Happy Mother’s Day Stepmama!

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Today I woke up and rolled over to find my deliciously cuddly four year old in my bed, sandy feet from yesterday’s shenanigans and all.  And I’m thankful.  Thankful for this crazy chaotic blended family life.  If not for the storms of blended family life, I would not have this great husband, these amazing “ours” kids, and the honor to love on someone else kids.

But let’s be real.  This is a mixed bag kind of day for women.  We’re rejoice in the great relationships with our children, stepchildren and our own mothers.  Simultaneously we mourn the children we have lost.  We mourn the relationships with bio kids, step kids, and parents that are not intact or not healthy.  Some of us mourn the loss of our own mother.

As I solemnly ponder this (with my back drop being one kid yelling “Mom!  Can you help me find my unicorn?” and another yelling “Mom, can I have cheeseballs for breakfast?”).   I think about the many reasons to NOT love your step kids (and then I talk myself and hopefully you out of that mindset should it ever understandably cross your mind.).

10 Reasons Not to Love Your Stepkids

  1. Your stepkid has wronged you.   Talk to any bio parent.  This is what kids do, they wrong their parents. They disappoint, they disobey.  This is not unique to step parenting.  Welcome to parenting 101.  You’re officially a real parent if your kids or step kids wrong you.  Love them anyway.
  2. Your husband’s ex has told lies about you and damaged your character.  Sadly this happens.  It’s like being hit by a ton of bricks.  It’s unfair yet it happens all too often. It’s upsetting.  I figure there are two choices here.  Become the bitter, ugly, unqualified parent the ex might say that you are, or hold your head up high, behave  gracefully in the face of adversity and let your true character shine.  People will eventually see your true character.  Love them anyway.
  3. Your’e not a real parent (and you’ve probably been told so).  News flash:  things like packing lunches, cleaning someone else’s kids soiled sheets after an accident, doing laundry, putting bandaids on, driving kids to and from school, cooking meals and listening to a teenager’s heartaches makes you a real parent.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not a real parent.  Love them anyway.
  4. Your stepkid is not nice to you.  Again,  I say, talk to any bio parent.  They will tell you that kids are not nice.  Ok sometimes they are, but a lot of the time they aren’t.   Like the times when they tantrum at Disneyland (not always the happiest place on Earth, is it?), or when they treat you disrespectfully in front of their teenage friends, or when they open a birthday present and exclaims it’s not what they wanted.  Parenting is not contingent on a child’s behavior.  Kids don’t have to earn appropriate parenting.  They should just get it because it’s the right thing for parents to do.  As my husband often reminds me “You’re the grown up here.”  (oh, yeah…thanks for the reminder, seriously I sometimes need that).  Parents don’t just parent “good kids”, they parent disobedient, unkind, not-so-fun-to-be-around kids too.  By providing solid parenting even in tough situations you are growing this kid up into a healthy person (who will be nicer some day).  Love them anyway.
  5. I have to protect myself,  I have to think of myself first.  Self-preservation, I hear you, a natural tendancy.  But yet the Bible says “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  (Philippine 2:3-4 NIV).  Huh, put the interests of others above my own?  Value others (like your step kids) above yourself?   Yep, we’re told this straight from God.  Love them anyway.
  6. There’s nothing in this for me, it’s a thankless job.  Yep, parenting is pretty much a thankless job until your kids are 40, or so I hear.  Kids don’t say thanks for limits, curfews, and having to eat brussel sprouts.  But when they’re older they will thank you. (Like that kid of mine still begging me for cheese balls for breakfast).  No lie, parenting and stepparenting is hard work, it’s a constant selfless sacrifice.  Love them anyway. 
  7.  I’m exhausted from trying.  God provides peace and strength unlike anything in this world.  Seek Him.  God tell us in Isaiah 40:31 (NIV), “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Be still and let Him help.  Love them anyway.
  8. What I do doesn’t matter.  Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to be involved in many big “important” business matters with very profitable dollar signs attached (feeding someone else’s pockets, not mine, mind you).   But I will never forget what happened one day at work, early in my career.  I was on a phone queue, picked up a call from a customer, handled business as usual.  Yay me, job well done, right?  However, before we hung up the call, the customer quietly and slowly said “Thank you for being nice to me today…no one has been nice to me today.”  In that moment I knew that we can spend our time running around doing “important” things, but there’s nothing so impactful as being nice to a human being.  What you do does matter.  Love them anyway.
  9. My step kids are my husband’s responsibility, not mine.  You could look at that way, sure.  But remember when you married your husband two became one.  The Bible does not say two become one, except in the hard things.  And you are powerful, and you can respect your husband in this journey.  Your words are powerful.  You can use those words to build your husband up.  You can use that same power of words well-chosen to build your step kids up, even when you’re hurting and even when you have been wronged.  God tell us in Proverbs 12: 18-20 (NIV), “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.”  Use your power for good, not evil, Stepmom.  Love them anyway.
  10. My stepkid doesn’t like me, why should I like or even love him?  Simple:  because God commands us to.  And I don’t know about you, but God is the boss of me.  I’m imperfect, I fail often, but I try to remember the commands my boss has given me.  In Matthew 5:43-44 (NIV) we are told, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Love them anyway.  

