From the Mailbag: A Military Stepfamily Faces Their First Deployment


FS has a lot on her plate. She’s a fairly new stepmother and military spouse. In addition to navigating the stepmother waters, her husband will soon deploy. This leaves FS as the sole parent in the household while he’s away. The challenge of simultaneously attempting to meld a family together, deal with her husband’s absence and help the children through the deployment seems overwhelming.

I just recently found Spouse Buzz and I can’t tell you how at home I feel reading the blogs. Thank you for providing this service! I am merely a National Guard wife about to go through her first deployment and I can relate to so many of the blogs already. I was wondering if you are aware of and could point me into the direction of any resources about step families and deployment?

I have two step children that live with us full time. Their mom is in the picture but has given up custody of the children because she has seen how much better the kids are living with us full time. We have been married for 3 years. It has been written that it takes a step family an average of seven years to really blend together, and I believe that! Being a parent has it’s own challenges. I have found that there are days that being a step parent is like a huge mountain that I will never be able to climb successfully. I am constantly trying to adjust my parenting style and trying to puzzle out how I can get my step children to listen, love and to respect me the way that they do their father.

Now, we are facing the fact that their father will be deploying in a couple of months. These aren’t young kids. My step daughter is a teenager and my step son will soon be one. This is such a wonderful age to begin with (yes, I’m being sarcastic) let alone adding the stress of a parent’s deployment and dealing with a step mom on top of it. I feel like I need to find help on how to prepare myself and the kids for this. What should I expect? How do we communicate with them that the little dramas that we may have as a parent & teenager need to stay between us instead of running to daddy on Skype to stress him out about it? I just feel so lost and overwhelmed when I think about missing my husband—but then attempting to be a step mother on top of it? Forget about it!

I have no experience with step-children, but I’m willing to bet some of you do. If so, I’m sure FS could benefit from hearing about your experiences.

About the Author


Andi is married to an active-duty soldier and is the founder and former editor of SpouseBUZZ.

She is the founder of the Annual MilBlog Conference. The MilBlog Conference is the premiere event of the year for military bloggers. President George W. Bush, U.S. Representative Adam Smith, GEN David Petraeus, LTG Mike Oates, LTG William Caldwell, RADM Mark Fox, MG Kevin Bergner, MG David Hogg and The Honorable Pete Geren have addressed previous conferences.

While living in Washington, DC, Andi was the Ambassador to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for Sew Much Comfort, a non-profit organization which makes and delivers, free of charge, special adaptive clothing for wounded service members. Andi has worked with several non-profits to help our wounded heroes and their families. She finds that work to be the most rewarding and meaningful of all.

Andi strives to find humor in the good, bad and ugly of life and is a firm believer that laughter has the ability to cure most ills.

  • Brandi

    Some resources for you:
    The Smart Step-Family by Ron L. Deal
    The Smart Step-mom by Ron L. Deal and Laura Petherbridge
    The Power of the Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian
    Divorce Poison by Richard Warshak
    Joint Custody with a Jerk by Julie Ross

    These have been very helpful resources. Faith and doing the right thing for the children is best.
    Stay active within your military community and have a good friend that will “tell you when your wrong” that you can vent to.
    Don’t try to take the place of the mom, or the dad.
    Tread lightly with the kids hearts and I would recommend getting them some counseling, with the support of your husband and the mom.
    This will give the kids a 3rd party and unbiased person to vent to.
    Just my advice as I’m walking a difficult path also.

  • Lexie

    I would also talk about it all honestly, before he leaves – you him and the kids. What kinds of stuff does he want to hear about and what does he want you to resolve? What do they expect?

    When they go running to him, what are they really seeking? Reassurance, comfort, trying to get out of a punishment? And find out how you can meet those real underlying needs first.

  • Mrs. C Lady

    I am at the end of my husband’s deployment and my 8 yr old step-kid lives us full-time. Bio-mom is actually an active duty service member with very little involvement. She in no way finacially, emotionally or physically assist with my sterp-kid; at her choice, and she only calls on birthdays. It really sucks. because she is active duty and lives in another state, she ducks and dogdes child support court. she hasn’t seen my step-kid in a couple of years. But I must say with all that said, it has brought my step-kid and me closer. I have no problem with my step-kid. We have other children older and younger and raising my step is no different. I understand your dealing with pre-teen and teen and I could only imagine the drama of it, but the key is loving, discipline and consistency. If a child sees that you truely care and that you’re not just trying to play a role, they will come to love and respect you. GOOD LUCK!

  • Carolyn

    As the parent of two adopted children I would sort of look at us as a step family because we are blended. First things first talk to the bio mom. Have her talk to her children and explain that while their father is gone they are to be respectful to you and treat you just like they would her. You might even allow mom some more frequent visits with the kids if she lives close. This would not only continue contact with mom but also give you and them a break.

    Also if there is any way to set up some counseling before hand. First of all to prepare the kids but also to provide a resource to them during the deployment.

    In addition since you are new to this whole parenting thing (I”m reading into it a little but assume so) you need to look into Love and Logic. It will not only help you but also the children. Offer them lots of choices usually two at a time. Love and Logic also teaches them and you on how to hold a child responsible for their behavior. You can get videos and books at your local library.

  • theresa

    I have done deploment a lot the one before email just letter now there computer. say in tune with you husband marriage is work send his favorite thing in boxes and something imate from you so he close even through you going to be far away. take each day as ii were your first,