I’m a part of many stepmom groups. I used to be in the mindset where I didn’t know what to do with myself. I met my now fiancé, when I was 23. I knew he had two young kids. They lived with him 50% of the time. I didn’t know what that really meant though. I had people telling me, “You don’t know what you’re getting into. You’re too young for this. You should be enjoying your twenties. Never marry a man with kids.” I heard all kinds of things. I was listening to them too. I based my thoughts and feelings off of what other people’s thoughts and feelings were. I was miserable!!!
Shortly after he and I started dating, I ended up moving in with him. That meant being fully involved in two other lives while I was there. At the time, he did not want me to meet their mom. They had some nasty stuff going on in the middle of a divorce. I understood that… to some degree, however, my gut kept telling me something else.
I remember a specific event that changed the course of everything. My fiancé and I were at dinner one night without the kids. He had been texting back and forth with his ex-wife, fighting about the fact that she had no idea who I was, and she was very upset by the fact that he didn’t want to introduce the two lives their children were living. I was upset by the fact that he was texting while we were on a date, but I was also angry with myself because I wasn’t being true to myself. I asked him to hand over the phone and if I could respond to her. He agreed reluctantly. I was terrified at the time about what kind of response I might get from her. Will she be angry with me? Belittle me? I had several negative thoughts in my head, but I knew I wanted a very different reality than what was currently happening. To my surprise, she actually responded in the very manner I wanted her to respond. I didn’t want fear to be the driving factor anymore. I wanted to be responsible for creating something different. Had I not taken that one scary step to be vulnerable and honest, the outcome could have been very different. I genuinely wanted to understand what her perspective was. I wanted to relate to her. I wanted to create trust. I needed to ask the uncomfortable questions if I wanted to create a different space for us. I needed to give up the control of what I think needed to happen or how I thought things should go. What was the conflict really about? This one choice changed the course of my blended family life. It took several of these uncomfortable conversations and getting raw about what was happening. It still does. That is how we created a friendship! Even if that is not what you are looking to do, making the space for something different is needed. It is on you. Not them. Waiting for them to do something that you want will more than likely not happen because you are not vibrating on the frequency of what it is you want to attract. Also, something I recently learned- What you focus on expands. If you are focusing entirely on what you do not want, you are going to get more of what you do not want because that is all you see and create. Don't believe me? Try catching yourself every time you have a shitty thought about whoever it is in the blended family you're not so thrilled about. Change that thought. Affirm what you would like to see from that person. Write a list, even, about the person you wish they were! Then become this person. Practice it and observe what shifts.
I realize not every situation is like mine. In fact, I know plenty of blended family friends who experience something VERY different than mine. If you are reading this and relate to that, I would like to ask you- are you creating the reality you want for yourself and your kids? It is SO easy to shift the responsibility and blame on the other partner(s). But what about you? What are you contributing? Are you making every decision or reply based on your fleeting feelings? What is it really about… You know, we’re all the same, us humans. Despite different circumstances, we have all shared the exact same feelings at some point. You have the power of choice- not control- in your role here. It is possible to be friends and co-parent. It is possible to just co-parent in a very healthy way without so much negativity! Sometimes we get so caught up in what the other party is doing or not doing, that we almost completely nix anything we have to do with it. Not only do you suffer, but your (step)children also do. Even if you think you are not doing anything to emotionally or mentally harm your children, believe me, you are, if you are in any way participating in a “blended family drama sitcom.”
It takes more than seeing eye to eye. It may not even be necessary to see eye to eye even though we may think it is. It is about shifting your mindset and taking full accountability for yourself. When you live by example, you may be incredibly surprised by the other party’s response (even if it takes decades). I experienced this in my own childhood and I choose not to create that for my step kids. Co-parenting can be tough. Just because I am close friends with my step kids’ mother now does not mean that tough things don’t show up in our family. But you know what? As Glennon Doyle says, I CAN DO HARD THINGS. So can you. Stop doing the same things you have been doing for years that are not working and choose something different. Sometimes that requires help. That is what I am here for. I can guarantee only one thing- if you keep doing what you are doing, you will get the same results, whether or not you like them. This applies to both bio and step parents. If you truly care, the time to be accountable is now.