Blended Families Week: What I’ve Learned As A Stepparent

BY: - 21 May '10 | Home

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by Lamar Tyler

BMWK family we hope that you’ve enjoyed Blended Families week here at BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. We know that this is a hot button topic that affects a lot of people.   So we wanted to dedicate an entire week to the topic. Ronnie started the week with her thoughts   and perspective so I wanted to close it out with mine.

As you can see from the comments that readers have been leaving all week, there is a wide spectrum of experiences when it comes to being a stepparent. If you read through them, you’ll see that blending a family can be so natural that it’s an afterthought or so disruptive that it can tear a marriage apart… so it should not be taken lightly. As you all know, Ronnie had two kids when we got married.   So I’ve got a daughter that has known me as daddy for as long as she can remember and a son that’s been fighting the idea of having 1 more person that holds him accountable from jump street. Below are five things that I’ve seen and learned through my journey and the journey of those around me from a stepparents POV.

Are You Built To Be Blended

BMWK fam, the truth is… everyone is not cut out to be a stepparent.   And that’s not a knock against the people who aren’t. Before we got married, I examined the situation and was fully aware that everyday might not be easy based on the circumstances and everyone that was involved. Since then, what I’ve internalized is that nothing is going to break up my marriage including troubles that arise from our blended family. I’m willing to do what it takes to maintain my marriage above all else and this affects other areas in my life… like parenting. Before getting married, examine your relationship with the kids, what is their relationship with your soon to be spouse, and their other biological parent, then decide if it’s something that you’re willing to work through in case things get tough. It’s much better to make a decision beforehand than 5-10-25 years into your marriage.

Don’t Do It For The Thank You

From a lot of the comments this week, I see the pain of stepparents who feel like they’re trying to pour into the lives of children that are not biologically theirs (perhaps even more than their actual mom or dad) and feel like you’re being treated unfairly by the child that may be living in your own house. Well… it is what it is. In some cases you won’t get a thank you…..at least not now, so that can’t be your motivation. I’ve taken our son to events and experiences at age 12 that I didn’t have until age 30.   Only to hear him later say that I never take him anywhere.   Or spent the entire day hanging, watching the game, wrestling etc… only to hear him on the phone the next day saying I never spend time with him all because I’m making him clean his room up.

I knew a guy who’s stepdaughter didn’t like what he was telling her to do.   So she lied on him. After he had been raising her as his own for 13+ years, the results were he spent over 2 weeks out of work and sitting in a jail cell until his 8 year old son testified and proved in court that daddy wasn’t where his sister said he was because they were together.

What I think is that being a stepparent is one of the most unappreciated jobs on God’s green earth. You may be taking care of a child more than their other biological parent and not be appreciated for doing it. It is what it is, but what you have to realize is that this is the job you’ve accepted and the responsibility is yours to handle it.

Don’t Forget The Person In The Middle

As much as I know it’s tough for stepparents, sometimes we forget how tough it is for our spouse who is often left to play referee, moderator, judge and jury. Show some compassion for the situation that they are in and the tightrope that they are left to walk. I know we always say this…. but in a blended family it’s even more important….COMMUNICATION. Can’t have enough of it. Roles, expectations, discussions on what’s going on, etc… The two of you have to stay on top of what’s going on in your house.

A Family Is Only As Successful As The Head

What I love about my wife more than anything is how even when I know it’s tough for her we stay united in front of the kids. I’ve seen it time and time again where the biological parent in the marriage turns on the spouse and it’s a dynamic where it’s me and MY kid(s) versus you. No one wins in that situation and all it does is build resentment. We stay united and then if we have issues between the two of us we take them up behind closed doors. If children see a chink in the armor of your marriage, they are going to attack it. Especially if they don’t want you there in the first place. If your marriage starts to go downhill your family will quickly follow.

