Monday, May 23, 2016

A Blended Family is Not an Nuclear Family

a blended family is not an nuclear family; blended family; step parenting; step family; stepmom
Even though sometimes it feels like it is a Nuclear Family. The first five years it will at times feel like your in a Nuclear Family. If you can get through the first five years you really have a chance to be successful. If and when you can make it to ten years you are an honored veteran.  The first five years of my blended family have had many ups and downs. The downs were so bad that I thought about walking away from it all several times. The hardest struggle was dealing with the discipline with all of the children, but mainly the stepchildren because the ex-wife constantly interfered with our discipline. It was a very hard time for both me and my husband but we got through it without losing one another in the process. To get through the rough years you need to go through the blending process.  There are 9 steps to the blending process in which came from Gary & Greg Smalley‘s book titled: “The Blended Marriage”. These principles will help guide you along the blending process and get you through the hard times and make you go from feeling like a Nuclear Family to a successful Blended Family.

9 Steps for the Blending Process (Gary & Greg Smalley; 2014)

1. Expect outside influences to intrude
This means that ex-spouses, in-laws, and friends will try to cause problems or give you unwanted advice. It’s going to happen, it’s just inevitable.

2. Expect children to feel torn between both parents

The stepchildren will have a hard time adjusting especially if PAS is going on with one or both parents. Try your best not to talk badly in front of the stepchildren about the other parent. Let them form their own opinions about their parent without your influence. If you notice them struggling for whatever reason, counseling can really help the stepchildren adjust to being in a Blended Family.

3. Be prepared for change
Before you got married or moved in together, you both had two different styles of parenting. Coming together as one style of parenting is going to take some time and a lot of adjusting and compromise.

4. Be willing to make sacrifices for the common good
For example, you might celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve whereas your husband celebrated Christmas on Christmas Day. You might have to compromise and change the day around to where it makes sense for all of the children in the family. You have to make sacrifices and adjust your life around.

5. Understand that your expectations will most likely have to be adjusted
It’s a good rule of thumb to walk in with little or no expectations at all, that way you don’t get discouraged if an expectation you have failed. You can also learn how to have realistic expectations in your blended family by clicking here.

6. Define love as commitment, not merely feelings
A Blended Family takes a lot of commitment from both of you meaning 100/100 on both of your parts. Make a commitment to one another that you will not give up, no matter how bad and hard it may get.

7. Remember that effective blending doesn’t happen overnight
A Blended Family takes a lot of time, commitment, patience, and faith in God. It also helps to read a lot of books on Blended Families and Step Parenting. Having a support group to turn to when the going gets tough is another great help.  Last but definitely not least, counseling for both of you or just one of you will help too.

8. Realize that sometimes blending doesn’t go smoothly
There will be a lot of bumps along the way, so don’t feel discouraged.  Just kick off the dust and try again. You need to realize that you will make mistakes along the way, it’s only normal. No parent is perfect and either is a Blended Family. It’s just how you recover and learn from those mistakes is what matters most.

9. Be committed to the covenant of your marriage regardless of circumstances
Put each other first after God. It goes in this order: 1. God  2.Spouse 3. Children. If you follow this order your marriage will be strong and you can get through anything that comes your way.

I know some of these steps seem impossible, but if you make them possible in your Blended Family it won’t be a Nuclear Family at all.  Don’t give up on your Blended Family you can be successful and get through the first five years and even ten years if you just follow the blended process that Gary & Greg Smalley put together.

When we first got together it was very hard. All of the children fought and argued over everything. It put us against one another at times. Then the ex-wife would get involved in our discipline and our rules which made things even ten times worse. There were times where I felt like it was a losing battle. The first five years have been the hardest in our Blended Family but we made it through it. We did make some mistakes along the way that we can’t do anything about except to learn from them and that’s what we have done. I am happy to say we are going on eight years being together and seven years of marriage and I really feel like it’s going uphill now and we are finally in a good place. So don’t give up on yours yet, there is light at the end of the tunnel, just keep on going it will be worth it in the end.

References:
Smalley Greg & Gary (2014). The Blended Marriage. Explore, Reflect, Unite. Learn how to cultivate a fruitful life together. Focus on the Family. Published by Bethany House publishing group.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Should you buy a gift for The Ex-Wife for Mother's Day?

