**DISCLAIMER** The statements in this post are solely my opinions and are not of or directed at the character of any individual(s). They are simply my perceptions of my own experiences as a parent/stepparent in a blended family and are in no way, shape or form associated with any past or present grievances with any person(s) involved in our family dynamic- either directly or indirectly. If you happen to be reading this and take offense to it, understand that it is about me, not you, and is intended to help other men in the same situation feel like they are not alone.
We all know that divorce is a bummer. It tears at the fabric of family, destroys our perceptions of love and commitment, wounds our children and depletes our resources.
Fortunately, there is life after divorce. In my case, I remarried and took on two more children than I had before. Life is not without its challenges, but at the end of the day, I feel whole. I love being a family man, so my situation suits me.
When we first “blended”, I had it in my head that we were going to immediately gel- no delays, and no hiccups. What a sucker I was. While our life is mostly great, and our kids truly love each other, we are a far cry from the Brady Bunch. Let me break down a couple of the speed bumps I’ve experienced:
- My kids and I are intruders. In a nuclear family, children are raised from birth with a set of routines and customs that are formed by the combined efforts of the birth parents. In our case, my wife has her kids 90%+, which means they are with us more than my kids at 50%. Additionally, WE moved into the house THEY already occupied. THEY now share rooms that were once their own. WE have introduced routines and customs that are foreign, and seldom welcome. It often seems like half the kids feel like their home has been infiltrated, and the other half feels like they are visitors as opposed to residents.
- I am not Dad. I may provide a significant portion of the household income. I may cook meals, coach teams, help with homework, teach life lessons…… you get it. I may even raise my wife’s kids 300 days out of the year. Heck, I love them enough that I would sacrifice my life for theirs without blinking. At the end of the day, nothing I can ever do will actually make me their Dad. What do I mean? Well, first of all, when they went through the divorce, Mom became the one and only safe haven and authority figure the kids had. Also, every new routine or custom I introduce only serves as a reminder that I am in no way, shape, or form one of the parents they were born with.
- Parents are protective. I’d wager my wife and I aren’t the only parents who get a little protective and defensive when it comes to step-parent criticism or discipline. Some families are on the same page and take on very conventional roles, while others- like us- struggle with the way our spouses treat our kids and raise their own.
- Out of home parents can sometimes suck. Let’s face it, we were all hoping for the perfect situation where we get remarried, blend families and create a brand-new (and upgraded) life for ourselves, our kids and our step-kids. Then comes the ah-s**t! moment, when we realize that there are people out there who aren’t happy for you and don’t want to see your vision come to fruition. This topic could take up a post of its own (you know what I mean) so I’ll just move on.
Over the last two years, I’ve learned some valuable lessons from all of this. The first is that God is looking out for my wife and kids, too. He’s not going to let me screw this up too bad for them so long I lean on Him to get through it. Secondly, the sooner I come to terms with reality, the faster I will adjust to it, and my kids will follow suit.
The next thing is that I need to humble myself every day and stay flexible. I have a new wife, two new kids, and two kids that have a life equally spent outside of our home. I have to respect that we are all navigating these waters together and while my wife and I are co-captains, the kids also need roles that make them feel significant and a part of the process.
As our church pastor puts it, spouses need to try and hear one another with loving ears and speak to one another with loving words. What my wife thinks is best for my kids and what I think is best for hers can be really hurtful if shared and heard the wrong way. I used to think couples counseling was the launching pad for divorce. But this time around, it is a Godsend. Having a professional translate for us while we are still learning to speak each other’s languages has been pretty significant.
Allowing myself to get worked up over the behavior, attitude, involvement (or lack thereof) etc. of the out of home parents only drives a wedge between me and my wife, and puts our kids in the middle of situations they already don’t understand. Don’t waste time trying to change things out of your control. Focus on your own home, be above reproach with your custody agreement, and remember that your kids love those people too.
Last but not least, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to count my blessings. I have a smokin’-hot, intelligent and talented wife who loves and supports me, four healthy children who love and laugh at me, a fulfilling career that helps to support us all, and family experiences that are piling up every day. All of that makes every humbling, frustrating and challenging moment worth the effort.
Love you, babe! Thanks for sharing ♥