I was once a divorced, single mother with two young sons. I met a man on a dating site, after a series of roller coaster dating scenarios I would rather not relive…..ever.

This man seemed different. He knew I was a package deal. I had two sons under the age of 10, when we met. He claimed to fall just as much in love with my sons as he did me. I anxiously warned him, “My life is A LOT, are you sure you are up for it?” He wholeheartedly accepted the challenge and dove in, head-first….or possibly, looking back, heart-first.

This man befriended my sons with ease. He took an individual interest in each child, attending sports events, taking them to motocross races, on family vacations, and enjoying pizza and movie nights every other weekend. We enjoyed holidays with each other’s family. When his daughter had her first baby, I fell in love with being ‘Manna’ to that precious little lady. I truly thought my prince had arrived. The glue that would allow for healing in all the broken pieces of my children’s hearts, not to mention my own.

Those young, adorable, eager-to-please boys grew up. One became a teenager. The other is hanging tight to the fine line of little boyhood and pre-pubescent paradise. These are trying years! I love these boys more than anything on earth, and even I can admit that…

This is when I started to see the weight of being a stepparent really weigh heavy on our marriage and on my husband (we are currently separated). When my oldest son got into a bit of trouble at school I started to notice my husband really struggling with his role as a stepfather. Truthfully, we didn’t define that role well, he was never fully clear on how to appropriately step in with my sons, and I didn’t provide assistance in helping him define it. Honestly, at the time I didn’t know either. Everything started downhill from here.

Marriage, to me, is forever. Period. It was the intention God had when he created Eve as a helpmate for Adam. Yes, Moses provided an ‘out’ for those stubborn Israelites, but it was due to their ‘hardness of heart’ that he allowed men to provide a certificate of divorce to their once-beloved forever mates, turned friendly (or, rather unfriendly) foes.

Men, I urge you. Marrying a woman with children is a very difficult road. There is no rulebook for the role of stepparent, especially when the biological parent is very much in the picture, as is the case in my family’s situation.

I have heard that many marriages fail because the blending of two families is a pressure too intense to withstand. I cannot attest to that as a stepparent because my husband’s daughter is grown, with a family of her own. I knew from the beginning that my role in her life would be that of friend, at best, as she was not in need of a stepparent at her stage in life.

My sons, however, looked up to this man that seemingly came along to love their mother, in ways their own father had previously failed. Unfortunately, this marriage too, has seemingly failed. It is not due solely to the pressure of step-parenting, but that has truly been a noteworthy component.

Looking back on the relationship, there are things I wish I had seen. Here are some steps I wish we would have taken, and hope to shed some light for others entering, in the trenches, or even considering the role that comes with marrying a woman with children from a previous marriage.

1. Premarital counseling. Ideally, with a Christian therapist who holds family ideals to a standard of the belief system I have witnessed in the marriage of my own parents, who celebrated 51 years last August.

2. Have the difficult talks. Have them until you are exhausted. And then have them some more. Your expectations as a parent. Your partner’s expectations as a parent. Your view on discipline. Your partner’s view on the matter (this was a main source of contention between my husband and I).

3. Arrange a meeting with the biological parent and stepparent-in-training; it might be best to do under the care of a licensed therapist. I truly wish we had done this. Being a blended family means communication, respect, more communication, and understanding the parenting techniques of both biological parents, then adapting to those, and possibly deferring discipline, school issues, behavioral issues, etc. to the biological parent, even if they are not the main custodial parent.

4. Pray with each other. My husband started our relationship praying with me, which I loved and appreciated.. Those prayers, as a partnership, became fewer and further between when problems started creeping up. Note to husbands, this is when your wife needs you to lead in prayer more than ever.. When you get ‘that close’ to someone there is always going to be issues and hurt, but seeing you lead in prayer helps us to know that our foundation is still focused on Christ.

I share my story to bring awareness to blended families, whether taking on the role of stepparent, or marrying someone when you have children with someone else. It is a very difficult road. Yet, I truly believe, when you put your children, your family, and your tender heart in the hands of our Great Redeemer, He can move mountains. He can heal hearts. He can bring beauty from the ashes of any situation, no matter how difficult or impossible it may seem.

I want to give Mad Props to the stepfathers that have hung in there through the tough seasons, stayed present in the trenches, prayed for their stepchildren as well as their spouse, and viewed their role as a bonus parent with honor, responsibility, and selfless, abiding love. I believe it is possible to love another’s biological children as your own. If not, adoption would cease to exist!

Stepfathers, You Are Important. You are Special. You are Called. You are Needed. I often think of Joseph’s role in the life of Jesus. He was not Jesus’ biological father. Jesus was God’s son, miraculously conceived of the Holy Spirit. Joseph no more possessed Jesus than any parent in today’s society does their own child, whether biological, adopted, or blended. All children belong to the Lord. Yet, Joseph remained loyal, obedient, and raised Jesus with the love only a father can provide, despite the means of obtaining that sacred role.

If God calls you to step up and assist in raising one of His beloved children, please know that if you parent with your heart, lead with your head, and seek God’s will in every challenging season, He will bless you immensely. The relationship you develop with this child or children you have taken under your protective wing may not immediately produce fruit, but through persistence, endurance, and a sacrificial love, this relationship has the capacity to blossom into one of the most sacred, beautiful, fulfilling bonds of your life. Why miss out on that prize, just because of a little hard work in the beginning?

Blending two families is not easy, but it is absolutely possible. The recipe calls for communication, showing vulnerability, learning from mistakes, possibly stepping back and allowing the biological parents to handle and fine-tune the more daily dregs of parenting, especially with teenagers and older children.

I can assure you, if done with love, grace, and a healthy level of willingness to adapt, a stepfather can truly provide unprecedented support and create an unbreakable bond with a child that can last a lifetime. What a wonderful opportunity and a rare precious gift! The best things in life do not come easy, but an adult relationship with a bonus child can be one of life’s greatest treasures.Your reward for the hard work and faithful persistence will no doubt be worth it, and your children, whether biological, step, bonus, adopted, blended, foster, or whatever the situation may be, those blessed miracles straight from the hands of the Lord, they are watching. They are learning. And they will be shaped, for better or worse, by how their parents, both biological and bonus, maneuver these inevitable seasons of struggle every family will face.

About Author

Amannda (Manndi) Maphies works at the UMKC School of Pharmacy, is a mother to two human boys, two furry boys (dog – Atlas and cat – Hamilton), and enjoys freelance writing based on her travels, life adventures, and pretty much anything that stands out in life as ‘story-worthy’. Manndi contributes to several online and written publications, including: Ozarks Farm and Neighbor, Connections Magazine, Moms of Teens and Tweens, Her View from Home, Motherly,Motherwell, Salt + Sparrow, Daily Inspired Life with Karletta Marie, Focus on the Family, The Christian Standard, and has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul Believing in Angels (January 2022). She had her first book published in September 2022, Tales From My Mummy, which can be found in local bookstores (SW Missouri) and Amazon.

Manndi’s greatest passion is being a boy mom to her two sons, William (13, going on 23) and Waylan (still sweet, boyish and recently turned 11). Her sons never fail to provide daily entertainment, which inspires many of her writings. She also loves to write about everything from being a single mom and dating after divorce to finding love later in life, the devastation of miscarriage, the loss of a loved one, and dealing with anxiety and mental health issues (specifically her personal journey with OCD). Her pieces are lovingly filled with inspiration, encouragement, and always a touch of humor.

Live a life worthy of writing about, is her daily motto and she strives to exemplify this daily.

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