Updated: Sep 6
“Laura, I just got a call from my 22-year-old stepdaughter, Cassie,” my coaching client, Dena, stated.
“I haven’t heard from her in four years. She and her dad talk occasionally, but they had a big argument during her senior year of high school and it never got resolved. Once she left for college, he rarely hears from her. I never do,” she continued.
“Then out of nowhere, she called and asked if we could talk. We had a good relationship when she was younger. But her mom worked hard to paint me as a horrible person, which created tension for Cassie. Loving me felt like disloyalty towards her mom. She was tormented in the emotional tug-of-war between me or her mom. It broke my heart.”
“Eventually, I knew the kindest thing I could do was to tell her to let go of me,” she lamented. “I said,
‘Cassie, I know it’s hard living in 2 homes. You love your mom, and she loves you. It’s a wonderful thing. I understand. Although I’m not your mom, I care very deeply for you. I pray for you all the time. If you ever need me, I’m always here for you. But it’s Okay to choose your mom, Cassie. I understand.’
“I stepped back and no longer pushed for a relationship. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” she continued.
“Then after four years of no contact—she calls me. I won’t lie, I was skeptical and nervous. But while whispering a prayer for strength, and with a trembling hand, I dialed her number. I’m so glad I did. We had a great conversation and I could tell she just needed someone to talk to about a serious situation she was facing.”
My conversation with Dena was transformational. She stimulated thoughts that I had not previously considered. Her mature and respectful response, allowed me to ask God and myself a few soul-searching questions.
· What if we stepmoms are pursuing the wrong goal?
· What if the greatest gift we can give our stepkids is to become something other than another mother?
· What if I can fill a cavity in their lives, that a mother or father can’t?
· What if God wants to use me in the lives of my stepkids in a way that is radically different than I thought?
· Am I willing to let go of the pursuit of title “mother”?
· What if my stepkids viewed me as something other than parent such as a big sister or mentor?
· What if I became their safe place to bring questions, issues, or fears that they won’t tell a parent?
I finally realized the spectacular and unique role that Dena is playing in her stepdaughter’s life. Dena’s discretion, humility, and compassionate manner is what drew Cassie back to her when life became difficult. In other words, her willingness to let go of being another mom, is the very thing that brought Cassie back into her life.
To whom did Cassie run when she faced a life changing, massive decision? I’m sure mom and dad gave an opinion. But she went out of her way to seek the wisdom of her stepmother. Cassie views Dena as a woman who loved her enough, and sacrificed her own needs and desires, so that peace could come into her chaotic childhood.
Dena has no biological children. Being a stepmom to Cassie was her only chance at a motherhood experience. Which makes Dena’s decisions even more profound.
Over the years Cassie and Dena have continued their communication. They occasionally meet for lunch or coffee and enjoy each other’s company. Dad sporadically speaks with Cassie, but the relationship is strained due to his poor choices.
I’m grateful for Dena. She came to me for life coaching, and yet I learned as much or maybe more about what it means to be a stepmom. After our session, I began to pray this prayer, and it has continued for many years.
“Dear God, show me what YOU want me to be in my stepchild’s life. I’ve tried to be a stepparent through my own human perspective. Let me do the right thing just because it’s the right thing. Speak Lord, I’m listening. Amen.”
This perspective changed me. I allowed God to dictate the role I play in my stepsons and their families lives. Is it always what I desire it to be? No. But I can rest in knowing that I am completing the work that my God has specifically given to me. And it’s an honor.
Jesus said, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do,” John 17:4, (NIV).
God’s ways are always higher, better, wiser, and more fruitful than my own.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
And my thoughts your thoughts”. Isaiah 55:9 (NIV)
Copyright © 2023 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved.
Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, divorce prevention, divorce recovery, and stepfamilies. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t,” The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with Ron Deal, 101 Tips for The Smart Stepmom, and Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. Laura has been married to Steve and a stepmom for 37 years and her website is www.The SmartStepmom.com