One of the biggest fights (shall I say wars?) in blending families and bringing his kids and hers under one roof breaks out when negotiating who owns what space. This is a common cause of tension, and it makes a lasting impression on the child who feels left out or misplaced in his step-parent’s home.
So, if money–and the subprime market, of course–permits, I strongly suggest that the new husband and new wife sell both of the homes they lived in before this marriage, pool resources, and join to buy one ‘our’ house. This can forestall a number of territorial feelings.
If that’s not an option, and the house where the children will be sharing time is big enough to allow for each child to have his or her own room–or the family is small enough–that can forestall some of those feelings.
However, what if you can’t forestall the territorial emotions through either one of these options, as many families can’t?
Well, now you’re in for a ride, and how you maneuver here will make all the difference in how the family gels during the times that they’re all together under one roof.
In my youth (when divorce hardly occurred at all as clearly everyone had blissful marriages back then), children of divorced parents usually stayed with mom, and dads got visitation rights. This stayed true even as my generation divorced, although it became more common for the children to actually leave the mom’s house and stay with the dad for a certain amount of time each week. Despite many societal changes, I find that this model still holds true the majority of the time–although we are certainly seeing a significant number of dads who are much more pro-active about time with their kids, and, of course, dads who have residential custody.
And I’ve now had plenty of experience with the latest trend, where kids do their time half-and-half, and, as far as I can tell, have no place to call home, and many reasons why their homework isn’t in on time, as the protractor was at Dad’s, the textbook at Mom’s, every pencil thrown across the classroom at the cute boy the given math student is actively pretending to dislike–and the math brain itself unaccounted for since puberty hit.
But let’s assume for now that Mom has kept her house where she lived before the divorce, and Dad’s new wife–let’s call her Wife 2 for simplicity reasons–has also kept her house. No matter how good you are at event planning and shuffling kids in and out, it seems that at some point in time there will be Dad’s children in Wife 2′s house at the same time as Wife 2′s children, who reside there.
And it stands to reason that the children who grew up in Wife 2′s house (really just known as ‘Mom’ to them) are going to have feelings about having to share what they see as their space–and Dad’s kids will have feeling about staying in a place that does not feel like their home, and where they stand a chance of being treated as interlopers.
Like it or not, depending on how age and gender of the step-siblings breaks down, the kids are likely to have to share sleeping and playing arrangements–and sometimes it isn’t all that pretty.
So–how do you divide the space?
I’ll address this question in my next post.