Stressed? Homesteading with a Blended Family

homesteading with a blended familyWendie and I met by chance through an alumni networking post on Facebook. She was starting a charter school and was looking for volunteers to paint walls. Six years later we've set our lives on the path of homesteading with a blended family. Talk about not seeing that one coming.

We became good friends in the early years, and supported each other as our first marriages dissolved. We had more in common that we first realized, and after dating and then falling madly in love, we knew we were meant to be together. Of course, we needed to make sure the kids were OK with it as well. No matter what people might say about love finding a way, they sometimes neglect to remember there are unique and wonderfully energetic kids who are part off the equation as well. And, how can we forget about our ever-present, rarely mature former spouses, with different levels of communication skills and desires to see their kids?

You should know, that though Wendie and her ex share joint custody with a pretty balanced time table, my girls live with us full-time. You see, my ex tends to drop out of communication for a month or so, resurfacing when the girls reach out to her for their need to speak with her. It's rough.

So after raising two amazing boys over the past 22 years, Wendie gets to start again with a 10-and-12-year-old set of sisters. How's that for a learning curve?

Homesteading with a Blended Family

homesteading with a blended family
When the possibility seemed to become more of a perfectly wonderful inevitability, Wendie and I talked endlessly how our marriage would effect the kids. She had a better grasp of the reality than I did, admittedly, as I wanted to believe everything would work smoothly with a little bump here and there. We were building a loving home, where there was to be no, 'your mom, my dad,' back and forth expected from the kids. She knew there would be hard work and tears, frustration and a growing love.

What I didn't take into account and Wendie did was that it wasn't just about kids dealing with a divorce. It wasn't just going to be about homesteading with a blended family, but also about the kids dealing with their hormone monsters. The two girls are close to that age where their bodies will really start changing, and the boys were reaching their own maturity milestones. Girls. Dating. Driver's licenses. A kid needs their parents during this time, and so there we are. Regardless of the disappointments along the way from our ex's, we are prepared.

homesteading with a blended familyWe lived in our little quarter-acre urban farm as a blended family for about four years, growing and learning as we moved along. Our approach for the kids was to support their interests, with driving to tae kwon do classes to gym memberships to part time jobs to swim practice three times a week. When we moved to the country to start homesteading with a blended family, it meant doing much of the same to keep their worlds as stable as possible. Yes, there was a new school and new friends to make and a great deal of emotion left behind both good and bad, but they did it. I like to think it made them stronger.

They all worked as kids do to find connections to help the world make sense. They did that, and though we support them all we can, it was they who found their social footing in a new community. Our youngest threw herself headlong into her new school's clubs. First it was art club, followed by book club and glee with her sister. The absence of their mother was, and still is, tough, but we make sure we have a loving home that they truly know as their home. They have a place where they can grow up to be who they want to be. A place where they can decide what kind of adults they want to be. A place to bring their children to as their homestead, where their roots lie buried deep.

homesteading with a blended familyFor the boys, the oldest moved out west to California when he graduated high school. He works as a sound engineer for a theater outside of LA and is happy that his mother and I have found each other. He is supportive and kind, a great big-brother role model the girls never had before him and his brother came into our lives. We get to see him on occasion, either when he comes back east to visit on his own, or he's on tour with a band doing gigs in our area.

Our seventeen-year-old is just as an amazing big brother. He is a great kid, creative, smart and empathetic with a good head on his shoulders. He helps in the wood shop, hangs out with the girls and is kind-hearted and sweet. He's now looking to follow his brother's footsteps after graduation next year and head to LA. Our goal is to help prepare him for a world he will make his own way.

Homesteading Families

homesteading familiesBoth Wendie and myself know that we are on the right path. Homesteading is more than just getting an off-grid house somewhere and planting tomatoes. There is a whole-life philosophy that goes along with it, most times unspoken. Homesteading families have to balance raising good kids into good people who will contribute to the world. We have to understand that even though we have found our way and brought them along, it may not necessarily be their path when the time comes for them to join the world on their own. It's a balance of teaching them our values and skills and letting them discover their own. There's no heartbreak in raising a child with a good heart who doesn't want to live the life of their parents.

homesteading familiesI don't think anything we do is too far from ordinary in the method we approach to instill value lessons in our kids. We are aware of how they watch and listen to how we communicate with each other as well as how we interact with our neighbors, homesteading families like us. Moving from the city back to a rural community was an automatic for us. We both grew up in places where it was alright to stay out playing after dark, where your neighbors were family and those people you meet at the hardware store or library are presumed to be good people. That's where our life is. That's where we want to be. I'll walk through the grocery store and say 'excuse me' if I pass between someone and the shelf they are looking over. Wendie sparks up a conversation with everyone at the counter of our favorite diner. The kids say 'please' and 'thank you' not because they have to, or are trained to, but because they mean it. I think we're doing alright for ourselves.

Priorities in a Blended Family

Hands down, our priorities in a blended family are to balance the love our kids have for our ex's and ensuring they feel loved and complete as a family under our roof. We can't meddle in their hearts, and don't try and spread or attempt to stem vitriol from outside of the farm. All of the kids are at an age where we can help them make sense of the world and their feelings, but we can't define them, and we certainly can't fully comprehend what they are going through.

priorities in a blended familyWendie and I both were raised by parents that divorced. While my solution was to crawl inward and eventually head out for parts unknown by joining the Navy, hers was to take it one day at a time and see where life brought her. I was fortunate, because it brought her to me. All of the choices we made in life before we met had to be made so that we could be the people that would find each other. You can't have regrets when you look at it that way.

On a daily basis, our priorities in a blended family also mean passing along our values for hard work that sees results. The kids perform chores, from stacking and hauling firewood to feeding the chickens and our pet tortoise. They clean their rooms, tidy up after dinner and help with odds and ends here and there. It's a part of a sensible childhood, and to be fair, it's not overwhelming at all. They may not feel like breaking out a frozen ring of ice from the chicken waterer at 6 in the morning, but if we are going to keep healthy chickens, that is what must be done.

Sure, we have some stomping and crossed arms. We get a cross look and a grumpy reply now and then, but that is a kid being a kid. Our job is to love them no matter how nasty they are first thing in the morning and teach them to love others. The great thing is, they do.

Our Homesteading Blog

our homesteading blog
So it comes down to why we are doing this. Why we are writing a homesteading blog that bounces from providing advice on backyard organic gardening to how to make a microwaved venison stew to intimate talk of our family life? We do it because we want to share our experiences, not in a 'this is the way it will work for you as long as your do exactly like we did' kind of way, but rather in a neighborly fashion. 

We know there are countless folks out there looking for a little information or a tip and trick now and then, and we like to think we can help. We aren't gurus and we aren't here to fix the world. We are here to raise good kids, love each other and try and make the world a little better by being empathetic and friendly. That's it.

Our homesteading blog is a creature of dedication, and though people have said we don't have to post every day, we do so because we have a lot to say. It's not about getting a lot of followers, but connecting with the right followers, who maybe someday will become friends. If we can do that, then it's all been worth it.

We love sharing our experiences with you all, and hope you find it in your hearts to share your stories with us. If you have a homesteading story that includes a blended family, or just a blended family anywhere, we would love to hear from you. Even if it's just a little note to share your favorite homesteading blog, we'd love to hear from you. Add to the conversation in the comments below.