Avoiding "factionalization" - Mothering Forums

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Old 01-14-2010, 12:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Those of you who had stepkids and then biological kids...how do you avoid what I'm terming factionalization--the feeling that the stepkids are your husband's/partner's, and the kids are yours, and ne'er the twain shall meet?

It seems pretty logical from where I'm standing, as Dad reassures his first offspring that they will not be forgotten or abandoned to the new family, planning "just the two of us" outings...and then the new mom spends many/most hours tending to the newbie, while recovering physically...that quickly, patterns of "mine" and "yours" are established (even though you may have spent the last several years raising your stepkids as your own--and even though the new little one is actually your husband's biologically, too)?

I guess I'm kind of fearing this--is this even a rational/logical fear?

What do you do to combat this? Or, is it kind of inevitable if Dad does want to maintain his relationship with his first family? (I know in some cases, the opposite extreme happens--Dad kind of neglects his first family and focuses on his second. I don't anticipate that happening in my situation, nor would I want it to.) Does it get better/worse at certain milestones?

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Old 01-14-2010, 12:32 AM
 
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I don't have any kids outside of DSD (yet ), so all of my advice is just theory but here is what I think:

Don't worry about it. When the time comes, you assess the situation "what does each child need? Is dsd struggling to adjust? Do you need to reinforce family structure? Do you need some time to relax? To cuddle with the baby? Does she need some one-on-one daddy time? Do you need some one-on-one time with her? Do the kids need to establish a bond?", and you work from what YOUR family and YOUR children (together and individually) need at that time. You put most of your time and effort into the areas that need the most help at the moment, and you try not to neglect the rest.

You'll do fine.

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Old 01-14-2010, 01:06 AM
 
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Your fear is totally rational and warranted.

For me, there was a lot of this feeling in the beginning. It still crops up every now and then, usually when we are fighting and it involves me feeling that DH is showing favoritism towards DSD. Sometimes it happens during times of stress as well. But in the beginning, DH had to remind me often that DS1 was his child, too.

I really did all of DS' care in the beginning - partially by choice. I felt weird because he had already done the baby thing, so I wanted to be left alone to figure things out. I was the SAHP, so DS1 really did feel like mine. And it was so easy for me to just deal with DS and for DH (then DF) to deal with DSD.

A few things changed the dynamic a bit. DH started working overnights and I was put in charge of getting DSD ready for school. Suddenly I was doing parental things for both kids at the same time. It was a big change, since I was never all that parental beforehand.

DH and I got married. That made us feel more like a family unit. So the "yours/mine" thing became more "ours."

The thing that really changed everything was having the third child in the house. We parents could no longer divide and conquer. Responsibilities are more shared. And I feel more like I belong - this is my family, not just me moving into DH's family.

There are no easy solutions to this one - maybe just make sure to keep doing as much as you are doing now for your DSD. When DS1 was born, I wasn't actually doing much at all for her, and the birth of DS pushed me even further away from that.

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Old 01-14-2010, 02:38 AM
 
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I think Oriole has got it right, even if she hasn't been-there-done-that (yet).

We, personally, really didn't have that issue at all. Even if all the children were biologically yours, after the baby was born you (particular if you are nursing) would have that "babymoon" where you are in charge of the tiny one and your husband takes charge of the older one(s)... logistically that's the way it works at first.

As with any younger sibling's birth, I think it is important to nurture all the family bonds-- mom and older sibling, dad and older sibling, mom and dad, older and younger sibling, etc. And it's important to have times that you are all together bonding-- weekend trips, vacations, even just some sort of family game night or pizza night or something. It's great to establish that routine before the baby comes-- my step-daughter and I did a parent-child gymnastics class before I was pregnant, and we were able to continue that after her little brother was born so we had "our thing" that we did together. And we took advantage of parental leave laws to take some mini-vacations during that first year.

In thinking about our situation, I know we are somewhat unique in that my husband is the stay-at-home parent, so when I am on maternity leave we are all together as a family at home for those weeks... I don't know if this makes a difference or not. (But I would highly recommend it if there is a way to make that parental-leave situation work!!)

