Babies can be born into a wide variety of family settings. A baby could be a couple’s first child. A baby could be born to a single mother. A baby could be born into a stepfamily—a family in which one or both adults in a committed couple relationship have a child or children from previous relationships. Although all families face challenges at one point or another, stepfamilies experience a unique set of demands. Common stepfamily demands include parent-stepparent disagreements about parenting strategies, conflict between children and new stepparents, declines in the quality of parent-child relationships, navigating co-parenting between resident and nonresident parents, and relocating to a new home when the stepfamily forms, among other challenges. In addition, stepfamilies often feel stigmatized and pressured to appear like a first-time, biologically related family. This pressure can exacerbate stress associated with the transition to stepfamily life by imposing unrealistic expectations on stepfamilies. Ideally, stepfamilies should feel empowered to make their new family situation function in ways that work best for them, rather than trying to appear like something they are not (and something they don’t need to be!).
In any case, but especially when couples want to have a baby, it can be helpful first to spend time adjusting to stepfamily life. This adjustment takes time and looks different for every family. Allowing adults and children in stepfamilies to reach a new normal can provide a more solid foundation on which the family can grow, should the couple decide to have a baby. Arriving at a new normal that is mutually satisfying for all family members can be facilitated by acquiring new knowledge about common stepfamily experiences, dispelling stepfamily myths, gaining new skills, and in some cases, seeking the assistance of family professionals. Although there is insufficient space here to provide all relevant content and resources for stepfamilies, the following links should be a helpful start: