It’s hard to describe how it felt to meet my step children for the first time but I remember feeling incredibly nervous.
I’d dressed more carefully that day. My little brother was dragged along for moral support and also as a way to break the ice if needed.
I opened the door and there they were.
Before me stood two cute little boys aged 12 and 8, both of whom resembled their dad. The oldest was open and friendly and gave me a warm greeting before joining my brother who was playing one of those console games. The younger one was clinging to his father’s leg and refused to leave his side.
It felt surreal seeing my boyfriend in them so vividly and straight away I felt a rush of emotion for them both. I wanted them to like me. I looked forward to seeing them again.
It didn't help that step mothers are normally portrayed as evil villains.
What followed was four years of struggle during which my relationship became more and more serious and the boys tried to cope with the fact that I would be in their lives for good and their father would never be with their mother again.
I tried so hard to help them but I was young and didn't understand what they were going through. I didn't have kids of my own so I didn't realise how powerful and all-consuming a parent's love is for their child, that is until five years into the relationship when I had a baby of my own.
As I gazed at my child's incredible face I thought, "Oh, I get it now. Wow." It took my breath away.
That's when my real relationship with my step sons began.
Being a blended family is hard and it doesn't do anyone any favours to try and pretend like it is going to be smooth sailing, feeling as though I have to love my stepchildren in exactly the same way as I love my biological child. That's just not realistic for them or for me.
I knew my boyfriend was The One, he just happened to come with a couple of kids. How did you know you'd met The One? Article continues after this video.
I do love my stepsons. I love them both very much, but I love my biological children in a totally different way. I love my biological children naturally and easily with no effort required.
Expecting me to love my stepsons in the same way as I love my biological children is just as crazy as expecting them to love me as much as they love their biological mother. It's just not going to happen, nor is it a bad thing.
Why is there this expectation that we have to love each other with the devotion of a parent and child? It's completely devalues the incredible relationship that is the step mother and step child relationship.
At the end of the day we didn't choose each other. I didn't choose to become a step mother, I just fell in love with someone who happened to have kids. They didn't choose to have a step mother, they were forced to accept me in their lives.
I am proud of the relationship I have built with my step sons because it didn't come naturally to us and it wasn't easy. We didn't automatically love each other. We had to get to know each other, learn about each other, respect each other and they had to forgive me.
And if I didn't already love my step children enough already, seeing them with their little brother and now with all of their siblings made me love them even more. Image: Provided
My step sons and I had to work to achieve the closeness we have with each other and comparing it to that instinctual love that exists between a mother and child does a huge disservice to blended families everywhere.
One of the main reasons that I was so excited to be pregnant with my first child was because I'd finally have a biological connection to my step children, a blood link.
We'd be related through my child. He'd make us a family. And if I didn't already love my step children enough already, seeing them with their little brother and now with all of their siblings made me love them even more.
There's nothing I wouldn't do for them. I am so incredibly lucky to have my bonus children, both men now, and watch them grow and settle down and have children of their own.
We just had to get through all the drama first.
Jo Abi has written a book about her first steps into becoming a blended family. It's called How to Date a Dad and you can buy it here.