” For now, everything is okay. Our ex-spouses are discreet, the children happy, the grandparents euphoric. Everyone is looking forward to the baby’s arrival. But we’ll see after the birth, in a few days.”, says Virginia, 36, mother of a child from a previous union and mother-in-law of a teenager.
→ READ. Blended siblings, becoming a real family
A birth in a blended family marks an essential step for everyone. If it is a happy event for the new spouses, who become parents again “like it was the first time”, it is often also good news forchildren born of previous unions.
” the baby creates a bond between all the children but also with the step-parent, and registers them in a family which they perhaps did not perceive as such before”, observes Catherine Audibert, psychologist and psychoanalyst (1).
A link that is not always immediate
For Cali, 16, his ” little brother “ was a “bridge” between his two families. But the link is not always immediate, as intestifies Elvire, mother of four children: “My 6-year-old boys were immediately happy to have a little sister. For my 19-year-old son-in-law, on the other hand, it was more complicated, especially since he did not come to the house very often, says this Alsatian. There was like a barrier between them. But four years later, when another princess showed up, I also felt the satisfaction of being a big brother again. And today, there is no longer “yours”, “mine” or “ours”, there is just a family. »
→ TESTIMONIALS.Blended families, words of brothers and sisters
By consolidating the bonds, the couple’s baby also confirms the step-parent in his role. “Once he is there, the secret hope nourished by certain children that the mother-in-law or the father-in-law will leave and that the parental couple will be reunited disappears”, notes the psychologist Béatrice Copper-Royer (2).
Grandparents who mourn the first couple
The couple’s child also allows the grandparents to better accept the new union of their son or daughter. ” They rediscover the happiness of being grandparents again, and this often helps them to assuage resentments., analyzes Catherine Audibert. I am thinking of a family in which the grandparents had very badly experienced the separation from their son because they were very attached to their daughter-in-law. If it hadn’t been for the arrival of a baby, they would probably have had a hard time mourning the first couple. » For the ex-spouse too, pregnancy is a strong symbol which, even more than marriage, rings “truly the end of the previous story” and put an end to “fantasies of reconciliation”, according to the specialist.
However, the arrival of a baby does not erase the difficulties faced by blended families. For Stephanie, “Immense Happiness” even “turned into hell” and led to the breakup because her son was “rejected” by his in-laws. “His three siblings like his grandparents made huge differences. He was the one after…the false brother,” she confides bitterly. He didn’t have the right to the same gifts from the grandparents or to vacation with them. One day, the grandfather even told me that they hadn’t asked for it and that they didn’t want it. »
Others like Élodie regret the jealousy between the children of previous unions and those of the couple. “We have been a blended family for ten years, and my son-in-law is jealous of the children I had with his dad. We are going through a particularly difficult time right now. The conflict is permanent and also creates disagreements with my husband,” she says.
The age difference with the baby or even its sex sometimes also complicates relations between siblings. With Andrée-Anne, her eldest spouse, who was 8 years old when the couple’s first child was born, “has always been in rivalry” with their son, while she has “developed a great bond with their daughter”, born after.
The risk of a two-speed education
A form of rivalry can also be expressed vis-à-vis the mother-in-law, especially on the part of the daughters, notes Béatrice Copper-Royer. “I remember a young patient who told me that the baby would never be her brother, or her sister, or even a cousin. He would be nothing at all to her and, in the end, it didn’t turn out so badly. The arrival of a child always exacerbates jealousies, but these can be reduced by giving everyone a real place. »
→ MAINTENANCE. “The place of the mother-in-law is always complicated”
Sometimes, the tensions in the siblings are exacerbated by the attitude of the parent himself, who accepts that the child of a first union sees little of his half-brother or half-sister so as not to “making a fuss with the ex-spouse”, observes Catherine Audibert. Other times, it’s the step-parent who doesn’t want to take care of the children from the first bed.
“ However, this two-speed education is very detrimental, warns the psychoanalyst. What the recomposing couple does not always understand is that this split can turn against them. One day, the children may reproach him for not having fostered the bonds between the siblings and for having prevented them from experiencing things together. »
→ INTERVIEW. “The family plays a key role in learning emotions”
The legal aspect should not be neglected either. The birth of a baby in a blended family confronts the couple with the question of inheritance and equity between the children. “If everyone is entitled to a part of the heritage of his parents, with an identical share in value of the hereditary reserve”, recalls Émilie Charpentier, notary in Paris, new provisions allow couples to make a donation-sharing, hitherto reserved only for their common children, for the benefit also of those born of a previous union. They can also take out a life insurance or death insurance contract to protect the new family and preserve the interests of the old one. »
One child in ten grows up in a blended family
In 2018, France had 728,000 blended families (in which at least one child is not from the couple).
Of 14.1 million children, 68% live in a so-called “traditional” family (with both parents), 21% in a single-parent family, and 11% in a blended family.
Within the latter category, 7% live with a parent and a step-parent and possibly half-brothers or half-sisters; 4% with both parents and half-brothers or half-sisters.
Blended families – which have more children on average than traditional families – are less present in large urban centres, and their parents are less educated and more often looking for work.
(Source: INSEE study no. 1788, January 2020)
How to love you and your children? The challenge of the blended family,
by Dr. Christophe Fauré,
Ed. Albin Michel, 2014, 260 pages, €16
Through testimonials, the psychiatrist and psychotherapist analyzes the interactions and feelings of all the protagonists of a blended family. It gives everyone a “roadmap” to better understand what they are going through and what other family members are going through.
Brothers and sisters forever. The imprint of siblings on our adult relationships,
by Lisbeth von Benedek,
Ed. Eyrolles, 2019, 194 p. 18 €
The author, psychoanalyst and doctor of psychology, highlights the influence of sibling relationships throughout life.
♦ Space parents of the Family allowance fund (CAF) of Paris. A place of welcome for all families and in particular blended families, with discussion workshops between parents and with professionals; parent-child activities and conference-debates on education and family relations. Free activities open to all upon registration.Address: 86, rue René-Boulanger 75010 Paris. Facebook page. Mail: [email protected]/Tel. : 01.45.71.20.02
♦ The Pot of Words, in Rennes. A speaking space reserved for children from blended families. On registration at 02.23.48.25.55.