Founder of “The Secret behind the STEP” Sherelle Avery had a chance to sit down with Reality Star Samantha from VH1's“Love and Hip Hop New York” and get her perspective on how she feels about the “Blended Family lifestyle”. We all watched Samantha’s blended family issues play out on TV every Monday night for the world to see. I felt her issues were very relatable in the “Blended family world” and decided to ask her a few questions.
Sherelle: What does the perfect blended family look like to you?
Samantha: [laughs] Is that a trick question? Well, My picture of a perfect blended family is a family that gets along and understands each other. Once the biological parents realize they couldn't get along and weren't happy together, they will eventually go there separate ways. One parent is sure to move on first and I feel everyone should try to get along for the child's sake.
Sherelle: I agree, in my own blended family I have a stepdaughter who is primarily with my husband and I and then I have a stepson whose mother is very involved, so he's with us partially, but my stepdaughter is with us full-time so I have to try to figure out how to mother them differently.
Samantha: How old is your stepdaughter?
Sherelle: My stepdaughter is 10, and my stepson is 13
Samantha: I think it's tough sometimes when each child has a step parent, I think that with my fiancé and my son, my fiancé just tries to teach my son respect. Even if the child is having a bad day, or he is moody, or he is missing his father, and he is acting out his frustration at school, or he is staying in is room. I feel like as long as the step parent respects the child and their feelings its ok. You have to take everything day by day. I feel like the step parent should always remain neutral, like good cop and let the bio parents be the bad guys. The child will always forgive their bio parents.
Sherelle: I think in my case I kind of have to play bad cop because I'm the only woman in my step daughters day to day life, I'm her mother figure so I have to be mom not friend/good cop. As far as my stepson, I don't have to put that whole "mom hat" on. His mom is there, the funny thing is his mom is good cop and I'm normally bad cop.(Laughs)
Sherelle: What are some of your greatest challenges as a bio mom in a blended family?
Samantha:I feel like I am in a position where it is designed that Im the bad guy. No matter who my ex becomes involved with, they will always see me as a threat. I always try to be the happy ex. I don’t want my baby father. I am happy in my life. Its like everyone doesn’t see that. Its like no matter how much you try and show that it’s all good, people don’t see that. All they see is drama. I often feel like the bad guy as the bio mom. Instead of his "wife" seeing me as the ex and her trying to build a relationship with me, I feel the opposite. I see in other cultures where the women can be friends, go on vacations and that is all I ever wanted out of this situation. But somehow it became ugly because of insecurity and people not being honest.
Sherelle: Sometimes in blended families, the newcomer–the new girlfriend or wife, will be a little hesitant with their mate's ex. Especially if they share children together.
Sherelle: Do you consider yourself to be just a co-parent or in a blended family? I ask because it was stated that technically your son father is not married and his mate is not your son's stepmom legally. So are you just trying to co-parent with his father? How do you see that situation?
Samantha: Ive been conditioned to think that way because no one is really married. When he was with Erica, they weren’t married, but she was his girlfriend and she played the role of a step parent, and we all got along. Everything was fine. Her family loves my son and they took him in with love and acceptance. They didn’t throw it in my face like his other girlfriend. If you accept my son you don’t brag and boast about what you do for him.
Sherelle: How do you think your child benefits or lacks from being in a blended family. What are the ups and downs?
Samantha: The up part of it would be him having siblings because I don’t have any more children. This is good because I don’t have to feel rushed to have any more kids, if his father wants to have all these children then good, I can chill out. If everyone was sweet; he would have three sweet women in his life. He would have his mother, who would make sure he does everything he needs to do and then these other two nice women to add to that who could add knowledge and support. But he doesn’t have that, he has drama.
Sherelle: How do you think it would affect him going back into that environment knowing how bad you felt you were treated and hearing about it all playing out on T.V. for the world to see.
Samantha: He’s not comfortable; that’s why he won’t answer his dads phone calls. He doesn’t want to deal with it especially in school, he doesn’t want the stress. He’s always had stress. For example, when his father told him he was going into the army, he had to find out through a classmate he was really going to jail. My son feels like no one is being honest.
Sherelle: With younger kids it’s easier to hope they don’t know what’s going on, but he knows. He's old enough to figure it out.
Samantha: And he lived through it. We’ve raised him through the center of this whole drama.
Sherelle: Is it hard for him to see how they portray you?
