By Carmen Staicer, REDBOOK
Reese Witherspoon and her new husband, Jim Toth, are expecting their first child together. This is great news for everyone involved, but her two children-Ava and Deacon-from her first marriage with Ryan Phillippe might feel differently. In a blended family, it is sometimes difficult to meet the needs of every person involved; but with effort and understanding, it can be an amazing source of encouragement and support for all involved.
I'm in the unusual position of both being a stepmother and having a stepmother-plus, I have children, step-grandchildren, and a half-sister who are all the same age. The point is, I've been on both sides of the equation, so I can offer Reese Witherspoon-and other parents in blended families-advice on their new situation.
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The best thing that a biological parent can do is support each party. Sometimes, this is not so easy-after all, many children are unhappy with the entire situation and will try to pit parents against each other. The ability to see both sides of any issue is definitely a difficult skill to acquire, but when you master it, you'll be able to lead your new family.
The best thing that a stepparent can do, in my experience, is butt out of most situations-especially situations that involve your spouse's ex. It's important to remember that your spouse had a life and relationships before you, and those will never go away-no matter how much you wish they would.
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Having a blended family means a lot of compromise for everyone involved. If you aren't comfortable with compromise, are used to getting your own way, or need to be the center of attention all the time, being part of blended family probably isn't for you. If you can remove your ego from the situation, and be conscious of everyone's needs, being part of a blended family can be absolutely amazing.
Carmen Staicer is a whirlwind of movement. When she's not ferrying her six children to their various sports/drama/forensics/track meets, she's usually to be found exercising. She never sleeps enough, reads avidly, lives on Vietnamese coffee and is a fan of cupcakes, vodka and nachos. If you can't find her, she's probably been buried under the vast mountain of laundry that never seems to dissipate. Look for her at her main blog, Mom to the Screaming Masses, where she chronicles her story of one woman's insanity with her six kids.
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