FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Mother’s Day for Stepmoms: Ron Deal, Gayla Grace and Summer Butler

with Jim Ramos, Ron Deal | May 30, 2024
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Mother's Day can be rough for stepmoms. Maybe you feel left out, unloved, and unappreciated. Ron Deal, Gayla Grace and Summer Butler discuss how tough times, like the stepmom Mother's Day dilemma, can build strength. They offer advice on how to reclaim identity and make Mother's Day a little less miserable.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Mother’s Day can be tough for stepmoms—feeling left out and unloved. Ron Deal, Gayla Grace and Summer Butler offer advice to make it less miserable.

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Mother’s Day for Stepmoms: Ron Deal, Gayla Grace and Summer Butler

With Jim Ramos, Ron Deal
May 30, 2024
| Download Transcript PDF

Dave: Okay, before we get started today, I've got a question for you—not you, Ann; our listener. [Laughter] Where are you listening from?

Ann: And you know that we're from Detroit.

Dave: Motor City.

Ann: Shelby is in the Philly area, and our FamilyLife Today headquarters are in Orlando.

Dave: So, we're coming to you guys from all over the country, but what about you? We would love to know if you are in one of those areas or where else you consider home.

Ann: Text “FLT” plus where you're listening from to 80542 to let us know. So, again, you're going to text “FLT” plus where you're listening from to 80542.

Summer: I felt God really tug at me and say “Pull off the road. I need you to pull off the road.” I pulled over, and He said, “I want you to write this down.” He said, “You are not raising these children so they grow up and call you their mother. You are raising these children so they grow up and call Me their Father.”

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Ann: This is FamilyLife



Ann: If you wrote a letter to your stepmom, what would you thank her for? And maybe this: is there anything you would apologize for?

Dave: I would say, “Thanks for loving my dad well and loving me well.” She really did. She loved my dad. I was in middle school when it happened, so I wasn't understanding how important it was, but I do remember her taking me in like her own son. And so, I would thank her for that.

Ann: Any regrets?

Dave: I would apologize for not staying in touch after my dad died. Why are you asking me that?

Ann: Well, here's the truth: we can't let this month of May go by without speaking to and acknowledging all the stepmoms who are loving, serving, and caring for children throughout our entire world, really.

Dave: Yes, I mean, something that I don't think a lot of us realize is, Mother's Day is a difficult day for stepmoms. I mean, it's a difficult day for a lot of people, but it's hard for stepmoms because often they have the responsibilities of being a mom—absolutely— yet they get very little acknowledgement on Mother's Day. I know all the Mother's Days I did as a pastor, I don't think I stopped and recognized stepmoms.

Ann: You totally did.

Dave: I did?

Ann: Yes.

Dave: That's good to remember.

Ann: Because I remember, I thought, “Oh, good for him.”

Dave: Yes, well, here's the thing. A lot of people don't know this, but there is a Stepmother’s Day, which was the week after Mother's Day this year. It was May 19th.

Ann: And we want to join that celebration and really honor the stepmoms by sharing a portion of the FamilyLife Blended podcast with Ron Deal. And if you're not a part of a blended family, please keep listening anyway, because there's bound to be someone in your life who would benefit from what is shared here.

Dave: And in case you didn't know (because I think the whole world knows this), Ron is the director of FamilyLife Blended, which is a division of FamilyLife® that focuses on blended family ministry. And today, we're going to hear a portion of his conversation with author and speaker Gayla Grace, who's on the FamilyLife Blended staff, and also Summer Butler. Summer is a speaker and a Bible study leader and authored the book Blended: Aligning the Hierarchy of Heart and Home.

Ann: And if you want to hear the entire conversation, listen to Episode 81 of the FamilyLife Blended podcast. And here's how that conversation started:

[Recorded Message]

Ron: We know around here at FamilyLife Blended, we've heard for years, about what a difficult day Mother's Day is for a lot of people. Actually, it runs the gamut, the feedback that we get from people. Some love it, some hate it, some experience everything in between; and some people over time experience everything in between. I'm just curious. I'd like to hear from both of you. What has your Mother's Day experience been like so far? Gayla, why don't you go first?

Gayla: I would say in my early years, when my expectations were in places that they shouldn't have been, my Mother's Day was hard. I think over time, as a stepmom, I could begin to adjust my expectations and just be thankful if my stepkids chose to honor me in any way, but to honestly know that they need to honor their biological mom.

It's very natural that they want to and that needs to take precedence over me as a stepmom. And because I do have biological kids, then I can be honored for my biological kids, and that is a blessing, obviously. I do feel like, though, as stepmoms, we need to be careful about our expectations.

Ron: Okay.

