Crazy Blended Family Holidays: What’s a Stepmom to Do?

huff-po-christmaIn nuclear families, Christmas can be very hectic. There’s grandparents and extended family to visit and gatherings galore. If you have a blended family, let’s face it. Holidays can all out suck. The delicate schedule gets out of whack. The kids get shuffled and shuttled back and forth more than normal. Even parents can become selfish and accusing. Can you say cray cray?

Often times, stepmoms can get caught up in the middle of the whirlwind. But, hey, relax. The good news is there are still some things you can focus on to keep the season merry and bright without losing your jingle bells.

Focus on the season rather than the day. So much emphasis is placed upon the magical December 24th and 25th. However, if you’re like us, our Christmas is celebrated every other year on December 26th and the world does not end. The season of the holidays is a whole month so get out and enjoy it with the kids whenever you get the chance.

Don’t obsess with when but focus more on how. How to make it memorable. How to make it special for your family. With social media, it is easier than ever to find cool events and seasonal happenings. Last year, we took the boys to a woodworking toy making shop where we learned the entire process of how a limb off of a tree becomes a toy.

Focus on giving to others. For several years, my daughter and I have gotten involved with our local church to assist families in need. Gifts are donated through angel trees and we help them shop, wrap and load up their gifts to take home to their family on a designated night.

Last year, I took the money we set aside for my gifts and donated it to a soldier and his family through Vet Tix. “Vet Tix provides tickets to events which reduce stress, strengthen family bonds, build life-long memories and encourage service members and veterans to stay engaged with local communities and American life.” My husband wrapped the receipt as my gift, placed it under the tree and when we opened presents, I shared the story of the soldier we were helping. There is nothing better to take the focus off of the stress and ourselves like giving to others.

Focus on making new traditions unique to your family. Since we’ve moved into our neighborhood, we’ve tried to make little gifts for our close neighbors and friends and we give them out as a family every year.

For instance, one year I wrapped a can of soda and bag of microwave popcorn in a gift bag and attached a little message card to it that said Pop pop fizz fizz oh what a good neighbor you is. Last year, we decided to make homemade healthy baked dog treats and give them to our neighborhood dog owners.

Instead of having to decorate the tree on a specific day, we always wait and decorate the tree together. Each of our kids has special ornaments that they love to hang on the tree themselves. That way, now matter how the schedule falls, they still feel a part of the celebration of the season.

Focus on the reason for the season. The holidays can mean different things to different families. Christmas for us is a time to reflect on what we value and what we hold most dear and a time to remember the love born on Christmas. What ever makes this season special for your family is what’s important.

We have a special snow white stocking that hangs over the fireplace in front of the rest. All during the season, we write down special things and place it inside its soft shimmery folds. We write things that we are thankful for in each other or maybe something we have seen the other do and we are proud of them, or something that has touched our heart. When we celebrate our Christmas, we read them and try to guess who wrote it or who it’s about. It is one of my favorite times we have together!

I’ve shared about some of our holiday fun and ideas on how to keep the crazy to a minimum. However, there is one thing that should not be the focus. Don’t focus on the negative.  It’s toxic and unhealthy. The holidays with stepfamilies are already complicated so don’t poison it by focusing on the Grinches who would love to steal your Christmas. Reflect on what you value and what you hold most dear, the love that you have for each other.

Dear Hurting Stepmom: Today is a Good Day

Hurting Stepmom

I know that feeling and that look. The excitement and hope that once lit up your face has slowly, overtime, been replaced with disappointment mixed with frustration and possibly a side of confusion. Oh you try to hide it behind a “Every Thing is Awesome” smile and though most people who have absolutely no clue what it’s like to be married into a blended family won’t notice, I do because I too have been there.

I know the things you say to yourself repeatedly. “This is so much harder than I thought!” “Why am I viewed as the bad guy?” Why can’t they see me for who I truly am?” “I have always been good with children so why can’t I connect with my stepkids?” “Why does the man I love so much get so defensive when I try to talk to him?” And the vicious thought spiral goes on and on.

However, today is a good day.

Today is a good day to extend grace to yourself. You put so much effort at making this family work and extending grace to everyone else. Do you not think that you deserve to extend that same grace to yourself? Stop beating yourself up for how you handled the latest fiasco or the issues that have gone before that. Embrace your value and contribution in your stepfamily and give yourself a break.

