As a saying goes, when two families combine, they create a new definition of love. In this episode, Rebecca Eckler, one of Canada’s best-known journalists and authors and the Editor-In-Chief of Savvy Mom, talks about surviving blended families and what you’re you getting into. Introducing her book, Blissfully Blended Bullshit, Rebecca shares her own experience being in a blended family, including having a life with stepchildren and her own children, as well as unblending her and her partner’s families when it was over.
Listen to the podcast here:
Blended Families: What Are You REALLY Diving Into? With Rebecca Eckler
I’ve got a rocking guest here and she’s famous and I stalk her. I’m obsessed with her. Rebecca Eckler, she is from Canada, she’s Canadian. This is my second Canadian person on my podcast. I feel like I’m spreading my wings and going global. Rebecca Eckler, how are you?
I am good.
You’ve written ten books, is this your tenth?
This is my tenth book and probably my most personal memoir of all time.
We have a lot in common but you’ve written ten books and I’ve written two. I saw the cover and I was like, “This girl is awesome.” The name of your book is Blissfully Blended Bullshit, does it get better than that? It doesn’t get better. Rebecca, let me talk about you. You are the Editor-in-Chief of SavvyMom.ca. Can I talk about what some people have said about you?
Sure, the good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s do it.
This is something on the back of your book that I loved, “Another totally entertaining and relatable read by Rebecca Eckler. As a blended family survivor, I had a visceral reaction to so many of the anecdotes. It’s real and it’s uncomfortable. This book is a must-read for anyone considering or living through blended worlds. Rebecca Eckler’s direct and honest approach to storytelling makes for a refreshing and often hilarious read. Eckler has an undeniable talent for weaving in touching stories of relationships, motherhood and the reality of blended families that gives her writing real humanity.” Those are amazing words, Rebecca. You’re awesome.
I was happy because the people I sent them out to, I’m not necessarily friendly with them or anything, it was nice to get an objective response from people. It’s been great.
Blended Families: With stepchildren, your motto should be keep them alive and keep them happy.
I’m excited to read it. I was supposed to get it, it didn’t come and the mail here is slow. I did read a couple of pages. I got the PDF version. My followers, they know that I’m divorced. I’m in a good relationship but I’m scared as all hell to blend. I have not blended my families yet. I’m terrified.
People should be terrified when blending.
Tell us why. What’s your point of view?
I’ll give you a little background so people understand. When I met my boyfriend, it was supposed to be a one night stand. I was wanting to get “under” someone to get over someone else. It was funny because he picked me up and my daughter ran downstairs and hugged him because she was young at that age, she hugged everyone. I thought, “My chances of getting laid are now down.” We went out and came back and yes, we did the one night stand thing, didn’t think of my ex and we ended up liking each other. I had a daughter, he had two daughters. We moved quite quickly, which looking back was a terrible mistake.
Together, we had a baby, thanks to him getting a reverse vasectomy. If anyone is interested, it costs $5,000 in Canada. People are always mentioning, “I can’t believe I had a vasectomy. A reverse vasectomy costs $5,000.” We paid the $5,000 and within 2 or 3 months, I was pregnant. We have a bio child together. We can get into the un-blending part. This is why it’s called Blissfully Blended Bullshit. The first couple of years, amazingly and surprisingly were blissful, and then all the crap came up. No one ever talks about what happens after you blend. There are a lot of tips before you blend, what you should talk about, we did none of that. We were love-goggles and acting like free willing teenagers. I had love-goggles on, so we didn’t talk about any of that stuff.
Another thing was that he moved into my home, which looking back, if I could redo all of it, we probably should’ve got our own place that was brand new. I don’t come across all roses and rainbows in this book either. I never quite felt like this is your house too. When you think about it, it was a big change on his side because my daughter kept her room, she still had her bedroom. There were only so many rooms in my house, we set them up nicely. I luckily have a large furnished basement where they had their own washroom and their own rooms. I don’t know if they ever felt quite at home either. It seemed that they did for the first couple of years and then I don’t know what happened, I can’t even put a pin on it, there wasn’t one thing that happened. Suddenly, it seemed to me they all stopped trying.
How old were the girls when you first started? When they first met?
My partner’s children were nine and eleven and my daughter was seven.
My kids were nine and eleven too when we got divorced. They all moved in together, do you think it was their age that changed? Their hormones? All of a sudden, it’s like the switch was flipped and everyone went crazy. Do you think they weren’t prepared?
