Blending the Stirred Up Family
As divorce spreads across the country, and single adult life is quickly becoming the norm, a whole generation of 30-somethings and 40-somethings are being initiated into blended family life. People like my husband and I came to the blended family scene as children of a nuclear family; our parents had never been divorced. While you may think that would lead to having a better support system for our blended family, I’m here to tell you it can be culture shock all around.
Grandparents, stepparents, the biological parents of stepparents, half-siblings, biological children, and other extended family members are bound to face a learning curve - just as we did - when we started blending a family. When my husband and I got married it was mom and her son, plus dad and his sons, equal… well, a hot mess! Initially, my husband and I wanted to start drawing lines in the sand to protect our children. “I’m worried your son may be a bad influence on my boys,” he would remark. “Don’t be so heavy-handed with your expectations; he’s only five!” I would snap back. The early days of blending a family should be called “All Our Problems 101: A Crash Course in Exploring the Neurosis of Your Housemates”.
In addition to the early clashes of blended family life is the Escape Hatch Syndrome. This how I refer to the thought: if you don’t like a particular member of your family at the moment, you can ride it out until one of you leaves for visitation. Now when- before the realities of divorce- have kids ever had that option? We have learned to always resolve conflicts, no matter how difficult, before visitation weekend or holiday vacation starts.
Our days as newlyweds in our first marriages paled in the flickering glow of the refining fires of the new blended family. More patience, kindness, tact and resilience must be displayed as everyone learns just how to bring out the very worst in one another. During these rough days in our early blending, whenever possible, we had a video camera rolling. Now we all look back at our videos and laugh at those days that we call “The Year Long Uninterrupted Scream.” Some of those movies are pretty rough to watch, but we gained so much encouragement. Watching our old videos allowed us to see that our blended family was moving forward.
If I had our early blending days to do over again, I wouldn’t try so hard to “be normal”. Having more than three children, we tried to align ourselves with others in the “large family living” mindset. We tried to overlook our blended family status and got into a toxic routine of bemoaning the time any of us spent interacting with a parent from a previous marriage. “If only our family was the way it should be!” we’d groan. It took us a few years to realize it, but our big, beautiful, blended family is the way it should be.
Never compare your blended family to a traditional family in a derogatory way. Your family isn’t inferior to a family that’s never seen divorce, it just doesn’t look or act the same, nor should it. Members of blended families have the potential of becoming lifelong friends with people who they, otherwise, would never have had the honor of knowing so deeply. Relish the moments you spend together and take the time to ride the ups and downs that can cause you to blend thoroughly. After you embrace the gift of your unique new blended family structure, the real fun can begin!
This is a guest post by Stephanie Somers the Stirred Up Mama. She blogs about blended family living, home school and life after divorce at www.stirredupfamily.com. Visit The Stirred Up Family on Facebook to learn more.
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