Gayla: And I even would say, if you're a stepmom, and you don't have kids of your own, that you might have to have a conversation with your husband and just say, “Please know that I know your kids may not honor me in any way, but I think it's important if you would because of my role that I play with your kids.”

Ron: Summer, let me turn to you. What has your Mother's Day experience been like?

Summer: I don't think you know what you don't know, right? When you experience that first Mother's Day as a stepmom. If your expectations are misaligned, it is disappointing, for sure. Our dynamic is, I’m a full-time stay at home stepmomma. So, for me, and we'll get into this too, but doing a lot of the grunt work, in my opinion, my expectation was I should deserve a lot of the reward after that, and Mother's Day was a day set aside in my mind for that. Well, I will give my husband a lot of props. He always made that day also special for me and the kids, but always also say, “Happy Mother's Day,” to me.

I think when my expectations were not aligned correctly, it became a day for self-pity and self-righteousness, in a lot of ways. I agree with you Gayla. It's a special day for moms, and that's not our role in their lives; but that takes some refining, for sure.

Ron: Yes.

Summer: Whenever I was walking through hard times, you know, with Mother's Day specifically, I think when I look at my heart position, it was that I was basing my worth in my work.

For all the stepmommas out there that still do that—and I do, too; I'm human, right? And so, I just have to check myself often. But when I started to realize my worth is found in Christ and outside of that title, I started to disengage from making these holidays matter more than I think they do. I don't know that it matters so much, as much as we put pressure on them.

I think give yourself grace. Obviously, what you're feeling is normal. That spiral, that mental spiral is normal. But know in your heart of hearts that your worth is not found in your work; it's not found in your title; it's not found in one day of appreciation. Your worth is found in Christ and Christ alone.

Ron: Summer, you had a “come to Jesus” moment, it sounds like. You write about it in your book, Blended. You had a moment on the North Dallas Tollway where God gave you a perspective about your role as a stepmom. Tell us the story, and what did you learn?

Summer: When Andy and I met, he had both the boys full-time, and they were pretty young, six and eight. We were pretty far along in our journey at this point, and just had not been doing things right. And I say we, but I'm going to take my responsibility in that, in that I really had veered off the path of good intentions; but this all kind of was boiling.

I was getting our oldest ready for winter formal, which is a pretty big deal down here. I'm sure it's a big deal everywhere, but I'm kind of an organizer, a planner. I like things in order, and all of the plans were ready for the weekend. I felt like everything was in place. I was driving down the tollway, and it just kind of hit me, as I was putting the plans in order: the dance didn't fall on our weekend. And so, I had gotten this jolt of, really, anger and resentment, that I had done all this work and: “Here we go again. I don't get the reward in this.”

At that moment, it was really all about me and what I would get out of my good works. I felt God really tug at me and say, “Pull off the road.” I pulled over, and He said “I want you to write this down. You are not raising these children so they grow up and call you their mother. You are raising these children so they grow up and call Me their Father.”

I had to sit with that, to be completely honest, for a few years, because in the moment, I (my spiritually haughty self) didn't think I had been working all this time to be their mother. That was not an intention of my heart. I'd never—they don't call me mom. I'd always been very clear that that was not any—that I didn't have the intention of coming in and taking over that role. So, I wrestled with God through that statement. And really, most recently, what He has shown me, even between the writing of the book and now: all along, I really hadn't been chasing that title of Mom. I had been chasing the title of God in their life.

Kind of over the process of that refining process, and Him showing me what I was doing wrong, and how I needed to do things differently, I graciously stepped off that pedestal that I had created for myself, and I gave that highest seat back to God. One of the Scriptures He gave me is 1 Peter 5:2-4, and it talks about [how] we are to shepherd the flock that is placed under our care, not because we must, but because we are eager to serve Him, right? And eager to serve those that He places under our care.

They're actually His sheep, you know? And we are to shepherd them back to Him, not necessarily to us.


Ann: You're listening to FamilyLife Today, and we're listening to a portion of the FamilyLife Blended podcast with Ron Deal and guests Gayla Grace and Summer Butler.

Dave: I mean, families of every structure need support, blended families included, which is why our FamilyLife Blended ministry has so many resources for couples. You're going to want to check these out, and you can get the link in the show notes at

Ann: Let's pick up the conversation talking about shepherding our children toward God and not us.

[Recorded Message]

Ron: The other thing that I think is probably practical is this “shepherding your stepchildren” thing. Let's unpack that for a minute. [In] John 10:14, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd. You feel like you've been given a flock, Summer. That's the way you you've started thinking about it. And what a paradigm shift, to go from, “I need to be their mom. I need to be central in their life.” to “Wait a minute, wait a minute. I'm a shepherd. They're my flock.” So, what does that look like in everyday practical moments? I'd love to hear from both of you about that.

