WITH divorce rates on the rise there has also been an increase in the number of blended family units. Within these families, individuals, particularly because of their dynamics, generally take a much longer time to get to a stable, happy, healthy place.
The relationship that often carries the most conflict in these units is that of the step-parent/stepchild, and many step-parents, having finally settled into their roles, have acknowledged there are some things they wish someone had told them before they jumped in. They share some of these below:
Devon, contractor, 40:
I wish that I realised that no matter how much a child grows on you, and you on them, if push comes to shove they will likely side with their biological parent. You'd better know that; and it can feel like betrayal, especially when you have always been there for them.
Daren, 39, teacher:
I wish that I realised early enough that kids can get very explosive as they age. No matter how they love you, they will get angry and sometimes make up a lot of stories in their heads because they think you are influencing their biological parent in whatever decision they have made that they disagree with.
Kevin, 42, risk management analyst:
I wish that I had known that there would be times when I would feel like a stranger in my home — an outsider. The kids were not mine biologically and even though I tried to help to be there for them, they constantly reminded me that I was not related to them. Then my wife was always so busy trying to help them cope with all the drama that unfolded, and her moving on and in with someone else, so much so that even she really “saw” me. It can feel lonely and it can make you feel that you don't want to go home, but it doesn't mean you will love them less.
Sharry, 46, entrepreneur:
I wish that I knew that kids could grow on you so much that it was possible to feel more connected to your stepkids than you do to your own. I have a stepdaughter and she is a true beauty inside out — always concerned about me, always checking in at the right time, always genuine and helpful. Sometimes I wish I had given birth to her. We have a really deep connection, something I can only dream of with my biological kids.
Michelle, 36, designer:
I have to be working on stabilising my family unit because there are a lot of emotions still floating around — resentment, jealousy and even some anger. So you know you have to be patient and give the kids some space and allow them to heal. Forcing them to accept you will only make them respond by rejecting you.
Andre, 37, engineer:
When you accept a woman with children, you must know that 90 per cent of the time you will absorb some of the expenses, even if they are being supported by their other biological parent. If you are not cool with this then this sort of arrangement is not for you. I have had to shoulder much of the financial burden for both of my stepchildren, but I don't mind. I love them as I love my biological children and I want to see them do well.
Stacy, 34, teacher:
It can feel like there are three of you in the relationship. While the children live with us the mother, who is a frequent flyer, is either always stopping in or she is always on a conference call or needing to speak with my fiancé. You have to be strong to handle that.