A parenting website called Scary Mommy posted a story that resonated with me yesterday – it was about blended families and why it’s so tough to make them work.
The author, Kate Chapman, wrote: “The truth is no one wants to be in a blended family. Born of grief and failure, blended families are messy, and complicated, and exhausting.”
She was talking about her own family, but also managing the situation generally. In her case, she notes: “The children didn’t choose to marry and move and spend the rest of their lives with another family.”
But the reality is that most divorced parents DO remarry or co-habitate with a new partner. In 2011, children in one parent families in Australia only accounted for 7% of the population according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. For the majority of kids, blending is an inevitable bridge they must cross.
However, as Kate notes: “A stepparent brings new expectations and unfamiliar traditions and habits. A stepparent is a living, breathing grief trigger, an adult whose very presence reminds the child that their biological parents are no longer together.”
I’ve been thinking about the scenario a lot lately, as my kids adjust to becoming part of a blended family with their dad’s partner and her 10-year-old son.
It’s early days, but mine seem to be coping pretty well with it – I’m not hearing any complaints or sob stories.
But then, my ex has spent quite a few years preparing them for it. About six months after we split he started organising joint activities. It’s always been important for him to forge a blended family life together.
And now he has the whole kit and caboodle: three kids and his partner under one roof three nights a fortnight, his partner and her son seven nights a fortnight, plus three nights a fortnight with my our kids and his partner.
I’ve chosen a different path. DD isn’t in my life for that, he’s there for me.
Our time together is precious – my hours with him; my days with the kids – I don’t feel the need to muddy the waters too much.
That’s not to say I don’t wish I could be with him more. The idea of him coming to “home” to me after his many business trips is so appealing it hurts sometimes not having it. But I also enjoy having the kids to myself. And that’s the bit that loses out when you blend.
As Kate notes: “Attention that used to be theirs alone is divided between them, new stepsiblings and a new adult love.”
I would also worry about the kids having to deal with TWO blended households. I think it’s nice for them to have a “just us” place.
There are lots of other obstacles too – DD loves the Northern Beaches, I want to be close to my kids’ schools.
Plus a host of difficult reasons on his side for why it can’t happen that aren’t mine to tell.
I admire the people who DO make the blended thing work. I’ve seen lots of parents ace it. And, aside from anything else, it’s waaaaaay more cost-effective to live together than support two households. It also means there’s someone else to share the parenting load.
But I can’t see it happening for me.
Have you made the blended family thing work? How? OK, that’s probably too big a question – what’s one of the ways you’ve made it work?
Song of the day: Alicia Keys “Blended family”