I love the expression ‘blended family’, coming from one myself I know what a complicated but also wonderful beast they can be.
For us there have been many ups and downs along the way, especially around Christmas, but with time and compassion it is possible to make it work. Kerry aka @_mumish_ is testament to that:
- Step family. Rainbow family. Blended family. I prefer the latter. It makes me think of a bit of this, a bit of that. Lots of ingredients chucked into the pot and, somehow, it just works. It seems positive. The very opposite of ‘broken home’. There’s nothing broken about us.
- My marriage ended when my son was three months’ old. In the space of minutes, my world was turned upside down. I was 27.
- We’d been together for ten years and married for just over two. I met him when I was 17; my one and only boyfriend. I thought we were soulmates, because back then, I believed in that kind of thing.
- Like most people, I suppose, it’d never occurred to me that we might not make it. My parents have been married over 40 years, just like his. I had no real experience of divorce. It wasn’t part of my landscape.
- Accepting we’d ‘failed’ was gut-wrenching. I was the first of my friends to separate (and still now, only the second), so I felt completely alone. But looking back now, did we fail? I don’t think so. Just looking at my son reminds me of that.
- After we separated, I was single for almost three years. And I mean single in every sense of the word! It was like a switch had been turned off inside me and I had zero interest in dating; no desire to meet anyone else. It wasn’t because I was bitter about love – I still believed passionately in the happy ever after – but I was very content being alone. I think, after such a long relationship, it was what I needed. I didn’t know myself as an adult, so it was quite a learning curve! But having my heart broken was the making of me. I look back now and it seems like another lifetime. Something that happened to someone else. A story I could read in a magazine.
- When I’ve told people what happened, nearly everyone said they couldn’t have coped. Having a newborn (and your first) is hard enough, but for your marriage to end, too…
- But you can never appreciate your ability to pull yourself up until you’ve hit the floor. We’re all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. I’ve never doubted my strength since.
- Mark was a friend of my brother’s. They hadn’t seen each other for years but happened to be at a party together. Mark’s marriage had recently ended, so my brother mentioned I was single, too, and passed on my number. I think he’d got to the stage where he felt like I needed some outside help! The next day, I got a text message from Mark and we started chatting from there. I’m not sure I believe in fate, necessarily, but let’s say it was serendipitous.
- Our first date was only the second first date I’d been on in my whole life at age 30. But oddly, I wasn’t nervous. Our connection was instant and easy. His smile was like sunshine.
- I had a lot of reservations in the early days of our relationship. I was incredibly wary of letting someone into my son’s world, so I was adamant about taking things very slowly. Often, when the relationship with our child’s parent ends, we’re racked with guilt, so we try to fix things. We want to make it perfect again and paper over the cracks, so we think a new relationship will complete the picture. But I believe children – like adults – need time. They crave stability and security. I knew when I introduced my son to anyone, I had to believe this person would be in his life for a long time.
- I also agonised over whether anyone else would love my child like I do. I sat in front of my counsellor one evening, tears streaming down my face, and explained I had this fear it would never be enough. She reasoned that all that really mattered was that the person I met did love my son. Why did I need to measure the love? Quantify it? No-one had put it like that before and it changed my mindset.
- Mark and my son finally met after we had been together for 8 months. I always told my ex-husband that if I met someone I was serious about, I’d let him know, and I did. He replied by telling me he was pleased I was happy.
- There has never been any animosity between my son’s father and me, which seems to come as a surprise to a lot of people! But he’s a good person and an exceptional father – my son adores him. I care about him deeply and I always will. Since we separated, he has treated me with kindness and respect, and I’ve done the same with him. We always go to parents’ evenings together; he even saves me copies of Stylist magazine as he knows it’s my favourite! I believe if you’re both being fair and reasonable with one another, there’s no reason why you can’t get along. We loved each other once and we created this beautiful boy together; we owe it to him to keep our shit together. We’re the grown-ups here.
