Today is National Step Family Day!
If you know DJ and me, you know that neither of us are proponents of divorce, despite the fact that we are both divorced. Being part of a step-family can be challenging, both as the parent and the child. Despite that more than 50% of US families these days are re-married, it can be very isolating if you’re one of the few in your circle of friends who is living this out. For those of you who are living this blended family life, we are right there with you.
❤️ Did you know it takes an average of four years for a bond to form between stepparent and stepchild?
DJ and I have been married for almost five years, and I can tell you that we are still a work-in-progress as a step-family. I don’t know why people expect it to be instant and don’t understand when it isn’t… Think about it – in many cases, you’re only seeing your stepchildren 30% of the year, and usually only for a couple of days at a time… It can easily feel like an attack of the space invaders! DJ bonded with Nick and Tori much quicker…but they also live with us full time. He was ultimately able to adopt them a few months ago, which has been amazing, but even with that – his relationship with them has just been so different than my relationship with my step-kids. And that is OK!
Part of why I joined as an Independent Stylist with Color Street was because it is a product that our girls like and will use, and it gave me something simple to bond with them over. At least one of them will ask me as soon as they arrive at our house on a Friday night, “Mrs. Teresa – did you bring me a new polish to wear?” Now, I need to do better about actually bringing one home with me on the weekends, but even when I don’t, there’s usually something that we can do together around this little side hustle, whether that is working an event or them helping me with some new ideas.
It would be easy for me to be jealous of how “easy” it seemed for DJ to bond with my two kiddos (I mean, our two kiddos…still getting used to that), but I’ve had to acknowledge (and so has DJ) that my relationship is just different with his kids. It doesn’t make me a bad stepmom, no matter what society might try to tell me.
❤️ To that point, it is OK to not love your stepchild the same way you love your biological child.
The relationship isn’t the same, and you can’t force it to be the same. It’s okay if it’s different. (See previous statement about how long it takes to create a bond!) I love my stepkids. I care about them and their future. My relationship with them is very different than my relationship with my biological children. Please don’t make your friends feel guilty for not loving “the same.” I guarantee you that there is more going on in that relationship than they’ll ever be able to even put into words. Don’t judge – just listen. There are so many factors that go into a relationship between a child and step-parent, and as the step-parent, I know I can’t control all of them. I just do my best, just like the next stepmom.
❤️ It’s a good thing if your biological child loves his stepparent. (I mean, why would you want them to hate anyone??)
❤️ It’s also a good thing if the stepparent cares about your biological child! (Again, why would you want that relationship to be a negative one?)
Psychologist Judith Wallerstein did a 25-Year Landmark Study, which followed 93 now-adult children for about 25 years on the affects from their parent’s divorce. She found “the children of divorce tended to do well if mothers and father, regardless of remarriage, resumed parenting roles, putting differences aside, and allowing the children continuing relationships with both parents.” Yay, right? Except of the families in this study, “only a few children had these advantages.”
Ugh. Heart breaking! Seriously! And yes, DJ and his ex have a challenging relationship. I WISH it was better. I PRAY for it to be better. We can only control one half of that relationship. Come on mamas (because frankly, I think we are probably the worst at doing this) – I know it’s hard to think of your sweet child loving their new stepmom… But I promise you, she’s not trying to take your place. Just love your kids, let them love others, and let others love them! It takes a village to raise our kiddos, and she’s part of your village now.
❤️ Counseling is a good thing and often needed both for the parents and the children following a divorce, and even following re-marriage.
I am so grateful that Nick and Tori have an amazing counselor who has helped them work through blended family issues, as well as just general life / friend / school issues. There is NOTHING wrong with seeking help. We have to break this stigma around mental health folks! Having someone to talk through issues with and help you level-set where you expectations *should* be can be so helpful while adjusting to a new blended family. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your children, your family, or your marriage – just that you need a professional to help you work through the challenges that you’re facing. This life can be hard enough – don’t make it harder by ignoring small things until they become bigger issues.
❤️ As a stepmom, I try to celebrate the small wins.
Whether that’s one of the girls wanting to do something with just me or that one of the kids did what I asked the first time I asked…I celebrate it all. Focus on the things that ARE going well. Celebrate them, even if it feels silly. Remember those on the tough days. Find a community where you don’t feel alone, even if that’s just one or two local families. If the community isn’t uplifting you and helping you, find a new one. (This is especially true of online communities…) There are online groups for both stepmoms and biomoms – if you need help finding one, just let me know.
I love our family, even with all the challenges that come with it. I am blessed with an amazing husband who is learning that his introverted wife sometimes gets overwhelmed with our big family. I also know that I have to do my part to try to work past some of my own issues and just be present sometimes.
To all the step-families out there, today is your day (even if you have to celebrate it next weekend when you’re all together again).