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.
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.