Loving the "Un-Loveable" Through Divorce and Custody

Photo by Alena Ozerova

My first experience as a mom was when I became a step-mom!

When I married my husband, I became a step-mother to three children. During that time in our lives, custody was a scary subject. Both sides of the divorce were still living in chaos, trying to pursue healing, and create a new normal. It definitely took a toll on the kids. The greatest heartbreak, in my opinion, was the 2 1/2-year-old that was stuck in the middle. She had no idea what it was like to have both parents living under the same roof and, to her, chaos was a normal part of life.

I used to get so angry when she would come to be with us and cry for her mother. She would cry over anything or nothing at all. She would scream for mommy.

I couldn’t understand.

I took care of her; I brushed her hair, we drew with sidewalk chalk, I helped her get a bath, I held her, I put her to sleep, I did everything a mother would do. I potty train her for goodness sake! I was doing everything I could to fill the role of mom, and she would not have it. Don’t get me wrong, we did enjoy time together, but there was still a huge mommy void that I was unable to fill. I found myself becoming extremely angry towards her mother because I didn’t understand why I couldn’t make the cut. Our parenting styles were vastly different, to put it loosely. Given my intense amount of pride, I thought mine was much better. If I were to be completely honest, I didn’t think her mother deserved her love. From where I stood, the life she experienced while not in our care was downright destructive.

So why would this little girl not want to be with me?

I think the biggest eye-opener was when I had my first child. After two years of completely arranging my life around three children that were not biologically mine, I finally had one that was. One that didn’t cry for anyone else, didn’t have to go back to anyone else, one that I could see 24/7.

For a while after he was born, I was still stuck in my prideful mama mindset. In my opinion, even with an additional child to care for, I still did a better job. But lately parenting my own child has gotten a bit more difficult. I’m not talking teenage attitude yet… No, currently we are going through sleep-training. I have finally had to admit that my baby doesn’t NEED me to get him to sleep for over an hour… he WANTS me to.

Please tell me that somebody else can identify here!

I have gone from an extremely patient always loving mother (dang, those pregnancy hormones did come in handy!!) to being absolutely exhausted and handling some situations in ways I’m embarrassed to admit. And here’s where the revelation lies. Even on the days that he cries for an hour about having to go down for a nap, days when I’m extremely exhausted, and I just have to let him sit and throw a fit for a few minutes so I can regain my strength, he still loves me. He still wants me to be the one to hold him. Even when he begins to cry and I start crying right along with him, he still wants me. Even though I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing – such a huge hit to my pride – he still wants me to be the one to cuddle him. Wow! He has absolutely no idea that I’m struggling, he just knows that I’m his mother.

This was a painful lesson to learn. God has really been telling me that despite what I think of the children’s mom, she’s still their mother and they will always love her. It’s not a love that she needs to earn, it’s a love that is freely given. And moreover, it’s a love that I should encourage. I used to be afraid that if I encouraged them to love those I deemed as unlovable (“I” should be bolded, italicized, and underlined), it would create needy little people destined to lives drawn to abusive relationships and addictions.

That is totally wrong, because of God’s grace, mercy, and amazing plans for them, they have plenty of people in their lives that will show them the love of Christ and guide and direct them to the truth. NEWS FLASH – even those people are imperfect and unlovable at times! So, not encouraging them to love their mother because of how I felt was not protecting them; it was hurting them and hurting her.

I wish I could go back with what I now know to handle situations differently. But let me tell you, any situation that is not handled properly ALWAYS provides an opportunity to teach humility and ask for forgiveness. Consistently pray for the unlovable people in your life and the lives of your children. God is eager to teach you a thing or two.


We Would Like To Hear From You:

How has your opinion of the other parent affected how you view their relationship with your stepchildren? How did this perspective affect your interactions with the other parent or your stepchildren? What can you do better from this point to encourage a better relationship between your stepchildren and the other parent? How has this blog been helpful to you?

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