Stepmom are brave, amazing, tough, and admirable.   I firmly believe God has planted stepmoms right where they can impact and bless others.  You got this, Stepmama.  Happy Mother’s Day!

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Five Ways to Unintentionally Hurt your Blended Family

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Being a stepmom is a crash course in a whole different world.   Most women are tremendously unprepared for the life of a stepmom.  We thought we were getting a fairy tale and it is often anything but.   It’s definitely not for the weak.   In the spirit of information sharing, here are some ways to unintentionally hurt your husband and stepkids.  (In other words, stuff you SHOULDN’T do.).

  1. Insist that your stepkids call you “mom.”  Be really clear in your heart & mind:  you are not mom.  Whether bio mom lives right down the road, is deceased, resides in jail or lives across the country:  you are not mom.  You might do mom-like tasks, you might love your stepkids, but you are not mom. Bio mom might have been abusive to her children…but you are still not mom.  You might be lucky to transition from babysitter status to friend to aunt to parental figure, but that takes time and relationship building.  Each child is different.  One child might eventually decide to call you  “mom” but to another child you may forever be “dad’s wife.”   Take joy in serving Him in all you do, not in what you are labeled.  No matter what you are called, you have a great opportunity to make an impact. So don’t force the kids to call you “mom” or treat you as such.
  2. Don’t back up your husband.    In a godly marriage, the husband is the head of the household.  This doesn’t mean unilateral decisions.  A wise husband consults his wife (yes, even when she is not his first wife) and carefully considers her input.  Ultimately he may make the final decision, especially when it comes to his bio kids.  Remember he is balancing the long term vision of what’s best for everyone (not just responding to the here & now), the perspective of his kids, relationship with his ex, impact on the blended family and more.  Respect his decision.  Demonstrate a united front to your stepkids. Even when you disagree with dad, you can model respect for his decisions.  One of the greatest gifts you can give the kids is modeling a healthy marriage. So, do support your husband.
  3. Monopolize your husband’s time.  Experts know that it’s important for parents to spend 1:1 time with kids. (note:  assuming there are no safety issues such as abuse or substance use).  One-to-one time helps kids feel important and loved (they get a parent’s full undivided attention for a specific time; don’t have to fight siblings for dad’s attention). This special time fosters communication, healing, self-esteem, and relationship.  Additionally, after dad remarries kids can worry that stepmom will take up all of dad’s time, in other words, it can increase their fear that they will lose dad.  Allowing and actively promoting 1:1 time between dad and kids is a great gift you can give them.   A confident stepmom knows it’s not a matter of excluding her from the family, but rather a way to help kids resolve grief, continue bonding or reuniting with dad, and building healthy relationships.  So don’t monopolize your husband’s time.
  4. Refuse to become one with your husband.  It’s biblical:  leave & cleave.  Leave your parents, cleave to your spouse, so much that you become “one.”   Think about it.  Who are you really married to?  Your spouse? Or are you more aligned with your ex or your bio kids?  Is your spouse more married to his bio kids than you?  God is clear:  leave  and then cleave to your spouse, not someone else.  The bible verse does not read: Leave & cleave unless it’s your second marriage.  Do become one with your husband.
  5. Create a child-centered home.  It can be easy to fall into this trap. Sheesh, haven’t we known our kids longer than our new spouse?  Doesn’t that count for something?  But I love my kids – shouldn’t I give them their way?  I mean, aren’t we all aware of the grief and loss we have caused our kids by divorce?  (Even if the divorce was not our choice, didn’t we “do this” to the kids?).  Wouldn’t it help the kids if we just gave them their way more often? If we bought them more treats, toys, and expensive clothes wouldn’t it help make up for the hurt they have endured?  What about more trips to Disneyland or Mexico – wouldn’t that help the kids heal?  What’s so wrong if we let the kids call the shots in our house?   Well, there’s a lot wrong in that.  It’s really unhealthy for kids to be in charge.   A healthy godly marriage has a certain hierarchy.  Put God first.  Then your spouse (remember you’re one now).   Then the kids.  Then everything else (work, hobbies etc).  Kids thrive on order and stability.  Knowing that there are rules and structure actually helps kids know that they are taken care of and reassures them.  Kids with too much freedom and too few rules can become unruly and anxious.  Plus kids who call the shots run the risk of becoming the kind of adults that no one wants to hang out with and probably won’t be great employees either.  A child-centered home is not the same thing as a home with lots of love for the children.  A child-centered home has the kids in charge instead of the parents.  Be brave, parent well, and do not create a child-centered home. Your kids and their future spouses will thank you!

