There are many challenges being part of a blended family. Balancing parental duties and responsibilities is often one of them. Trying to maintain positive relationships between everyone is another. Ensuring regardless of what is happening in the adult relationships, that it has minimal impact and bearing on the children.
These are not easy things to do. There are ups and downs along the way, a bit of a juggling act of people’s emotions and opinions. It feels like a constant (rather steep) learning curve that changes continually.
For instance – there is the childrens ‘real’ dad.
He is in the childrens lives regularly, he loves and adores them I’m sure. His relationship with me is a bit of a rollercoaster. There have been periods where we have got on great, almost returned to a solid friendship where I’ve been sure that he’s finally moved on. And then there are periods where for what ever reason (and usually I am unable to figure out the trigger or the reasoning behind it) that the relationship is terrible, communication stops entirely and this can go on for months.
The effect on the children is what worries, frustrates and makes me down right angry. I do as much as I can to protect them, with reassurances that whilst mummy and daddy don’t always see eye to eye, what we both do is love them to the moon on back. So no matter what, just remember how much we love you and don’t worry about anything else.
It is so difficult to explain to children the intricacies of adult relationships when to be honest, I don’t understand them myself. When your 4yr old (as she was at the time) tells you that Daddy says ‘you broke the love mummy.. why did you do that, can you not fix it‘ or when your daughter says ‘Daddy doesn’t want to talk you anymore, why aren’t you friends?‘ the hurt that it is obviously causing them breaks your heart.
Them being witness to the ups and downs has an impact on how they view other relationships. For the first year of Ron being in their lives they fully expected us to split up. Their assumption was that nothing was permanent and even with reassurance from Ron and I that we would be together forever (here’s hoping lol!) their response would be, but you and Daddy aren’t together now. Even after we married Natalie once asked ‘mummy, when will you get deevorced again?’
Trying to reassure them of the permanency of Ron in their lives has been trickier given that we don’t live together. This is of course set to change, but at the moment the facts are that the children have a part time dad, and a part time step dad. However, 2 part time dads, do not a whole one make! What the children do get is just the good bits from their two dads. Which is great for them, the laughs, the fun the excitement of seeing them. However, what they don’t get is the continuity, the discipline and structure. .
The alternate weekends at their ‘real’ dads consists of no rules. No bedtime, no brushing of hair, a bath only occasionally. Food that a child would choose rather than what constitutes healthy well balanced meals. So for them Daddy is amazing, its all fun times, no telling off, no boundaries. I try not to be too critical – afterall, this is his time with his children and his parenting style is his choice. It is only every other weekend, and how much can it hurt for them to go a weekend without brushing teeth or hair, eating too much junk food and running riot.
But I have to be honest, it niggles, I can feel the hairs on the back on my neck rise when they come home like ragamuffins full of tales of staying up till midnight, having icecream for breakfast and nutella sandwiches for lunch. AND if I’m really honest, I’m jealous. How can life with me compare, at home they have bedtimes, they have to eat their vegetables, we have routines and rules about behaviour and consequences for non compliance. Is there any wonder that occasionally during fall outs they throw at me ‘I want to live with Daddy’ – heavens.. who wouldn’t! (Well, actually me, been there, tried that!)
The girls know which day Rons here, and they look forward to seeing him. They know he’ll play games with them (limbo and the quiet game are their favourites, and Monopoly occasionally too), they will be able to climb all over him, receive big bear hug cuddles.
They are still learning the boundaries with him, they push them here and there (generally when I’m not around) and to Rons credit, he is calm, never raises his voice, is consistent and rational with them (ha ha.. things that generally I’m not when the girls are pushing my buttons). But in the main, as they only see him for a few hours a week, its all positive fun stuff..
They see their two dads as the men in their lives that play games with them, that throw them in the air and tickle them till they scream, that give them treats and money when the icecream van is outside the house.
Where does that leave me?
- The person that offers stability
- The constant in their lives
- The person who they know is there day in day out, night in night out.
- The person they turn to and want when they fall, when they are upset and need comfort.
- The person they learn from, who teaches them
Overall – the person who blends it all together for them and tries to make sense of their unconventional family