Blending in….

Sometimes I wonder what it is like to be you reading my blog. Do I present a well balanced picture of my life? I don’t think I do. I put my positive spin on everything – even the crappy personal times sound downright silver lining-ish.

I don’t want you all to think that blending our family has been plain sailing just because I never blog about our challenges and only seem to blog about the good times. We have charted many choppy waters and have plenty of stormy seas ahead, I’m sure. However, neither of us are planning on sending up flares anytime soon. I don’t blog about the specifics of the squalls and tempests because there are minor children involved and this is a very sensitive area. Navigating the sea of step parenthood and blended families is extremely tough and sensitive and oh-so-complicated.

I will say that having a positive attitude helps a ton, and that when there is mutual respect between kids and a parent / step-parent it helps the adjustment to go much more smoothly. I will also add that all the kids need to see that this new partnership between biological parent and step parent is a solid one, and that the couple need to present a united front. The worse thing is for a child to be able to play one parent off the other.

Blending families is certainly not for the faint of heart. There is much compromise involved – for all parties concerned, kids included. When there are other biological parents involved in the children’s upbringing it adds extra dimensions – rules in each house are bound to be different, mommy does things this way, daddy does things that way. We have house rules that apply to everyone, even if things are done differently in their other home. Sometimes these rules are tough to enforce, but we try to do so fairly.

I love the fact that my boys adore the KoD. They love and respect him and want to please him. This is a HUGE deal – so many step children resent the advent of a step parent, and feel they have to compete (sometimes negatively) in order to get attention. My boys, well, they tease us about making googly eyes at each other. It makes them so happy to see their Ima happy.

But still, they have had my undivided attention for years, and now, they have to share it. For me, I cannot unilaterally decide on a course of action in a specific circumstance (as I have been used to doing as a single mom) – I need to consider the KoD’s opinions and thoughts and feelings too. This is where communication is key. Sometimes I forget that the KoD cannot read my mind. We are soul-mates – so I occasionally assume he knows what I am thinking then get frustrated with him that he doesn’t. I’m working on it and I must say the KoD is the most patient man I have ever met.

Way back when they first met him, the boys made sure that KoD knew his place. They told him he would always be #5 on my list, that they would always come first. They said it more or less in jest, but there was a huge nugget of claim-staking there too. So long as each and every one of them feels that they are top of my list and not being neglected, I know I am doing something right.

It’s also important for the couple to make time for themselves as a married couple. When you become an instant family it is so easy for the couplehood to get lost in the shuffle of biological kids and step kids and visitation. Even if it is just a trip together without kids to the local grocery store to buy another 10 quarts of milk – alone time is a precious commodity but so important.

We are still finding our way, and I am sure it will take a while until all the big waves have settled into tiny imperceptible ripples – but we are all committed to making it work.

If any of you come from a blended family, or have one of your own – any tips you have to make this transition smoother for all concerned would be much appreciated.

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9 Comments

  1. fille says:

    “The worse thing is for a child to be able to play one parent off the other.”

    I think in this realm, you have to strike a very delicate balance between what you say and the parent being overloyal to the step-parent and driving a rift between himself and the children.

    Especially in cases where the children live with the father and a step-mom comes in, who will be responsible for the children on a day-to-day basis, many fathers demand too much obediance from their children vis-a-vis stepmom and this can lead to dangerous situations, sometimes even abuse.

    • Rabbi's Wife says:

      This is the strangest reply to a post like this. Are you implying that the KOD would use Hadassah to abuse his kids? I think that’s ridiculous.
      I can’t think you experienced a functional family to come across with such consistently strange advice.

      • fille says:

        No, Iwas not referring to sexual abuse, but to physical abuse.

        Of course, the constellation you describe is also a possibility, and did happen in the past, but I do not think that kod has any such intentions (and I never inferred anything like this).

        What I was referring to is a situation where a new stepmom moves in with a father and his child/children. The father works, the stepmom is responsible for the children. The children do not behave, so the stepmom denounces them to the father, so the father makes it clear to them that they have to obey stepmom.

        I saw families where the boys seemed very “downtrodden”, because the father was always enforcing discipline for the sake of stepmom, sometimes also with corporal punishment. In some situation, this corporal punishment might cross the line to physical abuse.

        It can also happen the other way round, where a stepdad has no patience for the stepchildren and starts chastising them and mom does not step in.

        That’s way I say: carefull with loyalty, there are cases when loyalty to the new spouse comes at the expense of the children’s wellbeing.

        • mekubal says:

          No, Iwas not referring to sexual abuse, but to physical abuse.

          Who said anything about sexual abuse? That is a really odd inference to make from what is written.

          What you seem to be saying is that unless Hadassah and the KOD are careful with their loyalty to each other, they could wind up abusing their children. I don’t see it, but if that is what you think… That’s your deal.

          Personally I came from a blended family and I think that spousal loyalty(as well as parental loyalty) helps keep the children from playing one off the other, as I know I tried to do when I was a child and a teen.

          Don’t forget that if actual abuse is going on, there is another biological parent involved and they will most likely notice it and take appropriate steps.

        • Rabbi's Wife says:

          Again, a strange response to an innocuous post.

          I never said sexual abuse, G-d forbid, nor did I even think of such a thing.

          Coming from a non-blended family, and having worked with hundreds of other types of families (not Frum folks, so there were some ODD combinations) I think the ichor of co-parenting is to support one another in front of the children. I can honestly say that I never heard my parents disagree about how to do something regarding us kids. There were times they excused themselves and discussed things privately then came to us with their decision, but I never saw them fight, not once. Still haven’t, 32 years later! But as a child it gave me a huge sense of security to know that Mom and Dad made their decisions together for our good, and they could always come to an agreement.
          However, I digress. for the situations you describe, where the step parent overly and misguidedly disciplines the child, or the bio parent does so to “please” their new spouse, in my experience there is already a history of physical or mental abuse by the adult in question. Like I said, it is just my experience, but since that doesn’t seem to be the case in Hadassa’s family I wouldn’t have brought it up at all.

  2. this is such a beautiful, honest post. and i love it for those reasons.

    i remember reading that every time someone new enters the family (a child, a spouse, even a pet) it’s important to make sure that no one feels like their slice of the Ima-pie got any smaller.

    besides the silly imagery, i’ve always remembered that. your words about everyone always feeling like they’re at the top of your list really resonated with me.

    kudos to you and yours for all of the love that you gather everybody up in. *that* holds up even when the tough waves come through!

  3. Rabbi's Wife says:

    What a wonderful post. I know blending a family can’t be easy, but you seem to take it all with such grace.
    Keep up the good work. I only wish I could give you some wonderful advice, but you seem miles ahead of most blended families I know.

  4. Baila says:

    I too enjoyed the honesty of this post.

  5. Wow – what a nice post – I am currently still struggling with my blended family – even after years. My steppies are adults – though one still lives with me. You seem so much more….advanced than I do. I’m still trying to work on not being guilty and finding ways to be positive. Still, I have found that my own blog – which is much more angst ridden than this – has allowed me a formum in which to vent (no worries, the names/places and some ages have been changed to protect the identity of the family). I also find reading the blogs of other step parents helpful.

    I really appreaciate you sharing your story with us.

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