This is an essay by Valerie Weddle, a finalist for the 2018 WeParent Scholarship. She is a student at Perry Technical Institute.
My mom and dad got divorced when I was two years old. While my mom and dad were married, they had my brother and me. While my mom was married to my first step dad, they had two daughters together. My mom remarried two more times after that, and I had two stepsisters the first time and now have three stepsisters with the fourth marriage. My dad remarried when I was about 15 years old. He had one child with my step mom and I gained another stepsister from her. I am the oldest of all of the six children.
All of us grew up together at different times; I mostly grew up living with my mom. My mom had full custody of my brother and me. Therefore, my brother and I lived with our mom, sisters, and step dad full time during the week and would get to see our dad overnight every other Saturday. Then, after my dad remarried, I only got to see my sisters from his side every other weekend until I made the choice to move in with my dad and step mom when I was about 16 years old. No matter what, I did not get to see one or more of my siblings as often as I would have liked to.
Growing up, we always had two Thanksgivings and two Christmases. Usually we were with our mom the day of the holidays and we went with our dad for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Living separately we did not always get to enjoy the holidays or events with all of our family together under one roof. We would have a birthday at one house with some family or at another house with some other family members.
The hardest part of growing up in a broken family was the financial insecurity. While living with my mom, we were homeless several times. We stayed at the mission, and I remember walking from school to the mission. My brother and I stayed with our dad as often as we could during these times and when our mom was in treatment on several occasions. She always retained full custody and I know she loved us even if she could not show it.
While I was growing up, my grandma never liked the word “step” so everyone is always family to her, and I have adopted that idea as well with my family. My dad and my step mom got divorced before I was 18 years old. I am almost 30 years old, and my ex-step mom is still my mom and my stepsisters are still my sisters. Once you live as a family with someone, it is hard to let them go even when the parents are no longer together.
Living with all of our family always separated in one way or another, made us stronger individuals because we had to work harder to keep our family together. I realized before I got married that I never wanted to get a divorce and put my children through what my siblings and I went through. My husband and I got married in July of 2010, and I told him that once we tied the knot, he was stuck with me forever. We have gone through and will go through hard times, but it brings us closer. We now have two young boys who are seven and four years old. I never want them to grow up away from one another. I do not want them to have to make a choice of who they would rather live with. Our little family is the most important thing to me. Getting my degree in Business Technology and Accounting is another step for our family – a step for security and a step of gratitude. I am grateful my husband and I can provide a different childhood for our boys.