Meet Barbara Langley Patterson
Author, Speaker, and Pastor
Stepchildren: Sherie Stephens – 39; Kandi Patterson – 37
Children: Sterling Langley, III – 41; Shawn Langley – 39; Aaron Langley – 38; Tonya Langley – 34
What is your story? How did you become a stepmom?
I was married to a wonderful man, Sterling Russell Langley, for 27 years. Throughout our marriage, he battled constantly with health issues directly related to his diabetes. He believed in taking care of his family, working to provide for his family, and he was a man of God, a pastor. His one downfall was not taking care of himself and not doing everything he could to live. As he failed to follow doctor’s instructions, take his medicine, eat properly, and lose the necessary weight, it ultimately led to him leaving us on March 22, 2001 at the age of 48. Although he had a history of illnesses throughout our marriage, we never expected him to die and leave us so soon.
After the death of my husband, it was very difficult for my children and me. We just didn’t see it coming. Many things transpired for the next few years as I adjusted to being alone, but during that time I met Jimmy Patterson. It is very rare, but I have been blessed with two wonderful men in my lifetime. I never expected to remarry, but I know now that he was sent by God just for me. The relationship progressed and eventually we got married.
With my four children and his two we became a family of six. At the time we married, we knew nothing of stepfamilies, we didn’t even know the terminology, but it didn’t take long to realize there was more to this union than just the two of us. The journey has not been easy, but we have been married for 13 years and life is wonderful.
How has your relationship with your stepchildren changed over the years?
The development of our relationship has been and is a very slow process. My husband was by himself for seven years before we were married. I think daughters are naturally protective of their fathers and when their mother died, it became their responsibility to make sure their dad was happy. Although there is enough love to go around, I feel they saw me as an intruder or an outsider. As far as our relationship changing over the years, yes, it has changed and I feel for the better. We are a work in progress.
What is the best thing about being a stepmom?
The transition from a nuclear family to a stepfamily has its own dynamics. The best thing about being a stepmom, I think, is having an opportunity to share new ideas, values, and traditions that come with two different families coming together as one. A nuclear family can flow as a unit from the beginning as a family, whereas a stepfamily has to recover from leaving one family to discover another family that is usually very different from what they are used to. Ultimately, making that transition and helping others through the transition has been a rewarding experience.
Can you share a special time that you had with your stepchildren?
A very special time was in 2016 when I had back surgery. Both Sherie and Kandi took the time to help their father, who was definitely overwhelmed. They helped with cleaning, grocery shopping, and shopping for house dresses so I could be comfortable and presentable (wearing a back brace) when friends and family came by to visit. It was a very special, rewarding, and fulfilling experience.
What is the hardest thing about being a stepmom? What has helped you get through the difficult times?
The hardest thing about being a stepmom is initially not being able to connect. I allowed my motherly instinct to kick in too soon once we were married. I wanted to be there for my stepchildren when they were in need of that help or support them with the loss of their mother. There are times when I know they are hurting and I’m not able to help them through those times.
I have gotten through those difficult times because of my faith in God and God’s never failing strength. I have also been blessed with my husband whose support and understanding has been a continuous source of support.
What advice do you have for women who become stepmoms to adult children?
- Do everything you can before you get married to build a relationship with the children.
- Don’t try to be the parent they have lost or been separated from. You will never replace them.
- Respect the children’s need to keep that parent in the forefront in everything they do.
- Don’t try to force new ideas and new traditions. Just take it one day at a time.
- Show them love in spite of treatment or actions that might offend you.
You’ve also written a book. Can you tell us a little bit about your book? What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
The title of my book is “Life, Love, & Loss.” I felt led to write this book because of the loss of my first husband. He died at the age of 48, a very premature death. He was diagnosed as a diabetic not long after we were married. Of course, changes in his lifestyle were necessary, but they were very difficult for him.
My book was written to emphasize the importance of knowing your family health history. Once you know that history, take preventive measures to live a healthy and productive life. The book also emphasizes the importance of men or women, the head of the household, to know that it’s not just about them, but it’s also about those who love and need them in their lives. The choices they make not only affect them, but their family, their loved ones, and everyone in their lives as well.