Nancy O’Dell: My Advice On Blending Families, My Family’s Love Story, and How I Became “Nommy”

Nancy O'Dell - Blended FamiliesBlending families . . . oh, yes . . . that is something I know very well. And, when I think about that concept, a blended family, a smile immediately comes to my face. You see, when I met my husband, Keith, I didn’t just meet the man of my dreams and the love of my life; I also met two incredible little boys, who would soon become my sons.

I love telling the story about where I met my husband. We were both in the security line at the airport. We started dating soon after, and it wasn’t long before I met his two boys, Tyler and Carson. At the time they were 8 and 5 years old. They were adorable and a little later on in my courtship with Keith, dates were often dates with Keith and Tyler and Carson.

Keith had never introduced his boys before to any woman he dated after his divorce, which I agree was a smart thing to do. After facing the painful split of their parents, Keith didn’t want to bring another relationship into the boys’ lives until he knew it was a secure relationship. He didn’t want the boys to face the disappointment of another possible break-up and I respected that. I would tell anyone in a similar situation that waiting to introduce your kids, for the kids’ sake, is the best thing to do. Keith has the closest relationship with both Tyler and Carson. They’re thick as thieves and Keith waited to introduce me until we got serious.

When I did finally meet Keith’s kids, each reacted differently. Tyler was older and very close to his Dad. He was initially a little reluctant to accept me. I soon understood why . . . I was the person whom his father had been spending time with away from him. I realized he thought maybe he was losing his father to me. I understood their bond was strong and needed to respect his fears. So I told Keith we should take the boys with us on some of our dates. That way they could realize I was not taking Dad away, but instead, that I was a new person in their life who would love them.

I knew I had to find something that interested them. I knew with Tyler that would be sports. Luckily, I dated a football player in college who taught me how to throw a spiral. The boys found that very impressive and there was that moment where they thought, hey, maybe she’s cool after all! That was my breakthrough moment with Tyler!

Carson was quicker to accept me because he was only five. He enjoyed the attention he was getting from someone new in his life. He liked decorating, so I told him he was in charge of decorating for all the holidays. We would go shopping together for every holiday—that was our “thing”. That made him feel very important. And that was the key: to make the boys feel as special and as important as I could. I needed to make them feel that they weren’t in my life just because of their Dad, but instead, know that I thought they were special just like their Dad.

When Keith proposed to me a year after we met, it wasn’t just Keith getting on his knee asking me to be is wife; his boys were with him and asked me to be part of their lives, too! Happy tears come to my eyes when I think about that night. I came home from work and all three of them had prepared a meal. Carson had this big grin on his face letting me know something was up. After we ate, all of a sudden all three of them got on their knees and Keith said the words. It was the cutest thing ever! And I am so happy that Keith chose to propose that way, with the boys by his side, because we had already become a blended family. By marrying Keith, I was saying yes to two precious little boys becoming my sons as well. And they needed to know that it was a choice, and one that I very much wanted. They needed to know that they were not forced on me, but rather that I was so honored to be becoming their stepmom.

Obviously, I said yes . . . and on the day we got married, we made sure to include the boys in our wedding ceremony. Not only did I exchange rings with Keith, but I gave the boys bracelets during the ceremony and included them in our vows. Keith and I wrote our vows ourselves and I promised to him to treat Tyler and Carson as my own and I promised the boys to love and cherish them as my own. That was an amazing moment. The boys started calling me “Nommy”, combining both “Nancy” and “Mommy” and what could be sweeter than that?!

On June 11, 2007, Keith and I welcomed our baby girl, Ashby Grace, into our lives. Not only did Ashby bring such joy to me and Keith, but she brought such joy into the lives of Tyler and Carson. Now, they have a baby sister to love and cherish. And, for me, I can’t think of anything better than Ashby having two older brothers to watch over her and protect her in childhood and when she grows up.

But again, there have been adjustment times. In any blended family, there are moments when siblings will question whether there is favoritism towards the birth child. Yes, it happens no matter how much you try for no one to ever feel that way. And what my husband has taught me is that talking and communication are the only way to deal with that. When the kids are arguing, sometimes I have to ask Carson and Tyler to be the ones to stop the behavior. They think I am calling them out and not Ashby. But the real reason is because they’re older and I can reason better with them, now 14 and 18, versus my 6 year old. The key is explaining things to them so they understand the reasoning behind everything. What I do know is they sure do love her, and boy, does she love them. She cannot stand it when her brothers are not home. And I know they will be very protective of her; they already are. You know how sometimes blending colors together creates the most beautiful color of all. That’s how I feel about my family!

So, speaking from experience, here is some advice and thoughts for those of you starting blending families.

It takes a long time for blended families to feel comfortable and function well together. Be patient!
• Love and affection take time to develop. Love does truly come to those who wait.
• Limit your expectations. Start slow and you’ll build positive, long-term results.

And remember, children want to feel safe, secure, loved, valued, appreciated and encouraged. Each child is different and each will let you know how fast or slow to go in order to warm up and build a strong, loving relationship.

Things have worked out nicely for us. Yes, I have a blended family and what a family it is! I am truly the luckiest “Nommy” in the world!Nancy O'Dell - Blended Families