From inheriting step children to dealing with biological moms and ex-wives, navigating the challenges and surprises of blending families is rarely easy. Here, Circle of Moms members offer insights into the biggest surprises they faced.
1. How Difficult the Role of Stepmom Is
For many moms who remarry, the biggest surprise is that the skills they've already honed as moms don't prepare them for the role of stepmom.
Gayla G., author of the blog Stepparenting with Grace, explains: "When I married my second husband, I had two daughters already and loved being a mom," she says. "But I was surprised to find out how difficult the role of stepmom was and the degree of emotional impact step parenting had."
Claudette of The Stepmom Coach Blog was similarly surprised by how complicated and challenging being a stepmom is, noting, "It was not easy to find my way." For Claudette, the realization inspired her to seek support and guidance from other stepmoms.
2. How the Kids Adapt
So much is written about how creating a yours-and-his family can be challenging for the children. As a result, Maureen T. says she was prepared for the experience to be stressful at times, and committed herself to being patient. But instead, she was happy to discover the opposite was true in her family. "The most surprising part of being in a blended family is how well the children adapted," she shares.
Carine L. says she too expected that the second union could have its share of predictable hurdles, but was pleasantly surprised at the smooth transition. Her biggest surprise? "[When my step kids] asked to call me mom — especially because they have their own mom." Erin H. shares a similar experience: "I've been pleasantly surprised that my step kids have accepted me and look to me as someone they respect."
3. The Ex-Wife's Feelings
It's almost a given that moms in blended families expect a little friction with their husband's ex and the mother of her step children. But the intensity of the hostility can be surprising for many moms.
"The biggest surprise came from my husband's ex-wife," says Jenna K., author of the Step Mom Help blog. Since the duo had been divorced for six years, Jenna says she assumed there wouldn't be problems in that department. "[I] soon realized 'she' was going to be my toughest challenge, not the kids."
Chanda W., who writes Step Living, also wasn't prepared for how her relationship with her step kids could be negatively affected by their biological mom's attitude: "What surprised me about my current 'blended family' is how profoundly a biological mother's attitude/temperament/personality determines the kids' attitude toward their stepmother."
4. Missing Single Motherhood
As a single mom, Carol S. yearned to get married and create a new family. But as her blended family was melding, she found herself suddenly longing for her former single mom lifestyle. It caught her off guard, she shares: "I was surprised by how much harder it was than being a single mother and how much I missed, even longed for, being a single mom again with just my two girls."
Carol adds that marrying a man with three kids was a lot more work than she bargained for. What surprised her most: "[All the] negotiation, consensus building and conflict resolution involved that I didn't have to deal with before as a single parent."
5. The Depth of Love for New Step Kids
Falling in love with a new spouse may have been easy, but many moms worry whether they can love step children as much as their biological children. For Barb G., it was a pleasant surprise to discover how deeply she fell in love with her new step kids. "I knew that I loved my step children when I married my husband," she says. "The surprise is that the love is no different than the love I have for my bio child."
What was your biggest surprise about becoming a blended family?
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