Story by: Hellobeautiful.com
Today’s family doesn’t look the same as it did decades ago. The traditional nuclear family, with a mother and father raising their own biological children, while certainly still present, has had to make room for ever-rising trends of single parents bringing up those “chirren” all by themselves. But what happens when those single parents find new loves, and new unions are formed?
Q: Dear Spirit,
I’ve recently “inherited” two new children after getting remarried and I’m struggling with something that might seem minor, but it’s really a big deal for me. I’m not comfortable with the idea of calling the boys my “stepchildren,” or having to make delineations when people ask me how many children I have. As far as I’m concerned, they’re my children, just like my biological daughter is and I feel like the word “step” keeps us from being a complete family. At the same time though, I don’t want to disrespect their mother by “claiming,” them as my own. She is still very much a part of their lives (they live with her most of the month), and she and I have developed what I would consider to be a cordial relationship. Am I making a big deal out of nothing or how should I go about handling this?
A: Dear Carolyn,
The question that you’re struggling with is one that more and more men and women find themselves challenged with as our nuclear families continue to grow to include stepparents and non-biological children. The answer to this question is as unique as the families that we are a part of. In an ideal situation, the child(ren) would be free to explore and define for themselves the kind of relationship that they choose to develop with their non-biological parent, and the adults would support and respect their decisions related to this relationship. These kinds of decisions would include what the child(ren) choose to call their new parent, and how close a bond they choose to form with them. Unfortunately, however, this relationship is not often allowed to develop in a nurturing, supportive environment due to all of the anger, frustration and unresolved baggage that often exists between the adults involved in the situation.
My suggestion to you would be that you begin by having a private conversation with your husband about what it is that you’re feeling, and the two of you work on resolving the dilemma as a team. He may want to talk with his ex-wife about the issue and give her some time to think about it. Or, if the three of you are on amicable enough terms as you mentioned, then perhaps the three of you may discuss the issue together. After the adults have had the opportunity to align their position, then plan to have a family conversation with all three of the children. It doesn’t have to be a major, “stop the presses” kind of talk, but just one that lets the boys know how much you care for them and that, if they’re not opposed to it, you would feel privileged to be able to call them your sons. You may also want to give them some time to dialogue with their mother about the issue before expecting an answer, so that they don’t feel that they are somehow being disloyal to her. All in all, it is important for everyone in the family (including the boys’ mother), to feel reassured that you are not looking to “replace” mom, but rather that you’re wanting to build your own special relationship with the boys within the new family structure that you all are creating.
Best of luck to you and your family as you move forward, and congratulations on what sounds like a wonderful relationship between you and your children.