Seldom Is It The Kids Fault

This is what I’ve learned personally and pray that it will help someone out there who is having a tough time with being a stepparent.   When children are acting out, fighting a stepparent every step of the way, fighting your marriage every step of the way seldom is it really coming from them. The other mom or dad is often feeding them the, you don’t have to listen to them, they are not your mommy\daddy speech and they digest it and then act it out. There can even be other people in your lives or even family that instigate this type of message because they don’t want to see your marriage and your family succeed. If you look at it from this point, really the child is the victim and those adults are the weak ones. They send a child into your house with these messages and then when they act them out the kid is the one who gets in trouble.

More than anything keep in mind that your marriage needs to remain after the kids move out. Like I mentioned before, communication is the key. You have to be able to understand your spouse and what is going on with them in relation to the kids and they need to understand your views as well. Find common ground and what works for your family and don’t be so rigid that you won’t change if needed. Your marriage and the happiness in your life could depend on it!

BMWK Family – What are some of the things you’ve learned as a stepparent?

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2227 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.

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21 WordPress comments on “Blended Families Week: What I’ve Learned As A Stepparent

  1. MichaelMartin

    I agree… I feel like when you are in this type of situation communication is the key… I married a woman that had children before we got married. I must admit it is something you have to take one day at a time and be patient….You have to reach out to the kid(s) and let them know you are there for them. You may not be their bio parent, but in some cases you are their primary care person along with your spouse. I love my wife and her kids are a part of her so
    I love them too. They are not my biological children but they know who takes car of them. That’s all that kids need. I would take a 2 parent household over a 1 parent household any day….weather it’s 2 bio parents or 1 bio parent and a step parent…Its a proven fact that it’s better for a child(ren). When you choose that woman or that man if they have children you have to except them and find a way to make it work and become a family…..It’s something you have to be willing to work at. And remember you Control the situation don’t let it control you or your marriage!

  2. Michelle

    Hello all that’s reading my comment. I am marrying my fiance in October this year. He has 2 children, a 14 year old son and an 11 year old daughter. Unfortunately I don’t have any chilfren of my own yet. I like to call them my children because I have a hand in raising them. However, I need help in learning how to deal with their evil, mean mother. I have a great relationship with the children and I think that’s partly her problem. She is re-married but absolutely cannot stand my soon to be husband nor can she stand me. If my fiance is miserable she is happy. Now that the news is out we are getting married she has turned into a true, “Baby Mama”. Any suggestions out there on how I should/could deal with this?

  3. Harriet

    You know, Lamar, I used to think my parents didn’t have feelings. I thought they were superhuman the way they were able to get up, go to work, come to our recitals, games and competitions, come home, cook, clean and still be able to “get in our business” effectively. So although I said thank you, it was what I was raised to do, not necessarily what the term actually meant…just manners.

    I said that to say this: as a parent, guardian, step parent, whatever, we’re adults, and it’s incumbent upon us to be human with one another as spouses. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should allow our kids to feel the heat of the pressures that we deal with on a daily basis. I really love the matter-of-fact tone you used in this piece…you’re right, it ain’t for everyone. But it CAN succeed with some hard work and superhuman assistance (the Lord). Good stuff!
    .-= Harriet´s last blog ..Father Can You Hear Me? =-.

