So You’re Blending a Family


Hi, my name is Megan, and I grew up in a blended family. Then I grew up to blend one myself.

blending a family

While the blended family {defined as a family consisting of a couple and their children from this and all previous relationships} is more and more common in today’s world, I haven’t stumbled upon a lot of people like me – who have seen it from both sides. It is a fairly surreal experience, I think, to have struggled with a step-parent or two, only to grow up and be one yourself. In many ways, I am uniquely equipped for just such an undertaking in my adult life. In others, I’m 100% making it up as I go. Having been on both sides of it, though, what I do have is experience. I know what it’s like to be the kid and I’m figuring out what it’s like to be the adult. It doesn’t make it easier, most days, but even on the days it’s not easy, I have been there before, and I have that to offer others dealing with either side.

The growing up part was hard, but worth it; the tight-knit family I have today is worth every argument, every tense dinner, every confusing emotion. I wouldn’t trade the relationships I have now, but I think it’s important to speak to the difficulties of being the kid in this scenario. The blending of my family meant I had a parent who lived somewhere I didn’t. I was trying to be my happy, normal self and adjust to many new things, but I was also just sad. Plus, however subconsciously, nothing and no one felt totally permanent, and that uncertainty was scary. Not to mention the fact that I was approaching tween-years – I wanted normal. I longed to be the same as everyone else, and felt this made me very much an other.

As an adult child of this upbringing, I am happy and fairly well-adjusted. The hard things did not ruin me, because, as I see now, they were flanked with love and consistency. I do not think my parents, biological or otherwise, did everything right, but they showed up, and loved me – things they are still doing today, in fact. And I am ok. Happy, even, with healthy attitudes about marriage and family.

It caught me very off guard, in my late 20’s, to find that I was falling fast for a man with a child. I was not expecting it, but the more time I spent with my now-husband and my now-daughter, I realized they were my people, and I was in for the long haul. I immediately became fearful of how this would go, remembering my own uncertainty as a child. I was finally getting good at being in a blended family – and now I had to learn a whole new role. I was terrified, to be honest, but here we are, making it work. Figuring it out. Doing pretty well, after all. And while we don’t have all the answers and I am not the perfect parent, I do think I’ve learned a few things worth sharing; whether you’re blending a family yourself, or just want to listen.


I think this is so important – to communicate openly with your spouse/partner-to-be, any children involved, and sometimes with friends and family outside of the blend, too. Pretending like everyone should be fine with no questions asked is not fair – not to any of you. First, talk to the person you’re planning to co-parent with. What does it look like, to parent together? What are their expectations? What are their worries? What are yours? Where and how do other parents factor in? Talking openly about these things made all the difference, for me. I knew where I stood and could start, confidently, from there. {Note: these questions are just a starting point. Might I suggest finding a really excellent counselor to help you navigate?}

It’s also important to talk with the kids. When we got engaged, we talked with our girl about what this meant, and what it would look like for me to be a part of her life. I told her I wanted to be a parent to her, while not replacing her other parents, and I asked her if that was ok with her. She said it was. Now, this could have been a harder discussion {and may be, for many of you} – but that’s ok. Had she said no, it wouldn’t mean I had to surrender my parenting badge right then and there – but it would have opened the door to a conversation. Probably a long one. Probably a hard one. But one that would be worth it. Make space for the hard conversations. Allow for hard questions. It’s ok if you don’t know the answers yet.

I wish for all of you entering into this the same support and acceptance from friends and family that we have known. If you find you’re not getting it, I’d encourage you to sit down with those people and explain to them where you are coming from, what your expectations of them are, how you would like your family to be supported and treated. You can say: this is my family, these are my children, please treat them as such. Be open to educating those who want to do it well, but don’t know how.

Don’t get bogged down by titles.

As I’ve written before, “step” is NOT a dirty word. Something I didn’t understand until I was much older was that it really didn’t matter what I called everyone, or how people viewed us. It’s ok for us {adults and kids alike} to use the words and titles we’re comfortable with. It’s ok to not use “step,” if that’s easier and everyone is comfortable with it. At the same time, choosing to say “step” isn’t derogatory. It simply provides a distinction. And people will continue to say things like, “well, that’s not your real mom/son/grandchild/etc” – and it will continue to not be true. Don’t let anything take your energy or your certainty from your family, who will continue to be real regardless of any of comments, distinctions, or titles, or what that other mom said at school pick up today. Teach your kids that what matters is how you feel about each other, and go from there.

Let it be hard.

This stuff is not easy, especially for kids. Even if it’s really good and healthy and you communicate out the wazoo, there will be days when it stinks to have parents who live in different places, to have to adjust to traveling back and forth, to not have the same kind of family as the kids in their class, to worry that everything might fall apart again. This is ok. This is normal, even. Be ok with things being hard for your kids so that you can help them be ok, too. Do your best not to be defensive, take it personally, or to tell them not to cry. Be reassuring and comforting, but let it be hard. Be there for the hard. Sit in the hard stuff with them.

Let it be hard for you, too. I hope for you an open line of communication with your significant other, so that when your feelings are hurt, you can cry. When you are sad because it’s hard, for your kids or yourself, you can voice that and be comforted. I hope that when you feel less than sure, they remind you of what’s real. This stuff isn’t easy. It’s not simple. That doesn’t mean it can’t be wonderful and rewarding at the same time. Pretending it’s not hard and complicated is only going to drain you. You’re a human person with feelings and you’re doing a hard thing. Take care of yourself and each other.

There’s so much more I could say, write, tell you – about what works and what doesn’t, what I’ve seen and experienced on both sides. We, as parents {biological and otherwise} will not do everything right. What I can tell you with certainty is that if your kids grow up knowing they are loved and that you will be there, they will be ok. They will survive hard things, and many good things will come as a result.

So, you’re blending a family. Take it from someone who’s been there – it will be hard. But it will also be worth it.


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