TMF Readers, one of the best books I’ve read this year is Brandi Mitchell’s The Blended Family Survival Guide. Brandi is not just a mom, wife and stepmom, but she has had a fabulous career in the film and television industry and is now the author of this “go-to” guide for blended families.
Brandi, let me begin by thanking you for taking the time to allow Today’s Modern Family to spend a little time with you, for sharing this extra special book and for allowing me to pick your brain about the very important issues that blended families face every day.
Diane: I have so many questions for you Brandi, I guess I would start by asking you how you ended up on your blended family journey and what inspired you to author this fabulous guide for blended families?
Brandi: Thanks for having me Diane and for the support. You know you always picture your perfect mate, and the life you want. And I’d have to say, that my husband was (and still is) perfect for me. But along with finding Mr. Right, I also inherited two handsome little boys, and two different mothers… so let’s just say that when I said “I Do, I said I do to them all!” and it’s been almost 15 years. I wrote the book because it has been my life’s experience! I have always been a part of a blended family. Growing up I had 2 sets of stepfamilies, and my brother and I share the same Dad, so I have seen it all! I felt there was a need for a realistic and transparent manual to help the more than 75 million people who are experiencing living life blended. It is affecting us all, and I wanted to provide a well-lived and researched guide to help people navigate through the journey, because let’s face it, it can be very challenging.
Diane: In my line of work, I find a lot of people have a hard time balancing relationships within the blended family (i.e., with the ex-wife, ex-husband, baby mama, baby daddy, etc.). Your book touches a bit on this subject. What advice can you give our readers on defining those relationships and having realistic expectations of same?
Brandi: Every one’s situation is so different, so the results will vary tremendously. I think the common thread that almost always leads to peace, is respect. Where there is no respect, peace is sometimes difficult. The respect crosses so many lanes; respect of your child and their feelings, respect in the way you choose to handle difficult situations, respect even for yourself and how you represent your family. In terms of having realistic expectations, realize that some things you may not have control of because you have outside influences that are apart of your families day to day life. You can, however, control the way in which you react to the cards you are dealt. As far as Baby Mama Drama goes, I wish it didn’t exist, right along with bigotry, homelessness, and misguided youth. In the book I talk about the differences in a single parent and a baby mama, and that the two are not equal. The trait that separates the two titles is the way in which the person handles their relationship and dealings with the child’s other parent and their attitude. I think that the “drama” factor of it all hurts and scars children for life, sabotages relationships, and stunts the growth of the person who is administering the drama.
Diane: One of my favorite chapters in the book is the first chapter which is about choices. Choices in the blended family are, in my opinion, one of the most important things that we need to take into consideration before leaping into the blended family life. Why did you begin with there?
Brandi: I felt that a variety of people would be reading this book and would be at all different points in their personal lives and relationships. Many people go through life reacting to what happens instead of actively taking responsibility for the outcome of their lives. I started with choices for several reasons, one being that for people who may be reading the book and haven’t had children yet, I wanted them to really understand that they have the ability to choose what life will look like for them. I also wanted people to understand that every time they choose to have a sexual relationship with someone, they actually are choosing to potentially become a parent, and, that person they are “choosing at that moment, may actually become a fabric of their lives. I also knew that a lot of parents are in a space where they may not fully understand the magnitude of decisions they make especially when it comes to parenting, and I wanted to open the conversation up by bringing some sobriety to the reader.
Diane: This guide touches on subjects from A to Z. One of the particularly penetrating and effective subjects, in my opinion, is where you touch on a child’s personal feelings about the importance of visitation. I get contacted regularly from our readers, who are non-custodial parents, whose visitation is either being sabotaged or constantly interrupted by the custodial parent. What advice can you give custodial parents, from your personal experience as a child of divorce on the importance of this very touchy issue?
Brandi: Well for me, my visitation with my father helped to really shape the woman I am. My visits were very much quality and not quantity, I always tell my sons that I wish I had the kind of time and consistency they have with their Dad! My mother had plenty of very legitimate reasons for saying no to my visits with my Dad from inconsistency, to lack of provision, to me seeing some things on those trips that she didn’t approve of a little girl experiencing. Despite the negatives, she felt I needed that time with my father. So I really encourage visitation between the child and non-custodial parent, so as often as they attempt to see their child, they should be allowed (within reason). My father died young, and now I really understand why the time I spent with him was so concentrated. I am forever grateful for my mother for being unselfish and forgiving.
Diane: In the guide, you touch a bit on custodial parents not dwelling on the absence of the other parent so much to the children but instead to focus and concentrate on their strengths and to expect happiness. I felt this was one of the most important statements in the book. Explain to all of our single parents out there why you feel this is so important?
Brandi: As a single parent, one of the greatest things you can do to develop a stable and secure child is to focus not on the negatives, but on what your child HAS: a loving, concerned, caring father/mother for starters. Focus on giving your child all that you can as a parent. Children tend to naturally want to meet our expectations, so if you expect yours be happy and successful they will work to towards that expectation! The reality is children do survive without a parent with the help of other nurturing family members and love from you.
Diane: In the book you share with us your personal story being raised in a divorced environment and how being raised by a single mom shaped you in positive ways and also how very important your visitation with your dad was and how his way of life also shaped you in many positive ways. What was the most important lesson you took from your experience that helped you in your own blended family as an adult?
Brandi: My mother always believed in being fair, and she is very considerate. So because I saw how she responded to my brother, and always spoke positively, that’s the behavior I naturally adapted in my own blended family. I try to make sure I never say anything that I would be embarrassed to repeat. I guess to sum it all up, it would be to be a person of integrity, and treat people like you would want to be treated.
Diane: I ask all of my interviewee’s this question because I feel it is so important. What is your notion of family?
Brandi: A group of people formed through bloodline or special relationships that love each other and have common threads.
Diane: Living the blended family life can be stressful on a remarriage. How important is it to nurture your blended family marriage?
Brandi: It is extremely necessary to nurture your marriage period, but becomes even more difficult in a blended family. There are so many opportunities for division. You are dealing with your past in a relationship that is a part of your future, and you have all of these outside nuances that you have no control of. That’s why I especially recommend very sound pre-marital counseling prior to marriage, because if you start off on the right team, and knowing what to expect, you have a better chance to stay working together instead of apart. Not to mention the fact that nurturing your love for each other and enjoying life together will require constant discovery and rediscovery of who your mate is, and that only comes through concentrated time spent.
Brandi, I just want to say Thank You for this very special book. I keep it in my briefcase and it is used daily in my own blended family life. I have learned an awful lot from you through the 253 pages of this book I now call my “Blended Family Bible!” Thank you for allowing Today’s Modern Family into your world and please come by and share with us anytime.
Brandi: No thank you, it was my pleasure!
To obtain your copy of this fabulous book go to www.theblendedfamilysurvivalguide.com today!