My husband and I have been married for three years and between the two of us, we are one-child-shy of being the Brady Bunch. And that is the closest we come to having anything in common with the very-merry Bradys. Believe it or not, all that we have ever known to be holy, pure and true about that family we can just throw it out the window because yes folks, it’s pure fiction. I have not met one blended family that comes remotely close to the world of Brady-fanstastica that we spent endless afternoons of our childhood absorbed in. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
I understand that I probably just pulled the rug out from underneath those of you who may be headed naively into Blendedfamilydom, but trust me, you could save yourself thousands of dollars in therapy bills, books on successful ‘step-parenting’ and Prozac prescriptions if you will just accept the fact that blending a family is sometimes going to stink. Not just a little stink, but a skunk-in-the-room-just-sprayed-me stink. I have no doubt that I married the man I am supposed to spend the rest of my life with, but honestly, the past three years have been more challenging than trying to birth an elephant. And for the next six years, until the last little cherub goes on their merry way to college, there is going to be some more stink. Here are a few suggestions on ways you can avoid some stinkage in your blended family:
Accept the fact your spouse’s kids drive you nuts and vice versa. It’s true and please don’t act like you have that ‘they are my flesh and blood parental love’ for them because you don’t. You may grow to like them over time and even love them, but until then, just admit when they have pushed you to the edge and they need to remove themselves from within your vicinity as quickly as possible or they may witness one of your head spinning while spewing vomit episodes.
The kids were not friends before you got married and they probably won’t be after you’re married. Let’s face it, they wouldn’t hang out with each other on the playground at school anyway and just because they are now step-siblings does not mean this has changed. Don’t expect them to suddenly spend their evenings playing rousing games of Monopoly, eating air popped popcorn with real butter and throwing high-fives while watching reruns of the A-Team. They may just totally ignore each other for days and that’s ok.
When your step-kids come for their visit your spouse just wants to spend time with their kids. I have learned to tell my husband “Have a great week with your kids and I’ll see you for date night next Friday.” I figure I can share him for the next six years because after that, he’s all mine. Plus, allowing him to have all that time uninterrupted with his kids brings him great joy and come date night he’s a much happier man - which in the end is to my benefit. (Ladies, you’ll learn it really IS all about you and in a later post I’ll share more of these great tips).
Your spouse’s kids will probably hate the way you do certain things, like cook, so get over it. I happen to be somewhat of a Julia Child in my own mind and my husband will attest because he complains about the 20 or so pounds he’s added to his manly frame because of my cooking. But his kids are picky eaters and for one reason or another don’t like gourmet cooking and prefer steak and potatoes. That’s cool. I don’t have a problem accommodating them a few days per week, but on the nights I want Coq au Vin with steamed asparagus a la benedict there are an assortment of frozen burritos and hot pockets to their liking.
Get over being a neat freak – the quicker the better. Most of us do not have an ‘Alice’ and the more kids in the house the more dirty dishes, dirt on the floor, laundry, fingerprints on the windows, popsicle-stick garbage there is around the house. Assign chores if necessary but deal with the fact that as long as the kids are there you can’t expect a perfect house and it makes everyone miserable to do so. From now on just look up when walking through the house.
Now these are not psychologist-tested, non-medication Scientology approved methods, but they work for me and have brought some much needed peace to our household. And that is very-Brady indeed.