The (Un) Balanced Stepmom


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


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


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?

The Zookeeper Stepmom


You know the story about the people sitting in the room with the elephant?  It goes something like this.  People were sitting all around the elephant.  Each with a different view.  Someone sitting in front of the elephant marveled at the beautiful head, the huge ears, and the magnificent trunk.   She began to talk about how beautiful it was as she described its features.  Then the person sitting behind the elephant exclaimed, “That’s not what the elephant looks like at all!  It has a large backside, and a tiny little tail.  That is what an elephant looks like.”  How interesting that to each person, the same elephant looked very different depending on where they were sitting.

I ponder my beautiful, ever slowly, but steadily, blending stepfamily.  At times I wonder if I am seeing a beautiful long trunk but someone else is staring at the big bu– and not enjoying the view as much.

As a stepmom, I have learned (with time) that in a blended family we don’t all share the same view.  Take for example, the joy that a newly married couple experiences when after a hard divorce they find a new love to spend the rest of their life with!  This overwhelming joy can be experienced by many stepmoms and dads when their marriage begins.  But at the same time, the stepkids can be experiencing mixed emotions.  They can experience confusion and deep sorrowfulness at the time their dad marries their stepmom.  For them, the focus might not be a joyful union, but the deeply sad end of their family as they knew it.

Romans 12:15 (NIV) says:  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Sometimes I feel like I’m a zookeeper stepmom, making sure each unique “animal” is ok and taken care of.  And I try to remember that someone might have the view of the elephant’s backside today, that it’s not pleasant, and they need all the extra grace and kindness they can get.  I am thankful for God’s direction to walk along side those who are rejoicing or mourning.

What are you thankful for today?

The Empathic Stepmom


My husband and I watched a movie tonight.  Not the kind with a happy ending.  This one told the story of a lady who was losing custody of her child.  It was heart wrenching to watch her lose custody. Yes, I cried my eyes out.  All while our “ours kids” and my stepkids lay soundly sleeping in their beds.  But then one of our “ours kids” woke up and called out for “Mommy.”  I will admit that I jumped out of bed, ran to her room and gladly cradled her and rocked her back to sleep, cherishing every moment.  Holding my babe was the perfect antidote to that sad movie!

It made me pause for a moment.  Many times I have wondered “What’s it like to be in her (the ex wife’s) shoes?”  Ok, not the stir-it-up, chaos-creating, interfering shoes.  But rather, the I-don’t-get-to-see-my-kids-everyday-anymore shoes.  After watching this movie maybe Hollywood provided me with a sliver of understanding, a sliver of empathy. Or maybe it’s that God has been softening my heart.

I Peter 3:8 (NLT) says:  “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters.  Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.”

So today I am thankful that God shows us how to be empathic.  I’m thankful that God has been working on my heart.

What are you thankful for today?

The Empowered Stepmom


We stepmoms have a lot to navigate.  We have a lot of uncertainty and questions.

Am I supposed to feel love for my stepkids?  How much love and when does this happen?  Is it a different love than I have for other people?  Is that ok?  And if they don’t even like me, am I still supposed to love them?

Am I supposed to be nice/forgiving/tolerant to my husband’s ex wife even though she has wronged us (and maybe continues to do so)?

Is it normal to feel jealous when my husband spends time with his kids?

Or maybe:  The fur is still flying, the battle lines are drawn, it’s cat-and-dog around here…and as a stepmom you’re not sure of your role.

In Philippians 2:13 (NLT), we learn:  “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”

This is huge!  This means I don’t have to do this on my own.  I have a big God who is bigger than any problem, who actually helps me and empowers me to be the kind of wife, mom, and stepmom I am meant to be. He is working in me.

Today I am thankful that God is growing me.

What are you thankful for?

The Big Stepmom


When blended family stresses arise, and I am tempted to give nastiness back, or give drama back, to whoever gave it to me.  In these times, my husband provides support with his wise words.  “You are bigger than that.”  And my world stops, I take a breath, I regroup, and realize he is right.  This stepmom is bigger than the ugliness that can be sent my way.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NKJV):  “Two are better than one… For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.”

We did a lot of work, I mean a LOT of work, forming our house rules and boundaries when we first got married.  We had many “closed door meetings,” just me and my husband.  This went on for most of our first year of marriage.  It took dedication and a lot of discussion.  We discussed the vision we had for our family and how we would deal with stress.

Today I am thankful for this foundation and the support of my husband!

