The RIGHT way to do a BLENDED FAMILY

Since 40% of today’s families are blended families (with at least one partner having a child from a previous relationship), it is definitely important to talk about how we can consider making the families stronger.  While I was not part of a blended family growing up, I married a man who is, and my own family is now a blended family.  Many people do not know that my husband and I were each married before and we each have one child from our previous marriages.  My husband’s son is grown with his own family, and although my daughter lives with us and we do not use the term “stepdaughter” or “stepfather”  between her and my husband, the fact is, she does also have a biological father and we are a blended family.

I need to disclose that when I say this is the “right way” to do a blended family, I am certainly not saying that we have mastered this.  Actually, we have not.  I do hope that one day we can, for the sake of our children of course, and we continue to strive to master the art of the blended family.  But I want to share a story about my in-laws that proves it can be done.

My husband’s parents were divorced when he was only three years old.  He was raised by his mother in Queens, but would spend every other weekend with his father and step-mom in New Jersey.  My mother-in-law has always said how good Paul’s step-mom was to him.  His step-mom always treated him with respect, always respected his mother and her family, and my husband admits that she is a great step-mother.  Paul recalls beautiful memories of Christmas mornings when he was very young, where his father and step-mom would visit Paul and his mother while Paul opened Christmas presents.

You may already be thinking how this is the ideal situation but not very realistic.  Let me go back and add that my mother-in-law and father-in-law have not nor do they today have the greatest of relationships.  Actually, I recall some stressful moments between the two of them at family parties and holidays, but they each handled themselves with dignity and made sure they did not make anyone uncomfortable.  Actually, I overheard (they did not think anyone did) some choice words coming from both their mouths at my twins’ first birthday, but were able to quickly regain composure and no one knew there was a spat (except me!).

My husband’s step-dad (who has also been a great parent to Paul for the last thirty something years), is a great grandparent to my children and is a wonderful father-in-law) has been hospitalized for the last week and a half.  On Thursday, Paul’s dad and step-mom came to visit for a planned “Christmas” as his step-mom was under the weather on Christmas and were unable to come.  Actually, all of Paul’s parents have had their own share of health issues, and recently his step-parents have both been ill.  On the almost two hour trip from their home in New Jersey to our home in Massapequa Park, they visited Paul’s step-dad in the hospital.  After visiting for a while, they came to hour house and asked what they could do to help.  When my mother-in-law came home, they once again expressed how they would be praying for him and asked what they could do to help.  When my father-in-law hugged my mother-in-law, tears welled in my eyes.

I am forever impressed with how my father-in-law respects Paul’s step-dad and my mother-in-law respects Paul’s step-mom.  I am extremely impressed that even through their own health issues, they still share their concern for the other with Paul when there is high waters.  I cannot imagine most fathers will visit their ex-wives husband in the hospital or vice versa, and I think it is such an amazing thing to see.  This is the right way to do a blended family.

Most of the interaction between my ex-husband and myself is negative, and all of the interaction with Paul and his ex-wife is negative, and that has had an impact on their son.   Although I try to keep our daughter out of it, I know that messages often trickle down to her as she is a teenager and picks up on the negativity between her father and I.

Maybe it has taken my in-laws 43 years to perfect it, and although they have CERTAINLY not forgiven nor forgotten their differences and issues, they continue to come together for Paul and for their grandchildren (and me too!)  I am grateful that my in-laws can do this for us, and I am happy that they are such great role models for my children as my children are being raised in a blended home as well.  My kids have the best of both worlds: my parents are great role models who have been happily married for 43 years and my in-laws are great role models who have been happily divorced for 43 years (well, even through their differences!)

I wanted to share this story to help any mom or dad who may be in a blended family situation, may have an ex or be married to someone with an ex.  It is hard.  No, it is REALLY hard.  But it does make a world of difference for our kids that we at least TRY.  I know I for one will be trying a little harder, especially for my daughter.

 

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