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Brittany Phillips shares her personal journey as a stepmum and certified step-family coach. She discusses the challenges of blending families, including sibling rivalry and different parenting styles. Brittany emphasises the importance of effective communication strategies and seeking support in blended families. She also highlights the impact of a new baby on the dynamic and offers advice for navigating co-parenting with exes. Despite the difficulties, Brittany believes that blended families can be a beautiful thing with effort and intentionality.

Brittney Phillips: I always encourage my clients to start having family meetings if they’re not having that already. It’s not like a lecture section. It’s a time to collaborate.

Laura Jenkins: In The Blend is a podcast series that helps parents navigate life within a blended family. Join me as I speak with experts and guests to get practical advice on how to have a harmonious blended family life. This series dives deep into the unique dynamics, logistics and challenges of raising a blended family. From new partners to juggling mixed finances, we will help guide you through it. Welcome back to In The Blend. I’m thrilled to have Brittany Phillips joining us today, someone with firsthand experience and professional insight into the world of blended families. Brittany is not only a step-mom, but also a certified step-family coach, offering invaluable guidance to families navigating the complexities of blending. Today, we’ll delve into her personal journey and how her experience as a single parent meeting another single parent shaped her approach to blending families. From initial challenges to fostering positive sibling relationships through to navigating different parenting styles and even introducing a baby of their own into the mix, there is plenty to dive into. Let’s jump right in. Well, welcome, Brittany. It is lovely to have you on the show today. Thank you so much for joining us.

Brittney Phillips: Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Laura Jenkins: Now, Brittany, to start us off, can you share a little bit about your personal journey as a stepmom? And you’re also a certified stepfamily coach, so I’d love to learn a little bit about that too.

Brittney Phillips: Sure. Started back, I usually like to start my story that I was in a first marriage and it was a very unhealthy marriage. Got divorced, which left me as a single mom and back in the dating world, which is really exciting. And that’s where I met my husband, my current husband. He was a single dad at the time, so we both had our own kiddos. got married and that’s where we started our blended family. That’s a whole story. We can dive into all the details of that, but it was much harder than I thought it was going to be. We ended up having two more kids together, so we kind of have a yours, mine, ours dynamic. But because of how difficult it was, like I guess I went into it really naive, like unsure of what the challenges of blended families were. It set me up for a lot of disappointed expectations in the long run. So, that’s really what led me to starting my own coaching business because it was so much harder than I thought. I feel like people don’t have enough support in this area. Like, we are not talking about it enough. Like, here in the U.S., that’s where I live, 40% of families are step families. I’m like, nobody is having these conversations to give the support because there are definitely unique challenges that come with a blooded belly. So, that’s what led me to that. I got certified as a professional coach and then I was like, it’s not quite enough. And so, I took a special course that specializes in the stepparent dynamic and got certified as that as well.

Laura Jenkins: Oh fabulous. So coming back to your personal story, so you had one child of your own and your new partner had one of his own, is that right? So you were both coming together as single parents with one child each. Yes. And were they similar ages at the time or the children?

Brittney Phillips: Pretty close. They’re just a three-year difference. So one was six and the other one was three.

Laura Jenkins: Okay, okay. So we’re talking about young kids here, which is, you know, all consuming, let alone when you bring two together. So what were some of those initial challenges that you and your partner faced when you bought these two separate families together?

Brittney Phillips: Yeah, so first of all, I have to preface this by saying I thought going in that this was going to be really easy for us because our kids were so young. I thought, oh, they’re not teenagers. They’re just going to adjust really fast. And that was pretty naive. So, to say the least, our kids got along really, really well before we got married. They were friends, like they’d play together really well, but it was like the act of physically moving into the same house that all of a sudden they’re like, what? have you done? Like, what is happening? We’re shuffling bedrooms around, right? Like, a lot of change happening all at one time. And all of a sudden, the kids are competing for attention, like trying to figure out who’s the top dog in the house, like those types of things. And all of a sudden, there’s just a lot of clash between those two. So that was really difficult. We weren’t planning on because they got along so well before.

Laura Jenkins: Yeah. So what do you do in that case if you’ve got this sibling rivalry of sorts? What sort of strategies did you and your partner use to help combat that or did you just let it play out?

