DIVA readers introduce their everyday families
I only need one word to describe my family – complicated. That’s because when I talk about “my children”, they are in fact my sister’s kids.
My sister, the author Katy Watson, died in 2008 from lymphoma, and I’ve been the guardian of her two children since. She was a bisexual single mum. The kids have different dads so Katy asked me to be their guardian to stop Orla and Joe being separated when she died. Fortunately, the dads both agreed. They are involved and so are their partners.
Looking after two bereaved kids, aged five years and 18 months when Katy died, was tough. I had to be very present for them. I went from being a doting auntie, who was away a lot as a travel photographer, to a full- time stay-at- home mum. Before that, a short holiday with my sister and the kids seemed like hard work. But in a way, having to keep a schedule for the kids’ sake helped me keep going after her death. I looked after them and my parents looked after me.
The lowest point was my first full year of full-time parenting. Joe was teething, I was exhausted and mourning both my sister and my previous life. I remember pushing the pram and crying a lot. I was lucky that the mums from playgroup and school helped me out.
Talking about Katy has been a great help for us. A few months after Katy’s death, Orla had some great counselling at St Christopher’s Hospice. Joe was too little then but I’ve had counselling too. For me, it was important not to hide my emotions from the children. I cried in front of them and we talked about missing Katy and shared anecdotes.
Today, I’m back at work as a photographer, and have also set up Spacegirl Books to publish Katy’s book, Spacegirl Pukes, which stars a girl with lesbian mums. The children are growing up fast and are surprisingly well balanced. I want them to be strong and independent and have successful lives and their own families – however they might look. Since they were little I always said to the kids they might have either boyfriends or girlfriends. It doesn’t matter – as long as they’re happy.
ANNA WATSON GAVE UP HER CAREER TO RAISE HER SISTER’S CHILDREN AS TOLD TO
Looking after two bereaved kids after Katy died was tough