Entries tagged with “stepkids”.


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!

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April honestly and lovingly shared how she treated her stepfather yet how she truly felt about him. This gives great insight into our relationship with our stepkids. Often they push us away or brag about their mom yet inside they are grateful for our consistency and for being a parent in their life. April has come full circle and her experience, love and insight is a blessing to us all. Your thoughts?

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

The Beginning of My Blended Family by Meghan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone in the family looses when kids are encouraged and/or rewarded to disrespect their stepmom and their father. 

As part of the “What Would You Do?” series, I’m sharing with you a collective question I received from many stepmoms: how do you handle it when you feel your stepkids are encouraged and/or rewarded by their mom to be disrespectful to you and their father?

It doesn’t seem uncommon for stepmoms to struggle with a bio mom who openly encourages her children to be disrespectful to her and the children’s father. Some stepmoms even shared that their stepchildren are rewarded for being disrespectful and/or disobedient.

Gifts for Disrespecting StepMom???

Often it appears that a child isn’t openly encouraged (or told) to disrespect their stepmom. Rather, the mom  verbally rewards their child when they share that they spoke disrespectfully to their stepmom and/or dad.  I’ve heard from some stepmoms where their stepchildren are physically rewarded.

This not only wounds the stepmom and dad but it really puts the kids into a loyalty tug of war. A tug of war where the child is the biggest loser. When any parent encourages their child to be disrespectful, it’s a form of alienation and it plays havoc on a child’s emotional well-being: “someone I love is telling me to be mean to someone else I love….how do I make sense of that?”

I believe it is essential for a child’s emotional health and for the health of the child’s future relationships that no parent ever bad mouth another parent in their presence or verbally or physically reward their child when they share any disrespectful talk or action toward the other parent and/or stepparent. If and when an unkind word is spoken, it’s important for the adult to go to the child and apologize.

One stepmom wrote to me that her eight year old stepson came home from his mom’s with a new ipod touch. When she asked where he got the “new toy” he told her “mom took me out and bought me this when I told her that I refused to do my chores for you.” This stepmom was first speechless and then furious. She admits that she told her stepson how wrong that was of his mother and regrets ever saying it. She later apologized to her stepson for her reaction.

I’ve heard from other stepmoms that their stepchildren are told by their mother that they don’t have to listen to their stepmom because she isn’t their real mom. Another stepmom shared that her kids are physically rewarded for disobeying she and her husband (their father). The kids will come home with new stuff and say their mom bought it for them because they told her how they didn’t follow the rules at “dad’s house”.

The reality is that these stepmoms can’t stop the mom from saying and doing what she is doing. While the kids may love the “stuff” they get from mom, it has to pang their hearts to comprehend why she is doing it. I say stay firm with your rules and in enforcing the consequences for those rules. At some point the children will have to decide if the consequence for disobeying you and their dad is worth the “item” and/or verbal praise they get or it. A child will at some point wonder “what does mom’s actions say about her if she is rewarding me for being disrespectful?”

While your stepchildren may not like your rules they will come to appreciate your consistency. They come to learn they can depend on you. You are the same today, tomorrow and the next and that brings peace to a child especially when there can be many “unknowns” living in two homes often with two sets of rules.

It’s important for all of us to remember that kids are kids and to try hard not to take it personally. I know it sounds simple but what kid is going to turn down a new toy or gadget from a parent? Having said this, I’m suggesting that regardless of whether a child is rewarded for disrespecting a parent, that disrespected parent/stepparent has to take the high road and not condemn the parent in front of the child and not condemn the child for accepting the new “toy”. I would even caution against approaching mom. If her goal is to upset you and you give her that, she is getting what she wants and your reaction may validate her actions for her and may motivate her to continue her choices.

I also think it’s important to remember that if the other home is truly encouraging disrespect that their words/actions speak volumes about their character and not about you and your spouse and how you run your home.

As hard as it can be at times, maintain “your house. your rules” and reinforce that you set the rules in your home and all the kids are expected to follow them. You can stress that respect is fundamental to every relationship and that respect need be extended to everyone in the family. No exceptions. This rule should come down from the father. It makes a strong impact when dad backs his wife (the stepmom) to the children.

And I must note that this issue is not just limited to moms against stepmoms. I’m discussing it in this context given that the struggles have come from stepmothers however, I believe some parents in general (moms, dads and stepparents) encourage their kids to disrespect the other parent. I also believe that many parents don’t consciously set out but due to insecurities they find themselves rewarding their kids for a disobedient attitude and actions at their other home. No excuses just pointing out that pain unfortunately governs many parental decisions especially in co-parenting situations.

In closing, a stepfamily is a family and the greatest blessing a child can experience who lives in a stepfamily is to feel love, acceptance and peace. A parent may not like that their child has a stepparent but accepting them and encouraging love and peace is a gift that will bless the child beyond words. The truth is that no matter how much a child loves and embraces their stepparent they will always love their mother and father: it’s a bond that even distance can’t break. This is something I wish every parent whose child has a stepparent would understand. There is no need for jealousy and no room for it either.

