DIVORCE
12/05/2014 11:41 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Best Advice For Parents Blending Their Families

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! Want to share your own story? Email us at divorce@huffingtonpost.com.

If you're a parent in a blended family, you know that those first few years can be rough. Our reader Clare Cashman and her husband Mike are right in the middle of those years.

"We married in September, so we're just embarking on the adventure," Clare, a mom to two and stepmom to three, said. "Four of our kids are teen girls. With five women under one roof including me, there is always someone who's a little cranky," she joked.

Below, Clare shares a little more of her family's story.

Hi Clare. Want to introduce us to your family?
Sure. My husband is Mike. He has three kids: Julia, 17; Maddy, 15; and Lauren, who's 12. I have two kids: Jac, 14, and Tess, who's 11. Mike and I have been together for two and a half years and just married this past September.

claire
Photo by Claire Del Net

What have been some of the biggest challenges so far?
Dealing with the constant pile of odd sock and mismatched clothes after we do the laundry! No, the biggest challenge is dealing with the day-to-day scheduling for the whole family and making sure all the kids are where they need to be. We are incredibly organized and like to refer to our family as a well-oiled machine!

We had the challenge of initially living in two separate homes which the kids and my husband and I found frustrating. Finding a new home that was big enough for all of us and that could also accommodate being close to the kids' other parents -- and close to four different schools -- was quite the process. But we'll finally all be under one roof this new year. We are beyond excited and the kids are only complaining that they wish it was sooner.

What's the best thing about being part of a blended family?
Laughter. Lots of it. There is constant chatter in our home and the kids are all very sweet with each other. They help each other, protect each other, challenge each other and tease each other. At the end of the day when we all sit down at the dining room table, the laughter and comedy that ensues is worthy of a sitcom!

The meals we make together are also a big bonus. We cook huge amounts of food because we all love to cook. Thank God for Costco! Meals are important for us because it's a time we can all sit together and catch up.

What makes you proudest of your family?
There is an immense sense of pride that we have when we look at our new family. It has been a challenging few years getting to where we are today and making sure that all the children are happy and adjusting well. My husband and I are incredibly proud of every single one of our children. They are all wonderful, sweet, kind and funny kids. We are proud of how they have adjusted and how they have welcomed the other parent and new siblings.

What advice do you have for parents who are in the process of blending their families?
Focus on your own home only. You can only control what happens under your roof so make it the happiest, calmest and most secure it can be. Give the kids time to adjust. Let them talk and actually listen to your kids. Make sure they are all getting equal attention. When you're in a new relationship, it's so important that they're all still getting their needs met from their parent.

And more than anything, try to have fun together. Laugh a lot. Lead by example. My husband and I are a team, both as parents and as partners. We work out what needs to be done together. It is the only way to manage five kids! We are also extremely respectful and loving towards each other. The kids see our marriage example and learn from it.

But the truth is, there are going to be trying days where you'll collapse on your bed and and go, "Phew, somehow we did it!" and then high five.

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