Blended families are quickly becoming the new normal in many countries.
But how do StepDads navigate the treacherous waters of
- “The Ex-Factor”,
- “Discipline”, and
- “Differing Expectations With their Spouse”?
Stacey James Wheeler is a family dynamics researcher whose work is focused on the struggle of blended families. He’s a speaker, as well as an author of “The Stepdad’s Guide: Resolving Family Conflict” and “Stepdad 101: What To Know Before You Marry A Single Mom.”
All of Stacey’s stepchildren are college age, and he’s been in their lives for the past 15 years.
“It’s been an adventure”
Early on, he was open to the idea of non-biological kids, as Stacey was told earlier that he might not be able to have children. His youngest daughter was three-and-a-half years old when he came into their lives.
“She was a sweetie, my heart was wrapped around her so quickly. Of course, with the other two as well.”
Entering their lives as a stepdad presented a lot of challenges.
“It’s easy for stepdads to come in and think it’s easy being a dad; you’ve got these other factors that affect your relationship”
Stacey’s education is in interpersonal communication, and he believes it a huge part of being a successful partner and stepdad.
His motivation for starting his website was to provide a single place where men could find out everything they needed to know about being a stepdad.
He feels that there isn’t a lot of difference in being a biological dad and a step dad, in that the goal in both cases should be to raise the best people they can. The strategy is different in that stepdads almost have to be amateur psychologists.
“You have to find a really fine line to balance, more with the adult relationship. Being able to define your role so that you’re supporting your wife in a way that’s going to be most beneficial for the kids.”
Stepdads should back up the mother, but not be “the punisher.”
“You’re going to build this gap, a giant wall between you and the kids”
Two major roadblocks that a stepdad could face are:
1) The “Ex-Factor”: You have to build a bridge with him, whether he’s a good guy or not. If you fail, at least you tried. It’s vital not to let your wife’s opinion of him taint yours.
2) Communication with your spouse: Couples need to have an initial conversation, to sit down and think of every variable they can think of, including expectations for the kids (school, chores, role of electronics), how they are punished, how are holidays celebrated, etc.
“He’s just a normal guy with great tools and sills. You don’t have to have superpowers to do great things.”
Family Tradition: decorating for Halloween
Embarrassing Moment: his mother took him to a step dancing class that turned out to be more ballet
Biggest Struggle: being raised by a single mom, on welfare for a time, as well as having a speech impediment
“I had to deal with that moment where someone said “you’re poor””
“It’s all about seeing what’s ahead of you. The little victories add up.”
#1 Job As Dad: to help created good people
TIME CAPSULE (30 Yrs): “All my most important treasures, I’ve given to you: my wisdom, my advice, my life experience. I know there were times that you didn’t like me very much, but there were a lot of times that we also laughed and joked. I didn’t make you, but I decided early on that I was going to raise you like my own. No regrets, I hope you feel the same way about me; I passed on all my love and care, and I hope you pass it on to your kids and hold me in your heart, because I know I’ll hold you in mine forever…”