Kathi Lipp: Every stepmom I have ever met, goes into this relationship with the best of intentions. They love their future husband. They love their future kids. They want to do everything they can. But this is … this is hard stuff.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Insight from author and speaker, Kathi Lipp about living life as a stepmom, some of the challenges and the rewards. It's a complicated package. It's one you can press through and we have some hope and encouragement for you today on "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and we have Kathi here, along with her co-author, Carol Boley, to share some more wit and wisdom for stepfamilies.
Jim Daly: John, the title of their book I think says it all and that is, But I'm Not a Wicked Stepmother. I mean, we chuckle, but there is truth to that. And I think so often, women, moms, wives particularly carry so much guilt, so much shame because they don't feel they're doing the job exactly right. And the evidence of that is where the children in the home, both biological and the stepchildren, are responding in a wonderful way to the new family. That's a hard thing to do. I'm sure it happens, but I am also sure that it's the minuscule number of families that can actually do it from the "git-go." Having a blended family takes time, as we've had other writers and experts on this broadcast--Ron Deal being one--talking about a Crock-Pot approach versus microwave. It's not instant and I think both of our guests described that last time, that you have to work at it. You need to be intentional. You need to have direction and most of all, you need to have the character of God in you, because that really helps you get through some hard times.
John: Yeah and if you missed any of the last program, please get the CD or download. We have that available when you call 800-232-6459 or you'll find it at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Let me officially welcome both of you back.
Kathi: Thanks so much.
Carol Boley: Thank you, happy to be here.
Jim: Last time we left off with a teaser of sorts to say that Joshua, the story of Joshua applied in stepfamilies. And today we want to come back and say, what are you thinkin'? Carol, that was your observation. What were you driving at, making that comparison?
Carol: Well, Joshua's such a strong biblical hero. But when I looked at Joshua, I thought, oh, you know, I think there it is, because he wasn't the first one to be in the position of leadership. He followed Moses. So, just like a stepmom, it's not the first mom figure in the children's life. And Joshua wasn't necessarily perfectly received either. People idolized Moses to some respect. Now they also had their issues with Moses and didn't want to obey him, just like kids don't want to always obey their mom. But you know, he became huge in their eyes.
It was difficult for Joshua to step in to that position. But I love how God prepared him, even as He does stepmom's hearts, where God says, "Joshua, I want you to be strong and courageous. I want you to be strong and very courageous. And I want you to meditate on My Word and remember that I'm gonna be with you and that's how you're gonna take these people," who were a mish-mash of people.
They were, you know, stubborn. They were disobedient. "And I want you to lead them to the Promised Land and you're gonna go through the wilderness to get there. And you're gonna have to cross through this flooding Jordan River to get there, too."
Well, to me, that's a beautiful picture of stepchildren's lives. Their lives are in flood stage. They're already going and you're gonna have to cross through that. You're gonna have to enter that and cross through it, but God is with you and He will lead you through.
Jim: And that is so good, that analogy. It kind of fits into this next question I want to ask and that is, both Moses and Joshua—Joshua being that archetype of the stepparent—the discipline issue. Now he had to figure out a way to discipline the people of Israel, but as a stepmom, you gotta do the same. How do you work out and maybe it's age related, so maybe we need to answer the question in that context. Carol, for you, you had a 6-year-old daughter when you first got married to Jim. And Kathi, as you've said, you had teenagers.
Jim: So, maybe we can speak in that direction, as well. It's gonna be different, but how do you as a stepmom, come into that world and begin to agree with your partner on approach and then execution? And what I mean by that is not "execution," (Laughter) but you know.
John: Although that might be an option.
Kathi and Carol: (Taking at the Same Time and Laughter)
Carol: It did cross our mind. (Laughter) I'm not gonna lie. Sure, I'll start with that. Well, I think the first step is communication, for Jim to tell me what has it been like for Abby? Even though I knew the family, of course, I wasn't privy to all the intimate moments. I didn't know exactly how Abby had been disciplined in every situation.
So, for him to clue me in, give me information I could not possibly have known otherwise. That was huge. And then we compared notes. Even though I wasn't a parent, I did have ideas on how children should be, you know, raised and Jim was open to receiving that, which I think is huge, too. He didn't just say, no, I'm the dad and you know, this is how it's gonna be. He was open to my ideas. So, together we worked out how we thought would be a wise and compassionate loving and productive way to discipline Abby.
