Episode 23

Motherhood Unmasked with Vanessa A. Harris Episode 23 Blended, Not Stirred

Blended, Not Stirred

There’s an art to blending a family. You can’t just stir everyone together, cross your fingers and hope it works out.

So, if you already have a blended family and figured that out the hard way, or you’re contemplating blending a family, let’s talk about what it truly takes to have a family that’s blended, not stirred.

Homework: Counseling, Connection, and Communication

We talked about the importance of this trio in today’s episode. So I created a handy printable that reminds you to prioritize them. Click HERE to sign up for my email list where you can access this resource and more!

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Episode 23 Transcript

Blend, don’t stir. No, this isn’t an instruction for making an intoxicating beverage. But it IS the method for successfully establishing a new family with children from previous relationships. And we’re talking about it in episode of 23 of Motherhood Unmasked.

Hey there Mama Bare. Vanessa here with compassion, candor and clarity for you, the mom battling overwhelm and craving real talk. It’s good to have you here.

Well, I’m coming out the gate with a heavy topic that’s the family dynamic I grew up in, and it’s one that gets pretty hairy during the holidays, especially when a funeral gets thrown into the mix. While the show was in hiatus, a week before Thanksgiving, one of my older sisters, Pauline, gave up her fight with cancer.

And I choose those words carefully because she was always a fighter—which explains how she survived 4 years with end stage cancer. But the fight got old when compared to eternity with Jesus, so she gave it up. And while I’ll miss her fiery spirit and fashion sense, what I’ll miss most is what could have been.

If you’re my age, you probably grew up watching the Brady Bunch. Carol Brady brought her 3 kids and Mike Brady brought his 3 and it all just worked! Well, my family dynamics were NOT that.

I’m the only child of both my parents. My 3 older siblings are from my parents’ previous relationships. And let’s just say the blending left a lot to be desired. Because, if you need intention, patience and vision to raise children of one union, you need it 10-fold when combining a family from multiple unions.

Especially if the goal is to create a family that’s blended, not stirred.

When I think about that I’m reminded of one of my favorite actors, Sean Connery, who just passed away in October. Talk about an actor who embodied a role! I don’t care how many other actors have or will play 007, I go on record to say Sean Connery IS James Bond—period!

Anyway, James Bond’s signature drink is a martini (say it with me if you know) shaken, not stirred.

Now I had my fair share of alcohol back in the day, but I never tried a martini, so I don’t know how different a shaken versus a stirred martini plays on the tongue. But when it comes to an atypical family tree, I KNOW the difference between a blended one and one stirred together.

A blended family takes into account the family is more than a couple coming together; it’s family units coming together.

So, the couple prioritizes establishing parent with non-biological child connections and non-biological sibling connections BEFORE marriage as much as establishing the couple’s connection itself. And that takes time and the processing of all kinds of legitimate emotions, because when you’re building a family, just like building a house, you have to get the foundation right.

Both of my sisters are 13 years older than me, and while I grew up in the house with my dad’s daughter, I didn’t meet my mom’s daughter, Pauline, till she was 18 when she moved here from Jamaica. I was 5. And That’s A LOT to take in when you’re 5. And I’m sure you can imagine the fireworks that pop off when you expect one 18-year-old girl to share her room with another 18-year-old girl she barely knows and who has a chip on her shoulder because she’s just now joining the party as it were.

Can you say non-stop drama?

And it stressed me out because I felt caught in the middle. I was already one sister’s shadow. In fact with my mom working nights and in school, my dad’s daughter was like a second mom, but I saw the chance to get to know this new sister as an adventure. An adventure that fizzled out real quick because my sisters didn’t get along.

And the non-stop competition was something that young women didn’t ever need help falling into. And oh, my brother, my dad’s son and the oldest child, remained blissfully unaware of all of it across the pond in England.
So, you see how you can’t just stir people together and call it a family? Not if you want the love and bonding a family can provide.

It wasn’t until we were both adults that Pauline and I established a relationship on our own terms. And I got to hear the pain from her perspective.

You know it’s true when they say your kids didn’t ask to be here. Like it or not, it’s up to us parents to set them up for success in life. And I’m not talking about a financial portfolio, although if you can do that too, that’s awesome.

But I’m talking about success as people who love, show compassion, and consider others before themselves.
And kids only do that when we love them, show them compassion and consider their needs before our own.
Pauline and I got to love and respect each other as sisters before she passed, but there was so much time wasted, so much we still didn’t know about each other.

And that’s the sad part.

But this story ends in victory. My mom and I visited her not long before she passed and while that put a smile on her face, you should have seen it when I got my other sister on the phone to speak with her. They laughed and cried and said they loved each other—for the first time ever.

So though our family dynamic as a whole is still funky, thankfully we came full circle on that front. Not every family does and it shouldn’t take decades to see progress.

It won’t just all work out. No, the kids won’t love your spouse because you love him. A strong family, especially a blended one, takes work. And you and your husband need to roll up your sleeves and get to it.

And that brings us to a new segment of the show called HOMEWORK. And by homework, I mean the work a woman does to build her home and family.

Motherhood is my jam in general, but I’m particularly drawn to moms from broken homes who want to build better ones. And if you’re contemplating blending a family or have a blended family and you KNOW things aren’t gelling the way you’d like, I have three assignments for you. Don’t worry, they won’t be graded.

But before I go through them, I want you to know I created a handy printable for you to hang on your fridge or, wherever works for your family, as a friendly reminder of what I’m about to go through. It’s my gift to you that you can access along with all my other resources when you sign up at vinelifefaith.com/podcast.

So, the three areas you should address are counseling, connection, and communication.

You already know there are a lot of moving parts when combining different family dynamics. There are complicated emotions to process and everyone may not feel comfortable being honest or even know how to express their feelings. So, family counseling PRIOR to marriage and certainly while newlyweds—if not beyond—communicates to the children in your life that they matter.

And allows a neutral third party to uncover hidden issues before they become a major headache.

Two, you and your fiancé or husband should spend time alone with each non-biological child to the degree they feel comfortable. For you, that’s anything from one-on-one chats in the kitchen to lunch dates or shopping trips. But just like you date their dad, they need assurance your relationship with them is as important as your relationship with him. Individual, regular dates doing things they like go a long way in communicating you’re invested.

And speaking of that, the third area is communication, communication, communication.

No relationship develops or survives without it. And blending families is not for the squeamish. So, if your non-biological child can’t share honestly with you about their challenges or concerns about how the family will flow and function, then that’s your problem, not theirs.

Counseling will help with that, but you have to be secure enough to respect feelings you’re not thrilled to hear, in order to respond in a way that builds connection. See how all those Cs work together?

Now obviously none of these are quick fixes, hence the need for intention, patience, and a vision for how you’d like your blended family to function and feel. But if you’ve been stirring your heart out trying to mix everyone together and wondering why it’s not working—now you know.

Now in the thick of daily life it’ll be a challenge to keep all these Cs in mind so if you’d like that free printable to help you out, sign up for my weekly email at vinelifefaith.com/podcast. And if you know a mom with a blended family, hit the share button and send her this episode. Moms don’t let other moms blend families alone.

Well, 2020 is almost over. Can you believe it?

It’s been a doozy for sure. And while there’s been loss in many ways, there’s also been the opportunity to build legacy. And though none of us knows what 2021 will hold, you know what I do know? When it comes to you being the mother of your children—YOU are the woman for the job. Take care.