The Frazzled Stepmom

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Today I’m reflecting on the stress we stepmoms face and how we come through it.  Seriously, how do we bear the stress and not fall to pieces (more than occasionally)?  It’s a miracle really.  And I find that once again I am thankful for my husband. My hand picked by God, just for me, husband.

I’m thankful for the many “closed door talks” we have had, especially in our early years of marriage.  (Ok, let’s get real, we would not only close the door, but then we’d lock it, and then go sit in the back of our walk-in closet…or little ears heard everything.  And even then, we would whisper.).  And to be really honest, we still do this.

I’m thankful that we were firm about the importance of our “closed door talks.”  This has been foundational for our marriage and our family.  Behind closed doors, we have had many discussions about the possible ramifications of our actions as well as our nonactions.  And then after discussing these things together, we chose a path to take.

Things like:

If we choose to do or say X, what will the children learn about a daddy’s role?

What will this demonstrate to them about how a father should act?

What will this demonstrate to them about how a husband should treat his wife (even though she might not be his first wife) and his children?

If we choose to do X, what will this teach them about the importance of marriage?

If we choose to take no action, what will this teach them about a Christian spirit?

If we choose to do or say X, the children won’t be happy and we won’t be the favorite parents, but what’s more important?  Making the healthy parenting decision or being popular?

If we choose to do X (or not do X), how will this impact the kind of mate they choose some day?

If we choose action (or inaction), will it teach them that parents (even step parents) can take care of kids?  (or would they feel that kids have to take care of parents?)

The list goes on and on.

Bottom line, I’m grateful that God provided me with a mouth big enough to voice my opinions and a husband big enough and humble enough to listen to me, and brave enough to share his heart and thoughts with me.

Ecclesiastes 4: 9 (a)-10  “Two are better than one…If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”

What are you thankful for?

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The (Un) Balanced Stepmom

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I think it requires a lot of balance to be a stepmom.  Maybe it’s something we stepmoms learn along the way because we have to.  Maybe we never master it.  I’m not sure.

I have been reflecting on stepmoms a lot this holiday season.  Several stepmoms have shared with me their stressful Christmas and holiday stories.  The central theme seems to be difficulties with parenting plans (in other words, “mom’s days” and “dad’s days” as decided by the court or the parents, this is the “parenting plan.”).  Stepmoms have been telling me about the lovely Christmas plans they made for their families and then finding out last minute that the stepkids would not be there because the ex made other plans for the kids even though it wasn’t her day.

This is one of the ugly realities that stepmoms live with.  If you are not a stepmom and you’re reading this, brace yourself.  We stepmoms plan lovely meals, family days, birthday parties, Christmas dinners, vacations, and so on…and then our stepkids aren’t always allowed to attend.   When these things happen, even the most balanced stepmom can feel unbalanced. It’s deflating and deeply sad for stepmoms.  It’s like the rug gets pulled right out from under you. It’s a struggle to be upbeat or joyous during a family time, when only part of your family is allowed to be there.

Some of us deal with parental alienation where the other parent purposely plans something more fun on that same day to lure the kids away.  Others have exes who just don’t cooperate with the parenting plan.  And we all know that it’s easier to let it slide than to retain the lawyer for several thousand dollars again.

So today I’m thinking about the sweet stepmoms who have shared their stories of holiday disappointment with me.  I have been there, I know that pain too well.

Psalm 34:18 (NIV)  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

John 16:33 (NIV)  I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Today I am thankful for God’s comfort in this fallen world and for the girlfriends God has placed in my life.

What are you thankful for?

The Scrooge Stepmom

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Let’s face it.  If ever there was a time when stepmoms have to balance a lot, it’s Christmas.  We have to balance:

* Expectations from our stepkids.

* Expectations from our husbands.

* Our feelings as an “outsider” at a time full of rituals that we may not be included in.

I’m about to share something with you.  But first, please remember rule number 1 in the Stepmom Club:  no judging!

