Like most little girls, I had always dreamt to one day be swept off my feet by a brave and handsome prince. We would inevitably live in a beautiful house, have perfect children and live happily ever after. A dream come true kind of story- but I guess a cookie-cutter fairy tale wasn’t exactly what God had in mind when He wrote my script, my journey, my testimony. In most fairytales, prince charming appeared on scene riding his noble steed- armored with a mighty sword to slay evil, not a child from a previous relationship.
But when Jesse and I said “I do” before God, a new chapter began in my book. I fearlessly traded my former character as the “single in distress” with my new role as Jesse’s wife and stepmom to a boy named Gavin. I thought I had a pretty good grasp on how to be a good wife- especially after watching my mom all those years- but I had no idea how to be a stepmom. The only sources I was familiar with offered their traditional depiction of a stepmom- the vindictive, conniving woman, plotting the demise of her stepchild. This was of no help at all- quite counter- productive in fact. I had even begun to wonder- being a stepmom and all- if I was now qualified to grow an ugly, hairy wart- because apparently, stepmoms have those. Or develop a creepy, cackling laugh- because I guess they have those too. Was I just destined to be evil now that I was a stepmom? I had to somehow figure out where my role played in all this.
But who was I? I doubtfully questioned. I didn’t carry him for nine whole months, dealing with roller-coaster hormones, weight gain, feet swelling and all the usual companions of pregnancy. I wasn’t the one staying up in the wee hours of the night, soothing a teething infant. I wasn’t there for the diaper changes, boo boos, or first day of preschool. After all, Gavin was in my husband’s life three chapters before we met. I may be my husband’s leading lady, but wondered if I would always be just the supporting actress in my stepson’s life. I was not competing with Gavin’s mother, by no means. In fact, I often felt reserved because I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries. I quickly realized I had no idea how to play this part.
Naturally, not everyone embraced my new role as stepmom and I received a great deal of backlash, which made me question all the more if I was doing an adequate job- considering the job description was a little muddied. But thankfully, my discouragement didn’t last forever. Fast forward one year after Jesse and I got married. I remember one special trip Gavin and I took to the park. We had been to the park before, but not like this day. It began as the usual park routine. I pushed Gavin on the swings, listening to him talk about his favorite cartoon characters. I chased him through all the play set tunnels, while he teased that I couldn’t catch him (which was true- those things are not designed for anyone above the age of 13). And after we planted our feet from sliding down the twisty slide together, we raced back to the car as I pretended to run in slow motion so he could win. But then as I buckled him in his seatbelt, thinking “I smell like stinky feet from those knee torture tunnels,” Gavin- catching his breath- said “I love you, Jen.”
That moment changed my life. I realized in that instant that my story was never meant to fall into place exactly the way I had planned- my script was re-written. So I decided at that moment, I may be figuring this out one day at a time, but I knew that the “role” of stepmom was not for me. I refused to ever play the stereotypical role of the “evil stepmom.” I wanted to set the record straight and prove the fairytales wrong with their false perceptions that all stepmoms were the personification of malicious hatred and jealousy- who could in no way love a child that wasn’t theirs. Gavin may not have been planted in my womb, but he was planted in my heart. And I was destined to love him.
But even though being a stepmom has its negative connotations and often receives more criticism than recognition, God showed me the value of my role. He showed me not to consider myself as “less of a mom” to Gavin, simply because I didn’t give birth to him. Sorry to all the critics out there- but not all stepmoms have these elaborate schemes to construct a dungeon cell or concoct a recipe for a poisoned apple. Regardless to whether the critics ever give stepmoms a raving review or not, I know that stepmoms (and stepdads) are special. It is a divine opportunity with divine responsibility. And the best piece of advice I can say is to do as unto the Lord, and you will find justification by the One who really matters.
I have been a stepmom for nine years now. Throughout these years, I have experienced trials and triumphs. And by God’s wisdom, I have learned the grace and quiet strength required to beautifully portray the role of a loving stepmom.
- Model Christ to Your Stepchild. Your children have the benefit to learn from your teaching, actions and words every day. But if your stepchild’s mother is not a Christian, then your stepchild is seeing two perspectives of women: secular and saved. It is up to you, stepmom, to display Christ in all your ways and help them to desire to want to be like Him. “Teach them (the ways of the Lord) to your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7) In other words, present the truth of God’s Word regularly in your time with your stepchild. Take them to church, have devotions and prayer with them- be the example of Christ.
- Speak Well of Your Stepchild’s Mother. This relationship is complicated because it was never intended in God’s original design of family. But regardless, the Bible stills commands “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18). There is no fine print or clause that offers any exceptions- that includes your stepchild’s mother. You will never be able to control their words or actions, but you do have control in your response. I know that the same power that shut the lions mouths from consuming Daniel, closed my mouth a few times in order to keep me from saying anything that would not exemplify God. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:29).
- Pray Fervently for Them. The single, most powerful tool we have as parents is prayer. As the stepmom, there were many times prayer felt like the only say I had in Gavin’s life. Pray they make wise choices, pray God grants them discernment, and pray for their ultimate salvation in Jesus. “The prayer of a righteous person (parent) is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16). I challenge you to take it a step further and pray for your stepchild’s mother as well. I can attest that this was again, divine intervention by the grace of God who gave me the strength to do so- and I learned a deeper sense of how to love like Christ.
- Don’t Hold Back. It was intimidating to become a stepmom. I never wanted to steal the spotlight of Gavin’s mom, so for many years, I held back. But God showed me that I was not placed in this position to remain back stage. I had a role and I was important in the story too. I would never compete for the “leading mom” role, but recognized that I was more than just an extra cast member. Love your stepchild as your own- nurture them, admonish them, discipline them, encourage them- everything you would do for your biological children, do so for your stepchild and “Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14).
- Encourage Your Stepchild and Husband’s Relationship. Our culture underestimates the importance of a positive father figure in a child’s life. This is a delicate relationship because your stepchild has experienced a broken home (whether their parents were ever married or not). They will not experience the divine design of their father and mother living together in marital harmony. So it is critical that you allow your husband and stepchild their time to cultivate their relationship so your stepchild knows that they are a priority to their father. Sometimes this requires flexibility and sacrifice from you, stepmom. You may have to re-arrange your plans at times and forfeit some of your time with your husband, but your stepchild needs him in their life. After all, your husband’s role as earthly father will determine so heavily how his children view their heavenly father.
The role of stepmom was never part of my original fairytale, but the Author of my faith revised my script and has led me throughout this new sovereign story. As I look back over these nine years, my heart is full that my stepson is apart of my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. He is a handsome, talented and smart young man. I encourage you- fellow stepmoms- to continue to seek His cues and promptings. The Lord has directed me to hold this position by the supplication of His grace and love. Through it all, I give God praise because He continues to refine me- as a woman, wife, mother and stepmom. And always remember, being a stepmom is not just a hat you wear or role you play, but a position that has been entrusted to you. A calling you must faithfully carry out through your journey- through every chapter of your story.
The Humble Homemaker