James Ferris, host of Blended Fatherhood, is talking about what it's like to get into a blended family. He shares his own story of meeting his wife at a singles group, where he knew ahead of time that she had kids, but he hadn't met them until they started officially dating. This episode is all about the things to consider when getting into a blended family.
0:03:50 The other guy
0:10:00 Discipline and boundaries
0:12:38 Self-awareness and commitment
[0:00:23] James Ferris: Hello and welcome to Blended Fatherhood. I'm your host James Ferris, and on today's episode, we're going to be talking about what were you thinking when you got yourself into a blended family? Because I know for me, I wasn't fully thinking about all the different things I needed to think about and that kind of hurt me a little bit at the beginning. So my situation is just a little bit different than yours, I'm sure, but the short version is that my wife and I met at a singles group from her local church.
[0:00:52] James Ferris: So in that singles group environment, I obviously figured out that she had kids and she had been married before. And so unlike if we were just to show up and say, hey, let's go to this restaurant, and then as we're talking, she brings up the fact that I have kids. I knew ahead of time before we kind of started dating, but I never actually really met her kids until we started officially dating. In fact, the first thing I think that actually happened after we officially went steady or whatever, was that her daughter, who was 16 at the time no, she was 15 at the time, was like, I want to have dinner with him alone.
[0:01:32] James Ferris: I want to interview him, I'm going to grill him and I'm going to ask him all the questions and I have some questions. Right. So basically I started a relationship, should be a very joyous thing. And I was immediately met with an interview by the 15 year old, my future stepdaughter, right, my future daughter. And she also had a son who was six at the time too. And so obviously 15, six, that's a big age gap to deal with and stuff like that. So what was I thinking when I went into this situation?
[0:02:04] James Ferris: And honestly, I wasn't fully thinking exactly how to interact. I'm an elementary music teacher and so I deal with kids all the time and I also taught high school drum line at that time as well. So I've been dealing with high school students a bunch. And so I was just kind of like going from the mindset of like, you know what, I know how to interact with kids. I can do this. This is going to be good, except that I was met instead with this idea of I am skeptical of you, I don't know who you are, I'm going to question you.
[0:02:38] James Ferris: Kind of like if you're showing up and their parents are there and they're going to grill you on all those questions, it's the same idea. It was very much of like, who are you? Why are you intruding? From the kids perspective, that can be a little disheartening, but it shouldn't be. It's actually something totally the opposite. It's something really great and just because there are kids involved should not kind of negate any of the joyous feelings. That should actually also be a joyous occasion because really, you get to have a relationship with more than one person.
[0:03:09] James Ferris: And typically having a relationship with the kids is something that's very beautiful and very awesome and good for both you and the kids. So it's not something that should be disheartened, even if it causes a little bit of anxiety at the beginning. You just have to be more aware of the feelings of other people and of the specific relationships between the mother and her kids. Right now, if you're also a father who has their own kid or you're single dad and you have your own kid and stuff like that, and you're dating somebody who doesn't have kids, the situation is a little bit different because you're the one who has a kid and you have to be aware of what's going on.
[0:03:50] James Ferris: But for my situation, I didn't have any kids. I just didn't have any at all. And she had two kids. And so we're going to come together and we're going to create a family of four, essentially. So what were you thinking? What was I thinking? What are the things that we need to be thinking about if you're dating someone? First thing that I kind of want to talk about is how do you deal with the fact that there will be another person, there will be another guy in this relationship, whether you like him or you don't like him or he's there or he's not there. And that's very important because regardless if he's there or not, the idea of him is there, and how do you deal with that, right?
[0:04:35] James Ferris: So for me, I actually just kind of moved it aside and brushed it aside, and my wife really kind of thinks that I'm just not really jealous at all. But if I'm being totally honest, I did not like it at all. It kind of irked me really deep, and I just kind of shoved those feelings away, the fact that there was another guy to kind of think about and deal with and stuff like that. And I think that every time that I heard a name or whatever, I probably showed them my face and was just like, this is not good, and those are fine.
