What aspect of being in a blended family has surprised you?
The aspect that surprised me the most about being in a blended family was how difficult it was for me to find my way as a Step Mom. My daughter had a Step Mom of her own for four years before I married my Hubby.
I thought I knew exactly how to be the "PERFECT" Step Mom. Turns out I wasn't what either of the two Mom's of my Step Kids had in mind.
Overnight I went from the Mother of one to the Mother of six. For the kids the lived in our home there wasn't a difference in how I raised my own child and the ones I inherited - yet there was a huge difference in the scrutiny and boundaries I faced as a Step Mom.
Over time, I've figured out the Mom role that best suits me, my relationship with Hubby, my kids and ultimately my family.
I've been surprised that I can just relax, be me and things will work out just fine. I don't have all the answers and I don't need to. Being a childless stepmom, I always felt that I had to prove to everyone that I could do this. I had to be a part of everything going on in my house, have everything figured out and be all things to all people. I just got exhausted. I love my life and I love my family. I will always be there for them. I felt so much more relaxed and happy when I just let go.
Studies show that only 18 percent of re-married parents who have all of their children after the remarriage are happy; the rest see family life as mildly stressful to miserable. One reason is that within our society, there are no cultural scripts, no set of socially prescribed and understood guidelines for relating to each other or for defining responsibilities and obligations in these families. Although our society tends to broadly apply to second marriages the rules and assumptions of first marriages, these rules often ignore the complexities of stepfamilies.
I am also now aware that the term “blended family,” currently popular and often used interchangeably with stepfamily, can also be confusing; you do not blend in the sense of losing the character and identity of your original family. Nor are families reconstituted or put back together. However, there is a difference between step- and blended-families in that in stepfamilies the child(ren) is of one co-parent; in a blended family, there are children from both co-parents. For the purpose of this book, both will be referred to as step, yet apply to both.
In blended and stepfamilies, although one biological parent lives elsewhere; virtually all family members have recently experienced a primary relationship loss; the children are members of more than one household; and one adult—the stepparent—is not legally related to the stepchild unless legally adopted. For children, the transition from one family structure to another, and another, creates a long period of upheaval and stress. Generally, children are forced to adjust first to a new single-parent household before adjusting again to the new two-parent stepfamily—two difficult transitions. And, more likely than not, a very tight, emotional bond developed in that single-parent household.
Children can also find it difficult to bond with their new stepfamily because there is a biological parent outside the new family unit. Remember, most of these children hold membership in two households, with two sets of rules. Additionally, role models for stepparents are poorly defined and blended/stepfamilies come together from diverse backgrounds, which means everybody needs to have (or develop) the ability to tolerate differences.
Relationships in blended/stepfamilies are new, untested, and not a given as they are in traditional families. Even when everyone is in tune, what is missing is the comfort of knowing that there is a bond taken for granted, a biological bond of caring and love. Now, outward signals and signs are continuously needed to show that caring and loving, or respect, really exist. Children in blended/stepfamilies also have at least one extra set of grandparents and extended family which can leave everyone on both sides confused about what to do.
The amount of laundry that I now do, and how quickly it accumulates!
Almost everything about being a blended family has surprised me. I didn't expect to have six children growing up, and if my 28 year old self knew I would, it would die of shock. I didn't realize how organized I could be and how well I related to children until I had this mish-mash blended bunch. I am constantly shocked at how well I can handle it all--how in control and together I can keep everything--and I'm constantly shocked at how badly I can loose it in times of stress. I'm surprised at how hard it has all been. Of course, I expected it to be hard. But just like anything that is hard but worth it, you could never have prepared me for just how hard it would be. Nor could you have prepared me for how WORTH it it can be! Just like child birth, it is the hardest thing I have ever done. But it is also the most amazing thing I have ever done and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I am most surprised with just how much we have bonded as a family, how much all these children fill my heart.
