parent opinion

'I have a blended family. Here are 8 things I never expected.'

When I got married at 25, I never dreamed I'd one day refer to the experience as my 'first marriage'. I don't think anyone ever does. 

My parents are still married, and honestly, I enjoyed an almost perfect childhood. Those relationships are still strong, and my 'first family' - my parents and siblings - spend ample time together and absolutely love it.

Family holidays, special occasions, just-because catch-ups. I always hoped to give my own children the same experience, both now, and when they have children of their own.

But as they say, life is what happens when you're busy making plans. And while I planned to have the perfect nuclear family, things didn’t turn out that way. 

Instead, my kids became 'children of divorce', with 'mum's house and dad's house', and all the things we don't wish for - for ourselves or our children. 

And so we became a single-parent household. But we were happy. Peaceful and happy. 

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I wasn't on the dating scene. Didn't sign up to any of the apps. I just focused on providing the most fulfilling life possible for my kids, while dealing with the personal aftermath of separation. 


And then there was Adam. We'd met before, he used to coach my son in AFL, and we were loose acquaintances, seeing each other occasionally around the footy club. Until we weren't. He too, was a single parent, and we dated as often as we could around our personal commitments and responsibilities. 

Over time, we began mixing the kids - my three, and his two, all aged between three and nine. They'd met before too, having seen each other around the club, so there wasn’t that pressure of the grand introduction we often read about when introducing a new partner. 

Weeks turned to months, and things were… perfect. And when the time came to officially blend our families, it was a no-brainer. We'd talked about the big stuff - ensuring the children were treated equally, financial arrangements; we included vows to each other's children in our wedding ceremony - we were all set. 

We were the Brady Bunch. We called our five kids the 'Fab 5' and made them personalised matching caps, we started new traditions (family Santa photos, movie sessions, game nights), we combined our surnames and called ourselves the Wolbigans. It was corny, but joyous. 

And it was easy. Until it was hard. And fun. And messy. And chaotic. And amazing. And easy. And hard again. 

Several years on, I can honestly say, blending our families was the best decision we ever made, for all of us. But there were some things we weren't prepared for. Here are 8 things they don't tell you about blending families.


1. You will have to explain your family every time you go out together.

Almost every - single - time I take the five kids out together, someone will stop me to ask: "do they all belong to you?". A simple "yes" with a smile and a raise of the eyebrows is never sufficient. 

They'll stare for a little while, waiting for more, and if they don't get it, they'll follow with: "how old are they?". 

My rookie mistake was being specific with their ages instead of offering a range, and with two the same age, intrigue is quickly piqued. "Twins!?" they'll exclaim. These days, my automatic response to the first question is: "We're a blended family."

2. You'll use a measuring cup to pour drinks.

Look, all siblings are obsessed with things being equal, even and fair, but throw in a blended dynamic, and the obsession is even stronger - for the parents, anyway. 

When you have a mix of biological and non-biological children, your dedication to being 'fair' becomes next level. One glass has an extra millimetre of soft drink? Time to start again. 

3. You'll take things personally.

Let's face it, kids can be mean. Like really mean. And usually it's nothing personal, it's just kids being kids. And when they enter the teen years, the smart talking goes up a notch. 

For them, it's just part of their hormone driven day. But when you're a blended family parent, you'll take every little comment to heart. 

"They don't like me anymore!" you'll shriek to yourself. 

Your partner will do it too. You'll over analyse and overthink something that's more than likely, just a kid, smart-mouthing to the people that make the rules - 'the parents' as our kids like to call us. 


On the flip side, everyday gestures and moments of connection will make your heart sing.  

Image: Supplied

4. You'll struggle to find a house big enough.

When we first moved the family in together, the kids were aged between three and nine. The older four are boys. Sharing rooms seemed fun and exciting and the kids loved it. 

Fast forward a few years, and they often lament the shared space (though we still have trouble getting them stop chatting and go to sleep!). 


Throw those same boys into the kitchen scavenging for snacks while I'm trying to cook, and the same applies to me. Ever heard the expression, too many cooks in the kitchen? That is my life now. 

5. You will have no money. 

Everyone wants an ice cream? That'll be $25 dollars please. A dinner out? Make it a couple of hundred.

A request for a new t-shirt will make your stomach churn, especially when the request comes from a child who wants the latest brands. 

Having a blended family is expensive. 

Throw Christmas into the mix, and get ready for your brain to explode as you try to manage the budget and once again, try to keep things equal. 

6. You may forget what your partner looks like.

When the kids were little, evenings were spent playing board games and engaging in lengthy bed-time routines, while weekends were filled with family trips to the park or the beach. 

Then the kids got older, and sports training increased to twice a week, and game days became longer, and they developed a social life. More homework for the kids, a promotion for Adam, and new work projects for me, changed our collective workloads too. 

With a big family and a busy lifestyle, you'll feel like ships passing in the night at times. That said, date nights and family days are absolutely epic. 

7. You'll use it as a scapegoat for everything.

Families have problems. All families. But when yours is blended, it's easy to blame any challenges on the family dynamic and/or the choices that led you there. 

In my view, this comes down to 'mum-guilt' and that tendency to second-guess every decision you've ever made when things go wrong. 


But an angsty teen, money struggles, or a dip in your sex life can happen to anyone. It's called life. And more often than not, has nothing to do with the fact your family is blended, and more to do with the fact that you are a person who exists. 

8. You will be overwhelmed by your capacity to love.

There is something incomparably special about watching your partner parent the children he conceived as well as the ones he didn't (but you did) with the same amount of love and care. 

You'll wish you conceived them together, but you'll be grateful you’re doing it together now. 

Watching our five children have fun together is one of my life's greatest joys. And fortunately for us, they have a lot of it. As they get older and life gets busier, those times are less frequent, but when they are all together, the room bursts with positive energy and the happy noise.

We recently held our annual Christmas-tree-decorating session, complete with party food, carols, and dedicated Christmas ornaments (this year, with three teens and two tweens), and honestly, I thought my heart might burst. 

Loving my two bonus children has been the most beautiful experience, and having a blended family has taught me that the human capacity to love is endless.

Feature image: Supplied. 

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