The Mommy 101 posts are part of an occasional series in areas where we feel knowledgeable. Each mom brings her own set of life experiences to these posts and we hope that you can benefit from these tidbits. Read all of the posts in the Mommy 101 series here.
|Neighborhood stroll in our lil’ red wagon|
When my husband and I got married in May, we had four children in the wedding party. Three of those kids we call our own, and one is my niece. This means that the day after the blessed affair we were already busy at work, “combining” our families, as they say. Our kids are young, which certainly helps our situation. They like each other a lot, which also helps. Still, the instant family thing proved to be a little overwhelming at first for everyone, including (mainly) me. There are still days that it feels like we have not yet meshed/blended/combined successfully. So the combining of our families is a work in progress and likely will be for awhile.
I have learned a few things, however, in these months about families where there are several parents involved in the parenting and a few different homes in the mix. I wish someone had said these things to me. So, for what it is worth, I am saying them to you.
Ways to successfully combine your kids:
1. Avoid divisive speech. Choose your words carefully and make sure that your vocabulary is full of unified terms. For example, if you are talking to your husband about your stepson, do not say “your son did this.” Instead, use first names. In my case, it does not make sense for me say “our son,” or “our daughter” when I talk about my stepchildren. There are plenty of times when the phrases “our kids,” “our home,” or “our family” do make perfect sense and I try to implement them whenever I see an opportunity. Even if you do not use words that divide purposefully, the kids are listening. You can explain how important family is and what the new shape of yours means as much as you want. They will learn what it is really about by watching and listening to you.
2. Consistency is not always key. You should be consistent in your expectations with the kids. You should be consistent in how you discipline behavior issues. You should be consistent in asking your children to please, PLEASE not have a free throw contest with their bath toys and the toilet during tub time. Where consistency is not helpful is in everyday routines. Just because pancakes worked yesterday does not mean you need to stress yourself out and make them again today (especially if you are out of eggs, canola oil and pancake mix). It is great to have an idea of how you want each day to go but kids, like life, are unpredictable from one day to the next. You have enough to worry about with the whole feeding-clothing-housing thing as far as your kids are concerned. Do not pressure yourself with the whole routine thing. In my first few months as part-time mommy to three, I came out with (squirt) guns blazing. A normal day with all three kids would include a beach trip (gear, a wagon, food, oh yeah… three kids), lunch, a trip to the Y and the library. The kids had fun and I just tried to hang in there. What I realized in the process, however, was that kids also need time to just be home, doing nothing. Unknowingly, I was over programming them because I was afraid of dreaded boredom. The truth is that some boredom is okay. It breeds creativity and imagination. We still go to the beach, the library and the gym. But if the kids are happy playing with their toys and each other at home, I have no problem cutting something else out of the schedule.
3. Treat the kids equally, when you can. This is a no-brainer but the concept can easily get lost when everyone is whining, tattling and in a bad mood. What you do for one, you should do for the others. It is okay sometimes for one kid to get something special or be able to do something that the others do not, but only sometimes. When you think of one, think of three (or more). Retrain your brain to always think of the family unit instead of just one or two children.
4. Learn from your spouse. Oh boy. This was a tough one for me, especially coming from over three years of “single mom” mentality. From day one in my pregnancy with my daughter, I was the sole decision maker. The way that I parented, where I worked and how I kept up my home were at my discretion and I made it work. Thinking that all of my set ways would easily translate to my new family dynamic was a mistake. First of all, I am no longer a single parent so I do not have to do everything that I did before. Letting go of that control has taken some time on my part. My husband and I do a lot of things the same way, but he knows his children better than I do and vice versa (we are both getting closer to equal on this, however). Find each other’s strengths when it comes to parenting and let the other do what he or she does best. In the areas where you could both use a little help, learn together.
5.. Remember that your family is a team. Whatever the shape of your combined family, you are now a unit. This means working together to solve problems and involving the kids when you can. In our home, we talk regularly about the baby that is due in May. The kids ask questions (sometimes uncomfortable ones) and throw out name ideas. We talk about how cute the new sister is going to be. They look at her ultrasound pictures and discuss where baby’s nose is in the shot. I’m thrilled to be having a child with the man that I love but I realize that this baby is not just about he and I. She will be every member of this family’s baby. The same goes for the not-so-warm-and-fuzzy things that happen in a family. Do not let outside influences tinge your high opinion of your spouse and children. Shut out any negativity and keep the members of your family core as your only concern. Have each other’s backs. You are a family now. Remember that.
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