What suggestions do you have for a stepmom who struggles with this issue? Do you struggle with this? Does the mother of your stepkids encourage them to be disrespectful to you? Have your stepchildren ever been physically rewarded for being disobedient and/or disrespectful to you? Thanks for sharing.

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:

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“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.

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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.

You can read her blog at www.RevolutionaryMoms
Follow on Twitter at @RevolutionaryMoms
Like on Facebook at RevolutionaryMoms

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….

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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.

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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:

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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.

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Can you relate to Margaret? What touched your heart? Leave her some comment love below. Thanks

Day 27:     30 Days in the StepMom Trenches

 “Because I said so!”

 “The best gift you can give me on my Birthday is to get along with each other!”

Two phrases my mother used with my brothers and I when we were growing up. Two phrases I didn’t like hearing as a kid. Two phrases I used today!  

It’s Sunday in late fall and that means Church, attending my son’s basketball game, and weekend chores. This holiday weekend, it also meant putting up Christmas trees in each of the kids’ rooms and trying to squeeze in some fun family time as four of our six were not with us the whole weekend.

Needless to say, it was a busy day. Church was wonderful and we heard a great message. Reggie Hodges, a player for the Cleveland Browns and member of our Church, spoke briefly this morning about the importance of being bold in your faith. He spoke with such conviction and meaning. One of our Pastor’s spoke about apprenticeship and how many of the moral lessons he learned in life were taught in his home by watching his parents and grandparents and by listening to their words and following their example. His message really reinforced how what we say and how we live our life has such a profound impact on our children and stepchildren. It was good stuff.

My son’s team played well and won. It was great to watch him play. And then the fun started as we arrived home.

When I was a single mom, I decided to put small trees in each of my kids’ bedrooms. When I got remarried, we brought our tradition with us and my stepdaughters loved the idea of having a Christmas tree in their room. We have fun decorating the trees. We put on Christmas music, make hot chocolate and talk about when we got certain ornaments. It’s a fun time.

This year was a bit more hectic. Over the summer we added two bedrooms to our home so that each of our four girls have their own bedroom. Two new rooms meant finding two new trees and it was quite the feat trying to find trees that were similar to the ones we already had…. just to make things fair.

As Murphy’s Law would have it, the lights didn’t work from last year. Ornaments got broken in storage. Trees were tipping over. Just seemed like everyone had an issue and everyone needed “mom.” Even though my husband was available and offering to help, it was one of those days when only “mom” would do.

I had to bring out the “because I told you,” a few times when I asked people to do something and was challenged on it.  There are just times when I want the kids to do simple things without the complexity of being challenged.

I reminded myself repeatedly while I was getting requests from every room in the house and finding myself getting frustrated because I couldn’t help everyone when they were asking for help that just 48 hours earlier I was very sad missing my four kids and wishing we were all together. We were all together today and I needed to appreciate the chaos that it brought.

It was just one of those days where it seemed the kids were just at each other. Not in a mean spirited way….. just a sibling we’ve spent to much time doing family stuff kinda way.  So at the end of the night when I was tucking my two sons in and they asked “mom, what do you want for your birthday tomorrow?” I replied, “I just want you to get along. That would be the best gift of all!” And as I spoke those words I smiled, remembering how on nearly every holiday my mom would make that request and I would always think “give me something easier please.”

I guess it’s inevitable that we use the phrases that our parents used on us. We were raised by them. And regardless of what type of family you live in, you are going to have challenging days. You are going to have kids who challenge you whether you are the parent or the stepparent.

While the day was non-stop fire drills I paused to take solace in the fact that my seven year old daughter was adamant about making sure I had two new Christmas trees to put in the new bedrooms so that everyone had a tree. She sees all her siblings as siblings…. no step involved and that is a blessing if I say so myself.

Lessons from the StepMom Trenches: some days are chaotic and other days are really chaotic. Whether you are in a traditional family or stepfamily, siblings can get on each others’ nerves and it’s the parents/stepparents who often have to play referee.

Challenge: are there any phrases that your parents used that you find yourself using? How do you feel when you use these phrases? Do you smile thinking back to your parent’s using the same phrases or do you think “I can’t believe I just said that?”

Day 26: 30 Days in the StepMom Trenches

Today, my four children returned from their time with their dad and our family of eight traveled to my parents’ home to celebrate Thanksgiving. My brother, his wife and their three children were there. It was wonderful to all be together. We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving on the day the calendar tells us to but rather on a day when we could all get together.  The blessing of family and friends is the true celebration of Thanksgiving.   

It was such a blessing to see everyone and hear the kids laughing and talking about Christmas and making plans to see each other in the next few weeks. The weather was wonderful so the kids played hide and go seek and basketball and we just had a very relaxing and peace filled day.

