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Cynthia Kelly, Delaware (submitted Nov '09)


Name: Cynthia Kelly

Home: Delaware, 11/15/09

God, Can I Resign From Being A Stepparent?

Of all the positions in life that I’ve had, I’ve been able to resign. I resigned from a horrible night time position at an industrial plant where I had to review these little cables and decide if they passed their quality and control standards. Now, I am an extravert by nature and love being around people and pets. So, putting me on a night shift where I was isolated from everyone while I looked through a magnifying lens at cables all night was not for me. It was a silly job over the summer during college break but I was so very happy to leave that position.

After college I decided to get a job where my Dad worked and travel a bit. I was Flight Attendant in my early 20’s when I realized traveling at all hours in the night and spending the majority of my life in hotels trying to catch on my sleep while fighting the weight gain from trying to eat healthy on the go just wasn’t working for me.

Then there was the oh-so-boring banking job I had for a dozen years that I was finally in the wonderful position of being able to say toot-a-loo. After 12 years of several high-pressure positions and sneaky back stabbing politics, I was able to leave on my terms with my dignity and grace in tact.

But then I married a wonderful man by the ripe age of 40 who happened to have only two darling daughters and one ex wife. At 40 he met my criteria. Only one marriage behind him and two kids. I would have preferred one child, but at least it was only one ex wife. As you mature in life your standards tend to shift. However, my standard of marrying a successful and loving Christian man with moral standards never changed. He met those criteria and many others. He’s hard working, loyal, devoted, kind, gentle, loving husband and father. In fact, his parenting skills won me over. I fell in love quickly and deeply. I could tell by the way he treated his precious daughters that I would also be treated very well.

So, we had our courtship and proceeded to get married. After the wedding we came home and fairly quickly both the girls attitudes had changed towards me. There were so many times I wanted to run and quit. Quit my marriage. Quit step parenting. After several years of the ups and downs of marriage and parenting in general I’ve learned a few lessons.


I Tried Too Hard

Oh in the beginning of our marriage I tried so very hard to be loved or at least liked. I tried to cook all kinds of meals only to be met with resistance or blatant criticism. I tried to bond with one kid by playing video/computer games I didn’t even like, just to spend time with her. Then she would quietly exit the room and not come back. I tried to do little nice things like picking up something special she liked to eat or giving her a card on a special day. I didn’t even get a response. So I resigned from trying too hard. Now, I am just myself. If I want to make a certain meal I do, and I don’t ask for anyone’s opinion on the meal. If they like it that’s great but I don’t wait for their approval. I don’t try to play anymore computer/video games that I don’t really like anyway. Instead, I leave that to her father and I go and read or journal or watch my favorite program. I generally leave any little special things like a card to her father as well. I feel good about my decision to resign from trying too hard. I am saving myself a lot of energy and anxiety and I generally feel more relaxed.

I Was Too Strick

Oh, in the beginning I had to make a decision. As Princess Diana was famous for saying it was "Sink or Swim." I chose to swim. However, in the process, I became very strict about my standards of cleaning in our home. I’m going to give myself some grace, because I needed to do something drastic so I to get my "new found home" in some kind of order. Every room looked like a messy kids bedroom. There were many rules and several lists. Also, there were numerous battles of the will and much resentment on everyone’s part. It also caused my husband and I some disagreements because he is so much more laid back in this area. So, after a few years I resigned from being so strict and hired a housekeeper. Oh, I still expect certain simple chores to be done like take your dishes to the sink rinse them and put them in the dishwasher. But I gave up on one of the kid’s bedrooms. Now, I go in there once a week just to pick up family towels and make sure no food or drinks are lying about. The house is in reasonable order most of the time and I’ve resigned from being the demanding queen of clean

I Was Too Nice

Well, we need to be careful not to go to the other extreme. I tried to be happy and upbeat and nice all the time. I knew my husband was watching me and I felt bad for the kids going back and forth between homes. Well, forget it. Life is not like that and they can tell you are putting them on. I’ve found I get more respect and cooperation by being a bit distant and aloft. I don’t scream or demand but just sort of politely request things to be done in a matter of fact way like a firm teacher. It gets me results and I feel I keep my self-respect.