- My ex began a relationship with his now fiancée soon after. I wanted to be able to put a face to the name, especially since she’d be spending time around my child, so I invited them over for a coffee one afternoon – my ex, his new partner, my new partner and me. I fully appreciate some people would be horrified at the thought of this! But it broke the ice and it was less awkward than you might think.
- I’ve never been jealous of my son’s relationship with his soon-to-be step-mother. All I want is for my son to be happy; if she treats him kindly and has his best interests at heart, which she does, I can’t ask for anything more. I don’t care who and where the love comes from, just as long as my child is loved.
- My ex and I have a lot of respect for each other’s partners. I’ve helped choose Mother’s Day and birthday presents for Mark’s s ex-wife and my son’s stepmother – life is easier when everyone gets along and I want our children to grow up in a peaceful, animosity-free environment. Sadly, I realise this isn’t the situation for all divorced parents, so I’m incredibly grateful! But we also work hard at it. It only takes one person to decide they’re not going to cooperate and the wheels start to come off. I’m proud of us all.
- Mark has two sons. They were three and seven when we met, so I feel like I’ve already watched them grow up and change a lot. I was conscious of taking things equally slowly with them when we met. Mark’s eldest son is very serious and sensitive, and thinks the world of his father, so he found his parents’ separation quite difficult. I wanted him and his brother to see they were still his dad’s priority but there’d been room for all of us. One person wouldn’t replace another.
- Five years later, Mark’s sons and I have developed a good relationship. There’s a trust there. But I’m not their mother; I’ve never tried to be. Similarly, my son only has one father. But I refer to Mark as his ‘bonus dad’. I know other families might do things differently to us and some people hate the term ‘step’, but we don’t have an issue with it. This is just our situation.
- My son loves Mark’s boys. His stepmother also has two boys from a previous marriage, so he has four step-brothers in total. Then, two years ago, a little sister came into his life. To think I worried one day that he might never have a sibling!
- Mark and I thought long and hard about whether to have a child together. We already had three children between us and Mark’s a bit older than me, so he’d considered his nappy-changing days long behind him!
- I, meanwhile (always an overthinker!), worried about my son. Would he feel pushed out? Would he decide I loved him less? He was my world and I was his.
- Even when I did fall pregnant, I spent most of the nine months feeling a nagging sense of guilt. For six years, it’d just been him.
- All my worries were quashed the moment he met my little girl. Another sister. They have the most magical relationship – her face lights up the moment he walks into the room and no-one can make her laugh like he can. I now realise I gave him an incredible gift.
- Mark’s boys stay with us every other weekend – the same weekend my son is here – and our house isn’t big, so with our daughter as well, it can be chaotic!
- Because there’s such a large age gap between the boys and our daughter, Sam will often take them out to play football and let off some steam while I’ll have our little girl. It can feel like Sam and I don’t see much of each other those weekends, but we very much consider the kids as the priority. They come first. And that’s true of every parent I know!
- The following weekend, it’ll be just us and our daughter. Sometimes, we’ll ask our parents to babysit, so we can spend time together alone and we’ve been away for the night a few times since our daughter was born just over a year ago. I know some people find it hard to leave their children for the night, but I am a big believer in working hard on your relationship, too. Experience has taught me that sustaining a relationship and keeping the spark alive doesn’t just magically happen. Family life can be stressful!
- If anyone were to ask my best piece of step-parenting advice, I would always say you need to see it from the other person’s eyes. Your child’s eyes, partner’s eyes, their child’s eyes, your ex’s eyes…you need to empathise. It isn’t easy; there are many moments where it feels you’re at the bottom of a long list of people but often, when I feel angry or frustrated, I stop and put myself in that person’s position and everything’s clearer. I start to understand why they behaved that way or how they’re probably feeling. This isn’t just about me. Our family is one great big balancing act.
- I often daydream about one day in the future – maybe my son’s wedding or graduation – where this big, beautiful, blended family of ours will all be celebrating together in the same place, the seams barely visible, and I’ll look around and think, yeah – we did alright.
Blended families are such hard work but beautiful—looks like you’ve done a great job!
Congrats! I wish my blended family could me more like yours!