buy gift for the ex-wife, mothers day, mothers day gift for the ex, blended family, step family
Should we recognize the BM (Biological Mother) and buy a gift for her from the stepchildren for Mother’s Day?  The answer might surprise you. The answer is YES, you should.  If the biological Mother is single and doesn’t have a significant other or husband to do it, then you most definitely should buy a gift for her from the kids.  If she does have a significant other or husband in her life, ask the stepchildren if that person is going to take them out to get their Mother a gift for Mother’s Day.  If they say he isn’t, then you need to do it for them. They should be recognized regardless of how they treat you.  It’s not about you; it’s about the stepchildren showing their love and appreciation towards their Mother on Mother’s Day. It’s teaching the step children that they should always honor their Mother on special holidays such as Mother’s Day.  The gift might have been bought by you and your husband but it’s from her children, not from you.  It’s the thought that counts and it is stepping outside of your thoughts, feelings and comfort level towards her and being the bigger person.  If she throws the gift away, she’s only hurting her children and then shame on her.  But not shame on you.  So take the stepchildren out this weekend and have them pick something out for their Mother and have them pick out a card for her.  You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on her, just spend anywhere between $25.00 to $40.00 on the gift.  If the stepchildren are older they may have money of their own that they want to spend but have no way of getting to the store to get the gift for their Mother.  Once they get old enough and can drive a car, they can get the gift, but may need to be reminded to do so.  I think it’s even more special when a Stepmom takes the initiative and takes the stepchildren out to get the gift, it really shows the stepchildren that you are okay with them loving on their Mother and recognizing them.  But, if you just can’t get past everything she’s done and just don’t want to do it at all, and then have your husband take the stepchildren out to get it. No Mother should go unrecognized on Mother’s Day.  Every Mother should feel loved and appreciated for being a Mother by their children.  Regardless of how she treats you and your husband, regardless of how difficult she is, regardless of how active she is in your stepchildren’s lives.  If money is tight then have the stepchildren make her a homemade card and have them make a craft or you can even help them bake a cake for her and have them decorate it.  Don’t let your ego or your hurt feelings get in the way, this is her day just as much as it is your day. I know for me personally, my ex-husband doesn’t take my kids out to buy me a gift for Mother’s Day. But my husband does it, so it doesn’t bother me that my ex-husband doesn’t do it.  I am sure if I was single, he would do it for me.
Try to honor all types of Mothers this Mother’s Day regardless of how close you are to them, if they are a Mother they should be honored and appreciated.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Know Your Role

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Do you really know your role in your blended marriage? Do you know what your limits are? This is something that is very important to discuss with your husband or significant other before you get married or move in together.  I have heard it many times where a Stepmom has overstepped their role and has disciplined or said something to the stepchild that the husband was not happy about.  You need to have the discussion with your husband about what he is comfortable with and what he isn’t comfortable with. Because you don’t want to overstep your role and have your husband undermines you right in front of your stepchildren.  If that ever does happen it shows your stepchildren that what you say doesn’t matter and that they don’t have to obey or listen to you and that their Dad has the last say.  You both need to sit down and come up with what you are comfortable with, meaning if your husband is ready for you to discipline his kids and how will it be handled.  Determine and establish who will be the primary disciplinary in the family overall or with the stepchildren and who will be the second disciplinary in the marriage.  The stepmom should not be the primary disciplinary to the stepchildren. If you as the stepmom feel that you have taken on that role and it’s too much for you, then you really need to have a serious conversation with your husband about it.  The husband should be the main primary disciplinary with his children.  Putting you in that role can really become a disaster for your relationship with the stepchildren and the biological mother.  Stepmoms should always try to be more of the nurturer and encourager parent type role rather than the disciplinary role of the household. I know there are some Stepmoms that are with the stepchildren more than the husband is due to work, then you have to be the be the disciplinary in those cases.  If you notice your stepchildren resenting you, it’s because you’re doing too much of the discipline in the household and your husband needs to step up and be more engaged in the discipline area. He should always support you with whatever discipline you give out to his stepchildren. If he ever feels the need to disagree with it, then he needs to tell you later on when the children are not around, but never in front of the children.  If your discipline isn’t working the husband should always try to step in to help enforce it.  You should always be on the same team with one another. Stepmoms shouldn’t undermine husband’s discipline either especially in front of the children. Always try to be on the same team and become a united front together.
There was a time not that long ago where my stepdaughter was yelling at me in a busy restaurant and just wouldn’t stop yelling at me even after I asked her to stop yelling and lower her voice. My husband just stood there and didn’t do or say anything to make her stop. It made me feel like he didn’t care about the way she was treating me and that he supported her actions towards me. He later apologized for it, but it still hurt me that he couldn’t step up to the plate and put her in her place. She was totally out of line and very disrespectful to me.  This is a good example of a husband not having your back. A husband needs to have your back no matter what. If he can’t have your back then you don’t and shouldn’t discipline the stepchildren.  Let him deal with his own children and you handle your children.  It’s so important that you talk about your role with his children. If you can’t agree to discipline and consequences in the home, maybe you both would benefit from attending a parenting class together to help you agree on discipline and consequences. There is also a post I did awhile back about disciplining your stepchildren, feel free to read it and see if it helps.
Another role that is important to discuss and determine is your role with the biological mother.  Is your husband going to handle all communication with the biological mother or are you going to handle some of it?  It’s something you definitely need to figure out and early on in your relationship or marriage. My recommendation that has worked in my marriage is that each of you handles all communication with your own ex-spouses.  It just makes it less difficult to deal with and helps avoid a lot of stress and conflicts. My husband solely communicates with his ex-wife about his kids and I solely communicate with my ex-husband about my kids. If you have it set up to where you both communicate with the ex-spouses and it isn’t working you can always change it around, there’s still time to do that.  If you do share communication with the ex-spouses and its working then leave it the way it is. Just make sure you establish boundaries with one another about what you can say yes to with the ex-spouses and what you both need to discuss first before giving answers too.
Knowing your role as a Stepmom and finding out what your limits are and getting it defined only helps better your marriage and your blended family. If you haven’t had that talk yet, I strongly encourage you to do so.