If you’re reading this you are not the first family. You are likely the second family, the blended family. You may have found your way into the family unit in the same way I did; single with no children of my own. Or perhaps you brought your own children from a previous relationship to the blended family. Any number of combinations could have brought you to this present moment: stepfamily life.
The journey of fitting into the first family is one that never ends. If you came into the relationship without children of your own the “firsts” have already been done. They are more like second firsts if a baby is brought into the family. A recycling of the parent, if you will, in adding to the family unit.
I have been doing the stepfamily dance for 13 years now. Trying to be this, trying to be that, seeming to fit in here and there, but not fully. Then came baby. Let me be the first to tell you that if you began your journey as a stepparent in the same way I did (single, no kids) then you are in for a surprise.
Becoming a biological mother is a whole new world. Suddenly you're thrust from the outer edges of parenting right to the center. It’s night and day. I recall reading somewhere in the past that biological parents see their children through the eyes of love and stepparents see the children through the eyes of responsibility. It resonated with me at the time I read it as I know from personal experiences and my work with others that this was true. However, now having a child of my own it has become even clearer. Having a baby definitely does change everything, especially perspective.
Through the process of pregnancy and the birth of the baby I observed how things were slowly shifting and morphing. I became even more introverted, than I am by nature, and became detached to the family unit. I was on a solitary journey to motherhood and parenting that my family unit had experienced before. Though the energy of the baby was new and filled with excitement, there were moments that I just couldn’t shake that this had all been done before. My path was not unique.
Bringing a new child into a blended family is a delicate process. From the announcement of the pregnancy to the children, to the sharing of feelings about what is about to happen, to staying connected first and foremost to your partner, and then to the arrival of the baby. I found it to be like a wheel, the baby being the center of it, and all of the spokes that move outward had so many attachments, feelings, and judgments that went along with them. In my family we did not have a perfect, seamless process during this time. There were missed opportunities to have a more engaged connection between us all.
Bringing a baby into a blended family requires a deep level of letting go of what was. As the bearer of the child you are forced to redefine yourself personally and then as your role with your partner and stepchildren. What was will never be again. It’s important to be kind to yourself through this major life transition. Put yourself first as you need all the energy you can to caretake the life you’ve brought into the world. Speak up and ask for what you need. Seek support from those that fulfill you, rather than drain your energy. Most importantly stay connected to your partner and communicate.
In closing I’d like to end with this quote from the author Yung Pueblo:
“After years and years of repeating the same behaviors, it takes time to change and adopt new responses to life. Old patterns are often so densely accumulated that it may seem like the same heaviness keeps coming up for release and often it is. How many times have we felt anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety and more from the large spectrum of heavy emotions? When we remember this it helps support our patience as we continue the process of letting go of the old, literally releasing the debris of the past during moments of deep healing, so that a new way of living can emerge.”
You have the grace, the courage, and the strength to create your new way of living. I support you.