As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we spotlight a different stepfamily to learn how they successfully blended their two families. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we'll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!
Every parent in a stepfamily has had a moment (multiple, recurring moments, even) when they've thought, "What did I get myself into?" The moments usually pass, but below, Jessica Warrick, a mother of four, shares some rock-solid advice for the times when those pesky doubts seem like they might get the best of you. (You can trust that she's an authority -- she and her husband have full custody of four children under the age of 9!)
Hey, Jessica. Want to introduce us to your family?
We have a family of six. There is me, my handsome husband, Michael, and our four amazing children; our future paleontologist, Taylor (9), our little artist, Jaylyn (9), our rockstar, Natalie (6), and our youngest and spunkiest, Brent (5), who we suspect will become a professional demolition man. Michael brought the girls into our family, I brought the boys.
(Photo by Amanda Evans)
How long have you and Michael been together?
Michael and I began dating in 2011. We married in June of 2012 in a beautiful, but absolutely insanely hot outdoor ceremony. My favorite memory of this day is our sand ceremony. All of the children had their own vase of sand they added to ours to symbolize the "blending" of our family. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about it!
You mentioned you and your husband have full custody of the kids. What's that like? What challenges have you encountered in the last few years?
Yes, our family is a little different than most blended families I know. My husband and I are custodial parents of all four children. I went from raising two little boys with dinosaurs and dirt to raising two little girls who had so much hair and way too many Littlest Pet Shop characters to memorize the names of. Needless to say, that transition was an interesting one. I read every book available at the library on parenting girls. I wouldn't say I have figured it out just yet, but I can say that I now have an addiction to bows and we have one in every color and one for every holiday!
On a different note, the hardest part for me would be the impossible task I assign myself of pleasing everyone, all the time. I have my husband, four children, exes and their new spouses, my family, his family, the exes' families that I try to please and answer to -- I oftentimes find myself in that "fix-it" mentality and have to remind myself that sometimes I have to step back and let others work things out on their own. I simply can not be everything to everyone all the time.
We face a few other challenges with our children. Taylor is on the autism spectrum and has several other health conditions. When he began having seizures and severe anxiety attacks at school, I quit my job and we made the decision that it would be best for our family for me to be home with the children full time and homeschool Taylor. That allowed us flexibility for doctor's appointments and therapy and gave me time to focus on his specialized needs in his education and health. With the girls still attending public school, I try to balance being the homeschooling mom running back and forth to doctors' appointments every week and the class mom, who brings crafts and snacks for the school parties the best I can. Figuring out how to provide for a larger family (and pay outrageous medical bills!) without my income is no walk in the park, either, thankfully my husband and I are able to communicate well and are on the same page. The children are our number one priority. Period.
What's the best thing about being part of a blended family?
Without a doubt, watching the bond between my children become stronger every day. It isn't always the big things that stand out and show the love between them, but the little moments, like catching one of the older children curled up on the couch with one of the little ones reading to them or how when something good happens to one, they can't wait to tell the other. I love seeing them cheer on each other whenever they try something new. Life can be tough sometimes and it is such a good thing for children to share these lifelong friendships. It gives them that support of never feeling alone, no matter what happens.
What makes you proudest of your family?
Manners and respect are two most important lessons we want to teach to the children. We strive to set an example of kindness and consideration of others and I am so proud when I see the kids put these values to use: responding with "yes, ma'am" or "no, sir," opening the door for someone, or just simply saying "excuse me" if they need to get by. The best compliment we receive about our children is how well mannered they are. I remind them showing respect will get them further in life than any amount of money ever could.
What advice do you have for parents of blended families who feel like they can't keep the peace?
Take the pressure off yourself to be "perfect." Let me assure you, it isn't going to happen. You are going to have a bad day where everything goes wrong, you are going to raise your voice and make the angry face (as my 5-year-old likes to call it). Your partner won't be perfect, either; he or she will make mistakes, you won't always agree on everything and you will both feel overwhelmed. The kids will have bad days, too -- days where they cry over broken Lunchable crackers (been there!), times where they will say they want their other parent. There will be moments of complete chaos and havoc will come at the worst moment possible and you'll think you can't do it anymore, but I can tell you from experience, those days don't last. Moments of craziness are quickly replaced with hugs, kisses, pillow fights and movie nights. The feeling of defeat gets knocked to the back-burner by feelings of more love than you ever dreamed possible. Pick your battles with everyone, including yourself. Don't sweat the small stuff, the laundry isn't going anywhere (trust me!), make time for yourself, even if it is a 10 minute shower alone. Remind yourself everyday that you have been given another chance at love and cherish that opportunity!
Scroll down for more photos of Jessica and Michael's family
If you'd like your own family to be featured on a Blended Family Friday, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're looking forward to hearing your story!