How many times have stepparents heard that they couldn’t possibly love their stepchildren as much as the biological parents do? If you are in a blended family you’ve heard it, thought it or you’ve said it. I am not the authority on this subject. I only know the love I have for my two stepsons. I cannot identify with the love their biological parents have for them because I do not have a frame of reference for that type of relationship. I have no biological children of my own. What I do know, is that our relationship is unique just as their relationship is with their other parents. However, it seems that when someone marries into a blended family, it is fairly common for someone to let that person know that they cannot replace the biological parent. In my own experience, my response was “Well, Duh!” (Not off to a great start, maybe I should have been a little less crass).
I am sure that most step parents are aware of this fact (of course there are always exceptions, otherwise Disney wouldn’t have portrayed the evil stepmother from so many different angles) and this very well may be the starting point of tension in a lot of blended families. I think that when someone is trying to find their place in a family and is only told what they’re not, there is an automatic sense of rejection and that rejection is reciprocated if we aren’t careful to try and understand where the other person may be coming from. In that spirit, I’d like to talk a little on the subject of putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes.
I think a lot of us would down right act out if someone even looked at our momma sideways.
In my last post I talked about how It took me a little while to figure out that my take-charge attitude, that had been rewarded for years at work, was rejected quick, fast and in a hurry when I became a member of my own blended family. I had not considered how scary that may have been for the mother of the children I was trying so hard to build a relationship with. Let me ask you something. If you have even a decent relationship with your own mother, if some stranger started behaving in a threatening manner toward her, would that offend you or cause you to be cautious around that person? I think a lot of us would down right act out if someone even looked at our momma sideways. Yet, I expected that my relationship with the boys should be completely separated from their loyalty to their mother.
It doesn’t work that way folks. If the two of you aren’t getting along, they can tell. The tension is palpable and it causes tension in your home no matter how well you think you’re hiding it. You may not say bad things about her (in front of them), but they know how you feel purely by your motivation to do everything the exact opposite way she does it even it if makes no sense. Then what happens is that, even if they can’t quite explain it, they express to her that they aren’t connecting with you like they used to. Can you guess what happens next? You guessed it! She’s their mom and starts asking questions to figure out why. So what do you do? You don’ t get defensive do you? Of course not.
Do you see the INSANE cycle of craziness that happens? At some point, somebody has to stop it! Listen, I’m not saying it’s all on the step parents’ shoulders to make everything right. A totally peaceful blended family takes both sides coming together and being COMPLETELY willing to make parenting their mutual goal. What I am saying is that if you know that what will create peace in the lives of your children is to not even start that cycle with their mother, then it is absolutely your responsibility to be the bigger person. You should listen to the routines she has set in place for them and how she does things with them. It will only create a more stable environment and make the transition to your home easier and less chaotic. Sure, it may not be the way you want to handle things, but it’s possible she knows her kids better than you do. I realize that sounds harsh, but someone probably needed to tell me that a few years ago because I thought I knew EVERYTHING.
What is so discouraging to me is that this scenario is the status quo. It’s an automatic assumption that mom and stepmom will butt heads, they will have fights, there will be a power struggle and you better buy all the self help books you can about it before you get married. I want to challenge you to take a different path. It does not have to be this way! One or both parties can make a choice at any moment to make peace. While the choices we make may not be popular or push the most attention (by way of drama) our way, but there will be peace. Peace in your life and even better, the lives of your kids!
I understand that peace may seem impossible to some of you, but I really encourage you to read our story from the boys’ mom’s perspective on Perfectly Blended since we’re talking about putting ourselves in her shoes. Next time you want to hold onto something that hurt your feelings or rubbed you the wrong way, I really want to encourage you to consider what the other person may be feeling or trying to accomplish. It may be that she is just trying to hit your where it hurts, but is she really? Honestly answer that question for yourself and then try and see things from her perspective. It may just start to turn things around.
I absolutely believe that you bring a fresh perspective and add value to your kids’ lives that they may not otherwise receive from their biological parents, but don’t devalue the parents that got them this far in the process, does that make sense? Instead, form a partnership where you have a voice and are a respected part of a team. Doesn’t that sound so much better?
The thought that I’d like to leave you with and encourage you to keep at the forefront is that while we’re busy getting married to our best friend, creating our dream home on Pinterest and rehearsing our next argument with bio mom, there are kids that we’ve assumed responsibility for that are watching how we handle ourselves in this situation. Kids make things look easy sometimes, but they could be really stirred up on the inside and unable to express it, especially at an early age. These kids watch how we do everything from how we arrange the silverware to how we brush our teeth. Don’t think for one second they aren’t learning our behaviors, good, bad or ugly. The very thought of this shook me to my core and it should shake you too. They’ll take those behaviors into every relationship they have if we don’t teach them something different. Let’s show them something different!