Whenever families blend, there are major adjustments to be made to living arrangements.
When I moved in with my sweetheart after my divorce, my kids were forced to live in a one-bathroom house (after growing up in a 2-bath home). That single bathroom was shared between me, my partner, his teenage son and my two teenage sons. Five people. Three teenagers. One bathroom.
It wasn’t easy. But it could have been worse.
We all survived and now the boys are all grown up. (And they’re dealing with different variations on bathroom-sharing – in a dorm, in co-housing, in a sublet.)
Imagine if they had been teenage girls! Like at Cinderella’s stepmother’s house. The Cinderella story doesn’t go into detail about bathroom count, but I have a hunch that Cindy didn’t get much mirror time.
What we do know is that she didn’t have a proper bedroom or bed. This despite the fact that her father was a “merchant” or a “nobleman.” Was he too busy working to notice his own daughter’s needs? Wouldn’t it have been wise to think about moving the whole family to a bigger space when he remarried? Couldn’t he have developed the cellar into a bonus bedroom?
One gets the impression that communication and planning may not have been the blended parents’ strong suit. In the traditional Grimm Brothers recounting of Cindy’s tale, there is all manner of family dysfunction:
Cindy’s stepsisters make messes around the house just so she’ll have to clean them up. I say make the girls responsible for their own untidiness! Or hire a housekeeper.
In her free time Cindy waters a twig on her mother’s grave so that it grows into a tree that grants wishes. Perhaps installation of a sprinkler system would have been wise.
And when her stepsisters couldn’t fit into the glass slipper, they lopped off bits of their feet. Never a good idea!
Communication between blended partners is key to a harmonious home life. It takes conscious effort to identify and honor each family member’s needs. This is but one of the silver linings that remarriages or second relationships bring – a chance to sculpt an intentional home life, instead of just going with whatever flow evolved accidentally in the original family settings.
That doesn’t mean it’s going to be breezy. It certainly wasn’t easy in my own experience – despite much debate, compromise and care. Yet nobody was cutting off toes in an effort to escape.