[0:05:12] James Ferris: Those feelings are normal. And I think if you have those feelings, that's fine. It's totally fine. It's not bad to have those feelings, but you have to be the person who's responsible, right? And the first thing you should do is not badmouth the kid's father, period. Just don't do it. You might not like him, you don't need to do it. It's not your place. And it doesn't help right now. If the kid is confiding in you about something, talk to them about it, be honest with them about it and stuff like that. But you can be respectful and honest at the same time.
[0:05:47] James Ferris: You don't need to be mean or hurtful or whatever, even if that's where you're feeling and stuff like that. The other thing too is just you need to have a conversation with your partner, with your wife. And I guess if this is in the dating stage, you have to have this conversation before you get married, period. If you don't have this conversation, you're going to be met with some of these different feelings that come up, like jealousy and probably anger.
[0:06:11] James Ferris: And you have to be able to answer the question about is jealousy a big part of how you perceive things? And if it is, then how do you deal with that? You also have to be able to deal with, like when they call, are you just going to leave the room? Are you going to want to not be involved? Are you going to step out? Are you going to check out? You know what I mean? If you don't have that conversation and you don't have that self awareness, it's not going to go as well as you want it to.
[0:06:37] James Ferris: And some of the immaturity and some of the things that you would actually lash out on will actually happen, which is something that I don't think anyone really wants. My father, who is also blended father as well, I am the product of a blended family. He told me the beginning that he was super immature about it and it just did not help at all. And you can be immature. You can make petty comments. You can say, oh, this guy is a dirt bag.
[0:07:07] James Ferris: You can say a bunch of more hateful things and you shouldn't. You have to have some level of maturity and that is very difficult to do. But the biggest thing you can do is just have a conversation about it. I was lucky that I didn't really meet them. They're not too involved in our kids lives. They're semi involved a little bit, but I'll talk more about the other guy in the next episode. But even if they're there or not, you can be that father figure. You can be that person who is there if they don't have somebody. If they do have somebody, you need to be the bitter person and you need to say, hey, what's up? And just get to know them. They're a human being. And most likely if you have a good relationship with your wife or the person you're dating, then it's not going to be that big of an issue and you don't need to insert yourself into the issue for no reason.
[0:07:59] James Ferris: The second thing I want to talk about in regards to what we were thinking is how are you going to interact with the kids when you're dating? How are you going to interact with them when you're eventually get married? How are you going to interact with them, how are you going to approach that relationship? And the things that you need to think about so the first thing you probably should think about is, do you want to do this.
[0:08:23] James Ferris: If you don't, it's not a good idea. And if you feel hesitant now, but you're not saying I don't. You're saying, I just don't know. That's okay. Be honest about those feelings. I was in the position where I was like, yeah, I can totally do this. But I was kind of like, can I do this? I was unsure, which isn't bad. I mean, that's just an honest situation that I was in. I do remember very specifically there was one point where my now daughter, she said dad. She called me dad, right? And that was the first time anybody had really called me dad.
[0:09:01] James Ferris: I didn't have any biological kids at the point at all. And I remember I said, I'm not your father. And I kind of took a step back and was like, did that just happen? It was really awkward. In fact, my wife talked to me about it afterwards. It was bad. It was a bad reaction. If I'm being totally honest. It's not a bad thing that she's saying that it's not. And it's more of my inability to be like, no, I'm not your father. You have a father that's like me part, again, not dealing with some of the stuff at the beginning that I was saying, like, there's another person. But then again, this is an opportunity for something really good. So when you think that, yes, I can do this, and yes, I'm going to do this, you have to weigh that gravity of that situation and how big of a role you can play and will eventually play over. The course of the kind of rocky terrain that you're going to be in with being a father in a blended family and dealing with kids that are not your own, that have a biological father that is not you.
