Hi guys! For those of you who are new here, welcome to my blog! I’m a Mom and wife of a blended family of 6 and have four kids, Austin 17, EllaBleu 15 (mine from my previous marriage), Grayson 13 (Matt’s), and Hudson (almost) 6, ours together. If you don’t know our back story, here’s the quick version! Matt and I met through a mutual friend at a salon where I worked and 6 short months later we were engaged… and a few months after that we were married! Then exactly 1 month after we were married we found out we were pregnant with Hudson bear! So, as you can imagine we all went through a lot of changes, and fast! It was a beautiful blend, haha!
I was a single mom for about 7 years and Matt was a single dad when we met. We were both primary parents of our kids and they visit(ed) their other parents on the weekends. The transition with them leaving to see their other parents and coming home wasn’t always easy. We had an endless cycle of our kids spending a few days away and re-introducing them to our home and getting everyone back to our “normal”. This was a weekly occurrence for many years and honestly, it never really got easier until recently. Divorce is hard, it’s hard on everyone involved, including a new spouse. Matt and I really understand why God intended marriages to last, we have seen and felt the damage of divorce, we’re both form broken homes and obviously 3 of our 4 kids are too. But we’re committed to keeping our home as “normal” and consistent as we can.
I’ve had lots of requests from readers to write more about our blended family and I’m excited to talk about it! Matt and I have been a blended family for 7 years now, and during that time we have learned so much, grown so much and feel we have gained so much insight, it’s nearly impossible to share it all in one blog post. So today I thought I would share 7 key things that we’ve learned during our journey and that have helped us navigate our way through our blended family life. I look forward to writing more posts about being a blended family in future so I’d love to hear you feedback!
- GOD FIRST, SPOUSE SECOND– I know this sounds completely foreign to some people and maybe even totally wrong, but please have an open mind to it. Matt and I attended pre-marital counseling before we even had our wedding date set and we received some of the wisest, most helpful council. (I highly recommend pre-marital counseling to any couple, ESPECIALLY blended families) Our counselor made it very clear to us that we need to put God first in our lives and in our marriage, which wasn’t a total shock to us because we were both Christians and attending church regularly, so we knew this was a priority. But when she said we NEED to put our marriage before our kids, we were both staring at her like “ummmm…. ya right lady!” I actually feel like Matt was more open to this concept then me, like I said, I had been a single mom for 7 years and the only family my kids and I knew was the 3 of us. This “spouse before kids” concept was a rough road for a bit but let me tell you, our kids feel more secure and have confidence in knowing our marriage is a top priority in our home. Don’t get me wrong, this is not always easy, we have 4 kids and crazy busy lives and we fall off the wagon at times, but we always come back to making sure we have time together and that we are in sync… and that the kids know it and feel it too.
- UNITED FRONT– this key is related to the the God First one above. Matt and I don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to parenting, and let’s be honest, who ALWAYS agrees with their spouse?! But thankfully, for the most part, we share the same values and outlooks on parenting (and life in general) and are on the same page. This is SO important to us. I really encourage you to make sure you’re aligned in your values before you get married, if not already married. If you are already married this is also where counseling can help get you aligned. We believe it is so important to have a united front with each other, especially if front of the kids. What I mean by this is if you’re disciplining, simply talking to or even lecturing your child for whatever reason, they need to believe the parents/step parents are on the same page. Because if they feel that you’re not, you better believe they will try to drive a wedge between you, and they could even be doing it subconsciously! If one of my kids wants to share something about Matt that bugs them or hurts their feelings etc., I want their voice and feelings to be heard. But I do NOT fall into the trap of gossiping about him with them. This is a dangerous road and I will not allow it. I will listen if they just want to vent, and I will help come up with a solution if it’s something that needs to be addressed, but gossiping about him or anyone in the family is not healthy. I’m not saying that having a disagreement or argument in front of the kids doesn’t happen, it does. I actually think it’s healthy for our kids to see and know that we disagree, in a healthy way, but we really try not to have any disagreement in front of the kids if it has anything to do with them. We discuss those things in private and then talk to our kids about the issue together or separately, depending on the situation. Again, this isn’t always easy but we feel it is SO important.
- PRAYING TOGETHER– Prayer is one of the most powerful tools we have! When we pray together as a couple and as a family, it’s even more powerful. Unfortunately, lately I feel we haven’t used this tool enough. Depending on our life season we can either really be on top of praying together, or we can go days without it, and boy do we feel it when we go without it. Matt and I try to pray together at night and when we are consistently praying together as a couple, our marriage feels stronger and healthier. We used to pray with the kids every night and since they’ve gotten older we have totally slacked on this but we’re going to get back on it. It’s powerful and so good for them, in more ways than you can imagine. (This is also a topic I feel passionate about and would like to write more on in the future).
