I have been wanting to make a How to Blend your Family video for a while now and the more Pippin & I talked about it, the more we realized it’s not really a topic that can be covered in a 10 minute video. So we decided to launch this video as the first of many, since there is so much information to ingest.
Today is the 13th anniversary of when our families met and the story is pretty sweet. Pippin and I met as strangers on MySpace (the original Tinder??) and became instant friends. We quickly decided to meet up again; this time with his two kids and my three at a playground. Collectively, we had five kids under six years of age and as crazy as it sounds, it was instant perfection. Everything I wanted, really.
I soon discovered the intricacies and complexities of blending and did some research; discovering that only 15% of blended families actually stay together and survive. This made me sad, and highly concerned. So we developed our own means of joining that small percentage.
Over the next few posts, we’ll share our experience and some tips on how to not only survive, but thrive, in a blended family:
Make room for change.
Soon after we met, I was changed in ways I had always wanted. I felt like I understood what being a great parent was through him. I felt educated and awakened to the meaning of family for the first time in my life. But there was SO MUCH working against us: the other parents, friends, family, finances, careers, perceptions, status quo, statistics. Everything else said no to us, but all those obstacles didn’t hold us back, even though we knew they’d consistently threaten and challenge our relationship.
There were numerous times where we both got scared, but Pippin always remained. And he didn’t just stick around, he pulled weight in ways I have never seen a man pull weight before. He did the dishes, cooked (thankfully, because I couldn’t), cleaned and more than anything, just genuinely wanted to be around me. He truly was the other 50% in a relationship everyone dreams of.
He quit his job when we moved in together to save money that was otherwise going to daycare for two kids. I got to keep my career and he became the stay at home dad before it was hip.
The first step in our relationship was recognizing, and frequently discussing, the changes taking place. We knew that in order for this thing to work, we had to be on the same page–at all times. That meant equal treatment on all fronts. It meant we were a solid unit. So no surprises or disruptions. This also meant going to court a lot to fight for our rights to see his kids, which was expensive and stressful. But supportive and necessary. Whatever we did, we did it together. There was no: your kids vs my kids. They were ours. And we parented the same across the board.
Dodge the Drama.
At one point, we had five kids coming and going from our home. It was hard, especially with his kids because the relationships with both of those moms was strained already and adding me to the mix was definitely not helping. (Wait, did I say both moms?? You bet I did. Pippin had two kids, 7 months apart from one another with two women during very rough stages of their own lives.) They would absolutely torment him with parenting time. Basically, whenever they needed a babysitter or grew tired of being mom, they’d tell him it was his turn. They were so out-of-control and rotten, I offered to fill the gap: Let’s have one together. You guessed it, they were furious and things got worse.
Without realizing it, Pascal would become what we now call the anchor kid. She really was the thing that not only bound us all together, but kept all of us on solid ground. There were times when I thought, what a horrible amount of pressure to put on a child–the responsibility of holding us all together–but even now, it is as though she just knows. It is an unspoken responsibility that she has carried with such grace for the last 11 years.
As time progressed, Pascal started to experience the coming and going of our family members herself. It was heartbreaking to watch her as the youngest of 6 kids one minute, and then an only child the next, as the family dwindled due to pick up. We thought about having another for a long time and finally agreed we wouldn’t. Then we had an oops baby and then miscarried him (this was absolutely devastating. I’ll save discussing this for another day). The nurse told us to try again and he would become Leopold.
As we built up our tiny army of amazing kids, the other moms became absolutely out-of-their-minds. One mom thought it would be smart to send pills in a ziplock baggie to our house in Phoenix’s backpack and not in the labeled prescription container because she didn’t want us to find out she was administering ADHD meds, and subsequently hoped he’d remember to take them on his own at our house. Picture me, then, discovering little Leopold toddling down the hall with that same baggy in his hand. How many had he eaten? What were they? That was a fun trip to the ER. It was NOT fun for her to hear me out on that one. Let’s just say the relationship changed.
The other mom had problems of her own and instead of letting Em live with us while she got on her feet, she taught her how to live on the street. I remember it like it was yesterday: Em telling me how to walk around a grocery store “shopping” while eating from the cart and then ditching all the groceries, unpaid. We quickly learned that camping didn’t mean camping like on a trip in the woods, but under bridges and along sidewalks. In short, Em was unsupervised and in danger. Back to court…and this time, we won.
Now, I don’t mean for that “we won” to come across as thought it was a real win. It wasn’t a game. And everyone suffered from this perceived win, especially Em, when her mother decided against taking 2 weeks to get on her feet, and instead went on a permanent road trip. That was seven years ago.
Long story short, Blended families will come with all sorts of super duper cray cray drama, and it is so easy to get caught up in it. Each time I felt sucked in, I would have to re-aliagn myself: This isn’t about me. It’s not about them either. It’s about the kids. What do they need right now and how can I give that to them? I put myself last so many times and felt just as empty. Only because I was expecting something from it. It took me time to realize: No one is going to swoop in and thank you for doing this…but are you really doing it for the thanks? No, I wasn’t. I did it for Pippin, who had done so much for me.
I look forward to continuing this conversation because there is so much to talk about. The statistics for failed second marriages involving kids is just too high: 85%! When you agree to blend, do it in a way that is right for both of you. Reject status quo, because once you blend, you are now everything but status quo. Normal is boring, anyway–and you’ll never have it. Allow yourself the time to adjust, consistently seek opportunities to let go of any pressure to be a certain way. Most of all, get and stay on the same page as your partner. Become partners for life and shield yourselves against the things you cannot control (i.e. the mama drama).
Until next time,
So Called Mom