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Friday, October 28, 2011

The Holidays Are Upon Us - How Will Your Blended Family Manage?

As we turn the calendar to November next week, we begin to think about the holidays. As a blended family, holidays bring additional stress: heightened expectations, scheduling conflicts with the ex and children or stepchildren, financial burdens, increased communication with ex and ex-in-laws, and time constraints, just to name a few.

So, how do you cope? How do you find peace through a stress-filled holiday season?

I have a resource to help you. I have teamed up with a fellow stepmom, Heather Hetchler, and we have written an e-book titled, "Thriving at the Holidays: A Stepparent's Guide To Success - Unwrapping the Gift of Peace.

We are excited to offer this new resource for less than the cost of a Startbucks! It will be available October 31st for $2.99 through Amazon´╗┐ and other retailers. I will give you more information once it's officially launched.

Heather and I have 11 children between our two families and understand the dynamics of blended family holidays. In our book, we offer eight tips for blended families to not just survive the holidays, but thrive through them.

It includes a foreword by stepfamily authority, Ron Deal, that says, "Heather and Gayla want to help your family unwrap familial peace. From stepparent's living in the trenches, this booklet is packed  full of practical advice, encouragement, and perspective for your holiday challenges."

I will include thoughts from the e-book on my blog during the holiday season but I hope you'll consider reading the complete e-book to help you unwrap the gift of peace this holiday season.

More details to follow...

What are you concerned about this holiday season? Do you need some encouragement for your journey?

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Affirming You in Your Role as a Childless Stepmom

I'm not a childless stepmom. But I have the utmost respect for those of you who are.

For many years, I didn't give much thought to what it would feel like to be a childless stepmom. But after talking to several of you and watching how you do life, I realize the ultimate sacrifice you make as a stepmom without children of your own.

We know that a stepmom doesn't get to experience the "firsts" of a biological mom. The first one to have a child with your husband. The first one to experience parenting with your spouse and your baby. The first one to make any kind of a decision regarding that child and a host of decisions later.

But a childless stepmom never gets to experience those events or realize the joy of having a biological child, even if it's from a previous relationship.

Many childless stepmoms I've spoken with are not childless by choice. Infertility plays a role all too often. And the roller coaster of trying to conceive takes a heavy toll every time.

If you're struggling with infertility or any kind of extended wait, you might find comfort from a devotion posted by Tracies Mills with Proverbs 31 Ministries, titled "Waiting for God's Best." It speaks of the 20 year wait Isaac endured before his wife, Rebekah, gave birth to their twins (Genesis 25:26). Waiting is hard. And waiting without answers can be unbearable.

A childless stepmom faces different challenges than a stepmom with her own children. She is misunderstood by the parenting community and perhaps not even accepted by other moms. She endures the same parenting challenges but receives little reward for her efforts.

So if you're a childless stepmom, I affirm you in your role. God bless you in your efforts to make a difference in your stepchildren's lives. And although others may not appreciate or recognize the important role you play, you can be assured that you, as a stepmom, have value.

Are you struggling in your role as a childless stepmom? Do you need to reach out to other stepmoms?  Will you share how you cope with the challenges you encounter?

Related Posts:

Stepparenting Heartache

Stepparenting Heartache, Part Two

Count Your Blessings

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Marriage is Not Always Blissful - Especially in Blended Families

My husband, Randy, and I celebrate 16 years of marriage tomorrow. If you read my blog often, you know it hasn't all been blissful.

I'll never forget the night Randy called me from a hotel room and said he wasn't coming home that night. We had been married less than a year and we were struggling as we attempted to blend our four children. I realized the truth of his words, "It just isn't working Gayla."

We had had an argument early that evening over the kids and he couldn't deal with the tension any longer. We both began to question if our marriage could stand the stress of stepfamily life: grasping at how to parent together, coping with difficult ex-spouses, dealing with the rejection of stepparenting, accepting the crazy schedule that left little time for a couple relationship, along with the grind of everyday life.

We had a decision to make: would we fight to keep going or would we call it quits before we gave it a fair chance?

Randy nor I wanted another divorce. We had walked that road and still felt the remnants of pain and failure. We knew we could make it work - but we needed help.

We began seeing a counselor who addressed the difficulty of our stepfamily dynamics. He also confronted us with the unresolved baggage we were carrying and the role each of us was playing in the tension-filled home we lived in. It was painful and heart-wrenching at times, but we began seeing improvements in our marriage and stepparenting interactions. 

We also found a stepfamily support group in a nearby church that was studying literature and Scripture specific to stepfamilies. It was a sacrifice to make the weekly meetings, but it was critical to our growth as we integrated with other stepparents and found healthy ways to unite our four children.

Sixteen years later, those difficult days of early blended- family life blur in the rear-view mirror. I wouldn't want to re-live them, but they are part of our stepfamily memories, reminding us how far our family has come.

We have only one child still at home - it's the only child Randy and I have together. And I must admit - life is simpler, life is less stressful, life is calmer.

But marriage is not all bliss, even at this stage. Our struggles are no longer tied to stepparenting or difficult ex-spouses, but we still encounter stressful periods. We have just come through a tumultuous year that put tremendous weight on our marriage. But our commitment of years' past pulled us through our non-blissful days.

I have a renewed commitment to my marriage. I recognize the short-lived season of child-rearing. And when all our children leave home, I want a thriving marriage.

So, where are you on your marriage journey? Are you plunging through the difficult years of early stepfamily life? Can you recognize the growth your family has made through stepfamily challenges? Are you focusing on your non-blissful days or striving to make the best of whatever season you're in, committed to the long run of your marriage?

How do you cope with non-blissful days of marriage? Will you share your thoughts?

Related Posts:

The Value of a Supportive Spouse

Making Re-Marriage Work: Steps for Success

Making Your Re-Marriage Work: Don't Settle for Mediocrity

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Friday, October 7, 2011

You Don't Have to be Super StepMom

I was talking to a stepmom this week who is recently divorced.  She had two stepchildren and told of her struggle to be Super StepMom. But it didn't matter how hard she tried, it didn't change the difficult relationship with her stepchildren.

There are so many variables that influence what kind of relationship we have with our stepchildren. And many of those variables are beyond our control.

We can make every effort to be Stepmom of the Year but come to the end of the year with the same relationship we started at the beginning. But that doesn't mean we have to accept the blame for the rejection.

During my stepson's adolescent years, he found all kinds of reasons to dislike me. Some of them might have been legitimate, but most were unfounded. Regardless of how hard I tried to be a good stepmom to him, he rejected my efforts.

I have been married to my stepson's dad for 16 years and after many difficult years, my stepson and I now have a good relationship. It isn't because I became a different person toward him. It's because he has matured into a young man who, at 21 years old, recognizes and appreciates the role I've played in his life.   

Did I want to quit being his stepmom during those adolescent years? Absolutely! Did I deserve the treatment I received? No! Am I thankful I didn't walk away? Yes!

Acting as a Super StepMom doesn't guarantee a good relationship with your stepchild, and usually results in unmet expectations. Consistent love over time, through the ups and downs of life, could be the difference. But regardless of your stepchild's behavior, the only way you fail in this role, is if you quit.

Do you need to give up the role of Super StepMom and the expectations that go with it?

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