Sorry this was kind of rambly... my sense of your relationship with your husband and your step-daughter (obviously just based on your posting here, which may or may not be based in reality!) is that you will be fine, that you will be aware of the individual needs of your family and will work together to address issues if and when they arise.

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Old 01-14-2010, 11:12 AM
 
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It is a rational fear...

Often as of late I think of DSD more of DH's and DD as our's. DSD has been really challenging the past several months and has gotten quite disrespectful towards just me in general... so I've been letting DH handle everything with her.


In the very begining I did feel more like DD was "mine" instead of "ours" because of the new transition and being the sole care taker of DD while on maternity leave and such.

It gradually changed to a feeling of ours once DH was taking care of DD as much as me.

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Old 01-14-2010, 12:30 PM
 
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We're not there yet, but it's in the planning stages.

I've already voiced this concern to my gf. I have two dds (age 7 & 2) from a previous relationship. They go to their dad's place EOWeekend, and we enjoy our alone time.

We're getting married next winter, and we'd like to try for a baby the year following (I'd like to wait until my youngest is in school f/t - hence the wait).

My LO who is two calls her 'Mama Jessie' (not her real name, but you get the idea) and is very comfortable with the dynamic. My seven year old sees her as a close adult friend, and we're all slowly finding our way together.

Anyway, I'm supposed to carry the next babe as well. This will be my gf's first 'baby'. My worry is that my two older girls will get the shaft emotionally/time wise once this baby is here and in arms.

Basically we're just talking about it lots (not to death, though) and really attempting to validate the other's feelings. For instance, I don't want to get stuck in the role of caretaker/disciplinarian to the older two, while my gf gets all the baby time, kwim? But vice versa, I do want her to be able to enjoy having a newborn.

To equalize things, I'll be taking a year of mat leave (I'm a trauma RN, in Canada, so this is very feasible) and the older two girls will be in school all day. I know (from past experience) that at the end of the day, I'll be very happy to pass baby to someone else and focus on my big girls for awhile.

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Old 01-14-2010, 12:48 PM
 
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It's a very interesting question, protolawyer. For some reason, when I was (briefly) pregnant a couple years ago, I was much more concerned about this than I am now. I feel like DH and I have a better handle on these things now than we did then. It seemed before like DH and I both thought of the new baby as mine. This time, I don't get that feeling from him at all, and I don't feel that way either. He's much more enthusiastic about the baby, and makes a big deal of it being "our" first. This goes a long way towards making me feel like part of a real family and not to suddenly have this bicameral family structure of his vs. mine. And, frankly, it leaves me feeling more connected to DSD and DSS than I would have been able to be otherwise.

And for us, by the time the baby comes, the stepkids will be back at their other home, so we will have a babymoon to bond all three of us before the stepchildren reenter the picture. And, of course, we'll video with the kids (I do wish they could meet their sibling a bit sooner, but due to school schedules we can't swing it) to let them see each other.

I think it's important to consider issues like this ahead of time, so you can identify it quickly if it does creep up. And then if it does, you and your DH will already know it's not desirable, and can hopefully change course a bit.

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Old 01-14-2010, 01:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks.

To be clear, my husband has really started getting into this pregnancy. (He'll sometimes address e-mails: "Hi baby! (And baby!)" In a way, it's a "first" for him, too, because his first marriage had already started to break down by this point, and while his then-wife was excited to be having a baby, they both were kind of going through the motions of doing it as a "happy couple."

His ex called him last night and asked what he was going to do to ensure his daughter wasn't left out after the baby comes, as they (SD and her mom) had a long conversation about it, at SD's urging--and, of course, her mom couldn't make any promises on behalf of her dad.

