The Steps

This piece was originally published on my old blog, which I am deleting, but I wanted to rescue some of my old articles. This one was written 2/2013.

I thought it would be helpful for other biological parents and step-parents to see their point of view, and how important they are to our blended family. Blended families can have such a complex dynamic, and it takes patience, understanding, and more patience. We all try to see from each others’ point of view. This teaches our children to identify with others and to not always view the world in tunnel vision. It is so easy to only see what is right in front of you and to not see the others around you. I often hear from other blended families at odds with one another.

Parenting is difficult at times. Step-parents walk into a new relationship, not knowing whether the children will accept or reject them, but they choose to stay anyway. They are often the first person to be blamed for everything; by the children, the biological parents, the grandparents of the biological parents, etc.  I think that is incredibly brave.  Step-parents are expected to take care of their children without stepping on the toes of the biological parents, without showing their children special treatment. I am not a stepmom, and I can’t imagine how hard it is to parent under a microscope. Everyone in the family is constantly watching and critiquing the way you parent.

Biological parents, and I am only speaking from my experience, have to learn to let go of some of the control. When your marriage ends, there can be so many unresolved feelings left in the rubble of the relationship we don’t always even realize the feelings are there until we excavate each stone. I believe the underlying feelings are usually based on fear. There is nothing more terrifying as a mother than the possibility that someone will drop the ball, and thing catastrophic will happen. You are the parent, right? No one can care for your child better than you, right? No one can identify with them better than you, right? You are scared of being replaced or of not being needed. You and your ex both loved one another at one point. The best thing you can do for your children is to forgive your ex, and allow them to love every member you of family, including their stepparents. You can never truly be happy if you are holding onto fragments of the past.  Forgiveness is a gift for yourself; the gift of freedom and peace of mind.

The amazing thing about children is that they are so resilient and accepting. The biological parents will not be replaced if they remain active in their children’s lives. The step-parents will not replace you. In fact if you let them, they will enhance your family. Your children will get another person in their lives who love and accept them. Children have the capacity to love more than one parent, and they have the right to love everyone in their family, including stepparents, stepgrandparents, stepsiblings. It is hard to let go, but I promise it’s worth it.

One thing I try to continuously ask myself is, is this working for me and my family? Is my behavior benefiting my children? Is my behavior bringing me positive results? If the answers are no, it is time to change it.

We rarely choose our parents, grandparents, siblings or any other family member, but that doesn’t make us love them any less. You may not have chosen the stepparents in your life, but if you work with them and treat them with respect, only good things can come from it. You can’t control the way anyone behaves, but you can control your reaction to them. I am grateful for the steps in my family, and the label hardly gives them the credit they deserve. They are my daughters’ parents in every sense of the word. They help with homework, scare monsters away, tuck them in at night, hold them when they are upset, feed them, laugh with them, and teach them what they have learned in their lives. Try being cooperative and see where it leads. One step in the right direction is sometimes all it takes to move toward something wonderful.

Do all of the parents in your family cooperate with one another?

Trish Eklund is raising her two daughters of thirteen and sixteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife. Trish is the owner and creator of Family Fusion Community, and Abandoned, Forgotten, and Decayed, a photographic adventure in the abandoned and the forgotten. Trish is also regularly featured on Huffington Post Divorce, Her View From HomeThe Mighty, and Making Midlife MatterTrish also has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz. The first book telling the story of blended family life from the perspective of the stepkids. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska. Follow on Instagram, Facebook, Facebook-Family Fusion Community, and Pinterest.


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