By Pam Kanaly, Crosswalk.com
If you’re like many single moms, you hope to successfully marry again. And if you choose a husband with young children like I did, your mom status changes instantly by saying two itty -bitty words: I Do. Then bam! One minute you’re a single mom and the next minute you’re a step mom. And you wonder, what in the world does that look like? Friend, there are as many variations of stepfamily dynamics as there are hues of red. But some things remain the same in almost every stepparent family.
I’ve been a stepmom for twenty-three years, so I’ve walked the road – raised one stepdaughter (Amber) in the home, watched her get married, and now I’ve witnessed her raising her own two children. I’m blessed by the adult relationship I share with her and feel amazingly honored when she calls me for advice. WOW! What a blessing! And though I didn’t do everything right, apparently I did a few things ok.
So let me share three suggestions before you remarry and take on the new title stepmom.
#1 - Gain a proper perspective of your position.
Stepmoms are not The Mother. NO ONE will ever take that position. It does much harm when stepmoms expect to have equal status as the biological mother. Stepmoms make a mistake when they ask the child to call her “Mom.” It’s likely the children don’t want to call her Mother. If they do, that’s great, but let it be their idea. Don’t put the children in an emotional tug-of-war. My posture with my stepdaughter in the home was not a motherly position, but a model position - someone whose responsibility was to come alongside and be an advantage, not a disadvantage, in her life. Be honest and compassionate in your role. Tell the child it’s ok to be confused about the new people in their life. Assure them that it’s normal to be sad about the divorce or parent’s death. Support them emotionally by creating a safe place for them to eventually invite you into their world.
#2 – Keep the child’s best interest at heart.
What is it that stepmoms want most for their stepchildren? Hopefully, it’s that the children land on both feet as healthy adults without too much baggage following them down the aisle on their wedding day. Kids have enough to deal with when entering a blended family. So consider their losses by making it a goal to cause as little drama as possible. There will be times you want to scream, “I can’t take this anymore!” I recall almost losing it around the holidays when family issues surfaced. Ok, Pam. I’d say. Think. What’s best in the long run for the children who have to travel back and forth to the other parent? Friends, never will we go wrong when we give our stepchildren and children what they most desire: respect, patience, and unselfish love.
#3 – Live in the reality of what’s real.
Don’t live in Cinderella Land. Second marriages are hard – especially at first! Unmet expectations abound and soon stepparents discover that blood is thicker than water. Therefore, don’t expect your new spouse to feel the same way about your children as you do – and vice versa. Be realistic. The term “blended” family is a misnomer. It’s more like a pressure cooker with two families living under the same roof. Ron Deal, author of The Smart Stepfamily commented, “The way to cook a stepfamily is in the crockpot. It takes time and low heat to blend the family.” He added, “The average stepfamily takes 5-7 years to combine; some take longer. There’s no quick recipes, only dedicated journeyman.” I wish I would have known that years ago. I would have relaxed knowing that my family dynamics were normal. And the word “normal” always give us hope. Amen?
While this article may make you feel discouraged, don’t let it. Just be wise in what to expect when you’re moving toward remarriage with children involved. There’s much on the market today about making a blended family work. Research it. Read voraciously about the subject. Get pre-marital counseling. And most of all, bring God into the equation.
You can be a dynamic stepmother – molding a life for all eternity!
Pam Kanaly, popular author of The Single Mom and Her Rollercoaster Emotions and nominated by the Governor of Oklahoma for "Mother of Achievement Award - 2014 "- remains one of America’s leading advocates for single mothers. As founder of the single mothers’ conferences – Survive ‘N’ Thrive, Pam exudes with a God-given passion in seeing women know their value in Christ. She is the co-founder of the national organization Arise Ministries, having been featured on the 700 Club and other national programs. www.ariseministries.net.