At dinner, my brother read a Thanksgiving prayer. The words spoken really touched my heart and I wanted to share it with all of you:

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Oh, God, when I have food,

help me to remember the hungry;

When I have work, help me

to remember the jobless;

When I have a warm home,

help me to remember the homeless;

When I am without pain,

help me to remember those who suffer;

And remembering, help me

to destroy my complacency

and bestir my compassion.

Make me concerned enough

to help, by word and deed,

those who cry out

for what we take for granted.

~ Samuel F. Pugh

 

Lesson from the StepMom Trenches: Often it can feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders and many times it may be. It is important to be thankful in all we do during both the good and challenging times. Choosing to focus on the positive doesn’t mean you aren’t going through a hard time. It means that you are choosing to focus on the good things in your life. By focusing on the blessings, our burdens seem more bearable.

Challenge: Find a poem, quote, or other inspirational piece that really speaks to your heart. Read the piece daily during times of blessings and times of challenge. Very often an inspirational piece that speaks to your heart can help turn negative thoughts into positive ones and in turn help you maintain a grateful heart and positive mood.

Day 21: 30 Days in the StepMom Trenches

Something you should never say to a stepmom is “you knew what you were getting yourself into!”

That quite possibly could be the understatement of the century.  I don’t think there is a stepmom out there who could have predicted her family life before she actually became a stepmother. Reality of stepmom life says there are many, many people whom impact our life, schedule and wallet yet we have little to no control over them. Speaking from my own personal life experience, I was completely blindsided by many of the feelings I experienced as a new stepmom. 

Often after the “I dos” are exchanged, emotions can change in the ex-wife and in the stepkids and typically it is the stepmom who can become the target of the emotional whirlwind.

While my husband and I read every book we could get our hands on before getting remarried and talked with veteran stepcouples in our church, I still was not prepared for the rollercoaster of emotions I would ride once I said “I do.”

I never expected…. I was pleasantly surprised ….
  • to feel so alone at times
  • to connect with so many amazing stepmoms
  • that my stepdaughters would push me away
  • that my stepdaughters would love and thank me for being “mom”
  • that my stomach would do flips everytime I hear the word “court”
  • that my heart would do flips everytime I look into my husband’s baby blues
  •  I would rely on my faith so much
  • to live by faith
  • it could hurt so bad to love
  • it could feel so good to love
  • a man I love with all my heart could drive me so crazy
  • I could love a man so much
  • I could feel like an outsider in my own home
  • I could feel so complete when our whole family is together
  • that I could feel so bad
  • that I could feel so good
  • to hurt so bad when my stepkids hurt
  • to be so happy when my stepkids accomplish something great
  • defend my role as stepmom
  • share my heart as a stepmom
  • to be the one to have all the “girl” talks with my stepdaughters
  • that I would come to know my stepdaughters so well that I could see hurts and pains in my stepkids that even their own father doesn’t see
  • my children to often be jealous of having to share their “mom” 24/7 with their stepsiblings
  • that all six of our kids would gel so well that there is no step used among them. It’s all about just being brothers & sisters.

 

Lessons for the StepMom Trenches: I don’t think any woman can accurately understand what life as a stepmom is like until she chooses to love a man with children. You feel it when you are in it and sometimes the feelings change seasonly, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly and sometimes by the minute.  Know that every feeling you have is real, normal and okay. It’s what we do with our feelings that matter.

Challenge: Next time you feel an emotion related to your role as stepmom, know that you are not alone. We all have joys and challenges as a stepmom and whatever you are feeling there are likely a million other Smoms feeling the same way. There is strength in community. Get connected to other positive minded stepmoms!

 

Day 18: 30 Days in the StepMom Trenches

She chooses to embrace a family and love them. 

Today and everyday she is committed to her family and doing what is best for them.

Even when others are unkind, she holds her head high, standing strong in the truth.

Patience becomes her middle name.

Many try to diminish her impact on her family but she knows what she means to them.

Only in time will she truly reap the gratitude of her stepkids but still she presses on.

Marriage makes her a stepmother but it’s her heart that makes her a mom.

~~~

Long day today in the stepmom department. Thought I’d write a sentence for each letter of this label we are given when we marry a man with kids. Sure, this may not hit the mark exactly but hope it conveys the heart and love of a stepmom.

Lessons from the StepMom Trenches: Somedays are long and somedays are longer but through it all we should never forget that we choose everyday to be the best for our family. Some days we feel very successful and other days we may not. Regardless of what each day holds, never forget the love and beauty that you bring to your family.

Challenge: take a minute to write what STEPMOM means to you. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to be as stepmom. Love doesn’t live by rules and when we choose to love our family and do what is right for them, we can’t help but do a great job!

 Would love for you to share what stepmom means to you.

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