Family Is What You Make It

Fam 4

The era of the nuclear family is all but gone. It’s been replaced with single parents, non-married parents, foster families, couples without children and my family – the step-family, also known as the blended family.

According to an article in The Guardian, one in three people in the UK  are now a step-parent, step-child, adult step-child, step-sibling or step-grandparent. The statistics speak for themselves.

I was born into your bog standard ‘nuclear family’ – a mum, a dad and three children and in turn I helped create my own with my husband and two boys. Twenty years later the marriage sadly ended and a new chapter began..

After what I call my ‘wilderness year’ I bagged a blokey who was willing to put up with my shit. By shit, I mean my mind baggage and in my mind, I have more baggage than Manchester airport. Like me, he had children and we both understood that if we were to have a any kind of story, our children would be part of it.

The next few years were all about dipping toes in the water and trying to keep all ten. After being used to boys, I was faced with the daunting prospect of girls. Scared? Erm, YES! I’d been one myself and knew how challenging it could get. I decided the best approach was to be my strange, but amiable enough, self.  At first (and understandably) there was resentment. They named a toy dog after me and chucked it out their bedroom window. Well, at least it wasn’t actually me they were hurling onto the pavement. I counted my blessings!

My lads seemed to cope better with the situation (of which I am grateful) than the girls but studies suggest that this is generally the case with blended families. Us females are more complicated, don’t you know.

After living together for a year, OH and I decided to try for a baby. He knew all there was to know about me and hadn’t legged it so this was the next step. Also, there was the small matter of my biological clock reminding me that I was 38 and in danger of being ‘past it’. However, Mother Nature was on my side (for once) and a year later we had a baby boy. It proved to be a good decision as my ovaries surrendered soon after. We hoped that our little boy would help to bond our two families together.

I have read that it takes step-families (or blended families as is becoming the term) about seven years to function well together. It’s totally unrealistic to expect a step-family to work from the outset, it takes time, patience and effort. Some step-parents try to assert themselves as being equal to the child’s parents and it’s a mistake. I don’t try to be a mother to my stepdaughters. They have a mum. That job is taken. I know my place and my place is a supporting role. My sons get on well with OH and that is largely down to the fact that he’s never tried to be their dad.

I would advise any step-parent to understand that, while a certain amount of respect should be a given, respect works both ways. If you are a complete arse to them, they are likely to return the favour with bells on or ignore you completely. If you go all Eric Cartman and demand that they respect your ‘authoritah’. You’ll most likely be greeted with a two fingered gesture as the door is slammed off it’s hinges. Expecting your step-children to like you from the start is unrealistic. With time and effort, feelings do change. Go in with low expectations and you’ll save yourself thousands in therapy.

Parenting is hard but being a step-parent can be an absolute minefield. You just can’t bollock em like you can your own, can you?!  Neither should you lie on the floor and assume the doormat position. There is a line which you need to find. It can be difficult but there are moments when you feel you’ve turned a corner. Its the smile that isn’t forced, a kiss on the end of a text or them simply choosing to sit and talk to you.. small things which mean a lot because maybe your starting to become part of their story instead of being the outsider.

Step-monsters mothers get a bad rap. If the Disney films are to be believed, we all cackle in front of the mirror and think up evil ways to kill our step-kids. Well, I do cackle a bit, especially first thing, but I don’t plot my step-daughters demise. I quite like them.

Eight years down the line, we are beginning to blend together. We’re an eclectic mix of creative and logical (and in my case, slightly insane) minds. Each unique and caring in our own ways. We’re not perfect, but then, no family is.


18 thoughts on “Family Is What You Make It

  1. I love the two quotes that you used to start and finish your post. My twin and I are the children from a blended family and I do remember various rows between my dad and a couple of siblings on my mum’s side when I was very small but as I grew up, they all grew closer and when my dad died, it was clear that my siblings thought of him as ‘Dad’ in exactly the same way I did (especially as they have very little contact with their biological dad). It must be hard to be the parents/step-parents in a blended family and to try and tread that line but I imagine it is incredibly rewarding when it does work out.

    • Thanks Louise, it’s good to hear from someone who has been through this as a child of a blended family.The youngest of OH’s daughters was 8 when we got together and my boys were in their teens. Seemingly, the younger a child is, the easier it is? The hard work is starting to pay off. We love nothing more than when we are all together. 🙂

  2. I’ve always thought that blending a family must be hard work, but also very rewarding in the long run. It sounds as if it has worked well for you, and I do love your sense of humour about the harder moments. Wise words Tracy, and I really like that second quote. Thank you so much for sharing with #ThePrompt x

  3. Any family are lucky to have you in part of it Tracy! Such a lively insightful post into you life. You both have worked hard together and things have turned out great for you……roll on July

  4. I come from a blended family myself, it was interesting at times, but my Stepbrother and sisters have just the same place in my heart as my half sister. My husband is from a Nuclear family and we have created one. Bits of paper don’t make a family, love and commitment do.

  5. Wow, I cannot imagine what you go through as a step parent to girls. I have two teenage girls myself and boy, it’s SUCH hard work! I take my hat off to you. Love your sentiments at the end about noticing the little things and taking them as a compliment. How has it worked out with your little boy joining the mix?

  6. Loved reading this post and learning more about you. I take my hat off to step-mothers, I’ve got several friends who inherited step-kids when they met their Hubby’s and they’ve all been through hell in one way or another. Sounds like you’ve nailed it, and I’m so pleased to hear that eight years on life is less challenging in this department…

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