An Interview with Gayla Grace, Author of "Stepparenting with Grace"
Tell us about your blended family.
Randy and I have been married 23 years (in October). When we married, we each brought 2 children to the marriage. My girls were 3 and 5 and his kids (son and daughter) were 5 and 10. We both had custody of our kids and quickly learned that trying to blend 4 kids from different homes, learn to parent together, and have harmony with one another was not an easy feat! When we settled into stepfamily life, six years later, we had a child together, our son Nathan. Our five children are now 17-33, with only our son Nathan still at home.
In the introduction, you mention your “unique needs” as a young stepmom when discussing why you chose to write this book. Can you elaborate?
Since I was a biological mom when we married, I assumed I would play a similar role to my stepchildren. I was wrong. They had a Mom in their lives and made it clear they didn’t want or need another one. My stepmom role felt confusing and it brought anxiety for me. I didn’t know other stepmoms who I could confide in or ask for help. I was lonely and discouraged much of the time during our early years. I was raised in a traditional family, so I didn’t understand stepfamily life, and found limited resources to help.
In the book, you reference your husband Randy’s insight into why he believes that remarriages with children often don’t work. Will you share with us what Randy shared with you?
After we had been married several years and had weathered some difficult storms, we were talking one day about the high divorce rate in stepfamilies. When I asked Randy’s opinion on why, his answer was simple: “They quit too soon.” It’s not unusual for stepfamily life to be very difficult during the early years. But if we commit to persevere during rocky seasons, find tools through good Christian resources to help, seek a united front as a stepcouple, and trust God to give us answers to our challenges and comfort us during our time of need, we can move through our hard days to happier times.
Too often, we focus on stepparenting challenges. Are there blessings to being a stepmom? Where do you look for them?
There ARE blessings to being a stepmom. In the early years, the blessings could seem small and insignificant. In fact, we might completely miss the blessings if we aren’t looking for them. Laughter at the dinner table, a stepchild asking for advice, an unsolicited hug, or a text in the middle of the day are all blessings of stepfamily life. As the years go by, blessings often become larger. I received a hand-written note of thanks with a nice gift mailed to me on Mother’s Day one year from my young adult stepson. My husband was asked by his stepdaughter to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. It might take several years for stepchildren to recognize and acknowledge our value to them, but as they grow older and more developmentally mature, they often reach out in various ways and let us know how much they appreciate us.
How much of stepfamily struggles are due to unrealistic expectations?
A lot! It’s not unusual to set out on our happily ever after again with white-picket-fence illusions of our new family. We aren’t prepared for the bumpy roads and overwhelming emotions that show up at times. We oftentimes have very good relationships with our stepchildren while we’re dating, but things change when we marry and we’re all living together. As we learn to navigate a new normal with realistic expectations, relationships have a chance to blend.
What has been your greatest joy as a stepmom?
My greatest joy is knowing I contributed positively to the lives of my adult stepchildren, now ages 28 and 33, during their upbringing. I didn’t do it perfectly, but my stepchildren have accepted me anyway, and I’m thankful for our loving, thriving relationships.
How do you see this book being used in the stepfamily community?
As a young stepmom, I longed for a devotional book; more than 20 years later, there are still few Christian resources for stepfamilies. I understand the needs and pray this book helps stepcouples find contentment in thorny circumstances, peace in disharmony, and clarity in confusion, while they move toward a daily pursuit of grace for themselves, as well as those in their stepfamily.