We are a blended family and I grew up in a blended family. While I grew up with my natural mom and dad, my dad had been previously married and had 2 sons with his first wife.
I remember trying to figure out who my brothers’ mom was to me – another mom? An aunt? Friend? I remember a time when I couldn’t quite figure it out.
I remember my mom kind of flatly saying, “She’s just your brothers mom.”
That didn’t settle in my young heart well. This other woman was deeply important to my brother and for a while, I felt almost deprived because she wasn’t supposed to be important to me too.
I remember receiving gifts at Christmas from her. When she sent my brothers’ gifts, she sent my sister and I something too. I wanted to know who she was.
As I got older, I learned that divorce strains relationships and that things weren’t always pleasant between my parents and my brothers’ mom. I learned there was ugliness there, even. Some of the ugliness affected the relationship between my brother and my mom. (I have two older brothers but really only grew up with one.)
Now, as a mom and a stepmom, and with my boys having a stepmom, I have a new perspective of blended family life. For years I’ve been a mom and a stepmom, but until recently, I wasn’t a mom learning to communicate with a stepmom.
I am married and have 3 kids with my husband. Our oldest daughter (6 years old these days!) runs to greet her oldest brother’s mom and step dad when they bring him by. It always means the world to her when they say hi to her. They’ve always been kind to her.
My two boys’ Dad and stepmom have fairly recently re-entered the scene, and I see my daughter grappling – but who are they to me? Who are they to me? They are important to my brothers! They need to be important to me, we are family. I remember being exactly where she is at.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit to you that I felt guarded and unsure how to help her navigate at first. But isn’t that one of the glorious things about parenting? Finding those icky spots that hang us up, and really flushing them out, really dealing with them, so they don’t have a choke-hold on the next generation?
After a lovely and lengthy conversation with my boys’ stepmom, I got on a video call with one of the boys. She was in the background and we were all interacting and it felt natural, normal even. Then my littles crowded in and got to say hello and see her face. The excitement was tangible, they were being included and it was good. Then, my sweet 4-year-old boy said, “I love you.”
And without even skipping a beat, she said, “I love you, too!”
He just beamed and then we all carried on. Honestly, the next moments were a blur because I soaked in the reality of how blessed I am. Family comes in so many forms. Some years ago, I went to a conference for blended families and it talked about how we not only got a spouse but an ex-wife-in-law or ex-husband-in-law to learn to do life with. At the time, I was only taking in the information as a stepmom and bio-mom, without the boys also having a stepmom.
It’s true though. If they are part of the boys’ life, they are part of mine. And I’m part of theirs. Blended family life is as good or bad as we choose to make it.
I think, too often, blended families have strained relationships with the other home because of insecurity. We aren’t sure of ourselves, of our influence, of our relationship with the kids. Bob Goff (author of Love Does and Everybody Always) talks a lot about insecurity and how we are all insecure and we meet people who need our help dealing with insecurity we’ve already conquered, and we meet people who have conquered insecurity we need help with.
It’s so true. We are so insecure. And that insecurity, if we aren’t aware of it and don’t handle it with care, gives rise to ugliness and defensiveness. My guarded responses to my daughter weren’t because I thought she was in danger – I thought I was. She has ONE mom. I don’t have to navigate multi-mom-dom with her.
Some of the insecurity comes from the broken marriages, which come with a multitude of hurts. And we’ve lost our place as husband/wife to someone – whether it was for the best or not – I think most people grapple with insecurity after divorce. It has such a rippling effect through our lives, our kids, our futures, our communities.
When we know whose we are, and who we are, we are free to connect and love and forgive and navigate hard stuff with grace. It doesn’t come perfectly but it is beautiful.
When I was praying for my boys to have a healing relationship with their dad, I didn’t see a way. But God said it was coming. And when I came before Him with walls up, He tipped my chin heavenward and asked, “Daughter, don’t you know you are mine?” And when I came to Him wanting to know how to be a mom dealing with a stepmom, since I’d only ever known the being a stepmom part, He said, “Don’t you think they know who their mom is? Do you not realize how tightly knit each person is to their mom, good or bad? Know who you are, that’s what matters.”
My Daddy is wise, friends. So, so wise.
It made all the other stuff make sense, fall into place. It made acceptance easier. It brought down walls. And He was right, a way was coming.
So I put aside my insecurity. I give it up.
My littles adore their brothers, all of them. And as an extension of that adoration and love, they love the people who are important to their brothers. I won’t flinch or shy away from that.
My boys have 2 moms and 2 dads. Raising kids is hard, the more of us that are pulling for them and praying for them and modeling for them, the better.
I realize now that insecurity drove the ugliness directed at my mom by my brother’s mom. She had lost her place as wife to my dad – and no matter how that comes about, it is a sucker punch that steals the wind beneath your sails. She didn’t want to lose her place as mom. She didn’t want to be left in the dust as a new family formed. She wanted to be important, too.
Insecurity drove the flat response from my mom – she was my mom, and while she was my brothers’ step mom (back in a time when positive resources for step moms wasn’t a thing), she didn’t have to share me. She didn’t have to navigate the hurdles and tear down the walls and push for a healthy, working relationship with the influence of another woman in my life.
If you find yourself navigating blended family life – however you’ve been brought together, know first whose you are and also who you are. Our good God is faithful and He will supply you with wisdom and peace to navigate the messiest parts of life.
Until next time,