“I can’t get my stepkids to eat healthy foods,” a stepmom shared.
“When they are at their mom’s house they eat fast food and stuff filled with chemicals. We eat a lot of vegetables and everything organic.” She continued. “This is becoming a huge issue. The kids are saying they don’t want to come to our house because of it.”
I understand. My husband was a single-parent for 7 years after his divorce. His 11 and 13 year old sons thought the four food groups consisted of: Pepsi, pizza, hot dogs, and chips. These delicacies were consumed in front of the TV, rarely a fork or spoon in sight.
I grew up in a single parent home where you sat properly at the table and ate what was on your plate or you went hungry. There was no buffet of choices, and you didn’t get a snack later that evening if you didn’t finish your dinner. Therefore, in my mind catering to a child’s every food whim seemed ridiculous.
In the first few years of being a stepmom I foolishly decided that a major part of my role was to teach my stepsons to eat healthy foods. My motives were right. My methods were wrong. I was on a mission to “help them” learn how to properly sit at a table, and eat turkey, peas and mashed potatoes.
Food became a major battle, and a hill to die on, in an unnecessary war. I was the “combat general,” who was right. I wanted to prove I was in control of my own home. Guess how that worked out? Everyone was miserable, including my husband. I was viewed as an overbearing tyrant, who bullied the kids and my spouse, not a loving stepmom. stepfamily
If the stepchild believes that the stepmom is forcing Dad to set boundaries, it’s very likely he/she will resent the stepparent. They view her ans an enforcer and dad as a weakling who buckles under his wife’s demands. Stepkids often view a steparent as an outsider, and this conflict confirms their perspective.
When I finally raised a “white flag of surrender,” everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Our mealtimes moved from one of tension and arguing, to times of discussion and fun. I realized I might be winning the battle, but losing the war. My healthy eating efforts as a stepmom created a wall, not a bridge.
Then God had to help me understand that these innocent young men already had two parents. And I wasn’t one of them. If mom and dad didn’t view food as task to tackle, why was I—the stepmom—turning it into a war?
Over the years and dealing with stepchildren who lived in two homes there would be many times when taking a strong stand as a stepmom was required. Unlike food, many stepparents face issues such as: disrespect, stealing, lying, domestic violence, drug use, self-harm, and abuse. Those things are a “hill to die on” and should not be ignored. The parent must be the one to enforce consequences, because of the natural bond between parent and child. Although stepparents would like that connection and relationship to be the same, it usually isn’t present with a stepparent for a long time.
“I refuse to buy the foods they want, even though the kids say they won’t come to our home anymore,” the stepmom stated. “They will need to comply or not visit us.” stepfamily
“Please understand that you are creating a wall between your husband and his children over the issue of food. Are you certain you want to do that? Because it’s very likely that one day your husband will resent you for losing the relationship with his kids,” I responded.
“This is a big issue for us, and he agrees with me. We refuse to back down,” she added.
“As long as you realize the long term risk involved in making this a hill to die on, the choice is up to you,” I sadly smiled. She nodded.stepfamily
Learning what should or should not be a “hill to die on” is different for each stepfamily. It’s not uncommon for the parent to view matters as insignificant, and the stepparent sees them as crucial. This is because parents see their child through the lens of love, and a stepparent sees them through the lens of responsibility. A neutral third party is often needed to help discern the best steps.
Wisdom is more valuable than gold and crystal.
It cannot be purchased with jewels mounted in fine gold.
Job 28:17 NLT
Copyright © 2016 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved.
By Laura Petherbridge
Wife to Steve
Mom of two stepsons
Grandmother of two
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Founder of Sisterhood of Stepmoms
Author of When ‘I Do’ Becomes ‘I Don’t’, 101 Tips for The Smart Stepmom, and The Smart Stepmom with Ron Deal. Laura’s newest release is Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul.
Check out Laura’s newest book.
Join Lori Wildenberg and Becky Danielson, cofounders of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting, along with single parenting experts, Misty Honnold (The Single Mom KC) and Matt Haviland (A Father’s Walk) for the HeartCORe Single Parent Conference. The event will be held in Kansas City on January 21, 2017.
Click HERE for more information and registration.
A special leader training session is offered on Friday, January 20 for pastors and lay leaders.