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?
New stepmom Joelyn (Jody) brings us her story and shares with you her perspective on the gifts of stepmotherhood. Some of us are further along on the journey and some of us are just beginning. Regardless of where you are on the path you will be moved by her words. I think all of us can relate that stepmotherhood brings with it surprises. Joelyn has a beautiful perspective of her life changes.
Surprises For A New Stepmom- Joelyn
Here I am, the month of May, the month of the mother – boy has my life changed recently. Looking back it isn’t really so recently, June 1st it will be a year that my life began a plethora of change. Some good, some bad but all a learning experience and although I say I would love for things to have been different, in reality I look back and realize that I appreciate more of what I have right now because of the past experiences.
I am a mom to a fourteen year old girl and anyone who has a teenager knows what a challenge this can be. On top of that, I am on disability due to a neurological disorder. In August of 2011 I was able to finally move out on my own and not have to worry about anyone taking care of me and my daughter was able to start living her life to the fullest as a teenager and I was enjoying every moment of it.
Over the course of time a friend I had known since I was 14 years old began communicating with me again. We shared our troubles, our joys and of course what was going on with our kids and families. We both were in need of a friend who would listen and not judge and after knowing each other for 20+ years, it seemed to be the right fit. It also helped we were hours away from each other and just had messaging to communicate.
When reality hit that his life at home was not going so well and there were problems regarding his girls we worked to create a contingency plan should he have to leave. Needless to say the contingency plan has happened and our lives have changed drastically.
I am learning to co-parent a three and seven year old, who are majorly different than fourteen year olds, I am reverting back to laying out clothes, putting clothes away, making breakfast, packing lunches, doing homework, reading stories, drying tears, giving baths, going on field trips and picking up crayons and Barbie dolls.
This is so challenging for me, especially considering the pain I am in some days, the confusing and frustration of moving to a new city, along with what happens on a day to day basis due to the shared parenting of both his girls and mine.
I have learned to love the hugs of little ones, the ability to teach them new things like cooking and baking, the shouts from parts of the house because something is not right, the running up and down the stairs and of course the little voices when they say thank you or that they love you.
I find it funny when they are learning to read, write and spell – all things I have taken for granted with having a fourteen year old child. It is so cool seeing them draw and then share with me what it is they drew. The sound of them asking to help in the kitchen or the yard is like music to my ears and it is great when you see all three of the girls asleep in the back of the car after a fun day as a family and you realize that you are so blessed and grateful for what God has given you, even though sometimes it feels like more than you can handle on a day-to-day basis.
Being a step-parent or co-parent is amazing. I never imagined my life with little ones in it again. I am so happy that they are though, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I went from a two bedroom apartment to a four bedroom house, increased from two cats to four, and added a bathroom, bigger kitchen, yard, garage and responsibilities. It all sounds like a lot, but when I can tuck all three girls in at night and each one has their own special way they like it done and I sit down to do homework, write or work on my business I stop, listen to the silence and smile – the hugs and kisses I received just a little bit ago are all I need to sleep well and make it into the next day.
Joelyn Morgan is an Independent Chocolatier for Dove Chocolate Discoveries, attending school to be a Certified Health Coach and advocate for those with mental health needs. She resides in Galloway, OH with Kevin, Sammie, Juliette, Josephine and their cute cats. Her interests are health, wellness, reading, writing, volunteering, crafts, cooking and baking.
Today’s post comes from Chrystal. She shares her heart for her blended family and the gifts that she has received from being a stepmother. Her story beautifully conveys the blessing her outlook and devotion brings to her husband and you’ll also read about the healthy relationship she has with the mother of her stepchildren. I love what she refers to as “invisible boundaries” in regards to that relationship…. it is a very insightful description. Your heart will be blessed when you read her story:
Being A Stepmom……Rising Above A Little Bit More…
In my opinion, being a step-mother is the only role that you can never prepare yourself for, ever. I have been a step-mom for almost 11 years to a set of boy/girl twins, who are now 15 years old. From the moment I met my husband, I never blinked at the fact that he had children. His children were a part of him and I loved him wholly and so that included his children. He showed me a picture of his kids the very first night we met and I knew then he was a wonderful father. We lived in two different states when we met and I did not have children. When it was time for us to be in the same state, I never even considered asking him to move away from his children. With that being said, I became a resident of Louisiana and no longer a resident of Indiana. I know moving 12 hours away from my entire family may seem strange to some, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The rest is our history and now we have one daughter together who is 6 years old. We all love each other as a family, no “step” or “half” needed. All of our children love each other as just brother and sister, regardless of the fact that my daughter is their “half” sister. It melts my heart seeing them all together, talking, laughing and playing!