  4. Biculturalwifenmom

    I just wanted to say thank you guys so much for making this the theme for the week. I don’t think you get the Black family perspective on this enough, especially positive experiences. I am in a blended family where the bio mom died when my (step) son ( I just say son) was only 8 months old, so he never knew her, but the maternal grandmother (and her sisters) has fully played the role of psycho babymama, even mistreated my husband after the son’s mom died and tried to get custody, said all kinds of nasty things to and about him, and worked hard to keep my son from loving or trusting me. Luckily she lives in their home country so its much simpler to control the relationship. In our situation we had lots and lots and lots of change and transition and challenges to deal with, I won’t even get into the multiple layers of challenges we dealt with all at once, new country, language, culture, family, marriage, no money, illness, and the list goes on. But like one of the other posts said, we have to feel in our hearts that failure is not an option for our marriage or our family, that whatever happens is just part of the process to be dealt with and overcome. It was not easy for me to go from living the single young professional life to married with a 6 year old overnight, but we’re doing it, and we’re growing and learning and developing and defining new relationships. We’re also stumbling, yelling, crying, and getting back up together at times, but its all part of the package. Even when my son gets on my LAST VERY LAST nerve, I know that a) he is going through as many or more changes than me with no control over the situation, and b) God put the three of us together for a reason and that reason was not to fall apart. And now that we’re expecting the newest member of our fam by the end of the year (my first bio), I know my son is going to be a great big brother (he is so excited) and that this new addition will make our family even better. So to all my stepparents out there, keep your head up! The night is darkest before the dawn as they say, and it can be worked out. Also, I’ve gotta say, try to look to other blended families and stepparents for advice and support, its hard for people in all-bio families to understand what you go through and people can tend to harshly judge stepparents instead of support and understand. Many people expect you to not love or to mistreat your stepchild, and look at everything you say, do or feel through that lens, so someone who’s been there is a much better resource. This is getting very long but just wanted to say thanks again for the topic. I think we should have more Black stepparent meetup groups where people can get together and support each other, with and without the kids. Just my dos centavos (2 cent).

  5. Kisha

    Thank you for this! That first statement is so true. My ex and I spent just over 5 years together. I realized that stepparenting just wasn’t in him. He couldn’t understand. I tried explaining that nothing was “wrong” with him per se…but I just didn’t believe he had the patience/personality/ability to love my children as his own. After nearly 15 years he still didn’t acknowledge his own stepmother; and his parents had been divorced 10 years before his father married her. He would often separate the children/stepchildren of his friends (like HE has x number of kids and SHE has z). He never got that THEY had xz number of kids!

    As I’ve researched blended families, one of my fav quotes has been “Consider your children temporary residents in your home and your spouse permanent”. I think that speaks volumes. Its not about neglecting the kids, etc. But its about how your marital relationship is primary. It must be, above all else (well, your spiritual relationship governs but otherwise…). When you’re a strong team, you can be strong parents. Never allow conquer & divide. Regularly communicate with the children!!! We talk to “our” kids all the time. Individual one-on-one talks, together, and we have family meetings on Monday’s.

    Its work but it can be so rewarding.

    Oh, and ditch the idea that you should “get something”. Do it because you love them (at least you should!). The reward comes later; when you see them grow into responsible adults. You can take pride in your role!

  6. {JeLisa} @ Blogging Ever After

    That last point is SUCH wisdom.

    My husband and I aren’t parents {or step-parents, for that matter – I was just interested in reading a step-father’s point-of-view}, but we’ve already decided that we will always remain a united front in front of our kids, and that we will never disrespect or contradict one another’s discipline or decisions until we are behind closed doors to discuss it.

    Anyway, it was great reading your point-of-view, Lamar. I’m sure it was helpful to those who are actually in blended families! 🙂
    .-= {JeLisa} @ Blogging Ever After´s last blog ..Sunday Afternoon: Even the sweet tea in the fridge tastes better when I share it with you. =-.

  7. MrsT

    I didn’t get a chance to comment on Friday, I just wanted to say thank you again for this theme. Knowing there are other black blended families out there dealing with the same type of issues we deal with makes it just a little easier to deal :). Your highlight of such an important and often overlooked issue is really appreciated. Thanks and have a great week!

  8. Ruby Griffin

    As a stepmom for many years,i learn that you must know God,and have love ,understanding,and a whole lot of patience…When i marriage my husband,i didn’t know he has as many children’s as he did,come to find out later,there was as many as three parents involve,i would keep each group,on difference weekend,and on monday evening,i would have mom drama,all in my face,with stuff as she hit me,are i couldn’t do this or that…It was hard for me as well as they dad,he was trying so hard to please them,and keeping me happy all at the same time,i step up,and told them,you maynot like me ,but you going to respect me,i believe putting my foot-down,brought about the change…right then they realize,i wasn’t the women,they try to make me to be,after that they all got on the good foot,and got with the program,with your own children’s or stepchildren’s,you must let them know who is in control,from the beginning,the adult or the children’s,DON’T GET ME WRONG,I love all children’s,but if you give them a inch ,they will take a mile…be careful,watch yourself,as they’re watching you,if you get out of that trail for a second,they got you…