Then Jim told her in my presence that I had his approval and permission to discipline her when he was not there. Right initially, he did it all, so I wasn't coming in and trying to, you know, do things.
Jim: For how long a period of time was that?
Carol: Probably for the first three months anyway. And she was on board with that. That was bright. You know, we did things like I made a little chart. You know, Abby learns respect and responsibility and she would get stickers, you know, for good behavior and that sort of thing. Anytime that required more than that, Jim was the one who would step in and do it.
Now of course, inevitably, the day came when Jim was not home and Abby had definitely crossed the line and it was time for me to, well, am I gonna follow through on what we said? And I thought, that was a big trust-building moment for her, as well, because it showed her, well, she means what she says. I'm not suggesting that every stepfamily should incorporate spanking as their discipline, but that's what we had for willful defiance.
Carol: So, when that moment happened, oh, my goodness, I was terrified. I thought, oh, I don't know if I can do that, you know, with this child. What if she won't like me? What if she resents me? All those fears and doubts came up. But I thought, well, no, you know, we said this is what we were gonna do, so to be true to what Jim and I had set up and then to show Abby, we both meant what we said and that she could trust me to do what I said I would do, the moment came.
Carol: And you know, I did follow through. Of course, I cried more tears than she did and you know, then followed through, that this is because I love you and I care how you behave. If I didn't love you, I wouldn't care at all.
Carol: So, that was basically our discipline story.
Jim: How about for the teen kids?
Kathi: For us, it was an awkward transition, I will say. And because it wasn't just me and Roger, it wasn't, you know, me as stepmom and him as dad, but we also have my stepkids' mom, who's involved in all of this. So there are a lot of voices going in there.
So, day-to-day discipline, like not the punishment and all that kind of stuff, but saying, we do our homework at this time. You know, we all eat together. That was kind of left up to me. I was home more than Roger was. And it was a struggle to establish that respect and "I don't have to listen to you" and those kind of things. Well, you kinda do, 'cause you're living in our house and I'm feeding you. So, this is something that, you know, we need to get this worked out.
When it came to big things, our motto was, Roger, for his kids, was always the bad guy and me, for my kids, I was always the bad guy. And we just had to do that. I wanted my kids to be able to respect Roger and to have a good relationship with him. That didn't mean that they lacked discipline from him, but when it came to those big decisions, I would talk with their dad and we would have to come to that agreement or it was just up to me.
So, for the heavy stuff, it was the biological parents, that ministered the groundings and those kind of things in the teenage years.
John: Yeah, do you have some illustrations there of maybe a time or two that you had that kind of conflict and you had to work through that?
Kathi: Yeah, well, when Jeremy was older, I mean, we're talking 18-years-old and so, still in many ways a kid, but also an adult, one of the things that we had been really working with Jeremy was respect. And so, he came through our front door and I said, "Hi, Jer" and he didn't say anything back to me.
And so, Roger went straight upstairs to talk to him about respect. Well, about a half hour later, I said, "Roger, I think Jeremy's moving out." And he says, "Well, why would you say that?" I said, "'Cause he's taking Hefty bags out to his car."
And so, he did not want to do it. And Roger says, "You know what? We need to let him go. We need to let him go." So, Jeremy moved in with his mom. You know what? That was a changing day for our relationship, for mine and Jeremy's, because Roger said, "I love you, Jeremy. I care deeply for you. You will not disrespect my wife."
Jim: You know, you raise an interesting point. I think the statistic is something like 60 percent and you know, okay, give or take five or 10 percent, but about 60 percent of second marriages don't survive.
Jim: I would think oftentimes, the children play a critical role in that.
Jim: Maybe they're the key issue when it comes to the lack of survivability within that group. Talk about that. How do parents, how do the blended mom and dad, how do they get on the same page? Because it's easy to take sides and sometimes it may be rational to take sides. A stepdad may agree with the kids—
Jim: --and say, "Yeah, I know, we just gotta work with her." Whatever it might be. How do we avoid that to make sure that the kids absolutely know that the parents are on the same page and you're the one that has to get with the program?
Kathi: Disagree in private and stand together in public. I think that is the key to everything that has worked for us in stepparenting. When Roger and I had to discuss, maybe we didn't agree, maybe he didn't think the situation is as bad as we thought it was our response was, I need to go talk with the other parent and then we'll come back to you.
