07/31/2015 01:53 pm ET

How My Husband Went From Bachelor To Incredible Stepdad

A blended family is always a work in progress.

As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we spotlight a different stepfamily to learn how they've worked to bring 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! Want to share your family's story? Email us at divorce@huffingtonpost.com.

On Father's Day 2015, writer Shawna Wingert wrote lovingly on HuffPost about how her husband Mick has wholeheartedly embraced the role of stepdad to her sons. 

"Mick chose to be with [my] children," she wrote. "Unlike their biological parents, who just got what we got, he knew these kids and chose to be a part of their lives anyway. He tells them that, all the time." 

Wingert's blog was so touching, we asked if she'd share more of her story.  See what she had to say below. 

Hi Shawna. Please introduce us to your family. 

I brought two sons into my marriage with Mick. Our boys are 12 and 9.

How long have you and Mick been married? 

We have been married for almost five years.

Shawna Wingert

(Photo courtesy of  Shawna Wingert)

Mick was a single guy with no kids when you met him. What were those early days like? What's one problem you faced?

In beginning, the adjustment for Mick of suddenly having an instant family, after being a bachelor for his entire adult life, was difficult. We went into marriage thinking that it would be tough for the boys to adjust, but they were much more resilient than we thought possible. It was Mick who needed some time to get used to so many other people in his space all the time. 
Another problem that we face, over and over again, has been not blaming the other and trying to remember that we are on the same team. There have been way too many times, when Mick would accuse me of spoiling my son when he actually had a medical need or Mick would have a very valid concern and I would just dismiss it because "What does he know anyway? He's never had children." Time and time again, we find it's important to remind ourselves that we are in this together. We want the same thing -- a happy, functional family. We are on the same team. 
Plus, our 12-year-old has high functioning autism and an autoimmune disorder. Both were diagnosed after we were married, so neither of us knew or were prepared for the challenges that were in store. (Not that any couple really ever does!)

What's the best thing about being part of a blended family? What makes you proudest of your family?

Mick has been telling our boys since before we were married that he is the lucky one because he got to choose who his sons would be and most dads just have to take what they get. This kind of acceptance and love from their "bonus dad" has made a tremendous impact on them. For Mick and I, the best thing is feeling like we are in it together, trying to make the most of the people and time we have been given.

At the end of the day, even when it has been tough, we all really like each other and are happy that we get to be a family.

What advice do you have for parents and stepparents who are struggling to create a peaceful family dynamic?
In addition to seeking marriage and family counseling if you feel stuck (which we have done and will continue do -- this life is not for the faint of heart and there is no shame in getting some outside counsel when you need it!), we would say try to pick your battles.

So often the stress level and anger in our home is high because Mick and I are reacting to all the things we see that are wrong. When we stop overreacting to all the things and actually talk, we try to pick the one or two things we really want to see change and agree to just let the other stuff go for a while. For example, our bedtime routine was chaotic and crazy for a few months. This caused tons of stress, every night. Finally, we sat down and said, "What is one thing I can do, and one thing you can do to make it easier?" We both agreed to just do our one thing and let the other issues slide. It helped immensely and we both felt like we were equally contributing to the solution.

And our last bit of advice: If all else fails, load everyone in the car and go for ice cream. We have learned it is really hard to be upset when there is ice cream on the table.


Shawna Wingert


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