Well, I heard him talk to SD on the phone last night, and normal rational logical me thought he did a very good job...but hormonal me was like, "Well what if this one's a GIRL too and SHE wants to go to the Daddy-Daughter Dance with you? Why are you telling her you'll ride bikes with just her this summer? Don't you want to spend time with the new baby...and your wife?" (Normal rational logical me: Um, because by the time the newbie is old enough to go to the Daddy-Daughter Dance, SD will be too old...and I can't imagine being in any shape to ride a bike--I have balance issues as it is--when I'm 8 months pregnant and it's 90 degrees out or, better yet, newly postpartum, so if there's going to be bike riding, it'll have to be just the two of them. I like normal rational logical me better.)

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Old 01-14-2010, 01:34 PM
 
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I haven't "been there done that" either in this situation but here's my take. I think that a lot of times in a situation such as yours, the stepmom removes herself from the day to day care of the older children and a large focus is put on making sure that the dad gets to spend plenty of time with his older child/children so they don't feel as though they are being replaced. I think the error in the thinking with that is that like it or not, when the stepkids are home with you all, you are the "mom" in that house. So I think it's important to still provide opportunities for the kids to be with you alone postpartum just as much as it's important to provide opportunities for them to be with their dad alone. Does that make sense? I know my DSC would be THOROUGHLY confused if all of a sudden I was not doing meals, helping in the bedtime routines, helping pick out clothes, and generally being a part of their lives.

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Old 01-14-2010, 02:14 PM
 
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Your fear makes total sense. I was not prepared for this one at all, so it's great you're thinking about it now. I've struggled with what you described and still do to some degree.
My DP didn't want DSD to feel abandoned or bad that this other baby gets to spend every day with him. So he overcompensates.

My DP is great with the baby, especially when it's just the three of us, but when DSD is here, the us vs them is really marked, even though we try to do things together all the time. The baby has a hard time with that too, all of a sudden his dad is somewhat absent. It makes me really sad, and it's pretty much the only thing we fight about (constantly.) It's also important for DSD to feel (not just know) that DS is her brother (and her dad's son) not just MY son.

My only advice if this happens is to keep bringing it up with your DH. In our case, even though DS and DSD love each other, the disruption in DS' life and routine every time DSD is with us has proven pretty difficult for him (including sleeping issues, etc.) His personality changes completely as well. I need to point this out to my DP all the time. He's so focused on not "damaging" DSD.

But the most important thing now is to enjoy your pregnancy! There's really not much you can do right now, except talk to your DH about your fears, but don't think they're all hormonal or irrational. In my opinion they're totally valid. Good luck!
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Old 01-14-2010, 04:27 PM
 
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You know, I was thinking about it some more and why it would bother me if DH reassured DSD of the time alone they'll spend this summer, etc. It's because the new baby is already being positioned as competition, maybe with the help of your DSD's own mom, not sure. But as with any kid who's about to have a sibling it would be great if your DH could concentrate on having your DSD participate and be proud and excited about the baby and not as competition. IMO, reassuring her of the things they'll do alone together already starts a comparison. It might be good for him to say things that stress the bond DSD will have with the baby, rather than what he/she might take away from her.

Does that make sense?
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Old 01-15-2010, 02:52 AM
 
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IMO, reassuring her of the things they'll do alone together already starts a comparison. It might be good for him to say things that stress the bond DSD will have with the baby, rather than what he/she might take away from her.
I think that we should spend a lot of our time doing this when our kids are expecting a new sibling AND I think they also need to have their fears acknowledged and their feelings validated. My son has welcomed both his younger siblings with nothing but love and joy, and is an amazing big brother. At the same time, it is hard to have to wait to have your needs met, have one more person to share with, have another opinion that has to be considered, etc. I think we can acknowledge that for them along with reassuring them that, while things will be different in some ways, the important things won't change.

When we were expecting the baby this past spring, my son never said anything about those fears, but he seemed to be struggling with something. My friend, who is a play therapist, suggested that we acknowledge the feelings he might be having that he might not even be talking about... "It can be really hard to share your toys and sometimes you just want to play by yourself." "It sounds like you wish you could have all of my attention right now and it is really hard to have to wait." "You are wishing that I could play that game with you, and it is frustrating that I can't be down on the floor with this big ol' baby in my belly."

