The first step in fixing the problem is to admit you have a problem. The question remains is step-parenting a problem? Blended families are no easy task especially for stepparents entering a blended family. Every bride or groom to be that brings children into a new marriage has challenges. How you tackle the challenges is the key to a harmonious marriage.
Relationships are not built overnight – especially with a step-parent. Mutual respect is built over months and possibly years of living under one roof. Trust is earned. Discuss expectations with the biological parent of how your role works with discipline. Stay on the same page as the biological parent. Just because the step-parent believes a certain way is right, does not meant the biological parent agrees. For example, parents today are far more involved (or over-involved) in their kids’ lives. My experience tells me that parents attend events at schools far more than in years past. If a biological parent wishes to attend every sporting event at the school, the step-parent should be supportive of that decision.
“My parents never attended any of my games when I was a kid” is not helpful or the point. Choose not to go and make that time designated for mom and son/daughter. Use the down time to start a new hobby or begin an exercise program. Your newlywed status will resume at home after the game.
The rules are simple, do not try to replace a parent. Stay involved, offer support and embrace the kid. Whether a toddler, adolescent or teenager, kids need to know you are there to take part in their lives as the other parent’s partner. They do not need an additional parent. Divorce is challenging enough without the added pressure of answering to a third parent. Communication is key; find a common interest with the stepchild that maybe neither parent has explored. Perhaps fishing is your passion and the biological dad is not a fan of the water. Use some extra weekend time to spend time getting to know one another while enjoying a different hobby than usual.
Wedding vows should require a clause to clarify this particular dichotomy. Seriously, this is a tough one; for better or worse does not come with footnotes.
“I take you for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part – unless my child needs me more. There may be unpleasant choices in your future if you remarry and children are involved. The soccer championship will inevitably take place on the same day of your spouse’s company picnic. Where do you go? If the stars align, you will be able to make an appearance at both. However, to magnify the challenge, the game is 30 miles away and both events begin at the same time. You must make a difficult, no-win choice.
A supportive spouse will understand that while silly to some, your kid’s game may be more important than a company function. One solution is to attend your child’s game and have a friend or relative accompany your new spouse at the company picnic. Everyone can meet later to discuss the day’s events. This is the true test to a blended family. Can your new spouse understand that conflicts will happen? How will he or she react to sharing your priorities and compromise?
If the answer to this was clear, we would all be clairvoyant and be millionaires by picking winning lottery numbers. The short answer is to date as long as possible. The longer a couple gets to know each other, the better the chance for events to occur to test the choppy waters. Talk openly about potential schedule conflicts and how they will be handled. Look at calendars far in advance and make time as a couple when schedules are less busy. Be aware of school related events that occur certain times of the year. Work ahead to minimize issues that may arise.
A new romance is wonderful but reality is inevitable. Life is challenging and divorce exacerbates the challenge. Eventually the honeymoon stage is traded in for day to day tasks. Choose your next relationship carefully when there are children involved.