There are a lot of books out there on stepparents and stepchild relationships. This book, Blissfully Blended Bullshit, talks about how it affects everyone. It’s just not the relationship between a stepdaughter and stepchild or even my relationship with my now ex-partner. One chapter and early on, I talk about how I had to break the news to my daughter’s father that another man was moving in with us and also that I was pregnant. There’s no manual out there saying, “How do you tell the father of your child that you’re pregnant with another man’s child? Of course, it’s going to affect him and he’s going to worry about how his daughter is and her emotional state.
I also called my partner, on the advice of my lawyer, and let’s be real there. There’s a difference between a lawyer and a therapist. He was going through a contentious divorce with his ex-wife, so my lawyer told me that I should call her and invite her over to the place where her children would now be spending 50% of the time, how they were living and meet me. I made two phone calls back-to-back, one to my ex, to break the news and it was happy news. To his credit, he did say congratulations but I could hear this almost choke in his voice. It was almost sad, it was sad for him. He felt like, “Is another man going to take my place as her father? Is she going to have a new sibling and want to spend less time with me?” Even to this day, and it’s been years since I made that phone call, it makes me tear up when I think of it. I can still remember that choke in his voice. When I called my partner’s ex-wife, she was indifferent to me and I admire her for that. I was like, “Don’t you want to come over? Don’t you even want to check me out? Come on. We’re women, we’re supposed to judge each other’s look, am I wrong?”
She never came in the seven years that we lived together inside the house. It was interesting. I do admire her. You realize when you blend families, you’re still tied to your ex. We have children with them. When I was talking with my partner about sending all our girls to one specific overnight camp, his ex didn’t want their children going to this camp, for whatever reason. My daughter went off to one camp and his two kids went off to another camp. I thought, in the beginning, they didn’t bond as they should have because I was lucky that my bonus children, I call them bonus children, were good. They were pretty nice, we got along and there was no argument. The one thing too is I never mothered them. They have a perfectly good mother. I was more like their dad’s girlfriend or common-law wife. As they got older too, my partner suffered a lot from dad’s guilt. I’m making a sweeping generalization, I realize that.
All parents suffer from guilt. I wrote a lot about that in my book too. A lot of parents, when you go through a divorce, we all suffer from guilt, don’t you think?
I suffer a little bit, but dads feel a different kind of guilt. Whenever they were with us, they were with us 50% of the time. Suddenly our boring pasta dinners that he used to make turned into five-course dinners when his kids were around. Whenever they were here for the weekend, he would take them to malls to shop. I’m a woman, I like to shop, but I do not like hanging out at malls. He suffered a lot of dad guilt for he was put in the middle. Also, we never discussed this like, “Can we discipline each other’s children?”
I never felt comfortable disciplining his kids. I don’t feel comfortable disciplining anybody’s kids at all, and I’m not that person. My motto was to keep them alive and keep them happy, that was it. Then it became a lot of tattle-tailing because, if his children had a problem with me they would go to him and then he would come to me. Likewise if my daughter had an issue with his children or him, she would come to me and then I would have to go to my partner. There was a lot of tattle-tailing going on.
Did you ever come to Jesus where you all sat down and said, “What are we going to do?” Did it keep getting worse?
Blended Families: People need to know what they’re doing to their children when they take steps that are not as thoughtful and as planned out as they should be for the kids.
It kept getting worse. The arguments weren’t necessarily over our children, it was the arguments between us, the division of money, the division of chores, who was taking care of the baby more.
This is my biggest nightmare and this is why I’m scared to blend. Everyone’s like, “No.” My boyfriend and I had been dating for years and our kids have never met. People are like, “You’re nuts.” I’m listening to you going, “Am I wrong?”
If it works for you, that’s amazing. In the end, I am seeing someone now and we want to move forward, slowly this time like a turtle on Lorazepam.
People need to know this, this book is for everyone, for grandparents, for siblings, for aunts and uncles because everyone needs to know how difficult blending is. People are wearing these rose-colored glasses and they go in there like, “We can do it, it’s going to be easy.” It’s not easy.
It’s not even that. Even my parents’ generation, they didn’t divorce, they barely understand divorce.
That’s why I wrote my book, Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda. because people had no clue what divorce looks like until they go through it.
Looking back, for years, we were behind these closed doors, all this crap was going on and I didn’t want to go to my parents and I’d be crying. Looking back, I cried a lot to my girlfriends. I also realized that a lot of my girlfriends who had blended and broke up and some who are still in blended families. It wasn’t until I said something like, “I can’t believe he did this idiotic thing.” They then would say, “That happened to me too.” No one, even people in blended families want to speak about it.
