By Jennifer Kelly
The first day of school is creeping up on us. As a mom in a blended family the least of my worries are buying back to school supplies and backpacks. No, my worries are, “How am I going to get kid A on the bus by 8 when kid B and C need to be at school at 8:15, 45 minutes away?” and “How am I going to explain to all of the other parents and teachers our situation again another year?” You’d think I’d have my speech hammered down by now, but I don’t.
When I was growing up my dreams as a little girl didn’t include struggling to finish college, selling my possessions to afford food for my family, sharing my children, or watching my husband work to the bone and our family still be in debt. No, my dreams as a child were that my husband and myself would have two children (a boy and a girl, of course), and live in a modest home, never knowing what struggling was.
Because that was how I was raised to think. That is what all my fairytale books told me would happen if I was a good girl. And I was a good girl. So why am I struggling now? I guess that’s besides my point. But no one dreams of struggling, but struggling for most of us is part of reality. We need to teach our children how to deal with adversity, and how to deal with struggling. We can’t shield them from it. Because I was shielded from so much growing up, I had no grip on reality. I choose to raise my children differently. I choose to show them our struggle, so they know how to overcome that, and work harder to get where they need to get. I do not want to raise children that wallow in their own self-pity.
I am not one who chooses to wallow in my own self-pity so I do not expect that from my children. But being a mom in a blended family brings its own set of struggles. I imagine the nuclear family also has their own set of struggles, but they are ignorant to my struggles. The nuclear family only makes matters worse for us. You see, we live in a very suburban, middle to high class town, that has known very little of what it means to struggle or to face adversity. There are not many families like ours that are blended. I feel like they look at us as if we are not a valid family because we share our children between households.
When I’m asked how many children I have, and my answer is always 5, the follow-up is, “Where are they all?” Then I have to respond with “their other parents.” And then I always get, “Oh, they aren’t all yours.” And the majority of the time I feel like slapping that parent or teacher. “NO, they are all mine. Whether I birthed them or not, or if I have them 2 days a week opposed to 7 days a week — they are ALL MINE!” Yes, I share them between households, but the worrying about them doesn’t stop when I drop them off. The thinking about them, loving them, wondering if they are okay doesn’t end just because they are not in my sight. But I feel like I have to constantly defend myself as a mother because some of the children did not come from my body, and one of them I share with her father.
What I want to say to the nuclear families of the world is good for you. Good for you, for conforming to society. But I am not going to apologize for my beautiful and blended family. Nor am I going to defend myself as a mother to the children that I share. They are all a part of me, just as I am a part of them. So please don’t bow your head at me in shame when I tell you I share my children. And please don’t give me that “Oh they aren’t all yours?” crap anymore. Quite frankly, I’m sick of hearing it.
Understand this as I say it this one last time, blood is the least of what makes someone a parent. There is so much I need to teach my children about life, and struggle, and hardship. But the thing I hate teaching my children the most is to not be ashamed of our family. It’s the nuclear families that make us feel ashamed, and less like a family because we aren’t in the same household 7 days a week. Truthfully, we are more a family than my nuclear family was growing up!
I refuse to tell my children fairy tales of perfect families. They don’t exist. What I will teach them is about love, trust, commitment. In whatever form that comes, they will always have that in their heart. I will teach them to be kind, when they have nothing else in the world. As long as they are kind that is all that will matter. All they need to be in this world is kind, loving, and not judgmental of anyone.
So next time you have a judgement of me or my own, please kindly keep it to yourself.
Jennifer Kelly is a wife to the love of her life, and a mother to 3 biological children and 2 step-children. Her days are consumed with trying to finish her degree in order to become a co-parent therapist. As well as chasing after her wonderful babies. Jennifer also writes her own blog at http://www.amotherofalltrades.com.