When my husband and I got married, he had four kids between the ages of four and twelve. My husband’s first wife had died in an accident a few years earlier. I had been a teacher and went from living on my own, to married with four kids overnight.
Every blended family comes from different circumstances and is unique, but I think there is something that they all have in common – successfully blending families is hard work! We are definitely not perfect, and we have had a lot of failures along the way, but I believe there is one thing I have always strived to do that has allowed us to be as successful as we have been – creating a safe place for the kids’ memories.
The kids and I have always gotten along well, however I knew that could change quickly and we could have lots of issues on our hands if they didn’t know that their memories of their mom and their feelings were safe with me. Just because she had died didn’t mean she wasn’t still incredibly important to them. Their past and their memories were tied up in her. And so from the beginning I worked to create a safe space for her memory within our family. We talk about her often. We keep pictures of her around the house. We celebrate her birthday, take flowers for Mother’s Day, and commemorate the anniversary of her death. I know what recipes she made that are their favorites and make sure that they get made every once in a while. Traditions that she had that are important to them we continue to do. They know that they can still love her, miss her, and talk about her whenever they want. They know that they can love her AND love me.
Don’t get me wrong, I have never tried to replace her or mimic the life that they had before. I am still very much me and we have made our own family culture with who we are now. We do things differently. We make our own traditions. I just make sure that there is always a place for the memories of their mom within our home.
Some days it is hard. It is never easy to follow behind someone. It brings up fears and insecurities, and some days after the kids are in bed I cry because it is a lot to handle. But they never see that, because I don’t want them to every stop talking to me about it. I don’t want them to ever worry about hurting my feelings and suppress what they are feeling. And as time has passed and we have made our own memories, it has gotten easier.
While this applies to my husband as well, it is different. He also needs to know that his past and memories are safe with me, but we have had to make rules along the way to make sure it never causes issues between us or creates insecurities that overwhelm me. While I never let the kids know when it is hard for me, I do talk to him about it. It is a work in progress; we still work to find that balance, but I know that our relationship is stronger because of it.
I honestly believe that this concept is key to making a blended family work, regardless of the situation that brought the family together. Home cannot be a safe place unless kids know that their memories and feelings are safe there. It’s hard, but it is so worth it.