Mandy Nolan has 5 kids with 3 different dads. This is the reality of her blended family.

Mandy Nolan’s Christmas wasn’t a normal one. Not by most people’s standards, and not even by her own. It was what she calls a ‘3D Christmas’; one where the three dads (3D) of her five children are all under the same roof.

Speaking to Mamamia‘s No Filter podcast, the Mullumbimby-based comedian and writer said it was something she’d been wanting to do for a long time, the product of years of hard work on the various entwined relationships.

“Not all the dads like the other dads. But I’ve managed to get the dads to tolerate each other. Some of the dads really like each other, and then there’s a bit of Dad-taganism,” she laughed.

“It actually ended up OK in the end.”

Mandy, who is the host of Mamamia‘s upcoming divorce and separation podcast, The Split, relishes in her beautiful, blended family; one made of her ex husband, her ex partner, her current husband, and her five children aged between 10 and 23.

“I think it’s because I didn’t have a dad, now I’ve given my kids three dads,” she joked.

For more of Mandy’s story, listen to No Filter.

Mandy acknowledges that while all the children are loved by their fathers, the setup is far from simple.

“You wouldn’t ideally put kids in a situation to make it this complex and confusing. Fortunately, there hasn’t been court cases or terrible acrimony. There’s been arguments and there’s been resentments and there’ve been times where you’ve probably said things you shouldn’t have said, but it hasn’t escalated into anything else,” she said.

“I reckon as the kids get older, if you’ve got to separate a family you’ve got to take things into consideration like, ‘Well, are we all going to attend this person’s significant birthday, an 18th or 21st? Or what if they get married?’ They’re the things that if you don’t actually find a way through, in the end it’s actually hard on the kid [as well as you as a couple].”


It’s in her eldest that Mandy most sees the product of their complicated family makeup.

“She always had a loyalty to her first dad, but then he was kind of off the scene and he wasn’t able to be present. So she then felt that ‘I’m not the same’ when the next dad that came through was a loving relationship. She held herself a little bit apart,” Mandy said. “And then by the time [Mandy’s current husband] John came along she was eleven or twelve, and so she’s not taking on another dad at that time.

“So she had adolescence with some pretty confusing issues around her parents and around her mother’s availability. I think she would have just liked me to be on my own.”


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Sometimes you have to travel half way around the world to have a family dinner

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Though Mandy did her best to shield her eldest from harm, to model respectful relationships with her ex partners, she knows that didn’t protect the then-adolescent from feelings of abandonment and rejection.

“As a mum, I do take a lot of responsibility for my decision making, and the way I’ve lived my life, for impacting on my kids,” she said. “As much as I try to minimise harm to her, she was particularly affected by stuff that happened. But she’s very articulate and she’s come a long way; she’s quite an amazing young woman.”

Mandy said it was the birth of her youngest, Ivy, that helped anchored her eldest through difficult times, and it’s she who ties them all: “I named her after my grandmother, then I realised ivy is a vine – she’s like a genetic vine, the only one genetically connected to everybody… Ivy was incredibly important to keeping this family together.”

Of course, the best part of a big, blended family… love, lots of it, from all sides.

“We have a great deal of love for each other, and we have so much fun together,” Mandy said. “You know, everyone’s got very different, distinct personalities, but they’re all really funny. We laugh a lot. We’re pretty outrageous. We’re not your normal family… we’re like the Addams family but without the costumes.”