“My stepdaughters and I love each other very much.”

Waleska, 42, Puerto Rico

Before I was 13, I decided not to have children for 2 reasons: 1) I didn’t want to perpetuate abuse and generational trauma as a result of the severe psychological abuse that my father inflicted on my brother, my mom, and I; 2) By the age of 10 or 11, I decided to seek a profession that would allow me to advocate for the environment. I now have 2 college degrees in environmental science. I knew that I did not want to contribute to an already overpopulated planet.

In my early 20s I experienced major severe depression. There is also mental illness on both sides of my family, with one side having a history of serious mental pathologies. After having such a severe crisis, my plan not to have children was firmly cemented because I didn’t want to pass on any mental illness to another human being or traumatize another person due to my own struggles and trauma.

I got married in my late 30s to a man who has 2 daughters, so I am a stepparent. My girls are with us 50% of the time and I’m a very dedicated stepmom. I love them dearly, but their biological parents are responsible for the big decisions, hard conversations, and large expenses.

I manage my time however I want as my husband is a very supportive man who doesn’t expect me to be home parenting with him at all times. I’ve tons of girlfriends and I love to spend time with them. I also love my work and sometimes spend long hours at the office. I don’t have to be home by any particular time to take care of the girls. I chose to be more involved and make sure to be home when they were younger.

Now they are both teenagers and have a lot of independence. Thanks to the extra income I bring, we take them on nice vacations and they have all they need and more. They are my children and I’m grateful, but this is the hardest, most challenging aspect of my life, because I genuinely care for them.

My stepdaughters and I love each other very much. I try to be supportive, kind, and present. I am not perfect, but I take my responsibility to be a parent seriously. I also do a lot of behind the scenes work with my husband. It is paramount to me that my husband has a healthy and strong relationship with the girls, because I know how painful it is to not have a one with my dad. I’ve been in therapy for more than 2 decades, which has prepared me to be a very positive presence in my girls’ lives. I’m a parent because I decided that my partner deserves this support, but it was not an imposition or a social obligation.