Gayla: Well, one thing I would touch on that Summer mentioned earlier [is], when you notice that you're feeling resentful about what you're doing, that's when you need to take a step back and consider, “Am I doing too much, though? Am I stepping into a space that isn't the space I need to be in?” Because if we sit in resentment, then it moves to bitterness. So, we’ve got to pull back and consider, “Why do I feel resentful about what I'm doing?” And that's a big issue in my opinion, for stepparents to always consider: “Where am I at? Why? Where's this resentment coming from?”

Summer: To your question about shepherding, I think what really gets me is, toward the end of 1 Peter 5:2-4; at the end, it says that we work for “a crown that will never fade,” and that we will get that when we meet our Chief Shepherd. In the book, I write kind of about aligning your heart. And we do have to, just like you said, Ron, realize that we are first His sheep; and if we are so spiritually haughty or so high on that platform, like I was, I don't recognize that I need to work on self with Him first, and to align my heart and say, “Look, I am Your sheep. I am here to do Your work.”

And then, I can recognize that these children that have been placed under my care are for me to shepherd, and not for me to grab their hand and want to hold on to that forever, but for me to take them by the hand and place it in His, because that's my job and that's my role. And that takes intentional parenting, for sure; not to want to lord over them, but to hand them off and say, “God, how would You have me handle this situation? It's a tough one. I don't know how,” you know? And sit in that, and then intentionally parent instead of react, I think, to situations.

Ron: Let me react for some of our listeners right now. If you do feel some appreciation from your stepchildren for all that you're doing for them, or from your husband for what you're doing, if you do feel some measure of respect, and there's an occasional reward, a thank you, gratitude, that sort of thing, wow! That goes a long way. That really helps you keep going.

Summer: Absolutely.

Ron: It's in the absence of that—I'm thinking of the childless stepmom who's listening right now, who feels totally unappreciated, totally left out. I'm thinking of the stepmom who wants so badly to make a difference in the lives of her stepchildren. She sees some gaps. She really has something good to offer. Her intentions are great. She loves them so much; but for whatever reason, you know, the family system just sort of sabotages her efforts, and she's forced to live with the status quo, and it's really frustrating. “And you want me to think about the Chief Shepherd finally giving me my reward?” That's so far out there, somewhere. You just imagine somebody saying, “Yes, but what do I do today?” How does someone sustain themselves in a tough situation?

Gayla: You hang on to the little stuff, because oftentimes, there are small rewards. I think my stepson was in high school, and where we were living at the time, we were under a tornado warning. It was in the middle of the day. He knows I don't watch TV in the day. I probably didn't have the radio or anything on. He texted me from his high school to say, “Gayla, take shelter. We're under a tornado warning.”

That was huge to me. That's like, he cares enough about me that he texted me to say, “Are you paying attention to the news, because you might be in danger?” Those are little rewards. Maybe you take that for granted when you have to step up and say, and when he came in that day, I remember I gave him a hug. I said, “Thank you for thinking enough of me that you sent me a text in the middle of the day. And that helped me know you cared.” You have to hang on to those things as a stepmom.

My husband, I remember him telling me, he kept a voicemail that one of my girls sent him, his stepdaughter, at some point. He kept that voicemail for a long time, and he would listen to it at times when he was so angry at her. [Laughter] And he said, “That just helped me, in my stepdad role, to know, “I'm doing okay some days!” It may not seem like it all the time.”

Ron: That's good.

Summer: Yes. In the middle of the moments, we tend to feel like it's the only moment that ever will be, right?

Gayla: Right!

Summer: And we have this unrealistic perception that nothing's ever going to change. To be completely honest, I know I have a lot of kind of in-your-face techniques with this, and maybe it's just because it's how God deals with me, but you know, if nothing changes, nothing changes. And so, if you're in the middle of these moments, and you just feel like nothing's ever going to change, you can.

So, my encouragement is to keep showing up with Christ, and that's where I had to go, because I've been in the moments. I've been in in the middle of some really tough times, where I didn't know if our marriage was going to make it. I didn't know if I could keep doing this. I didn't know if tomorrow was going to matter. I could see me walking away. You know, I went there.

But like I said before, if you can disengage from the moment, and if you can take that and show up with Christ and align your heart there, you will start to see little changes happen. Because if one person in a relationship changes, the relationship has to change, and I think you [don’t] experience that until you experience it, right?

I think my experience has been, in the middle of those heated moments, or the moment where you feel so overwhelmed or so bogged down with, “Can I keep doing this? This is so defeating,” it is. You're right. Acknowledge that, but then, realize: “This is just one moment to a lifetime of opportunities that I'm going to have.” If you keep showing up with a heart eager to serve, it will start to shift.


