BlendedFAMILY's Feature Column:

Blended, Not Stirred


A Matter of Relative Perspective
By Michaele Birney Arneson


"The more I know, the more I realize I don't know."

Albert Einstein made this observation of himself in the early 1900s after a series of attempts to characterize the relation between space and time, a hot topic of research among physicists at the time. Eventually, he arrived at the core of his "theory of relativity," which concludes that there is no absolute motion in the universe, only relative motion -- the state of one object is perceived relatively from the viewpoint of a separate object.

If I haven't lost you already, you're probably wondering what the heck this all has to do with blended families.

It has to do with the personal realization that the longer I'm in my blended- family situation, the more I realize there's a lot I don't know about such situations. I started out thinking, "I'm a mom with two bio kids and three step kids, so I know what it means to be a blended family," but in researching and reading and talking with other blended families, I soon realized that my relative perspective of what a blended family is was really quite limited.

According to the Stepfamily Association of America (SAA), a stepfamily is a household in which a parent marries a person who is not his or her child's other (usually biological) parent.

The SAA's definition is consistent with what my definition of a blended family was, based on my personal experience, but I began wondering, "What about families in which neither parent is the child's biological parent? What are those families called?" Terms such as foster family, adoptive family, and nontraditional family came to mind, and I pondered if these categories should also be included in my blended family definition.

When my husband and I first married and joined our families, many eyebrows were raised and questions were asked when we stated that we had five children, all within six years of age. Although we were comfortable in discussing our respective divorces, renewed romance (we were high school sweethearts 15 years earlier), and subsequent marriage, our children have not always been so, and prying questions from outsiders often led to uncomfortable situations for our children and those questioning. Often, from other people's perspectives, our divorces were a negative thing, which was not necessarily the case. I found, however, that after I started referring to our family as a blended family, many of the questions stopped. People's relativity moved to a more positive and accepting position.

I imagine there are families out there that have situations more difficult than ours and would benefit from a change in other people's relative perspective. Modifying the SAA's definition of a blended family, I'd like to suggest that all families raising a child (or children) who is not one or both of the "parents" biological child is a blended family. It is an accurate term and hopefully one
that our society is more comfortable in accepting.

So now that I've stated that I know less than I thought about being a blended family and then broadened the definition of what I think a blended family is, I now need your help. Let me know what interests you, as a blended family member. What do you want to know more about? What is important to you? What is your blended-family situation, and how can Busy Parents Online be a resource to you?

Send your ideas, comments, and suggestions to me at If you are interested in contributing an article, essay, or other materials for the Blended Family section, see Blended Family Writing Guidelines for details.

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