In an ideal world it wouldn’t have taken a deadly virus circulating the globe and claiming the lives of millions, for me to see some improvement in my two very separate family units. Then and again, what is ideal about growing up with divorced parents who quite frankly can’t stand the sight of each other?
Government Census Statistics claim that in the UK, 42% of all marriages end in divorce and nearly 400,000 children living in England and Wales have a second parental address. Who says romance is dead?
For 13 years now I have lived between two very different households. My mum’s and my Dad’s. When both of my parents moved on with new partners following their separation, I was the ripe old age of nine. My older sister was 11 and our youngest sister was just six. The inevitable nightmare that is step-parents, was very much happening and it is safe to say that 11 years on, we are all still coming to terms with the concept of having four parents.
I don’t know many people with a step-family who have had an easy go of it. If you had asked me nine weeks ago about the state of my so-called blended family, I probably would have rolled my eyes, sighed a bit and then avoided the question. A lot can happen in 11 years, and we’ve had our fair share of spats and conflict in that time. Even after years of trying, the elephant in the room remains as the very flawed relationship between my sisters, step-mum and I.
Rewind to primary school days and I’m on the playground with my peers, lapping up the attention as they quiz me on life with parents that just don’t love each other anymore. ‘Who do you love more, your mum or your dad?’. I think about it for a second weighing up the pros and cons of having double the Christmas presents, all be-it with half the fun. Overridden with guilt I shut-down the question. Forward to the present and that throbbing sense of guilt still aches at the thought of making any kind of decision which means choosing one parent over the other. Needless to say, I was strangely delighted when the threat of the virus eliminated any need for decision making, forcing me to isolate with a fellow asthmatic, my dad.
The thought of not seeing my key-worker mum in the flesh for the foreseeable was heart-breaking. As for many of us the separation from loved-ones has been tough. Really tough. Now add to that the stress of having to spend all of my time in a house with a step-mum and step-sister that I really had nothing to say to.
The thought of not seeing my key-worker mum in the flesh for the foreseeable was heart-breaking
With the morbid capabilities of coronavirus staring us in the face, now seems a better time than ever to re-evaluate and just be down-right honest about how we’re feeling. The Lockdown has brought out the good in us all, but I think we’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t admit that our relationships have been put to the ultimate test. To my surprise, it seems my very dysfunctional family have passed that test.
For so long now we have all been careful to avoid uncomfortable run-ins with parents and step parents between the two households- cautiously navigating our way through drop off’s and pick-ups to and from my mums and my dad’s. It is a reality for thousands of step-households across the UK to live somewhat incoherently despite being branded as a ‘blended’ family. So, who would have thought being separated from half of my family for eight weeks would make us more ‘blended’ than ever? Not me.
For the first time in 13 years I celebrated a birthday with both of my parents
Everyone is dealing with lockdown differently. Every household has a ‘new normal’ and that new normal looks different for everyone. Covid-19 has been the wedge driving us apart in so many ways, but in true British style we are coming together against the odds. For the first time in 13 years I celebrated a birthday (all be-it in the confines of a house), with both of my parents, along with a complete set of siblings, step-siblings and step-parents. Blended. Whether it was bearable simply because of the enforced distance between the front door and the foot of the driveway, I’ll never know. But what I do know is that I will take this as a small victory.
Cohabiting step-families have been around for decades. Brenda Maddox’s book ‘Step-Parenting’ addressed the complexities of uniting “families with a past”, over 40 years ago and yet there is still no perfect formula as to how to make them work. The ‘past’ has been the problem between my stepfamily and I. Though being stuck win the confines of the same four walls for so long now has forced out the need to address this.
Held back by the guilt I spoke of earlier; I have often run from confrontation. Our fear of this virus has acted as a foundation for a new relationship between us as we listen and understand the fact that it is okay for us not to entirely love one another. As openly admitted by Alex Thomas, author of the website childlessstepmums.com, the best-kept secret of step-parenting is that just because you fall for your partner, it doesn’t mean you’ll take to their children. In fact, you’re more likely not to.
In the darkness cast by lockdown, I’ve watched my fragmented family combine. From dog-walks to driveway chats involving a concoction of divorcees, step-parents and siblings, it seems the distancing measures have encouraged a very ‘broken’ family shattered by expectation to come together more than ever.
Even if it is as short-lived as our greener, self-less ways during global lockdown, I’ll forever be grateful to have found a silver-lining in such testing times.
It’s time to hear from you. Have you found your silver-lining in lockdown? If so reach out to me @PhoebeJourno on Instagram or Twitter, with the hashtag #mysilverlining.