Twenty years down the track I did meet my 'prince' and he unexpectedly brought to our relationship 2 beautiful 'princesses'. So when we recently married I became a step mum to my husband's two gorgeous girls, aged seven and five.
My step family environment challenges the norm that I grew up expecting my own family to be like. While my new family environment brings with it some challenges, it also brings some wonderful benefits. So what is it like to be part of a step family and how can this unconventional family structure be honoured in a positive way?
My two beautiful step daughters have adjusted very well to changes in their family environment over recent years and, by their own admission, they now feel lucky to be part of two families. I have certainly found there are some wonderful benefits in my new role of step mum, and I am doing my utmost to embrace them all.
The nature of our step family, where custody of the girls is shared, means we always strive to make the most of our limited time together. The start of a period of family time is always brimming with excitement. Everyone has stories to tell of what they have done over recent days. Conversely, the end of our family time together has the potential to be a sad time, however I have learnt from my husband to choose to not dwell on those sad feelings.
When we have time together as a family we always encourage lots of laughter. It is important to us that the girls feel safe, secure and loved, and the sound of laughter is always reassurance to us that they do. We also share valuable family time together where we encourage open and honest conversation. We work on having family conversation time when we share our feelings and talk honestly about what is going on in our lives.
Knowing our time together is limited we always try to make the most of it, so that means sharing the good and bad times together. One of the main benefits I have experienced as a step mum is the love and trust that my gorgeous step daughters put in me as they allow me to input into their lives. I truly feel honoured that they choose to allow me to do this.
With the girls as a priority, we have deliberately taken steps to ensure that despite being part of two families, they are part of just one broader community. This has meant that I have taken the step to relocate so we can live close to where they live when they are with their mum. This has been just one of the challenges in my role as step mum.
Other challenges include defining my role as step mum within the family as it relates to disciplining, general parental responsibilities, and recognition (I never wondered why there wasn't a 'Step-Mum' day until my first year as step mum when Mother's Day was approaching). Negotiating shared custody, the shift from being care-free of responsibilities to having an instant family (wow, that was a shock!), and the need to be flexible in the way I define my family and how family time is spent are all part of the challenges I face each week as a step mum.
Despite the challenges I love my new role and I take comfort knowing that the example Jesus set through his life provides an example for me that a life lived unconventionally can be valued just as highly. Jesus was born to young unmarried parents. His arrival in the world was unconventional and didn't meet society's expectations of what was correct. He welcomed the poor, the sick and afflicted and loved each one of them equally. Murderers, prostitutes and other people that society looked down on were treated with love and respect.
Jesus' life proves to me that a conventional life should not necessarily be our aim. This realisation has helped me to see the unconventional nature of my step family as a real blessing. There are two beautiful girls who are now a very special part of my life and I am blessed and grateful to have the opportunity to be their step mum: a role I tackle with enthusiasm.