Christmas gets dicey in our house too.  Yes, I have heard my stepkids proclaim with glee “I get two Christmases!”  And we have fun decorating our tree together.  I’m always wow’d at how amazing my stepkids are at decorating the outside of the house. But still, we have those moments.  You know the ones.  Where you feel like you’re not being treated well, not really visible, and kinda like a doormat.  Christmas can be tough for stepmoms.

And here’s the don’t-judge-me-part.  I admit that on more than one Christmas I have threatened to return all of the Christmas presents under the tree.  Yep, take them all back to the store.  That’s me….Scrooge.  Evil Stepmom.  Grinch?  The truth is, I have felt like I wasn’t treated well during a couple of Christmases.  And here I had been shopping for months, trying to make sure that Christmas was special for my stepkids.  I realized that there was a real inconsistency between the way I was being treated and my stepkids’ excitement about the gifts.  It wasn’t that I wanted to teach quid pro quo or tit for tat, but I did not want the lesson to be that you can treat someone unkindly and feel entitled to gifts.  After all, I am trying to help raise healthy kids who will someday be healthy grownups.  So I explained to my stepkids that if our relationship is so impaired, if this is the way you want to treat me, that’s fine.  It’s your choice.  However, when you treat someone this way, the other person doesn’t usually give a bunch of Christmas gifts to the person who is mistreating them.  So the Christmas presents can go back to the store.  This caught their attention.

In the end, each year we had apologies, reconciliation, and more humble hearts.   Every year things go more smoothly.  And I will never ever forget the first Christmas that one of my stepkids bought me a gift with her own money.  I treasure that.

So while I don’t recommend threatening to return all of your stepkids’ gifts, I do acknowledge that Christmas is hard for stepmoms.  I wish us stepmoms peace in the true meaning of Christmas.  Jesus was born on Earth to the Virgin Mary.  He came to rescue us.  That is true love from our Heavenly Father.  I am thankful that this is where I get my peace from, not from the status of my earthly relationships or the number of gifts under the tree.

John 14:27 (NIV):  “ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

What are you thankful for today?

p.s. this year we are focusing less on gifts and more on the real meaning of Christmas.  We are doing 3 gifts per person (wish us luck).

The Epicurean Stepmom

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I try to cook foods my kids will eat. For example, I know my toddler-aged “ours kids” will devour mac-n-cheese and applesauce. I know my teenage step kids will only eat certain veggies (broccoli and green beans), and please no weird sauces. Certain people in my house will only eat low carb (you know who you are!). In other words, no pasta or bread (my favs). Well, tonight I rebelled. After feeding the babies their baby-appropriate food, I moved on to cook (hope you are sitting down, wait for it, wait for it)…lovely squash ravioli with heavenly chicken sautéed with Italian herbs, and topped with a wonderful cream sauce. I paired it with pan seared brussel sprouts in a delightful red pepper, Parmesan and garlic infused oil. (Gasp! Not vegetables my step kids hate! Not carbs!) Needless to say the crowd was not thrilled. My husband even launched into “Supper Hero” (you know the one, the Veggie Tales song about the hero who comes to eat all the food no one likes).

There are times we do “dinner on your own” night where each person makes what they want. Tonight didn’t work that way.

I’m really not sure if tonight was an epic stepmom fail. It could have been. Or did I teach my family:

*You don’t always get your way, sometimes we have to let others get their wants and needs met too.
*It isn’t always about you, sometimes other people (like stepmoms) want a say in things too.
*Broaden your horizons, people! Try a new veggie!
*Appreciation of new foods, someday you’ll be all grown up in a nice restaurant on a date or at a business dinner and things might not seem so foreign because good old stepmom exposed you to new things.
*You will not die from eating brussel sprouts.

Who knows. Maybe it was strike three for me (oops I mean strike #338 by now, but who’s counting?). Luckily God has good plans, His plans are much better than mine, and this whole blended thing is going to work out just fine. I trust Him in that and am thankful that God is in control, not me.

Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV) says: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

What are you thankful for today?