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10 Steps to a Blended Family

ohiodad's picture

Dear prospective Step-Parent,
Glad you found this site. Inside you will get a small glimpse into many different families’ lives and how they handle the challenge known as “blending a family”. Some on here do it successfully, some not so much, but by these examples you can learn immense amounts of knowledge. In this post I will give you 10 tips from someone who has successfully blended a LARGE family and some advice and things you can look for. First let me give you some background.
My wife and I met while we both going through our respective divorces. It truly was love at first sight. I know many of you will say it doesn’t exist, but going on 5 years now and that feeling hasn’t gone away. At the time my wife had two boys S6 and S4, I had one son S3, and my soon to be ex (SBTX) was 6 months pregnant. To say this was a volatile situation would be putting it mildly. So this leads me to my first piece of advice:

1) Get your life together and your past wrapped up BEFORE you get serious.

If you two really love each other. Take some time apart to get your affairs in order, finish your divorce and get some financial breathing room.
Now, we didn’t do this and it did end up working out, but to say the situation above (pregnant ex, divorce proceedings, etc) put a strain on our relationship (and still does to an extent) would be an understatement. I think there were at least 2 occasions where we almost broke up. Finish that divorce, get your legal and financial affairs in order then work on your relationship. This is a modification of the final step in this article, but the premise still holds. If you are not together before you begin a relationship it makes a hard situation even harder.

2) Don’t introduce your children to your SO until you have been together for at least 6 months. You want to make sure this person is the one, or at least that they are going to be around long term

3) Don’t introduce your children to your SO as your SO, introduce them as your friend.

Do not DATE in front of the children until you ARE sure this is the one. Only once you are sure this person is the one, then you can be romantic around the children
My wife and I did not even hold hands around the children until we had been dating almost 2 years. This may be extreme, but it allowed the kids to be relaxed around this stranger in their lives. I’ve seen so many people introduce their SO to their children WAY to early (my ex comes to mind) and then break up. This causes your children to mistrust you and any future SO you bring around, so resist the urge! Once my wife and I were together for about 2 ½ years, about a year of which we dated in front of the kids, we began to talk about blending our families.

4) Talk to your SO and set up the ground rules for the type family you want to be, BEFORE you commit to marriage.

My wife and I decided we wanted a big blended family. When we had all of the kids they would be treated as OUR kids. We would do things together as a family, not as separate entities. There would be occasions where we could spend time with just one set of kids, but when we were all together we would be a family. This may not work for everyone. Since I have my kids 50/50 and she had hers 80/20 it made sense for us. This is something that may work for you, but for the love of everything holy decide that NOW before you make the walk down the aisle. Here you should decide discipline roles, financials, child care etc. etc.

5) Know what kind of parent you are marrying.

Are your soon to be step kids unruly brats that are super disrespectful to you and maybe even destructive or dangerous? Guess what? The love of your life contributed to that. If he/she doesn’t stand up to them before you marry them and have a plan to fix them, it’s not going to magically change when you get married. If anything it will get way worse. What you see in those step kids is a direct result of your SO’s parenting or lack thereof. Keep that in mind before you commit to parenting with them!

6) Your SO and their kids come as a package deal.

To me this is the most disturbing thing I read on this site: the advice to detach from your step-kids. You SO comes with children, if you go into the marriage expecting to be able to live a child free life, STOP now and find someone who doesn’t have kids. At the very least this is a decision you and your SO need to make before getting married, because once you do the kids come as part of the deal. If they are disrespectful, unruly, destructive etc, see step #5 because once you get married you only have yourself to blame for getting involved with someone who clearly doesn’t parent the way you want to.

7) Make the acclamation period slow and ramp up closer to getting married.

Remember that when you are blending a family it’s new for EVERYONE. It’s not just you that needs to adjust to new people, new roles, and new family dynamics. The kids are going through the same thing. If you as an adult are having trouble coping with it, how do you expect a small child that has just witnessed their parents breaking apart to cope with it? Start off slow. Start with a few “play dates” where you spend a couple of hours a week at the new residence as a family. At first let each bio-parent discipline their bio-kids. Learn what works, learn what differences you have and then begin to implement those discipline and parenting tactics in future play dates. Ramp up to an overnight once a month, then a couple times a week. I would advise that after this ramp up period you actually live together for a period of time before the wedding (even if it’s a couple months). This slow ramp up period will give everyone time to adjust.

Dirol Be patient, work together, this takes time.

Don’t expect to turn a light switch on overnight and you will wake up with a perfectly blended family where everyone his happy. This takes time. Once you are all under one roof, expect there to be problems and issues EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. Right before my wife and I got married, her mom passed away. Not only did it leave my wife without a mother, it left us with two more mouths to feed: her brother and sister (16 and 12 respectively). We now had 6 kids, instead of 4. If you love the person you are marrying, you will be able to work through these issues together, but be patient. My wife and I started blending our families 3 years ago…and its still a learning and adjustment process every single day.
You are going to screw up, it’s a fact of life, when you do, fix it and don’t do it again. If you do it again, keep fixing it. If you keep doing it, find out why when you talk to your spouse, which brings me to #9

9) Communicate with and trust your spouse
I cannot stress this enough. As with anything, communication is key. Remember you didn’t build this family up with your spouse, you threw it together with pieces and parts left over from previous families. If you don’t communicate, if you don’t trust your spouse, these pieces/parts will not hold together. You must present a united front to ALL of your children. If you don’t want your SO to discipline your kids, you better be damn sure you communicated that early, like in step 4. If you have gotten this far and still don’t agree on the family dynamic, you are playing with a house of cards that will topple any day.

10) Make your relationship with your spouse THE priority.

This is the last and most important step. It should probably be first as it is the cornerstone for EVERYTHING else that comes with it. This advice should apply to ALL parents, not just step parents. In fact I am going to put in a paragraph all alone:

Your relationship with your spouse is not just A priority, it is THE priority.