Today is a good day to forgive. After learning to extend grace to yourself then take it to the next level and forgive. I’m not talking about forgiving your spouse, the kids, or the ex. That is a topic for another day. Forgive yourself.I’m sure you have heard the expression that forgiveness is not for the other person, it’s for you and it is, especially when you forgive yourself. It frees you from the “if” trap. If I had just said this or if I had just done that then things would be so much better. Truly forgiving yourself frees you from the “what ifs” and “what has been” and embraces the beauty of “what can be”.
Today is a good day to be you. I tell my teenage daughter all the time that all you can do is what you can do. You cannot change others. You cannot make the ex like you. You cannot make your husband or kids fit into the family box you think they should be in.You still have the power, however, to leave your mark on your blended family.

Instead of focusing on the issues or all the wrongs, make a memory instead. Go to the park and swing with them. Find a new trail and hike with them. Teach them how to play the old school games you played as a child like “Duck duck goose” and “Yahtzee”. Look up fun science experiments to do with them. Make oobleck or flubber. Pray with them. Read to them. Make their favorite food for dinner.

The possibilities are literally endless. By extending grace, forgiving yourself, and embracing who you are you can truly be a positive powerful force in your stepfamily. You have the power to build a legacy, a stepmom legacy one memory at a time.

Today is a good day to start.

Sincerely,
A mom who is working on her own family legacy

Hey Stepmom, You Are Not Alone!

SOS blog post

We all need people. That need for fellowship with another has been placed there by the Creator since our beginning. For me, that has always been true. In fact, after my second divorce (yes you read that right), I remember praying in earnest and begging God to please take that desire away from me.

It wasn’t that I just wanted to be IN a relationship, I craved relationship. I felt so lonely. I wanted companionship and friendship, and to be able to connect and talk with others who understood. And satan was there to remind me constantly of how unworthy I was, of how I had failed miserably in not one but two marriages, and how I had dragged two children through the whole gauntlet of my messed up life. One day I confided in a church leader and he reminded me that “It’s not good for man to be alone.”  He told me to stop asking for something that God Himself had placed in my heart.

It helped me realize that it was okay for me to long for relationship and companionship but to seek only those that would bring me closer to Him, not farther away. And I have been blessed to have a husband who does just that. But I have continued to long for friendship and connection with other moms like me that are trying to navigate the difficulties of a blended family.

SOS blog 2

The SOS retreat I attended was held at the beautiful Winshape Retreat center.

Recently, God gave me the opportunity to connect and begin lasting friendships with many wonderful ladies who all share a common bond. We are all stepmoms. I did so by attending a Sisterhood of Stepmoms weekend retreat. I honestly was worried at first that I would not find others who were in the same situation but I could not have been more wrong. There were moms of all situations such as blendermoms, childless stepmoms, stepmoms because they had married a widower, etc… We spent the weekend being ministered to, prayed over, and listening to messages of hope, encouragement and wisdom.

If loneliness and yearning for fellowship is something that you have struggled with or are currently struggling with, you are not alone! There is a sisterhood out there. Sisters that know what stepfamily daily life is like. Sisters who are riding the roller coaster of hills and valleys. Sisters who understand the sheer joy from a stepchild’s smile and the deep hurt of being unappreciated or misunderstood.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

I encourage you to check out the links to the Sisterhood of Stepmoms and sign up for their upcoming SOS retreat this fall!

 

 

Stepfamilies and The Dad

Dad blog

I have written numerous posts about stepfamilies, stepmoms, and biomoms. However recently, I have been thinking about the dads and how they feel in this whole blended/stepfamily thing. When I was a new stepmom, I scoured the internet for posts, articles, etc on stepfamilies and being a stepmom. During that time, I saw comments and posts from stepmoms who complained about how their stepchildren created so much conflict in their marriage. Some shared how they felt alone and isolated while their husband seemed oblivious. Some shared that their husband’s children could do no wrong in his eyes. Does any of this sound familiar?

I know that as a mom in a blended family, it can be filled with emotion. You can feel alone and invisible which is why I wrote about Hagar, in this post Dear Discouraged Stepmom and her role in the story of Abraham and his dysfunctional blended family.

