Rebecca Eckler doesn’t just write about the modern family life, she lives it. In her new book, Blissfully Blended Bullshit: The Uncomfortable Truth of Blending Families she chronicles her own journey blending two households.
“This is by far my favourite [book] of them all,” said Eckler, the bestselling author of Knocked Up: Confessions of a Modern Mother-to-Be, Toddlers Gone Wild, Wiped! Life with a Pint-size Dictator and How to Raise a Boyfriend. “I’m super proud.”
In her memoir Blissfully Blended BS, (Dundurn Press), Eckler writes about she and her daughter moving in with her partner and his two children and then having their own baby. Readers meet Eckler’s biological children, two bonus daughters, the in-laws, exes, ex-in-laws, and even the dog, and follow their poignant journey as everyone attempts to navigate their new roles within the blended family.
Eckler writes as though talking with her best girlfriends, spilling secrets, cracking jokes and sharing juicy stories, yet bravely dares to expose her tender heart and heartbreak. She dives into one of the most timely and deeply personal subjects she’s written about yet: her own experience of living blended for seven years.
And she asks the question of the modern age: Can blended really be as splendid as it seems at first or is the “blending epidemic” something we need to take a closer look at before deciding to join the ranks of this rapidly-growing new family make-up?
“There are so many variations of family,” said Eckler. “Statistically speaking, it’s estimated that blended families will soon overtake biological families as the ‘new normal.’ I’ve read that in the year 2020, there will be more blended families than any other kind of make-up. You can’t just say husband, wife, kids, picket fence. It’s not like that anymore.”
Stepfamilies, also known as blended families or bonus families, are the new nuclear family.
“It’s interesting, now that we have unblended, people always ask, ‘How is your son doing?’” Eckler explained. “He grew up watching all of his sisters – two from my ex’s side and my daughter – go off with their father. To him, he always thought two homes were normal. One of his best friends has two dads. Everything has just turned on its head, especially with blended families.”
All this blending and bonus-ing begs the question: Is love enough? Eckler is blunt, saying she and her ex-partner were blindsided and unprepared.
“For the first few years, everything was calm and we were very happy. And then, suddenly all the bulls–t started to arise,” reflected Eckler. “When you’re in love, you have your love goggles on. You don’t want to sit down and talk about money or parenting styles, or all the important things that end up in resentments and arguments because you’re just in love and you want to be in that bubble.”
Eckler’s goal writing Blissfully Blended BS was to help others. “There was no information out there about what happens after you blend,” said Eckler.
Blending families doesn’t just impact the immediate blended family members: It affects everyone around them.
“One of the hardest parts at the very beginning was having to tell my ex, my daughter’s father, that another man was moving into the house and that I was pregnant,” said Eckler. “That changed his life too, because his daughter was going to have a new sibling and have two bonus sisters and a man living with her. How could that not affect him?
“There was a ton of resources about stepmothers and stepchildren relationships, but nothing about how parents are supposed to treat your new bonus children because you can’t buy bonus kids’ love – kids are smarter than that – and how you hope all the children get along and bond. But what if they don’t?”
What does Eckler wish she knew before blending? “Discussing parenting styles, such as who pays for what, decisions about where the children will be sleeping, and even disciplining each others kids.”
Eckler’s wisdom to newly blended parents. “You need a big, open heart to let people in and truly love them as much as you can. You have to keep your expectations in check and can’t take things personally or sweat the small stuff.”
When the questions became too onerous, Eckler turned to prayer. “I was literally falling apart. I would go to synagogue [Toronto’s Beth Tzedek] and I prayed,” Eckler said. “It was peaceful and it calmed me down. It was there I felt love and at home.”