Several years after my first husband died, I was given the gift of remarriage and became a mom for the first time. Our family consisted of my husband, Greg, a stepson (15 years old), stepdaughter (12 years old), their 6-year-old dog, and me, plus many sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.
The joy of our marriage was swiftly followed by the realization of how challenging it is to blend people and personalities together while parenting within multiple households. God graciously provided several guiding principles I pray will encourage you or someone you know in this situation.
First, I did not refer to my stepson or stepdaughter in a cavalier way as “Greg’s kids.” That would be so dismissive of their value in God’s eyes. They are so much more than “his” kids. They are fearfully and wonderfully made, known, loved, treasured by God (Psalm 139:13-17) and I did not want to misrepresent their worth in any way.
Then, I did my best to build a healthy relationship with their mom and stepdad. Greg had already laid this foundation and it was important I did not mess it up. Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” I wanted to build wisely. To me, this meant complementing what was already taking place in their lives, not competing with it in any way, especially with my words.
I prayed specifically to be able to see life through our children’s eyes. Bouncing back and forth between homes is at best challenging and at worst, quite complicated. For them, it was like living in two different countries with this set of rules here and that set of rules there. I had heard a speaker state, “a healthy stepparent serves as an ambassador between the two nations” and that really stuck with me. I asked God to help me be a good ambassador. (Author/speaker Ron Deal – Smart Stepfamilies).
Allowing God’s Word to guide me in awkward situations helped me know what to do: “Love is patient, love is kind, love is not self-seeking or rude, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a). I also learned to adjust my expectations regarding what life could, should, or would look like.
About a year into the stepmom journey I shared with a friend how I kept giving and giving but it seemed to vanish into thin air (not with Greg, but with the kids) and blurted out, “I just wish I knew my life mattered to them. They never say I love you or anything.” She looked at me with amazingly tender eyes and said, “Oh friend. It is way too soon for that. Part of that is them being teens, part of it is you being a stepmom, part of it is, it is still so new. You need to let go of that thought for now. They will say it one day, but today is not that day, nor will it be this week, nor month, or maybe even year. But you choose to do the right thing and keep loving them anyway.” She was right. We are 13 years in and we do say “I love you” back and forth easily now. But it took time. A lot of time.
Stepparenting takes a lot of intentionality. And energy. And fortitude. And love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Please allow the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts, words, attitudes, and actions. Do not give up. And always, always, always keep loving like Jesus!
With tender care and prayers,