I also have this other chapter, which I don’t think my partner’s mom is going to love so much, but this is my truth and this happened. After we had our son, she said to me something like it’s not the same love when we were talking about my daughter. What I took that to mean, because I’m a mama bear when it comes to my bio daughter, was like, “You’re saying even though both of these children came out of me, you love your grandson more than you love my daughter.” She knew she messed up. Her face got red, it wasn’t due to menopause this time, it wasn’t a hot flash. She knew she messed up and she had said something that everyone thinks, but everyone knows not to say. She is the first one to say it out loud, and that question of, “Can you love all of your bio children?”
I have a chapter in my book too about that. There are people who’ve said to me, “I don’t know if I can love someone else’s kids.”
You would need to have a big heart and you need to not be selfish. I immediately listened. A lot of the time, I did act selfish and entitled, but I felt I was suffering and always being not a priority. You need a big heart, first of all. If you’re a selfish person, you can be, that’s fine but I don’t suggest you get into a blended family.
The thing is, seriously, I can love other people’s kids. I’ve been a camp counselor and mush them up. I have friends who are like, “I don’t like the way other people’s kid’s smell.” I’m like, “You think you’re going to blend families?” You have to own that crap. If you know that you cannot love other people’s children and you think you’re going to be okay in a blended family, it isn’t happening.
First of all, you can’t force love and if anybody thinks that you can, or you are tempting to try it, don’t even bother because you can’t force the love. It doesn’t happen. His kids were still loyal to their mother. The arguments were mostly about money. This is also a sweeping generalization, but it also makes me happy at the same time, many women are the breadwinners now. In our case, I was the breadwinner. I paid for almost everything, he would pay for half of our nanny and half of some of the bills, but he never chipped in for rent and for mortgage, he didn’t even offer. That’s how in love I thought I was. Once he moved out, suddenly it’s like, “You can afford to rent a house, you’re going on all these vacations.” It’s like, “Where was that money when you were living with me?” He would do the grocery shopping too. He made up for it in other ways, I suppose.
You’re recommending sitting down and talking about this before you blend?
Absolutely. Even if your child is seven years old, what is that wedding going to look like? Even after 5 or 6 years of us blending, my bonus daughter, she had a graduation, and the graduations these days, they’re like events. All the parents gather to take pictures. I thought, “Of course, I’m going to go take pictures.” I want to see her all dressed up and I was disinvited because her mother didn’t want me there and it put her in the middle. I’ve spent that night crying in bed because she had been in my life for years and I was disinvited.
That being said, I also don’t like this whole positive co-parenting thing because 93% or 97% of divorces, in my opinion, you’re lucky because you get along with your ex. I get along with my first ex, not so much now with my second ex. Let’s talk about love. Do I love my now ex-bonus daughters? Did I love them equally to my children? I can sit here and think about this for two weeks and the answer is I didn’t realize until after they had moved out. What happened was when we unblended, my partner moved all his stuff out, plus all his children’s stuff out, so I didn’t get to say goodbye to them.
I had closure with my ex, we knew we were done but no closure with his kids. I did send them a text right after saying, “You can always come to me.” There are two young women out there who I text happy birthday to, who are sisters to my son, how crazy is that? We don’t have a relationship. Likewise, my partner has no relationship with my daughter who he lived with for seven years. When you blend families, you become clueless because people will ask you simple questions like if you’re out, “How many children do you have?” I didn’t know, do I have four, because two are my stepchildren? Do I have two, because only two came out of me? Both answers felt wrong.
Blended Families: At the age of 40, there’s a 99% probability that you’re going to be dating someone who is divorced and has children.
What did you say?
It depended on the time, who it was, and the place. I felt such a liar because I would say, “I have four children.” People would be like, “You look fabulous for having four children.” Most of the time I would say, “I have two children,” because it was easier. I didn’t want to get into, “This is my second relationship.” People are still judgmental. They’re not only judging but they’re also envious quite frankly. People are judgmental about women who have children from two different daddies, “I’m sorry,” after my first divorce, was I not supposed to go on and meet someone else? Was my life not supposed to go forward?
This book is incredible and I have a chapter I told you about in my book called Shaken Families. I’m absolutely horrified, kudos to you for getting through it and coming through it and writing this amazing book. Women like us who share our stories and are able to do this, put ourselves out there with this truth and authenticity, we’re able to help other women, families, men and children. If we don’t do it, how do people learn? It’s hard to put ourselves out there. People are like, “I can’t believe she wrote this book.” Screw you.
That’s how I’m going in, people ask me, “Did you let your ex read this first?” I said, “I’m not the type of writer who had ever shown my work to anybody before it was published.” You can’t be truthful if you’re thinking, “They’re going to read it and think this.” This was candid, between me and you and all your fans, it’s not that secret. I am worried, this book is launching and it’s already been shipped out to people. My friends have already got it in the mail, they’re going to read it and I don’t think the reaction is going to be like, “Congratulations.”
