The Brady Bunch is a Lie.
There I said it. We all knew it, but I wanted to call it directly out. Blended families have little to no resemblance to the TV show of a picture perfect scenario of a lovely lady, a single dad and six kids perfectly matched in age, ability and acting ability…with a fantastic Mary Poppins-ish housekeeper and a dog (remember him?). I mean, really, where were the ex-spouses? The multiple grandparents? The friends who were friends with the last spouse and didn’t really like this new arrangement? The teenage hormones that make everyone terribly uncomfortable and might even create confusion of living with unrelated members of the opposite sex? Nope. Nothing real to see here, turn the channel and move along to the Jerry Springer show if you want something that won’t make you feel like a failure from the get-go.
Creating blended families with two adults and their kids from previous relationships was not something that prime time television was ready for back in the 70’s. This kind of drama was saved for daytime soap operas back in the good old clean days of television; except it never would have made it there either since daytime soap operas were more about who was shacking up with whom. In the reality of blended family adjustments, the sex lives of the couple is not usually what they get to spend much time on for a while (especially if the kids were Brady ages).
Blended families are not for wimps. They are also not impossible. They do take extra care, extra planning, extra patience and a whole lot of clear, compassionate communication.
Challenges Of Blended Families
Some of the biggest challenges that the blended families I have worked with have experienced include:
- Managing the neediness of small children (not wanting to share with the new parent)
- Navigating the anger, defensiveness or rebellion of teens
- Dealing with the jealousy and vindictiveness of former spouses/other parents
- Finding new ways to survive the holidays with several extended families involved
- Conflicting parenting styles and expectations of and from the children
- Adjusting to new living arrangements/new schools/less space
- Creating a new family story together
These are all common to new blended families and most of us did not have the benefit of seeing a healthy example to follow before finding ourselves figuring out how to do this ourselves. Very few of these challenges ever showed up for the Brady’s.
The good news is, blended families are much more common now than ever before and there is help available! The best place to start is right at home, between adults with a realistic acknowledgment that this situation is complicated. A commitment to each other and the well-being of all children is paramount to be done firmly and early.
What to do next? Go slow and get expert advice. The foundation of your new family is important!