HOW I MAKE IT WORK
Author Meredith Jaffé’s tips for blended families.
Iwas heavily pregnant with my son when I first read this snippet, a small story in the sidebar of the newspaper, about a man who was on charges for abusing his stepdaughter over a six-year period. And it really struck me. I thought: “As a mother of a child that had happened to, how would you feel?”
You act in good faith when you go into a relationship, especially if you already have children of your own. I was married in my early 20s and had a daughter. After that relationship ended, I was single for 15 years until I met my now-partner, Paul. After we got together, we had two more children – another daughter and the son I mentioned earlier.
Writing The Making Of Christina took nearly a decade. When I started it, I had an 18-year-old doing the HSC, a child who was nearly two and a newborn, as well as my stepdaughter who was living with us. Psychologically, I was already up and down, then I added this novel that was in many ways so painful to write.
So why did I do it? Well, that’s life, isn’t it? I felt an urge to tap into some darker concerns at that time. The question kept nagging at me: what would happen if your home, which is supposed to be a safe haven, just wasn’t anymore?
I like to write books I hope will spark conversations. Exploring what can happen when you bring a stranger into the home is a discussion worth having. So my latest book is dark, but it also explores ideas like resilience and aims to show how some people are not defined by trauma but rather learn to carry it.
Despite its subject matter, I’m an optimistic person who sees the best in people most of the time. This helps when you have a blended family. I don’t know any step-parent who has not found the journey challenging. I’ve known my children from birth so there are fewer surprises; I tend to better understand where they are coming from. My biggest mistake early on with my stepdaughter
was trying to be a mother figure – she already had a mother! I had to learn to find moments of joy to share. It helped us build a more natural connection.
In fact, I’m actually quite fascinated by my stepdaughter. She’s a very different person to my other children. I’m intrigued by the way she goes about in the world. Ultimately, her arrival in my life gave me a heightened sense of wonder.