It has occurred to me recently that my boyfriend and I may or may not be 110 percent “ready” to live together yet, although I do find myself wanting to take that next step. Regardless, it’s a huge step in any relationship and adding kids into that equation is another whole story. While my boys are aged seven and four and my boyfriend’s daughter is seven also, it still makes for a reasonable concern we both have when considering the idea of joining our two homes. Moving in together without kids is hard enough but with the addition of children who will be affected by this it isn’t a light-hearted decision to be making.
This is not your typical overnight bad situation; it requires several conversations with your mate on the topic. While yes, it’s going to cause butterflies and give you both some excitement, it is also going to mean some real hard facts and figures about finances and rules.
Here’s a list of suggested topics you may want to discuss together before taking the plunge.
1: If possible, pick a new place to move into so you both have your must have needs meet. It is important to each find a place that works for you both separately as well as together. Making sure you come together and compromise when and where needed, will go a long way to a healthy relationship from the start of your new adventure together.
2: Along with #1, this includes adding your own personal touches to decorating the new place, too. Having representation of your own styles is going to count for some brownie points. You do not want one personality over powering the entire space.
3: Something new and something borrowed means that you each may want to consider having a family air loom or something of each family background to represent each of your own family’s history or traditions. For me this has been the small things, like family pictures hung or religious items that are showcased.
4: As someone who has struggled with keeping my finances private, I understand how scary this can be. Sharing your money and budgeting with someone can be a little intimidating. The thought of sharing things like utilities and bills is just one step closer to the “I do” possibilities. This is critical to talk about because otherwise you risk running into an episode of Jerry Springer. Some experts say you should keep your finances separate. I really cannot say which is right or wrong but do think at the very least a discussion is a must.
5: It’s no secret men and women alike can have some pretty unusual, quirky, or even intolerable habits. Know these before you make the final arrangements. This could save you both time and money. Plus, better to know what you can and cannot live with. If you get into the situation however, where you learn a new habit after moving in together, I suggest you find a reasonable and fair compromise that doesn’t involve sleeping in different rooms or him being banned into the guest bathroom. This move is a huge mistake many women have made for generations that I have personally seen ruin marriages. (Unless one of you is sick of course, then ban the sick one for preventative measure.)
6: Learning to compromise isn’t a born talent I have so it has taken me thus far 30 years to even begin learning it. I’d like to think and boost that I have come a long way in leaps and bounds. Maybe some leaps have looked more like skips or the occasional stumble but hey, it’s a learning process right? Right! Experience is the best teacher and this is no exception to the rule. Learning to compromise, talk things out and even share house hold duties, chores, responsibilities or costs is going to be important and being prepare for the time will help you. Take baby steps; learn to share the remote or take turns walking the dog. These may seem like silly things but from my own experience, they can become big things if no compromises are made. I liked the idea of one person cooking and the other cleaning up after the meal. This has proven to be a successful method and a good compromise.
Now let’s delve into the issue of meshing two families when moving in together now that we have covered the very basics. This is a sensitive time when kids are involved so I’d suggest putting on your “mom hat” and maybe the baby gloves, too.
Since my boyfriend and I have only lightly batted the idea around over a few text messages this is not something I can give much personal experience on however, I will give you my personal opinions, advice and my heart felt action plan for myself for the “if and when” comes.
Obviously it goes without saying but I will say it anyway just in case those butterflies have laps judgments as mine do from time to time: It will be critical to discuss what type of blended family you each want to create. If you each want something different you need to stop before you start planning and evaluate not only the idea of living together but also the relationship’s future.
Tips bullet points for meshing nests. The basics are critical to understand first and foremost.
1: With three children under age eight between us, I have begun researching helpful tips. I also have a wonderful pediatrician to whom I would not hesitate to seek advice from as well. Children’s counselors are also great advisors. It certainly won’t hurt to try any or all of these options. You may also want to explore the Internet for helpful tools and tips on the matter. There are some great advice topics like telling your kids you’re moving, how to help your kids with transition and family changes, disciplining with a new partner, boundaries before and after, and even quizzes to help you gauge your own readiness. There was even an article I found about creating a new blended family mission statement and having it on display.
2: If and when the time does come for my boyfriend and I to move in together, I have an action plan. It begins with talking to the children and making sure their their feelings are heard. Any time I have witnessed adults making these types of decisions I have seen all too often how children do not get a voice to be heard, which is sad. I feel that these kids will be impacted and affected so it seems ludacris to me that people do not give them a voice as well. I will want to ask these children questions like how they would feel, what they think some house rules could be, chores they would want to over, and house rules the adults will be enforcing. Rules such as “no jumping on furniture” maybe a rule that one parent has but not the other so it is better to get it all out there in the open beforehand so no one is surprised later on. This will also help the adults to determine if this is a good time for the kids as well. If there is underlining issues a child has with one of the other kids or an adult this needs to be addressed quickly and seriously. Allowing the kids to feel comfortable, safe, and valued during this transition will pay off.