[0:10:00] James Ferris: The second thing I kind of want to talk about shortly is a little bit about discipline and how you and your wife think about that in regards to your relationship with the kids, your non biological kids, right? And any kids, really, that you end up having in your family. When you are a father, in my mind, you're the leader. You're the one who's leading. And typically, when that happens, that means that you're the one who's doing the discipline sort of actions, or you're kind of dealing with that sort of thing.
[0:10:34] James Ferris: If you just come in guns blazing, I don't think it's going to work. And if you Google pretty much like blended fatherhood and all that good stuff or whatever, you're going to get the same ideas. You're going to get these ideas that says, don't go gung ho into it. Don't do all the discipline. Kind of lean on your wife. Lean on her already relationships that she has with the kids and that you can make decisions with her in the background, and she can deliver the results, which is not a bad idea at all.
[0:11:04] James Ferris: But you can kind of do a hybrid if you want. I am. Of the idea that it's okay if you do some discipline. You have to show that leadership role. You have to be able to make choices, because otherwise, even as a teacher, right, if your power is taken away from you by some other teacher, or only when the principal walks in or whatever, then you can't sort of control the situation. You can't also just provide order for things, which is super important. So if you lose power by just saying, okay, well, only my wife can do discipline or say anything, it doesn't matter, but it just has to be consistent. Your wife has to do the same thing that you can do.
[0:11:47] James Ferris: The final thing that I kind of want to talk about in regards to what were we thinking at the beginning or what were you thinking at the beginning, if you're thinking at all, is, are you ready to do this? Are you ready to be this father figure for these kids that are not your own? Are you ready to lead in a situation that is a little bit more complicated and challenging than maybe something else? And it's okay if you're not.
[0:12:13] James Ferris: I was ready, but I also wasn't ready at the same time. We got married during COVID so things kind of happened a little quickly. It was actually kind of great for the wedding because we went from this idea of like, we have 200 guests that we need to invite to, okay, we're going to have ten people only. Super easy, super chill. I actually really liked our wedding, and I'm pretty sure nobody got COVID from our wedding. That's a plus.
[0:12:38] James Ferris: So things happen quickly for us, and so we can take this idea of like, I'm ready, I'm not ready. And you just have to be kind of self aware of your position. Are you completely ready? Maybe not. Are you pretty ready? Great. Are you going to make mistakes? Yes, I've made tons of mistakes. I know so many different times that I will deliver a discipline or I'll do something or whatever, and then maybe a little bit later after that, I'll kind of be in a private moment with my wife, and I'll be like, Did I mess that up?
[0:13:13] James Ferris: And she'll probably look at me and be like, maybe that was a little harsh, or you could maybe have done it this way, you know what I mean? And she's going to be your biggest kind of asset here for helping you out because she knows her kids. So if you're not ready fully, it's okay. If you are fully committed to being the best you can be and fully committed to getting better and learning, then you're ready.
[0:13:36] James Ferris: At least I think you're ready at that point because being fully committed and saying, hey, I'm going to choose to love these kids. I'm going to choose to love this family all the time. Is the best and biggest thing you can do. Saying that I choose to love you regardless if you say, I hate you regardless if you say, I'm going to leave and I want to move in with somebody else, I want to move in with my dad, or someone who's going to be like, my dad is so much better than you, those things hurt. And also still being there and saying, hey, you know what? I love you.
[0:14:09] James Ferris: You're my kid. I'm going to treat you like my kid, and I'm still going to be here for you. That is a great show of love. And so if you're ready to commit and say, you know what? I can do that, regardless of how many mistakes I made, you're good to go. And that's just kind of a brief thing that I wanted to say for this last little topic. On the next couple of episodes, we're going to delve a lot deeper into this idea of dealing with the other guy and your time management relationship with the kid because I think those two are very, very important and I have some other funny stories that have to do with dealing with the other guy. So thank you so much for listening. I hope you really enjoyed it.
[0:14:46] James Ferris: If you like this episode and you want to hear more, feel free to subscribe to the podcast. If you have any questions, please send me an email at email@example.com. I would love to hear any comments or questions you have and I would love answer any questions at the end of my episode. So thank you so much for listening and I will see you next time. Bye.