Gabrielle is the stepmother to 3 teenagers, ranging in age from 13 to 18. She has been married to her husband for 9 years. The children’s biological mother passed away tragically in an accident 11 years ago. She has three biological children with her husband.
AG: When you came into the picture, the mother of your stepkids was still alive?
Gabrielle: Yeah, she had died about 6 months after we met. She died in an accident, she had been drinking and hit another car, she died instantly.
AG: Was there a lot of grief to deal with?
Gabrielle: Oh yes, it was a horrible time for everyone. My husband, before we got married, was not on good terms with their mother, so he felt a lot of guilt over their relationship. It was rocky, pretty ugly most of the time. She wasn’t a saint, she had her problems, but she was still a mother. The kids were devastated, and were very angry at their dad, at me, at everyone. They blamed him, accused him of having an affair with me, that’s why their mother drank that night.
AG: Is that true what the kids believed?
Gabrielle: not at all. They had been divorced since the youngest was 9 months, long before I even met him. She was their ‘save the marriage baby’, and it didn’t work. My husband found out after she died that his youngest daughter isn’t his biological child.
AG: How was that discovered?
Gabrielle: At the service, her mother [ the childrens maternal grandmother] told him. She knew the name of the man who she had a fling with and passed that on to my husband. Her mother gave him the paternity results at her daughters funeral. It was so hard for him. He never even know there was a paternity test done.
AG: Did your husband ever try to contact the biological father?
Gabrielle: Yes. He wasn’t sure what to do, he tracked the guy down, he had just been sentenced to 28 years in prison for murder. The guy basically signed his parental rights away within moments. He knew about her, about the baby, and claimed she wasn’t his, he was married too. I can’t say too much about that as it was a very high profile criminal case. I had heard about it on the news, had been following the story.
AG: Did your husband have to adopt the youngest child?
Gabrielle:No, actually, since he had already signed a waiver or admission that the kids were his, the court accepted that he was the biological father. Looking at her now though,and the other kids, it seems really obvious they don’t have the same genes.
AG: Does the child know that your husband is not her biological father?
Gabrielle: No, I don’t think so, but sometimes I wonder. My husband and the older two kids have very light hair, fair skin, the youngest is, I think obviously, another race altogether.
AG: When the childrens’ mother died, what was your role?
Gabrielle: I had to be non-existent for awhile. The kids were hurt and angry, about 3 months after the accident, they started counseling. It was only then that I felt I could surface again. My husband was overwhelmed, the kids were a mess, the maternal grandmother was really nasty at that time too. She thought it was in poor taste that my husband was dating again, even though they had been divorced for about 2 years by then.
AG: How are things now?
Gabrielle: It’s much better, but still a struggle, of course. Even though it’s been 11 years, the kids idolize their mother. Like I said, she was no saint, she did a lot of things that were pretty bad, some of which the kids know about and remember, but it’s like they don’t care what her problems were. They still talk about her like she’s on vacation.
AG: You’ve mentioned the biological mother was no saint. Can you elaborate?
Gabrielle: Oh, this is the hard part. I hate speaking ill of the dead, but honestly, it was discovered that she had been having affairs for years. My husband actually had to clean out her apartment after she died, he found so much disturbing stuff, lots of drugs, oh my God, the drugs were huge. There were some pornography videos done while they were married that she did with other men, it was so horrible for him to find that.
AG: Was that pretty devastating to your husband?
Gabrielle: Oh yeah. He realized that their whole marriage was a huge lie, he felt like he had no idea who he had spent so much of his life with. It was sad for him.He literally had no idea who she was. She had so many secrets, so many lies.
AG: How are the kids now?
Gabrielle: The kids still absolutely idolize their mother. No matter what I do or don’t do, their mother was always better at it. When I ran my first marathon a few years back, the first thing the kids told me is that their mother ran the same thing in half the time, even though she never ran a mile in her life. When I gave birth to my sons, they compared my births with their mothers, things like ‘mom did it in half the time’ and ‘ mom was out of the hospital the same day’. When I got a huge promotion at work, they compared that with their mother’s job, which was actually funny considering she never worked a day in her life. It’s really hard to hear that knowing the truth.
AG: Do the kids have any idea about the real mother they never knew?
Gabrielle: Well the oldest one, he’s 18, he knows a lot. A longtime family friend slipped a few things about her and he was angry. He didn’t believe it at first, but then his aunt confirmed it all. He was angry. Mostly angry with his dad for keeping the truth from him, which I guess is understandable, but it took a really long time for him to get over the shock of the kind of person his mother really was. Since then, he and I have been really close. It’s been great, but I also feel bad for him that his mother’s memory is tarnished. He’s changed a lot since then, he’s really grown up.
AG: Has that made it easier for you?
Gabrielle: Yeah, were actually really close. Over time, he saw how much I did that he never appreciated, I think part of that came with him just growing up. He knows most of the truth about his mom, and while it hurts him, it’s also made him realize how much I do for him, how much I truly care. He really wants to tell the other kids, I can’t say much on that, but I fear that time will come eventually. I don’ t think they really need to know, but it’s not my place.