Stepmom Living: The Things I Have Learned
I had two stepmoms in my lifetime. One when I was fourteen, and the second when I was thirty.
That means I should have known what it was like to form a stepfamily and become a stepmom, right?
My perspective changed after I became a stepmom and found myself looking through a different lens. It was much more complicated than I thought it would be.
Thirty-two years later here are a few tips that I wish I had known before the journey.
- It’s a Different Foundation I didn’t grasp the magnitude of the grief, loss, anger and pain that resided inside my husband and his kids after their original family split. Everyone likes to believe they are healed from painful emotions, but many times people remarry without ever dealing with them. And that grief often resides within the children for many, many years. Stepfamilies are founded on loss. There is a death of the first family, from which the second family is birthed. It’s a different foundation than a first marriage.
- The Balance of Two Homes Setting boundaries, implementing discipline, and teaching wisdom is more complicated when the kids reside in two homes. What’s OK in one home, might not be allowed in the other. This causes tremendous tension and confusion for kids. If mom says I can have unlimited cell phone use, why does my dad say I can’t? Don’t they both love me? Shouldn’t they both want the same things for me? This justifiably stirs rebellion and resentment within the child.
- The Other Parent is a Part of Your Family—Forever When I married my husband Steve I had the outlandish and naïve reasoning that I didn’t think his ex-wife would really have that much of an effect on our life and home. What was I thinking? She is the mother of my stepsons. Of course, her choices, actions, relationships and lifestyle would directly influence and flow into my home. How could they not? DUH!
- It’s Normal for The Relationships to Ebb and Flow The beauty of thirty-two years as a stepmom is that I’ve learned not to take everything so personally. During the differing ages and seasons in my stepsons’ lives, our relationships have varied. Sometimes we feel closer to each other than at other times. It’s normal and it isn’t a reflection on me.
- Adulthood Doesn’t Eliminate Complexity Many stepparents think, “Once these kids turn 18 we won’t need to deal with the ex or the blended family stuff anymore.” I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but that’s not how it works. Yes, the fights over visitation will end. But when the kids grow up sometimes new situations arise such as: college and college tuition, where the child will live, who will teach them to get a job and handle money, how to rebuild the relationship if it’s been damaged by parental alienation, how will you handle when they start dating and who they bring around the house, etc.
- Build it Slowly My co-author, Ron Deal, uses the crockpot over microwave as a great illustration to describe how a stepfamily should cook. Slowly, over time, is when the meal becomes edible and tasty. So often we think the blended family should immediately form and become comfortable and close to each other. But that rarely occurs even under the best of circumstances. It takes time for everyone to adjust, learn their role and accept the “new normal.” When we try to rush the process, it’s typically a disaster.
- God Loves Stepfamilies You likely won’t hear that sentence from the pulpit, but it’s true. God does hate divorce. But God loves divorced people. And we know this for certain because scripture is jam packed with examples (Example: the woman at the well has had five husbands, and yet God chooses her over the other women). Plus, the Old Testament, known for marriages with multiple wives, is filled with the men and women God used for His glory. Abraham and King David to name two of the key patriarchs.
Does that mean God wants us to live polygamous lives? NO. (That’s a whole different subject). It’s merely an example of how our Creator reaches out and forgives, loves and extends grace even when our situation isn’t ideal.
Being a stepmom has taught me more about how to live like Christ than any other experience in my life.
Why? It’s truly sacrificial. Often you give and love just because God asks you to do it. You love your husband, and these children are his flesh and blood. Sometimes you feel like it, often you don’t. Frequently you sacrifice and care for kids who don’t understand, want you in the picture, or desire to show appreciation in return.
You do it because it’s the right thing to do, and God has strengthened you.
Jesus taught me how to be a smart stepmom. I don’t get it right every time.
But I am a lot wiser than when I started.
Copyright © 2018 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved