As part of our Blended Family Friday series, every week we're spotlighting a different stepfamily to learn how they successfully blended their two families together. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we'll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!
For our inaugural Blended Family Friday post, we'd like you to meet HuffPost blogger Elizabeth Denham's family.
Introduce us to your family.
There are seven of us total. Donald, 50; Elizabeth, 41; Hannah, 14; Jake, 14; Luke, 12; Joseph, 10; Nicole, 6. The boys came with me, the girls came with Donald. Now they are all ours.
How long have you and your spouse been together? When did you marry?
Donald and I met August of 2011. I broke all of my dating rules with him. I let him pick me up at my house, let him take me on a boat, and I didn’t Google him. We got married July 2012, 11 months and three days after we met.
What would you say are some of the biggest challenges of blended family life?
The biggest challenge of blending families, I think, is making sure each child’s needs are met and that they all understand that it may not always seem fair. We blended boys and girls. At their ages, they have had to adjust to privacy issues and differences with boys and girls that they have never experienced. We gave the girls the bigger bedroom upstairs with the bigger bathroom, which didn’t seem fair to the boys since the girls are only with us part-time. We made that decision to give the girls more privacy and to make them feel as if they are as important to us as the boys even though they are with us less. One boy struggled with this until I explained it, and then he remembered feeling less important in his dad’s house when he had re-married. He didn’t want that for the girls, and he hasn’t mentioned it since.
What’s the best thing about being part of a blended family?
Donald and I were both one of five children. It feels natural for us to have a gaggle of kids, and we both love the busy noisiness that comes with them. And the fact that we each get to experience having kids of the opposite sex makes it even better! The best part for us has been that our kids genuinely love each other. They introduce each other as brother and sister and never say “step.” They even seem to be more than “steps;” they seem biologically related. Jake puts milk in the pantry. Hannah puts kitchen scissors and glue guns in the bathroom cabinet. Luke puts juice in the cupboard. I thought it was oblivious teenagers until this weekend when we found potato salad in the tupperware cabinet left by Joseph. All we need now is Nicole to contribute and the Oblivious Five-fecta will be complete.
What makes you proudest of your family?
We are proudest of the fact that we are a family -- blended or not. When one has an event (swimming, lacrosse, dance, band) we all show up. It’s not always possible to be everywhere for everything, but we show up for each other and everyone knows they are important.
What advice do you have for other blended families who feel like a peaceful dynamic is out of reach?
First, as spouses, you have to trust that your spouse has your children’s best interest at heart as much as his/her own. When you do that, you can accept criticism from one another and discipline each other’s children without defensiveness and work together to solve problems. Second, make sure everyone has a voice in the family. We have regular family meetings (with some good-natured eye-rolling from the teenagers) to discuss issues when we notice any tensions going on. We encourage discussion of how they feel, what they worry about and how we, as a family, can address these issues. Communication is key, especially in the beginning.
If you'd like your own family to be featured on a Blended Family Friday, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're looking forward to hearing your story!