When your spouse comes with kids

RELATIONSHIPS | 5 mins

Stepmom, blended, instant, his, mine, ours—whatever your thoughts, presumptions, and judgments, I had mine too.

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When I said “I do,” I had a cute little line in my vows that said, “I’ll love your children as if they were my own.” I was a 22-year-old who was in love with a man I thought could walk on the moon. I thought I’d be the final piece to this “broken” family’s puzzle.

But as I settled into this new family, I remained on the outside. I pretended all was well. But if I’m honest, I was jealous when my stepdaughter sat on her dad’s lap. I was upset when he wanted to pick the kids up from school and have them stay with us when it wasn’t our night to have them. I was hurt and bitter when my husband walked them to their mother’s door to carry their bags up. I drilled him with questions about what his ex said.

I was the ugly stepmom I didn’t think I’d ever be. Selfish, entitled, bitter, lonely, and sad all at the same time. This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out. I thought I’d made a mistake. I believe in God, so to make it worse, I started blaming him too. If He knew my life would be so hard, why did he let me marry this man?

My eyes were opened one night when my husband and I got in a fight. I was going on about something, and he finally stopped and said: “You don’t know what it’s like to drop your kids off every night, not being able to put their jammies on them and tuck them into bed. You don’t know how much I hurt each time I do that.”

And bam, I was awakened. Something inside me changed. I had never realized what my husband had to face each night. It was like a huge crack opened in my hardened, bitter heart, and I became compassionate. I didn’t have any children of my own yet, and this one comment from him birthed in me a tenderness to see things from his side.

I was so focused on me and my hurts that I never thought about him, let alone what the kids felt. He was pulled in so many directions trying to please me, his kids, his ex, and God knows how many other demands put on him.

I began to seek help. For the first time, I asked, what inside me needed to change? I read a few books and tried so desperately to find a stepmom who didn’t have children of her own that I could relate to. I’ve learned it feels totally different if you don’t have any kids of your own. I couldn’t find many examples out there, so I just started working on me.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. The first big a-ha was that I needed to love myself.
  2. It became clear that love isn’t always a feeling. Tangible action would help me love these kids. That would only come from selfless time with them and not from a selfish place in me.
  3. Saying a vow was one thing, but acting on it for the rest of my life meant I had to depend on God. I couldn’t do it on my own. I knew I made the vow, but it turned into a prayer—and God still reminds me of it.

Each of these was a journey worthy of their own post, but as I grew in each, God started to put in my heart a love for these kids. Now 16 years later, I’m different. And I love talking with women in my situation. There’s a special club for us. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it to see how God can redeem a situation.

Now I can see that becoming a stepmom is what God wanted for me. He created me to love and love deeply. What I would say now, is that when you enter into a blended family, it’s usually not the family that needs to change. It’s you. In my case, God used them to make me new. My family made me run to Him for wisdom, patience, and to trust that He has something good in store.

Every situation is different, but if I could look you in the eye and hear your hurts and disappointments, I know my heart would break for you as it broke in my situation. And then I would say: Don’t give up on your marriage, on your kids, or on yourself. Whether you believe in Him or not, there is a God who has more healing and hope than you could ever imagine. He’s been in the business of building and restoring families of all shapes and sizes since the beginning of time, and he wants the best for yours too.

Written by Alison Feinauer on Feb 27, 2019
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...

Discussion Questions

  1. What strikes you most from Alison’s story? Journal alone or process with friends what stood out to you most and why.

  2. Which of her three learnings could bring some breakthrough for you?

  3. Whether you believe in God or not, take a few minutes to listen for what he might have to say to you personally. Write down anything you even think you might hear.

  4. Breakthrough doesn’t come from an inspiring story alone. It happens when we let God change us—when we put new ideas and beliefs into practice. Based on what struck you most, pick one thing you can do this week to act on it. Tell a friend and ask them to hold you to it.

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