I remember watching the show "The Brady Bunch" in reruns on AFN (Armed Forces Network - for all Non Military folks) when I was a kid. I grew up in a traditional family, with me being the only child. So the concept of divorce and blended families was pretty foreign to me. The show provided entertainment, not only because six kids, two parents, and a maid were living under one roof but they had normal funny situations that I found myself able to relate. Unfortunately, it was a Hollywood sitcom that depicted the best of life in this type of arrangement.
Fast forward 30+ years (wow, that just made me feel slightly old for a moment) and I am married with a blended family of my own in 2014! Can I just say that watching this show, in no way, prepared me on the journey I was about to embark on! I came into the marriage with a son, now 13. My husband came into the marriage with a son, now 11. Since we have been married (7 years), we have added a daughter, 5 and a son, 2.
I don't remember much reference to the Brady Bunch when it came to their previous spouses. There may have been hints to death and divorce but they never addressed the issue of past spouses and how it effected the kids and current couple. Real life today, they are a big part of it. They never had an episode that I can recall, where "you are not my real parent" came into the picture. I don't remember them arguing about "my kid."
Blended families are hard. Even if you have two rational, loving, realistic adults with no mitigating circumstances. You are not only dealing with two adults coming together for the first time but also children that were once strangers and now are expected to be "family." In my circumstance, we were dealing with two boys, one 5, one 4. Two different mentalities and character, two different upbringings. In one circumstance both biological parents being amicable and the other barely speaking for the sake of the child. I could have just as easily mixed oil and water together.
Word of advice, those who have grown up in the Brady Bunch era, thinking it is all about love and coming together to be one big happy family, discuss everything upfront with your future spouse. Ask questions about his or her relationship status with their ex. Find out what their parenting style is, whether it has to do with structure, punishments, rewards, etc. Discuss expectations for family...kids and spouses alike. The key word is expectation! What is your expectation from the marriage, spouse and kids. Are you on the same page? Do you handle discipline together or separately? Is "your child" only "your" responsibility?" And how far does that responsibility go?
I grew up naïve. Yes, I am an educated modern woman, but I was duped into believing that love conquers and fixes all. I thought I could step in and be "Carol Brady" and that all would fall into place. Didn't happen that way at all and every day has been a struggle. There is a fine line between taking care of all the children when you are a stay at home mom and when one of the parents disagrees with one's parenting methodologies.
What have I learned from my personal experience? I have learned that you are responsible for all "your" kids. You can not make someone respect you, no matter what you do, how nice you are, or how structured, and strict you are. If your "step child" views you as their "non parent" you are 100% screwed! Now, from personal experience, I have never tried to "replace" any parent, and have respected the wants and wishes from the biological parents, but as a blended family, while at home, you are in fact a "family." The same rules should apply for all and when you do things it should be in the best interest of everyone in that new blended family. Once that no longer applies, the "new family" begins to disintegrate. Imaginary lines are drawn and you have two separate households living under one roof.
So what do you do? Pray, family counseling, separate, divorce, all of the above? Guess it depends on everyone's circumstances and how dysfunctional you want it to get. It starts with the adult parties being on the same page, if that can't happen, then you have to determine the best course of action for you and the rest of the family. Number one priority is the children and how it will effect all of them, in addition to the mindset of the two parents. Sometimes, there is no easy solution and you have to do what's best for the majority. Sometimes, it is best for the two families that blended into one to be separate. Not everyone blends well together.
That's what I miss about that fictional non messy Brady Bunch Era......it all fell into place with minimal effort! That no longer holds true today.