I Tried Too Hard To Force Communication

My younger stepdaughter is a talker. She’ll sit with my husband and I well past dinner and discuss the day’s events and what’s new and even her little boyfriend. My older stepdaughter is very quiet. She would rather go in the other room and watch TV, text her friends or get on the Internet to chat. It’s just not her nature to talk. Especially to the adults in her life. She’s the type that gets along with her peers and those in her generation. She does do well in school so she knows how to respect authority and get along with those in charge of her. However, she doesn’t really get along with her mom, her mom’s live in boyfriend, dad, grand mom, aunt or myself. All of us are a generation ahead of her and I just finally figured out she’s just not interested. So I resigned from trying to share my life with her. I figure if she wants to know she’ll ask or start interacting with her father or myself. So I feel more comfortable just being myself and not trying to force uncomfortable conversations where I get one or two word answers with an attitude.

As you can see, I can’t resign from being a step mom, but I can resign some of my expectations. I can resign from thinking that my role and relationship with these children will be a certain way, when it simply isn’t. Perhaps, it’s a bit disappointing, but it is a relief. Once I resigned and gave it to God and let my husband really take the lead with his daughters, I felt more peaceful and relaxed. Although, things are not where I want them to be - they aren’t where they used to be either. I have found by resigning many of my expectations and beliefs, I’ve been able to be more of myself and I don’t over react to events in the household like I did in our first few years of marriage. At this point in time (after 6 years of marriage) my goal is peace for our household.

By adjusting myself I have found an overall peace in my home and I thank God for it. I hope these few examples might speak to another stepparent out there that needs some reassurance. It will get better and you can live through the challenges of step parenting. God has given all of us grace to handle the issues of life that we find ourselves in. Here’s to the journey……

Editor's note: Cynthia's story is a perfect illustration of Crock-pot cooking. I compliment her on adapting her expectations and how she has tried to cook her stepfamily. For more on Crock-pot cooking, read How to Cook a Stepfamily or pick up a copy of The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family. RLD

Read a previous Promised Land Stepfamilies submission from Cynthia Kelly here.


Comments ( 11 )
Add your Comment
#11: by cbishop on 04.28.2010 @ 03:50pm CDT

I enjoyed your article. I am a stepchild myself and understand that it is not always easy and the brady bunch doesn't exist. I admire your courage and maturity in dealing with the situation. You are not their mother, but you are their father's wife and deserve respect from your stepchildren and their father. I only wish my stepmom could realize she is not perfect and has made mistakes with us. That is all it would take and to treat us with respect. Respect is taken if it is given.
#10: by Gina on 04.22.2010 @ 10:41am CDT

I am a new stepmom trying to deal with 2 stepsons and 2 daughters of my own. Parenting styles between the two of us are very different and I am finding it more and more frustrating. My girls know y expectations and generally follow.The boys have very few expectations and those are ever changing which becomes confusing to us all. I am trying hard to bring consistantcy, but it is not working. I think resigning my expectations for a couple of days every other week may be the last resort Im looking for. I am willing to give it a try because it is becoming a strain on the marrital relationship and that is not good for anyone in the house. I think by resigning it will hopefully take away some resentment and undermining that has been going on.
#9: by Chris Bryant on 02.17.2010 @ 12:18pm CST

Cynthia, thank you for the article. As the stepmother of 2 grown ladies, I could identify with your story. I made many mistakes. Although I can't go back and fix them, both I and the girls know we were all doing the best we knew how. Give the girls a hug, take a deep breath, and give it over to God.
#8: by Sara on 01.29.2010 @ 02:13pm CST

Thank you so much for your story. Sometimes it is so hard not to take these things personal. I am the stepmom of two teenage boys and I have one daughter myself. Needless to say, boys are different than girls and it's been quite an adjustment. Thank you again!!!
#7: by Julie on 01.26.2010 @ 08:57am CST

Thank you, Cynthia, for this article! It's nice to know there are others out there who share the same problems! There are so many times that I've wanted to resign as a Step-mom, I can't even count them. Then I think to myself, this is what God intended for my life...to learn something from this ever-so challenging season of my life. Yes, there are certainly joyful times but I would say that the challenges and heartaches outnumber the joyful ones. My husband and I have been married for a little over 8 yrs. He has two children, I have none. My step-son, step-daughter and I got along wonderful...until his step-son moved in w/us, then everything changed w/that relationship. Wow!! Until you experience it, you have no idea what it is like to be a stepmom w/no children of her own trying to just fit-in within her own home! There are issues of loneliness, loyalty and not being included in conversations or decisions or plans, etc...Always feeling like the "Outsider." If I did not have Christ in my life, I don't know if I could handle this...Praise the Lord, for He sustains me. I do agree w/Cynthia that you definitely have to lower your expectations even to the point of leaving all of your expectations to God and nobody else. It's difficult, but it helps. The daughter still lives w/her mother, but is having problems now and doesn't want to live w/her. Although I love her dearly and she is the "light" in our home when she visits, I'm so afraid the relationship will turn as it did w/the stepson. All I can do is pray...
#6: by amy on 01.22.2010 @ 03:56pm CST

