What’s your story?
Sarah:My name is Sarah, I am 33 and a mother of 3 children and 2 furbabies. I am from Vancouver, Washington, just across the river from Portland, Oregon. I moved to San Diego, CA in 2002 and I have subsequently lived in many places across the US but California has my heart. I met my fiance, Manu, in 2008 and we started dating in 2011. We welcomed our first child together in June 2012, our son, Caleb Andrew. We also have the privilege of raising Manu’s 2 sons, Devin Tremayne, 16, and Christopher Terrell, 13. As a family, we all love sports, Devin plays football, basketball and runs track and Christopher plays soccer and tennis. Caleb likes join in whenever he can and loves cheering on his brother(s) to ‘run fast!’ Between school (all of us are currently in school, with the exception of Caleb – I am pursuing my Masters in Business Administration, Manu is pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Devin just finished 10th grade and Christopher just finished 7th grade), work and sports, there isn’t a lot of free time but we love going to the beach and enjoying all the fun outdoor activities San Diego has to offer.
Manu: My name is Manu. I am 37 years old and father of the three aforementioned children. I am originally from Mobile, Alabama but landed in San Diego thanks to my service in the Marine Corps. The military took me on a journey around the world including a stop in Charleston, South Carolina. I hated Charleston but it was ultimately the best thing that ever happened to me because I met the love of my life there.
What make your family special?
Sarah: As both a blended family and a biracial family, we are certainly a family that stands out in a crowd, which I think is awesome! I love that we can use our family unit to speak to the importance of racial diversity and racial tolerance, as well as non-traditional families just by going to lunch or going out for ice cream. What a great opportunity to show other people that the color of your skin and you biological relationship does not define you as a person. As a blended, biracial family, none of us really look like each other.
Manu: People in stores and restaurants sometimes don’t immediately realize that we’re together. And somehow it feels like the most natural thing I’ve ever experienced. What are your favorite things about your family?
Sarah: I love how much fun we can have together and how much our children care about each other and their family. When I see Devin and Caleb rolling around on the floor or Christopher’s face light up when his brother gets home from school, I feel blessed that we are able to live together as a family and nurture these relationships that will last a lifetime.
Manu: My favorite thing is about our family is our uniqueness. Our personalities complement each other very well. Between all of us, we are the perfect combination of laid back and obsessive…reserved yet outgoing. I love that we all have the same sense of humor and an amazing genuine bond.
What are the benefits and challenges of your individual family?
Sarah: I have been at the playground with my stepsons and been asked by innocent children if I am their mom. I always hesitate when I answer this question as I am not their mother (they have a biological mother), but stepmother is an awkward term. I don’t know what the right answer is to fix that problem but I wish there were a more fluid term to refer to parents in blended family relationships.
Manu: My family provides all of us but especially my children a living example of how unimportant race is. I feel like it gives them the courage to be able to buck societal trends and make choices they can truly be happy with.
What would you like people to know?
Sarah: I would like to show people that stepparents care about their stepchildren and we aren’t all Cinderella’s evil stepmother! Devin, Christopher and Caleb are our three children and they are all equally important to both their dad and myself.
Manu: Our family is as conventional or non-conventional as we say it is.Are there any misconceptions you would like address?
Sarah: Stepparents, stepchildren, and blended families are a difficult concept for a lot of people to grasp, particularly as stepparents are often treated like ‘less-then’ when it comes to making decisions for a child that is not biologically related to them. This is intensified when your stepchildren are a different race, similar to what I would imagine an adoptive family would deal with on a regular basis (I don’t have personal experience with this but I would imagine it is similar). However, I feel that blended families do not have to have a negative association but instead can be viewed as love that has multiplied, not divided. I have the opportunity to add 2 sons into my life that are not biologically related to me, but I love them as much as I love my own biological child and they are all part of our family.
Manu: Race is obviously the most readily identifiable dynamic of our family. My choice to share my life with a person of another race isn’t a function of social conditions or a personality flaw.
Why do you think this project is important?
Sarah: I think it is so important to visually show other areas of the country and the world how families are evolving and changing and that is an amazing opportunity for our children to grow up in a world that looks different than the one we might have known as kids, but is still filled with love, devotion and deep family connections!
Manu: Media representations of families are misleading. They reflect close-minded ideas and corporate interests. They rarely reflect the freedom of a multi-cultural nation. I hope that someone sees this project and realizes that a family is whatever you want it to be.This American Family is a personal project inspired by my desire to show my daughter what modern American families really look like and celebrate diversity and the power of our personal narratives. If you are interested in being a part of this project please use the contact tab to email me.
All Photos Copyright of San Diego Family Photographer Rachel Brandt