Just after our wedding, a little over two years ago, “his” and “mine” quickly became “ours.” Together, my husband and I will soon have six children. The three oldest boys are from my previous marriage, one is my six-year-old stepson, one is a nine-month-old baby boy that we had together and we currently have another baby on the way.
Nonetheless, we will soon be a family of eight.
Blended families have become a norm in today’s society, and not just for those in the military where divorce rates are even higher due to additional stressors such as deployments and frequent moves.
Through my experience, I have discovered that the key to a blended family’s success is reflected by how well a couple can lead together, creating a home of unity instead of one separated by blood.
After a messy divorce, I attended therapy for a few years to work on myself in an attempt at avoiding mistakes of my past. My therapist told me then that almost 90 percent of blended families struggle in search of finding that “ours.” Many parents have a hard time allowing the stepparent to discipline their child, especially if parenting styles are different. Tension often arises between the couple as sides are taken when individuals chose to protect their child instead of their marriage.
According to U.S statistics, while the divorce rate sits around 45 percent, the blended marriage divorce rate is over 65 percent. That’s over twenty percent higher! This makes it incredibly difficult for many couples to achieve a “happily ever after” their second time around.
Before my husband and I were married, we talked about how we were going to raise our boys together. And we talked about it a lot. We knew that once we said our “I do’s” that we would no longer be a couple with “his son” and “my three sons.” Instead, we’d become a family of four sons.
My husband didn’t meet my boys until after he returned from an 18-month-long overseas tour. We already had our wedding date set. I remember that September afternoon as though it were only yesterday, the look on my boys’ faces when James welcomed them with open arms. (I think my oldest was the only one who stood in pure shock by the unexpected embrace.) And the first time I met my stepson I couldn’t help but feel pure affection for him. He’s a part of my husband, which means I get even more of him to love.
Before having a child of our own, we knew that we would have to make a daily effort to let each of the boys know how much we love them, which at times is challenging since they don’t all live with us. But we make it a point to not play favorites and institute equal discipline.
I may not always agree with how my husband disciplines (he’s a bit more strict than I am), but I never correct him in front of the boys because it’s important that they see us as a joined front. Instead I’ll speak to him later in private so that I can voice any opposing opinion that I have. And he does the same. Often we’re able to come up with a game plan together on how we’re going to handle the situation, should it come up again. And it usually does. If we feel it necessary, we’ll sit down with the boys and remind them what is expected and how they will be disciplined, should they choose to break the rules.
With consistency over time, the boys have learned the routine of our new home, even though it is different at their other homes in Alaska and Arizona. We also reach out to the boys’ other parents when needed, to create additional consistency between the homes. (I realize this does not always work, which we have experienced as well.) It is definitely an additional struggle when your child doesn’t live with you full-time, but we have found that consistency really is key.
After telling the boys the news when we were expecting their baby brother, we were uncertain just how they would respond. We were prepared for possible resistance and jealousy, but what we received was quite the opposite. They all welcomed him into the family with such love and excitement that we couldn’t have dreamt it any better.
Luckily, they’re just as excited about our newest little family member, who will be entering the world in April.Subscribe to Military Spouse's Weekly Newsletter