Becoming A Step-Family
By Jasjit Sangha
A journey into motherhood is an unknown adventure. We enter with the skills and limitations we have learned from our parents and caregivers. How this journey will unfold cannot be said: it is a mystery. In the end we will have participated in the creation of a unique human being – this is our fruit. But the true nectar of parenthood is self-knowledge.
I did not know what to expect when I first became a stepmother. I wasn’t aware that the trials and tribulations I would encounter would lead me down a path of self-discovery that would be heartbreaking, transformational and ultimately rewarding. All I knew was that I was 27 years old and the full-time stepmother of two young girls, ages 10 and 12, who had been raised very differently from my traditional Sikh Punjabi upbringing. The typical Indian childhood mantras of “respect your elders”, “study hard” and “don’t talk back” had no meaning to them.
I had grown up spending my weekends at the Gurudwara or visiting my many Aunties, Uncles and cousins, whereas they had had lived with their musician father in a bohemia household where creativity reigned over order.
I didn’t know where to begin as a stepmother or how to enter into their lives. I also did not know where to go to for advice. My friends did not have children yet and I somehow felt awkward talking about my life with my relatives because my stepfamily was so unconventional in South Asian circles. Not only had I married outside of the South Asian community – my husband was white Canadian – but I had also married a man with two kids.
Although no one ever said anything negative to me about my choice, I often felt like an outsider during family gathering when relatives talked about their children. It was hard to even bring up the subject of stepchildren let alone interracial marriage. I always felt that if I did bring up a problem I was facing, I would be judged or get a response such as “What did you expect would happen when you married outside your culture?” or “What were you thinking when you married a man with two kids?” This led to feelings of isolation and I felt silenced, at times, within the South Asian community.
In this column I am hoping to alleviate some of the stress South Asian stepmothers may face through an open discussion about my step-mothering experience. Please send in any questions or concerns you would like to see addressed in this column.
I look forward to hearing from you and building a supportive online community for South Asian stepmothers! Send your questions and thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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