- TEAM SPORT– Obviously, Matt and I strive to always be on the same team, but it’s so important for our kids to feel like our family is a strong team and we’re all rooting for each other. It’s not “every man for himself”, but all of us supporting each other and we have each other’s backs. When Hudson was born I really feel like he was their common denominator in helping to bring our team together. They were no longer so separated, it’s almost like they instantly became siblings and it’s rare that they refer to each other as “step” brother and sister. Also, they don’t always want to be on the same team but at the end of the day, they have each other’s backs, always! This also starts with Matt and I. Our kids learn how to be a team and how to take care of each other by how Matt and I treat each other.
- EQUALITY/INDIVIDUALITY – Ok. Right now, if you asked Ella if there was equality she would probably say no, haha! She always says I pick favorites and its never her, ugh! I always tell her, “I can’t parent you all the same and sometimes that may look like I’m favoring”. They are different individuals and it’s so important that they feel confident in who they are but also know every circumstance is different and our approach may be different too. But we also want them to feel equal in the family. Our standard rules apply to all of them. We want Austin, Ella and Grayson (Hudson too) to all feel like they are loved and important and treated equally. For example, it wouldn’t be fair if one kid got allowance and no one else did, or if one kid did chores but others didn’t have to. We want an even playing field. Matt and I spend a lot of time talking about this. Equality is especially important and challenging in a blended family and we jump at every opportunity we see to encourage our kid’s individuality.
- QUALITY TIME – When we were first dating and getting ready to be married, the kids’ counselors (they were in counseling too) really encouraged us to have quality time with each of our kids. Austin and Ella really needed some alone quality time with me and Grayson still needed his time with Matt. When Hudson was born, it was much more difficult to have those quality alone times. When he was a baby I would either have Matt watch him or I would bring him into Austin and Ella’s rooms and we just hang out and talk. My kids LOVE it when I come in their room and sit on their beds with them and just chat. We also did date nights and even mini dates with ice cream or Starbucks. Now that they’re teenagers it doesn’t happen as often but when they have away games with school or club sports we try to take that opportunity to have a little time away with just them. Matt and Grayson like to ride dirt bikes so sometimes they’ll go somewhere with their bikes and it’s so great for their relationship. Hudson gets lots of quality time with Matt and I when the other kids are gone and he LOVES that time too. We also make sure we have dinners together as a family, as often as possible. This was top priority for our family, it still is although it’s a little more challenging right now, but we have at least one week night for family dinner. We also like to vacation a lot. Part of the reason we love vacationing is because it brings our family closer together with almost every meal together and lots of special time and memories together. I know not every family can always do vacations, so I encourage them to have picnics or camp in the back yard! Get creative and keep it light, some of the best memories happen in our backyard.
- THE ‘OTHER’ PARENTS– Let me start off by saying that I know how hard this topic can be, believe me! But when my kid’s Dad and I divorced I made it a point to not talk bad about him in any way around Austin and Ella. I came from a broken home and never wanted my kids to feel divided or that they had to take sides, like I sometimes felt growing up, so I kept my mouth shut (as hard as it was at times). As they got older they definitely sensed when things were tense between their Dad and me, but I have tried really REALLY hard to leave them out of the negativity between he and I. It’s also extremely important for Matt and I to stay positive about our step child’s other parents too. I know Matt and his ex have their issues and I have mine with my ex, but I never say negative things about her around or to Grayson, and Matt never says anything negative about my kid’s Dad around or to them, never! Sure, we don’t always agree with what’s going on at the other home or with the other parent’s but it would be so damaging if our kids heard us talking trash about their other parents. We also try to include them in their kid’s life and our family as much as we can, even when we don’t really feel like it. When Austin bought his first truck Matt called his Dad and invited him to come up and be a part of the process. He did come up and it was such an amazing experience for Austin to have us all there together, for him, and part of his “team”. It was truly such a special moment and I also know how much it meant to Austin when Matt invited his Dad to come up. I feel like Austin gains more respect for Matt when he sees Matt have respect for his Dad. We have also hosted BBQ birthday parties and other activities that include our kid’s other parents. We always help our kids pick out and buy gifts for their other parents birthdays, and holidays. I don’t expect the other parents to do this for us, but we see how much it means to our kids when they’re able to give their other parents something, it’s so special for them. I’ve taken Grayson to get gifts for his mom and Matt has taken my kids to get their dad gifts, it means the world to them!
Matt and I definitely don’t have all of the answers and we are still navigating our way through trying to be a healthy blended family, and even though our situations and circumstances are not always pretty, we feel incredibly blessed to be on this journey together. We have had to swallow so much pride and humble ourselves to make things work. If I could give just one piece of advice it would be to find a good church home and connect with other families and with God. I’m telling you if it weren’t for the Lord, who knows where we would be right now! I hope this helped you in some way, and as I mentioned, I will be writing more about being a blended family so if you have anything you want to hear about specific to this topic, please let me know in the comment section below!