What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by Diana Carbajal Mejia.
Not long ago I wrote a post for the Huffington Post Divorce section. It was the first post I have ever written for them and I was thrilled that it was published. I wrote the post after meeting the Huffington Post Divorce section editor at BlogHer, when she attended a small break out session for step-family bloggers. There were 8 of us step-moms in a room that could accommodate a couple of hundred. I thought to myself, “Where are all the step-moms?” In a blogging conference with over 3000 attendees, surely there are more than just 8 step-family bloggers? The other step-moms joked that we were the only ones attending the break-out session because we were brave enough to admit we are step-moms. I laughed because I thought they were joking about us being pariahs. And then Huffington Post published my article. And then I read the over 270 comments and found out that the other step-mom bloggers were right---we are pariahs. At least that’s what most of the commentators said. Parents who divorce are selfish. Step-moms are evil. So, that is why I am writing this. I want you to know that divorce is difficult, step-parenting is really difficult, and step-moms are not wicked.
My ex-husband and I divorced when our son was only 2 years-old. During the last two years of our marriage we tried to keep our marriage together. It did not work. But for reasons that are deeply personal, I will not disclose these details on the internet. So, we divorced. My image of the family that we were creating was shattered. Little by little I became more comfortable with re-shaping the picture of my family. And then I met my current husband. I also met his two young girls, from an equally shattered marriage. My husband and I married because we are committed to each other. We also married because we wanted to create something new- a different image of what a family could be. We added to that picture when we had our son. I am the biological mother to my two boys. I am also the step-mother to my two girls. I do know a bit about what it means to be both a mom and a step-mom. It’s different in both situations. I do all the parenting things for my girls that I do for my boys. I do them, knowing that I don’t really have to do them. After all, they have a mother, and a father. I do these things, knowing that I will probably get taken for granted because they have a “real mother.” As a step-mom, I get a lot of the responsibilities of mothering with few of the “goodies.” The girls can be wonderful and loving, but they have a loyalty to their mom. I get that. I am not their mother, but I am more than their dad’s wife.
If it seems like I treat my step-daughters differently than I treat my boys, it’s probably because I do. The difference in the way I treat them does not make me an evil step-mom. I love the girls, but it wasn’t instantaneous. My love for them grew from the place that came with loving their father. Even though I love them, and I believe they have come to love me, there is a bit of a boundary between me and the girls. The boundary that is created by the natural loyalty they have for their mom. While I am not the source of the split in their parents’ marriage, I am the constant reminder that their parents will never re-marry. So, I get that they are probably conflicted. I hope the separation between us will lessen over the years. We are working on it every day. Studies say it takes at least 7 years to blend a family. We have been at it for over 8 years now. Blending a family takes effort, cooperation and patience.
What I want you to know is that blended families need your support, not your judgment or condemnation. The fact that my husband and I want to be involved in the day to day of our kids’ lives, and want to create a home for them together, does not make us selfish. The fact that we divorced when the kids were very young, does not make us, as one Huffington Post commentator said, “quitters.” Divorce is personal. Creating a family out of loss is challenging. But don’t think that because we are a step-family that we love each other any less or, that we are not a real family, because we are.