This by far is not a statement to anyone that I have always done everything right or that I have not cried, been angry and questioned some things along this journey. BUT I have had people ask me for advice, because I have been very open about being in a double blended family. I say double blended because both my hubby and I had a son before we got married and now…we added our first (and probably only) biological kid to the mix as well.
This means my husband and I have to be co-parents and “step” parent at the same time. This has been a crazy, wonderful, hard, amazing and just transforming time for us. So…here’s just a few of my tips to surviving the “blend”.
- Validate your feelings while not dismissing the other parent’s feelings.
Parenting is hard. Period. Even without having to juggle schedules and other partners and other kids…it can be complicated. When you’re in a blended family things can get hectic fast. I’ve been there before where you can see the other person’s point of view, but totally disagree. I had an incident last summer with my bonus son and his mom that really had me torn. I always want to be respectful of another person’s feelings, but at the same time that can have you feeling left out or hurt too. Being a stepparent is really hard at times. You are asked to love a child with no bounds, but are also expected to be more of a support system and not an active participant all the time. When a child has two biological parents that are healthy and good for the child you really have to let the parents work out some things. I always defer to my husband when it comes to major decisions for his biological son. Not saying I have no say, but that ultimately I can give my advice or point of view but have to let the biological parents really figure that out. LaDarren does the same thing for me when it comes to my biological son. He always gives his input, but ultimately allows (and supports) the decisions that I make.
- OVER communicate
When there are so many different people in play things can get confusing fast. “I thought you were coming at 4?”, “Oh did you not get the last text that said 5:30?” Those statements could cause an argument or small inconveniences. To avoid that, always make sure that you get a response from the other parent; make sure that your message actually sent. If not response try again within an hour or so. Make sure you all are on the same page before, during and after visitation schedules are confirmed.
- Take a step (or two) back from the situation.
Things will not always go like you planned. Someone may say or do something that you might find disrespectful, annoying or mean. Step back. Do your best to control the only thing you can in this situation and that is yourself.
- NEVER EVER talk bad about the other parent in front of or around the children.
As I said in step 3, while stepping back be sure to not let your emotions cause you to say or do something that you might regret later. Venting is healthy and needed but try to do 3 things.
- Ensure that the children are not around when you are having your venting session. This goes for all the children involved, not just the children of the co-parent.
- Figure out how to keep the peace, if something happened that really upset you maybe it’s best to let your spouse pick up the child or you simply pick up the child and not say anything to the other parent at that point. I know how tempting it can be to want to just say this one little thing, but in the end it’s rarely worth it.
- Reevaluate things. In the grand scheme of things- is this issue I am upset about annoying or is this a really big deal? Sometimes when emotions are high we can blow situations out of proportion or place unintended meanings to words.
If the other parent wants to bring the child home an hour later or earlier try to work with them. I know that time with children is precious for both parties and sometimes things happen; that’s life. Try to be flexible (if it is within reason). This is why OVER communication is important. If you said you’d be done in twenty minutes and it’s looking like that will not happen call the other parent. Or if you need the child home earlier communicate that as well; if the other parent can’t (or isn’t willing) to accommodate see if you can work out this situation amongst yourselves. If not…..
- Find a mediator
I am not an advocate for always going to the court first, but if you can’t work it out amongst yourself it is best to bring another party in. This can (hopefully) be worked out in a healthy way with just the co-parents. If not I am a big believer in letting the courts sort things out. Sometimes you just can’t see eye-to-eye with the other parent; it happens and that’s ok too. I don’t recommend running to court every time the other parent is late on a payment or late picking up a child (or bringing them back). If the negative behavior is consistent and they do not seem to want to work with you use all the legal options available to you. At the end of the day, the child is the most important piece to this puzzle and when the parents can’t respectfully disagree or come to a terms on their own it negatively affects the child. I know for some this is a very controversial stance, but again these are tips that have worked for me.
- Celebrate victories with your spouse
And last but not least, take time out for you and your spouse. Never forget that you are in a partnership. Work hard to protect your marriage- appreciate your partner. I thank LaDarren all the time for who he is in my life and for all of our boys. Our lives can be messy, but I wouldn’t want to sort through this without him. He is my backbone, my strength and many times my in-home counselor.
Hope this helps, if you have some additional tips for surviving the blend, let me know!