I believe my step-children have definitely been a blessing in my life. When I first met them, I did not have children of my own and they taught me some very valuable lessons on motherhood that I would have other wised never been able to learn before having my own daughter. Not everyone gets that kind of hand-on experience before their “first” child. In almost 11 years I’ve only heard “you’re not my mom” one time, and keep in mind there are two kids, so I think I’m doing pretty good! I have loved them for the entire 11 years I’ve known them and that will never change. They have always respected me and welcomed me into their lives and for this I am forever grateful, because they didn’t have to do that! The fact that they love my daughter unconditionally and don’t treat her different, is also a huge blessing.
I believe I am a blessing to my husband because I was more than willing to accept him and his children and whatever else came along with him, from the very beginning. We all know that dating after divorce can be difficult, but add two children to that mix and it is extra difficult. My wonderful husband works out of town a lot in the oilfield industry. This means that I am usually the person who communicates with his ex-wife. Hence, the fact that his ex-wife and I get along so well, is a huge blessing to him and the children. And since my husband has an unpredictable work schedule, the children are free to come and go to either house whenever they want, there has never really been a set “schedule”. I think this also makes them feel good, because they don’t have a schedule that is rigid or stressful. My step-children have always been able to come to our house when my husband is off working and that means a lot to everyone.
If you are lucky enough to have a Mom of your step-children who is genuine, honest and open to having a relationship with you, consider yourself very blessed. I have to give credit to my stepchildren’s Mom because she welcomed me as her children’s step-mom right away. I also believe that we can get along so well because she is a step-mom herself, we are grown women and I am not the “reason” her marriage ended with my husband. We are able to work together for the children’s sake and we all make it a point to be civil in front of the children. She and I have had lunch together, clipped coupons together, attended the same church and my daughter has gone to her house before so that my step-son could babysit for me. My step-daughter, her mother and I have attended my step-daughter’s cheerleading banquet together, for the second year in a row. She has always let her children have a relationship with me and that is very important. Because of this, the children know that it is okay to love me and have a relationship with me. I believe she and I could be really, great friends, if the circumstances were different and there weren’t invisible boundaries and limits in place.
I’ve always tried to make sure that my step-children didn’t feel unwanted or feel tension between houses and when they see us all do something together for their behalf, it solidifies this fact. I am not saying it is always easy because it isn’t. My husband and his ex-wife don’t always agree on everything and sometimes I act as the “buffer” so-to-speak, but we all try to compromise. Sure, there have been and there will be issues that arise, but that can happen to the everyday married couple with kids, regardless of the fact there are “step” people involved. We all like having peace in our homes, and we know that doesn’t happen unless we get along! I know that they will be exceptional adults one day and my heart swells just thinking that I will have helped them become that person! I believe that they feel loved unconditionally at both houses and that is the ultimate goal! They will be better people because we all got along and I honestly think our family is in the minority when it comes to this, unfortunately.
To my fellow step-moms, be the bigger person, be nice and love your step-children as your own. It’s no fun being miserable, so I pray for peace in your home.
Chrystal Adams is married to her wonderful husband Frank. They have three children, ages 15, 15 & 6, they reside in Louisiana. She is 34 years old and has a full-time career as a Registered Investment Advisor and her husband works in the oilfield industry. Chrystal is passionate about health and fitness, and practices Pilates and Yoga daily. You may connect with Chrystal at hadleysmama on Twitter.
Can you relate to the gifts she brings to her family? To the gifts she receives from them (including the mom of her stepkids?) Pls share
1. To release from something that holds fast, connects, or entangles.
2. To release (oneself) from an engagement, pledge, or obligation.
To free or detach oneself; withdraw.
“Disengage from the situation!” “Just disengage from your stepchild if they are causing you pain!” “I would just disengage from my husband if he was acting like that.”
These are common tid bits of advice that stepmoms receive. But the bigger question is:
“How do you disengage and still stay connected?”
While disengaging from someone or something does lessen the pain it doesn’t solve the problem that is causing you to want to disengage. As the definition states above, disengage involves withdrawing and how can you have a healthy and fulfilling marriage if you are disengaging from your husband and/or the child he brought into your marriage.
