Adding An "Ours" Baby
My husband and I have yet to have our “own” baby. I hate that sentiment because it implies his daughter is not a part of us. But even though we have created our own family unit, I often wonder how adding my own offspring to the mix would shake things up.
Fellow Stepmom blogger Jamie Scrimgeour recently lived out this wonderment of mine, and she was kind enough to share her experience on what happened when she took the step out of stepmotherhood.
Before our baby was born, I felt like a bit of an outsider in my own home. Actually, more than a bit. I felt like a total outsider. A newbie if you will.
There was my husband and I, and then there was my husband and his kids. Two separate entities. As much as I was always included and lucky enough to quickly develop a special and unique bond with my three stepchildren, I always felt like it was THEM then it was ME. Because it was.
They had traditions and memories and routines that I wasn’t a part of developing. And although they did their best to include me in everything, it always felt a bit off!
So when my husband and I decided we wanted to have a baby “of our own” we treaded lightly. You hear horror stories about stepmoms and their husbands trying to integrate a new baby into a blended family. Hearing these stories about stepkids resenting their "stepmom + new sibling" because they felt like their father had moved on with a new family scared me to death. I didn’t want my stepkids to feel this way…ever. Because I knew all too well, that feeling like an outsider is no fun at all.
We have been lucky that none of that has happened with us. Watching the bond these four kids have developed over the past two and a half years has been nothing short of amazing!
However, over and over again I am asked about how the kids adapted to their new baby sister. I get the impression people anticipate stories of jealousy, resentment and attention seeking behaviors. But there hasn’t been any of that. I attribute that two things. First of all, my husband and his ex-wife raised very loving and well adjusted kids. Second, we were very intentional about the way in which we expanded our family.
Here are the 4 things we did…in a very intentional way.
1. We got the kids used to having a new baby in the family, as soon as we knew it was going to happen
As soon as my husband and I knew we were going to try for a baby, we dropped little hints about it with the kids. We asked them what they thought about it, and had open discussions about what life would look like with a wee one around.
This way, when we did the big reveal, no one was surprised. In fact, they guessed before we even had the chance to tell them what our big announcement was!
2. We involved the kids in as much as they wanted to be involved in
When it came to prepping for the baby, the kids were invited to be a part of everything… every step of the way. From brainstorming names, to attending showers, to helping prepare for the nursery, they were always invited to participate. Whether or not they chose to be involved was their prerogative, but the invite was always there.
3. We were very clear on how roles in our family were labeled
Personally, I hate labels. I hate the word Stepmom and stepkids and I especially hate the world “half brother or sister”. In my eyes, we’re all just family. I’ll never forget the day of our first ultrasound. We brought home the picture and shared it with the kids. They were so excited they all wanted their own copies for their rooms.
That night my heart melted when I saw my stepdaughter post it on her instagram account. Then it broke when I saw her caption. “My new half baby brother or sister”.
I hate that word. Half sister.
Every family is different and labels bother some more than others, but for us, we made it very clear from the very beginning, there are no half people in this family.
4. I made a very important commitment before I walked down the aisle
As a child of divorce, I know first hand how it can feel when your father is with someone who doesn’t treat you the same as she treats her own kids. You feel like an outsider in your own home, you feel like a guest, you feel like you’re not good enough. It’s nothing short of terrible.
Before I even met my husband’s children, I made a commitment to myself, to him and to the kids that I was always going to treat them the exact same as I would treat my own children. It’s a conscious decision , and one I have to remind myself of often. But no matter what is going on in our “blended family life”, they are all treated the same. End of story.
I always knew that having this sweet baby girl was going to be the best thing that ever happened to me. What I didn’t know is that it was going to be the best thing that happened to our family. Now, it’s not so much them and me. It’s us. With this new addition to our crew we’ve started new traditions and new routines. Ones we’ve made together as a new family unit.
Just because this worked for us, doesn’t mean that it is going to work for everyone. That’s the biggest thing when it comes to understanding stepfamilies and blended family dynamics. Every single family is different. There are many factors that influence how well a baby is integrated into a blended family, including how the children reacted to the divorce, their relationship with the stepparent, and whether or not the ex spouse is speaking negatively about the situation in the presence of the children.
Every situation is different, but at the end of the day, when integrating a new baby into this already complicated family unit, EMPATHY is number one. Consistently looking at things from the kids perspective can really help you understand their point of view and why they may be acting the way they are! Always remember, change isn’t always easy, especially for kids! And while you may be celebrating a new addition to your crew, the children may still be mourning the loss of their original family, and the new baby may solidify that things aren’t ever going to go back to the way they were.
Jamie is a second wife, Stepmom of three and Mother of one blogging about her journey navigating life in a blended family over at www.jamiescrimgeour.com. Since embarking on a this stepmom journey, Jamie has become passionate about supporting stepfamilies in overcoming the challenges that can and do come with stepfamily life. To learn how Jamie supports her fellow Stepmoms, you can check out her Blog and online Stepfamily Support + Coaching services.