So, Roger and I might have totally disagreed on how to approach a situation, but our kids never ever saw that. Even if it was just Roger going to his kids and saying, this is the punishment that you will get for whatever infraction it was, it was presented as Kathi and I agree on this. And you know, Roger was a little bit more of a casual parent than I was. I'm a stricter disciplinarian.
And so, he has softened out my hard edges and I've come along and, you know, I think that there is a lot of guilt sometimes, especially with stepdads, that they don't want to be seen as the heavy all the time, because they feel guilt that their child doesn't have this perfect family. There's a lot of guilt for dads, too. And so, they want to do things to make that nice for their stepkids. They don't want to have all the arguments and especially if you're not a conflict person. And to be able to say, even in that situation, respect before love. We just had to. And you can lovingly discipline your kid, but there has to be the respect there.
John: Well, that's good insight and there's a lot of great advice like that in the book, But I'm Not a Wicked Stepmother: Secrets of Successful Blended Families by Carol Boley and Kathi Lipp. They're our guests on today's "Focus on the Family" and you can get details about the book or a CD or download of our two-part conversation when you're at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us and we can direct you to those or other resources. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Kathi and Carol, we've talked about kinda the dark side of it in terms of strife and envy and jealousy. I mean, that's part of what we talked about the last day and a half.
Jim: Forgiveness has to play a critical role and I don't know why we as Christians often struggle. It's easy to talk about the theory of forgiveness.
Jim: When you have to apply it because somebody is in your grill, so to speak and it's happening every day, it's a little tougher. You gotta get out of the theory and into the practical application.
Jim: There's probably no greater test tube of that, meaning are you rooted in the Spirit of God, are the fruits of the Spirit present in you? I mean, love and joy and peace and longsuffering, gentleness, kindness? When it gets to this forgiveness aspect, you're being tested every day in many ways.
Jim: How do you find that well, as a stepmom, for forgiveness?
Kathi: Asking for forgiveness, it's amazing how it can lower the levels of pressure in a stepfamily. You know, saying, do you know what? I should've trusted you with that. And my first instinct was no, but I haven't been recognizing how you've been stepping up in responsibility. You know, because it's so easy to just focus on the things that are frustrating, instead of going to the things where they're really stepping up.
And being able to look at my stepson and say, you know what? Everybody admires you at work. Why am I not factoring that into my perception of who you are? You know, that's something I had to deal with and not sticking with our first impressions of our stepkids. You know, when my stepdaughter, when we got married, was 17, I thought, she is so entitled. She's so spoiled. And I'm thinking, you know, this is because she has a single dad and he's given her everything you want
No, it was because she was 17. It had nothing to do with being a stepfamily. And now I look at her. She's one of the most grateful people I've ever met in my entire life. And so, asking for forgiveness so often to say, "You know, I should've trusted you." Or "I haven't told you how much I've seen you grow and please forgive me for that and let me start over with you." Those are words that can heal relationships.
Jim: And you talk in the book, I think you attribute it to a counselor, but unnamed, but you talk about three recommended strategies, which again, I think can be applied to every Christian and every situation we face, but what are those three?
Carol: I think No. 1 is just decide, I'm going to be a forgiver. I've received forgiveness from Christ, which I think is the very first step to realize, I've been forgiven much; therefore, I can forgive much. Once I do forgive, I'm not going to keep bringing it up to myself. I'm not gonna keep rehearsing it in my head how horrible they were to me, the terrible thing they said to me, what they did. I'm gonna be done with that.
Nor am I gonna bring it up to the person who offended me. I have forgiven them. That's it. It's done. Jesus doesn't keep throwin' our sins back up in our face. I'm not gonna do that to you.
And then lastly, I'm not going to keep repeating it to other people. I'm not going to go around telling everybody else, "Do you know what she said to me?" Or "Do you know what she did?" It ruins their reputation with other people and that also helps build trust that goes all the way back to the trust with, if we're talking about with our stepkids here, they know then they can trust us with their reputation. We're not gonna go round bad-mouthing them to others.
Kathi: And I think this is also key when we're thinking about our stepkids' mom. You know, they're--
Jim: The biological …
Kathi: --the biological moms, that is a relationship that's naturally fraught with conflict for so many of us. And to make sure that we are not bad-mouthing their mom to anybody else, but especially in front of our stepkids. They have to know that their mom's reputation is safe with us, because that breeds respect within our relationship with our stepkids.
And sometimes, you know, biological moms are gone for some very devastating reasons. And it would be easy to say, "Well, everything that's gone wrong in your life is because of your mom." That's not my situation and that's not Carol's situation, but we see so many stepfamilies like that.
