Tracey's TempoHis, Mine, and Ours
Our Life as a Big Blended Family
Every parent knows that raising a family of any size and structure is a challenge. Every child has their own personality and the bigger the family,the more of a Master Schedule/Juggler you become.Then there are mixed families; couples that marry, or remarry, partners that have children from a previous marriage or relationship. This is the case for our family. In fact, in our case, things are even a little more complicated.
When I was introduced to my (now) husband, Mark, I had two young children, a five year-old son, Garrett, from a previous relationship (one of those short-lived “what was I thinking” relationships that change the course of everything), and a three year-old daughter, Ainsley, from a previous marriage.
Mark also had two children of his own, eight year-old daughter, Emma, and six year-old son, Alex, both from a previous marriage. Almost six years later, we now have a four year-old daughter, Olivia, and one more on the way, due in late September.
As you can imagine, schedules often overlap and clash and it is just something we have to work through. Sometimes it is asking for help from one of the kids other parents, sometimes it is Mark leaving work early to help, and sometimes we just have to let something slip through the cracks, which is always a disappointment but sometimes just needs to be done.
With this dynamic, we not only have our own lives and schedules to work with and plan around, but also the schedules of three other families, my son’s father, my daughter’s father, and my step-children’s mother. Just to give you an example of our typical schedule, my children are both gone to visitation on Tuesday night and every other weekend plus Wednesday nights for my daughter and Thursday nights for my son and on rotating holidays. My step-children are with us every other weekend plus the rotating holidays.
My husband has class once a week and my oldest daughter has Girl Scouts once a week and 4-H once a month. My son races a 'Faskart' at the Indianapolis Speedrome from May to September and also plays baseball in the spring and summer and our youngest is playing softball for the first time this year, which adds more practices and games to the calendar. My step-daughter has regular choir performances and competitions and my step-son is usually involved in at least one sport a year whether it be basketball, wrestling, or baseball, as is the case for this year. To make things just a little more difficult, my step-children live an hour away from us. Keep in mind that this does not include any school functions, doctor’s appointments, or other outside activities like family gatherings, Girl Scout outings or youth group functions.
My husband works 50-60 hours a week, plus school and homework. For the past year, I have been fortunate enough to be home to take care of my oldest kids before and after school (a luxury I haven’t always had) and my youngest daughter during the day after preschool. My husband drives our youngest to preschool every morning on the way to work and I drive my two oldest to school. I have a two-hour window each morning, before picking Olivia up from preschool, to clean up, take a shower, to get ready for the day, to sit on the couch and stare at the tv, or take a nap (if I feel the need to, as pregnancy often lends). I also pick up my two oldest children after school each day and take them to any activity they might have scheduled.
Scheduling isn’t the only thing that affects our unique family. With so many children involved, all with their own individual influences, likes, dislikes, and (most definitely) personalities, there is never a dull moment in this household! We are fortunate to have a very fun, intelligent, and well rounded group of kids to call our own. They all hit it off pretty much instantly and have bonded very well. We have been told, on multiple occasions, that it is hard to say whose kids are whose or to even know that they are step-siblings at all.
It is interesting to watch them interact with each other too. My oldest (Garrett – now eleven) and Mark’s oldest (Emma – now fourteen) are like two peas in a pod and my oldest daughter (Ainsley – now eight) and Mark’s youngest (Alex – now also eleven) could not be more alike in almost every way. I often comment how they share the same brain or that they were cut from the same cloth!
And then there is the (current) youngest, (Olivia – now four) who truly does bring the family together. She is everyone’s buddy and has the brightest personality and greatest sense of humor I have ever seen in a child. But just like all siblings, they are bound to have their disagreements. They argue and fight just like all brothers and sisters do. But, inevitably, they make up and are their chummy selves once again.
Big families aren’t for everyone, but honestly, I don’t think that a small family is right for me. We have learned a lot over the course of the last several years and among these lessons, we have learned to support each other and have become masters at picking up the pieces that the other one can’t hang onto and at making sure we always appreciate everything everyone does for you, for the family, and for others.
We have learned that sometimes you just can’t do everything by yourself and even though you may not want to, sometimes you just have to ask for help. We work hard to make sure no one is left on the sideline and everyone knows they are loved and appreciated for who they are and we will work hard at this everyday for the rest of our lives.
Some people (okay, MOST people) look at us and say “I don’t know how you do it”, but we do it and we love it. Every minute of it – even the minutes that we’d rather not remember. Because, happy or sad, fun or fighting, tired or exhausted, it is our life, it is our family and these are our children. It may not be for some, it is definitely for us.
Read more about us next time in Tracey's Tempo.
"Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game." - Babe Ruth