I’ve just had a big family weekend – all the kids at our place. It’s been a while since that happened. Thankfully, I’ve reached the point in my step-parenthood where all the hard work has paid off. So now family gatherings are a source of fun and joy and love.
It wasn’t always like that though. I went through times where it felt like I would never get anywhere with this family, that I would always be the outsider. I felt alternately rejected, unsupported or resentful. I’d wonder why I didn’t listen to my friends (who had children of their own) say “I wouldn’t date a guy with kids”. I’m super glad I persevered now but there were times I didn’t think I would or could.
I know I’m not alone. The statistics say that 70% of relationships where at least one partner has children from a previous relationship will fail. That’s a ridiculously high failure rate. And I think that’s because there are so many emotional things to consider – grief over the last relationship, feelings of failure, living in an environment of sometimes open hostility (and what that does to your self-esteem), powerlessness (for everyone) and the list keeps going.
Creating a step-family is super complicated so if you have a friend complaining about it or feeling helpless, give them your support. If you’re in it and your friends aren’t being supportive, tell them I’m going to come and sort them out (just kidding).
I also have these recommendations if you, or anyone you know is struggling with being a step-mum or step-dad. For Step-mums there’s a fabulous book called “Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel and Act the Way We Do” by Wednesday Martin.
For step-families there’s a great book called “Becoming a Step-Family” by Patricia Papernow. It talks about the challenges from everyone’s side – the kids, the biological parent and the step-parent. It really helped me have compassion for my partner and his kids when we were all having a hard time. It also gives you a bit of a road map of how things might progress so you’re prepared for some of the good (and not so good) stuff that happens.