I never want anyone to turn around and say 'you're not my mum'
Happy stepmum Fiona Cassidy (35), an author from Co Tyrone, and her partner Philip (42), an audio visual technician and lecturer, have five children -- two each from previous relationships, one of their own, and another one on the way. She says: "It can work but I think the important thing is not to try and force anyone to like you.
"Our kids were all quite young when we got together, nine years ago, and they took it all in their stride more than teenagers.
"At first, there was a bit of competition between the children to see who was top dog, but we always tried to calm that down by treating them all the same and never leaving anyone out.
"Philip's ex is his children's mum and I'm very aware of that and I've always tried not to over- step the mark.
"I never want anyone to turn round and say 'You're not my mum'.
"I know I don't always succeed but I think they have accepted me. I treat them like I'd treat my own children but ultimately leave the discipline up to Philip.
"When I met Philip I knew he had kids and was happy with that.
"I grew up an only child and hated it, so now I love the hustle and bustle of a big family and I'm thrilled that all the children get on so well.
"I think for the family to work, you have to be very guided by the children and not try and force your relationship on them.
"Try and let them know you're there for them and not there to tell them what to do.
"It's important they know you're there because you love their dad -- not because you want to take their mum's place.
"I think very few people have the nuclear family now, but so long as there's love there, then that's what's important. We fight, but what family doesn't?
"Family disputes aren't something that stepfamilies have a monopoly on!"