But to be able to say, you know, I've come to the place where oftentimes, even if my stepkids are kind of whining about their mom, I come to her defense because I'm a mom, too. I know what she's going through. And so, to be able to say, "Your mom's reputation is safe with me," is huge for my stepkids.
Jim: As we're winding up here, you mentioned in your book, But I'm Not a Wicket Stepmother, again, I love the title, you said there are three big truths we need to understand and live every day as stepmoms. What are they?
Kathi: Well, the No. 1 thing is, that your stepkids in most situations, will eventually think that you did a better job than you think you did.
Jim: It doesn't feel like it at the time.
Kathi: I know, it doesn't feel like it, but Carol and I did something very interesting at the end of the book. What I asked for was, I have several Facebook followers and I asked them, you stepmoms, tell me what you did right? I got almost no responses to that question. These stepmoms, they're trying harder, trying harder, trying harder, but they feel like everything they did wrong.
So, then I asked the stepkids, "What did your stepmother do right?" Can I tell you, I was flooded with responses, just these long, long letters of stepkids pouring out their heart and saying, "I learned about Jesus from my stepmom." "I saw Jesus in action." "I felt like my dad was my responsibility to care for and love for the rest of his life and then this woman who loved him came on the scene and I was able to rest and know that my dad was loved and cared for." These huge letters, "My stepmom taught me how to cook." "My stepmom taught me how to be a good parent." These letters were just pouring out their love for their stepmother.
And then Carol and I had to do something really brave. We had to ask our stepkids, did we do anything right? And I have to tell you, I thought I would get a good response. I was very, very concerned. And I think you went in with a little fear and trepidation, too. What did your stepdaughter say?
Carol: Well, always there's that fear and trepidation--
Carol: --and the trembling heart. But I'll never forget one of the most meaningful Mother's Days that I had. I opened the present from Abby and it was a homemade book of special memories that she had of us together, some of which I had forgotten until she mentioned them. I'm like, oh, my goodness, the things like she wanted to lip sync an entire Amy Grant album. (Laughter) And I help[ed] her pass out flyers to the neighborhood and I made brownies for her to come. She remembered that. I remembered it after she said it. But things like that and it was that, "You helped me invite Jesus in my heart." "You were my homeroom mother." You know, I'm like, oh, my, well, one that to me, but if this doesn't say love, I don't what does. "You went with me on a Mom and Me Girl Scout camping weekend. You slept in a tent." (Laughter) And I'm like, sure did. (Laughter)
Kathi: She had great memories, I mean, you know, these are all the things you did right. And I asked my stepdaughter and she said, "I knew that you cared deeply for me from the day you and my dad said that you were gonna get married. I didn't always want to believe it, but I know that you cared deeply for me."
And my stepson said, "You were always there for me. I knew you hated to go to hockey games, but you showed up all the time. You took me everywhere I needed to go and what was important to me, was important to you."
And so, to get that kind of validation, which I didn't feel almost any of it during the time when we were raising them, but now in retrospect, they have such a good impression. That meant the world to me and it's kind of like going to college. Some people don't enjoy the college experience, but you go 'cause you want to get that degree. Sometimes that stepmothering experience isn't going to be as joyful as it could be, you see other families or you remember those "Brady Bunch" reruns and you're like, "Mine's not like that." Our stepkids did think we did a better job than we think we did.
Jim: And what I hear you saying is, don't look at the moment. Look—
Jim: --at the long term. But we gotta get No. 2 and 3.
Kathi: Okay, the rewards come later. And what I mean by this is that for blended families, you start out with an instant family. There's no honeymoon for a stepfamily. But just six weeks ago, we said, buh-bye to our last kid, who moved out the door. The honeymoon has started (Laughter) in the Lipp household. It's been wonderful.
Jim: There's a big smile on your face.
Kathi: Oh, yeah. We're having a great time, but you know, we had to realize that it's delayed gratification. And No. 3, time is on your side. It--
Jim: That's the point.
Kathi: --it really it, for all of these things, time is on your side. You're not going to experience a lot of the rewards in the midst of it, but when you get to the other side, you've got these adult kids who appreciate you as that fun aunt, that somebody who's been in their lives praying for them every single day. The rewards are worth it.
Jim: Kathi and Carol, you've heard me a couple of times, but my sensitivity to this question about those of us that are married to our first spouses and sometimes in a Christian context, we wince a little, because your marriage didn't make it.
