Julie Scagell knows a blended family is a challenge, and a blessing. While divorce is hard, creating two loving families for children from two sets of parents means patience, maturity, love, and ultimately huge rewards.
Divorce happens every day. There is absolutely nothing easy about divorce, especially when children are involved. I know from personal experience. Through the years I, and many others out there, have encountered misconceptions about being in a blended family. These are the most prevalent.
Be careful not to assume the worst. Exes in a mature parenting relationship work extremely hard to keep things as consistent as possible for their children. If you remarry, those spouses typically and selflessly adopt the same mantra. They sit together at every game, discuss every punishment, and celebrate every accomplishment. They have all worked extremely hard to get to that point. There have been struggles, bitten tongues, and arguments over the years, but the collective job is to raise happy, thoughtful, well-adjusted kids. End of story.
It’s not the Olympics; there’s no gold medal for best step-parent. Your ex will likely remarry. This can be agonizing in the early days. Will my kids prefer her to me? Will he see how amazing my kids are and treat them as such? What if they call them “Mom” or “Dad” too? As soon as you stop worrying about how it will affect you and start realizing the benefit your children will gain from having another loving parent in their lives, the fear will vanish. You know the saying it takes a village? Some villages may have more members than originally imagined, but it doesn’t make them any less of a family.
Part-time parenting is like a vacation! I’ve heard people say, “It must be nice to just be a parent part of the time. What a nice break!” Parenting is a full time job no matter what. Even on the days you do not see your children, every parent thinks, worries, plans for and misses them. The role of a parent does not change. We are scheduling doctor’s appointments, coordinating play dates, doing their laundry, planning meals, going to sporting events, dropping off forgotten school books, and talking to them on the phone. Every parent’s role is to make sure their child knows they are loved. Time is precious; you never know how much you have, so make it count, regardless of your family structure.
Step-sibling is a dirty word. If, as with many blended families, other children are involved, please do not call them “step.” They play, tease, bicker, fight and love each other like every other set of siblings out there. Blended families are rarely concerned with titles, so you don’t need to be either. It minimizes their value in the family.
Don’t give your children a reason to doubt “real’” love. Being a step-parent, or any parent, is a thankless job. But, because your brood does not share DNA does not mean they are loved any less. Step parents still make breakfast, attend mind-numbing school choir concerts, play catch and read bedtime stories. And even if, way down in their deepest parts, they feel a different love than that towards their biological child, that is okay. There are a million levels of love. Step parents still show up, every single day, to raise their children. In most blended families, there is no favoritism, no lack of dedication and no excuses. And if there is, you have a problem in the marriage.
It’s always hard to them go. Even if you have the best possible post-divorce outcome, dropping them off with their other family doesn’t get easier. It may be less stressful, but it’s still hard to let them go. No matter how many years you’ve been doing it, you still feel a pit in your stomach knowing they will not be sleeping under your roof. You may not spend hours sobbing like you did in the early days, because you know they are stepping into a loving home with a wonderful family. You trust that they will be adored, scolded, challenged, and supported the same way they are your own home. And for that, all you inquiring minds, we are grateful.
Marriage is a lot of hard work and dedication. Parenting, whether together or apart is equally as hard. As long as the children come first for all parties involved, there is comfort in knowing you are doing the best you can with the cards that have been dealt. That’s the best any parent can hope for.
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