3: Another thing I hope to do someday would be having it clear within the new meshed home of who is head of house. What is each person’s role within the home? Some experts say that a husband and wife or a girlfriend and boyfriend should never call each other “Mom” or “Dad” in front of children. They state it confuses children, especially young children about the role of each person. I again, cannot say if this is right or wrong but will admit on an occasion my boyfriend and I both have slipped and called each other “Mom” or “Dad.” I am unsure why so many people seem to do this but I know many who do and personally I haven’t seen a child question the role of a parent or adult as a result yet. Maybe I should calendar it in 20 years to locate the child (by then adult) to see if they feel it somehow screwed them up because their parents called each other “Mom” or “Dad” in his or her presence. That would make for a good follow-up.
4: Breathing techniques are required here. Kids are going to break things and create huge messes, learn not to sweat the little things and pick and choose your battles both with the kids and your partner. A bad day at work does not mean you can take it out on the other adult or the kid(s) so figure out what you each need in order to prevent meltdowns before they occur. A side note, never argue in front of children! Kids are super smart these days and one argument can send a kid into a frenzy or worse, a divide and conquer mode.
5: Kids will be kids, so this may be a good time to double check you each can handle each other’s kid(s). Sometimes it can be scarier if you each have different parenting techniques. Maybe try to discuss these beforehand and compromise here as well. If one allows his or her child to run around during meals and the other finds it disruptive, rude or even plainly annoying you must consider this and address it as soon as possible.
6: Making your relationship a priority during the transition will be as important as tending to the children’s needs. Let’s face it, we all get so caught up in the day to day routine we forget that our relationship has needs too. This is what I like to call relationship withdrawal when one or both of you forget to prioritize. My cure for this is simply, date nights. Date nights are a great way to make some “we time” and reconnect with each other as a couple. When my marriage failed I had to come to the hard conclusion that I forgot to be a wife. It’s easy to get wrapped up into parenthood that we forget to be a partner. That doesn’t make you a horrible spouse; it means you’re human. Get a sitter, get an eager grandparent, get away no matter how much preparation it takes. Do it from the start so everyone is accustomed to this date night early on.
7: To accompany #6, it is also going to be important for you each to still make time for your own families. Creating a new blended family or home should not mean one or both of you neglect your own families. Make time, host a barbeque or small family dinner with family to make sure they still feel the love. Depending on how the families get along, you can do this together or separately. If your family doesn’t get along with your partner it may prove to be complicated and you may want to arrange some quality alone time with your own family. From my experience, even if your family loves the new man or women in your life it’s still OK to take some personal family time without your mate. As an Italian, family is very important to me and this may mean a dinner per week for family time with my grandparents. Luckily, my boyfriend is appreciative of my bounds we share and super supportive of these relationships and their importance to still make time for them. It’s a balancing act at times, so tread with love and be honest with your partner about what you want when it comes to family time.
8: Chances are we all have ex’s that we don’t exactly like but because of our child or children we are forced to have some sort of communications with the person. At some point it occurred to me that my boyfriend was right about how I should deal with my ex-husband and treat it like a business transaction and clear out my emotions and any expectations I had. When it comes to my boyfriend from the first introduction he has been nothing but cordial and pleasant towards my ex. When dealing with an ex my suggestion is to be as pleasant as possible because the kids will witness these little exchanges and make it much easier on them in the long run if everyone can play nicely. Respecting boundaries will also be helpful, know your own place and when to and not to get involved in any parenting disputes your partner has. Unless your partner asks for your assistance stay silent and just be there for your mate with a hug, a shoulder or just a sympathetic ear.
9: If your blended family has similar interests and hobbies explore those together and participate as a family. These can be but are not limited to things like family game nights, outdoor activities or even special functions at schools or activities to support each other. This will keep you all connected and keep it fun for kids of all ages to feel a part of the new life. Making new bounds with other children maybe a bit scary even if the kids already get along, this change may have you spending some extra TLC time on helping the kids to have a strong and healthy bond with each other. As another side note; I wanted to mention that though time together as a whole will be important that it will still be important for the children to not feel like their parent is too busy to be their parent first. I suggest making it a point to at some point routinely make some alone and quality time with your child or children. Parent/kid dates are a great way to do this so your kids know they are still important to you.
10: KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. Keeping it simple for kids is not rocket science and kids will much like the adults, get butterflies, be nervous or scared, but they will survive. They will adjust if you and your partner decide to move in together and mesh your two families and homes into one. This is beyond two adults and their decisions, it becomes one in which should be a family decision because meshing two homes could wind up creating a family unit as some point if a marriage occurs. Kids are resilient and bounce back easily too so making things overly complex or complicated may make it worse so I’d suggest keeping it simple and kid friendly.
Most of all do not get so wrapped up in the moment that you forget to breathe and enjoy this time and the possibilities ahead. It is OK to take some personal you time in the process to help yourself in whatever ways you need to before making any major decisions.
So with all this in mind I would recommend your partner and you going to see the new Adam Sandler movie “Blended.” While the follow up afterwards should be a conversation it hopefully brings you both some laughs as well.