No one tells you what starting a family is like. And no one tells you what blending two families together will be like. We're all told it's innate, and we'll just figure it out!
But it's not innate. Babies don't come with manuals and they are all different. And so are families. Trying to blend two families together is a challenge even when everyone agrees. But when one side of one of the halved families doesn't agree, it can create havoc of epic proportions. And the losers are always the children.
A little over a year ago I became the second wife of a truly extraordinary man, and a stepmother of an exquisitely lovely girl; the daughter I never had. I had no idea how to navigate this uncharted territory, and so I did what was I thought was logical: I gave my new husband and his first wife plenty of space. I didn't want to become an intruder. After all, I wouldn't want that to happen to me in case my ex-husband remarried.
It was the worst decision I ever made.
My biggest mistake was to take the backseat. I thought that by not appearing as a challenge to the first wife, I would make the transition smoother and less traumatic. That may have been the case in theory, but as a result of my decision, my new husband and I and our children never became a family, because I deferred to the decisions made by my husband and the first wife in (almost) everything, and the children knew the difference and they used it to the max. (I don't blame them, I would have done the same!)
One awful night it all came tumbling down, because I couldn't take it anymore. The disrespect and the constant feeling of not being in control of my own life was too much for me. It was while I was dealing with the aftermath in the days that followed that I finally realized that all of it could have been avoided if I had refused to take the backseat and insisted in my proper role as my husband's wife, mother to my children, and stepmother to my husband's child. I had abdicated that responsibility, not our of fear, but out of a misguided belief that I could make sure everyone would be okay.
No one can.
We all need to take responsibility for what we feel and what we want. That's what makes happy families.
So, from now on, I will be the proper, loving wife to my loving husband, and the ever-adoring mother to my children, and the forever stepmother to my beautiful stepdaughter. Because together we make a family.
A happy family.