I’ve been part of a blended family for almost nine years. What’s a blended family, you ask? Remember that old TV series, The Brady Bunch? It’s like that. Divorced parents (usually both with kids) coming together to form a family of their own. I only wish I could afford a maid named Alice like they had on the show! I loved the family dynamics and adventures that were depicted in that series, but never dreamed I’d be in a similar situation many years later, divorced with a son of my own.
My story as a single mom with a two year old is for another time and frankly, it’s not something I think about much anymore. I remarried about two years after my divorce and have been living the “blended life” ever since. Early in our marriage, my husband and I talked about having a baby together, but decided instead to focus our parenting energy on making things the best they could be for the three kids we had just brought together. Successfully blending two families is the thing I’m most proud of in my life. Yep…in my life. It’s not always been the easiest road, but it certainly has been rewarding along the way.
There are a few key things I think about EVERY DAY with our family situation…core values, if you will. Our kids are now 14, 14, and 17 and keeping these thoughts in the forefront has served us all well. They’re well adjusted, they love being with both families, we have great relationships with the grandparents and all the parents work together to do what’s best for the kids. I feel lucky that we share similar values and that we’ve all made that a priority. Here are a few of the values we lean on most:
- We try not to use words like “ex” or “step” in our house. To me, those are labels that imply exclusion. We’re all still family…we just don’t all live together in the same way anymore. And who wants to be a “step” anything? I consider our two girls as much my own as the son I birthed.
- We foster their relationship with their other parents. It’s always hard to see the kids leave our house, but I don’t want them to ever feel guilty about spending time or having fun with their other parents. I also don’t want them to feel weird talking about the things they do with their other parents. I love having a holistic view of their lives and always want to share in and celebrate their experiences. On the flip side, we also try not to get into the middle of issues they may be having with the other parent, but instead talk parent to parent about it.
- The phrase we’ve probably mantra’d most over the years is “take the high road”. Do the right thing, even though it may not be easy. We try to always present a united front. We all sit together at band concerts, softball games, cheer competitions. We attend school conferences together. I think sometimes we confuse other parents and teachers with our relationship – they can’t quite figure out who belongs to who and why there are so many parents involved or in attendance. One of the highest compliments we often get is when people tell us how impressed they are with how we all communicate and work together on behalf of the kids.
- Flexibility and logistics management have become imperative skills to embrace. Managing the schedule of three busy teenagers is difficult for any family, but when they’re back and forth between two houses, things get even more complicated. We now have an electronic family calendar where we track all events and activities, regardless of which house they’re at. If they have a soccer game while they’re with their other parent, we still want to attend! Holidays and vacations are the hardest to coordinate and manage, so we’ve started to create our own traditions. One of my favorites is our pre-Christmas dinner when just the five of us get dressed up and go out to celebrate the holidays.
- We try hard to maximize our time when we don’t have the kids so that we can minimize the distractions when we do have them. It’s all about quality time when we’re together as a family. That means cramming all our errands into a few days and scheduling date nights on those days when we don’t have the kids.
With parents remarried (or partnered) on both sides and an adoptive situation thrown in on my husband’s side, between our three kids, they have 6 parental figures, 9 grandparents and over 10 pairs of aunts & uncles…all who love them very much. I truly believe in the proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” and feel blessed to be able to raise our kids with this village of positive and loving role models!