Parenting is hard. And in this landscape of uncertainty, fewer things are harder than becoming a blended family. Mom. Dad. Stepmom. Stepdad. Biological kids. Step kids.
Joining two familial units that existed independently for any amount of time is no easy task.
Two people with even slightly varying parenting styles and philosophies suddenly have to try to get on the same accord. Kids from one or both parents suddenly have to get used to this new person, this new life, and maybe new siblings.
It’s a recipe for frustration, anger, and tears. But also new bonds, new relationships, new love.
When I got married, bringing along a toddler from a previous relationship, I thought I had been faced with one of parenting’s hardest battles. Little did I know, even more difficult than becoming a blended family is when a blended family breaks up through divorce.
My separation is fairly recent, but so much has changed in that short time.
My 5-year-old, who I had with my future ex-husband, has been mostly unfazed. She stays with her dad on weekends and gets showered with gifts and outings – and even more valuable, her dad’s love.
My 9-year-old, however, has not fared as luckily. She mostly spends her weekends with me. And the relationship with her dad has changed a bit. They see each other and speak a little less.
I know it hurts her. I can see it in her changed behavior – getting into more trouble in school, always angry, and random outbursts. I can see the jealousy on her face when her little sister comes home wearing new clothes, talking excitedly about all the things she did over the weekend and the things her dad bought.
I both admire and dislike the strength she demonstrates by never complaining.
I knew divorce would change things. I knew it would mean splitting time with my kids. I knew there’d be a rough period of adjusting to our new normal. But I didn’t anticipate one of my children being impacted far more than the other.
Although I have new worries, like paying all the bills and caring for both of my kids, just as important to me is healing my heartbroken girl. Reigniting that light that seems so much dimmer these days. Bringing back that smile that seems to appear less frequently. To maintain the bond between her and her little sister, while at times it’s as if they are now living two separate lives.
There are many days that I feel like I’ve failed her; that I’m still failing her. But I vow to make everything okay. Because she always has me – even if she has no one else.