If you have ever flown, you know that when they talk about the oxygen masks coming down they always say: “Adjust your mask first before helping others adjust theirs.” Why? Because if you pass out due to lack of oxygen, you are useless to those around you who do need your help. This is the greatest analogy I can provide. Like step one, if your relationship with your new spouse is not good, nothing that comes out of it will be either. You are a couple with a built in family. You didn’t get years alone together to build up your relationship before the daily trials with a family start. You are smack dab in the center of life’s circus. If you do not take time EVERY DAY to be a couple instead of just Mom and Dad, that circus will run you ragged and rip you apart. You will run out of oxygen long before you can help the kids you agreed to be in a family with when you married your spouse. Not to mention, once the kids move out, what kind of relationship will you have with your spouse?

I hope these point help. I am saddened by the desperation in some of your posts. Please feel free to comment below to help improve this list.


WTF...REALLY's picture

Good post. I like the list.

Only thing I would add is also talk about money. Each other's spending style, past debt, funds coming from the other bio parent if any and financial goals. Money is a subject that causes a lot of fighting in a marriage. Discuss the issue way before getting married or living together.


ohiodad's picture

Thanks for the comment. I was trying to focus the list on step-parenting issues only. That is good advice for ANY relationship!! Smile

WTF...REALLY's picture

Money is a huge step parenting issue. I think it's more complex than a first marriage. Now you have multiple households Involved financially. Co-pays, child support, lack of child support, braces, travel, car, car insurance. With a blended family, it's both the bio parents involved and the new spouse. It can really break a marriage apart.

My case is simple. BM has no custody and also pays zero child support. So I have to help pay for SD. We have made it work thank goodness. After a lot of discussion.

ohiodad's picture

I can definitely see where you are coming from, especially with child support. I guess I omitted it because it wasn't a challenge I ran into AND I see the financials as important in ANY marriage.

Willow2010's picture

I like almost all of your post.

11. Do not try to get your spouse to gain custody of your skids as soon as you enter the picture.

12. Do not try to MAKE your spouse admit that their kid is a bad kid.

BethAnne's picture

I think we broke rules 1,2,3,4, and 7. Number 5, I had an idea and had seen my husband parenting, but didn't really have the full picture so probably broke that one too.

Not a bad list per-say but real-life doesn't always go the way it should and if you pick the right person for you and you are both committed then you can make it work.

ohiodad's picture

Agreed! I even said that I broke #1. As long as you acknowledge that those are issues, then I agree they can be worked out. What gets me going is when people come on here SURPRISED and shocked that this is hard.

BethAnne's picture

What shocked me was learning that there are "adults" in this world who act anything like real adults. BM was the biggest shock to me. She is a teenager maturity wise. Learning how to deal with her was a huge learning curve. I thought that everyone was a reasonable, responsible adult in this world. I was lucky my life was so sheltered up until that point.

notasm3's picture

You should clarify that not all of this applies to those with adult children and step children.

I have a 30 year old SS. No way do I feel obligated to blend him into my life. That works for some, but it does not work when an adult skid is dysfunctional. My SS is an alcoholic with a history of domestic abuse offenses. I would be a fool to want him in my life. And at 30 his choice to abuse alcohol and beat up people is not his parents' fault.

ETA - I agree with # 12 about not trying to convince your spouse that their child is bad. DH and I had many arguments about how horrible SS is, and he got very defensive.

I finally wised up and realized that it does no good to enumerate his son's many faults. DH knows. He just doesn't want to hear me say it. So I politely refuse to see SS - but I do not add "because he's a worthless POS". No in a complete sentence. I don't need to add the why.

ohiodad's picture

Hrrm. I don't view adult children as "blending a family" per sae.

You are right that things don't always go as planned, trust me. I can write a whole new post on my "excellent" (quotes for sarcasm) planning skills. That is why the patience and trust step is so important Smile

ohiodad's picture

I respectfully disagree, but that's what this is about right? Smile If you agreed to that parenting style (where you were not a parent at all) before you got married then hey, that is your decision.

And here is a newsflash, all teenagers are obnoxious Smile

ohiodad's picture

I agree only partially. My step kids BD is a complete waste of air and the worst parent. Yet when my SS's are in my house and at school, they are polite, well behaved and get good grades. Keep consistent rules in YOUR home. Control what you can control and they will figure out the rest. Kid's are amazingly adaptable to changing situations if they have a safe place to land.

thinkthrice's picture

You forget the gender factor. It's MUCH MUCH MUCH easier to be a custodial step-DAD than it is to be a non-custodial step-MOM or for that matter a custodial step-MOM.

In most of the western world, bioMOM calls all the shots and if step-DAD goes along with her parenting style (whether there is any parenting going on whatsoever or not) then all is good.

The step-DAD automatically receives what I call the "BM's seal of approval" stamped squarely on his forehead for all the skids to see.

If step-DAD recognizes that the BM's parenting style is more of a BFFing approach, he can say stuff about it but won't be that much at risk for the other parent, in this case, the bioDAD to get a smackdown. Step-MOM gets it from ALL angles and has no such "seal of approval" on her forehead; neither from the BM nor biodad.

There aren't upteen dozen Disney movies about the eeeeevvvvviiiiil stepmom for nothing. No such movie for the step-DAD.

WTF...REALLY's picture

Very true. My ex never gave my hubby a hard time. My hubby's ex???? Well.....lets just go seal of approval from her!

Plus, my ex was ok with his son liking my hubby. BM....oh hell no, she worked very hard the first 3 years to get SD to not like me. What a mess that was.

WalkOnBy's picture

Oh yeah - as usual, thrice, you nailed it.

It is a million times easier to be step dad!!!

thinkthrice's picture

Exactly. Comparing a CP stepdad + BM dynamic to a NCP biodad and SM dynamic is apples and oranges.

MommyMayI's picture

I like five and six the best. Totally agree with you. Introducing the so and that may depend on the age of the kid and how long you have been divorced, but I do think that when the stepkids' us nasty to the stepparent, it is because they lack parental guidance.

