Don’t take it personal: a guide to not losing your shit when blending a family

Having a leading role in blending a family sounds kind of exciting and modern, doesn’t it? These cumbersome beasts are all the rage these days, given the crappy marriage statistics. But despite the cute picture offered to us by the Brady Bunch and Blended, life in a real blended family can suck big time.

You and your partner have made a commitment to each other that allows you to hang out, have sex, play happy homemakers, halve your rent or mortgage, watch gooey movies, wake up with someone you adore, make fresh pasta or whatever other cutesy stuff you crave.  These are pretty compelling motivators, especially the shagging! But for the kids, the upside is not always so awesome.

Now, I am not suggesting you shouldn’t pursue happiness with a new partner if you or he have small people. Not at all! You are awesome and completely deserve to be happy, but keep in mind that everyone in the household is not as drowning in oxytoxin as you are. So don’t take it personally when the kids sometimes do whatever they can to rip off those rose-coloured glasses you’re wearing and grind them into the dirt.

In situations like these, everyone bangs on about what we should do to make sure the kids are okay.  Well this time, let’s focus on what we need to do to keep ourselves as sane as possible and still enjoy all this without hurting anyone.

Tips for blending a family without doing too much damage

Don’t take crap.

Even if you are lucky enough to have landed in a relationship where the kids like you, kids are kids and even the nicest ones can sometimes be monsters.  You can’t make them treat you the same way your own kids do. But you have every right to feel safe, respected and comfortable in your own home, and you CAN and SHOULD insist on this. You shouldn’t feel like you need to go out or hide in your room when his children visit. If they are rude to your face, you are totally welcome to be firm and insist on civility and respect, but don’t expect fawning adoration. Even the most rockin’ child in a newly blended family is going to have days where they think you suck. Manage your expectations and you will have a much easier ride.

Be considerate.

If you plan on insisting that the new members of your tribe treat you well, then make sure you show them the same courtesy.  Make an effort to provide them (within reason) with what they need to feel at home in your and your partner’s home, and leave discipline to Dad for the time being. Never allow them to hear or even suspect that you aren’t a fan of their mum and maybe relax a few of your existing “family rules” to give them some comfort if doing so is possible and safe.

Remember you are still your own person.

No matter how domestically blissed out you are, you need to keep up your own interests, friends and hobbies. Make sure you find things that fuel you, spend quality time with your own kids and don’t let this new blended status define you. Your partner’s kids will see that you are an interesting person in your own right, not just a leech sucking all the available love out of their dad. Getting away and doing your own thing will also keep you sane and give you time to process all the pissed-offed-ness likely to crop up when you are trying to pull off this crazy merger.

Jealousy is not a good look.

Your partner loves his kids, right? And there is every chance he doesn’t see as much of them as he would like these days and is a bit guilty about the emotional damage divorce has inflicted on the them. So when he does see his kids, he is likely to be a bit of a pushover as far as they are concerned. It may look like your spunky new partner becomes a one man cuddle factory, bank and toy shop all in one when his kids visit. Make sure you guys have talked budgets if you have shared funds or financial commitments, let him know privately if you think he is going over the top with the guilt-based carnival and make sure you manage how your own kids view all this excess. But other than that, in the words of Elsa, “Let It Go”, babe!  Dads give love in different ways than mums.  They tend to show love rather than chat about it, so cut them all some slack. If it is driving you nuts, then put on your exercise gear, go for a walk/swim/run/ride and come home when you remember he loves you AND his kids.

Remember why you are doing this.  You love him, he loves you, and you have made a decision to share your life. Yippee! The kids will eventually go to bed and you two can then revel in all the cool stuff that comes along with it all.

Good luck!

PHOTO SOURCE: Awkward Family Photos

Have you blended families? Or grown up in a blended family? What are your tips?

Written By

I am a mid forties CEO and academic, mum to two, partner to one, step-pal to two, ex-wife to one as well as supposedly juggling a pile of other personal and professional relationships. Some days I love myself sick and think I am nailing all this craziness like a boss, other days I appall myself with just how chronically I am screwing up the minefield that is my life.

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