Ann: What a great perspective. We've been listening to a portion of the FamilyLife Blended podcast with Summer Butler and Gayla Grace. And Ron Deal, the host of that podcast, joins us in the studio. Ron, welcome.

Dave: Welcome, Ron.

Ron: Hey, guys. Always good to be with you.

Dave: What are your thoughts? What hit you about that interview?

Ron: Well, you know, Summer was telling the story in the first half of the conversation about driving down the highway, and the Lord speaking to her to the point that she had to pull over to really sort of absorb the message of, “Hey, this is not about you. You're not trying to point these kids to you.” Yes, you want to bond; yes, you want to build a relationship with them; but, ultimately, you're trying to show them God and point them in that direction.

Ann: That's true for every parent.

Dave: Yes.

Ron: Every one of us, that's ultimately what we're trying to do; to work ourselves out of a job is what Nan and I used to say to each other. Not just send them off as in adulthood. That for sure, but really, ultimately, pointing them to the Heavenly Father where their faith and trust for direction in life is not coming from mom and dad anymore. Ultimately, it's coming from God Himself.

Dave: Yes. I know and you know, as Ann just said; I mean, we've all raised kids. It is hard to do that. You want to be honored by your kids, yourself, and it's like taking the spotlight off you. It's like, “It's not about me!” My goal is to make them no longer dependent on me and totally dependent on God; and sometimes that means adversity [and] trials that you’ve got to let them go through, so that they find that the Father's love and power is sufficient, right?

Ron: That's exactly right. Ultimately, that's where we want them to look.

I’ve got to share something else that our audience didn't get to hear. They need to listen to the whole episode to catch this, but Summer made another comment—another driving comment, actually—one I thought was really good. She was talking about the difficulties that we all have in parenting, and what do you focus on? Do you focus on what's not going well, or do you give yourself permission to enjoy what's going right?

Her comment was, you know, that old adage when you're driving a car: “You steer where you stare.” That is, if your eyes are pointed at the double yellow line in the middle of the road, your car will drift in that direction. If you're staring way off to the right, your car will drift. Why? Because your behavior tends to follow what you're looking at.

Same thing in our focus. Do we focus on all the things that aren’t going right, all the things that we wish were different? Or are we focusing on things that are going well in our kids, in our relationship with them? Let's enjoy what we have and work hard to shore up the things that aren't going well, but don't just keep staring at the stuff that's not good.

Ann: Ooh, that's really good for all of us to apply in our lives, but especially in our parenting.

Dave: Yes, and I think it's easy, sometimes, in our parenting to stare at our kids rather than take our eyes vertical and say, “I’ve got to keep my eyes on Jesus.” I mean, obviously, I want to have my eyes on my children, but it's more important that I'm following Him, stopping on the side of the road if it's so strong to say, “I've got to hear what my Father is telling me about being a father to these kids so that they will acknowledge Him as their Father.”

Ron: And you know, one reminder I'll give our listeners who are involved in ministry of any kind. I hope this program has reminded you to stare a little bit at what's going on with families. Mother's Day may be a fabulous day for you, but it's not necessarily for everybody; so, stop and think what it's like to be other people. That's an opportunity for you to step into their world, acknowledge what's happening, and offer a little encouragement and direction.

Dave: Yes, good word. Ron, it's always great to have you on. It's always good stuff. Thanks.

Ron: Thank you.

Shelby: I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Ron Deal, Gayla Grace, and Summer Butler on FamilyLife Today.

You know, if you enjoyed today's conversation, we don't want you to miss the “Women and Blended Families” Livestream that's coming up on June 11th. You can join the conversation with Gayla Grace and her guests for practical tips and encouragement, just for women in blended families. So, if that's you, you don't want to miss this livestream. You can even log on and ask questions live that they will answer while you are engaged on the app. You can watch on FamilyLife Blended Facebook, Instagram, or our YouTube channel. You can go to and see the show notes in order to figure out how to log on on June 11th.

And if the idea of reaching blended families with the gospel is exciting to you, that's exactly the kind of thing that we're all about here at FamilyLife. We're here to reach families of every kind. Marriages and families are what we're about. And this month— we're winding down to the last couple days of the month of May; this month—we are in a very unique situation, because we're a donor-supported ministry, and we rely on situations like the one that we're in right now in order to keep producing valuable programming.

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Now, tomorrow, I'm actually sitting down with Dave and Ann Wilson, and we're going to listen to a few clips from an episode of Real Life Loading, which is the podcast I host for FamilyLife that really aims at young people in their 20s. We're going to talk to Bela Lemon. She's a college student in Northern Virginia, and she's going to talk about, really, how easy it is to be negatively influenced by others on your campus and the importance of giving yourself grace because God already has. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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