HOW I MAKE IT WORK

Au­thor Mered­ith Jaffé’s tips for blended fam­i­lies.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - as told to Dannielle Miller The Mak­ing Of Christina (Pan Macmil­lan, $29.99) is out now.

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.

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