When I make my favorite smoothie, I toss a banana, peanut butter, almond milk and ice in a blender and press a button to combine. In less than one minute, all of the components — delectable in their own right—blend seamlessly into something better than they were before.
There’s no drama. There’s no push-and-pull. There’s no defection. There’s no accusations, tantrums, or name-calling. (My blender is always well-behaved). It’s just effortless blending—the complete opposite of what happens when two families unite.
I have made not one—but two—attempts at blending families. Here’s a CliffsNotes version: My ex-husband, now deceased, was a widower with a young daughter when I met him. We had a child together and tried to “blend,” but got divorced for various reasons.
Fast forward to my husband now, my forever guy. He has a son, age 11, from a previous relationship, and we have him full-time. I have my son, age 9, full-time and a close relationship with my bonus daughter, age 22, from my former marriage.
Classifying my family as “complicated” is an understatement.
Every day, my husband and I try to mesh two fiercely independent, spirited, self-assured boys together. Both were the crowned princes pre-engagement, with a parent devoted to fulfilling every need, every whim, (almost) every wish. Getting them on the same wavelength often clocks in at an I-want-to-run-away-from-home-right-now level of difficulty. My boys either love or hate each other, depending on the day—and that’s without factoring my self-sufficient college grad into the daily mix.
All of my family members are distinct versions of the same personality but with varying backgrounds and backstories …and that always keeps things interesting. No one is shy or reserved. No one backs down. No one is unsure of who they are as a person. For us, blending is not only an unattainable goal but also an undesirable one.
The very definition of blend—”to combine or associate so that the separate constituents or the line of demarcation cannot be distinguished”—is offensive when it comes to individuals tasked with creating one family unit.
Why should anyone have to sacrifice key components of their personality to blend? Why would we want to make our differences indistinguishable? Why are we, as parents and bonus parents, carrying the weight of this expectation on our already weary shoulders? Why do we strive to be #happilyblended?
Regardless of the Instagrammable moments we’re bombarded with, of shiny, happy blended families holding hands (the celeb couple of the moment, J. Lo and A-Rod, comes to mind), I know those images represent snippets of time, not everyday reality.
Raising children without all of the modern blended variables is tough. The positioning, the bargaining, the testing, the fighting, the one-upping, the bickering … it’s enough to make moms count down the minutes until bedtime on some days.
While traditional families have their issues, they all parent on solid footing. The mom is the mom, the dad is the dad, and the kids are theirs. No one can throw biological makeup in anyone’s face. No one can challenge credentials when they get in trouble. No one can deny they’re siblings. These arguments undermine the blended family unit, but they are, in fact, true.
Why do we aspire to blend and mirror traditional families? Our families are different, and that should be celebrated, not stifled.
I have banished the word “blend” in my house and replaced it with “perfectly imperfect parfait,” which seems like a reasonable expectation. With this term in place, each person can hold onto his/her unique layer without sacrificing key ingredients of who we are to blend. And stating that we are “perfectly imperfect” from the outset takes the pressure off of us. We are not the Joneses and we don’t want to be like the Joneses. It is impossible for us to be the Joneses.
There are both ugly and beautiful moments in my family (and, like J. Lo, the latter are the ones that go on my Instagram; I can’t have her abs, but, I can also show the incredible moments I have with my unconventional brood).
There are times, on my hardest days, that I am jealous of traditional families, but my bonus mom crown doesn’t remain askew for too long. The sum of my family’s individual layers makes one amazing parfait when we get them together. Like traditional families, we laugh, we share, we learn, we nurture, and, most importantly, we love. We just don’t blend, and that’s okay.
The only blending going on in my house is of the smoothie variety…and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
This article originally appeared on Motherly, a site that was born to send expert ideas and mom-to-mom inspiration to women exactly when they need it.