MommyMayI's picture

Agreed. I understand the feeling to run when kids get tough but your so had these kids when you met, so it was your choice to get involved in a blended situation. When a stepparent disengages from aa stepkids', I feel like the stepparent is telling the so that these are his/her problems. In a marriage, we should share problems. That doesn't necessarily mean that the stepparent should have to take over the responsibilities of the bio parent, however, which is why your other guidelines for communicating ground rules is a good one.

ohiodad's picture

I feel like I can add another one to this list:

13) When you marry someone with kids, there is an additional (or two if you are divorced as well) parent in your relationship.

Look we all hate our ex's and we probably hate our SO's ex even more, but WE chose to have children with them. We chose them to be our offspring's other parent and we cannot change that. We have to work within that system.

BethAnne's picture

I didn't have kids with BM or choose her in anyway shape or form. I think you might want to edit your no. 13 for clarity as to what you mean.

WTF...REALLY's picture

I think he means ya just gotta suck it up that our SO made a kid with the crazy ex. LOL. And have some wine handy to help suck it up and become zen with it. Blum 3

z3girl's picture

I think this is a good list for people with young(er) children. In my case, I don't agree with #6. My DH did not act as if he were a package deal with his daughter. She was 14 when we started dating, just turned 15 when I finally met her. She was not an easy teenager, and my DH didn't even ask her to our wedding (2 years later). 10 years into our relationship, SD24 and I now get along very well. I didn't agree with how my DH parented her when she was a teenager (which led to issues that brought me here) but it didn't matter in the scheme of things. We have children now, and we seem to be on the same page these days, although it will be many years before ours are teenagers. If anything, I think DH will be more strict with our children, and that is something I would be happy about.

I will say, right from the beginning, he did make us the priority. I think we're guilty of not doing that now with our children together, but we're also on the same page, so maybe it's not too much of an issue.

ohiodad's picture

Thanks for the comment. I agree this is probably better suited for young children, though with the addition of my wife's brother and sister we run the gamut from 17 to 4. We have successfully integrated everyone together, so it is possible.

Again on the package deal thing, if you guys agreed that it would be a "hands off" relationship with SD or you worked through it, then good for you. What bugs me is when people come on here and say things like: "I didn't know that I was going to have to parent the skids too!" Really? Then obviously you got together with SO without any talk of how it might work!

WalkOnBy's picture

I think we should make "Shit happens and life changes" tee shirts and sell them to custodial stepmoms!!

WTF...REALLY's picture

I think what gets to alot of the step moms here is the fact that we were not told we were going to be the main parent. ALOT of men try to pawn off parenting their child to the new wife. Of course this was not evolved into him pawning off said child. And that is a recipe for disaster.

thinkthrice's picture

Whats even MORE "wonderful" is the 100% responsibility/ 0% authority syndrome.

At first biodad may agree to SM parenting the skids. Then that will be pulled at any time if Biodad thinks that:

1. the BM will object to SM parenting skids
2. the biodad thinks SM is "too harsh" (TM) with his angels
3. the skids complain an inkling

No concept of parallel parenting will be approached. The skids are not taught "different places, different rules" (not too hard to accept; kids act differently on the playground than at church, school, etc.) and so therefore, behaviour is scaled to the lowest common denominator--aka a competition between BM and biodad over whose house has the LEAST rules.

SM will continue to be expected to be a cash cow to the "first family," a maidservant, laundress, short order cook, chauffeur, etc. etc. without any boundaries or grumbling.

WalkOnBy's picture

well, you aren't taking into account situations like mine where BM went completely off the rails, lost custody and then refused to see her kids - that's going on 4 years now.

I had ZERO intention of parenting DH's kids. I already had one in college and two in their junior years of high school when my DH got custody.

The way I (and many others here) see it - not my kids, not my problem.

I find your "I didn't know that I was going to have to parent the skids too!" Really? Then obviously you got together with SO without any talk of how it might work!" lines a bit naive.

thinkthrice's picture

Right. Nice list but the "you knew what you were getting into" thingy is definitely a lost leader.

Chef told me he was "strict" when I first met him. What I didn't know was that he was "strict" compared to the BM who had ZERO rules, boundaries, structure, discipline. Just BFFing all over the place.

I had no reason NOT to believe him. Here he was, a big, strong, loud guy. Can REALLY lay the law down (with me and other people).

In the face of his ex-wife and kids, he was as weak and as timid as a hairless baby butterbean.

ohiodad's picture

Then why not find a man without young children? I still don't buy this argument.

WalkOnBy's picture

my therapist has likened it to some random kids showing up on the doorstep one day. Would our DHs expect us to parent them? Would they parent them? No, no on both counts.

What men, and the OP, seem unable to grasp is the fact that while THEY have a biological connection to their children, their WIVES do not. We really are being asked to parent random kids.

Nope - no thanks.

thinkthrice's picture

There is also the maternal aspect. SMs as women are EXPECTED to have loving, oogly googly feelings about any children they come in contact with. If they don't, they are quickly assessed as cold, heartless, abnormal, downright eeeevvvviiiiil. A dual edged sword. If they become emotionally involved with the children they are usually quickly shot down by the BM who feels usurped or by the ungrateful/loyalty conflicted skids themselves and even by biodad who is afraid of said BM's toes being stepped on.

Biodad tries to "ride the backs of two horses" by trying to please everyone in this order:

1. skids
2. BM
3. last and very least SM

StepDADs don't have many expectations other than be the "cool" dad, their skids friends, a financial asset and if they do parent the skids (with the BM's approval) then they are not subjected to a horsewhipping by biodad. Oh there might be a pinch of jealously and manly "oneupmanship" but other than that, they do not have to fear an all out PAS war.

