No one grows up wanting to be a Step-Parent. It’s not usually included in your “forever after” dreams, but it happens now more than ever. And when it happens it can be an extremely rewarding experience but sometimes step-parenting can also be one of the loneliness jobs in the world.
This isn’t a topic that I plan on writing about very often because as I put myself into the shoes of my step-kids, I wouldn’t want to have my step-mother talking about me on her blog periodically or ever. This however is a topic that has affected my life and still does and so I feel the need to share my thoughts to let other step-parents know that they aren’t alone and maybe to give people who are not step-parents, a bit of a look into the lives of families that are blended and what we deal with daily.
Parenting in of itself is an extremely difficult feat to accomplish but when you add in trying to help parent a child or children that are not yours biologically, it becomes a whole new playing field. I am a child of divorce with my parents splitting when I was four and my father remarrying. I have two teenage step-children from my husbands first marriage, and my oldest 3 children’s father is remarried and so they also have a step-parent – confused yet? So I’m not a know it all on the subject but I know a thing or two about step-parents and step-parenting, maybe a little more than I wish I did.
The hardest thing about blended families is all of the complicated moving parts. In order for things to run smoothly, it has to be like a well oiled machine where all of the different moving parts work in unison with no friction or issues. This rarely happens in regular families, never mind blended families. The foundation of the marriage has to be stable and healthy with great lines of communication. This is something that can be accomplished but rarely is the case when the new family merges and that is the most critical time that this needs to be the case. The marriage needs to be strong to endure the daily pressures that the couple will face.
Step-parenting is a two person job where both adults needs to be on the same page about how to parent, what the roles are, how and when to discipline and so many other hugely important topics. If this can’t be accomplished, then as you would guess, chaos usually ensues. Another important dynamic is the relationship between the two biological parents and how the step-parent fits into that situation. If the two biological parents were lucky enough to divorce on good terms and agree on how to co-parent, then things just got a lot easier. But what if the biological parents didn’t divorce on good terms and there are ill feelings towards the step-parent? This changes the rules all together.
These are a few of the “realisms” that I have learned so far about Step-Parents and Step-parenting.
- As the step-mom, you will only ever be as good as the biological mom says you are. This was extremely frustrating for me because for so long, I tried so hard to find a positive spot in my step-kids lives – not their mom, not their friend but something in the middle and no matter what I did, I was no better than the “evil witch”. The children’s mother did not like me and did not want me in their lives and so no matter what I did, I was only ever as good as she told them I was.
- It doesn’t matter how long the biological parents have been apart, you will always be the reason why they aren’t together whether it’s true or not. And in conjunction to this point…
- Your step-children will ALWAYS want their biological parents to get back together and being the person that they think broke them apart, you will always be viewed as the reason why they WON’T get back together. ANOTHER strike against you! This one is a HARD ONE to swallow but on the upside, if you are patient enough, when the kids become adults you can hope that they will be able to step back from the emotions of the situation and they will realize that their parents getting back together is not realistic.
- You will always wait with bated breath for your step-children to show you some kind of unsolicited affection, whether that is a realistic goal or not. And if it actually happens, it will make you feel like all of the hard work and perseverance you’ve put into trying to build a relationship with them, was worth it.
- You may never be able to establish the kind of relationship with your step-kids that you wish you could or that you had with your step-parent or you’ve seen other blended families have. And THAT’S OK! You can’t fix what you didn’t break – so many of the problems that blended families experience are the result of the divorce and no matter how hard you try to transform your new family into the NEW “Cleaver” clan, it can’t and won’t happen. Don’t blame yourself.
I understand that this post may seem to lean quite a bit towards the “negative” side of blended families and step-parenting but I can only write from my own experiences and unfortunately, my experiences haven’t been all that positive. I can only pass onto you what I’ve learned and try to help you to deal with your individual families and situations by impressing upon you what has worked for me and what hasn’t.
There is NO HANDBOOK, so don’t beat yourself up – no one has all the answers. Don’t compare yourself to other blended families, no two are alike. Be patient and try to find the good points about your relationships with step-kids, relationships can grow with time. No matter how frustrated you may get at times, always treat your step-kids with kindness and respect. Try your hardest to develop a united front with your partner and the biological parent (if at all possible) when it comes to parenting/step-parenting, it will help to stabilize that important family foundation. Last but not least, if you are feeling incredibly isolated and alone and don’t feel like you can ask for help from anyone, consider going to talk to a counselor or therapist, it doesn’t mean you are a failure – it means you are HUMAN!
I hope this was able to provide you with a bit of insight and maybe make that long road a little less lonely. I know that it has been therapeutic for me to talk about a topic that I’ve not been able to speak about for some time.