  9. freckldgem

    I am still having a difficult time even after reading your articles coming to terms with the level of insanity I deal with when it comes to my stepchild and his mother. Just as you said, her and her family are miserable people who claim they’re better than us under the pretense of being “holier than thou”. The child doesn’t get to see his mother that often and he acts out with her and her family or at school when he’s with her. Then we’re blamed for the behavior because he wants to be with her so bad that he’s willing to lie and scheme to do so. Unfortunately, he’s learned this from his mom and I’ve watched them argue (a 9 yr old with his own mom) over whose lying on whom. RIDICULOUS! It has come to the point where my stepson has attempted to put his own Dad – my husband – in jail. I know the problem isn’t us – I mean I know we’re not perfect but he’s a well behaved kid who does well in school when he’s with us without interruption. When he goes to his mom’s he’s someone we don’t know. I try to remain a united front with my husband but sometimes I DO want to GIVE UP! Since the last jail incident, I don’t have much to say to my stepson (who I would normally call my son but this has pushed me over the edge). We have taken away all of his privilages and he has to read books and do book reports because I feel that television and the internet has filled his head with too much fantasy and he needs to come back down to earth. I know that being a step parent is a thankless job because being a parent is a thankless job PERIOD. I don’t expect anything from anyone and when I get praise I don’t listen or feed into it. I do what I do because I love my family and I love seeing them happy. We have tried to do so much for them and I want to raise them with some sense of responsibility and integrity. I feel when my son does what he does just to get attention from his mom and feel as though she still has him – he needs to know the consequences of his actions. A lot of the times, she’s not worried about him unless he does or says something drastic to get her attention and affection. When he’s suppose to be with her, 9 times out of 10 he’s been dropped off at her parents house. And they are another subject altogether. I just want to be able to keep my home drama free! I look at them as the enemy and all they care about is breaking up my family to get what they want. My stepson, his mom and her parents. They don’t respect my husband as a father unless we are doing things the way they want. We’ve finally started putting our foot down but they have fought back even harder – which led to this recent incident. I’m just wondering how much more can I take? Can my family take? Forget the stepchild, what about the rest of the family who is caught in this drama? I have two other children that need attention and love. NO ONE but my husband and I care about how they are affected by all of this. I feel like I’m to my breaking point….

  10. Lamar

    @freckldgem- thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m going to have an expert address some of the topics that came up last week and I’ll make your situation one of them so stay tuned. I feel for your situation because like I mentioned before I don’t think people realize that a disgruntled child has the ability to literally get you locked up and you could be doing nothing wrong! Especially a man and in the process disrupt not just their lives and the parents but their other siblings too. Something I’ve seen from some of the comments is the tough task of deciding what to do when one child’s behavior is affecting their younger siblings. I’m going to work on getting this new expert post by the end of the week, if not look for it early next week.
    .-= Lamar´s last blog ..The Bottom Line Returns This Week! =-.

  11. freckldgem

    @Lamar – Thank you so much for responding to my post. I do need an expert. I’ve had a lot of family and friends give me differing advice but I think I need to hear an unbiased opinion. I just spoke with my hubby about my stepson and he feels that everyone else is being so hard on him about what he’s done that he actually feels bad for him. I can tell that he’s letting up on the agreement regarding how we were going to handle the situation. Not that we feel like he should get capital punishment but I also want to appear united in our decision. He’s been lenient where I’ve tried to put my foot down but at the same time I don’t want to look like the evil-stepmom by forcing the issue. I don’t know how to feel about it anymore. I really try to just focus on raising our two because I feel that it’s less stressful for me to worry about what my stepson is doing all the time and let my husband repair his relationship with him. I haven’t even thought about how to repair the relationship between myself and my stepson. I’m honestly not ready because I’m exhausted with this whole situation. This is not the first time he’s lied on us and I’m sure it won’ t be the last…

