I stepped into my new home, excited about my future. We had just returned from our week long honeymoon in the Caribbean, and it was the perfect end to a perfect wedding. A perfect beginning to our new life together.
I was young when we married – I was 22 years old, and my husband, Billy, was 29. Life was exciting and I had grandiose visions on how our life was going to be lived out – with the perfect white picket fence home, flawless communication, and Gerber Baby children.
I loved children! If you asked anyone in my family and friends group who would be the first to have children, I was always to chosen one. And I was good with kids. I was the go-to babysitter in my junior-high and high-school years, I was a camp counselor and nanny in college, I interned at a pediatric therapy clinic, and worked in an elementary school classroom post college. I knew kids. But nothing prepared me for my new role as a stepmom.
Billy and his boys (ages 4 and 5) had an amazing relationship and did everything together – cooked, cleaned, played imaginary superhero games, swam, laughed, built cardboard forts, and so much more. Naturally, they had a history that spanned much longer than He and I (and the boys and I) had.
This was pretty obvious when I would try to insert a joke or comment, only I never found a good place to interject.
Have you ever felt like that new person stepping into a room full of cliques, where everyone had their own fun story, or inside joke, or exciting memory that they all laughed over? Or have you ever spent time with a couple or two best friends and you felt like a third wheel? Wondering “why am I here? They seem to be having a fine time without me.” That’s how my life felt. I would leave the room briefly only to come back feeling like nobody noticed when I was gone. Eventually, I felt as if I was only the maid and cook of the family, instead of an active person to also interactive with. I felt like a third wheel in my own home.
It made sense that Billy and his boys were so close – they had that blood bond. I wanted that bond with the boys; it’s how I imagined life would be as a family. And I wanted attention from my husband the same way he gave his boys such intentional attention. I wanted to feel like a close family, but everything felt so forced, fake, and unnatural.
Then jealous crept in. Jealousy when Billy would take the kids and do something fun with them – completely (unintentionally) leaving me out. Jealousy that I didn’t have the same influence that Billy had with the kids. Jealousy that other families seemed to have it together, and my idea of the perfect family was falling apart.
“Nobody understands these struggles”, is what I would tell myself. I looked around and nobody in my friend circle was a stepparent. Who would ever understand why I felt like an outcast? My husband loved me. Everyone who spent two seconds with us could tell. The boys liked me, which was also obvious. So, how was I ever going to explain why to felt like an outcast, as if I was waiting to be accepted into the cool kids club. So I kept quiet – a mistake, I believe, made by many stepparents.
Life also felt bipolar. During the weeks when just Billy and I were home, we had one routine, one role, one schedule that worked well. When we had the boys, understandable, our routine changed. My role in the family changed. Billy’s interaction with me changed. I went from feeling like a valued family member to feeling like a wallflower.
Our lack of understanding how to properly blend a blended family, coupled with our lack of friends with similar, relatable situations created the perfect storm for arguments, misunderstanding, terrible communication, and separation.
While we never physically separated, there was a strong feeling of distance between Billy and I. He and his boys were living their life and I felt as if I was living my own separate life. This was the exact opposite of how I pictured our life.
Fortunately, our story does not end here. In fact, this was just the beginning – a rocky beginning, but the prologue which has started us on a journey from struggle to success.
It has been over 3 years since Billy and I were married, and a total of nearly 5 years together. The beautiful thing about relationships is they are always growing and evolving. We both are very active in self development, and through the trials of our first year we have learned so much about life, love, happiness, and the meaning of family.
Our biggest mistake was assuming that after our wedding, we could throw each individual together and expect all the different working parts to blend perfectly. I pictured us coming home from our honeymoon and functioning as a family that had lots of time to find their routine, their roles, develop their history, and bond. Instead, our family needed time to adjust to our new way of living. Consider this slow cooker analogy of how a blended family should bond.
Anyone who has ever cooked in a slow cooker knows that you cannot expect a meal to be ready quickly. A slow cooker is designed to cook all the ingredients together, slowly, over a long period of time. Of course, different ingredients are going to cook at different rates; for example, an onion cooks quicker than a potato. Consider each member of your blended family as a different ingredient “cooking” in the slow cooker – meaning they “warm up” to the idea of being a part of this new blended family at different rates.
The last thing we wanted to do was make one ingredient (family member) cook faster than it organically needed to. Once we learned that each individual warms up to the new blended family at different rates, it was much easier to stop comparing our family to other families who were in different places than ours.
Suddenly, those times where Billy and the boys spent time together without me didn’t upset me. It was the perfect example of them taking their time to “warm up” to the new function of our blended family. Slowly, over time, it became more natural for me to be a part of their crazy boy adventures. In fact, just this evening, as I sit on our coach writing this article, Billy and the boys came home from the store. The boys came running up to me with a new video game controller, excited that they just purchased one so I could play with them! In a blended family, time is your best friend.
We are nowhere near perfect and it hasn’t always been easy, but if you take the time to let your family cook, you will end up with one of the most rewarding family life you can create.
Brooke Melot fell in love with her husband, Billy, nearly 5 years ago. Since then, they have wed and she, happily, now has 2 stepsons. Coming from her past of being raised in a blended family, she is excited to use her own experiences to help raise her own stepsons, and continue to learn the best ways to parent as a stepparent.
Her passion of helping others inspired her to earn her degree in psychology from Spring Arbor University. After graduation, she began an online health and wellness company from home, which allows her to use her passion of helping to pour into her clients and her family.