Updated: Jan 30
As I have been putting the finishing touches on my book and all publishing details, my blog has sort of taken a back seat.
But one topic has popped up a few times this week in various ways and is discussed briefly in my book. It is one of those topics that can be uncomfortable to talk honestly about and can wreak havoc on families that bow to its silence. Stepparenting.
If you have ever remarried, and 50% of you have, you probably have a stepchild or several stepchildren. I am sure on the wedding day, loving photos were taken and filled with smiling faces and warm embraces. Those photos show the promise of a new beginning for blended bliss that is sure to come because love conquers all, right?
Move over Brady Bunch, you sort of ruined everything for a lot of people. I still believe the key to that whole thing ever working was Alice.
I touch on this several times in my book because I own the fact that I sucked at being a stepmom. Not that I was mean, or had mean stepchildren, I truly had the best stepchildren I could ask for and care about them with all my heart. They were kind and loving to me and always respectful. What more could I ask for? But I was not prepared for what was expected of me, or maybe what I thought was expected was the problem.
I remember actually googling the keywords "Why don't I love being a stepmom?" and "How to enjoy being a stepmom" looking for any helpful advice. I always felt compelled to tell my friends and family how awesome having a blended family was and how smooth everything was going. But inside, I constantly felt overwhelmed and didn't understand why. I was embarrassed to even talk about it. Looking back, the fact that the marriage wasn't good didn't help things either.
Incase you're jumping into this whole story late, my husband Greg is my kids dad. We also were divorced for 9 years before we remarried in 2017 and is my oldest daughter's stepfather. He absolutely hates for me to even use that word because he truly loves her as his very own. He has been in her life since she was three years old and she calls him dad. I have to wonder if becoming a stepparent when the kids are still very young is the key to this scenario ever working out?
Small children think any fun and loving adult in their life is awesome. At the same time, the adult is there for all the major milestones a child has, which allows a natural bond to happen. Much easier than trying to bond with an angry teenager that leaves Coke cans and dirty underwear everywhere and rolls their eyes every time they see your face. I think the second scenario happens more than the first.
While I have seen a few success stories of older blended families, I feel that lately, I have heard more stories of defeat and frustration when the subject is brought up. I had friends tell me what nightmares they were to their new stepparent when they were teens and would not speak to them for a year, just to make a point. I have had stepmoms tell me their stepchildren backtalk, won't listen, or refuse to pick up after themselves because the other parent won't enforce it or doesn't want to upset the child. Walking on eggshells in your own house is never a good plan.
Trying to set boundaries with a stepchild can be an almost impossible task and a good way to get into an argument with your spouse. Especially if you have different parenting styles or there is already strain in the relationship.
For me, I struggled with trying to spread equal amounts of love for my own four children AND my stepchildren. Being the parent of a child with autism can also make giving everyone attention a challenge as well. I would throw my body in front of a bus for my own children and nothing they did would ever change that love. I put pressure on myself that I had to feel the same way for my steps or I was a terrible person. Which just ended up making me feel terrible.
It has to be equally hard for the children to welcome a new parental figure into their lives and thankfully, I never had to do that growing up. I have no idea what that is like so I won't pretend to guess. I knew it was hard for my kids to try and love the man I was involved with, get along with his kids that might be very different from them, and share their mother's attention.
I wish I could end this post with sound advice or words of wisdom, but I am not the person to do that. I do think at the end of the day, it is harder on the children than the adults. Being a teenager in the middle of a divorce and then remarriage has to be difficult. I wish I would have been more aware of that when I put my own children through it. I should have just enjoyed the time I had with them when they were home instead of thinking that getting married again would complete us. It also would have helped knowing that Greg and I would end up back together in the end.
For blended families that are knocking it out of the park. You guys need to please write and publish a book. You guys are winning a battle that is often lost for so many families and a problem that should not have to be Google searched out of shame.
Sarah Swindell's memoir, Rounding Home, is now available here! http://bit.ly/RoundingHome