September 11, 2014
By Rita Fuerst Adams, National Executive Director, National Parents Organization

This Sunday, September 16, is National Step Family Day. Christy Borgeld of Michigan founded the day in 1997 that is now celebrated every year. Her goal is “to support the stepfamilies of our nation in their mission to raise their children, create strong family structures to support the individual members of the family, instill in them a sense of responsibility to all extended family members.”

One in three Americans lives in a stepfamily and 30% of our children are currently growing up in a stepfamily, sometimes referred to as blended families.

While National Parents Organization is working hard to promote shared parenting and gender equality in family law, we understand that many of our children and members are part of blended families. In addition to raising your children you may also be raising the children of your new spouse or partner. Or, your new spouse or partner may be playing a major role in raising your children.

National Parents Organization applauds all opportunities to recognize families and parents of all kinds loving and raising their children. Yet, in our society our diversity and our commitment to our children is not universally applauded.

The US Census Bureau provides a few statistics on blended families in the United States:

  • 1,300 new stepfamilies are formed every day.
  • Over 50% of US families are remarried or re-coupled.
  • One out of two marriages ends in divorce.
  • 80% of remarried, or re-coupled, partners with children both have careers.

We seem to think that stepfamilies or blended families miraculously leaped onto the scene with shows like Modern Family. Yet, some form of them has historically been in our literature and media. Cinderella and her stepmother and stepsisters are probably the best known. What a reputation for stepfamilies to live down!

Who can forget the Brady Bunch? While it was clear the architect husband was widowed, they left Carol’s marital history sketchy. Originally planned to be a divorce’, producers would not allow it to be clear in the show. Obviously raising the children of a deceased mother is noble.

Even the venerable Make Room for Daddy killed off Danny Thomas’ wife and replaced her with the Irish nanny who brought with her daughter from her first marriage to blend with Danny Thomas’ children. Again, the cloud about whether or not the second wife was a “divorce’.”

Stepfamilies are formed for many reasons — deaths, divorce, or separations. Our children are resilient and learn how to behave in two different households and with different parents and “other adults.” The major, lingering hurdle may be feelings of abandonment. If the child has a living parent that they do not see, no matter what the ex thinks of this person, the child most probably misses them and feels abandoned by their absence. Our children do not recognize if this “abandonment” is imposed by the courts or by the ex. All they recognize is the absence of a parent they love and want to be loved by.

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