Stepping Up to the Plate
In the story of Cinderella, the second wife is none other than the wicked stepmother who spends her days plotting against the innocent sweet-natured heroine. In movies, stepdads are rarely portrayed in a positive light, and are often shown to be abusive and distant. Although you may not come anywhere close to these characters when you think about your impending role as a stepparent, do you fear that this is how your stepchild will think of you?
The reality of being a stepparent these days is far from how it’s portrayed in fiction. Though accurate numbers are hard to come by, an estimated 1,300 stepfamilies are formed every day in the United States, according to the Stepfamily Foundation. And many stepparents say that first 30 days are a relative honeymoon compared to the remainder of the first year. It’s only once you’ve moved into the house, unpacked your suitcases and moved into your spouse’s bed that your stepchild begins to show his or her true colors.
“Stepfamilies are not like the Brady Bunch,” says Elizabeth Einstein, co-author, with Linda Alpert, Ph.D., of Strengthening Your Stepfamily. “The fantasy is that everything will fall into place without conflict, but that is really just a fantasy.”
The truth is that it takes effort and commitment on everyone’s part to become a happy, blended family. And, the more you work towards this in your first 30 days of stepparenting, the sooner you can all live happily ever after.
The “Uns” of Stepparenting
Your biggest challenge in the first 30 days of stepparenting comes from dealing with the emotions that come with joining a family with children. You’re likely to be very confused and frustrated about your new role as spouse and stepparent, and even a bit afraid to live with children who see you as a threat.
Einstein believes that being unaware of these stepparenting challenges is what leads in the United States to a 60% failure rate of second marriages with stepchildren. “Unresolved grief, unrealistic expectations and uninformed adults are the trio of ‘uns’ that can immediately pull a stepfamily down,” says Einstein.