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Is Your Family Blended? or in the Blender?

Posted by Susan Engel

You’re not my dad! my older son shouted at my fiance the other day. Hooo-boy. Here we go again with the blended family stuff. And once again, I am feeling more like I’m in a blender than a blended family.

My fiance came into my life– and into the lives of my two sons– just over four years ago, when my kids were 2 and 5 years old; my youngest still in diapers. I had been divorced for almost a year; my fiance had been divorced for decades and never had children. Nevertheless, he embraced my kids as his own and voila! we became a blended family.

There are issues which are unique to blended (what used to be called “step”) families. Understandably, these issues can affect the family dynamic strongly enough that one might even question the viability of the relationship. I know – I’ve been there. And I occasionally revisit that place when my guilt about the divorce, my loss of the dream nuclear family, hearing my children’s frustration and sadness in having two homes, or our differences in discipline becomes overwhelming enough.

Referring to EP Parent Blogger Melody’s latest blog on feeling like a failure as a parent, I admit that I frequently feel that my best isn’t good enough and my blended family is more like a family in a blender, with clashing emotions and unmet needs. Sometimes, in a fit of frustration, my son(s) will angrily tell my fiance, You’re not an Engel. You don’t have the same last name as us. You’re not part of the family. OUCH. While I’m not the target of those disrespectful, stinging comments, I can feel their divisive and hurtful intentions. I cannot imagine how painful a comment like that can be coming from someone you love?

Luckily, my fiance and I have come to understand that those types of barbed comments are really my sons way of telling us that they’re frustrated about something – it could be that they don’t want to do their homework or it might be that they dislike having to go back and forth between two homes. Or it could mean something entirely different (although it usually involves a power struggle of some kind). The point is that there is more to those comments than just the words – something is begging to be addressed. Unfortunately, at times I have a hard time peeling off my own emotions and objectively examining the situation. I’ve finally come to the point where I can admit that I need help.

James Lehman has an excellent article in EP on this subject: My Blended Family Won’t Blend Help! Part I: How You and Your Spouse Can Get on the Same Page, which summarily addresses parenting issues in this unique situation. His advice when kids scream You’re not my parent! is right on target: You’re right, I’m not. But these are the expectations that your mother and I have, and if you don’t follow through you will be held accountable. (Duh – now, why didn’t I think of that?)

Several other articles on this subject by James, along with those written by EP parent bloggers, are outstanding tools for stepfamilies. Of course, there are many other resources on this topic, but I would really love to hear about your personal experiences as single- or step-parents.

Is your family blended or in the blender What strategies did you use to deal with this situation


About Susan Engel

Susan Engel is a mother of two, writer and parent blogger for Empowering Parents.

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