i am so glad to have found this website, and your article. After seven years of knowing each other (not always dating), my husband and I married ~10 months ago. He has one daughter in college and the other is 12. Right now, we're across the country, but in a matter of weeks we're moving and will have the younger daughter every other weekend, etc. I am worried! I find her terribly outspoken and rude (even at the age of 5!). I don't have kids, but do have nieces and nephews and so can tell the difference between kid behavior and rudeness to some level! Part of it is age, I realize. But! I'm trying to figure out approach: I would like to have a good relationship with her, but don't know how to get respect -- which clearly I don't have from time to time. I think I may bounce between disengagement and trying, and hate to think that the former is where I'll end up. What is appropriate? Setting rules/expectations for all of us when we're at the new house (i.e. take in your dishes, rinse, etc., respect eachother with our speech)? I'm really dreading this in many ways. At first I thought this would be a good growth experience for me (developing patience, understanding, etc), however, as it approaches, I grow worried, and I also know that it is not good for her or me if I just accept or ignore disrespectful behavior. And, why should I have to put up with it in my own home? Peace should not come at being treated poorly by my step daughter. Sometimes my husband defends me, but he doesn't always catch what is going on. Any tips? Hopefully my husband and I can go to one of the seminars soon.
#5: by Mike on 01.09.2010 @ 09:59am CST

Thanks for the insight. I've found my story to be similar in a lot of aspects. It's still frustrating feeling like you're not connected with the stepchild but God is always bigger than our problems and I've found a peace that transcends all understanding most of the time.
#4: by Kristie on 01.05.2010 @ 05:40pm CST

Thank you for your article. I like the idea of not resigning, but resigning your expectations. Now can you tell me how to get my boyfriend (we are not married yet) to understand this. He will not be a step parent as I do not have children of my own. It's intimidating knowing his expectations of my relationship with his two girls are very high. Nice, but intimidating!!!!
#3: by S.T. on 01.02.2010 @ 11:50am CST

This is great and I'm glad Cynthia was able to find some peace by letting some things go. I think we have to be careful that this is not used inappropriately. What I mean is we can easily disengage, disassociate, or retreat from difficult situations because they frustrate us under the guise of "it's for the better." Sometimes God has us in difficult spots to reveal to us areas that we need to improve within ourselves that we didn't realize were there like impatience, selfishness, jealousy, bitterness, etc. We can "step away" from a situation convincing ourselves that it's better that way rather than allowing God to work through us and confront and deal with the potentially "real" issue--which just may be us. This is certainly not to suggest that is what Cynthia is doing here. It sounds like she's made a decision to stop trying to force some things an let them happen naturally and to lower her expectations in some areas. I commend her for that. But to disengage emotionally and even physically some times. Through the grace of God, we are capable of doing all things. Thank you for sharing Cyntia!
#2: by Karen DeBenedetto on 01.01.2010 @ 08:42pm CST

Amen I went through alot of the same issues and once I decided to give it to God and let my husband have all the control with my two step daughters it has been so much easier. This news letter is so wonderful and thank you for all the wonderful insight you provide..
#1: by Sherilyn on 01.01.2010 @ 01:43pm CST

I enjoyed reading your article. I too am a stepmom of one daughter who visits us every other weekend. I also have two children of my own and my husband and I try to coordinate our childrens weekends together since my daughter and his are only six months apart and are best buds. The only thing I am having a problem with is that my daughter tends to be on the messy side in regards to her room, and so is my husbands daughter. So, when the two of them get together the room becomes a disaster!! Totally thrashed. And the attitude I get from both of the girls when I ask to clean it is not pretty. I desire to teach my children responsibilty and how to keep their rooms clean. That is how my mom raised me, and I expect the same from my kids. My husband's daughter doesn't seem to have any responsibilites given to her at her mom's house, at least it seems that way to me anyway because she acts as if she doesn't know how to do anything. I'm tired of the disrespect I get from my own children when I ask them to complete their chores around the house, but when I get it from both the girls it wears me out. what should I do to handle this situation???

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