Our society is so politically correct these days. But what if our insistence on using “positive” words actually detracts from the truth? What are we covering when we insist that our families are blended, instead of broken?
For me, I’d much rather err on the side of reality, even if that means being “negative.” This way truth prevails, and we can address the real problems and how it really feels instead of dressing it up with a pretty label.
And right now, our family is more broken than blended:
1. We have kids with more than a decade age gap. Having such a wide divide between kids often pulls our family in two different directions. This means having to split up in order to do certain things, which often highlights that we are two different families mixed into one.
2. We can’t all be together on holidays. We have to share my stepdaughter with her mother. We gladly do it (and sometimes it’s a nice break), but it’s hard to avoid the feeling that someone is missing from our family when she is not there. Especially so for her father.
3. My husband and I have different ideas about how to parent his daughter. This is a huge source of friction. Our parenting styles are different with our own children as well, but there is an added layer of tension when it comes to my ideas about how to parent his child.
4. It’s a scheduling nightmare. In some ways, it might be easier if her mom lived down the street. Coordinating schedules is very difficult, and we often have to sacrifice our own plans to accommodate her mother’s needs. Pickup and drop-off schedules often feel like a patchwork quilt.
5. We have competing styles and belief systems. Taking on a child who has been primarily raised in a different family is quite difficult. While there is no “right” way to do things, there are so many differences in style. For us, there has been a ton of retraining required in order to get on a more similar page.
6. There’s unwanted influence. When you are forced to be connected with someone whose ideas you don’t really approve of, it feels as though someone is contaminating your castle. Those ideas come through directly from that person, or seep in through their influence over their child, and ultimately get brought into your house, affecting you and your children.
7. We have to get used to each other’s personalities. The dynamic in a house changes with each child, but that is a natural progression. Adding in a new “grown” child means going through an acceptance process of each person’s personality. I’ve had to get used to her and she’s had to get used to me.
8. You don’t have the same opportunity to grow up with your child. When you have a child only intermittently, you don’t get the opportunity to work through each phase in real time. Being handed a teenage child, even your own, takes an adjustment for everyone involved.
9. It confuses the little ones. While the two-year-old hasn’t really figured it out yet, his sister at almost 4 is confused about why her older sister has a different mother and different grandparents. She wonders why her big sister is not around when she’s gone.
10. We are “married” to another person that we sometimes don’t really like. We are polite and respectful because that keeps the relationship workable on the surface. But the truth is that we are forced to endure the consequences of her mother’s actions whether we like it or not.
I am not ashamed of our “broken” family. This is our life. Our choices have led us here, and we work every day to improve our relationships. We came into this with our eyes wide open. But denying the downside, the truth, would only cause to break us further apart. It is in accepting these struggles and working through each one, that strengthens our bonds and commitment to our family.
Sara Mann is both a stepdaughter and a stepmom, desperately trying to keep the peace in a household of five on overdrive. She writes about her strategies for keeping sane (mostly) at The Sanity Plan and on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.