Parenting Tasks Tend to Move the Partners into Intense
This challenge tends to move the partners into hotly contested, oppositional positions. The stepparent wants to effect some changes in the way the mate’s single-parent family system has hitherto operated—for over time, families with this type of structure tend to become too lax and permissive. However, the stepchildren ignore or defy his or her requests; they’ve suffered through too many demands for change already and want things to remain just as they were before the stranger/stepparent entered the scene. The natural parent wants both to please his or her new spouse and yet reassure the children that things will stay the same and they won’t experience any more earth-shaking transitions.
It is true that during the period of singlehood, the biological parent’s authority has slipped a bit, and he or she is likely to be overly permissive. So while the stepparent wants to demand more order and respectfulness, the natural parent wants to cut the children an unusual amount of slack and excuses many of their questionable behaviors.
This issue emerged most visibly in my interviews with Julie and Matthew Albright, described in chapter 2. Julie wanted to set limits on her stepson, Gabe, during the times when he was in her care. Matthew and his ex-wife, Fran, overruled her, thereby depriving her of authority as the female head of her household.