If you google “ideal blended family”, many images will pop up; however, one that caught my eye was of biological parents and stepparents attending a sports event for their child. While this is not an exceptional image, what is unique about it is that all the adults are wearing matching sports jerseys with their respective family title “dad” “stepmom” etc. emblazoned on the back. For many people not in a blended family, this image is often seen by them to be the ideal aspiration for blended families; sadly though, it is not the reality for many blended families.
I have had conversations with stepmoms on attending events for their step kids and it is not uncommon for certain hesitations to be expressed by them; especially in Bermuda where the possibility of being at the same event as the other parent is likely.
The focus of this issue is youth in sports, so I provide some thoughts on attending events for one’s step kids (sports or otherwise). The following questions can be considered where the stepparent and biological parent may be attending an event to support their stepchild. In no particular order, they are:
What are my blended family dynamics?
Sometimes one’s blended family dynamics are very contentious, and it may not be wise to attend an event that the biological parent is attending. Your presence could cause unnecessary feelings of dis-ease and it might be in the best interest not to attend. As things evolve over the years, the blended family dynamics may improve, and attending may not be an issue. Things take time and depending on where one is in the blended family journey will determine the response.
How will my presence impact my stepchild?
The Netflix series “Sweet Magnolias”, which is a wonderful series touches on a blended family (I love seeing blended families represented in the media!). In one episode, the stepmom, Noreen, attends Tyler, her stepson’s baseball game. There is no doubt that Noreen is supportive of Tyler, but her support is expressed quite loudly which causes Tyler to become visibly uncomfortable and not able to focus on playing baseball. Ultimately, Tyler’s Dad/Noreen’s husband asks Noreen to leave to ensure Tyler is focused and not feeling uncomfortable.
This scene reminds me that there may be instances where supporting one’s stepchild may need to happen from afar either before or after the event. The wellbeing of the stepchild should be paramount in all the adults’ consideration and in some instances that may mean not attending. The last thing one wants is for the child to be in a loyalty bind where they feel they must choose or are uncomfortable with the stepparent’s presence. On the other hand, one’s stepchild may want the stepparent there (which has often been my experience) and will love looking out in the audience or stands to see them there cheering them on.
How can I best support my partner?
As a stepparent, supporting one’s partner (the biological parent of the child) may look differently depending on the circumstance. Support may be helping to prepare the child for the event with their practicing or even transporting the child to the event. It might also mean not attending the event which can be hard, but you can celebrate the stepchild’s accomplishments after or on another day. There is also the possibility to attend the event (i.e., a recital or concert) on a different day so you can attend together with your partner.
How can I practice selfcare?
Finally, stepmom burnout is a very real thing and as I expressed in my last Bermuda Parent article practicing selfcare is so important to mental, emotion and physical wellbeing. It may be that attending certain events may cause you anxiety or worry, it is okay not attend or do anything that will contribute to your discomfort. Your absence does not mean you don’t care or aren’t supportive, but you must ensure you are taking care of yourself.
In closing, however, you choose to navigate attending your stepchild’s events is ultimately your choice. There is no one size fits all but before choosing to attend or not attend consider asking yourself the above questions and discussing with your partner and stepchild so that everyone is on the same page – after all you are all on the same team!
Kimberley D. Caines-Best is a stepmom and the founder of StepMoms Bermuda, a group that was established to provide a community for stepmoms on Island. The mission of StepMoms Bermuda is: Support, Teach, Empower and Purpose. For more information, to learn more or to chat about blended families, email firstname.lastname@example.org.