As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we spotlight a different stepfamily to learn how they successfully blended their two families. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we'll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!
Carissa Droesch, 31, is stepmom to three girls who range in age from 17 to 24. Given the small age gap between her and the oldest girls, she admits that there were definite concerns about what kind of role she'd play in their lives.
"That was early on, though," Carissa told The Huffington Post. "Seven years in, we've mostly figured it out. My husband and I firmly believe family is who you choose to love, not what you are born into."
Below, the mom of four tells us more of her family's story.
Hi Carissa. Please introduce us to your family.
My husband Chris has Bethany (25), Lauren (23) and Alexis (17). (His son Kyle passed away at age 18 before we started dating). I have Ariana, who's 13. We also have a sweet little granddaughter named Kylie who was born this past January. She's Bethany's baby.
How long have you and Chris been together?
We started dating in 2008 and were married in 2013. We were friends first. What attracted me to him the most was his relationship with his children. It was clear to me he was a great father. That becomes so much more desirable to you when you have kids of your own.
(From left to right: Ariana, Lauren, Carissa, Christopher, Alexis and Bethany. // Photo by Joanna McClenathan)
What have been some of greatest challenges of blended family life, especially early on?
The beginning was definitely the most challenging for me. With my age being relatively close to Bethany and Lauren's ages, I was worried about what role I would play and what they would think of me. It evolved naturally, though. I have more of a friendship relationship with them and less of a parenting one. They were already very independent when I met them. Alexis and Ariana, the younger girls, were always home on the same weekends so we were able to do more things together. In the beginning they both tried competing for our attention; Alexis didn't want to share her dad with me and Ariana didn't want to share me with Chris. Now they're both really close and usually team up against us!
What's the best thing about being part of a large blended family like yours?
There is just so much love. I wanted to spend more time together than just birthdays and holidays so we started doing family dinners. The first Sunday of every month everyone comes over for a meal. This is the happiest time for us. We usually play board games, eat, talk and laugh the night away. The little worries in our lives just disappear and we concentrate on enjoying each other's company.
What makes you proudest of your family?
I love that there are no "steps." The girls are sisters and we are family. I like that we are all welcome in each other's homes. I never used to understand why my husband would go over to his ex's house to help the girls with homework or their car or whatever. Now that my granddaughter is living there, too, I find myself doing the same thing. We all get along. Ariana spends time there, too, sometimes sleeping over.
How do you deal with stress in your household?
I don't! My husband is a very rational thinker so I usually go to him for advice. Ariana is the only teenager living in our house full-time so it is certainly stressful at times. The fact that my husband's been through it all already means he usually has great advice for me on dealing with teenage-related things. I benefit from what he's learned!
What advice do you have for other blended families who are struggling to see eye-to-eye?
Sometimes it is so difficult to remember that it is not about you. I am Chris' third wife and I was definitely feeling insecure when we first got together. As time went on, though, I have become close with Bethany and Alexis' mother, especially now that we share a grandchild. Peace is absolutely in reach but it requires two people who love each other to always look out for the best interest of their kids. You just need to support each other and your individual choices.