As a mum of two kids, I have my hands full. Dancing, footy, musical instruments, homework, play dates and family. My life is full and busy and active. And then I fell in love with a man who has three kids.
In case you need help with the maths, 2 + 3 = 5. FIVE KIDS.
So, here’s the tricky topic I’m about to embark on… Step parenting.
Just as I never imagined my life would result in single parenting, I never imagined I’d be ‘dual’ parenting either. I’ve got to be honest, it scares the heck out of me.
While we are not at the live-in stage yet, I am in the ‘I hope you like me’ phase and the ‘are my kids ok with this person in their life stage?’ It’s a whole other level of living a full life.
Within this, there’s the schedule of when they are with this parent and when they’re with that parent. There’s ensuring each child is feeling secure and receiving enough of our one-on-one time. There’s a new level of who is going where when (I’m thrown into the world of teenagers early here and boy, they are busy) and at the very end of all the organising, there’s time with your partner who is the reason your life is now an organisational nightmare!
There are some guidelines that I am following to help me navigate this whole new world (and so far so good!)
- Ease in. I am well aware that as a new person to my partner’s kids lives, they don’t want to see me ALL the time, they don’t want me in their face (especially the teenagers) and they need to know they will still have precious time with their dad.
- Don’t spring things on them. Let kids know in advance what is happening for the week so they can have some perspective of how much ‘you’ time they’ll get with you. For a young child it might seem like your partner is always there, where in reality it might be one night out of five.
- Acknowledge all kids are different and so are family routines. I’m blessed my kids seem to get along well with my partners, however they are very different. Create opportunities where it’s ok to do some things together and other things individually. It doesn’t have to be The Brady Bunch all the time!
- Problem solve and have regular ‘home’ meetings. Although we aren’t living together yet my partner and I both agree that the beginning of this arrangement will involve a sit down to create a negotiated, open and honest list of expectations within our home. Open communication is the single most important success criteria!
- Lead by example. Remember that this is not just an adjustment for you, but for everyone in this amalgamation. Show kindness, patience and understanding to both your children and your partner’s. In time, this will be the solid foundation to a loving family and household.
I’m on a learning path, as I’m sure many others are too. Joining two families is certainly not easy, however I can see so many opportunities for joy and love.
“Our responses can make a decided difference to the atmosphere of our home” – Dr Haim Ginott.