BethAnne's picture

I think that this is very true. And along with the expectations of maternal instincts from stepmoms, I think that many stepmoms do have those feelings and want to act on them. Then they get embroiled in the relationship and later on work out that being the "mother" in their home, isn't always the best way forward.

ohiodad's picture

"StepDADs don't have many expectations other than be the "cool" dad, their skids friends, a financial asset and if they do parent the skids (with the BM's approval) then they are not subjected to a horsewhipping by biodad."

Wow that couldn't be further from ME.

BethAnne's picture

That maybe the case, and I bet everyone that you knows thinks that you are a fantastic stepdad. For stepmoms who also go beyond being a cool friend for the kids and get into serious parenting territory, that is just what is expected of them. But if they were to step back to that cool friend status, then they are seen as detached and cold and people ask why they even bothered to marry a man with children if they don't want to be a parent.

thinkthrice's picture

You, sir, are a rare bird.

At my old job that I had a little over five years ago, a CP stepdad was trying to "set me straight" by telling me that he told biodad and SM that they have "no right to make the (teenage) kids do chores at their house because they are just VISITING and it was only with his and BM's approval that they even LET the (teenaged) children come over to their house."

He also fully engaged in the PAS warfare that BM had already started. He admitted that the BM laughed and encouraged the younger of the two children (at the time about 3 years old) to call biodad a "shithead."

The Stepdad in my case, god love him, goes right along with all the free ranging and NONparenting--my kids are my bestest buddies crap-- that the BM dishes out. I think he TRIES to parent by posting a thing or two on FB. The BM (who IS a CPS/Foster care worker btw by trade) parents by posting "read this" on her hellion daughter's FB page (stb 17). Seems SD has a penchant for disparaging traffic and vehicle safety laws and openly admits she breaks them all the time.

That poor man is nothing but a grey-haired wallet. And he's earned every one of those grey hairs IMO.

WalkOnBy's picture

My skids were 8, 10 and 12 when I met them. Not exactly young.

You may not buy the argument, but most of us here will make it.

BethAnne's picture

If a parent is doing their job properly there will be no need for another adult in the house to also parent those children. They could both make the choice that they will both be involved, but it is not necessary or required.

WTF...REALLY's picture

Its not that simple ohiodad.

When I got with my hubby, Sd was 8 at the time and went back and forth between the parents. The BM went off her rocker and lost custody of her child. Now she is with us full time. That was not apart of our discussions when we first married. Then hubby got so overwhelmed with being a full time parent to his kid, that he tried to pawn her off on me. This was never apart of what we agreed to when we got married.

In our case, we have worked it out. SD is raised now by both me and my hubby. But it took a long time to get here. This site really helped me get to where I am with SD. We have a good relationship.

Nothing is ever black and white.

WalkOnBy's picture

yup - same here. Skids were 8, 10 and 12 when DH and I got married. My kids were 18, 14 and 14. My youngest two were one week on, one week off with me. DH had the skids EOWE and we bought a condo in MedusaTown so he could have more time with the skids.

Two years later, Medusa lost custody of the skids because of her inability to follow the simplest of court orders and skids moved in full time. Haven't seen or heard from their mother since.

NEVER did DH and I anticipate getting the skids full time...NEVER.

Sometimes, ohiodad, life turns on a dime and you have a whole new hand dealt to you.

moeilijk's picture

Just reading along here - not following your point here though.

What is the argument you don't buy?

Women shouldn't marry men with minor children unless willing to parent them? Personally, I see that stance as incredibly disrespectful to both bioparents of the children.

On the one hand, they have two parents, who were able to produce these children and are legally responsible for caring for them. The only logical reason that I, as the new wife, would jump in is if they aren't doing their job as parents. So the real problem isn't that new wife is supposed to parent, it's that dad isn't parenting. (Or mom, but presumably that problem is in another home and thus not my cross to bear.)

Or perhaps it is that in cases where the bio-mom/dad drops of the face of the earth after a few years, that the new partner should be willing to become the new parent?

So the *only* answer to changes in custody is that the new partner should pick up the slack? Why is that? Why shouldn't the parent be taking care of his/her business? I see asking for help - but help is, by definition, not parenting.

moeilijk's picture

I went away and this kept bugging me, so here's why it's still on my mind: This is typical blame-the-victim mentality.

Sure, some people have blinders on, or don't see what they can do to change things, or don't understand how they contribute to their own frustration - but that's pretty much normal life. We all find ourselves in situations where we feel we're banging our heads against the wall, we try to figure it out, get support, ideas, test options, make changes... take responsibility and try to make the best of things.

But failing to predict that marrying a guy with kids would lead to having CPS called (fraudulently), to having full custody of said kids, to having angry, hurt kids dealing with a parent who abandoned them living in the house, to being worried about personal safety if DH isn't home due to skids' violent tendency, to having money and personal items stolen, to having my career put on the line because of skids' arrests, to either double how much time I spend cleaning up or live in squalor, to have to deal with toilets not getting flushed, and for this to be taking up my time and my money, and to top it all off, to be held accountable for this situations, as though I had any control over the parents of the skids or over the skids themselves, when, in fact I HAVE NONE... I really don't see this stuff coming up in conversation with DH, even in the first couple of years of marriage, after dating for a long time.

Unless, of course, you knew about this board, and did some reading, and were willing to take the big leap that this smelly, scary, legal and emotional and financial drama might someday be yours too.

So, Mr. OP, you are welcome to your opinion. But I find it very sanctimonious.

thinkthrice's picture

Hell I recommend that course of action to anyone considering being a stepMOM. A stepDAD? Meh; as far as I'm concerned they have it made in the shade. They might have to put up with some aggravation (witness Drac0) but no way do they have to worry about CPS on speed dial.

StepMOMS especially those who have children of their own think: well I've had children; I know what it's like; how hard can it BE?

BethAnne's picture

I wouldn't be so quick to say that stepdad's don't get accused of abuse. If anything being male, they are all the more susceptible as most people seem to think that all men are potential abusers while women are given an easier ride.

thinkthrice's picture

I would hazard a guess to say that more BIOdads are accused of abuse during custody fights than stepdads are even though the odds/statistics are much, much higher that stepdad is an actual child abuser.

