The dos & don’ts of a blended family
Marriage is hard work. Then, factor in your stepchildren, ex-spouse, money matters and all sorts of obstacles. Marriage is more than a chore!
I had once given up on the idea of marriage. I believed in it, but I just thought it was next to impossible to find the right partner. Now, I have evolved to enjoy all the good times and learn to deal with the bad times. Though I love every second of family life, I must admit that, at times, it is also a source of stress and a struggle. This is on top of all the issues and problems that I have to deal with at work.
Here are some thoughts on how to make a marriage with blended family work.
In our home we put God first, spouse second and children third. Yes, in that order. Some might think this is so traditional but I grew up with that. I don’t let past relationship and divorce to bring any kind of manipulation in my household. The past is the past, the future is unknown but we live in the present. I think it’s fierce to put my marriage as a priority at home and I just do not let everything at home be ruled by all the children’s wants and demands.
2. Respect the rules
I set boundaries very early on in the relationships that I enter. Over time, these boundaries can change, but respect and discipline are the constant key values in our household. You live under our roof, you follow our rules. I make it clear with my husband and our children what my boundaries are, what is OK and what is not. Having discipline is crucial in raising children. We keep a regular routine and set a good example. If you expect the children to change, we, as parents, must change first. There is no such thing as equality between parents and children.
In any family, especially a blended one, dealing with the children’s behaviours and finances can be very difficult. I try my best to ensure everyone gets what is fair, treat every child equally, provide the emotional and financial support that they need. As parents, we do our best to give them the best opportunities in life and support them in the things that they want to do. However, they must also learn that it doesn’t mean they will always get everything that they want. They must contend with the real world where things don’t go their way all the times. I give all my children my level best, my own children and the stepchildren.
3. Don’t take it personally
You can be a queen at home but don’t be a drama queen! Learn to deal with your own insecurities and try not to project them on other people. Having a blended family is no walk in the park. You have got to deal with a lot of tantrums, dramas and guilt trips. Sometimes, you just have to bite your tongue and have a thick skin to cope with the children’s mood swings and emotional outbursts. When it comes to my stepchildren, I try to understand and be sensitive that they may feel happier if their divorced parent were still together. To them, I am still the other person.
Keeping positive is important and learn to accept that it is not all about you all the time. That’s what I tell myself. There is no need to be petty and dishonour their own mother. As a mother, I want them to embrace and cherish all the memories that they share with their own mother. A mother’s love is a gift from God and it’s not for me to take that away from them. But sometimes, kids may not realise what they say or the way they behave hurts you. You just have to put the negativity aside and calm yourself down. When dealing with heartache, anger or frustration, I go back to my mantra, “this, too, shall pass”.
4. Don’ be a doormat
When you want to say something, say it. One of the most important things in any relationship is to be expressive. It’s better to express your frustrations and disappointments than let them build up over time. It is also very important to show affection and affirm your love. Some parents in blended families are often hesitant to speak up when it comes to disciplining and guiding the stepchildren even though their behaviours and issues affect home life.
Don’t internalise things until you grow resentful and bitter. You and your spouse need to be on the same page when it comes to disciplining and guiding the children. This also goes with your own children, too. Find what works for you as a parental unit. When I set the rules and the husband enforces them, and vice versa.
5. Enjoy the ride
Life is not all bed of roses. Nothing good comes easy so we must embrace the good with the bad. So the key to happiness is to let go, plus a lot of love and laughter. Make things fun for everyone and spread joy amongst people around you. Focus on making great memories with the people you love rather than giving your energy to the doom and gloom. The children will one day grow up and look back at things in perspective.
Most of all, do not dwell petty little things. Focus on what matters the most, love.