One divorced couple has taken co-parenting to a whole new level!
Meet Katie Blackmer and her family, otherwise known as “The Blended 10.” Their brood is comprised of Blackmer and her ex-husband Stephen, their spouses Ben and Brandy, and both families’ collective six children. Oh, and there’s one other unique detail about their lives that may surprise most parents.
They all live inside the same two-story house in Tennessee.
While the situation is definitely unconventional, it works wonders for them. Blackmer, who considers herself the “team captain,” has found that living this way has led to a very happy home.
“We have sat aside all of our differences and struggles to co-parent the best way we can,” she tells Babble. “Our children are happier than they have ever been. Even through our marriage, they are happier now. Mom and Dad finally get along every day!”
Since the children now have four parents to call their own, nobody feels left out if a problem pops up.
“The kids know there is always an adult to talk to or help them with something,” she shares.
The mother of three has experienced plenty of reactions to her family’s lifestyle, but she’s learned to let go of other people’s judgments — and she encourages any parent living in a similar dynamic to do the same.
“Don’t let what other people say about how your family looks and acts affect the way you want to parent,” she tells Babble. “Everyone has an opinion, but as long as your kids are happy and you are happy, that’s all that matters.”
For Blackmer, the sunny days of living joyfully all together are a far cry from the challenges her family encountered in earlier years. First, there was the painful end to her and Stephen’s marriage and the inevitable struggle of splitting their time with the kids. Added to that were the vulnerable adjustments that came in 2016 when she married her new husband, Ben, and welcomed his 19-year old son Hunter into the family.
Even on the darkest of days, Blackmer faced every obstacle head on, hoping for a situation that would ultimately create peace for her now-blended family. It took about a year of adjusting to newly married life and adding Ben into the co-parenting mix before the trio finally started to get the hang of giving their kids a feeling of stability from their two separate homes.
Yet, there was one obstacle that Blackmer did not see coming.
In May of 2017, the mom received a life-altering call that still haunts her to this day. Stephen and his brother had been in a fatal car accident.
While his brother tragically died in the aftermath of the crash, Stephen managed to come out of the ordeal alive. However, his medical team implored Blackmer that her ex-husband would require round-the-clock care to survive. Having lost her dad to a car accident at age 7, Blackmer knew she wanted to give her children as much time with their father as possible. What’s more, she knew that Ben would be on board with whatever helped their family stay united.
“We knew we needed each other, we needed Ben, and our kids needed all of us completely, all the time,” she says.
To Blackmer’s unexpected surprise, Ben not only supported her, but was the one who suggested keeping everyone together. He even volunteered to assist in caring for Stephen.
“Ben said, ‘He’s coming home with us!’” Blackmer shares. “[He] jumped in and helped care for Stephen just as much as I did. It felt amazing to have his help and support through all of this, because inside I felt like I was going to break into a million pieces.”
As the family got used to all living under the same roof, they added one final piece to the puzzle. Stephen began dating Brandy, a mom of two. Not long afterward, Brandy’s little family piled into Blackmer’s house, and all four parents and six children have stayed together ever since. Now Blackmer can finally breathe easy, knowing there is a peaceful, loving dynamic in her home every day.
“[Ben and Brandy] absolutely live up to the title ‘bonus mom and bonus dad,’” the mom tells Babble. “[They] are there for our children from the time they start until the time they finish … Our kids know they can trust Brandy and Ben and go to them for anything they need, just as they would Stephen and I.”
There were definitely some adjustments for the six kids, who struggled initially to share their rooms, toys, and biological parents, but they quickly embraced the benefits of having extra siblings.
“Even though they are not brothers and sisters ‘on paper,’ they tell everyone they are,” Blackmer says.
Living as one big team has also majorly helped the couples navigate weekly issues, like the kids’ hectic after-school sports schedules, meal management, and ongoing expenses.
“Sharing bills is a huge plus!” Blackmer says.
Of course, it certainly does help to have a team captain in Blackmer, who has been a lifesaver for the group. She keeps the family organized with a shared calendar on her phone and a printed calendar taped to the front door every Sunday.
“That way everyone knows which child has to be at which game or practice, which child has something at school, [and] who’s cooking dinner that night,” she says.
As a stepmom, seeing a happy ending like this gives me hope for my own blended family. Blackmer’s amazing tribe proves that teamwork really does make the dream work!