It'll be going along real good with step daughter of 21 years & then I'll get lashed out at for no apparent reason... She brings up little ways she thinks I neglected or disciplined . We have learned of her diagnosis of bi- polar & ADHD & her being on psych drugs in recent years. I as a nurse with mental health background know this contributes to her ways of treating me now that she's adult. It's hard to go thru this with her but I will always love her very much even if she murders me, & I know her dad loves us both too. The Bible says love will conquer all & if we have not love we are as sounding brass or tinkling symbol. I trust that 'All things will work to the good if those that Love the Lord' Romans 8:28
That while marriages begin 'in love' and 'confident' that the 'very common' challenges that arise often create renewed hurts, wounds, doubts and struggles that can lead to a Mom to question the situation.
I married a Good Man. Hard working. Handsome. Creative. Romantic. Intelligent. YET...YET...he has flaws like everyman.
When I became a stepmom 22 years ago, I never realized just how difficult it was going to be. I had little resources available to me back then. Internet wasn't what it is today. And yet, when I listen to today's stepmoms share their stories, they all had the same concerns I did back then. I kept wondering what was typical or normal as a stepfamily and what wasn't. Are my feelings of insecurity and of being an outsider just in my head or are other women (and men) going through the same thing I am? I was very surprised at how complicated and a lot more challenging it was being a stepmom than being a single parent. I also realized that I needed to find support and guidance, something that was not easy to find.
Effectually, I discovered that I wasn't alone and the power of sharing with others what I was going through could bring clarity and power in being a better parent, not only to my son but also to my two stepdaughters.
Scarlet: I was raised in a blended family setting and it was nothing like what Marissa and I have. The most surprising aspect for me is how well Marissa and I got along from the beginning. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all roses, but at the same time it didn't take us years or even a year to start getting alon to where we would communicate all the time and then we started doingday trips together and blogging. :)
Marissa: For me, I think the biggest surprise has been that I was accepted so openly and quickly by Scarlet. You hear all these storiesof the arguing, the tension, the lack of communication...for me, I almost expected a war. In truth I geared up for it - I was wound up s tight in the beginning that any little thing set me off. But then I started to realize that it didn't HAVE to be that way and I loosened up, and I realized that Scarlet didn't resent me, and that she accepted me into the step-mom role. I was honestly very surprised ho mich better things were than I expected, and that it has continued to be a relationship between us where we CAN talk, share stories, laugh, and blog all about i.
So many things!!
I came in as a step mom, so probably the most significant surprise was how much contact and involvement I would have with my husband's ex. I truly thought I would get to be like a "really cool aunt" who is there for advice and fun times, but doesn't really need to parent much. I thought my husband would be the one who deals with her and I would just be there for moral support. That didn't work for us. In fact, it was leading us down the road of a divorce!
We shifted gears and started making it a group effort. This sounds simpler that it really was, but over time, things got so much better and 13 years later, my marriage is strong, I am an empowered and equal parent, my kids are awesome and I even have a good relationship with my "wife-in-law" (My husband's ex:-)!
You can love more than you think.
When you have your 'own' children, and then you have your partner's children, you worry that you can't love them, as much as they need.
You can, it takes time.
What surprised me about my current "blended family" is how profoundly a biological mother's attitude/temperament/personality/etc determines the kids' attitude toward their stepmother. I was a stepmother right off the bat in my first marriage and, though I had difficulty getting along with their mother, I never had a problem getting along with my stepkids. I took it for granted at the time, so it was quite surprising to find in my second marriage what a HUGE difference it makes if the kids' mother is insecure. The single greatest predictor of the kids' adjustment to blended family life seems to be the primary custodial parent's attitude. My son has a stepmother, but since I am secure in my attachment with him, he is able to establish a relationship with her without feeling loyalty conflicts and guilt. Maybe I'm able to be that way precisely because I know what it's like to be on the other side, but I wish more biological mothers would choose to be supportive of their kids' relationships with their stepmoms. It baffles me that a mother would intentionally try to create a hostile environment in her children's other home by continually criticizing and micromanaging.
It surprised me to realize how much harder it is to be a stepparent than a biological parent. When I married my second husband, I had two daughters already and loved being a Mom. But I was surprised to find out how difficult the role of stepmom was and the degree of emotional impact stepparenting had on me.
