Whether you are a man or a woman, getting remarried to someone who has children is basically the equivalent of getting hired for a new full time job.
You’re signing and acknowledging all of the agency policies for you to be hired on with a new company. You know you will have a new role.
But there is a problem with all of this new-hire paperwork – the actual job description itself. There isn’t one. Congratulations!
The new role you just signed up for is actually CREATING your own job description, and then carrying it out.
You are now a stepparent.
And it’s safe to say, the first question you have on day one at the office is probably, “What the hell?”
Many people who begin the act of blending their families, whether it be through marriage or simply moving your families in together, have this picture in their head.
I imagine their vision to be a lot like a pretty, well-filtered Instagram photo. Everyone looks great.
Their family flaws have all been airbrushed out. Smiles have been forced on all faces.
And the background has been altered with a touch of just enough sunshine to make it look like the picture was taken on a gorgeous day.
As long as you post, share, and tag away all kinds of these photos, you don’t have to explain to people what life in your blended family is really like.
You don’t have to explain what a day at the office really feels like as a step-parent.
Because if you did tell people what life behind your step-parenting door really looked like, you would have to admit that it’s not perfect.
That it’s hard and that it’s full of flaws.
You would have to admit that you are all just getting through each day trying to figure each other out. And then you would have to answer to yourself at the start and finish of your days, the question of “why did I sign up for this?”
If you are someone who cannot emotionally handle having step-children who ignore you, disrespect you, don’t take you seriously, and never really want much to do with being in the same room as you – step-parenting may not be for you.
Step-children do not just waltz into your living room with all the love and respect in the world for a new adult, much less someone who has taken on the role of another parent in their life. (And if they do – something isn’t right, or they really want something from you.)
Stepchildren don’t value their new family the way you do.
They don’t even care about how much time they spend with you.
And I can promise you, they will not think twice before taking a better offer from their “other” house when it’s supposed to be their weekend with you.
Upsetting you by not wanting to spend time with you and your spouse is not on their radar. Not in the beginning- and unfortunately for some, not as time moves on either.
You will not get communication from your stepchildren when it comes to their school, their sports, or their friends.
They won’t say please or thank you at the dinner table, and there is a 99% chance that they are getting up from that table without even an ounce of effort to clear a plate or put their phone down long enough to look at you.
And your new spouse will probably not have two words to say about it.
Because discipline in a new blended family with step-children is a huge wedge that is constantly being driven between you and your marriage.
One of you will constantly get upset and feel hurt by these actions, while the other will always feel the need to “give it more time.” Hello argument city! Who’s ready to take that instagram photo now?
To shake things up a bit in the office, let’s add a few new hires.
Say you have children of your own that you bring to the table when you blend your families. You are not just a step-parent trying to figure out how things work in one role, but you are also a biological parent trying to figure out how to get your step-children and your own children to work together.
How to play nice in the sandbox, if you will.
Depending on ages, this can be a hard and tricky road to navigate.
If you have teenagers, they may start their relationship off acting as if they don’t even know each other.
You will drive yourself crazy trying to force activities upon them or time together that they don’t want. And at the end of the day, when they still want nothing to do with each other, you will feel like you are failing at every turn to make this whole thing work.
If the children are younger, this can be even harder than the teenager job.
Younger step-children can come with tons of tricks and behaviors that they can throw your way at any given second. They are still young enough to play their parents against each other, or get emotional over their biological parent having a new spouse and not giving them enough attention.
Younger step-children may have issues with sharing with your own children and then fighting, arguing, and the dividing of belongings becomes a daily struggle in the home.
But don’t worry – your spouse is still over in the corner giving you the whole, “give it more time” speech.
So now you have step-children that ignore you and really don’t make any effort to get to know you.
Sometimes you wonder if they even know when you are in the room.
And you have biological children that you have to make sure feel included, not overlooked, and just as important as these new children.
You are the new manager of a team, running an office full of new-hires who have also come without any job descriptions.
And even though you feel like you are failing at your new job and nothing will ever come together, you are forgetting one very important fact during all of the transition into your new role.
Every member of that office feels the exact same way you do.
They are all wondering the same thing and asking themselves, “what the hell?” as they wander through their new family life trying to figure out where they fit in, or where to start.
Becoming a step-parent is not something that anyone wakes up and has all the answers to.
Just like becoming someones step-child starts with no instruction, no rules. These children have no idea what you want from them.
I think a lot of people have this myth that if you fall in love with someone who has children, you automatically have love for their children as well. And vice versa.
That could not be farther from the truth.
Your love for your step-children grows over time.
It develops through trust and stability.
Just as their love for you as a step-parent, or even just respect for you in general, is reciprocated in different ways when they are ready.
When they feel safe and when they feel that trust.
But getting to that point takes one major thing from all employees in the office. And that is time.
It is ENTIRELY possible for any blended families with step-children, that are willing and able to put in the work, to thrive.
But you have to be mentally and emotionally capable of accepting this.
That time and patience are the main items you need to keep at your desk. If you let every twist and turn, or eye roll, or disrespectful behavior get to your emotions, then you are not using those items to your advantage.
Letting your emotions into every scenario of step-parenting is a guarantee that your team will fail. Expectations that things will happen overnight or that acceptance should come easily, will only get you fired.
So when it comes to your new job description of step-parent, ask yourself these things.
Am I capable of loving and respecting someone else’s child regardless of how they treat me throughout the process?
Do I have what it takes to stay patient and remain kind and understanding when I am not wanted?
Am I mentally prepared to be ignored, disrespected, and passed off for what could be years before I am accepted?
Can I continue to love and be myself in hopes that my family will thrive and come together one day, knowing that all of it will take time – some of it a long time?
If you feel like these are things you are prepared to handle, then I think it’s safe to welcome you to the team. You may just have what it takes to survive the job!
But if you’re looking at these questions and having a hard time deciding what any of your answers are, or feel like they just don’t sound like the type of job you are looking for, then this is where we part ways with a handshake and tell you we will keep your application on file.
Because step-parenting is a very difficult job that requires 100% commitment.
Unfortunately it is not a job that can be handled by anything less. And it certainly cannot be managed by the weak.