Blended Family Hell on Earth | Learning to Live in the Flames
We are the modern day Brady Bunch. We met and married in 2010 when our children were ages 5, 8, 10, 12, 15 and 18 and we have been riding this rollercoaster called life – or blended family life – ever since. Like many families, we are living a whirlwind life juggling to balance marriage, careers, child raising, homework. Let’s not do it alone. Let’s learn how to walk on hot coals baby.
Y’all I LOVE blogging so much. I’m definitely a writer, a note taker, a journal keeper, etc. When I blogged The Parent Defender the other day, I was having a particularly emotional moment and felt very frustrated about a conversation that is probably fairly common in the blended family arena (and lead me to that dreaded feeling of unfairness about “my kid versus your kid”). In hindsight, I really don’t think Hubster meant that at all so I considered going back to delete the post altogether. But I’m actually glad that I did blog about it because it (1) reflected a feeling and situation that was going on for one brief moment in time, (2) it did lead to a follow up conversation and open communication in my marriage about the topic and we were able to clear the air in a healthy manner, (3) it gives me hope and encouragement to see how I felt that day versus how much better I feel now, and (4) it makes me laugh out loud big time because now anytime Hubs goes to defend a child in any way I quickly joke and say “oh here he comes, the parent defender is getting tagged in”… bahahaha.
For real though, if you can’t laugh and joke with each other about life and all of the roller coaster moments in marriage, you’re going to grow into a really grumpy old person one day haha. You know that one old grumpy neighbor that never smiles or talks to the kids on the block. And who wants to become that person?
Note to self: take this rollercoaster ride one moment at a time, one day at a time, one season at a time, and enjoy the journey as much as possible. It will all be over before you know it.
Someone posted a quote today by Wednesday Martin, Ph.D in StepMom Magazine that said “you’re going to prefer your own kid, period, and that doesn’t make you a bad person, a bad mother, or even a bad stepmother.”
Most of the women talking in support of that statement had stepchildren when they married, but no children of their own. Then when they had their first biological baby they experienced that unbelievable love and mama bear bond that is so strong which nothing else in the world can compare to. It sounds like some women, once they become birth moms, may feel some guilt because they realize they do not feel that same way about their stepkids. Truly truly truly, there is no guilt necessary. It’s ok to “feel” different. It really is. Even in a traditional family with multiple kids you will have different relationships and different bonds and different feelings with each kid.
Women, moms, stepmoms – I think we should work harder to let go of the mom & stepmom guilt, mom bashing and stepmom shaming. So often is seems like women are in continuous battle over “the right way” to parent (bottle feeding versus breastfeeding, vaccines versus anti-vac, how long you should stay home from work after childbirth, home school versus public school versus private school, day care versus home care, etc). Yes, I do have my own opinions and beliefs (I can hear them when I start giving my adult daughter advice) but that doesn’t mean I will be ugly to another mom for doing things differently. There is no “one size fits all” and it really is okay to support one another along this journey without always agreeing with others 100%.
So hugs and support to each and every one of you moms today. Birth moms, stepmoms, adoptive moms, all of you. Let’s give ourselves a break today and not beat ourselves up too much. (Oh yes, I’m preaching to myself too LOL).
Trust me when I say that if you attack my child, I will totally go Mama Bear on you. However, if my kids acts like a fool or do something wrong, I WILL NOT defend them or protect them and will hold them fully accountable for their behavior.
Most people know that my kids are the older kids in our blended family situation. They are actually all adults now. When my Kids AB or C acted inappropriately, I had NO PROBLEM saying “that was not ok, that child is acting like an @$$”. And Hubs would agree with me. Support me. Tell me it’s ok, teen years are hard and I’m going to make it and he’s there 100% to support me.
Fast forward almost a decade later. Hubs’ kids are not so little and cute anymore. They’ve hit that teenage zone. The dreaded zone. The alien has landed and I don’t even know who you are zone. The zone that makes you want to pull your hair out or move to another country at times. You know that zone? But now when I tell Hubs that Kids XY or Z are completely acting like an @$$, here comes Superhero Dad Savior to the rescue and he just HAS to defend them. Almost always. It’s like he just MUST say something such as: well all teens are like that, remember how bad AB or C was that one year, it’s nothing “compared” to the way your kid acted at that age, but they’re really just such good kids (insert defense after excuse after almost approval of their inappropriate behavior along with a look of disapproval WITH ME for calling their kid out to him). Y’all… uh huh. No way. Like … I can’t even. Never in the history of – EVER – have 2 wrongs made a right. Never has it been ok for Kid B to jump off a cliff because Kid A jumped off a cliff. Last summer, one of Hubs’ Kids stole several things from my home. That’s wrong. Unacceptable. Not ok. Had my kid been a little thief, he/she would have been REQUIRED to return the item along with a hand written note of apology. But when stepkid stole from my home, it was “well maybe the child didn’t have everything they needed where they were”. Insert crickets here because theft is NOT ok. EVER. And on top of that, Hubs didn’t even call the child out on it or ask her about it. Why not? Hmmm…
None of this double standard parent defender drama is ok. None of it. All it has done is verify that when it comes to this blended family life, we are NOT a team. We are NOT partners. We are NOT co-parents. There are 2 completely separate teams. Mine and His. Why is it important to acknowledge that? Because until you do, it cannot be fixed. Even then it may not get fixed. Now, that’s not a deal breaker for me this late in the game (we are almost a decade in and only have about 4 years to go. Hallelujah). BUT, for me, it’s definitely a mental check, a serious disappointment and something that – in hindsight – I wouldn’t have gotten myself involved in had I known that’s how it would have turned out. I married for partnership, not to defend myself in my home.