It’s going to be life-changing. I’m going to tell you, so many other children are thinking about it could cry. It is going to be helpful because people need to know what they’re doing to their children when they take steps that are maybe not as thoughtful and as planned out as they should be for their kids. Does that make sense?
Yes, it does. My ex would always say, Rowan, that’s my bio daughter’s name, “You always side with Rowan, you’re always on her side.” He was right, I did always because she was my daughter.
As you should, she’s your daughter.
Also, the craziest thing about blending family, I had known my daughter for seven years more than I had known my partner. We have this bond.
She’s your daughter. I can’t even tell you what you’re doing for people. You’re showing that you have to put your kids first. I put my kids first and I feel like I forgot about my spouse. It was always about my kids. I messed up a little bit because I didn’t put Mark as first as I should have.
She used to sleep with me, so when he moved in, her spot was taken in my bed. She would always come in 3 or 4 times to say goodnight to me and he would get frustrated because we’d be watching a show and he would have to pause it 4 or 5 times. I was like, “Chill out, she’s just saying goodnight for the eighteenth time. Who cares?”
Moms put their kids first, that’s what we do.
I also have to think about him, why he would get annoyed over that. Did I really care? No, because I knew her for seven years longer than I knew him. I will say this, children’s love is unconditional, a couple’s love is not. That’s my motto.
I feel proud of you and you’re a rock star. All my followers will agree that this is not easy, what we do. People that put themselves out there as we do and that write books as we do, it takes balls and you have balls. We’re judged quite often and I’m okay with that.
If I had this book before I blended, I would have known so much more of what to do and what to expect.
That’s my book, Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda, this is your book Blissfully Blended Bullshit.
It was hard too because we broke up as I was writing this book, so everything changed. One night I fell out of love with him, he decided to go to a party while my daughter was in the hospital. That was the instant I fell out of love with him. Also, when you get divorced, you don’t want a second divorce. You don’t want your children to see you going through another divorce. I’ve stuck it out for two more years after that. I feel I suffered a lot during those two years after that because I was half in half out. Finally, we ended.
woulda. coulda. shoulda.: A divorce coach’s guide to staying married
Do you find that this book was a little cathartic for you as well?
No, I don’t. If I could even help one person, I’m happy. It was to look back and then all the arguments and what we argued over and how immature I acted at some times, and how in seven years you could never say I’m sorry. In seven years, I couldn’t have always been wrong. We would start arguing about one thing and we’d go to another thing. We attempted to go to therapy, we lasted twice because all we did is just argue in front of the therapist.
I feel like you wrote my book, did you by any chance wrote my book? I said that too, and I’m like, “We would go to therapy and fight more.”
I feel like we would be the best of friends, we should move in together.
That would be amazing. If you would think about helping one person, you helped me because I will not blend.
Never say never.
I’d be doing some thoughtful planning if I did.
Let’s be honest, I’m in my 40s. People who get divorced in their 40s, there’s a 99% probability that once you get back on your feet and get back into the dating world, you are going to be dating someone who is divorced and has children. If you somehow meet a 50-year-old who’s never been married with no children, that’s a bit of a warning sign. You are going to be dating people with children. Even my parents, like, “How many grandchildren do you have?” They didn’t even know how to answer that. Do they include the bonus children that they now had in their lives? There are so many variations of people who have to get along in a blended family to make it splendid.
When does the book come out?
It will come out soon but you can order it on Amazon.com.
Everyone, get on your phones and get the book on Amazon.
Give it to a friend.
Buy it for someone, anyone.
Anyone who’s dating with children, you obviously want to move forward in your life and find happiness and maybe find a partner again. They’re going to have children, you need to know what you’re getting into and learn from my mistakes. I made a lot of them.
Blissfully Blended Bullshit: The Uncomfortable Truth of Blending Families
You owned up to them and you wrote this book and it’s called Blissfully Blended Bullshit. This is Rebecca Eckler with me and you’re fabulous. I love you to death. I’m excited you were here. Everybody, get this book, Blissfully Blended Bullshit. It’s an Amazon. Rebecca, where can we find you? Do you have your website? You’re on Facebook, you’re on Instagram and you’re everywhere. Where else can we get you?
Rebecca, thank you for being here.
Thank you so much. I love your situation, it’s fabulous.
We’d be best friends. I’m going to come visit you in Toronto. You know where to find me, here on Doing Divorce Right. I’m Jennifer Hurvitz, you can find me everywhere, Instagram but of course, www.JenniferHurvitz.com. You can find my book, wherever you get books, it’s Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.: A Divorce Coach’s Guide to Staying Married. Do me a favor, read my book and rate, review and all that goo