How many times on the news have you heard of extreme child abuse at the hands of STEPdad but nothing was pursued even though there were questions (raised by biodad and SM) about the BM and stepdad's "parenting style." Usually because the CPS unit think that having the CP biomom there is some sort of "magic bullet" against child abuse and that mom would not allow any such thing in her home.

Believe me I know this. The BM in my case IS a CPS/Foster care worker. And most of the caseworkers she has under her are PASing BMs who think the BM can do no wrong. The agency has turned into a tool for CP BMs to get "revenge" upon the father of their children for DARING to move on.

BethAnne's picture

I was thinking more of step-mom vs step-dad, and who was more likely to be accused of abuse. I did overlook the fact that of course where an abuse accusation is involved, the whole household is affected.

ohiodad's picture

The first thing my skid's bio dad did after meeting me was file a police report of physical and sexual abuse of his kids. Luckily for me the police and CPS saw through the bullshit right away. Lovely how I get chided for black and white thinking, and this is two posts below.

thinkthrice's picture

Hmmm in Ohio they must not be so CP BM centric as they are here in New York and in particular upstate NY.

Not saying all cases are this way, I'm just saying the VAST majority of cases are as I have described.

z3girl's picture

I can't imagine marrying someone without knowing what it would be like! My DH can't stand BM, but he firmly respects her position as SD's mother, so I don't think he would want anyone to "help" when he had SD, even when she was younger. By the time we got married, I was comfortable with my role in things. I knew DH didn't want help or advice, although he did occasionally ask my opinions about things. Years into it, he only bothers to ask me when it comes to bigger financial decisions (eg How much money should we give SD when she gets married?).

Congrats on your family. Smile

notasm3's picture

Some of these skids were produced because their bio parents were utterly irresponsible and chose to fuck around using NO BC. How stupid is that? Others were produced because the bio parents made a decision to have a child. The SP was not involved in any of these choices.

No way that a person should be required to bear the responsibility of rearing others' children unless that is a decision that they have made of their own free will.

Whenever I hear of a bio parent demanding that their spouse parent their children I think just another USER/LOSER BP.

ohiodad's picture

"Some of these skids were produced because their bio parents were utterly irresponsible and chose to fuck around using NO BC. How stupid is that? Others were produced because the bio parents made a decision to have a child. The SP was not involved in any of these choices."

And yet you choose to marry this irresponsible person who fucks around? How stupid is that?

canigetabm's picture

Oh Boy #5 & #6!! This is a BASIC scenario list, so I am supposed to try to parent a 16YO SD that ignores my very existence when passing me throughout the house, ignores any text I send even at the request of her dad if he is driving. Retreats to her room as soon as I walk in from work and is not to be seen or heard from unless she comes into our room to speak to her dad. Everything she says starts with "dad"! So I know she is NOT talking to me! And yes we decided I would step in, yes the BM is out of the picture and could careless. BM shows up for a dinner once every six months or so. So "oh ye of wisdom" how do you parent that when she says "I'm not doing anything wrong, I dont have anything to say to HER".......yeah sometimes its not up to the "adults" exclusively.......I say DISENGAGE for your own sanity.

EDITED to add.....that would be 4 years of this behavior.

ohiodad's picture

So SD was a cute and sweet child who loved you dearly when you fell in love with her father?

"oh ye of wisdom"

Willow2010's picture

I may be in the minority here but I honestly do not know how/why some of you married into your situations. I would say that MOST of the time you DID know what you were getting into but choose to ignore it. I knew after dating a few months that something was off with my DHs whole situation. After dating a full year I knew there was no way in hell I would put my kids or myself into that type of situation. (And my step situation was nothing compared to most on here.) That is why we dated for 7-8 years before marrying and moving in together.

And another minority here. I don’t think SDads have it easier than SMs. I just think that SDads are normally more laid back than SMs. We…as women tend to be more controlling and I think that is where a lot of things go awry.

thinkthrice's picture

I had NO desire to control my skids. I did, however, have the desire that biodad and biomom control their children (i.e. have some semblance of humanization in which the three "angels" are totally devoid)

ChiefGrownup's picture

My sd flat out stated it would be fine with her if bm got remarried. This is a mythical person who has yet to poof into existence. But she knows he would be fine.

But Dad? Oh, hell no. He has no right to couple up. She even has her own bf now, so SHE can couple up. Just. Not. Dad.

I notice sd16's bf is on good terms with his stepfather and bm. But his dad is on shaky ground with him. I don't even know if there is a sm. I just know the boy's dad is held in some special category of hostility even before his dread sin of--gasp--offering to take him and sd16 out to dinner when he was in town.

Yes, I believe SMs tend to have it worse with stepchildren and it's not because they are women but because they are not MOM. Troy Donahue is ok with stepdad because MOM wants him to be. She doesn't care about the real dad or is actively hostile so Troy Donahue lashes out and judges dad.

Willow2010's picture

Yup...there are ALWAYS curve balls. But all in all...we mostly know what we are stepping in when we marry a person with kids. IF you actually get to know the person before marriage.

ChiefGrownup's picture


My niece had a baby this year. She and her dh regale me with tales of all the things they didn't know about babies and parenthood. Every day is a new lesson in how much they didn't know or expect. Everyone agrees they are fine parents giving the baby a great home.

But a stepparent is judged for not knowing exactly what it would be like to live with somebody else's kids? How does that work?

Bio parents astonished and overwhelmed = adorable.
Stepparents astonished and overwhelmed = lousy selfish dishonest people.


WalkOnBy's picture

Hell, we don't even know how our BIO children are going to turn out at 15 or 16, and we KNOW how they were raised.

How in the hell can SMs be responsible for how some other broad's kid turns out when we AREN'T THE PARENT???

