Questions and Insights about Blended Families
- Wednesday, February 12, 2003
The issue arose when I was asked, "Thelma, Is there much information written about blended families?"
The woman went on: My husband's children visit us often but they are having a tough time coping with a stepmother. They don't know what to call me and didn't know what my role is and really don't understand who I am to them. Should they address me by my first name and use a title or what should they call me? It certainly wouldn't be mother or any endearing name like that because their natural mother would go berserk.
Is calling their step-mother "Miss" Whatever too formal, or does it show respect? My husband and I thought the best way to solve this was to talk with the children and decide together what is appropriate and acceptable to all of them.
The more difficult issue is the question of how to discipline the children. It appears that my disciplinary measures don't work. They just hated me more. Their father wanted an atmosphere of total love characterized by little correcting and a lot of tolerance.
I wanted the approval to appropriately discipline them without having to wait until he got home from work. We talked to a couple who had been married for 20 years and they agreed with us, that waiting for the father to get home at night to correct something that happened during the day would not establish respect for me and would take away my control of how the kids acted.
Thelma, I can just imagine my husband saying something like, "These are my kids. They are just here for three weeks. They are not that bad. And anyway, my children wouldn't do all those things you're saying. After all, they are my children. You've never had children. You don't know how to handle them. You are too hard on them. After all they are just seven and ten years old. They're so sweet. How could you be so mean? If I'd known you where going to feel this way about my kids, I would have thought long and hard about this relationship. You knew I had these children when you married me. Why were you so nice to them before and so cruel now. No. You can't disciple these babies. I'm their father. That's my responsibility. You better not say anything to them to hurt their little feelings. You'll be in trouble if you do. If you don't want to be bothered with them, I'll just take them with me. You need to show them love. That's all it takes for them to respect you. Just love them."
I'm saying in my head, "These children don't like me and are plotting to drive me crazy for three weeks. I may not have children, but I've been around enough and know how they act. These 'innocent' children already have a hard time addressing me and feeling comfortable around me. I will do everything I can to help them adjust to being here. I will do everything I can to help them have a good time. But I refuse to allow them to run over me. They must respect me. The only way they will respect me is if I have some boundaries, set some limits, and be able to discipline them. I will not hurt them. I will be gentle with them. I will love them. I will protect them."
But I don't want to feel that my husband is not supporting me when I discipline them. What does he think I am anyway? Some mean stepmother with a witches broom beating his kids all day? Pleeeease! He needs to get a grip. I'm his wife, not some jealous girlfriend. I want what's best for all of us. I'm in this for the long haul. This is a lifetime commitment.
It's hard just getting married and trying to get adjusted to each other and at the same time, trying to blend other people into our family and us into theirs. It's bad enough that I have to share him with work, the community, the church, and our family members, too.
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