Jim: And I get that. I know there's lots of reasons for it. It may be been infidelity of one of the spouses. I I don't know all those details.
Jim: And we've talked about the disclaimer of that. But as two women that have gone through it for different reasons, when you think of God's heart, even when I say the word, you know, "God hates divorce"—
Jim: --you've got to cringe. And I don't mean to make you cringe, but let's talk about that for a minute. How do you think God views your situation, Kathi and your situation, Carol? What is His viewpoint about your remarriages?
Kathi: God hates divorce. I 100 percent agree. I hate divorce. This was not the plan I had for my family (Weeping)." Sorry. But here's the truth of it. God hates divorce, but He does not hate divorced people.
Kathi: He loves people who have been through a divorce, who may have made mistakes. I made mistakes. My mistakes were not ones to get divorced over, but (Sigh) my ex-husband made other choices. And it grieves me to this day because of the profound effect it's had on my kids and on me.
But God is also in the business of taking broken people and showing who He is through those cracks and through that brokenness. And nobody on the planet can tell me that God does not love the marriage that I have with my husband. Nobody can tell me that I was not supposed to be the stepmom (Weeping) to those precious kids.
God has taken our very, very messy situation and made something incredibly beautiful out of it and it sounds weird to say that I'm richer because of it, but I've got a husband I love desperately and we serve in ministry together to other broken people. And my stepkids and my kids have a heart for broken people like no other kids I know.
And so, this is not the path I would've chosen, but God has done miracle after miracle after miracle in my life. And so, it gives me an opportunity to talk to other broken messy people. And say, "God loves you exactly where you're at. I'm so sorry for what you've gone through and God grieves (Weeping) for what you've gone through. But God loves you exactly where you're at. You don't have to change anything for His love to be in your life. God will change your situation through who He is. And God loves you desperately."
Jim: Kathi, I so appreciate the emotion of that, because again, we can become religious, rather than relational. And I think God is a very forgiving God and you've expressed that so well. And for those who might have a crusty heart about this, you gotta look inside and say, what area of your life? You might have this one buttoned down—
Jim: --but what area of your life is wanting, where you don't measure up to the standard Jesus set? All of us fall short and I hope even for those that might have that crusty heart approach to this, because they're succeeding in their first marriages, have a heart for those who may have had more difficulty in this area. And in all of that, God'll be glorified. Thanks.
John: Well, what a beautiful way to close out our time with Kathi Lipp and Carol Boley, as they've shared from their own personal journeys as stepmothers. And I do hope you've been encouraged and lifted up by what they've shared so very vulnerably and with such authenticity.
Now their book is called But I'm Not a Wicked Stepmother and it's available through us here at Focus on the Family. It's a pretty honest look at the life of being in a blended family and those emotions and challenges and joys. They offer a lot of help and hope and practical ideas, as well. You'll find details about But I'm Not a Wicked Stepmother at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or give us a call and we can tell you more, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459.
And today, as our way of saying thank you for supporting this listener-supported ministry of Focus on the Family, we'll send a copy of that book to you when you make a generous donation of any amount. And when you come alongside and partner with us, financially giving to the work of Focus on the Family, you're helping us reach about the world and help families right where they're at. So, please donate today at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800-232-6459.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time. We'll have a great message from Ellie Lofaro, as she shares some heartwarming stories to help you better understand what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and to be an overcomer. That's tomorrow, when we once again, share trusted advice to help you thrive in Christ.
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Kathi LippView Bio
Kathi Lipp is a popular public speaker and the author of 16 books including Clutter Free, Hot Mama: 12 Secrets to a Sizzling Hot Marriage, The Get Yourself Organized Project, The Husband Project and You Don't Have to Try So Hard. She is a frequent guest on radio and TV, and host of the podcast Clutter Free Academy. Kathi and her husband, Roger, are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, Calif. Learn more about Kathi by visiting her website, www.kathilipp.com.
Carol BoleyView Bio
Carol Boley is a writer and speaker who's been involved in women's ministry for more than 35 years. She leads seminars and workshops specializing in family-related topics including stepfamilies, multi-generational living and raising bright children. Carol has contributed her writing to publications like Guideposts, Better Family Living, Moody Monthly, Navy Times and Arizona Magazine. Her first book, co-authored with Kathi Lipp, is called But I'm Not a Wicked Stepmother! Carol and her husband, Jim, have three grown daughters. Learn more about Carol by visiting her website: www.carolboley.com.