But have you ever stopped and wondered, how does the dad really feel in all of this? Genesis 21:10-11,”and she said to Abraham, ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’  The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.

The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.” Abraham was in agony because he was caught in the middle over his son. His heart was burdened. His wife wanted no part in sharing with a son that he fathered with another woman, whom nowadays would be considered his ex. He wanted his wife happy but he also felt, naturally, a strong loving and loyal bond towards his other son.

I know when we are hurt and frustrated it is hard to see past our own emotions, but are we truly treating our husbands with kindness? OR do you harbor resentment and allow it to bubble up and spill over in the relationship you have with his children?

I recently did an interview The Stepmom Series with Our Blended Home about being a stepmom. I shared that I made the commitment to love my stepson when I made the commitment to love and marry my husband. God has richly blessed us and just as I feel for my own children, I miss him when he is at his other home. Just as my own, I talk about him with my husband and we laugh about the cute funny things he says and does. I worry about him. I pray for him.

We work so hard as moms and stepmoms to love and care for every one around us but sometimes we fall short in extending grace to the closest person here on earth that we have:  our husbands. I know that I have the power to hurt my husband very deeply through not only, of course, how I treat him but how I treat his son.

Proverbs 31:12, “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”   That means loving him and loving his family!

Dad blog

Dear Discouraged Stepmom

Dear Stepmom BlogI was thinking today how I have been a stepmom for nearly seven years. In some ways it has seemed that time has flown by and in other ways, it has been a slow meticulous process of blending our family. I have received so many blessings and moments filled with happy memories, sweet unexpected hugs, deep intimate connection with my husband, and wonderfully precious family time with our children.

However, I must admit that their have been times when I have also felt discouraged in this process. In one of my previous post for Family Fusion Community, I wrote “Stepmoms do not have an easy job. They are caught somewhere in the middle of all the emotion and tend to receive the brunt of negativity and spitefulness because they are not a biological parent. Often, they are a dumping ground for all the hurt, frustration, anger, confusion, and sadness that comes with divorce from all involved including the biological parents, children, and even extended families.”  (You can read the entire post here: http://familyfusioncommunity.com/2014/01/30/the-other-mothers/)

Stepmoms can also feel invisible, as if no one sees them for who they really are. They feel unseen for their choice to love anyway, for their good intentions, and for their kind hearts. Or, their love and kindness is twisted and turned into negativity through bad mouthing or false accusations. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

During my prayer time several months ago, I came across a very important prominent family in the bible that was not only blended, but dysfunctional as well. I am talking about Abraham. A little background of this story, found in Genesis 16 and Genesis 21, is Sarah, because she had not become pregnant, gave her servant Hagar to her husband Abraham so that he might have children. Hagar became pregnant and gave birth to a son named Ishmael. Thirteen years later, Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to Isaac. So now if you haven’t caught on, this is a blended family (maybe not traditional) but blended just the same. I look at Hagar as like a stepmom because she has no legal rights and is completely at the mercy of Abraham and Sarah. And feeling so overwhelmed, Hagar runs away.

There are some verses that create a picture of this blended family, especially in chapter 21 where I found 3 very interesting facts. First, the two sons had conflict between each other. Second, there was conflict between the two moms, and third, the father was caught in the middle. And I will be writing on each of these. However, I am only focusing on Hagar’s story to say this directly to you, discouraged Stepmom. God hears you, He hears the deep cries of your heart and most importantly God sees you. You are not invisible.

Genesis 16:9-11; Genesis 16:13-14

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

11 The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael,  for the Lord has HEARD of your misery.

13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.”

What a beautiful picture of a God whose love is so compassionate that He would seek out a servant girl and let her know He hears her; He sees her and is going to bless her. She is so deeply moved that she gives God the name, “El Roi” which translates “The God Who sees me.” I encourage you dear Stepmom;  the next time you are feeling discouraged, disheartened, and overlooked to call out the name of God. Because those verses have been such a comfort to me and during those times of discouragement I have prayed and called the name of God “El Roi” because I am not discounted. I am not invisible. I am loved. I am blessed. God hears. God lovingly and graciously sees me!

Dear Stepmom Blog