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The most defining part of my adult life has been the fact that I married a widower who had 5 children from his first marriage. Being an adoptive second mom is one of the hardest, most refining and best things I have ever experienced. My kids have taught me so much about love and grace and it has made me a better person. In 2009 my husband Doug had to bury his first wife alongside their 5 children ages 9 and under. Eight months later, we met online (randomly). We were engaged a couple of months later, and married in September 2010. When you’re 23 and you become an instant mom of 5 grieving kids it makes pretty much every validation of your entire life. I am blessed so much from it and I’d like to talk about 3 of the best things I’ve learned from being a step/adoptive mom.

  1. It’s not about me – We have grown accustomed our entire lives to looking out for ourselves first and foremost. That’s not all bad – some of that is a natural self-preservation to protect our heart and in some cases our life. However, when you become a mom, and there is another human in the world depending on you for basically every need, you learn really fast that this life is, in fact, not about us, it’s about others. Being a mom of any kind refines “me” out of us in many ways. Not all “me time” is bad, in fact having some “me time” is healthy for any mom, but when you’re a mom it can’t be only about me anymore. And it’s really the most rewarding things ever to have other people dependent on us.
  2. Love is a choice – I always used to think that love was a feeling and that you just feel love for someone because it’s a natural progression of a relationship, and because I have two great parents who shower me with love. With marriage, and with being an adoptive mom, I’ve learned that love is not a feeling, it’s a choice, and that everyday we choose between not loving and loving. It’s really as simple as that. People in the world need what we have to offer. They need our energy, our ideas, our creative thoughts, our compliments and our encouragements, and we have the capacity to give that to them, it’s just a choice whether or not we want to. With my first 5 kids it was really weird not having that automatic natural feeling of love that a mom has when she births a baby. I had to get to know these kids from scratch. I knew nothing about them, I didn’t know them or their story, or their interests, or their quirks, or their personalities. I knew nothing but their names and ages. And I had to choose everyday to be interested; I had to choose to care about their needs. The fact that they need to be seen and heard and valued. And every day it was a choice. Some days I didn’t choose love, some days I chose my own desires and feelings. Some days the fact that I didn’t have that newlywed season made me resentful and I was probably the world’s worst mom on those days. But over the last few years I’ve learned that life is full of unexpected feelings and emotions that are new and we can either embrace them, and choose love, or we can shy away from them.

  3. Let go of your expectations – As a stepparent or adoptive parent it is never as glamorous as social media makes it out to be. It’s exciting and rewarding but it’s not glamorous. It’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of late nights and early mornings, it’s a lot of giving and serving and doing and a lot of sacrificing every single day, 365 days a year and it never stops. It’s always a part of your life. Because of that, we have to have the expectation that the most beautiful adoption photos full of balloons and confetti on Facebook look amazing and glamorous but at the end of the day raising any and all children is a lot of work. If you’re an adoptive or stepparent it’s a lot of emotional work on top of it. Here’s the beauty of it – if you release all of those expectations and you just work every day to have a happy home and to love your children and choose love, you can have one of the most fulfilling and rewarding relationships of your entire lifetime. Expectations are really dangerous for all the relationships in our lives if they aren’t balanced with reality.

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