I also write this to say, I KNOW I’m not alone in how I feel and what I observe. I know MANY other stepparents feel this way at least monthly, sometimes weekly and sometimes DAILY!!! I know it’s something that only the strong survive. Marriage is hard. Blended family marriage is even harder. Having grown kids I also know that eventually these kids will be adults, independent, self-sufficient and will not longer hold any power or control in our home and parent defending will no longer be necessary.
Finally, I write because sometimes it’s better and wiser to update you guys than vent at home AND even Hubs agreed that transparency and authenticity are our survival tools which is the purpose of this blog. In fact, sometimes he says “can’t you just go blog about it”. So, here it is!!! And coffee cheers (or wine cheers) to surviving the remainder of this journey.
A friend of mine shared a Bible story with me recently that definitely reminded me of the court and conflict side of Blended Family life (for those who do not or cannot work things out amicably). I personally do not have much faith in the family court system or criminal justice system. But, rather than go back and forth about that, I wanted to jot down this reminder because it really helped me focus on prayer.
Luke 18:1-8 – The Persistent Woman parable: 18 One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. 2 “There was a judge in a certain city,”he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. 3 A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ 4 The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, 5 but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’” 6 Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. 7 Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?8 I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man[a] returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
I have a dear friend whose son was murdered a year ago and the police did not even arrest, detain or perform a toxicology exam on the person who killed her son (though it was a stolen gun and he fled the scene…. yeah ok). But she did NOT give up. On her own she sought justice and the DA filed charges on their own though the police department did nothing. Today is the sentencing. The Lord heard her cry for justice and it is finally being granted.
Whatever your issue (or my issue) is, we must be persistent.
I keep seeing this topic over and over and over. Do you let your stepkids call you Mom? Were you flattered when they asked, etc?
Every blended family is different so my opinion is that only. My own opinion from the view of our own blended family.
Hubs’ youngest child asked me if he could call me Mom when he was in first grade. My response was “you would need to ask your mom if that’s ok with her because that might hurt her feelings. You already have a Mom”. He asked her over the phone. She said no. He cried and cried and was so upset. Then he was fine the next day and got over it completely.
My personal belief is that maybe he was a little jealous of my bio kids at the time. They called me mom. Half of their friends called me mom. I think he felt excluded. But once we talked about it, he did understand WHY I didn’t let him call me mom and that helped.
When I was growing up, I called my stepdad Dad. But I lived with him full time starting at the age of 2 or 3 and I rarely if ever saw my bio Dad. In my mind, my stepdad was my Dad and I really did not know otherwise until I was in school and discovered that I was the only person in my house with a different last name. Oops.
In our situation, my last name is the same as my husband and my stepkids so it’s really my bio kids that feel a bit out of place on occasion (not anymore but when they were young). I had the last name initial of Hubs and I on a wreath on our front door but my bio kids didn’t have that last name initial. That doesn’t make them any less my kids or any less a member of our home. It’s just a name.
Titles are only titles y’all. They do NOT define you. It’s ok to just be you. You don’t HAVE to be called mom. And frankly it shouldn’t hurt your feelings if they don’t. We are individuals. Not the roles (stepparent, wife, employee) that we play.
Also, I don’t see many men struggle with this. I don’t think my husband has ever lost a nights sleep because my kids have always called him by his first name rather than call him Dad. Women tend to be more sensitive, and more easily hurt, but it kills me to see so many women’s feelings hurt over something so minor.
So, have your coffee, go for your workout, enjoy your life and don’t worry about the titles kids assign you. It’s all going to be ok.
I created a stepparent blog and Stepmom small group about 2 years ago after getting so much positive feedback about my stepmom blogs from 5-6 years ago. Firmly believing that I needed to stay a student and be a part of bigger groups, I joined fellow Texan, Emili Wadkins group, The Unapologetic Stepmom. A few months ago she shared her “Unapologetic Mantra” and I shared it with my small group. Y’all, it had feedback for days. So many women found it so helpful and so freeing. So, I’m going to share it here and save it for future reference as needed. Emili said:
“When I started this group, I chose the name for very specific reasons and often get asked about it. I have learned in the last year that where I stand as a stepmom is either met with very strong aversion or very strong agreement. I think I often say what so many stepmoms feel but dare not mutter out loud because of ridiculous societal expectations.
*I unapologetically do not let my family revolve around my stepkids. My husband and I make decisions based on what is best for our whole family.
*I unapologetically do not stop my girls’ lives simply because my stepkids are at their other home. We go on about life as usual and do fun things with or without them. I do not plan 100% of my girls’ lives for 50% of the time.
*I unapologetically do not love my stepkids like I love my daughters and they are my first priority. God gave them to me to be their mother and I take that very seriously.
*I unapologetically do not force my family to have a personal relationship with my stepkids. I do not adhere to the philosophy of “You take them all or take none.” I chose to marry a man with children, my family did not. I would never tolerate rudeness or disrespect, but I do not expect my family to do for my stepkids what they do for my girls.
*I unapologetically do not put myself on the back burner. I am not a stepmom martyr.
*I unapologetically disengage when I need to. I will not sacrifice my sanity trying to fix anything I didn’t break.
This is mine and my daughters’ journey and story just as much as it’s my stepkids, and I unapologetically don’t let anyone tell me what my role should be within my family or how my family should operate. Every stepfamily and their situation is unique and there is hardly ever a one size fits all rule.”
I love this y’all. As did my small group. And I hope it will give you the same peace and comfort that it has given so many others who have read it.