“It was never my dream of becoming a single mom or a stepmom! At a young age, I dreamt of what I wanted to become when I grew up. Being a divorced 33-year-old woman with two young children, getting remarried, and becoming a stepmother to two other precious young boys was not what I had envisioned. My dream, in fact, was to live a simple life with what I considered to be a ‘normal’ family, but the universe had a better plan for me.
On a beautiful day in July 2012, the father of my two children, Benjamin and Nicholas, had just gotten back from a business trip. As usual, we were thrilled to have him back home. That night, after everyone except me was in bed, I opened our iPad to watch a movie. To my surprise, I stumbled upon some very disturbing messages on Skype. My now ex-husband had mistakenly left the app open. My heart sank and this was the moment my whole world crumbled beneath me. I had just found out the father of my children had been having an affair for the past 4 years.
Since I did not want to upset or disturb the people in my life, including my children, I painfully kept it a secret between him and me. Like a lot of women, I had hope there might still be a chance to fix our broken relationship for the love of our children. Every morning, I hid my sadness as I wore a happy face mask for the whole world to see. Then every evening when I got home, I cried in the shower to hide my ongoing pain from my children’s eyes.
I never dreamed of becoming a divorced single mom. But 9 months later, I discovered a hidden credit card and cell phone. It was at that very moment when I understood things were never going to get any better. The betrayal was too heavy for me to handle and I could no longer pretend, so it was finally time to let go and leave. At the time, Benjamin was 6 years old and Nicholas was only 4 years old. They were heartbroken and had no idea what was going on.
Divorce is one of the hardest life-altering events for an adult. I cannot imagine the impact it has on all the children it touches. Most of us end up in a grieving cycle when we end a relationship. Like us, children will also go through a grieving cycle of their own. You may have already heard of the five steps within the grieving cycle: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is a unique journey for everyone, and there is no precise formula and timeline. Eventually, I forgave and accepted the fact that what used to be my ‘normal’ family did not exist anymore. I was now ready to move forward and create a better life for me and my children.
On January 11th, 2014, I met this wonderful, genuine man, named Frank, at a local coffee shop. Little did I know then, he would end up being the love of my life. It was raining and snowing that day and the roads were very slippery. On my way to meet Frank for the first time, I had a car accident. Luckily, I was not hurt but my car had been totaled and was no longer drivable. Can you believe my dad ended up being the one who drove me to meet Frank that day? Boy, I am ever thankful he did!
We hit it off right away. Just like me, he was also divorced with two children, Xavier, 9 years old, and Jacob 7 years old. This day marked the beginning of our journey to becoming a blended family.
Trying to get to know each other was quite different from when I was younger with no kids. Balancing a new relationship and family time with young children required some deliberate planning from both of us. Facetime became part of our routine almost every night while the kids were in bed. Things then became serious and we both knew we were in it for the long run.
Not knowing what to expect from a blended family and how to navigate this journey, I did a lot of research on the internet. What I found was quite disappointing, to say the least. Research shows 70% of all blended families fail. Was I ready to take a chance to possibly hurt four children for a second time if this new relationship did not work out?
Frank helped me finally understand what a loving and healthy relationship was. I felt safe, loved, and respected. So, I refused to believe we could not get a second chance at love. So, after 2 months we decided both families should finally meet. The first meeting went well. We had chosen a neutral place and an activity all four boys loved. We chose to go see a movie we were all looking forward to seeing. During the next 10 months or so, the boys had the chance to get to know each other better, and we ultimately decided it was finally time to move in together under one roof.
The first year after moving together was certainly the hardest. The brutal reality of stepsibling conflicts, trying to find where we all stood, and navigating around co-parenting was not for the faint of heart. It would have been easier to just go our separate ways. I contemplated giving up more than a few times. I felt unequipped and expected this new blended family to be like my ‘normal’ family, but it was not.
Now I know blended families are not meant to be a replica of our first family. That is the beauty of it. I wish someone would have told me that sooner. I would have had a different perspective right from the very beginning. I can tell you that between all the rough spots, I found immense gratitude and a sense of belonging. Frank and I, we both tried extremely hard to make it as positive as we possibly could for everyone. As mentioned previously, being a stepmother was not part of my dream when I grew up, but that is what I desperately wanted now, and I wanted to be a good one.
Consistency is so important in every aspect of our lives including creating a bond with our children. We both made sure the children were treated equally and fairly. It took me some time to bond with Xavier and Jacob. After 7 years, I can honestly say I love them unconditionally. They are not Frank’s kids or mine, they are ours.
I believe making new traditions for our blended family really helped us bond with each of them. We created moments as much as we could. For example, every year, we buy one Christmas ornament representing something special we did as a family that year. Even now being between the ages of 11 and 16, the four boys are still excited to put them up on the tree. Also, twice a month we play board games as a family. We are always presently surprised how much we all get to know a little more about each other during those nights.
We also made sure to spend some quality one on one time with each of them. The funny thing is, each time it was their time alone with us, they often asked if the others could come too. For me, that was a sign we were on the right track while moving forward on this journey.
As a little girl, I had always dreamt to visit the very picturesque Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. I was always fascinated with the European architecture depicting medieval monasteries and renaissance castles. I never had the luxury of traveling much or even had visited anything outside our Country until I was an adult. So, the chance of visiting the Castle was slim to none.
While working at the hospital as a Clinical Research Nurse in Oncology, I had the opportunity to travel to Vienna Austria in 2016. It was to attend a conference associated with a new study. Vienna is no more than 4 hours away by train to the village of Hohenschwangau where my dream Neuschwanstein Castle is located.
Was it a coincidence at the exact time I was attending the study meeting in Vienna, Frank was also traveling to Belgrade for his own meetings? Because of this, we had planned to extend our stay to take a little vacation. Thankfully, the grandparents agreed to take care of the boys during our time away.
On July 2, 2016, at the foot of the Neuschwanstein castle, Frank asks me to marry him. And of course, I said yes. The four boys were also overly excited to hear the news when we got back from our trip. For some reason, instantly our family dynamic changed. The boys seemed to feel more secure and that created an even tighter bond between them.
Frank and I wanted the wedding to be as memorable as possible not just for us but also for the four boys. We ended up deciding to get married in Jamaica with close family members and friends. This created yet another moment while making it a family vacation at the same time. The boys still talk about how much fun we had. We had created so many memories with them that week.
In January 2020, we were all so excited and fortunate for the arrival of our family dog, Ella. She is a King Charles Cavalier and the last member to complete our blended family. Did you notice I said ‘she?’ Yup, finally another female in the house.
This brings us to where we are today and where we are headed next as a successful blended family. From the very start of our journey, I’ve had the desire to help other blended families around the world by sharing our story. By giving them tools and sharing advice, I hope to help others create their own happy and healthy blended family. I felt lost when I first met Frank, not knowing how to navigate this new and sometimes scary journey. I want to provide hope to others who also have never dreamt of becoming a divorced and single parent. If I can help them navigate their way to finding a lifetime partner and becoming a better stepparent, that would make me incredibly happy.
Last year, I turned 40-years-old and with the pandemic situation we are currently living in, it was time for me to start sharing our story. I finally started my blog about our ongoing journey as a blended family. The best part is everyone, including the four boys, is involved in the making of this blog. Looking back, I now see how far we have come.
Sometimes people you previously wanted as part of your story might only end up being part of a chapter. Also, that dream you had as a child might not turn out exactly as planned. Don’t give up because your story could end up being better than you could ever imagine. I got my happy ending, so can you.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Cecile Leger from Canda, New-Brunswick. You can follow their journey on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and their blog. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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