Updated: Aug 25, 2020
Since the beginning of my blog, I've received request to share my blended family experience. For those who may know me, know I am a very private person. I've always been selective about the information I share because I am very protective of the people who mean the most to me. Also, my children are young and sharing their lives with the world is also something I am selective about. However, the topic of blended families and the many dynamics of the relationships is one that I don't hear about often. In sharing my truth it is my goal to inspire other men and women to feel empowered to share theirs.
My journey to motherhood started with my bonus daughter and her father who is now my husband. When I first started dating my husband, it was always evident that his daughter was a massive part of who he was as a man. His admiration for his daughter and their bond is undeniable in a lot of ways it reminded me of the relationship I have with my own father. I knew that before we could have a conversation about having a serious and committed relationship I would have to make the conscious commitment to embrace him and his daughter plus whatever else comes with it.
We are all familiar with the horror stories of the stereotypical step parent. Someone who isn't really interested in being a parent figure to the child and only dealing with them in order to be with the person they love. Having the mindset that the child is somehow a burden to the relationship and treating the child as if they are an outsider. Being aware of this toxic dynamic made me do some soul searching. Was I ready for this new dynamic? Was I equipped to handle everything that comes with it? Was my ego in check? Was I ready to not only love this man but also love his daughter with the same intensity.
My husband and I dated and after having numerous conversations about it, he decided to set a date for me to meet his daughter. By this time I already made it clear the I would be willing to accept her and create a relationship with her outside of what him and I were developing ourselves. She was only 2 years old, I'll never forget that day. Waking up that morning with my mind speeding at 100 miles an hour thinking of what that initial interaction would look like. "What do I say? She's only two, how can I make her feel welcomed by me without trying too hard? God, I don't want this to be awkward. Please! "
On the way to his apartment my hands were sweaty, stomach in knots. I had so much anxiety walking up to his apartment door. I knocked on his door and almost instantly he opened the door and I saw a curly haired little girl stand in front of him. She stood firm in at the door as if she was the owner of the apartment. Immediately my anxiety calmed and I couldn't help but smile at her. She had on pajamas with little elephants all over them and her hair was like a wild flower. She stepped to the side so that I could come inside and I went to my knees to bring myself to her eye level. I opened my arms and she looked at me in a skeptical way then she smiled and ran into my arms. I breathed a big sigh of relief and I melted in her tiny arms. We played and she would run around me and pretend to fall so that I would laugh at her. We watched her favorite movie at the time The Lorax and I knew after that first interaction that falling in love with her wouldn't be hard. Any fear that I had prior to meeting her was replaced with excitement. The excitement was short lived. Although things seemed to be falling into place, the timing and maturity for both of us wasn't in alignment to have a healthy relationship. There were things that needed to be reconciled in the both of us before we could continue our relationship.
Advice On The First Interaction
Be clear with your significant other about your intentions. Are you ready to meet their child or are they ready to meet yours? Do you feel obligated? Is the climate of the relationship mature enough to nurture a relationship with your significant other's child or your own? Have you had a meaningful conversation about your values? Are you both on aligned on the growing potential of your relationship.
Introduce Intentions Before You Physically Introduce Yourself.
After you and your significant other have had multiple conversations about a potential blended family relationship begin introducing yourself through your partner. This will require help from your partner prior to the first physical interaction. Start cultivating conversations about your partner with your children before they meet. Your kid should have a good idea of the person you're wanting them to meet prior to the first encounter. Start slow and be empathetic. Let them know that there is someone new in your life. Gauge their reaction and allow them to share their opinion. There should be several open-ended conversations prior to meeting.
Talk It Out and Feel It Out
When you talk to them about your partner, reference them by name to build familiarity and rapport. If you and your partner have a mutual understanding and have agreed on introducing yourself to the kid(s) let the children involved know prior and give them the option to say whether they are ready for that step or not. If they are not ready, do not override it. Validate their feelings and let them know that you would like for them to meet your partner but only when they are ready. Respecting your kid's boundaries will validate their importance to you and help avoid conflict with yourself and/or partner. Talking to your kids about your significant other regularly will help with this. Even if it's random facts like your partner and child sharing the same favorite food or color, this will help them feel like they know them before meeting up.
Let your kids know when you are with or on the phone with your partner. Greet them and acknowledge their presence in your partner's life even if it isn't physically. If you are going out on a date, let them know. Again only if you both have a clear understanding and are working toward a lasting relationship. Keeping secrets about seeing your significant other will construct feelings of betrayal or negative feelings towards them. If a you or your partner are secretive about your relationship it is usually a red flag and usually points to the relationship being premature or having conflicting values. Additionally if your partner is an active parent in their children’s life and doesn’t take the initiative to integrate you into their lives, this can also be a red flag. Is your relationship ready for this next step? Have you and your significant other had disagreements before that you were able to reconcile in a healthy way? Have you shared your core values on family and relationships? Are there any red flags whether physical or intuitive? Let the children's other primary parent know in advance out of respect. I know this can be complicated for a variety of reasons. My experience was very difficult with my bonus daughter's mother at first. If possible have a conversation with them about your intentions and relationship you'd like to build with their child. Transparency is key! The foundation of any lasting relationship is communication. Be clear and be honest with yourself and the parties involved.
The Meet Up
Enter their space as a guest. Request permission to enter their space. Introduce yourself on their eye level, whether crouching down or squatting. This will help with any intimidation they may have. Let them know that you are happy and honored to meet them. Talk about something that you know they are interested in to break the ice. If the child is younger or unable to communicate verbally, use friendly and approachable gestures and wait for their nonverbal consent to interact (smiles, closing the distance, etc). Don't be afraid to ask questions about their interest. Allow the experience to flow naturally. Your significant other knows their children best so allow them to be your guide. Call them by their name and try to refrain from words of endearment like sweetie, baby, etc...For kids who may have a relationship with their other primary parent this can be off-putting when done prematurely. Relax and be your authentic self. Last but not least SMILE! A simple smile goes a long way. Things may not always go as planned but when your intentions are pure, it will be felt.
Keep Expanding Your Roots!