My life changed drastically the moment I married my husband. I went from having one boy to five boys! All the cooking, cleaning and laundry that I was used to doing, grew… exponentially! Much like everything else in life, I learned, through what I like to call “baptism by fire”, how to be a stepmom. Some of these lessons were positive experiences and some were negative, but they were lessons nonetheless. In an effort to save blended families emotional turmoil I wanted to share some important points I have learned these past few years.
Here are five crucial things that, I believe, make your “blending” easier.
1. NEVER speak negatively towards the “exes” in front of the children: When Jason and I got married, I told him “I don’t care if your ex is the devil in a small, black dress – you will never speak bad about her in front of the kids”. Spare me your horror stories about what your spouses ex has done because I don’t care. How they act and talk is a reflection on them, not you. You are not doing yourself a favor by talking ill about your spouses ex in front of their children. What you’re doing is creating hostility that will surely backfire on you. It’s your responsibility to teach your children (birth children and step children) how to behave like an adult. Life brings lots of adversity, we ALL know this, and we are accountable for how we handle it. Let’s build our children up by teaching them healthy ways to work through life’s issues. If you have negative things that you need to get off your chest, then you can do one of two things: 1. Take your spouse into a room where the children can’t hear or 2. Call your friend, grab a beer and vent. Whatever your method of relief is, you need to keep it away from the children.
2. Don’t speak about financial matters in front of the kids: Honestly, this point should speak to all family types, blended or not. I remember one time Jason was standing in our kitchen talking to me about bills and our lack of income. I saw the oldest child’s head pop up and his attention honed into our conversation. My nonverbal communication kicked into overdrive. Hand motions, eye motions – anything I could do to get my husbands attention. He stared at me for a moment, I’m fairly certain he thought I was having a stroke, and finally said “what?” I took my husband upstairs and told him what I’m going to tell you. Kids need to be kids. They do not need to stress about financial matters. If you and your spouse are stressing about cash and bills then you need to discuss your affairs in the privacy of your bedroom/office. Your children’s home needs to be their safety nest. Don’t add undo affliction in their life by making your problems their worries. Kids have more than enough to worry about in today’s day and age. Also, for blended families, no snide remarks about “Your father/mother should be paying for this.” (Please see #1).
3. You will have to compromise: This was a tough one for me. I mean helloooo, I’m a perfect parent, why do I have to change anything. When I was raising my son from a previous marriage, I had a staunch meal rule: 1 meat, 1 starch, 1 veggie. My husband and his ex had no such rule when they were married. I advised my husband, then fiancé, that this rule would stay intact when we were married. Meal time was stressful, but tolerable, until the, as I like to call it, Great Green Bean Debacle of 2011. My first time serving green beans to my blended family caused an uproar. There was rioting, pillaging and teargas. Ok, not really, but there were tears and fighting. I went to bed that night feeling defeated. The next day I was crying to a friend about it. She said “Pick your battles wisely. These kids have gone through enough in the past year. Are veggies something you really want them to be stressed about?” I was really motivated by that statement. I have a conviction for children to be healthy; meals, exercise and behavior, so I knew if I wanted to keep my conviction strong I would have to find ways to work around the veggie issue. I admit, it’s still a work in progress, but they have come a long way. The veggies that they do eat I will serve. If I make a veggie they don’t like but are willing to try it – lots of praises. For my husband, his compromise was bedtimes. When he and his ex were married the children got to go to sleep whenever they wanted. I was afraid when we started to enforce this rule, in our newly blended house, that we would receive pushback from the kids. But to my surprise it was a complete non-issue.
4. Your feelings will change on a daily basis: It’s hard being a step parent. No one said that to me before I married my husband. It wouldn’t have changed my mind but I would’ve been more prepared for my feelings. There are days my step sons make me feel like Iron Man and there are days they make me feel like the village idiot. But that’s true to having kids whether your birthed them or not. The difference when you’re a step parent is you always feel like you have something to prove. The boys love their mom dearly, why wouldn’t they? She’s laid back, does a lot of fun stuff with them and her house rules are drastically different than ours. I am not laid back, can’t afford to do a lot of fun stuff and I run a tight ship. For me, it’s about raising Godly men, not being their friend. This obviously has it’s ups and downs. When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s bad, well, it’s heartbreaking. The eye rolls, sighs and “I can’t wait to go to mom’s house” threaten to break my will every time. When I am upset I will talk to my husband and he always gives me the same advice “You won’t be thanked for it until their adults.” He’s right, I probably won’t be thanked for anything I do until their older, but that doesn’t make it easier. But then there are the days were we have a major break throughs; the oldest will finally have a real conversation with me, one of the kids have a have an epiphany about my tooth brushing nagging, the kids will step up and help each other, you get a hug and an I love you when they go to bed without having to ask. Those are the days that make the bad days tolerable.
5. Communicate with your spouse: I don’t know what I would do if Jason weren’t as strong as he is. He is my rock and refuge in this rollercoaster of life. There have been times that I have completely melted down about something the kids said to me. He has always talked me through each incident with patience and love. He has to remind me that I take too much in, I feel too much and I take things personally. Kids will be kids and I have to remember that. The times that were rocky for us was when I was trying to make him parent Adan, my son from my first marriage, a specific way. I wanted him to be touchy feely and affectionate. Jason had to constantly remind me that he isn’t like that with his own kids, why would he do it for my son. His unwavering declaration was “let me bond with Adan in my own way.” It took me a while, and lots of arguments, to realize he was 100% correct. He had to bond with my son in an organic way, not a forced, uncomfortable way. In the beginning, our discussions weren’t always smooth, it took a long time for both of us to learn how to hear what the other person was saying. Not just immediately get defense because we thought they were talking bad about our children. Over time it has become much, much easier.