Once his feelings/fears/frustrations were acknowleged, the reassurances seemed to be MUCH more calming for him. When I was just saying "don't worry, I'll still be able to play with you when the baby is here," it didn't seem to help him. But when I said "you really want me to play that game with you and you are upset that I can't. This baby seems like it's getting in the way and its not even born yet!" followed by "When the baby is here and I need to rest, we'll still be able to do puzzles or play Candy Land or color together. I love playing with you. Do you want to do one of those things with me now?" it seemed to make a HUGE difference.

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Old 01-16-2010, 02:58 AM
 
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Not much to add from above. The one thing I was not prepared for with the birth of our first DD was how different my love for my own child was compared to my love for my step-daughter. It took me a while to accept that it was okay for it to be different because it didn't mean I loved her any less than my own child. Does that make any sense? The bond is different since my DD is my own. I had to be mindful that DH and I did not take sides which did happen on occasion and there was resentment there. It was definitely a growing experience for us. We worked through it and really forged a very strong family unit.

The other thing as pointed out above is that your DSD does seem like she is already in competitive mode with the new baby. The poor thing clearly has some insecurities with her role in the family. I agree that acknowledging her feelings will do a world of good for her. A book you may want to consider picking up and reading now is Siblings Without Rivalry. I think it could really help you in dealing with your DSD's feelings despite the fact that your baby isn't even here.

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Old 01-16-2010, 12:29 PM
 
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I think it was definitely easier with my dd than it was when my son was born but I think was because DSS was older and had been through the experience before. When my DS was born DSS was 3 and he was 2 while I was pregnant and evil. He was 5 when I had DD and the age difference definitely helped.

That being said after having 2 bio kids now I have to say that in the beginning I am all about the babies and DH is all about the bigger kids. I am nursing, I am tired and really biologically I don't want to have anything to do with the bigger kids, also while I was pregnant I was really sensitive and also really impatient with both my DSS and my DS.

I think it is good you are thinking this out but I really think it will be okay. Just the other day DH and I were talking about how happy we were at how well DSS and DS played and fought together just like brothers do.

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Old 01-16-2010, 10:26 PM
 
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It is a rational fear...

Often as of late I think of DSD more of DH's and DD as our's. DSD has been really challenging the past several months and has gotten quite disrespectful towards just me in general... so I've been letting DH handle everything with her.

:

I'm kind of in the midst of this. Trying to work through it. I definitely feel right now that the stepkids are HIS and our DD is OURS. Then throw MY dd in the mix....ug...

Haven't had time to read all the responses yet, but I definitely will. Need some advice as well.

Mama to Maia (12/04), Nora (9/09), Sam (8/12) and Step-mama to Aidan (3/02) and Luci (10/04).

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Old 01-17-2010, 11:09 PM
 
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The one thing I was not prepared for with the birth of our first DD was how different my love for my own child was compared to my love for my step-daughter. It took me a while to accept that it was okay for it to be different because it didn't mean I loved her any less than my own child. Does that make any sense? The bond is different since my DD is my own. .
Although it isn't a popular stance on this board, I would even take this one step further and say that it is not only natural for love to be "different" for your stepkids, it is actually completely natural for your love to be LESS for your stepkids than for your own biological children. You are supposed to love your own children more than anything else. Now, some people consider stepchildren to be their own children, and then you have the whole adoption arena, etc, so there are lots of different relationships there, and lots of different lines.
There isn't really a "right" way to be a step-parent. And the roles the original bio=parents play in the kids lives play into that..for example, when one parent is completely absent, it makes more sense for a step-parent to move in and assume a "real" parental role, as opposed to a situation in which both parents are still fully parenting, and the step-parent has a much more minor role in the childs life. In some homes, it might mean that the expectation is that you love and treat all the children as your own child. And that's fine, if that's the situation. But for example, in my home, it is not expected, (and in fact would be considered completely inappropriate) for me to love or consider my stepsons the same as my own children. They're not my kids. They HAVE parents who love them and care for them.

