This is not a traditional post because I have decided to pull my husband into the blog. We interviewed each other on the topic of blended families and we both offer our “words of wisdom” and hope it will be beneficial to you or someone you may know.
I want to just throw the disclaimer out that I am not a professional therapist, pastor or any other person you may seek advice from when you are in need. Through experience, I can share with you some of the pitfalls my husband Mario and I went through along our journey and give you some insightful information we think is imperative for blended families in today’s society. Happy reading!
During the beginning stages of a relationship, things are amazing. You have this new person you want to spend every waking moment with, your heart skips a beat when they are around and life seems to be the best it has ever been. But what happens when you aren’t able to spend a lot of time together due to your responsibilities as a single mother or father? When everything may not be so picture perfect due to changes in visitation schedules or some unforeseen emergency with the kids. All relationships have ups and downs but when you add children to the mix, it can significantly alter the hopes and dreams you have for a “perfect” relationship. But what exactly is a perfect relationship today anyway?
My husband Mario and I have been together for eight years, married for five on June 20th. We share five children, a 16 year old son and 14 year old daughter from his previous marriage, I have a 12 year old son from a previous relationship and we have two daughters together, 6 and 3 years old. When we first started dating, our kids were 8, 6 and 4 and for those of you who don’t know our dating story, I was his children’s first grade and kindergarten teacher but we did not begin dating until the summer after his daughter graduated kindergarten.
I am not going to get into the background story at this time because that is not the topic of discussion but I figured I would share that tidbit of information to give you an idea of the fuel we threw on the fire of dating with children.
Questions asked by Andrea…
What are the biggest struggles in your opinion we experienced in the beginning stages of our journey?
In the beginning, giving equal love to all the children and balancing my love to let you know I did not love one set of children more than the other set is something I struggled with. Learning how to co-parent and father my stepson as well as parenting two kids who were many miles away who I felt were being neglected because my stepson was getting more time was the hardest part for me.
What has changed?
Over time, I learned how to adjust. I have learned what my stepson likes as well as what his personality is so that has helped us to develop a relationship. I also try to get all of the kids together as much as possible during school breaks so everyone feels they are loved and we are all a family.
What do you do to keep your relationship in good standing with your kids in spite of the distance between you all?
I communicate often through text messages and phone calls just like you and I did when we were separated before I moved back to South Florida. We also facetime and I ask them about their day and anything new that is going on in their lives so I can keep up with their lives. It could be compared to a soldier that is deployed in another country away from family. He and his wife will try their best to keep him active and up to date with the daily structure of the family’s day so he feels like he is there even though he is not physically there. Although I’m not there physically, I actively stay involved and try to reassure them and let them know they are loved, that they are being thought of and let them know they are missed. I also allow them to communicate with their sisters and stepbrother so they can continue to maintain that bond.
What do you wish you would have known prior to blending our family?
I wish I would have been better prepared with some type of coaching, counseling sessions or mentoring by someone who was currently in a blended family.
What kind of advice could you offer newly blended families?
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
- Seek good spiritual advice
- Be open minded
- Take advantage of family time to unite the family with things such as family movie night, game night or visits to the park.
Questions asked by Mario…
What is your definition of a blended family?
A blended family is a family unit that involves an adult with one or more children that marries someone with or without a child.
How has it been since blending the family?
Since blending our families, there have been ups and there have been downs as I suspect any relationship has. What has made it harder is having people outside of us that had to be considered before we could make decisions. When we were dating, our children came first but after being married, the children were put after the husband and the wife and that was very hard for me to adjust to because for so long, it was just Jordan and myself. I did not have to consider anyone else; I did what was best for us. When we blended families that all changed and for many years, it was a back and forth battle for who was the head of the household which was apparent in how bumpy things were. Not until recently, I would say within the last year have I began to allow that control to be within your hands as my husband knowing that you have our best interest at heart.
What is the hardest part about being in a blended family?
In the beginning, the hardest part about being in a blended family was the children being raised in different households which meant different parenting styles and different rules. In the beginning, when we were establishing boundaries, I didn’t want to step on any toes and instead of staying true to what I was comfortable with, I allowed things to slide that I normally wouldn’t which caused frustration for me. Currently, the hardest thing is having our children living in different homes. In a perfect world, I would have them all in our house.
Blended families can be healthy if…
- They communicate with one another openly knowing that regardless of what they say, they will not be judged.
- They have fun with each other as a family as well as one on one with the parents so they still feel they are important to their parents. The children should spend time with their parent as well as the step/bonus parent to help build and maintain a strong bond.
What are some things you can tell other couples looking to blend families?
- In any marriage, putting God first will help all other things fall into their designated position.
- It is important to work on building a friendship first with your significant other to build a united front so no one (including your kids) will be able to manipulate either one of you.
- You are not alone. As you said, a mentor couple would be beneficial to have around to bounce questions and scenarios off of. Situations blended families deal with are different from traditional family structures. Newly blended families should also look for healthy couples to surround themselves with and be careful who they allow in their ear because not everyone has their best interest at heart. When blending a family, it’s good to have positive people who speak life into your marriage and who understand not everything will be a bed of roses without stepping on some thorns. Just because things may not be picture perfect at all times (which is normal), it is ok. That does not mean you need to tag team and bash your marriage or family. Side note- Anyone who doesn’t respect and understand that may have to be released from your circle of friends if you plan on remaining married.
- If you begin to have trouble within your blended family, it is ok to ask for help whether from a friend, family member, pastor or a therapist.
If you grew up in a blended family, what is something that worked well within your household? What is something you wish could have been different? If you currently are a bonus parent, what are ways that you cope with blending your family? I would love to hear from you. Please comment below.