Willow2010's picture

I met my SS when he was 8ish. Within 6 months, I knew how he was going to be as a 14 year old. Because I saw how BM and DH rasied him. I don't feel like I am being a Judgy McJudgersons (lol).

But I still do not understand how MOST on this site can actually say they did NOT know what they were getting into. Im sure that sometimes, as SOON as the marriage happens, the BM turns into a loon, the dad suddenly becomes a terrible parent, and the kids turn into spoilt turds. But MOST of the time, that all was there before the new marriage it was just overlooked. JMHO

WalkOnBy's picture

When I met DH, of course Medusa was a loon, but he was a very different parent to them than he is now. Then, he was all about structure and discipline and accountability, perhaps because Medusa wasn't about any of these things.

When he got custody four years ago, something switched. Some odd combination of Disney Dad and guilt and just plain being overwhelmed kicked in and so I disengaged.

I had NO idea he was going to be a craptastic parent, because he wasn't.

ohiodad's picture

Thank you for your kind words and your story! This is not meant to be a one size fits all list. This is what worked for me, and quite frankly, had some people followed this list they would have stopped before it got to marriage.

I wish my story went as smoothly as this list does, but there are bumps, hiccups, and fucking nukes dropped right in the middle of this list, but if you hold true to #10, as I said it is the cornerstone for everything else, those "life events" can be managed.

ohiodad's picture

I understand the need for disengagement, but to me that is the last resort option, not the first. If you are at the point of disengagement, then everything has gone to shit. My list, at least in my head, is to prevent the need for disengagement.

Again as I mentioned many times, if that is the parenting style you and your SO agree to at the onset, then please be my guest. I just think its best for the kids (especially if they are with you 50% or more) for both parents in the house to be a parent. I love seeing DS's and SS's playing together (and fighting together Wink ) like brothers. They really see each other that way. They also know that if SM says NO, its a NO from me as well and vice versa.

ChiefGrownup's picture

Ohio, it's nice you've joined us and shared your story. I hope you continue to offer your perspective.

Now, I have to ask: knowing your first wife's various flaws that would eventually lead you to divorce her, why did you create two human beings with her? Why did you marry her at all?

I can't for the life of me understand how stepparents are supposed to be superhuman beings who see the future, should be all powerful and all patient and all self-effacing and all giving. But people who make babies before they get to their 2nd marriage get to be forgiven, indulged, and deferred to.

It's wonderful that you've got a great bunch of kids there and a great partnership with your wife. I have a great partnership with my dh and I have one great skid. I also have one awful skid.

Maybe if one of your children had a personality like my sd16 or like Chucky or Fungus or several other of the skids blogged about here you would understand more of the stepparents here and their decision to disengage. Believe me, if there were a way to give these kids different characters we would all do it. Turns out life is messy, marriage is messy, childhood is messy. I may be ten times the parent BM is or even that my husband is. Does not give me the right to take over their child. Nor would the half grown kid stand for it.

So it really bothers me that all the blame is laid at the foot of the stepparent. Why not post 10 rules for a single parent to court and wed? Things like:
1. Teach your kids to be polite and kind
2. Remember these kids are your own responsibility, nobody else owes them anything
3. Try to see your kids through the eyes of others--do people find them well behaved and likable? Or does your love for them make you short-sighted as to what their real parenting needs are?
4. Are you really able to be a partner? Being a parent does not exempt you from meeting your partner's needs, respecting him/her, creating a new family unit and forsaking all others. If you feel you deserve a pass from the normal list of marriage vows because you have kids, just don't date.

I've gotta go now but I'm sure I could easily come up with more for this list. Just would like to know why the entire responsibility for the success of the stepfamily is put on the stepparent?

WTF...REALLY's picture

WOW!!! You really have a great way of writing. You nailed it! Very impressive Chief! Smile

ChiefGrownup's picture

Monkey, I didn't respond this way to his original post for that very reason. My comment up there was actually inspired by his many comments in the thread about stepparents should know what they're getting into etc. It was that repeated focus that made me speak up.

I love his point 10 which I think should be point 1. And his point 9 is great, I would make it point 2. But many other things in his list I take a different view of. Nevertheless, it was his comments later in the thread I wanted to address.

And, Monkey, if stepdads do take that "what the hell do you know" kind of guff, I'm sorry to hear it. I think we have several male members here who struggle with some of the same crap the women do. Each person who comes here should be respected for their individual story. In the aggregate, though, social scientists tell us stepfathers are more easily accepted than stepmothers. I get sick of the stepmothers being blamed.

Sooo, anyhoooo, I think telling a married woman to look for a man with younger children to solve her step situation is simplistic. I also think telling fiancees to have pre-marital slumber parties for the kiddoes is simplistic and off key. Just wanted to shift the perspective a minute to highlight how many more variables are involved in the holy grail of step success.

ohiodad's picture

If that is a reference to me, I am not sure how I can judge seeing as how I am on my second marriage....

ohiodad's picture

Now, I have to ask: knowing your first wife's various flaws that would eventually lead you to divorce her, why did you create two human beings with her? Why did you marry her at all?

Well that is a loaded question. It wasn't all her flaws but mine as well. I had little to no self esteem when I met her, she liked me, and that was good enough to start. The other biggest downfall of mine was my pride. I was too proud to admit she wasn't right for me, she began her little manipulations, and bit hook line and sinker. I took on what I call the "Forrest Gump Mentality" where he says "Well Ive gone this far, might as well keep on running". Couple that with a huge Catholic family that was begging for the baby of the family to get married and you have a recipe for disaster. For 10 marital years I put up with being room mates with my wife. I put up with her blaming me for all of our problems. I begged her to go to counseling, but she didn't need it, I did according to her. I was about to leave when DS#1 was conceived. That kept me around 4 more years until DS#2 was conceived and I snapped, I felt trapped like a caged animal.

