As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we spotlight a different stepfamily to learn how they've worked to bring 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! Want to share your family's story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laura Young will be the first to admit it: Getting married to someone with kids takes a lot of patience. In the three and half years she's been with her fiancé Mark, she's tried not to force anything.
"I've realized the keys to successfully blending into a family over time are honesty, consistency and patience, patience and more patience," she told us.
Below, Young, who lives in Portland, Maine, shares more of her story.
Hi Laura. Please introduce us to your family.
There are six of us: Mark and me and his two girls, 15 and 14 and his two boys, 12 and 10. And then there is a pretty big extended family.
How long have you and Mark been together?
Three and a half years. We’ve been engaged for just over a year and a half now and are getting married in September. About a year into our relationship, we co-founded our start-up, X2X, Inc., in Portland, Maine to help separating and divorcing families better manage the chaos of post-separation life. We will be launching our app and software later this year.
When you first met Mark, what approach did you take with his kids? What kind of role did you want to take on in their lives?
I’m going to be really honest: walking into a relationship with someone who has four kids is pretty freaking intimidating. Mark and I spent quite a bit of time getting to know each other before I was officially introduced to his kids as anyone significant. The kids and I had a few meetings in passing before we started spending a lot of time together. I tried to approach them with the golden rule (it might sound cheesy, but it really works): treat others the way you want to be treated. So far it’s working pretty well and every day is definitely a learning experience.
What are some of the biggest challenges so far?
In the beginning it really wasn’t that hard. We were all getting used to each other and there was a cushion of polite distance until we all started feeling more comfortable together. Once that wore off, the hardest part for the kids was definitely finding the right label (we decided on just my first name, "Laura.") What was I to them? What were they to me? Answering these questions wasn’t as hard as it could have been because of my relationship with Mark. We talked everything through first and had a plan and most importantly each other’s support. I told the kids I am someone who will always do my best to treat them fairly and with respect. I am not replacing anyone, I’m just another person in their lives who is on their team and cares about them.
What's the best thing about being part of your partner's family?
I didn’t grow up in a very big family. Almost overnight I had this enormous family. While sometimes it definitely feels chaotic, I can’t imagine having it any other way. We laugh a lot. We talk a lot. We’ve learned how to do this not-so-cookie-cutter family thing together. I’m proud of how far we have come as a unit.
What advice do you have for other "newcomers" in families?
The very best advice I could give someone who is stepping into a ready-made family, or blending their own children into someone else’s, is to have a solid relationship with your partner; and I don’t use the term “partner” lightly. You two have to be a team. Talk about expectations with each other and the kids and then follow through. Honesty, patience and consistency are your best friends.
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