Not every family is happy-go-lucky 1950’s, white picket fence wielding Cleavers. Many of us come from and have homes that aren’t perfect. This is the reality for blended families. It has been an awkward task to deal with for the church and many others. But blended families are a reality.
I was blessed with what many refer to as a “ready-made” family. When talking to some people, they will come to the point of realizing that not all the children are biologically my wife and mine, and at times, they don’t know how to handle it. Some seem apologetic. Some seem in shock and then there are a few that seem offended.
First, blended families are a product of the Fall in the garden of Eden. During the fall, our world became tainted by sin. That sin seeps into every soil of this world—causing death, divorce, abandonment, sexual immorality, and many other things. Sin isn’t only committed by individuals. Sin causes the world around us to decay. That can be seen in the death of a loved one. We can trace death back to the Fall.
Second, blended families are a great example of God’s restoration. When a family comes together that has been impacted by brokenness, it shows God works in spite of our fallen world. Think about that for a moment. Your family in itself is an example to others of God working.
My wife and I live in a struggling inner-city neighborhood. I was told by a pastor that one of the biggest ways to be a light in my neighborhood would be by working every day and coming home to love my wife and kids. Those simple acts stand out as rare in our community. I always feel as though my plate is too full, so knowing the ordinary acts of loving my family make an impact encourages me. God works through faithfulness in pursuing my responsibilities. In the same way, men who take care of your blended families by loving your wife and children, you display the work of God to your friends and neighbors.
STEPPARENTS: “YOU’RE NOT MY DAD” AND “SO WHICH ONE’S ARE YOURS?”
Blended families are hard to label and address because there are multiple reasons your family may be blended. There are numerous dynamics that may be relative to your situation. I know families that have different fathers for each child in the home. Some blended families had previous families where a spouse died and so you have two families mourning the loss of a parent and spouse. Blended families come together in many ways.
So the questions men leading blended families must ask are, “How do I lead my family well?” “How can I love my newly expanded family?” Or “How does a biblical vision for manhood translate into my blended family?”
I would make the case that though things are different, the essentials remain essential. Though my family has kids with different fathers, I am head of my home. I am responsible for the physical, emotional, and spiritual growth of the children that are living in my home. Though some of our kids may leave for weekends with a parent and at times the home looks different, it doesn’t change that I have a responsibility for my home and must lead well.
For me personally, that means I work to provide for everyone in my home. I ensure my family is being fed spiritually, not only through the local church, but through family devotions. I also protect my wife and each child that is in our home.
THIS IS NOT EASY. CAN I GET AN AMEN?
First, the influence of parents not in my home, children that may be home half of the time, and cultivating a relationship with stepparents makes leading a blended family difficult.
What if the outside parent is unsaved and has little or no moral compass? What if there is difficulty in communicating between parents because of a rough past? Regarding these difficult situations, I was given this advice going into my marriage and I give it to others. The biological parent in the home must be the primary communicator with the biological parent outside of the home and must keep things cordial and clear. That is simple advice. It may not be possible or beneficial in all situations, but I have found it helpful for many homes.
Second, I have found that it’s best to keep our moral standards clear with the parent outside the home so that our child isn’t using mixed signals between homes to get their way. These relationships are sensitive. The goal though needs to be clear and respectful communication with the outside parent. Also, no matter if the parent outside the home is a Christian, we must pray for them. Pray for them with the children. The hope is that if the other parent isn’t a Christian, God would save them so that the child can be raised in two godly homes.
Third, I have established how discipline will work in my home. As the head of the home, I decide discipline with my wife for each child. My wife and I share the responsibility for enforcing the discipline, whether that’s sending them to their rooms or taking away a privilege. But figuring out how discipline works in your home is important. I knew early on I didn’t want to be the stepparent who disciplined with no love. Always sending them to their room just to get them out of the way. I want all of my discipline to be seen as rooted in love, not because of neglect or disregard.
My relationship with my wife is the most important familial relationship in my home. That should go for any home, but especially in a blended family. The health of your home depends on the health of your marriage. Love and cherish your bride. Make sure that each child in the homes knows from both of you that your marriage is the primary relationship in the home. It’s good for the kids to know that though they may have been around before one of the parents, they aren’t a higher priority.
ONE LAST CHALLENGE
Husbands and fathers, you have a challenge with a blended family. No one should question that. But regardless of the difficulty, love your wife. Love your children. Lead them towards Jesus Christ. Though blended families are not easy and have their challenges, they are well worth the work.
ABOUT MARK: Mark Singleton (@MakersMark24) enjoys writing on a range of topics from manhood to social justice issues. He is on the leadership team with New Breed Church in Louisville Kentucky. He enjoys spending time with his wife Kendra and three children (Oh, and he is an avid fan of Ale-8-One).
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