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Monday, January 12, 2009

The Role Of The Stepmother

photo by audreyjm529

I know there are all kinds of “blendings” out there. Please don’t think I’m ignoring your situation in favor of focusing on another. I believe the unique challenges in witnessing the gospel to stepchildren can be universally applied.

There were several times during the course of raising my stepsons from ages four and five that I wanted to somehow, anyhow, reach their mother with the benefit of my insight and wisdom. I didn’t presume we could be best buddies or anything, but I saw a need for sharing what I thought would be best as we jointly raised ‘our boys’.

Early on, though, I discovered that she wanted little of my input into anything. I resorted to biting my lip and letting my husband handle conversations with her. But it was hard. Her values were contradictory to ours as was her approach to just about everything in life. The dichotomy between our households made an obvious impact on our sons’ behavior and what they took away from each set of parents.

So, how did I see my role as it related to parenting my sons?
  • I submitted to my husband’s authority and let him handle all the interactions with his ex-wife. He always asked for my opinion on things (and I had to make sure my opinion was based on biblical structure), but I let him know that whatever he decided on as a course of action I would back him up all the way.
  • I made sure our sons knew that their dad and I acted as one person. While they could come to me and ask for help in approaching their dad, in the end I would always back what he decided was best. And I reminded them that his decisions were always for their best interest.
  • I never insisted on them calling me ‘mom’, but I did insist on being treated with respect - and their dad backed me up on that. Both boys were used to treating their mom and other female authority figures with a lot of disobedience and back talk because it was never corrected in that household. I was probably the first female who insisted, and disciplined for, an honoring relationship.
  • I never talked badly about their mom, even if what she was allowing in her household infuriated me. I never wanted to set up a tug-of-war for their emotions or loyalty. I knew that, in the end, truth should trump the freedom to act selfishly (and it did).
  • I let the boys know that I prayed for their mom. I prayed for her salvation, that Christ would become a part of their household and that He would bless them with their needs.
  • I let the boys know I prayed for them. I prayed for their salvation and for their safety. I also prayed that God would make me the mother He wanted me to be.
  • Although I could not share the blood link with them, nor the memory of carrying them for nine months and laboring through their delivery into the world, I responded as their mother and not just as their father’s wife. I invested my heart into their upbringing, making sure that they knew I was all in. In fact, I never referred to them as my stepsons. They were always ‘my sons’ or ‘my boys’.
What I wished I had done differently? I wished I had prayed with and over them from an earlier start. I had to learn to pray out loud before I could do that. I like to think that would have made for smoother transitions, but I don’t know. I also wished I had taken a stronger hand in reading to them from the Bible earlier on, but again, I was pretty inexperienced in this mothering role.

Fortunately my husband’s schedule at the time allowed him to lead in this area. When he began traveling over the road and was gone for the week, I picked up where he left off, but I still think it would have been better had I taken the initiative to read to them from time to time.

Being a stepparent presented me with a lot of challenges. It also blessed me with the most growth and allowed me to provide a blessing in return. I recognized through my sons, before my biological daughter and son came along, that they did not belong to me but to the Lord. They helped me see them through the eyes of a parent missionary.

Tomorrow, the role of the stepfather. Let others know about this series. Please email a link, post about it on your blog site, or let your friends know through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. There are a lot of blended families out there who need this information and encouragement.

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DeAnna Troupe said...

This is absolutely awesome.
I'm also a step mother. Now, mine call me "stepmommy" because their grandma insists on making the distinctions. I also try hard not to say negative things about their biological mom while they're in ear shot. My husband also has to remind them from time to time that I agree with his decisions because things are different with their biological mom. Excellent comment.

Deb Burton said...

DeAnna, thanks so much for sharing your situation. It can be quite difficult to accommodate all the dynamics in the relationships inherent with being part of a blended family. Praise God we have His Word to guide us as we journey through being a stepparent.