Tuesday is National Stepfamily Day, and this week two of our contributors share their perspectives on raising children in blended families. Today, Natasha writes about life with her husband, Chris, and their three children. Tomorrow, Simone talks about her family: husband, Otis, and two children.
Raising children is not the easiest thing to do. But what about raising children who are not biologically your own? While there are many families who are able to flawlessly blend without any hiccups, some of us in blended families have found things are not so full of rainbows and butterflies.
The major thing I have always commended my husband on was taking care of two children who were not his own. When we began our relationship, he was a young guy, with no children. He was smart, attractive — all of the things a woman could want. I felt like I hit the jackpot (I essentially did). And here I was a young, and still successful, single mom of two children. Throughout the early stages of our relationship, the bond between Chris and the kids was amazing. He attended concerts and PTO meetings, coached Alyssa’s soccer team, and even took her to ballet class 3 days a week — all without me ever asking.
Fast forward three years. We decided to blend our family and become one. We thought that taking this next step would solidify that bond he had with them and make the three of them even closer. However, once we all lived under one roof, that relationship began to change.
Previously Chris was the one the kids could run to or call when they didn’t get their way, but it wasn’t like that anymore. Andrew was 4 years old at the time and had just been diagnosed with everything you can imagine. Alyssa was 8 years old and beginning to become the daughter I no longer recognized (teenage angst before she even hit puberty).
Chris had never had to raise kids 24/7, so it was a hard adjustment for them all. The children were used to it only being them and Mom for the most part, even though Chris was consistently around. No matter how great things were, the kids knew how to play both sides. This caused a really big strain on our relationship. I felt that he was too harsh, he felt I was too soft; he believed in spanking, whereas I did not. Discipline is something that we discussed beforehand, but it seems that no matter how foolproof a plan we had, things just seemed to fall apart.
The next battle that I was totally unprepared for was his parents moving here from Chicago. We both thought they would just willingly accept Alyssa and Andrew as part of their family, but it didn’t quite happen that way.
The illusions I had of family dinners, BBQs, holidays together where everyone is happy and smiling (you know, kind of like something you may see on the Hallmark Channel) … they didn’t happen. Actually, it was nowhere close to happening. Instead, what I got was division; and unfortunately for me and my children both, we never felt as if we were really part of their family.
Things only seemed to worsen when Chris and I had Isla. The preference for one child over the others became blatantly obvious, and it caused the older children to feel as if they were not wanted. The hardest thing as a mother is listen to your children ask, “Why don’t they like me?” or “What did I do?” when your children love and adore people. Truth is you haven’t done anything — and it’s not your fault that some people just can’t learn to love without there being “stipulations.”
I really wish that I could end this by saying, that things have worked out for the better and that we are all one big happy family. But we aren’t. In fact, things are pretty stagnant. While it hasn’t gotten worse, it hasn’t gotten any better either. The relationship between Chris and the kids is almost back to where it was before marriage. I can’t say the same for the extended family.
I really hope that one day I will be able to write how lovely our family BBQs are (meaning his family actually shows up) or even how we overcame the battle of blending a family. But until that happens, we will continue to work on being seen not as a stepfamily — but just as a family.
Have you faced challenges in raising a blended family? Talk about it in the comments.
Natasha Brown never saw herself as a stay-at-home mom, and definitely would not be described by anyone in her inner circle as being a crunchy mom. After ten years of working for other people, she decided it was time to back away from the workforce and spread her “crunchy mama” spirit around. Now she is proudly a baby wearing, meal-planning, cloth diapering, EBF’ing, homeschooling mama who spends her spare time DIY’ing everything in their home running her local children’s art studio. And when she is not is not busy being supermom and an awesome wife you can find her on the couch getting some much needed sleep.