What kind of return are you getting on your investment?


In light of our nation’s struggling economy, so many of us are watching our investments. The stock market rises and falls, and some fear it could crash. Yet how many of us truly realize that one of our greatest investments is our family?

When my husband and I first decided to connect our families, we both knew the obstacles ahead. We planned carefully; we read books, articles, and even talked with several researchers of stepfamilies. We headed their advice: listen, listen, listen. We soon realized that even if we did not agree with anyone else’s point of view, it was still valuable. People in general, but especially children, feel validated and respected when you listen to them. With five children, you can only imagine the things we heard. “Are we going to have to share a room?”, “Do I have to share everything?”, “I’m the only boy with FOUR sisters?”, and “Boys are gross and they do gross things. How are we going to survive?!” were just a few of the comments/concerns that were mentioned. Of course, we didn’t have an answer to each of the questions or concerns that the children presented to us. Some were more statements than questions. Yet, we assured them that their feelings were important, even if we didn’t like the way they felt. We secretly hoped we didn’t screw up so badly that the kids would grow up and never forgive us. We loved each other, wasn’t that enough for everyone? We made the investment into each other, why couldn’t everyone else?

The first year was the toughest. Everyone, including myself, had to get used to schedules, habits (good and bad), traditions, and all sorts of things my husband and I never imagined. Some situations were easily solved (like chores and responsibilities), yet others were difficult. How was my poor husband supposed to know that one of our daughters did not like her jeans dried? Here I was, so glad someone else was doing the laundry other than me, and she bursts into tears and acts as if she had just lost a limb!! Imagine my poor husband’s face: not understanding why anyone would cry over such a thing, and certainly not understanding my attempt to console her. Needless to say, he hasn’t done much laundry since.

Yet, as I have come to understand, our practice of listening pays out dividends over time. People of all ages begin to learn acceptance. That acceptance eventually grows into respect, and then for some, love. It does not happen quickly, and that is not only significant in stepfamilies. We all face challenges with people around us. We all have relationships; some are strong and rewarding and tend to be easier, others are difficult and strained. Contrary to popular belief, relationships are rarely 50/50. Those that are productive in my life require me giving way more than 50%. The ratio is more like 90 to 100%. On the days I don’t give that of myself, my relationship suffers. The kids are learning this too. They are slowly realizing that they have an investment in our family, and a valuable one. Yet, at their ages, they can’t understand why they must continue to give their best, when it doesn’t seem the best is given back. That is one of the questions my husband and I didn’t have an answer for: why life seems unfair. We hope to have that answer by the time we have grandchildren, but we’re not counting on it.

Now that the first year is over, and we all have realized how crucial our investment is in our family, those first year concerns the children had are very different. In this time frame, we have learned to accept and value each other, even if we don’t always like each other. We have also learned that we must continue to give as much of ourselves as we can, even when we think others aren’t. Do we still have issues and concerns? Of course! Yet, what seemed so huge in the beginning, is now quite funny. It is simply part of the process. Our youngest girl laughs hysterically when our only boy does “gross boy things”. The girls are realizing that “sharing everything” has great advantages, and doubles their wardrobe. And the “only boy with FOUR sisters” has realized how pretty his sisters’ friends happen to be now.

Relationships reflect what is put into them. Little investment shows little return. The greater the investment, well you know the rest. Listen to your kids, listen to each other, and listen to your heart. Invest in your family wisely: not only with your time, but your actions and words. The return on that investment could be priceless!

Ami Landers, Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative



One Response to “What kind of return are you getting on your investment?”

  1. Christiana Russell Says:

    Amen, Amy!

    Amen! Amen!

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