Sherelle: Congratulations on the new addition to your family. How would you describe the change in your family dynamic after giving birth, being as though this is the first child that you and your husband have together?
Erica: Awe thanks! I don’t think that there has been a drastic change, but we are having a bit of a hard time giving all three boys their own “special” time with each parent. Right now Cru, our newest addition, gets a lot of our time being the most needy. that’s pretty normal when you have a new baby in the home whether the family is blended or not. However, I do think that we do more things as a unit. My husband and I have made a conscious effort to spend time independently with our biological children so that they didn’t feel like our spouses took us away from them. Now that Cru has been born it has gotten a lot harder to make that time. My son, Camden, gets very sad if he and I don’t get that one on one time. Chubbs, my bonus son, doesn’t care as much and I think that relates more so to the fact that he has both his parents in his life as opposed to my biological son whose birth father is not in the picture.
Sherelle: How do you feel your sons have adapted to having a step parent in the home? Have you noticed a difference with how your son reacts to having a step father or how your bonus son may feel about having a step mother? And do you feel like there is a difference in how you parent your stepchild versus how you may parent your biological child?
Erica: That’s a good question. It’s been a struggle lol. I feel like Camden didn’t take that long to adapt because he didn’t have a real relationship with his biological father so that made his transition a little easier. With Chubbs and I it’s been a lot harder. I made the mistake of trying to play the role of being his mom too soon and that didn’t work out well for us in the beginning. We still occasionally bump heads, but I think that behavior comes from the differences my husband Corey and I have in regard to how we both discipline. As far as how we treat them, that playing field is even and, I wouldn’t have it any other way. If my son gets a spanking so does Chubbs. We do parent them differently, not in the sense of treating one better then the other but we have realized that what works for one might not work for the other.
Sherelle: What would you say is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your blended family and how how did your overcome that obstacle?
Erica: My biggest struggle is trying to discipline Chubbs with how he talks to adults, Including me at times. I come from a household where we didn't talk back or try to compromise with our parents or any adult authority and my husband was raised a bit differently. So when Chubbs is, what I find to be out of line, with some of the things he may say I have a hard time trying to get my husband to discipline him the way I feel he should handle it. There were many of times that I feel like I had to step over my husband and reinforce what I felt was the appropriate reprimand. We are kinda still in the fixing stage, it's a process. Corey and I have constant communication with how we can work together to get to a happy medium and I also sat down with Chubbs’s biological mother to discuss how we could all work together for the success of our child.
Sherelle: What have you found to be one of the greatest rewards in being a stepmother?
Erica: I would say the greatest accomplishment for me was introducing Christ in my bonus sons life at an early age. Faith is everything to me and being able to share that with him is something that I take pride in. He goes to church with me, we talk about God, and we even pray and confess things to God that we believe helps our family. Knowing that I played a small part in his relationship with God is a reward within itself.
Sherelle: How do you feel about the term “StepMom”? In todays society there are so many terms to describe the role of “stepmom” i.e bonus mom, Mom2, and Ma…. what works for you?
Erica: It’s funny becasue we never really wanted to force the name title or label on our kids. And we also wanted them to be comfortable and relaxed around us so we never but the title of Mr. & Mrs. on them either. Chubbs calls me Erica and Camden calles Corey, “Big Corey”. It just works for us that way. When we refer to one another when talking with the boys we do say mommy and daddy but it's not what we force our boys to call the other parent. But in my opinion I dislike the term step parent. I don’t thinkI would mind if Chubbs ever decided to call me that but it's not a term that I prefer.
Sherelle: What is your relationship like with your bonus child’s bio-mom?
Erica: I would say things are cordial. We get along fine. In the beginning things may have been tense. Coming in to a situation and disrupting the norm can have an impact on the parents as well. I think once she realized that I wasn’t just “some chick” and that I wasn't going anywhere is when we were able to put our differences to the side and focus on the kids. It also helps that her and Corey have a pretty good parenting relationship. I also believe that with her having a blended family of her own helps keep things in perspective and she and I are able to relate on some levels. I hardly interfere and Corey deals with everything. I play his helpful sidekick and offer my two cents when needed. They have a grip on parenting together and that honestly makes all our lives better.
Sherelle: How do you feel your blended family has impacted your marriage?
Erica: It has definitely been the root of the majority of our fights. We are constantly going back in forth with each other because of how we feel other family members are treating the boys. We have to constantly remind grandparents that the boys don't understand if one is getting special treatment and the other child isn't. I noticed that because it was harder to form the relationship between Chubbs and I, that we ultimately started paying more attention to him which then affected Camden. We really had to be consistent with what we did individually with the boys and how we interacted with them together. Being married for three years has taught us a lot about our family dynamic and I feel like we are finally getting it.
Sherelle: What advice would you give to a woman entering into a blended family?
Erica: I am going to assume you want me to be honest here, right? lol ……….My advice to her would be for her to make sure she is really ready for this. Being a parent is hard enough, having to come in on a situation that started with out you almost seems like showing up an exam late, most of the basic things have already passed. I have said so many times through the course of my marriage that if I knew then what I know now I probably would have done things differently. I think when we are dating someone with a child we get a glance at the situation and think we can handle the life as a bonus parent, but there are so many working parts. I would tell her to consider how your mate parents his childand that method is something you agree with. Consider how he corrects the child, and the level of respect that is demanded from the child for his or her elders and even you. Observe the interactions of the extended family especially if you too are bringing a child into the relationship. It takes time. It takes time to grow into a loving relationship with the child no matter how young or old. Another piece of advice is to know your role. You don’t always have to be a parent to the child. Maybe your role is to be a mediator, or confidant. But whatever the role give it time to form. There are plenty of things I could say. But basically just make sure that you see the full picture before taking on this responsibility. These are children we are talking about. At the end of the day the parents signed up for this, they didn’t. So if you can’t love them like you love your spouse why are you doing it?
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