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Stepmoms Have More to Lose

Photograph by Getty Images

When I was planning my wedding last year, everyone's first question was, "Are you ready to be a stepmom?" Of course I told them yes. I was more than ready to be a stepmom, more than ready to officially become a family of four and to spend the rest of my life loving my stepchildren, Chloe and Trey. I would tell them that I knew it would be hard sometimes, but it was going to be 100 percent worth it to have them in my life.

But I never told them that I thought marrying a man with children would be the most solid foundation for a marriage ever.

Trust me, I've read the statistics. I've pored over "stepmom support" websites that did nothing but scare me half to death and make me roll my eyes. I've spoken to other stepparents and read their accounts of divorce because they couldn't get along with the kids, or because they were too jealous to deal with their spouse's ex for the rest of their lives. I know that it doesn't work for everyone and that, sometimes, the pressure of a stepfamily is enough to crumble a marriage.

But for my husband David and me? Our family is our marriage's foundation. Chloe and Trey, our sweet children, are affectionately called our "marriage insurance." I know that lots of married couples with children think the same way we do, that they will always stay together for the children, but it's different for us. They are not my children. I wouldn't get to see them every other weekend or pick them up at 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving. I'm definitely not discounting the pain and struggle of a "normal" divorced family, but I do feel that in my position as a stepmom, having our kids means working 10 times harder to make our marriage last forever.

I know I'm lucky. I'm lucky that I love my stepchildren as if they were my own and that we get along with the kids' mom and stepdad. I'm lucky that they were so young when they first met me (Chloe was 4, and Trey was nearly 2) and that our bond is so strong. I'm lucky, I'm lucky, I'm lucky.

But from the very beginning, I knew that I was going to be married to David forever. The two of us have talked it over a thousand times, and we are in agreement that there is very little either of us could do to destroy this marriage. Call us naïve or call us dreamers; we don't care. All we have to do is think about Chloe and Trey, and that shows that our ground is solid.

The most stomach-churning thought is that Chloe and Trey would have to go through another divorce, another change.

I know a lot of people get married, have kids and then end up divorcing. It happened to my parents. It happened to David's. It happened to nearly everyone I know. But the difference, for me, is that in situations like that, parents are still part of their children's lives. No, you may not get to see your kid every day and, yes, you may have to stretch your Christmas celebration out until New Year's Day, but you are still a parent. Your kid is still your kid, no matter what.

But if David and I were ever to split up, where would that leave my relationship with our kids? Of course, the hope would be that I could still be a part of their lives, that I could still celebrate their birthdays and see them at Christmas, but it would never be the same. Tucking them into bed, making school lunches, playing Barbies on a lazy Sunday morning, throwing the baseball to Trey in the front yard—all of it would be gone. The most stomach-churning thought is that Chloe and Trey would have to go through another divorce, another change. No matter how egotistical it may sound, I know how badly they would hurt, too.

So we call them our "marriage insurance." They are the glue we will use if our marriage needs repairs, and they're also the foundation we will grow our love on if it ever starts to crumble. Maybe that's a lot of pressure to put on a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old, but I promise you that they have no idea. All they know is that we are a family and that families do what they can to stick together.

Don't worry, babies. We're as stuck as stuck can get. And we love it.

MORE: Can Your Stepkids Call You "Mom"?

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