I don’t write about step motherhood too often, not because I don’t consider it a high honor or high struggle (sometimes), mostly it’s because I feel like a fraud. I don’t separate my love or motherness towards them so it seems weird to separate my words and title, too. That being said I’m a step mom and we’re a blended family and that’s just how it is.
But we rock at it! Seriously. 99% of the time we got this. The other 1% is because no one is a perfect parent, blended or not.
However our road to awesome-ness was filled with every “no no” possible. Caleb has read tons of books on divorce, dating, remarriage etc long before I ever existed (go him!). When I met him, I started to peruse the internet looking for guidance and found tons and none all at the same time. Go figure. But I took my cues from him, who better to know his situation and children than him? Vice versa to Jack and me.
BUT we did it all wrong and it led to a really great family atmosphere and relationship. Am I suggesting to make our mistakes? Nope absolutely not. I’m just saying that sometimes books aren’t perfect. They don’t know you or your situation. Great references and ideas for sure, but not the only way. Think about it, every family is different and every situation in which that family encounters is different, so trying to take ALL advice from a book is going to be a challenge. It’s not practical.
We dated our family and we went all out. Yep, that’s a bad idea. Word out there is that it gets your kids into this ill conceived notion that this is the norm and that isn’t quite reality. Sounds logical. Wasn’t practical. We like hanging out with our kids. Did then, do now. Caleb and I wanted to explore and try new things together. So they came with. Jack and I showed them our favorite things. They showed us theirs and we were on the go all.the.time. It was a blast. It was exactly what we needed to see our families bond and grow together.
Flash forward. They were right. Kids ask us all the time what we’re doing for the day and chores and house work doesn’t quite get the same enthusiastic response. Oops. They definitely expect that awesome dating lifestyle. That being said, we have a really great family bond and we all enjoy each other’s company the majority of the time. The kids act like what I understand “real” siblings act like, you know that love and hate that drives me bonkers sometimes? Yea, they do it too.
We introduced our kids to each other and ourselves too fast. They say you should give it time, make sure that you both like each other. Then introduce the new significant other to the child before the children to the children. Again, seems logical. Everybody gets a slow chance to meet each other and learn. Yes, we both planned on being really stable in our relationship and talked about waiting months, but life happened and they met and they played and it was just fine.
Flash Forward. The kids play together all the time! They really have become best buddies. The only issue here is that there is 3, which means 1 seems to get left out a lot. It rotates who, but it happens. I’m not sure waiting would’ve prevented that. Cue Harv. Ha.
We didn’t wait the appropriate amount of time before moving in and marriage. Yea we failed big time on this one. There isn’t many suggestions on time frames, as long as everyone is comfortable and there isn’t any rushing involved. We didn’t rush. Caleb and I knew it was right and would last, so we knew we weren’t hurting anyone. But the 7 months of dating before living together and 40 day engagement?…. well I’m pretty sure that qualifies under the “too soon” category.
Flash forward. Sorry Charlie. You’re wrong on this one. Maybe for some waiting is best. But I knew Caleb was “all in” and I knew I was, too. I’m a Cancer. Loyalty, especially family loyalty is our thing.
Don’t discipline your spouse’s children. Ok I’ll be honest, I never really believed that not disciplining step-children was a good idea when I first heard/read about it. As a teacher, I discipline and have high expectations for behaviors, attitudes, respect, etc. of other people’s children on a daily basis. With high expectations comes big results. I want kids to become great and smart members of society, so I’m not even sure it can count as a mistake, when I whole heartedly am against it. It only made sense to apply that in our own home, too. It doesn’t matter which adult is disciplining or which child is the offender, we are a united front with our own set of house rules so it just happens. So yea, failed at this.
Flash forward. We don’t discipline the kids much at all anymore. They really know and understand the rules. It’s easy when they’re the same and treated the same. Yes, we still have to on occasion, they aren’t perfect (no one is!), but it’s different. It’s easy, part of our life, and now we have them reflect a lot and make choices about the consequences of their actions. It actually really set our family up for a united front.
It’s clear we made mistakes, but when I look back it’s also clear why those mistakes worked so well for us. First and foremost, Caleb and I are committed to each other and our family. We both knew we wanted to be together and make it last. No second marriage statistics here.
Second, Caleb and I knew that our marriage had to come first and we had to show the kids that we were important. Things like date night, quiet time together, and our bedroom was off kid limits (that didn’t last haha). We also acted as a united front. This was hard at first as we did come with 2 sets of family rules and expectations. Conversations started a lot with “well I need to talk to Dad” or “let me talk to Sam first” until Caleb and I found a rhythm that worked. The kids were young enough to realize the “ask mom or dad” game wasn’t going to fly – so stop trying. It also allowed us to enforce the rules we believe in and no matter who was home or who saw the issue, we both felt mostly safe to speak up. And yes I said mostly. It isn’t always perfect.
Third, we knew if we wanted to make it work, it had to work for everyone and be fair. We wanted the kids to get along, but we didn’t want to force it either. It had to grow naturally, so we gave tons of opportunities for it to work. Let me tell you now, it DIDN’T always work. Nope not at all. Somedays kids were crying, I was crying, and we just had to call it a day. But we kept trying and eventually the spats over toys and who was playing with who were just really little bumps. We also made sure and still try (it’s getting harder now and could be another post all in itself) to keep everything fair. They are all super close in age (besides Harv) so things like presents, parties, treats, attention, time etc. all had to be the same. They all 3 mattered and were loved the same, so they were treated equally as well. It definitely took out the negative feelings of feeling cheated or being jealous. Typically step child feelings.
Lastly, forgive yourself. That’s something that Caleb and I both tend to struggle with. Sometimes the day or the situation really just sucks. But it’s a bad day, not a bad life or a bad person and so we pick it up and try again the next. That’s the “all in” factor that is completely necessary raising a [blended] family.
As our family grows and continues to change, I know Caleb and I will adapt how we do things, because we aren’t a book and we aren’t our mistakes, nor are we perfect. But we’re a family every day and the love we all share is pretty great. We also talk about things all the time, sometimes it is almost too much, but the reality is that if we’re prepared and ahead of the game, the kids will all be in good hands. Ours.
psst.. want more thoughts on stepmotherhood? Check out this post to hear more of our story!