This ain’t no ordinary Father’s Day-get to work!
19 Jun 2016
So this is a milestone for me – my very first blog. As someone accustomed to highly technical manuals and procedures, and just being a guy’s guy, the thought of writing a conversational and casual blog is borderline terrifying. However, there really cannot be a complete thought on the success of a blended family without the voice and commitment of the dads. This is not a spectator sport. What we do, or do not do, will set the ultimate fate of the family despite the best efforts of the moms. There are a multitude of topics we could dive down on throughout the timeline of the blended family, but I will start with the critical first few months. This is, in my mind, the lynch pin for success. Everything done here is built upon and sustained in outlying months and years. Get this right and you have a lot of work to do in the future. Get this wrong and you are going to feel like Johnny Manziel trying to get his football career back on track. I’ll distill this down to three key pillars the dads need to fulfill for success: Portraying a United Front, Setting Clear Expectations and Empowerment. There are more, but I would argue these are the specific trip hazards that can really screw up a blended family’s chance of success if not done well.
Portraying a United Front: This sounds like WWII with the Axis vs. the Allies doesn’t it? In some regards there are parallels. Perceptions can become realities here. Don’t kid yourself, there are people out there who are on the side of the Axis, and their unconscious (sometimes conscious) desire is to see your family fail. They will work to drive wedges between you and your spouse and highlight those gaps to undermine your family to the kids. Even the kids are sometimes like the Velociraptors in the first Jurassic Park movie – willing to take the occasional shock to systematically test the fence for weakness. Your job is to support your spouse without exception in public and discuss differences in private. In order to make this much easier to accomplish, the next item can really help:
Setting Clear Expectations: Get yourself aligned with your spouse on the key decision points for the kids, like schooling, extra-curricular, church, behavior, community support and the future goals you hope to help them achieve. This framework will make the day-to-day decisions much easier to come by. Without this framework you guys are shooting from the hip, and there’s a lot of collateral damage when you do that.
Empowerment: This is arguably the most controversial and specific to a blended family. Look, your spouse does not come into this with an automatic “mom card”. So you want her to love, care for, provide for and share time and resources with your children, but you are not going to give her any authority to be a parent? That’s crazy. And don’t go thinking that being called a step parent is a good consolation prize. You must have a stable family unit in your home. There must be a mom and a dad, and they must operate in the conventional sense. The mom in your home can’t be a titular figurehead. Stand her up as an equal to you and be prepared to stand as equals side-by-side in this journey.
Doing these three steps right does not guarantee success. Doing those wrong guarantees failure though. What are your thoughts? What other key behaviors do us fathers and husbands need to get right? What are our obstacles to success?