A to the "competition" feelings. Thats a tough one. IT's normal, from a very basic biological level, to get upset at the thought of your childs father, the "provider/hunter", to be spending his time/money/resources on another persons child. It just is. It is of course, completey right for him to spend those resources on his first child, but it's also normal for you to be upset, as a base reaction, to him doing so. Our biological drives are actually completely at odds with our culture of divorce(or out of wedlock births) and remarriage.

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Old 01-25-2010, 05:17 PM
 
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Hi all ~

New to this community and enjoying it so far..

I have 2 kids (ages 6 and 4 from a previous relationship) and am due in July. I have been with my boyfriend for 3 years now (we live together, etc, just no official piece of paper yet, by choice). I find that he and I have some good discussions on how parenting will be when the baby comes, how different our lives will be (right now we have my guys half the week, giving us built-in freedom during the other half) as well as discipline issues. I think for us, discipline will be somewhat of a hurdle. He has high behavioral expectations for my children, as well as his 2 younger brothers (10 and 8), that to me are slightly unrealistic. I believe that he will be much more lenient/understanding with his own child, and I don't want that to be an issue. My son is already one of those super-sensitive personalities who has the conspiracy theory about everything (she got more juice than me, etc). I'm trying hard to get him to understand that 4-yr-olds will resist just about anything at times.... because they're 4, and that sometimes you have to choose your battles, compromise, give in even in order to prevent a major blow-out. I'm trying hard to get him to understand that you can't expect much out of over-tired kids. Great guy that he is, he is driven on the "I grew up working hard, showing respect and never threw a temper-tantrum" mentality. His parents don't necessarily agree, but try telling him that. I want to address this all in full with him before we get to the point where my kids feel unworthy to him, or any other byproduct of this.

Anyone have thoughts/experiences on the discipline subject within the realm of a blended fam?
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Old 01-29-2010, 12:11 AM
 
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I guess I'm kind of fearing this--is this even a rational/logical fear?

What do you do to combat this? Or, is it kind of inevitable if Dad does want to maintain his relationship with his first family? (I know in some cases, the opposite extreme happens--Dad kind of neglects his first family and focuses on his second. I don't anticipate that happening in my situation, nor would I want it to.) Does it get better/worse at certain milestones?
DD1 and DD2 are my "step" daughters. I was with DH for 3 years and married for a year before DD3 was born, and had been around them since they were 3 and 18 months, respectively. We'd done a lot of work in the early days with biomom laying the groundwork for me to be a relief system for her since she was way overwhelmed with having kids at all, let alone being a single mom.

We prepared the girls for their new sibling the same way (in retrospect) that we have each time. Yes, we focus on all the stuff they'll get to do with daddy once the baby comes. But, we also focused on all the great stuff I would get to do with them and that they would get to do with/for the baby before/after baby's arrival. We had slumber parties in the living room, went out to lunch one on one, rented special movies, etc. They were 6 and 4 when DD3 was born.

When I got pg with DS, we did the same thing again. Yeah, they did some special things with DH, but did special things with me too. Just because there's a new baby coming doesn't mean that our lives have to stop. Like a PP mentioned, they would be shocked, confused and completely off-kilter if I stopped being a part of their daily lives. They're used to calling me when they're upset, crawling in to bed and talking for hours when there's something bothering them, etc.

Anyway, I guess all I'm trying to say is that aside from the normal changes that happen in ANY house when ANY new child is born, there's really no reason for things to change drastically in your dynamic with DSD. Create new special moments with her. You've gotta nurse the baby, fine. Have her pick out some special books at the library to read together in the early days while you're trapped under a baby. My big girls loved helping get the baby dressed, hanging up the little tiny clothes, etc. Babies are really portable in the early days, so not much changes, except that mommy naps a little more frequently.

I know it's a lot to deal with. I also know our situation is unique in that I truly don't see a difference between my "step" kids and my bio kids, and they don't either.

Hang in there. :

Sarah - Mama to Vic (1/19/00), Syd (4/06/02) Sam (4/20/06-born at 30wk2d), JackJack (2/14/07) and Charlie (4/30/10)
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