What are you thankful for today?

The Fed Up Stepmom


As a stepmom does it ever seem like you have trouble heaped upon you?  (Are you laughing and saying to yourself, “yeah, all the time!”).  Stepmoms can be the target of anger from ex-wives, step kids and even their husbands.  There are a lot of emotions and different perspectives from each family member, and the ex, in the midst of the blending process.  There are great times in a blended family, then there are also difficult times.  A stepmom can get tired of the drama, the conflict, and the chaos.  What’s a fed up stepmom to do? When my husband and I are weighed down by negative things thrown our way, we turn to scripture.  Here are some Bible verses where we find rest.

We try to keep perspective.  It’s not really that any individual person is trying to harm us, we know the truth because the Bible says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).  This helps us focus our prayer where it needs to be, and avoid negative thoughts about any one person.

And we remember how the Bible tells us to treat those who hurt us.  Romans 12:20 (MSG) says “Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.”

Today I am thankful that I can get a heavenly perspective in a difficult situation.

What are you thankful for today?

The Mama Bear Stepmom


We’ve all had our tough times with our stepkids, haven’t we, ladies?  I remember some really tough patches with my eldest especially.  She was at that textbook-rough adolescent time in life when her parents divorced, then her dad met me, her world was upside down, and the last thing she needed was some stepmom she never asked for.  And let me tell you…she let me know.  Often.  Life is rough enough with one’s own biological teenagers.  Try it with a step-teenager!  One of my favorite memories was going to NYC with her.  I had the privilege of taking her to her first ever Broadway play (and she is a drama nut, so this was a big deal).  I will treasure that evening.  But, during the rest of the trip we had our difficult moments (e.g. “Do we have to keep walking through this darn park?”  yes, um, it’s Central Park…most people would die for this experience).  Well, one day we were in a drug store buying whatever we had forgotten to pack.  I stepped away for a moment, leaving her in the checkout line.  And a big city New Yorker cut in line, practically pushed my stepkid aside, and butted in line in front of her.  I remember the look on her face.  She wasn’t sure what to do, she looked hurt and confused.  I didn’t have my own biological kids at the time…but inside me, something surged!  I needed to protect that child.  I promptly ran over and told that person that my kid was next.  And we stepped in front of him in line.  Look, she might be difficult at times (aren’t we all), she might be negative toward me, she might reject me, she might dismiss me…but she is MY negative, rejecting, dismissive, tough kid.  Not that New Yorkers’ kid.  So, watch out…even a stepmom without kids of her own can have a Mama Bear inside her.  This is when I realized my bond with my kids. I didn’t know I had a Mama Bear! I realized that my bond with my stepkids was not contingent on them reciprocating.  This Step-Mama Bear was going to love them, protect them and care for them.

I Corinthians 13:7-8 (NIV) talks about love:   “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

Today I am thankful that God showed me how to love and protect people that are not my own, and how to trust in Him in this stepmom journey.

What are you thankful for today?

p.s. I have lots of amazing “big city New Yorker” friends, so no slam intended there!

p.p.s. I am happy to report the toughness of adolescent stepkids can morph into a beautiful relationship with time, maturity, consistency and God’s hand in the mix.

The Airborne Stepmom


I used to travel for work, at times traveling most of the month…and I was afraid to fly.  I found that reading the Bible during my flight really helped me reel in those fears.  My favorite verse while flying became Isaiah 43:2 (NIV):

“When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze”

In fact, this became a mantra that I would recite over & over on the plane.  I found peace in this verse knowing that God cares for us in all situations.  He guides us and protects us. And even during the “waters”, “rivers” and “fires” He comforts us.    Over time, I had more peace when flying.  I was able to focus on how amazing it is that God has blessed the pilot and flight attendants with amazing skills to care for the passengers.  I could look out the window and marvel at how God allowed this giant hunk of metal to be airborne.  I rested in knowing that God is ultimately in control of all things.  And I would stare at the amazing creations of God (the clouds, sunsets, corn fields, and mountains all beautifully visible from the plane window).  Flying became a time for me to be thankful and humble in God’s presence.

The other day as I pondered this, I realized the same mantra could be said by stepmoms such as myself. The stepmom journey can be filled with moments that are scary, bumpy, turbulent, unexpected and often out of our control.  And how wonderful is it to know that God cares for us in all situations, ultimately He is in control and has a beautiful plan.

What are you thankful for today?