One mom explains how she’s learned to adapt her order-loving ways to accommodate the busy but happy chaos of a blended family comprised of hers, his and theirs.
I always thought my life would be a simple one. Unconventional in spirit, but conventional in tradition, I firmly believed I’d be forever married to my high school sweetheart, raise our beautiful son, and live happily ever after. I liked order, control and being able to predict and plan my next move with ease.
However, life—as it so often does—threw me several curveballs in my 30s that saw a different ending to my planned family story. With divorce and finding the love of my life, Matt, in my mid-30’s, a new family picture emerged. Instead of being a mother to one child that I was so adamant would be the only, I became the step-mom to two of my new love’s children from previous relationships as well—a sweet autistic girl, Lexi, and very spirited boy, Adam.
Re-marriage and the official merging of our families a couple years later left us wanting more, and we gleefully decided to add one of our own children to the mix. Our baby girl was born this spring, making our family complete. Now four and a half years into our family story, we are the parents and co-parents of 12-year-old Adam, 8-year-old Wesley, 7-year-old Lexi and our baby girl Jovie. Our life is a busy one. A typical week is a juggling act of schedules, a flurry of extra-curricular activities, of drop offs and pick-ups, of shared custody arrangements, of sometimes difficult situations with difficult exes, and of navigating a seemingly less-than-typical life. But it’s our life, and we make the conscious choice to make it work every day.
The luxury of sometimes living life on auto-pilot is gone: a concept that did take a little getting used to for me. I learned the input of exes with whom we share children is unavoidable and has to be expected. However, my naiveté surrounding the expectation that everyone would get along for the sake of the children was quickly shattered by the deliberate and damaging actions of one very malicious ex-girlfriend who made causing misery her focus. But as every family does, we found our groove, and a way to shut out extraneous voices by turning the focus inward, insulating our family the best we could in the process—a necessity for a blended family such as ours.
But don’t mistake what I am saying. While unconventional to outside eyes, we laugh, we cry, we fight, we make-up, we solve family disputes, and bandage cut knees just like any family. We kiss and cuddle, never miss spaghetti and movie nights, create our own traditions, and answer tough questions about love, marriage, break-ups and divorce. Rarely is there a day without laughter ringing through our home, or a hockey game to get to, or a class assignment to help with, or unexpected adventures. And while we have our shared children only 50 percent of the time, we are 100 percent parents all of the time.
Have I had my moments of wondering why things didn’t turn out as I expected when I was first married? Yes. Those simpler days are now part of the past, but I am reminded daily that rarely are life’s blessings bestowed without pushing through moments of doubt during difficult times. Easy? Rarely. Worth it? Always. We are the new normal, and the new normal is messy, outside the lines, and bound together by great love.
This is #1000families post number 97. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.