Today I’m thankful for God’s direction.  In 2 Thessalonians 3:5 it says, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (NIV)

What are you thankful for?

The Natural Stepmom

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I have natural curly hair.  I mean huge hair.  Like, in the 80’s I had giant 80’s hair without even trying.  And then came the trend where it was popular to have stick straight hair.  So for many years now I have been straightening this giant mass of curls in to stick straight glossiness.  And that’s not easy, especially if there’s an ounce of humidity (or if you go to the gym, or if it rains, etc).  It’s an all out battle to keep these locks straight:  forcing them into line; using extreme high heat, blow outs, straightening irons, round brushes, special shampoo,  styling products galore.  Not only is it a battle, it’s time-consuming and exhausting.

And then one day I began admiring “natural hair”.  I took the leap and went to a salon that only does curly hair.  They teach women to appreciate the beauty of their curls (did you know there are many kinds of naturally curly hair?).  They teach them how to work with their curl, not to fight it or damage it.   And if you ask them to straighten it, they will say no.  They’re hard core.  Gosh, it’s like a hair intervention!

Now I rock my curls.  I have not straightened my hair in over a year.  I look totally different.  My own mother asked if I had gotten a perm!  But to be honest, managing curly hair isn’t easy even when going natural.  There are days I look more like Sammy Hagar or Carrot Top than the cute girl look I’m going for (although those guys do rock their curls!).  There are days I feel unkempt with my curls blowing around crazily.  And then there are also days when people stop me on the street to ask about my hair and tell me how beautiful it is.

And I wondered, is this kinda like being a stepmom?  As stepmoms do we try to force ourselves into roles that aren’t quite right for us?  Do we try to assume a mom role or get disappointed when we’re not acknowledged as a true mom?  Do we take on a friend role instead of a parental role?  If we are rejected by our stepkids, do we rush to reject them right back?  Are we just not sure how to manage?  Do we try too hard to control our family members, trying to force them all into place?   Like taming my hair but on a bigger scale, it’s exhausting and time-consuming being a stepmom.

What if we embraced the “natural”?  What if we truly embraced the beauty that’s inherent in just simply being a stepmom?  What if we let go of other expectations?  What if we stopped trying to force things and just breathe and just be.  Once we learn to do that, I bet people will notice the natural beauty of it.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV.

Today I’m thankful for the beauty only He gives to each of us, and that each of us is beautiful in our own way.

What are you thankful for?

 

 

The Beautiful Stepmom

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Today I am inspired by words that our Lord speaks to us in Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)

“and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes, the oil of joy
    instead of mourning, and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Beauty for ashes.  Isn’t that so blended-family-like?

Think of the “ashes” we have in our families.  From the adult perspective, maybe it’s the loss of a past marriage; the loss of our hopes and dreams about our first family and the way life was supposed to work out; the loss of a love; maybe a betrayal in our previous marriage; costly court cases; or loss of time and relationship with our children.  From the child perspective, maybe it’s the loss of family as he knew it and maybe even resulting depression and anger.