Brittney Phillips: How did that go? Well, we did make a lot of mistakes. I always have to say that we’ve done everything wrong. I think after some time, like a lot of frustration on our end, we were like, we’ve got to make some intentional efforts here to help the kids feel a little better about this transition. So, some of the things we tried, we did a lot of one-on-one time with the kids, like I would spend one-on-one time with my child, he would spend one-on-one time with his, just to make sure they knew they were not being neglected or forgotten. Um, and to just make sure that they were being validated in the experience. Uh, I think that helped a lot. We also put a huge emphasis on creating like this new family atmosphere. So a lot of like family conversations, a big focus on kindness, like how we can treat each other kind and really celebrating when we caught them being kind instead of focusing on when they were not being kind. Yes. Because that’s kind of where we had been like only seeing the bad and so we shifted the focus to put more emphasis on the good.

Laura Jenkins: Yeah, yeah. And have you and your partner got different parenting styles as well or did you have different parenting styles?

Brittney Phillips: Yeah, that’s a great question. So going into it, this is like highlighting all my naive But going into the marriage, I thought we were pretty aligned in most things. But again, moving in together, it would like put, it’s like taking a microscope and like zooming in on, even just the really small differences became very obvious and clear. And so yeah, we did have different parenting styles and just odd things like, What made it hard was he had already been a parent, had found his groove right with his child. I was already a parent and found my groove with my child and now all of a sudden Like, we both think we’re right. I’m right. You’re not right. Like, let’s do it my way. And so we had to both like kind of humble ourselves and say, like, maybe my way is not always the perfect way. Maybe I need to be more open minded about trying something new or maybe adjusting the bedtimes a little bit, like little things like that that could end up being a big problem if you’re really stubborn. which apparently we both were a little bit, so.

Laura Jenkins: Yeah, that’s interesting because I can imagine that puts a lot of pressure on the relationship that’s new, relatively new by the time you moved in, I’m assuming. Yeah. And new and fun and then you’ve got this challenge that you’re faced with and it takes that little bit of self-awareness to stop, pause and think, okay, Could I be doing something differently here? Is there room for experimentation in my style in terms of what I’m doing here rather than just rolling with what you’ve always done? So I can imagine that it took a lot of that on both sides.

Brittney Phillips: Oh, absolutely. And you know, both of us coming from marriages that were unhealthy, I feel like we were extra stubborn, like, don’t tell me what to do. I’m not being pushed around anymore. Right. So we came in kind of like, here’s how we’re going to do it.

Laura Jenkins: Yeah. With that background. And then were the children going to the other home, the other parent’s home on off weeks or during other periods as well? And the reason I ask that is because I’m thinking about rules. So knowing that you and your new partner had your own ways of doing things, was there then an issue of having even a third or a fourth way of doing things happening in other homes?

Brittney Phillips: Yes, yes. So we have one, one of their kids goes back and forth. The other one was with us full time. So we had like a funny dynamic that way. And yes, we did have an extra set of rules that we weren’t aligned with on a lot of them. And so that was another piece of that complexity. And I know a lot of families, they’ve got kids going in all the directions, right? And that’s a huge frustration when people aren’t aligned.

Laura Jenkins: And how do you navigate that if there’s different rules in different houses?

Brittney Phillips: I think, and this is so funny, but I think probably the biggest thing we can do is learn where we actually have some control and where we don’t. So what can I let go of and realize that that’s out of my hands? When I send my kids to their other parents’ house, I don’t have a say there anymore, really. I can, I mean, if I have a good co-parenting relationship with them, that’s something we can discuss. But if they’re like a really high conflict person and I’m just like escalating all the problems, then maybe that’s not something I even wanna touch, right? And so there is this huge piece of trust and like almost faith that you’re, as you’re sending your child out the door, you’ve got to let go of the control. I’m not married to that person anymore and so I’ve got to let that go and kind of find peace with that.

Laura Jenkins: Yeah, it’s so true. You’ve got to focus on the things that you can control and get very comfortable with knowing that you just cannot control an ex-partner and what they will do in their house. And I know something that we often say in ours is, Well, that might be the way that things are done there, but in our house, this is the way things are done. And I found that’s quite a nice, non-threatening way of communicating that message to kids as well and letting them know that it’s nothing against the other parent. It’s just, well, that’s not how things are done in this house.

