You already know that blended family moms are juggling a lot–and so am I. For starters, I have two baby monkeys, Ella (9) and Cali (5). Beautiful, wonderful kids. My life partner, Sweet Princess Sarah, has two monkeys herself: Xander (10) and Halle (4). And yes, our home at times resembles a zoo. Neighboring monkeys running in and out. The fridge and the pantry raided. Handprints on all glass surfaces. I’m constantly plucking popcorn out of the sofas, stepping on Legos, and erasing the damage done by errant crayons and markers.
I wear many hats. One of my really big hats is my relationship fedora. I’m a lucky man. I could go on and on telling you about Sarah–how comical, entertaining, intellectual, and lovable she is. Love that booty. Love my job, too, and it holds my attention pretty well, but halfway through the day, I usually think to myself, What’s Sarah’s day been like, has she thought about me, and what kind of extraordinary meal will she be preparing me for dinner again? And then I text her.
The thing about a new love is that it is so compelling that you don’t always realize what you’re getting into. Blended families are complicated, and ours is no different. What you hope is that the love you’ve found stays strong, grows and keeps you motivated to bring a lot to the table as a blended family dad. There’s no room for wimps at this table–it’s a major mouthful to swallow. That’s not a complaint–it’s just reality.
When I’m tired of certain aspects of our blended family life, instead of looking for an escape, I get involved. I really think the key is being willing to put yourself on the line and be a part of sorting things out. A few examples:
The kids are super loud. I mean ridiculously so. When our four children are reunited after being apart at each of our exes’ houses, our home is filled with the sounds of their excited voices for three or four hours without a break. It’s intense, and quite frankly, I’m sensitive to sound. I feel my tension building, even though I’m completely happy to see the kids and thankful that they’re connected to each other. Instead of fighting the noise, I join in. I grab my guitar and play some music that not only entertains the kids, but jettisons any feelings I have of being invaded.
Sarah’s ticked off that I ________________ (fill in the blank). Or, I’m annoyed with her because she _________________ (fill in the blank). The ups and downs of relationships can be amplified in a blended family situation. Think your former marriage was rocky and your next one will be smooth sailing? Good luck with that. All relationships have their share of conflict. Hopefully you learned something in your previous relationship that helps you now. If not, there’s no time like the present to learn good relationship management techniques. That slogan “happy wife, happy life” could not be more true. When my relationship with Sarah is challenging, working out our differences becomes priority #1. I don’t like when arguments or negative feelings drag on, so I try to resolve things right away. Sometimes I attack Sarah with kisses, which are more powerful than words.
There’s never enough time to get everything done. I have a lot of responsibilities and interests. No matter how hard I try, I can’t fit everything into a single day or week or month. Despite the fact that I’m an amazing person with superhuman capabilities, time management is not among them. That’s the thing about blended family parenting: you can’t be too hard on yourself when it doesn’t go perfectly. If you drop the ball once in a while, or some of the things on your to-do list are left undone, there’s no sense in beating yourself up. Instead of shamefully tapdancing into the background, you move on. You figure it out. You do better tomorrow.
Author Info: Todd Ristorcelli is co-founder of Big Blended Family and is also the editor of WATERSKI magazine, a photographer and competitive water skier based in Central Florida. He is most proud of his role as a blended family dad of two daughters from his previous marriage and his partner Sarah’s two children.