    I do need advice…

  12. freckldgem

    @ Michelle – That’s exactly what it’s about. Why these children become so involved because it’s women like your husband’s ex that want to see that man miserable so she will do everything in her power to make sure she will get the job done. The only advice I have – because clearly I need help too – is that I’ve been able to control how I deal with her. I DON’T! I don’t know if that’s the wrong thing to say BUT everyone isn’t capable of acting like adults in adult situations. My stepson’s Mom is very childish, manipulative and mean. I’ve tried talking to her like an adult and it did absolutly nothing. I’ve never tried to interfere, I’ve never tried to step on her toes, I’ve never tried to force a relationship with her son. BUT it doesn’t matter because it’s just the simple fact that I’m here. I realized that the only way these crazy BMs know that they’re getting to you is if you let them know. I don’t. All she knows is that I don’t care to speak with her and that I don’t care for her. I honestly feel as though it’s better that way because then the focus is more on the child and letting my husband and her try to work things out. The less you’re involved the less stressful it is on you. I look at it as just being a support when he needs to talk or your help with the kids. When the kids come over this doesn’t mean you let them walk over you and run your house. This just means to me that when you’re at your Moms you have her rules and when you’re here, there’s our rules. I also make it a point to not bring her up as a topic of discussion. I had to stop politely asking “How is your Mom?” because then my step son would go back to her, he’d say that I’m asking about her business…when we really know whose more concerned about whose business. So to sum up my advice on dealing with the evil, illogical crazy BM…don’t deal with her AT ALL…she will never be reasonable as long as she’s still angry with your fiancee/husband.

  13. Michelle

    Ive been married for 5 months. I know it”s hard for my husband b/c I’ve been a single parent for so long. I fall back when it comes to sharing the responsibility of parenting the 7 year old son, but as his Mom I do feel sometimes he is too hard on him. His biological father is very lenient – So Ive always had to be the disciplinarian…shoot and people said I was too strick Lord my hubby takes the cake…we discuss it behind closed doors but I know he feels that I dont support him. I do, I just want him to listen to the children, they have feelings and thoughts too. My hubby has 3 children, but they do not reside in this country. We are preparing for one child to live in the US. Im nervous, but have expressed to him that he needs to spend time with her without us to build a relationship with her. I also decided that the same way I treat my 13 yr old daugther when she is acting up or out (teenage stuff) – I will deal with 16 yr old the same way. Trust in the Lord, stand together and everything will come together.
    I also have problems with my children’s father’s current girlfriend b/c she never minds her business. Always in between – I dont recall her being their when we made the 13 and 7 yr old. The best thing most of the time is to let the man handle the situation and not get involved. That is what I intend to do – with all three of the mommas…Yea, we have a blended family – he has 3, I have 2, together we have 5 and a bundle in the oven. I’m sorry to hear about the drama, but definitely reading the comments and trying to learn and understand all the emotions felt.

  14. Tina

    I am so blessed that I married a wonderful man who was sensitive to me as a step-parent. When were married three years ago I became an instant step-mom. Three of his four children lived with us( 19, 16, 13). He let his kids know that he would not tolerate disrespect from them towards me. He let them know that this home was his and mine and that they needed to follow the our rules.
    I listen to his guidance on how to relate to the kids, when to push and when not too. I think the best thing I did was to tell his kids that I was not their mother and that I could never take her place. I told them that my job/role was to support their parents, and to support & love them. I was their bonus parent. By letting them know that I knew I was not a replacement for their mother allowed them not to feel threaten about my presence. Another choice I made was to stay out of discussion between my husband and her about the kids. My husband always seeks my opinion about what to do about raising the kids and he values my input

    The Bio mother and I get along well, she and we have learned to support each other. She has thanked me for helping raise her kids. In fact last Thanksgiving we all had dinner together at my in-laws, it was great. I am so grateful to be a step-parent and to have these wonderful children in my life. No everything has not been easy( Hello, I have teenagers!) but my marriage is strong and my kids know they are loved

