After a recent webinar that our ministry put on for stepparents I was struck by the number of participants whose unsolicited feedback went something like this: Thanks for the information tonight. I feel encouraged—I think I can keep going because I have hope again.
Comments like this remind me that while parenting is tough, stepparenting is extremely tough. If you’ve read this department article on a regular basis you are aware of the unique challenges that stepparents face when it comes to discipline, the loyalties of children, differences in emotional attachments with children, and how loss impacts child responsiveness to stepparents. But another key difference is a lack of reward for stepparents and the encouragement it brings.
Biological parents have challenges, too. But on a regular basis they also enjoy a sweet moment with their children, a thankful “I love you mom”, or a shared exciting adventure that brings laughter and smiles all around. Even a teachable moment when a child takes to heart a parent’s wisdom brings great joy to a parent. Stepparents enjoy these kinds of moments as well, but with much less frequency than biological parents. “And,” as a 25 year veteran stepparent said to me recently, “even when they do come along, they are intermingled with anxiety and confusion. That can spoil the good moments pretty quickly.”
My point is this: stepparents need regular doses of encouragement for the long journey they travel.
Who for the Joy Set Before Him
Hebrews 12:2 tells us that for the joy set before him, Jesus “endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (NIV). Was their joy in enduring the cross? Immediately, of course not. But from a long-term perspective Jesus’ joy resulted from the purpose of the cross: man was reconciled to God. In a similar way, stepparents (and their spouses) must look past the immediate trials and struggles they experience for the joy that will come one day as a result of their work, love, and faithfulness. And for most the payoff does come.
Laurie sent me an email recently; I could see her smile through the words.
I got a big payoff last weekend. My husband threw me a big 50th birthday party. Jason, my stepson from my first marriage (now 35), came with his two kids; they drove six hours to be there. He was delightful—so sweet and affirming, so willing to let me love on him and his kids. I'm not even married to his dad anymore and he still welcomes me into his life. He texted me twice after he got home and thanked me for the weekend and for being in his life. That kid and I had some turbulent times when he was growing up. I didn't have a strategy; I just hung in there with him.
But he wasn't the only stepkid who loved on me that day. I got an incredible call from Katie, Jay's oldest away at college, who called to say how much she wished she could be there, how much she loved me and was glad that I married her dad. She said she was lucky to have me then said, "Laurie, I was so mean to you when I was about 15. I'm so sorry. What was that about?" We talked light-heartedly about that and ended up having a chuckle. I thank God that he allowed me to taste His goodness through those kids last weekend. To me, it's a sample of what Heaven is going to be like.
I can’t promise all stepparents that this will happen to you. But I can encourage you to live today as if it will. Press on for the joy set before you.
Ron L. Deal is president of Smart Stepfamilies™, director of blended family ministries for FamilyLife®, a popular conference speaker on marriage and family matters, and author/coauthor of a series of DVD’s and books for stepfamilies including The Smart Stepmom, The Smart Stepdad, and Dating and the Single Parent. Learn more at www.smartstepfamilies.com.