Samantha: There’s nothing like it, and I don’t know why his father doesn’t understand that. Saying his own mother didn’t raise him; that’s crazy. He has no respect for women because of the way he was raised. That was when I noticed I had to go.
I wasn't raised by my mother. That’s probably why I look at the situation different. A family adopted me and took me in when my mother couldn't take care of me. So I was never against my son having another loving family. I actually embrace that because if I was never adopted I don't know where I would be. My son being around his father girlfriend/fiancé/wife or whatever was never an issue with me, until the lies and drama started.
Sherelle: Why would you going to school to better yourself be a bad thing?
Samantha: I asked my mother that too, and she agreed because I went to school for too long apparently. I would have busted out, but it was a five-year program and I didn’t get any support. Imagine if I never went to school, I’m my sons only provider right now! I would’ve been stuck. If his dad left our child with me and went off to school to better himself, people would applaud him. But because I'm a woman, Im told I shouldn't have left my son with his FATHER while I went to school to better myself? Thank God I took that time and went to school to secure my sons future.
Sherelle: Good for you! On my blog titled “Babymama Drama” there was a statement that read, ‘Sometimes the bio mom holds the stepmom to a higher expectation.’ But you said it was vice-versa for you, so what was your experience with that?
Samantha: I didn’t hold any of his girlfriends at a higher expectation because it’s not their duty, it's his duty as a father. But sometimes he wouldn’t know how to communicate and would figure a woman would be able to communicate better than he would. Why do you think the bio mom holds the stepmother more accountable?
Sherelle: The statement was “sometimes” but I don’t think that’s in every situation. I don’t think any blended family could be pinpointed as this is the way it is and that’s it. I think every single family is different; however, I have come across a lot of people that say as a stepmom you enter something where there is already a setting in how things are done and a new person coming in kind of changes the dynamic of that a little bit and then things are different. Then you must ask, ‘what role do I need to play for my mate in this’ and that may cause things to change a little bit too. It seems when a stepmom comes along there's a premeditated expectation of her, such as: this is what you're here to do! I think communication and understanding applies to everyone in the blended family. Not just, the Mother and Father.
Samantha: The bio mom should be open to the stepmom so she can fit in if she wants to. But, what if the girlfriend or stepmom doesn’t want to fit in? Some stepmothers don’t want to, they think it’s not my kid. It depends on the mentality of the person. If she’s willing to join the family, why not open the door to her?
Sherelle: Sometimes the door is open, but the expectation is limited. I had to decide, as a step mom, that I am not trying to please the mom, I’m here to assist my husband. So whatever my husband needs me to do in our household, is my role.
Samantha: That’s why I didn’t agree with it. His so called stepmother; uses that as an excuse. A stepmother and a bio mother who have moved on would be able to call each other on the phone and talk about the child. That’s how it was with Erica; you must be open with the other women. The only time it’s wrong is when the father's girlfriend is broadcasting her relationship to the world, then it doesn’t seem authentic it seems like it’s for show. It can feel like does she love them because it’s in her heart or does she love them because she wants to prove to her man that she loves them?
Sherelle: The statement is kind of the same. I am here to assist my husband with raising his kids. For instance, what role does your fiancé play?
Samantha: Well, you are there to assist your husband, like Matt(my fiancé), he’s there to assist me. He’s not going to do too much without going through me. So, I would hope that my son's father wouldn’t allow his significant other to overstep.
If you were to be my, what do they call it, sister wives, I’m pretty sure we’d get along. (Laughs)
I feel once it’s over, it’s over! It’s like I’ll never go back because I can’t. My son’s father is like a brother to me now, the thought of kissing him makes me just feel sick. I don’t even remember being with him now that its over.
Sherelle: What advice would you give someone going into a blended family?
Samantha: This is going to sound so cliché, but communication is everything. Put everything on the table, don’t sweep anything under the rug, when you do that people are going to disregard your feelings when you do decide to share. Make sure everyone stays in their land and respects each other and plays their role. Just don’t make problems when there doesn’t need to be any.
Sherelle: Last question, what boundaries do you think should be set before you enter a blended family? As the parent what boundaries do you think you have to set for the stepparent?
Samantha: It goes back to everyone playing their part, if you’re going to help then everyone needs to respect everyone else’s time. Don’t instigate and stay away from the drama. Follow each other’s rules, everyone has rules in the situation, respect them.
Sherelle: Thank you so much! I feel its very important to get everyone’s perspective involved in a blended family.