I remember sitting on the bathroom floor telling her that I didn't and couldn't love her. Recanting all of the manipulations, blame and turmoil that she put me through. After this fight which I spouted everything I wanted to say to her for 14 years, I felt amazing. That sounds sad and pathetic to say, but after 14 years of relationship hell and feeling lonley with the person you are supposed to love, it was like a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

I went to counseling to reconcile my feelings and was advised that there wasn't anything left for me to work with so I divorced her. I found out later through her own counseling sessions that she didn't love me either, and that she had a secret that she had kept from me for 14 years. She had been sexually abused as a 5 year old by her brother's friends. All of the blame that was on me, all of it was so that her secret which she held onto for so long wouldn't be found out. It was much easier to blame me. (I feel bad glossing over this, but this could be a whole book in and of itself)

With that said, I am happy to say that everything turned out ok for me. I met an AMAZING woman who I am proud to call my wife and she is proud to call me her husband and everything on that list comes from the trials and tribulations we have been through to unite our families.

I've gotta go now but I'm sure I could easily come up with more for this list. Just would like to know why the entire responsibility for the success of the stepfamily is put on the stepparent?
I think you have mis-read my intentions. I am both a Dad and a step-dad. I think my list does not blame the step-parent. It puts the onus of blending a family squarely on the two people trying to blend a family. BOTH are responsible parties in that list.

ChiefGrownup's picture

Ohio, you describe a gutwrenching decision not reached lightly. Much misery went into it, preceded by a certain amount of foolishness. You actually did not need to answer my question at all. I was simply asking it to show that your own challenge to step-parents in several of your comments could just as easily be thrown back in your face. Step-parents are also young and foolish and under various pressures when they enter their relationships with partners who have children. It was a bit imperious to say just divorce the fellow or you don't deserve any consideration for your own needs now because you should not have gotten into this mess - your only option now is to suppress yourself.

Most of the step parents around here have gone through just as gut-wrenching times before they reached their decision to disengage. Even the ones that SEEM to advise it on a hair trigger arrived at that place through a massive amount of hurt and sorrow. I suggest you stay around here and get some knowledge of the back stories of many of the posters. Many have moved heaven and earth for one or more step child only to find that in the end it was nothing but a camouflaged swamp they fell into. If they saved themselves now, they'd be lucky. There really was nothing they could do for kids who are in truth beyond their grasp. So forgive them if they feel like throwing up flashing red warning lights at others they see wading into the same deadly swamp.

I also heartily endorse working hard at your partnership with your spouse but do not assume that the disengaged ladies here skipped that step. That would be the same as my originally rhetorical question: throwing it in your face that you should have done better in your first marriage when you personally know that you already gave it all you could. Most of these ladies and gents have, too.

For the record I am fully engaged with one stepchild and only partially disengaged from the other. And extremely happy in my marriage.

ohiodad's picture

Simply because the first advice given on this board, almost unanimously is "DISENGAGE NOW!!!!!". I just feel that is the nuclear option. Its the option that says I have failed in everything else, I quit. I am not saying its wrong, but if my wife or I disengaged at the first sight of trouble (or the 2nd or 3rd) we would not have been successful in being the nuclear (different meaning!) family that our respective children come to expect. That's why step 9 and 10 (which I do say are the most important steps) are so crucial. Everything you do as a couple falls from those two things. If you don't communicate and if you don't put your relationship at the forefront how can you expect to communicate to DH, DW, or SO that they need to step up? You can't and that is the problem I see on the surface.

My wife and I both have no problems telling each other when we thing something isn't working. In fact as we speak we are having that conversation about my son. It takes time, patience and trust.

ohiodad's picture

I think that's partly why I have a problem with it. This site has overused the term to the point where it is meaningless. I don't know I am still new her and I am just one dude with an opinion.

WTF...REALLY's picture

^^^^This is so true! I too had to disengage many times over the years. BM was determined to have SD hate me. She worked very hard on it. I sear - I have PTSD from the first 3 years together. Stepping back saved my sanity.

And like you, I was forced to become a full timer. So far, this year is going very well. But it was a lot of work to get to this place. SD now treats me with full respect and we finally have a calm household.

BUTTTT - I still do not feel the same way about her that I feel for my kids. I can't say that I love her. I wish I could, but I would be lying. I really hope she goes away for college. I need a break from being her full time stepmom. 3.5 years to high school graduation.

ohiomom's picture

My husband (the OP of this thread) sent me his list in an email and I have to say that I was really curious about the responses and about this board in general. Since I am kid free at the moment, I thought I'd take some time to write a little about my thoughts and perspective on this topic.

The first thing that you should know is that my husband truly is one of the good guys. Smile Smile We really did fall in love the night we met. (Although, everyone here should take note that I was the one who recognized it first! Blum 3 ) We are still obnoxiously in love 5 years later. I miss him when he travels for work, write him love notes in his lunch, we make our friends sick on Facebook...all that good stuff. Lol. I think it's important to note where we came from to understand us and why this way of parenting our kids was the way we chose to go. My first marriage was pretty awful. My ex physically and emotionally abused me. He still tries to mess with my head now and then but he is more of a nuisance than anything else now. Although he has a harder time admitting this, my husband's ex manipulated and emotionally abused him as well. We talk a lot about why we married our ex's..why didn't we wait for each other, why did we have kids with these people that were so wrong for us?? Ugh, we talk about it, ad nauseam, and the answers don't always come easily. We were both young and naive (okay, stupid!). My husband has already answered why he married his ex..The reason I married an abusive jerk is something that maybe I will never really understand about myself. I just know that in order to move forward with my life I had to forgive myself and do what is best for me, my marriage, and all my kids.