  15. Staycee2

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I felt like this article was written for my household!!!! There a similarities in this article that suggest that my spouse & I need to sit down and really iron out things. His ex passed away last year about this time and my house seems so divided since his children have come to live with us. I love my husband so damn much, but I know deep down in my heart that if a change doesn’t come soon, I might be forced to do the unthinkable (move-out)!!!! The more I type the more I want to break down and cry……

  16. Cynthia

    I must admit that I was naive going into my marriage. My husband has three children, but was married only to the youngest child’s mother. We have been married for 17 years now…and the drama with that woman never, ever stopped. I have found stepparenting to be an empty, thankless job. Never had any biological children of my own. My husband’s ex turned their daughter completely against about a year after we were together with all of the typical things…you’re not my mom, I don’t have to listen to you…the list goes on and on. On top of all of that, the mother would call and harass me until I changed the phone number. She is a miserable, evil woman. When her daughter turned 15 she decided she did not want to parent any longer and dropped her off in the driveway, signed custody papers—but continued her reign of terror. We got the daughter straightened out—so we thought, but she has undermined and manipulated everything we worked to do. I guess if the daughter succeeded, we succeeded and she would have none of that. Imagine, sabotaging your own child to get back at other folks! (btw: she was responsible for the end of their marriage, not he nor I). I guess she wanted to make him suffer.
    I have not seen baby mama since last year when my stepdaughter graduated from college. She was not supportive, financially or otherwise, but wanted to be MOM for that occasion. She even planned a graduation party on the day of graduation…I expect to upstage us. But everyone knows the truth. Now she is encouraging the daughter in a relationship with a much older man, who has NOTHING and lives at home with his mama—instead of getting her to focus on herself and her career. We have not sanctioned the relationship—cause it is mess and God does not bless mess. I have cried many tears because of her, for her and about her. I have been both mad and sad for her, because of her and about her. The only thing that I can do, that works, is to pray for her. I simply followed the steps that the good Lord ordered and I know he will take care of it. It’s been a long, hard journey, but at least my husband and I are still together….patched up…but healing.

  17. Pingback: Blended Families Week: Fakers, Haters and Deal Breakers - Keeping Outside Influences Outside of Your Blended Family | Black and Married With Kids.com - A Positive Image of Marriage and Family

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Would You Get Surgery to Get Your Sexy Back?

BY: - 26 May '10 | Home

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bmwksurgeons

by Aja Dorsey Jackson

First let me say that I am grateful that my pregnancies were fairly kind to my body. I didn’t have much trouble losing the baby weight and wasn’t left with too many unpleasant physical side effects. I can even look half decent in a bikini if the bottom half falls right below my belly button.

The problem? The lower part of my abs look like they have been clawed by an angry bear. I am always in debate as to how much this bothers me as I am never walking around in low rise jeans and a belly shirt, and my husband is the only person who ever sees my tummy trouble outside of myself. He always assures me that it doesn’t bother him at all which should make me feel better, but it doesn’t.   I find myself on occasion thinking: if I can fix it, why shouldn’t I?

Until a couple of years ago, I would have silently judged someone expressing the same point of view. Why undergo the risks associated with surgery when you could just save your money and invest your time in feeling good about yourself regardless? But after the birth of my son, once I knew that our family was complete, I started to think about how it would feel to have my body back intact. Call it vanity, but I run several miles a day, and when I look at my abs rippling, I want it to be because of my muscles, not because I look like I’ve been attacked with a kitchen knife.

Even so, I also wonder what message I would be sending if I opted for a surgical procedure instead of just choosing to be happy with myself. I always try to instill confidence in my daughter and teach her to love herself regardless of what society says is beautiful. Wouldn’t going under the knife just prove that I don’t always believe that to be true? Is a nip and a tuck a good way to feel better about me, or just evidence of me giving in to my own insecurities?

Would you get plastic surgery? Does it send the wrong message?

Aja Dorsey Jackson is a freelance writer and public relations consultant in Baltimore, Maryland. Find out more about her at www.ajadorseyjackson.com or follow her at www.twitter.com/ajajackson.

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2227 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.

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