I've been surprised and truly blessed by the way we've all clicked together. We've been in a privileged position in that everyone in the new family wants to make it work. The kids accepted me very quickly, I didn't feel like I needed to win their love at all, in fact they were desperate for hugs and kisses, time to chat and have a laugh together. It's been so rewarding to see two young lives blossom and hear almost every week, "This is the best day EVER!" in response to just the simple things in life.
I was surprised by how much harder it was than being a single mother and how much I missed, even longed for, being a single mom again with just my two girls. When I married a man with three children it was a lot more work than I bargained for. There was a lot of negotiation, consensus building and conflict resolution involved that I didn’t have to deal with before as a single parent with just two children who got along with each other.
When I moved in with my husband, I was surprised by how awkward my new life felt. It took a good 5 or 6 years before I started to feel like I'd become part of a family, instead of a wife plus a nanny for two kids who didn't want me around.
The depth of the love that I feel for my children was the most surprising gift. I knew that I loved my stepchildren when I married my husband. The surprise is that the love is no different than the love I have for my bio child. Many of us stepmoms get asked, “You don’t love your stepchildren the same as your bio child? It’s not the same, right?” The surprise is that it is the same.
Any mom knows the feeling. It is that love that is unconditional. It is that knowing that you would not hesitate to step in front of a moving car or chop off a limb for them. I learned that mothering has nothing to do with the biological connection.
I think the aspect of being in a blended family that has surprised me most is just how easily it can work! I grew up in a blended family that wasn't always cohesive so I never really experienced a blended family that worked. When I married my husband I came into the relationship with two children from previous relationships and he came in with two children of his own and though it wasn't easy, but we made it work!
When I gave birth to our son and then a little over a year later our daughter, my husband and I seen a transformation in our children and their relationships with one another, it was like the births of the babies bonded them all because together! We truly have a modern day "Yours, Mine and Ours" going on, it woks for us and I wouldn't trade it for the world!
For me, the most surprising part of being in a blended family is how well the children adapted. I really thought we would have had more difficulty. Not to say we haven't had bumps in the road, but I guess I prepared for the worse.
That said, we have no teens. Maybe it will change then.
I've been pleasantly surprised that my stepkids have accepted me; and look to me as someone they respect. There are numerous horror stories about stepmoms and their stepkids that don't get along; I'm happy to say my family isn't like that.
I've been a stepchild myself since I was 13. I was surprised to realize how much my own stepfather had done for me when I was younger; he's been a great source of inspiration for me and is my step-parenting role model.
I think the issue that has surprised me how the mother of my step-daughter has been able to control our family and try to hold us in "bondage" with her alienation of my step-daughter.
Which aspect hasn't?? No one could have prepared me for the challenges I would face as a stepmom. But the biggest surprise came from my husband's ex-wife. Seeing as they had been separated for 6 years before I came into the picture, I assumed there would be no problems in that department. After all, I thought she'd be happy to have a responsible, level-headed woman watching after her kids 50% of the time. I soon realized *she* was going to be my toughest challenge, not the kids. And then after a while I realized that her problems with me weren't about me at all. I believe she'd react this way to any woman who married her ex-husband. Realizing this gave me the strength I needed to let go of any expectation of having a healthy relationship with her.
Even when you're doing everything right, someone will tell you you're wrong. That person will likely be a child.
I've been part of a blended family for nearly 40 years. I grew up in a stepfamily and was raised by my stepmom (who legally became my mom when she adopted me and my brothers back in 1975) and I am a stepmom. I think the biggest surprise for me was that being a stepkid did NOT prepare me to be a stepmom. Although, being a stepkid did help me keep me two steps ahead of my youngest stepson.
I knew it would be hard having a blended family, and I always dreamed that the kids would bond and get along. I had NO IDEA how hard it would really be. It is REALLY REALLY HARD. Much harder than I could have ever imagined.
And, I had NO IDEA how much the kids would grow to truly love one another. They are so, so close now. Our children are family to one another now. Family.
And, despite how hard it is, I wouldn't give it up for anything.