Blending A Family: Even When It’s Easy, It’s Still Hard

980510_554786311250296_1012210023_oThis was originally posted today on CarolinaParent.com.  Please go to their site and read the blog written by Carolina Parent editor, Odile Fredericks, titled “Seeking Help for Traumatic Teen years.”

It’s hard to believe that our new party of six is almost a year old., Overwhelmingly, it has gone a lot smoother than I expected. Our fears before May 11, 2013, were that the kids would not get along or that they would have adjustment problems. I was particularly concerned that my two kids would have trouble sharing me after having me to themselves for over eight years, and I was concerned that Joe’s kids would view me as a threat to their loyalty to their mother.

After almost a year I can proudly say that neither of those fears came to fruition. Comparatively speaking to other nightmare unions you hear about, it’s been relatively easy. There has been very little fighting between the kids. Joe and I have only had one true argument that was completely blended family related, but that argument helped us remember that we are a team … our marriage is a priority. The past year has mostly been filled with good memories and fun times.

At the same time, it has been the hardest year of my life.

There has been more of so much in my life. More time planning and scheduling of our lives. More laundry to be done on a daily basis. More money spent on food and vacations and activities. More activities to attend. More arguments to diffuse, and more people to tuck in bed. More people to love, and more people to discipline. Did I mention more laundry? Overall, there is just more to fit in an already short week while taking into account an ever revolving door as I coordinate different custody schedules and different school schedules with different activity schedules.

I have to begin preparing for the following week before the current week is even complete, and planning my schedule is much more complex that it sounds. I have to sit down and make sure my schedule is in line with the Google calendar that my ex-husband and I share with the kids. I usually have to email their dad and their stepmom to see what else needs to go on the calendar for that week and to make sure there is not a change in the calendar that needs to be made. I then have to email my babysitter to let her know her responsibilities for the week and then take that same email, change the font to red, and superimpose my husband’s responsibilities into the email before sending that on to him. Even writing the process for planning is exhausting, which makes it no wonder why the two ladies in the Target line early Sunday morning looked at me with such pity when I said, “I have four kids.”

While there has been more, it also feels like there has been less of some things. Less time to focus on our relationship as a couple, and less time to focus on our individual relationships with each child. Less privacy and less alone time (something I crave at times). Less free time to just relax, and less time to focus on hobbies (it’s hard to go to the gym when you have three kids at practices in different locations on the same afternoon).

It also seems like there is less respect for others as each of us has tried to find our own place in our new family. This has been especially trying with two of the kids being teenage boys. It’s hard to know if some behavior is due to the change in our family structure or the change in hormones. Either way, it’s a constant work in progress to stay on top of and eliminate selfishness.

There are no easy roles in a blended family. We the parents are typically the bad guys, but what I have learned over the past year is that the strength in our relationship is what will bring us through this. Even parents who are still together can vouch that the teenage years are tough on everyone. Just like in those families, we will get through it together as husband and wife. It has become clear that not everyone is going to be happy all the time, but we must treat each other with respect and kindness so we can pull through these years relatively unscathed.

Growing together as a blended family has not been without its drama and difficulties, but the power struggles we face are helping us to become even closer as a family. Each day we are all finding our place, and I just know that the best is yet to come.

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Many Moving Parts in our Unconventional Family

This morning is a perfect example of how co-parenting SHOULD look.  As I was walking into work this morning, I was thinking about how thankful I am since the morning went so smoothly, because after sleeping in a little longer than I should have I wasn’t sure it would go well at all.  There were many moving parts, but now that I am sitting at my desk drinking another cup of coffee I feel such peace and happiness… and marvel at what we all do to put the kids first.

Joe’s kids spent last night with their mom, but since he volunteered to carpool for his daughter’s chorus rehearsal, he had to be in Wake Forest at 7:45am anyway.  So he offered to pick his kids up and take them to school as well.  His ex had appointments this morning, so it worked out well for both of them.  He got to spend time with his kids for a few minutes before school and she got to work.

My daughter spent last night with her dad, but she had an orthodontist appointment at 8am, so her stepmom brought her to our house at 7:30am.  That in itself is a bigger deal than it sounds since they live in Zebulon and we live in downtown Raleigh.  My son yelled up to me while I was getting ready, “Amy wants to know if she can take me to school?”  I ran down the stairs to find them standing in the kitchen next to a sweet note from Joe by a full pot of coffee.  He had even fixed lunch for my son before he left early this morning!  Only two weeks in and he is proving to be such a good stepdad to my kids.

I told Amy that I would love for her to take my son to school since I had not even finished getting ready and my daughter’s appointment was in 20 minutes.  So my son finished his breakfast and they headed out the door.  Her willingness to take him to school (and her desire to spend a few minutes with him on the drive there) made me smile.

Now don’t get me wrong, I would have MADE it work, because that’s what I do.  I could have dropped my daughter at the orthodontist and then taken my son to school and then gone back to the orthodontist (and we would have all been stressed out at the end)… but thankfully I didn’t HAVE to.  That simple offer by their stepmom to take my son to school gave me time to finish getting ready and we still got to the orthodontist five minutes early.

It was a great morning… Joe got to take his kids to school.  His ex got more time to get ready for her appointments.  My son got to school early, which is apparently a big deal to a middle school boy.  My daughter got to her orthodontist appointment early without the stress of rushing around late.  Their stepmom got to spend time with my son and got to work early.  I got to have a stress-free morning with a hot cup of coffee, a sweet note from my hubby, and smiles and hugs from my babies.

There were many moving parts, and what a blessing to us all… and smiles all around as we all got to enjoy the morning doing what we love.  We may not look like other families, but we are all a family just the same.