The challenges this mum faced to bring her stepfamily together

Arguments, shifting dynamics, and a family crisis were all part of the parcel for stepmum Naomi as she strived to strengthen the bonds of her stepfamily.

I often reflect back on the challenges and the struggles that we have had as a blended family over the past 10 years.

When Mat and I got together our children were quite young – my son Kye was six and my daughter Aubaney was four. Mat’s daughter Jahara was five.

Raising children of similar ages with such different personalities created constant arguments due to jealousy, competitiveness, attention, and fairness. Some would say this might be normal upbringing of children; however, it was the guidance and discipline as step-parents that proved to be most challenging.

In the beginning, I had to be very careful about forming a close relationship with my stepdaughter Jahara.

I could see this was having an impact on my two children Kye and Aubaney. They would get jealous of certain things that they considered were reserved just for them, not for Jahara, “she had her own Mum”.

Aside from the parenting challenges, there was a constantly shifting dynamic amongst the kids.

Naomi and Mat on their wedding day
Naomi and Mat on their wedding day. L-R: Kye, Jahara, Mat, Naomi, Aubaney

Never a dull day

One day blood would be thicker than water, the next day it would be girls onto the boy and even sometimes the oldest onto the youngest – it changed so often. Of course, this was only when we had all three children together and it would be fair to say when there was just two they were fine.

As the children got older different dynamics came into to play when both Jahara and Aubaney began to form a stronger bond as sisters, unfortunately this had a negative effect on how Kye felt about his fit in the family. I had Mat, Aubaney had Jahara but he felt he had no-one.

Mat did try and include Kye in some one on one activities such as trips to football, cricket or surfing on the coast; however, his bond with his Dad was so strong, I think it hampered his ability to bond with Mat.

Mat being the person he is, started to lose motivation to push forward with the relationship when it seemed to be having little effect. It would be fair to say their relationship was benign and focused purely on co-existing.

Kye and siblings
Kye, Aubaney and Jahara

Crisis brought family together

The next challenge we faced as a family was in 2013 when Jahara was diagnosed with Anorexia. Although a very tough time for everyone there were some positives that came from this situation.

Many of the previous issues we had been dealing with suddenly became insignificant and there was only one true focus which was to get Jahara healthy again.

I won’t say this completely transformed our family but it certainly created an opportunity for us to be more appreciative of what we had and how to treat each other better.

Also, I believe Kye and Aubaney then become more relaxed with my relationship with Jahara allowing a closer bond to form between us.

Just as we were starting to find balance as a family I was shocked to learn that Kye and Aubaney’s Dad had decided to move interstate. As a parent, I could not comprehend how you could move away from your children at such a young and impressionable age. I was devastated for the children and mad at their Dad.

Although their Dad pitched it as a wonderful opportunity for trips interstate, I knew only too well the reality of what this meant, and how life can be growing up without your Dad around.

I feel this impacted Kye more than he let on and this was a backward step for us as a family. Kye did not cope well with his Dad moving away. Aubaney on the other hand started having even less time for her Dad and really started to appreciate the role Mat was trying to play which has only improved their relationship.

I believe Aubaney admired the relationship Jahara had with her Dad and she too wanted the same. Mat responded well to this and they now have a great Step daughter/Dad relationship.

Jahara, Aubaney and Kye
Jahara, Aubaney and Kye

Today I’m still smiling

I find the challenges less challenging and it warms me to see the kids actually enjoy each other’s company.

If I was to be completely honest I think there is a new alliance formed in our family which is the kids against the parents – they always have each other’s backs.

I’m very proud of our children, we all took on the challenge of being a blended family and we have created many wonderful memories along the way.

Aubaney has a best friend in Jahara, Kye is in a relationship, and she is a beautiful fit for the family, and Mat and I are still in love and looking forward to what life throws at us next.

A version of this piece originally appeared on Kidspot.