Our blended family is a little different than many. My husband’s ex-wife left him and moved to another state and he was left to parent their five kids alone. I met him about a year later. Fast forward about 8 years after we were married and his ex-wife moved back to live near us again. After missing eight years of their lives while we parented them, she quickly began trying to make up for lost time. She has somewhat of a co-dependent personality and since she wasn’t dating anyone, she would always take one of the kids with her everywhere she went and insisted as they got older that at least one of them lived with her.
Due to her need to always be with one of the kids, we often invite her to our cabin, family events, and holidays. That way the kids don’t have to go back and forth or worry about her being alone. For the last four years, it has set a precedent. Since she has been back, I am unable to have my own time with the kids that I raised for over ten years. Sometimes when we go to our cabin without her, she tells all of the kids how sad she is that she wasn’t invited. This sparked a conversation with my stepdaughter and gave me the opportunity to tell her how much I wish I was able to spend my own time with them again, but every time I try, she or the kids won’t let it happen.
A couple of weeks ago, my other stepdaughter and I were talking about Frozen II. She told me how much she wanted to see it again and I wanted to see it too so I told her that we should go. We told our younger daughter who hadn’t seen it yet and of course, she was excited to join us. I asked if we could do it Monday night and the older daughter awkwardly said she had plans. We decided to go Tuesday and we made a date. The more we talked about the movie I had the thought to ask her if her plans Monday night were to see Frozen again. She laughed and said yes, but she really wanted to see it a third time with me. Monday night, I got home and asked my husband where the girls were. Apparently, they were all with their mom watching Frozen II. Clearly, they didn’t want me to know they were doing that and felt awkward about the situation. I saw it as an opportunity for me to try to schedule my own night with the girls and quickly began looking for a fun girls’ night.
I decided to get tickets to The Forgotten Carols, a musical written by and starring Michael McLean. I purchased four tickets and the girls were excited to go. The oldest asked me if I intended to invite their mom. I said that I wasn’t going to, referred to the Frozen II situation and told her I thought that she would understand since I wasn’t invited to Frozen. She then went on to tell me about how her mom was friends with Michael McLean and how much she would want to go. I talked to my husband about it and he said that for a number of years his ex-wife was obsessed with Michael McLean.
Wow, did I pick the wrong show! I had a flashback to the last musical I went to with one of my stepdaughters and how she kept saying that night that she wished her sisters and mom could have gone with us. The outing was already ruined. If I didn’t take their mom, the kids would be worried about her all night. I couldn’t stand my ground on this and went ahead and purchased the extra ticket. Their mom was so happy to be going she was crying! It was just another failed attempt on my part. I reminded myself that if the girls wanted time with me, they would schedule it. Until then, their mom would always likely be present. That night, their mom was very pleasant, and the oldest stepdaughter made a point to talk to me, but the other two didn’t talk to me much other than to tell me what they wanted me to buy for them at intermission.
It must be so difficult for the kids to know how to act in those situations. I always come back to my role, which is to facilitate family time. As soon as I make it about me, it never turns out well.
We often find ourselves trying over and over again to have situations turn out the way we want them to, but they rarely do. The only piece of advice I can give is that when we can’t do anything about a situation, we adjust our expectations, remember all that we are thankful for, and we move forward doing our best to remain positive in the situation we have been given.
What is a blended family?
According to Your Dictionary, “A blended family is defined as a family made of two parents and their children from previous marriages. An example of a blended family is a woman with two children from a previous marriage who marries a man with three children from a previous marriage.”
What are common problems and challenges for blended families?
Common problems for blended families include children not feeling loved or feeling left out, sibling rivalry, children manipulating parents, ex-spouses, dreading holidays, vacations, marital problems, finances and discipline (or lack thereof).
Can blended families be successful?
Although many stepfamilies seem doomed for failure, it is absolutely possible for a blended family to be successful. While some situations are unhealthy for everyone involved, many families can be saved if there is a desire to work through the problems.
How common are blended families?
Blended families are becoming more common. According to Pew Research 62% of children in the U.S. live in two-parent households and 15% of those are living with parents in a remarriage.