Growing up with a broken family made me scared to have a family of my own. At the funeral of one of my relatives, I, an 18 year old, told my mother I will never get married. I just didn’t want to get married and end up like my parents ? they are separated. My mom was so angry. She asked me if I didn’t want to have a husband did I want a wife? I never imagined dating women till then until years later after that incident, when I began having relationships with women.
“I have one daughter. She is two and a half years old”
After chatting for a month with a woman I met on Facebook, we decided to meet. She was a writer at the same publishing I worked with. She told me about her marital status before we decided to meet up. Before her, I never dated anyone who had their own children. But I don’t know why I didn’t feel scared or worried about this fact. I remember the first day I met her daughter, I was a bit nervous because I was afraid she might not like me. What would I do if she did not allow me to hold her or even talk to her, I thought. She looked so small when I first saw her. She looked at me with curiosity. My ex-partner told her I was her friend. The girl was too young to have more questions. She didn’t express denial to my existence in the room. Before I knew, I was visiting her almost daily.
After sometime, I moved into my ex-partner’s house. During that time, she was pursuing her PhD while I worked at the bookstore. My partner usually brought her daughter to her husband’s family house which is located nearby our place before she went to the university. When she came back from the university, she picked her daughter up from there and took care of her.
This routine changed when I moved in with her. I started to take care of her daughter while she worked. We began going to the bookshop together. I told my boss the truth, she was okay with it. They came to meet me at the bookshop quite often. I introduced her to my friends as my partner’s daughter. She called me auntie and usually spent time with me. I used to read books for her while she listened patiently, interrupted only with questions. I could tell, she loved to be with me in the bookshop.
At home, I fed her food, took shower with her, and put her to bed. I remember one day she suddenly woke up early in the morning and cried. Her mother was so tired and sleepy. I woke up, tried to sing a song and told a fairy tale until she stopped crying and fell asleep again. She slowly began trusting me and we developed a relationship like I was part of her family.
I had family time with them for almost one year until I moved to another city with my ex-partner. She couldn’t take her daughter with us because the grandparents didn’t allow her. The girl stayed with grandparents and came to stay with me and my ex-partner in the summer, sometimes. We used to meet twice a year, then. I would still do the same thing for her? Feed her, play with her, & put her to sleep.
I never thought I would become a stepmother one day. I had to deal with questions from people in my community asking who the girl was or what was my relationship with her. I felt a bit uncomfortable to answer because the city that my ex-partner and I lived in was so conservative. In the Muslim dominated society, same-sex relationships are not readily accepted. I couldn’t tell them about my relationship with the girl. Every time people asked my partner the whereabouts of her husband, she had to politely tell them she was divorced. I couldn’t let people know I was her partner and that we were a family.
I remember this one day when I met her at some family event. The girl used to ask my ex-partner the kind of relationship her mom had with me. My ex-partner used to say I was her life partner. She looked at us and did not say anything. We all hugged each other and she just knew we lived together. How ordinary it was for her. She did not question my orientation or why I stayed with her mom and not with her father. Maybe because she was too young to raise such questions, some people might think. I’m not sure if that is true because I think love is love? the love and warmth I had for her might have been enough.
Now she is 11 years old. Time passes fast. My ex-partner and I are separated but we are still friends. I have had no chance to meet her daughter since we broke up. But I still think of those days when we were together. I was so happy to take care of a child. She taught me how to take care of children. She taught me how to be around children. We had a good time together as a family.
The heterosexual notion of a family ? father, mother, and children needs to change. I want to say there are other kinds of family. And gender is definitely not important here. We have gay families with adopted children living happily, single moms and dads raising families with their kids, or just alone, by themselves. I wouldn’t have said this with so much conviction if I had never experienced it for myself. Being a mother doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a woman assigned at birth, and also a family doesn’t necessarily have to have a mother. What a family does mean is that we live/spend time together, and give love and care to each other.