Blended families: notes from the field

Vikki Iverson is a mom of a 1-year old, Rainier, newly standing and taking steps. She’s also the step-mom to her 12 year old son, Will. She’s cared for him since he was a toddler.

I talked to Vikki to get some ideas about how she has blended her family. One thing to say up front, Vikki knows she’s lucky. Not all families can count on this kind of support and love, even when they work hard at blended families and relationships.

With her husband Gus, Vikki has always wanted to have Will surrounded by the family that loves him. So for things like birthdays and special occasions, they always invite Will’s mom and grandmother to parties or gatherings. Further, the family often vacations together.

From the beginning Will’s mom, Kate, has always been welcoming. ‘Getting along’ has always been the goal and in general they have not had big disagreements. If it ever gets close, one family might say “this one is really important to me,” and the other family lets it go.FullSizeRender

Both homes are about 2 miles apart, which means that sharing time between the 2 houses is easy for things like getting to school and seeing friends. The moms work together to make sure that homework isn’t accidentally left at one house.

Vikki is a real estate agent and can mostly be at home during the day, working evenings and weekends. She took time from her career to stay home with Will during the preschool years, because all-day care wasn’t the right fit for him. “That makes us closer,” Vikki says, and adds that it was the best financial decision for both families at the time.

That time together means that she “never gets the ‘you’re not my mom’” line, because Will knows that she was there for him as a primary caretaker.

When she was pregnant, she wanted to assure Will that everything would stay the same, but they did change. The pregnancy was 7 months of morning (and evening) sickness, which made doing the regular fun things with Will a big challenge. Vikki says, “I would be napping when Will came home from school everyday.”

For Gus, husband and second time around dad, he was a little worried about a new baby, because he dreaded the possibility of colic. Rainier has been a relatively easy baby and that’s made everyone relax a bit. Will often asks when his homework is done, ‘can I play video games or play with Rainier?’

They are across the hall from each other, so Will hasn’t had to wake up with feedings or diapers much. Speaking of diapers, Will changes them! Wet ones, only. But Vikki thinks that that keeps it real, while keeping it fun and not a chore. Will also gives Rainier first foods and holds his hand when they walk. Even though Will didn’t want to sit on Santa’s lap this year, he wanted to go with Rainier to see him enjoy it.

Vikki says she “feels really lucky” that it’s worked out so well and that the work they have done to bring the families together is not always possible.

I’ve met quite a few families in PEPS Groups where either mom or dad has an older child and the newborn has a step-brother or sister. Christine is mom of a newborn, Maya, who were in a group I recently led. She’s also a step-mom to Henry. Like Vikki, Christine has been both intentional and loving in bringing together her whole family with the arrival of a newborn.

When I talked to Christine a few months after our group ended, she said she would be glad to be part of an article that showed something positive about bringing home a newborn and including your spouse’s older child or children. On the internet, she found a lot of negative experiences and discussions about the difficulties in blending families. “I wanted to share a more positive outlook on blending a family. I wanted to bring more attention to it,” Christine says about sharing her story.

Christine can tell that Henry has a sense of responsibility towards Maya and knows that what he does for her really matters. He’s learned a lot too, like recognizing her cues. For example, Christine made sure Henry knew that when Maya was crying she was communicating that she needs something. That way, he could understand that a baby’s crying is something more than just a loud, unpleasant noise.

Christine’s husband Frank has been conscious to spend just one on one time with Henry, but not in a way that feels separate. “It’s a whole family you’re trying to create,” Christine says.

Keeping Henry’s bedroom consistent has been important. Adding a baby to a house can mean a tight squeeze or doubling up for many families, but they’ve worked hard to make sure Henry was not displaced by the baby gear.

Christine says, “We’re really luck with Henry.” He had a connection with his baby sister right away. He’s been part of the whole thing and right away thought of the “big brother” type of things he could do with Maya. He was part of the naming process and he shares his opinions too, saying “we’re raising her to be a tomboy.”

And Maya? She really responds to her big brother with smiles and saves her biggest belly laughs for him.

About the Author


croppedlauraLaura has earned her keep writing copy around town, editing other people’s words and thinking about how we tell our stories to each other. Laura knows her commas, mostly – and admires good writing everywhere. She is an MLIS with a deep interest in books for adults and children. At home, she is the mother of 3 inspiring and demanding kids.

 

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