third time, chuckle and smile. Those who are much younger and marrying for the first time have that “not us” look in their eyes.
As we were giving our talk my husband said “marriage is saying ‘I Do’ everyday.” Wow! That is profound. He said “marriage is saying ‘I Do’ everyday. Not just on the altar.”
We have to say “I do” to our spouse everyday and the family that we chose. Love is a choice and it’s important to say I do everyday! Saying I do doesn’t mean it will be easy, it just means we are choosing to do life together.
“Love is a choice you make everyday.” – Dr. Gary Chapman.
Takeaway: I hope this quote from my husband spoke to your heart and on days when your inner voice is saying “I don’t” or “I can’t” or “it’s too hard” that you’ll remember that love and commitment is a choice. That doesn’t mean when we choose to do life together that life will be easy. It means that we get up everyday and give it our all and give ourselves and our spouse the gift of grace and love.
What are your thoughts on choosing to love everyday, choosing to say “I do” everyday?
Day 2 of 31 Days in the StepMom Trenches (Vlogtober style)!
Woke up this morning to my sweet husband and thought “how grateful I am to have him,” and then I asked myself ”do I do a good job of telling him that?”
Honestly, some days I scream it to the mountains in words AND in actions and other times, I whisper it to myself if at all. Selfishly, I’ll admit that in the past when there was kid tension in the house and I didn’t agree with how he was handling things, I would pull back. Not a good idea. Even today, I have to recognize those feelings when they creep in and fight them. My marriage is more important than my desire to “be right.”
Today, we are talking about loving our husband out loud and making time for couple care! (Click the you tube video below to watch)
While that video had a slightly serious side to it, if you want to LAUGH at MY expense and read how my “spicy” love coupons went awry, click on this post. Ironically, I was thinking of this post when I was taping the vlog and when I pulled it up, it was from Day 2 of my life in the stepmom trenches from last year. Meant to be.
Do you find it difficult to want to connect with your husband when there is tension regarding the kids? Are you looking for easy, inexpensive and fun ways to say “I love you to him”? Do you do something special for your husband that you want to share with us? Let’s talk.