I am the mom of a weird but working modern blended family. Our family includes me, Chris (my partner), my ex (Howie), and our kids, JoJo and Brayden. When it comes to family, especially in this day and age, they come in all shapes and sizes. Differences and diversity seem to be the new norm—couples with children, some married, some cohabitating, couples without children, same-sex couples, single parents, and blended families created through remarriage and re-partnering. Blended families like mine are created through divorce. And divorce can be painful and messy, which can make blended families messy and complicated and exhausting. But my modern blended family is the best family option for me, Chris, Howie, and my kids!
According to Susan Merrill, “Successful blended families can be difficult to achieve. That’s why so many blended families ultimately fail. There are disputes over parenting, money, privacy, vacations, responsibilities, boundaries, rituals, holidays, stepchild behaviors like disrespect, “acting out,” and/or “favoritism”; common stepchild discipline problems; custody, visitation, and/or financial support issues; stepsibling relationship problems. The list goes on and on.”
It took us over a year to get to this point of comfortable, happy, loving “blendedness”. We needed the time and space to heal and grow. And we needed to put the children and co-parenting above all else. I am so happy and lucky that this happened. My kids are happy and loved. Our life is stable and predictable. They know who they can count on and what each of us contributes. It is not always smooth or easy, and there are times when it is a lot of hurt. But it is important to remember why we are doing this, always speak from a place of love, and work through any issues. For us, it is also important that discipline comes from the birth parents. Chris fills a loving, fun, supporting role. Don’t expect instant love, instant family, or instant harmony. Take your time, go slow, and don’t force it.
My kids had to deal with a lot of change. They moved, came to a very different climate (both weather-wise and people-wise), switched schools, and suddenly had a second parent in the house. My poor partner gave up the role of lifelong bachelor to embrace his new instant family, which happened to include two very chatty, high-needs kids and their very challenging mother. Lucky him! But if you ask him, he would tell you he is the luckiest man on earth. He has a family and home that he loves, and he would not trade it for anything.
Now, Howie stays with us in our home when he visits the kids. We have meals together, shop together, bonfires, watch movies, and play baseball. Yes, it was weird at the beginning and still is sometimes, but it works. My kids love when daddy comes. They are comfortable and want him here, and Howie seems happy and comfortable too. We are even planning a modern blended family summer vacation.
Without a doubt, I can say that 15 months later, we are all a family; a family that loves and respects each other, and a family that takes care of each other. Chris refers to the kids as “our kids” but always maintains a respectful boundary, reminding them that he would never try to (or want to) replace their dad. The kids call him dad or stepdad, even Howie refers to Chris as their stepdad. It’s a work in progress, always, but the Suburban Goddess Mom would not have it any other way.