11/01/2013 12:12 pm ET

What We've Learned From A Decade Of Blended Family Life

As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we're spotlighting a different stepfamily to learn how they successfully blended their two families together. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we'll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!

This week, Gwen Rouse shares what she's learned from more than a decade of raising her blended family. The advice that stood out to us the most? Gwen's assurance that life becomes a lot easier when you embrace your stepkid's biological mom. Read what else she had to say below.

Hey Gwen. Please introduce us to your family.
My husband, Ricky, and I been together for 11 years and married for 5 years. We have seven children together: there's my oldest daughter, Rachel, then there's Rae’Monte, 18; Ricky Jr., 24; Brandon, 22; Darius, 23; Lnise, 20; and Tryrick. who's 16. Counting of our two grandkids, we have 11 family members in all!

What have been some of the biggest challenges of blended family life?
The biggest challenge was early on. My husband moved into my house which I had been sharing with my two kids, but at the time, my daughter was living on her own. My daughter was definitely not happy with my husband’s kids staying in her house she grew up in every weekend and during all the holidays. She felt like she was replaced by my husband’s kids. My relationship with her suffered the first couple of years because of this issue, but eventually, she started coming around and enjoyed spending time with her her stepbrothers and sister.

What do you love most about your family?
I loved all the love I receive from my kids and stepkids. Going to family reunions, heading to the movies together -- it's all great with them. And since I love to shop, Christmas is always great. When the kids were younger, we used to have movie night at the house on Fridays. We'd rotate each week who would select the movie for the night and it was so much fun.

What makes you proudest of your family?
The fact that we all worked very hard at making this blended family work -- and that includes my step-children's mother. She was always glad to get the breaks she got when the kids would come over to the house during the weekends and holidays.

What's your advice for new blended families struggling to keep it together?
You really have to go into your re-marriage knowing this is going to be one of your biggest challenges ever, but that you can beat the odds. The mother/wife of the blended family must fully take charge of the situation because it’s her life that will be altered the most. And when the mother/wife of the blended family needs a break, she better take it and let the other mother know you need a break and that it's her turn to have all the kids. The two mothers must put all hard feelings aside for this to work.

Scroll down for more photos of Gwen and Ricky's family.

If you'd like your own family to be featured on a Blended Family Friday, please email us at divorce@huffingtonpost.com. We're looking forward to hearing your story!

Meet Gwen And Ricky's Family

Keep in touch! Check out HuffPost Divorce on Facebook and Twitter.