Brittney Phillips: Right, right. And so, actually, my background is I used to be a school teacher. And, you know, you go to, the kids go to different classrooms and there’s different rules in different classrooms. And it’s the same concept that helped me, I guess, recognize that it’s okay for kids to have different rules in different places that they learn. They pick that up pretty quickly if you teach them. These are the rules in this setting. These are the rules in this setting. And they’ll, they learn that.

Laura Jenkins: Definitely. And to that end, I’d love your thoughts on any communication strategies that you have found to be quite effective either through your own personal circumstance or through any of the coaching clients that you’ve worked with.

Brittney Phillips: Yeah, so I always encourage my clients to start having family meetings if they’re not having that already. And it’s really not like more of a way to create unity and not so much like the parents telling the kids all the things. It’s not like a lecture section. It’s a time to collaborate. Like, let’s, we’re on the same team. Let’s talk about our, all of our ideas. Everybody has a voice in this space. It’s not just me telling everybody what to do because that’s not very inviting, but really creating that family unity. by having hard conversations, discussing problems that are coming up. Like, there are so many things. Celebrating our wins, right? The things that we are doing awesome at. But I found that that really helps everyone in the family, like, feel included and feel involved. So that’s a huge thing that we like to do.

Laura Jenkins: Would that be something that you do on a weekly basis or just whenever you feel like it’s time to have a family meeting? Is it a little bit more ad hoc?

Brittney Phillips: Yeah. So in our family, we do it every week. We have a set day, but I know that that doesn’t work with every blended family schedule because sometimes the kids are only together like once a month or like crazy schedules. So you find what works for your family. If there are problems, then absolutely, you can just have a meeting randomly, like, hey, it’s, I think we need to have a family meeting about this, let’s pull it together. But I think you can always get really creative, too. And if your kids, I know of some families that their kids aren’t together, if they’ve got kids at different houses, that they’re not all together all at the same time, you could even do like a virtual family meeting, right? You could hop on a video call and do something that way, too.

Laura Jenkins: That’s a great idea. And I really like what you said about giving everybody a voice. And I think the family meeting is a really nice way to do that. Yeah. Something I’m really curious to ask you about, Brittany, is when the new baby came along as well. I know you mentioned at the start of our chat that you’ve gone on to have more children. So we’d love to know how that might have then impacted the dynamic.

Brittney Phillips: It felt really scary to do a move to make, but I found it to be one of the greatest things we did for our family. I know that that’s not the case for every family, but for us, our kids were very, very nervous. Both of them, they’re like, what is this going to do? How is this going to change how my parents, these parents feel about me? Right? And there was, there were a lot of nerves. But as soon as that baby was born, like, Every person in the family loved this little human, and everyone felt that connection, and it just brought us even closer together than we were. a surprising result, I guess. Maybe it’s not that surprising, but it actually helped my husband and I become even more aligned in our parenting as we raise this child, like, from birth and up, right? Like, we were like, oh, this is the way that we want to do this and have, raise a child from the start.

Laura Jenkins: I’d love to touch on support systems. And again, I’m sure this is something you chat to your clients quite a lot about. But have there been times when you’ve needed to seek support, either yourself or together as a couple during the blending process?

Brittney Phillips: Yes, yes, big resounding yes. There was time that I personally needed a lot of support. I was going to a therapist at the beginning of our marriage, just on my own, to work through, honestly, it was to work through trauma still from my first marriage. That was like a really big transition. period for me, like years worth of healing there for me. So I was doing that, but I felt so alone in my role as stepmom. I didn’t, I literally didn’t know another stepmom. I didn’t know of anyone who was blending a family at that time. And so I felt very, very isolated and just alone. That was hard. I wish I had had a community. Now I feel like there’s just so much more out there, so many more resources and communities for for people in those situations. So if you’re listening and you feel isolated, like I promise there are tons and tons of communities on Facebook and all the social media places, podcasts that you can listen to, to kind of feel some of that camaraderie. As far as in our marriage, we did end up needing to go to couples therapy because it got really hard and we Honestly, we started talking about divorce at one point because I just didn’t know if we were going to make it, if we were going to figure it out. And that did help to go to couples counseling. It helped us learn how to communicate more effectively with each other, get out of some of those cycles and bad habits that we kind of brought from our first marriages. unintentionally with us.

