Having your first baby with someone already with kids
New baby in a step family often means ‘mine’ and ‘yours’ becoming ‘ours’ here’s how to make it work
You’re awaiting your first child with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. It’s all new to you and you may find that most of the other couples you meet at this time are on a shared adventure as they are both first-timers. But what if you and your partner are not – what if it’s your first child, but not theirs? If your partner already has children from a previous marriage or relationship, how will this affect your life and parenting together, and what may be the feelings and reactions from your partner’s children?
Hopefully your partner will be a fountain of knowledge and reassurance. They’ve been there, done that and may indeed be able to take the lead and provide assured support as you take your first stumbling steps in caring for your newborn. But equally, your partner may have previously taken more of a back seat and want a little more encouragement to be hands-on this time – or they may regret not being involved more and be keen to do it all differently this time.
Your partner may also have their own anxieties about how their existing children will greet a new brother or sister. They might be resentful if your partner has historically been less involved with them as they are now with your child. And they may, with some justice, feel a new child replaces them and takes time, attention and even love from them. If they’ve been difficult and unwelcoming to you before, they may be even more so now. As the adult you will need to understand, sympathise and be the lead in bringing you together.
However well you might have prepared them for this event, children from a first family may find it a shock. But if you’ve been fairly low key with them, not wanting to rock the boat, they may not only be upset about the arrival of a rival, but be mad at you – as they see it – by down-playing your pregnancy you’ve lied to them or kept them in the dark.
Be prepared for a range of views. Some children reject a newcomer, almost on principle. They will see this as the final invasion into their previous happy family – they were there first and this is beyond the limit. And it doesn’t matter if their original family separated long before you came on the scene, you could still get blamed, as will your child. But equally, some kids will separate the child in their minds from the issue of you and their parent, you and their mother. They may still resent you but be thrilled about a baby and even want to show them off to friends. And yet another scenario is that some children will see their new brother or sister as a bridge between them and you. They may overcome their feelings that you are an outsider to see you now as a relative, someone with a blood-link to them through a half brother or sister - as you were not before.
The best scenario for stepfamily happiness, then is;
- Be honest and prepare them
- Listen to, understand and sympathise with their feelings
- Make real efforts to include them, even if they appear to reject your overtures
Talk to your partner about the impact your new baby has on all members of the family. When it gets difficult you will both need to agree ways of dealing with the situation and sometimes you’ll need to compromise.
Bounty “Sex & Relationship” articles are written by expert Suzie Hayman. Suzie is agony aunt for Woman magazine, a Relate trained counsellor, and an accredited TripleP (Positive Parenting Programme) parenting educator. She makes frequent appearances on TV and radio and as well as writing 31 books, Suzie writes features on parenting, relationships, sex and couples counselling, for a wide range of national magazines and newspapers