The Blended Family Dynamic

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Behind the scenes of how blended families make it work and how society’s perception gives it a bad rap

We’re gonna lay it out straight— there is a serious stigma surrounding blended families. Generally, people believe that blended families are born out of grief or tinged with failure, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Raising kids in a stepfamily is challenging in any circumstance, but we believe that the intention behind combining families or adding “bonus” parents always stems from a place of love. Obviously, when chosen to be done for all the right reasons. 

Yes, it can be messy, complicated, and exhausting. Of course. Anything that involves human emotion usually is. But nuclear families aren’t exactly spared from this either, and there’s so much more between the lines that society fails to acknowledge. 

Overstepping boundaries

Lisa Bonet, Jason Momoa and Lenny Kravitz and their kids are often seen on the red carpet together.
Photography: Alexandra Wyman via WireImage

One common concern that people have with step-parents is whether or not they overstep boundaries when they come into a family unit. They’re seen as “the outsider”, and automatically have their motives questioned. Do they really love their step-kid? Is she/he trying to replace mom/dad? Do they treat the child as their own? Do they have a right to discipline someone else’s kid? 

There are all these questions that don’t have a definitive answer. The stereotyped evil step-mother depicted in stories allows us to directly engage in the negative aspect of step parents, no matter how far removed they are from even being that kind of person. As much as it isn’t anyone’s business, solutions cannot be found in some guide book, because families are unique, in every way imaginable— blended families included. 

Sunshine Cruz-Mathay and Sunshine’s daughters from her first marriage. Macky has sons of his own, too!
Photography: @mackymathay via Instagram

Taking on a role that makes you an “instant” parent is as important as it is nerve racking. On the flip side, choosing a partner to come into your children’s lives as a new parent can be equally frightening. There’s so much to consider, but if the ultimate goal is to create a family, it’s a hard argument to say it doesn’t come from a good place. 

The more the merrier

JLO and A-rod both have two children from their previous marriages.
Photography: @arod via Instagram

Best case scenario, the kids get two sets of parents. Two moms and two dads that shower them with love and affection, rooting for them to succeed in life and find happiness. That’s amazing. Time might be divided between households, but the truth of the matter is, there’s only more love and support to go around.  

Worst case scenario, they have a parent and a step-parent. If these parents have made the conscious decision to raise their children together, and have committed to work together as partners, that’s beautiful. 

Is there a right way to function as a blended family? 

“Coming into it, you can’t think about that. Nothing good comes from it. It gives you wiggle room to make excuses or not step up. There’s no compromise with your biological children, it shouldn’t be any different for anyone who is part of your family,” says Kevin, who proudly embraces his stepson as his own. “You’re either a family or you’re not,” he adds. 

Korina, a former single mom, says, “It’s hard to navigate roles as a step-parent. Are you a friend or are you a parent? Communication with your partner is key because you have to figure it out as you go along and grow together.” 

“When I gave birth to my first daughter, I felt so happy that she already had a sister who loved her so much. The same goes for when my second daughter was born, three years later. My daughters look up to their big sister so much, as many little sisters tend to do,” explains Tessa about her daughters’ loving relationship with one another.  

Mila, mother of 5, who started her family journey as a step-mom of two, gives insight by saying, “I learned that you don’t need to be blood related to be family, and the love you feel for children can go beyond birthing them into this world.” 

Don’t take it personal

Depending on the age of the kids, it’s natural for some type of animosity to brew. For others, the transition can be totally seamless. But when it comes to children, in spite of hurtful words or snarky comments, a family still comes together through patience and understanding. 

The changing configurations of a “normal” family structure is quickly evolving. Unusual as it may be, the truth is that their interests and intentions still fall back to the basics— to be surrounded by those who matter to them the most. 

The original blended family : The Brady Bunch!

Yes, there are tragic stories of spouses passing, infidelity, and failure. But looking past that, and seeing how they have overcome that hardship and allowed themselves to love again and most importantly, share that love… Well, that’s a happily ever after if we ever heard one. 

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