Laura Jenkins: Yeah, I think getting support, especially external support, in those times of need is such a good thing and it can really help when you are facing those challenges. That power of community can really help you feel like you’re not alone. Because if you’re not a step-mom, often it’s hard, or a step-parent, often it’s hard to understand what it is like until you’ve been in the trenches enduring some of these things.

Brittney Phillips: Absolutely. I do want to say too, as far as resources, there were big pieces that were missing. I felt like were missing from what we had. Our therapists were great, which is why I’m doing what I do now, why I coach people, because huge chunks of things like specifically for stepfamilies that nobody told me or helped me understand. Stepfamilies run differently than nuclear families, right, than those first families and I didn’t really have anyone to like explain some of those to me about how we create unity with kids that are already there, right, how do we create that safety in our home and those types of things that were missing in my experience.

Laura Jenkins: How did you and your partner navigate the co-parenting piece with your respective exes? I wouldn’t mind coming back to this just for a moment because I’d love to know whether there were any positive aspects that you could share because I think this is a big one that certainly that I hear in my conversation with step parents that comes up all the time.

Brittney Phillips: Yeah, so we’ve got two kind of opposite experiences. One of our One of our exes, we’ve got no contact, like at all. And that’s just like a safety, like mental health, all the things, right? Like just none, no contact there. The other one was a little rocky at first, but we’ve come to a place that I think we all feel really comfortable. We’re able to have conversations, able to be in each other’s houses, something like if for different events, able to go to sporting events together, right, like and cheer our child on as a group. But that took some effort, very intentional effort, and a huge piece of it was learning how to communicate in a more effective way. Instead of like that cycle of frustration and argument and like All the time, right? And so, once we’re able to figure out how we could talk in a way where we could let go of maybe any past hurts or differences of opinion, but still like, hey, we have a common goal and that’s to help this child. How can we like push through this, right? How can we get to through that and so really separating the difference between my personal feelings and my feelings for this child.

Laura Jenkins: Yeah, I think that that makes perfect sense and you’ve got to just take the emotion out of it. I like how you said let go because you’ve got to try and just almost forgive the past or let go of any thoughts that you’ve got about that person and really focus on the children. And great to hear that it’s all about the communication style from your experience too, Brittany, and how you say things as opposed to what you say. Right, right.

Brittney Phillips: And I think an issue that a lot of step parents run into now is that they think in their mind that they have to be best friends. And I’m like a huge like, we don’t have to be best friends, but we can be respectful. We can keep it more professional if we want to. We don’t have to be like, going on vacations together if we don’t feel comfortable with that, but we can have respect out of love for this child.

Laura Jenkins: Brittany, we’re almost at time here, but just before we wrap up, what advice would you give to other blended families to finish today, particularly those where both parents are bringing children into the mix?

Brittney Phillips: My, my biggest advice, my biggest thing I love to share with families is it is hard, especially in the beginning, but don’t give up because it will be your greatest blessing. Blended families are beautiful and the thing is, my, our family, it was rough at first and our kids struggled a lot at the beginning, but today, a decade later, my kids are best friends. They look forward to seeing each other all the time. They, I mean, they don’t even argue. They argue less than regular siblings. And so, I mean, it’s just, I love to see how they’ve grown, how they’ve learned from each other, how they’ve taken different traits that they wouldn’t have gotten without each other in their lives. And it’s just become this beautiful arrangement of all the personalities and all the things. And so it is tricky, but just like anything in life, anything worthwhile takes some effort. So it will take some effort and it will take some intentionality, but it will be a huge blessing.

Laura Jenkins:
Well, what a fabulous place to finish today, Brittany. Thank you so much for your time today. I have really enjoyed our chat.

Brittney Phillips:
Thank you so much for having me. I love chatting with fellow blended family friends.

Laura Jenkins: Thanks for listening to the In The Blend podcast. The show notes for this episode are available at And if you like what you heard, be sure to subscribe and please rate and review in your podcasting app. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.