(The following is condensed and excerpted from the upcoming project, "A Stepmom's Book of Prayer."
Stepmothering is the ultimate learning experience, full of insights and discoveries, pain and joy. The realization of all you've gotten yourself into is sometimes overwhelming. The most important thing a stepmom learns is the most basic and sometimes the hardest to admit: *I can't do this alone.*
No one ever enters a remarriage with little plans -- that would be too easy! We always have big ideals and bigger expectations. But the world we never knew we'd live, and almost everyone in it, falls short of those expectations quickly. Very little happens the way we envision, and we often deal with thoughts and emotions and fears that shock and consume us. The faith we claimed and felt before we became stepmoms is tested, and sometimes it's broken. The past depresses us, the present exhausts us, and the future terrifies us. We're tempted to give up, to let the pain win, to abandon our hopes for happiness. Sadly, many stepmoms do.
As many as two-thirds of all remarriages with children involved end, often before the fourth anniversary. Before I became a stepmom, that statistic would probably have surprised me, because you think that people who remarry must be truly happy, so thankful to have been given a second chance at the kind of love everyone wants. How could those couples ever fail?
Then when I became a stepmom and walked through my own hell, I was surprised that the percentage was only two-thirds. I'll bet that all of us have wondered -- maybe even just once in the most private of moments -- if we could make it, if we would ever get through the pain and confusion that threatened our marriages, and even more, our faith.
The upcoming project, A Stepmom's Book of Prayer, will follow four stages of a stepmom's life and faith: Beginning, Struggling, Coping, and Growing. While we're all different, we're all very much the same: helping to raise another woman's children, trying to keep a burdened marriage together, having to learn when we fit in our unexpected lives. Here, we'll talk about resentment, a challenge that can stretch across almost all the stages.
One particularly unsettling emotion that we have to deal with is the strong resentment we can feel almost from day one. We know that it's not the "right" way to feel, but we can't help it -- we're hurting. But we have to find a way to deal with the resentment because it will only destroy us from inside if we don't. All of the people or situations we're resenting will still be there, winning, and we'll be the ones who have lost everything we've tried to build because we couldn't come to terms with our new struggles.
Stepmoms can resent a lot of things, but we'll talk about just a few. You may see yourself in all of these cases, or in none of them. Either way, we all know that we need a clear and giving heart to have a happy life. Resentment strangles your heart like a chicken going to slaughter. God doesn't want you to feel that way. He can help you find the relief you need.
Some common resentments
Being the mom at your house, whether you're the custodial or non-custodial stepmom, very often means taking full or almost full care of the kids. Dad may abandon their care to his wife, intentionally or not, simply expecting her to do the daily maintenance because she's the "mom." Stepmom may or may not want that kind of responsibility. If she doesn't, or even if she welcomes it but dad doesn't appreciate her efforts, the resentment can grow. She can feel taken advantage of and used.
Another area of resentment is money. It's not uncommon for a stepmom's family to suffer while dad pays large amounts of money to his kids' mom. Even if the amount is fair and spent wisely by the mom, it's still easy to resent making your family do without, perhaps even supporting your stepkids more than half the time.
Sometimes, stepmoms resent the disruption to their lives. Nothing is easy, and it can seem like every day requires more compromise, more bending to please someone else. The stepmom can feel like she's at the bottom of everyone's list, and she doesn't know how to correct it. It's not a fertile ground for growth.
*Where to start*
The resentment you feel is both a practical problem and an emotional problem. Tackle it with an application of practical and emotional responses. Get in touch with your spirit so that you can find the strength to get past this stumbling block in your life.
Start with prayer. Let your God know your feelings -- you don't have to hide them. You may have felt the way I have at times, ashamed of your resentment and yet unable to uproot it. Go to the Lord with your feelings and ask him to help you understand them so that you can change them. Ask him to help you see things from his perspective, not just your wounded view. Even if you think he doesn't understand, he does. Asking for his help is the first step in receiving it. Do that today.
Talk to your husband. It may seem an obvious suggestion, but we're often reluctant to discuss such touchy subjects. You may feel that your resentment will come across as dissatisfaction or unhappiness, or that your husband won't understand at all. It's quite possible that he doesn't even realize what you're going through. He may have no grasp of your feelings of resentment, your fatigue, your exasperation at everything your life is handing you. So tell him, gently, carefully. Don't be afraid to be honest about what's bothering you. You can't build a strong relationship on a foundation of resentment.
Work to make things better at home. As you and your husband discuss these issues, always look for ways to deal with them, and that's what you'll find. When you're specific about what behaviors or circumstances are bothering you, then you can be specific about ways to improve them. Ask for what you need to help alleviate the resentment -- something as tangible as splitting bath time duties or as intangible as more respect from the kids. When your days improve, even just a little bit at a time, you will feel the resentment begin to drain away from your heart.
Count your blessings. I know it sounds trite, but it's hard to feel resentful and thankful at the same time. Consciously look for positive experiences in every part of your life. Especially if you're resentful of the money sent to your stepkids, every day look for the blessings of your life that aren't associated with money. Don't give that obsession any more time than you have to. Look for ways that others are considerate and thoughtful of you, and cherish those moments. Give thanks for all that your new life has brought you, and realize how much you can grow within the challenges you're facing. You'll learn more about yourself and your faith than you've ever imagined. Spend lots of time talking to God, and in those sacred moments, remember all that you've been given.
Fill your heart with what you choose. Reach out to your husband and stepkids and let them become a part of you. The more involved you are with their lives, the more care and compassion you'll feel. The feelings of family and devotion in your heart will help to push out the resentment. Then you'll become stronger and feel more in control of your life, more able to give generously and to seek what you need from those around you.
*Question: What is the biggest source of your resentment? Who do you need to talk to about that today? Seek guidance and understanding in prayer.*
Lord, thank you for holding my hand through this difficult time. Please help me to remove these draining feelings from my heart and mind. Help me to find the comfort and solace I need in my family, and please help my husband and stepchildren to understand how I feel. I pray for your guidance in approaching these delicate issues. Please help me to overcome my resentment and plant love and patience and compassion in its place. Amen.
Keywords: stepparenting family coping stepmom parenting stepfamilies support prayer
About the Author
Karon Goodman is a mom, stepmom and author from Alabama. Karon's new book, "You're Late Again, Lord! The Impatient Woman's Guide to God's Timing," was released in February, 2002 ( http://karongoodman.com/lateagain.html ). Her book for stepmoms, "The Stepmom's Guide to Simplifying Your Life," was released in April by EquiLibrium Press, Inc.: http://www.equipress.com/stepmomintro.htm . Karon has written for a variety of publications and websites, including Woman's Day, Writer's Digest, Bride Again, Petersen's Bowhunting, Inscriptions, Simpler Living, She Loves God and more.
Submitted by: Karon Goodman *
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