I met my bonus son, Dillon, two years ago and married his Dad back in March- thus officially creating our blended family. So far this journey has been the coolest, most uncomfortable, yet rewarding feeling of my life.
Dillon won me over in a matter of seconds with his wit and fun personality. I made a decision to love him like my own and I haven’t looked back since. Nonetheless, I’ve got to be honest, blending our family is hard work that requires consistent effort. Overall, we are doing our best to blend the lumps out along the way and I’ve picked up on 6 Raw Facts I hope help other parents on the journey to blending.
Throwing Preconceptions Out the Window
The dynamics of every blended family are COMPLETELY different. For some, it is a smooth transition and for others it takes work to establish a rhythm that is comfortable for everyone. As a new Bonus Mom, one of the first mistakes I made was setting expectations based on my own experiences.
As the product of a blended family, I saw the dynamics of my mom, bonus mom, dad, and bonus dad. Their interactions shaped my idea of how things should flow to meet the best interest of the child. I entered my own journey with the intent of following the blueprint of the things that worked to make me and my sisters feel comfortable.
But the thing is, no family does anything the exact same way. Sure, I think the relationship between Tina Knowles and Ms. Rachelle is goals. It reflects my preconceived notions of how things should be. However, Expecting things to flow in strict accordance with your own experiences (or the experience of others) is a precedent which sets you up for major let down.
Instead, come in with an open mind. Be willing to take a backseat to learn the dynamics of the family you are becoming a part of. Be patient with the process of finding a rhythm that works.
Remember that there is always room for improvement. If you have positive ideas for bolstering relationships within the family based on your own experiences or the advice of others, do not be afraid to share the ideas with your spouse for feedback and a plan of action.
However, keep in mind that not every idea brought to the table will be welcomed with open arms…and that’s okay. The key is to try not to take push back personally (something I am still working on daily).
Maintain open communication. Talk through the “why” or “why nots”. Explain your perspective without being overly pushy or coming off judgmental, and work toward a compromise that best suits everyone.
Putting the Interest of the Child First
My husband’s best advice to me was to stop worrying so much about the reactions of adults and focus my attention solely on the interest of our son. That was a major key!
Face it. When most people discuss the dynamics of a blended family, the issues generally stem from the actions and reactions of adults.
However, the reality is that our feelings about each other do not trump our obligation to work together to promote the best interest of the child.
When you keep the child at the forefront by considering the effect of your behavior on his mental well-being, it controls how you respond to certain situations.
When Dillon reflects on my role in his life, I want him to say to himself that I always handled myself with class and integrity; I went the extra mile to ensure his needs were met; I treated him like my own; and I instilled good values within him that he carried into his adult life.
What do you want your impact to be? When we focus on impact over static there is little time to care about anything else. Impact is such a major job that it detracts from other distractions.
The Art of not Forcing It
I have always been the type to develop a strategic plan for all aspects of my life as it relates to everything from career growth to hair growth. In my mind, blending a family was no different. I established goals/ objectives/ metrics for how I wanted to see the evolution of all parties develop over time.
Thing is- you CANNOT set a timeline which accounts for how others choose to respond to your efforts.
I have heard that no two people arrive at the same place at the same time. I can attest that this is especially true for blending a family.
The reactions of both adults and little people are an unpredictable variable that you cannot direct.
There may be awkward moments when you speak but get no response back or have a great lunch to align yet notice a relapse in attitude for reasons unknown to you. The solution is to control what you can control.
Although you cannot control the negative disposition of another adult, you can always control your ability to be positive (especially in situations pertaining to the child). You cannot control how quickly a child adjusts to you, but you can always control your decision to show forth your love for him/or her at every given opportunity.
Your job as a parent is to give your best, not to force others to do the same. Always keep the mindset that things will get better with time but be ok with the idea that it might not be on YOUR TIME.
We are all human and the rate at which we adapt is different. Respect the rate of adaptation, but also understand that offering this respect does not mean you are obligated to take on more than you can bear.
You cannot pour from an empty cup. There is nothing wrong with taking a step back and regroup when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed. “You time” dedicated to mental clarity helps with burnout, allows for refocus, and helps maintain tolerance. As a bonus mom, self care should be at the top of your list. Here’s a guide to help you stay poised under pressure.
Praying A LOT
Being a good bonus parent is a lot about taking the high road. It is being willing to “start over” when there is a gap in time or a situation that makes you feel like the bond you were building with your kid was somehow lost. Smiling for the sake of the child even when you are frustrated by an action or reaction. Feeling like an outsider at times; it is having the purest intentions questioned and picked apart; listening to your spouse vent about disagreements; being put in the middle of situations that have nothing to do with you and yet still making the decision to love the child with all you’ve got.
The biggest key to staying grounded is prayer and meditation. No matter how great you are, the beginning stages of this journey can tempt you to mentally check out. That decision is the worst thing you can do for your relationship with your spouse and your kid.
Instead, pray that you will continue to do the right thing for the right reasons. Write out what you want to see happen in the lives of everyone involved, and leave it before God. There is no better “person” to vent to but God. I find that when I tell Him about it, I feel the weight of all my worries lift away. Who is better equipped to understand you? Who else is in a better position to fix your situation?
An essential component of being the best biological parent or bonus parent you can be to your child is to do self assessment.
Think hard about the things you can do to improve as a parent. Reflect on situations and determine how you could have handled them better.
Talk through new ways to help your child become a better person.
Listen to feedback even when it stings.
Spend less time playing the blame game and more time fixing you. It is easy to point the finger at ways another parent in the family should change, but what about you? Sure you noticed the discomfort of the child in certain situations, but how does your disposition play into that discomfort? What are you doing to help or hinder relationship growth? How do you respond when someone is telling you about you? Do you evaluate your own contribution to short comings or pour on the victim mentality when you hit a bump in the road with your child?
None of us is perfect at parenting. Some of us are newer than others at it. But all of us always have room to improve. Keep an open mind and take a deep look within at what you can do to be better. Remember, you can only control whether YOU give your best.
Thinking Positive Thoughts
Drive out every negative experience with a positive one. When some makes you mad or hurts your feelings think on everything that is going right. Let that drive you to keep going. Let that refocus your attention to the good in the situation.
If you let it, the blending process will teach you two important things that will carry over into everything you do: 1) how to unconditionally love 2) how to be stronger.
When I think about special moments I have with Dillon or see how my husband’s love has grown for me because of my love for the most important thing in his life, it is all worth it.
I would not erase the opportunity to pour into my son for any of the hurdles that come along with our family dynamics because he has impacted me for the better in every way imaginable. He is the purest extension of his dad. He gave me my first opportunity to be a bonus mom.
Whether two months in or two years in, I encourage every bonus mom to make a habit of:
- Throwing preconceptions out the window
- Putting the best interest of the child first
- Mastering the art of not forcing it
- Praying a lot
- And thinking positive thoughts
You’ll be happier for it and be better equipped to stand sturdy through your journey.
Read more on mastering the role of bonus mom here, and check out my interview on Little Miss Entertainment Podcast. During the interview I talk about making the decision to date a man with a child and how we are smoothing out the dynamics of our blended family.
Enjoyed the post but still feeling a bit stressed? Here’s a value packed guide for minding yourself care.