I think everyone's situation is unique to them so I didn't find much fault with this general list. (Of course I am sleeping with the guy who wrote it, so I may be biased. :P) I know that I have felt every emotion possible when in comes to being a step parent. And that every single one of the "10 steps" along the way has been incredibly hard. But now I feel like it's really all been worth it. Our youngest son is 4 and I get to have him with me during the day, Mon-Wed. He is the sweetest, smartest, funniest little guy and I feel like I've contributed to that. I don't know if that makes sense.. Sometimes my husband says things like, "Oh, he has your sense of humor" and I take pride in that, because he is a little stinker and he definitely gets that from me. Smile (We are big fans of nurture over nature) I love that our 4 year old wants to dance with me, bake with me, wants me to sing him a song at the end of the night, and wants to cuddle with ME. Smile I can't afford to emotionally disconnect myself from him or his brother (who is the mini version of his father Smile ). I think that if I was disconnected from them then I wouldn't have those great moments with them both that I do now. I can't say that I didn't do that, or rather that I didn't want to, or feel like I should disconnect in the beginning. I understand the need or maybe the desire for self preservation. Nothing hurts your feelings more than a little boy asking for mommy and not being his mommy!! It's a helpless feeling. Believe me, my husband and I had plenty of discussions (some of the quite loud!) about OUR feelings as step parents. Which is why #10 is SO important to us and it should be for anyone in a relationship.

I think the idea that step moms find themselves in a more difficult parenting position than step dads is interesting. I might partially agree with that, but I would say that is over generalizing things. A better way to say it might be that moms have a different roles in their kids lives than dads do. My husband and I choose together what works best for our family, just like I'm sure everyone here does. Like I mentioned I have our youngest son every Mon-Wed. He has preschool Mon and Wed,that I take him to and pick him up from, and I have to pick up my other step son from his school since he goes to a different elementary school than my sons. I would be lying if I didn't say this caused some resentment on my part at first. Especially because last year our youngest was VERY mommy centered. And as I mentioned, it hurts to have a little guy asking for mommy. I really had to step back and take a look at the situation. Last year I was a bit of a mess. My mom died in April, we had to take on the responsibility of my brother and sister, we got married in June, we had to figure out a way to add rooms onto our house for my brother and sister, we had to figure out everything for my mom's estate and deal with my lousy relatives....Needless to say I was a wreck. I really felt like I was failing at everything,including being a mom. I just had to look at all of this from the kids perspective. Not only had we just lost my mom but now our boys had to take on essentially a new brother and sister. Life was hectic and of course they acted out. Hell, I was 34 and I was acting out! My mom was my best friend (other than my husband) and her loss was..ugh, I can't describe it. I know I wasn't much good to anyone there for awhile. Thank God for my husband. He really is the best. Smile

Anyway, I guess my point with the above paragraph is that no one here should assume that our lives are cookie cutter, picture perfect and that we judge everyone who handles things differently. That's not my husband's MO. He told me how sad he felt for so many of the posters on here and how lucky he felt that despite all of the madness, we somehow make it work.

I have to say that I am not surprised to read people saying that they don't think they love their step kids as much as their children. I feel sad for you if that is the case but I do understand it. That bond is hard and if it doesn't form then I can see why someone would feel that way. I don't know how I would feel if my husband didn't love our kids the same... I think about growing up as a step kid and where I would be if my step dad hadn't loved me. My biological dad was not in the picture at all so maybe that made it easier for my step dad. I don't really know. And maybe that experience of growing up with a step parent makes it easier for me to love my step kids... I don't know that one either.. We try to tell our kids (and they are younger so maybe that makes it easier) how wonderful it is that they have a step mom and step dad who love them just as much as their mommy and daddy do. We tried to make it seem like having an extra mom and dad was a pretty cool thing and so far it's worked with minimal attitudes from our kids. As we are the guardians for my younger brother (almost 17) and sister (almost 14), we've gotten a fun preview of what is to come in the teenage years and I can't say I'm looking forward to that!! Bottom line is I think all kids can be jerks at any given time, and can sometimes be difficult to like and hard to love. But the moment you can look at your spouse and say "Hey, they will ALL be gone some day! Yay!" and then laugh together, is the day that you know you've got a good thing going!

I really believe that doing all or at least some of these steps could work for a lot of people. But of course they can't work for everyone. It's just amazing to see how our kids act like siblings, which means fighting hard and playing hard and loving each other hard too. It didn't happen over night though but I'm really proud of our family and how far we've come. And that has so much to do with how solid we are as a couple. Lots of things have happened that could have come between us but thank goodness we are both pretty awesome people who deserve happiness after so much unhappiness. And there was A LOT of unhappiness in our previous lives. Lol.Thank God we decided that everything we had to go through to be together was worth it! I think it's made us better parents and better people!

I wish everyone on here the very best. Being a parent is just.. well not that fun sometimes. I think that every parent who thinks that they have really tried their very best should be proud of themselves. This isn't a job for the weak! It's great that there are places like this for people to come and vent. We all need a safe place to do that!

And I really like your list, love. Smile Too bad we broke that first one! We didn't just break it. We ripped its still beating heart out, stomped on it, peed on it, spit on it, maybe even pooped on it a little too.. Lol. We lived and learned though and I'm so glad that we didn't give up. I love our crazy family and I love you!! Smile Smile

PS: I will save everyone the trouble and add these for you :sick: :sick: :sick: Yeah, I know you were all thinking it. Wink Lol. We do really love each other. He is the best man I've ever known and I'm so lucky to have him! And so our all of our kids!

ohiodad's picture

I don't know how many people will see this as its probably on page 8 by now, but I love you so much. If you get time you might want to copy and past this in your blog, and reference this post Smile

I love you so much

ohiomom's picture

Well, I love you too! I did what you suggested. It's okay if no one else comments. It was a great post from you and some great responses too.

ChiefGrownup's picture

"I haven't seen a person here say they wanted nothing at all to do with skids when dating/marrying their SO. It all starts out with everything working out and then it falls apart. Some skids don't want anything to do with in that case, should the SM walk away?

I love seeing stories of blended families who work. But, majority of us on here have issues caused by the exes, or from the exes PASing the kids. No one can foresee this happening. You can only do what you can do for your household."


Very nice, Alzeka. Well stated.