It’s difficult to find time for everyone in a blended family: time for your kids, time for your spouse’s kids, time for your entire family, time for you, and time for you and your spouse. It’s hard to know who to give priority.
Research from The Blended and Step Family Resource Center shows that there is an easy answer to this, in order to have a successful blended family. Your marriage should take priority in the family. You and your spouse ought to schedule time to be together. I mean really, literally, schedule time out as a couple. Because, otherwise, the times you get to focus on your relationship as a couple may turn out to be few and far between. How we allocate our time speaks volumes about our priorities.
Date like when you were courting.
If getting out of the house to go on a date means hiring a babysitter, arrange for a sitter on a regular basis, and keep to the schedule. Naturally, illness or an emergency are valid reasons to cancel every once in a while, but it is imperative that you preserve and enjoy quality time together. Time spent together minus kids and with no distractions, helps you maintain the necessary resilience and enthusiasm for managing your step family. And just as importantly, taking time to talk intimately and enjoy being together is vital to a meaningful and mutually satisfying relationship. Because your solid relationship is the core of your blended family, you should not expend all your energies on being step mom and step dad. Make time, and take time, to be a couple.
Hint: If you find yourself cancelling dates with your spouse too often, try paying the sitter a monthly salary for date nights. This will keep the sitter booked and available, plus give you added incentive for keeping your date!
Your relationship as step mom and step dad
Despite the fact that about one in three of us finds ourselves in a step-family situation, few of us grew up in a step family. Probably fewer of us expected to become a step parent. If we had, maybe we would be more prepared! When we remember that our children were even less prepared to become members of a blended family, it does help us hold on to sufficient empathy for their feelings. Children sometimes can so easily make step mom wonder which fairy tale character she is being confused with, and so gleefully assault step dad with the over-used but still popular phrase, you’re not my father and you can’t tell me what to do! Try not to take their animosity or outbursts personally, but do be sure to maintain parental control, and refuse to accept disrespectful behavior, including from step kids.
Step parents must show a united front, displaying unwavering commitment to the step family as a unit. When you disagree, do it in private. This not only gives each of you ample opportunity to be heard and understood by the other, but also keeps step siblings from taking sides and spreading your disagreement over the entire step family. The lesson that people can disagree without acting in a disagreeable manner is as important for life as it is for family.
Kids need quality time with their parents
Blended family time, blended family goals, blended family fun, and blended family memories: These are all important and wonderful. Sometimes, though, step kids and step siblings need a break from being step anything, and need time with their biological family, along with undivided attention and unshared concern. Step siblings have a hard job. Learning to live with someone they have not known for very long, and being told they are now family, can be a struggle for some children. It is generally years and years before a blended family becomes so merged that nobody feels like a step something, so take a few hours now and then to get out with your bio kids. Go just for a lark, or to visit grandma, or do something you have missed doing together since you became part of the step family.
Quality time may mean different things to different members of your blended family, but when you consider that step parents and step kids all want and need love, attention, and acceptance, what defines quality maybe becomes a little clearer.