I recently asked Ryan if he would be willing to be interviewed for a blog post on blended families. I thought it would be interesting and insightful to have a guy’s perspective on a touchy subject.
He and I have noticed a trend throughout the years. If I write on being a mom to children who I did not birth, write honestly about the difficulties that I’ve encountered and my feelings towards it all, I often receive backlash with one or two people going so far as to call me an evil step mother. But – if Ryan, a man, writes almost verbatim what I say, he is heralded as a hero towards four, fatherless children. I’m not sure why there is so much hatred towards mothers – particularly mothers who raise motherless children, but it is the reality of the situation most of the time - men are given far more grace than women are when it comes to blended families. Maybe it goes all the way back to the garden of Eden and Satan's attack on Eve but that's a different post.
Our family is currently five years into a blended family dynamic, and we are in no way experts, but we do live this reality day in and day out. We don't get breaks when the kids go to the other parent every other week or whatever it may be. We have all eight kids all the time so perhaps we have an insight or two that might be helpful.
Alrighty… Here goes:
What is the most difficult aspect as a husband being a part of a blended family?
Initially, making an effort to let you run a household the way you wanted to and not how I was used to having it run. I had all of these preconceived ideas about how a house should be run without realizing you were a new woman, with her own thoughts and ideas, and I needed to respect that. Today, five years in, we are in a much better space. I let you do your thing.
What have you found to be the best way to handle this difficulty?
Give you some space and lots of communication
What is the most difficult aspect as a Dad in a blended family?
Hmmm I think the mom part is way more difficult than the dad part. As a dad, you want to have a connection with the new kids but it's like when you have a new bio kid, it's just your new kid. I guess it's harder to give love to my bio kids the same way they were used to before the blended family because it might come across the wrong way to the new kids and my time is so much more limited with 8 kids.
And positive way of handling this?
Do your best to love them all the same - even if the feelings are different. The kids shouldn't feel the difference if at all possible.
Are there different feelings towards your adopted children and bio kids?
Yeah, there has to be. The hardest part is admitting it. Of course I have more of an instinctual connection to blood children I've known since birth. It's human nature. As time goes on my bonds grow deeper with my adopted children.
What have you discovered to be an effective discipline method for the kids across the board?
How do you prioritize your time among so many kids, obligations? Wife?
Holy crap. You can quote me on that if you want… I think when I get a chance to have one on one time with any of them I do my best to give them one on one attention- teach them something, make a connection.
How did having a baby together change the family dynamics? For better or worse?
It's hard. We all love Annabelle. We felt like she would eliminate all divisions but she really didn't. There's still a division. Now it seems to be the kids and us with the baby because she gets a lot of our attention being a baby. It definitely created a special bond for us as a couple.
Why make a difficult situation more difficult by living off the grid so to speak?
What I see in the world is, if it's hard - give up. Life if supposed to be a little difficult. You're going to face adversity. It's a training tool for us, for the kids. You don't give up. You move forward. Goodness, Josh thinks I built this house! Our kids are learning sustainability and there's something to those skills. Not sure they'll use these skills someday but at least it builds confidence.
What are the positive aspects to blended families?
I enjoy learning about new personalities and new relationships and connecting to new people. To provide a father figure to four children who needed a dad. I work harder to be accountable.
What, if anything, do you want people to see in our family?
I want our kids to be respectful and to know that we are a team. We will stick up for each other.
How do you foresee the future with a blended family?
I see a future of not a blended family. A unified family. A successful blending.
Word of advice for blended families who are really struggling?
It's gonna be hard. Find other blended families and make friends. Focus on your problems and not all of the extended families issues. Stay true to yourselves and tell everyone else to get in line.
In one word, what makes blended hard?
In one word, what makes blended entirely worthwhile?
There's not a one word answer for that. It's not simple - there's a future in blended, there's hope in blended – that makes it worthwhile.
Just keep livin!!