Friday, January 16, 2015

How Step-Parenting Almost Ruined My Marriage

As if raising kids of your own isn't hard enough, that responsibility is doubly hard as a step-parent.  Step-parents get a bad rap almost from the get-go. 

Jason and I have been married for twelve years, together for thirteen.  He came in with three (actually two at the time with one on the way) and I came in with three.  We've never conceived a child together.  Minus the maid, we were the modern day Brady Bunch.  If Jason and I ever fought about anything, it was almost always about the kids.  And if he and I weren't arguing about it, we were going at it with the other parents involved.  Ugly, I tell ya!  I swore that if he and I ever got divorced, it for sure was going to be because of the blended family breakdown. 

The first day my daughter met Jason she made it perfectly clear she didn't need another father in her life.  One day all six kids would like each other and the next day it was a war of mine versus his.  In all brutal honesty, it took a few years for us to mend the gap and just learn to all get along.  I can't change the past but, knowing what I know now, I would've walked into the relationship a totally different way.

It took a few years of complete chaos but we finally got it right.  His kids are mine and my kids are his.  We all get along and feel as if we are a complete family.
Minus the one on the far right, this bunch of kids belong to us.

I'm no expert (I only play one on TV) but I do have some advice that may help those who are in the throes of a blended family.  I speak from my own experience and from the baby mama drama calls that come in where I work at 911.

1.  Don't go in expecting to be another child's mom or dad.

Kids are usually very protective of their own natural parents.  Bringing someone into the mix throws off that balance.  It's okay to set rules and demand respect, but know that you will probably never take the place of their actual birth parents.

2.  Set rules and boundaries early on.

My husband was very good at setting rules for my kids, but not his own.  I walked on eggshells when his kids misbehaved and rarely disciplined them.  What's good for one kid is good for all the kids.  All rules should be applied to all of them.

3.  Don't favor your children over theirs.

Jason knows that I love my kids more and I know he loves his more.  I birthed my three and raised them with another man before my next chapter in life.  The same for Jason.  With that said, never favor one child over another.  Discipline, rewards, gifts, and praise should be the same across the board for all the kids.

4.  Don't believe everything your child says.

I'm all for listening to what your child says and investigating into it, especially if it's of a serious nature.  But kids can also be manipulators and they know how to play one parent against another.  Don't automatically jump to conclusions without doing some research.

5.  Don't talk smack.

One thing that would make me flip a lid quicker than anything was when my ex would tell my kids how horrible I was.  That wasn't his right to put those allegations into my kids' heads; it was an opinion they could form all on their own.  I told my ex for several years that he could walk up to my best friends or to my work and call me every filthy name in the book, but to never talk that way about me in front of my children.

I don't care if you think a child's natural parent is a waste of space.  NEVER talk bad about a parent (birth or step) in front of the children. 

The same can be said for talking to the kids about the kids.  Don't ridicule or belittle your step-child to your natural child.  It creates huge conflict and makes one think they're better than the other.

6.  Pawns are for chess, not for kids.

I hate when people who are supposed mature adults don't think anything of using their kids as pawn pieces in the game of life.  Kids should never be used as leverage to win a war.

7.  Communicate.

Communicate with your partner, in a calm tone, with what may be bothering you about certain rules or expectations regarding a blended family.  Don't wait until things get so heated that you despise your partner, or even worse, their children.

Being a part of a blended family has been a huge test throughout the years.  Many times I failed.  But, as time passed, we all learned to be cohesive and act as one family unit.  I'm proud to be a parent to six wonderful kids.

Are you in a blended family relationship?  What are your experience or what is your advice for a blended family?


Renee said...

My husband and I have a hard enough time parenting our two children together--I can't imagine how hard it would be to throw more kids and ex-spouses into the mix. Way to hang in there through the crazy and make it work!

Linda Moffitt said...

Wow that would be hard I'm glad You two were able to overcome it and figure it out and In My frends I've seen way too much of the talking smack and I hate it and wish no one would ever do it to eachother

Theresa Mahoney said...

I had many step dads during my childhood. Mom married 5 times. She loved the men, just couldn't stand to be around them often. I think we were lucky that I got along with all of my step siblings. My dad married one other time. It was a rocky start with a stepmom, but in the end, I loved her as much as my own mother. Her daughter is actually my favorite sister, and I have 2 blood sisters. I am glad your family was able to finally find some harmony.

mail4rosey said...

I'm glad you found that peace that made you all one. I love that your blended family is just your family. :)

Nancy Loring said...

I also went through the introducing my son to someone new in his life. The man is now my ex and we have two beautiful daughters together but I always noticed that he favored our daughters over my son and that was one of the reasons we are no longer together. The kids needs always come first.

VickeC said...

believe me I totally understand,it isnt any easier when the kids are grown,,my kids were 18 and 28 when i married my husband,his were 20,22,24 its been 12 yrs now and we love them dearly but still has its moments,,it is hard being a step,,but we have 13 grandchildren that do not know anything about steps,,we are Mamaw and grandpa to them all,,and I adore everyone of them

SAPsMaMa said...

Wow what a big family! Sounds very difficult, it is wonderful you all figured out the best way to live together and grew from it.