And yet, when we focus on the way God wants us to selflessly love our current spouses, children and stepchildren…there can be beauty from these ashes.  Sure it takes time (the average stepfamily takes 4-7 years to blend).  But nevertheless, there is beauty from ashes.    Who could take such an ugly, heart-breaking situation and make something beautiful from it?  Only God can perform that miracle.  And maybe, if we focus on the ashes so much, we miss the emerging beauty.  So today I’m thankful for the beauty in our imperfect family, and appreciative that over time it gets more & more beautiful (if I pay attention).

Today I am thankful that only He can bring beauty out of the ashes.

What are you thankful for?

 

The Polygamist Stepmom

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Ok, I’m not a polygamist but sometimes it kinda feels like it.  At times I have wondered how many people are in this marriage.  Sometimes it feels like more than two.

God is clear that when we get married “and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mark 10:8 NIV).

Notice it doesn’t say, “and the two will never become one in a remarriage because he had another wife first and has to spend half his time with his ex still.”

Nor does it say “and the two will not become one in a remarriage because he has children from his first marriage that he has known longer than his new wife and he will be one with the kids, and his new wife will be the third wheel.”

Nope, we second wives, lowly little stepmoms that we might be perceived to be, we still get to be one with our man.  God couldn’t be any more clear on how marriage is supposed to look.

Authors Cloud & Townsend talk about “intruders” in marriage in their book “Boundaries in Marriage” (Chapter 12 “Three’s a Crowd: Protecting Your Marriage from Intruders”).

So what might be intruding in your marriage?  Here are some common “intruders” that Cloud & Townsend mention:

  • work
  • kids
  • church
  • friends
  • in-laws

In blended family situations I might also add to the list:

  • ex-spouses
  • lots of types of kids (his, hers, “ours kids”, stepkids)

A strong marriage is a great antidote to a stressful blended family environment.  I’m thankful that I have an awesome husband who seeks to ensure that we have a solid marriage based on what God says.  He knows full well that there are to be only two of us in our marriage (despite the pressures he gets from “intruders”).  From day one, he has positioned us this way and protected our union.

What are you thankful for today?

 

 

The Seasonal Stepmom

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Today is not a great blended family day in my house. Let’s not sugar coat it. Today I could do without drama and blended family angst. I know we are not alone.  I acknowledge that it can be the norm in some stepfamilies. At least at certain points in time. Some more than others. Maybe it’s around holidays or major events. Or maybe there’s just a full moon tonight (I should check!). At any rate, it gets old.  

In Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) God says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

Today I’m acknowledging the season we are in. Our season is not the one with “dance”, “laughter”, or “embracing” as Ecclesiastes 3 talks about. Ours is the season to “weep” (vs 4), think about what we “hate” (vs 8), and a time to “refrain from embracing” (vs 5). That sounds ugly doesn’t it? But the Bible is clear. We go through seasons of different types. Some seasons are not fun. 

Luckily, we have assurance from our Heavenly Father that “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (vs 11). 

Until then, I’m holding on, and I’m having faith that a beautiful season is ahead. 

Today I’m thankful that God promises beautiful  things to come. 

What are you thankful for?







The Humbled Stepmom

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I was reading “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers today. He wrote, “The Holy Spirit reveals that God loved me not because I was lovable, but because it was His nature to do so. ‘Now,’ He says to me, ‘show the same love to others’—“Love as I have loved you.” ‘I will bring any number of people about you whom you cannot respect, and you must exhibit My love to them as I have exhibited it to you.”

What a great reminder. God loves me even when I’m unlovable. Despite all of the ugly things I have done or thought, God loves me. That’s humbling! That’s undeserved. And then He commands us to love how He has loved. Not how we might prefer to love, but how He has loved. 

He doesn’t say to love those who are loveable and easy.  He doesn’t say we should love people, except the ones who wronged us. He doesn’t tell us to love the people we like. He says we should love as He loves. He loves those who are messy and imperfect; the sinners and prostitutes. He keeps open arms for the prodigal sons. 

So who is a stepmom to love? Is it an ex-wife who has been less than friendly or even interfering  or undermining? Is it a stepchild who is disrespectful or rude?  (By the way, I don’t think loving someone is synonymous with being best friends or being a doormat. But love certainly has no room for hatefulness, unkindness, gossip, disrespectfulness, or dismissiveness.). 

John 15:12(NIV) “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

Today I’m thankful that God helps me understand how to love others. 

What are you thankful for?