Do you stop asking about their day? Do you stop talking to your husband about their child and the struggle that brings you pain? Do you stop going to soccer games or parent teacher conferences to avoid confrontation from their mom? Just how do you disengage? Walking away from the pain may make the daily ride “easier” but it doesn’t address the struggles causing the pain and it isn’t drawing you closer to your husband nor his children.
When we disengage a few things can happen. The biggest drawback in my opinion is the hardening of your heart. When you disengage from a person or situation that is causing you pain, you often start to slowly put up a wall. You withdraw emotionally even if you are physically present and that can present it’s own issues. Sure you are still loving that person but you are loving them from a distance. You are lessening your vulnerability to be hurt. That may sound great… no pain… but when you want to give and receive unconditional love you have to be vulnerable. When you are married… you are vulnerable. When you are a parent…. you are vulnerable.
In my journey as a stepmom, disengaging from negative comments (not the person) is the best disengagement! And I speak from experience. Years back, I tried disengaging from my youngest stepdaughter and it didn’t work. Her struggles continued, her roller coaster of emotions continued. My disengagement did not erase the impact her choices were having on the family and on me and her father. Me not asking her about what was going on at school might have helped me not physically feel sick when I would hear the answer but it was like walking around my family room in the dark: the toys were still strewn everywhere, there was dust on the TV but I just couldn’t see it in the dark.
For me, disengagement made me feel worse. I disbanded that approach and did some soul searching. I want to be there and help and if it hurts to do that then I have to work through that. The best thing was for me is to put distance between hurtful things said and done and how I choose to process it.
Here are some truths about being a stepmom that remind me to not take things personally and help me disengage from the hurtful words not the person hurting:
My success as a stepmom is not tied to my stepchild’s choices and behavior. Measure your success as a stepmother by the love you give not by the response you get back. Because divorce and/or death of a parent is loss for a child, they are often operating from a place of pain. While remarriage is a second chance at love for you and your husband, it’s a reminder to a child that mom and dad will never be together again. We know that hurting people hurt others and often kids are operating from a place of pain. It doesn’t give them a license to say or do hurtful things but it can help you understand that their choices and behavior are not tied to your role as stepmom.
Hurting people hurt others. Disengage from the hurt not the hurting person. As mentioned above, separate the hurt from the hurting person. Have boundaries and consequences for poor choices. We can choose to withdraw from the person causing the pain but if we are committed to staying in our marriage than withdrawing and hardening our hearts will not build into a marriage that we want to grow and flourish.
While someone’s choices may impact me, they are just that – SOMEONE ELSE’s choices and I am not responsible for their choices. Do not take on another’s choices as your own. We may hear “you ruined my life,” “you took my dad away,” “my life would be perfect if you weren’t in it,”“if you cared about me, you’d leave me alone,” and more from our stepkids and we may hear even worse from their mother. Remember: these are their words not your doing. Do not take in these words as truth of who you are.
My value is not tied to another person’s opinion of me. While we should be open to honest feedback about ourselves, feedback and bashing are two different things. Do not measure your value by others. At Church this past Sunday, our pastor shared these words “your value is not tied to your valuables.” So true. Our value comes from the one who created us and God loves us all. He sees us as the beautiful creations He made us to be.
“You don’t always get back what you give!” (this is a little gem of a phrase I just learned from my friend Lisa on Twitter). Lisa said it so well. And this may be one of the hardest stepmom truths to swallow and accept. We give and we give and as stepmoms (and I would say parents in general) we may not get back all that we give but we are called to give anyway. When we give to give and not expect anything in return, it helps.
Hope these truths I’ve come to know help. While disengaging would numb the pain we feel it would also serve to numb our relationships and wouldn’t solve the problem bringing the pain. If anything we could have more issues as our withdrawing would impact our marriage and relationships.
“An engaged woman is always more agreeable than a disengaged. She is satisfied with herself. Her cares are over, and she feels that she may exert all her powers of pleasing without suspicion. All is safe with a lady engaged; no harm can be done.” Jane Austen
Would love to hear your thoughts on disengaging? Have you found yourself disengaging from a situation or person in your stepfamily? What tips would you share? What did you think of the stepmom truths shared? Are they helpful to you? As we share with one another and have open and honest dialogue as stepmoms we continue to grow, support and encourage one another.
Look forward to hearing your take on disengaging! Let’s talk….