Yah, I know we don’t usually “talk”. But please, don’t drop your drink and run for the exit. Let me reassure you that I wish you all the best as your dream begins. I mean that. Like, really mean it. We all deserve to be happy and loved and living the life we want.
I read a blog post recently by a fellow member of Willowjak, written from a step-mom’s perspective. It resonated with me and it made me realize we should probably clear the air and have a good start to this new rest-of-our-lives on that topic, now that you’re marrying my former husband.
So here’s my thoughts. Woman-to-Woman. Like Dolly and Jolene, but not about your man. He’s yours now. But because of that you now also hold a new power regarding something even more precious in my life. My kids.
So please… don’t take them from me, even though you can…
My kids, they may not actually BE babies anymore, but they will always be my babies. My flesh and blood and genetics and in large part, the main reason my life had meaning for a really long time. You might come to love them like they were your own in time, maybe you already do. I mean, who wouldn’t? They are fabulous, intricate, amazing humans that are easy to love. I hope that you do, they deserve it. But they’re always going to be an inseparable part of me, no matter how much you love them too… please remember that.
Before we get too far, let’s just get this out there.
I don’t hate you, OK?
I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt; that you’re just doing your best like every other woman out there, to make a life that is full, and to give and receive love inside your circle. I could hate you, you could hate me, but why? Because demonizing is not good for either of us, and doesn’t show either of us well to those kids we should be setting an example for. Silo-ing and camp-building in a family is not good for anyone. I recognize that given societal norms and late night wine-fueled horror stories from the trenches about ex-wives, that I might represent something a little scary to you, as the past that isn’t going away. Fair enough. I promise to always remember that when we have to come together. We will probably never be besties, but we don’t have to be enemies either. And hey, if by chance you don’t play this on the up-and-up – well, that’s not up to me to deal with anyway – that is up to God and karma. I promise you, no matter what, I’m not gonna play this like a bad episode of The Real Housewives Of New Jersey.
You see, you should know I’m a little afraid too. I’ve also heard my share of late-night horror stories about Step-moms and next-wives. So if there are times when I seem sad, withdrawn, or maybe even a little jealous – I probably am, just a little. You are living out a part of my life dream, in my place. Please keep that in mind when I don’t seem to make sense to you. My sense of loss, with the potential for even more loss in all this, is immense and scary to me. I hope that you never have to be where I am now, but please remember that I never thought I would be either. Things have been tough as both your new partner and I worked through tsunamis of hard truths, wounds that are deep, and feelings that take more than a hot minute to move past. Endings are way messier than beginnings. And our kids were witnesses to our individual struggles, as well as having coinciding struggles of their own. That is a hard thing for our children; to face the humanity of their parents, and that their parents’ shared love sometimes is not forever. So please be gentle with their hearts, and mine, as we’re all overcoming a big disappointment, even as we have “moved on”.
You represent a new chapter. You’re younger than me, fresh full of your own ideas, strengths, opportunities. With fresh eyes on their lives and probably looking a damned sight cooler in their eyes than me right about now, while I’m still a little scattered, trying to reassemble a life. They probably see you as a whole lot more put-together than me at the moment, and more in sync with their Dad whom they adore. That’s OK. I can’t change that. You make him happy, and that is good. Please be fully yourself with them. They deserve that, and so do you. But please remember that I was also young once, fresh, and full of good ideas about being their Mom too. That once, I was the woman who made them all happy. That I had to try and keep that flag of patience and optimism flying through a lot of hard times in our “old” family, that helped forge them into the forces of nature they are now. There were a lot of times when I had to endure their disdain and bluster even though it broke my heart, because raising them to be responsible decent adults was more important to me than being their bestie at the time. You can just be their friend now, because your role does not have to include that kind of responsibility. I see that. And appreciate that they have that with you.
Yeah, I probably made lots of choices with them that perhaps you wouldn’t have. That’s OK…but I’d really appreciate it if you don’t say that out loud to them. Because I always did the best I could with what I had at the time; and I am still doing that now. All of it with immense love in my heart for their best interest and well-being. So if they tell you that they hate me, would you try not to encourage that, even if you disagree with my choices, and at least encourage them to dislike an action or decision, but not hate on the person because of it? Believe me, it may look like they will forgive me anything, but they don’t. In fact, they are harder on me now than they ever were when I was married to their Dad. I don’t want it to have to be you OR me advising their lives, heck, being in their lives, period; I want there to be room for both you AND me. And I promise in return to tell them the same… that you are the woman their Dad has chosen to spend his life with and that means you deserve their respect and patience. That they should always hear you out before they judge you, because you might do some things differently than me. I would love nothing more than to be able to have open dialogue with you, about them, especially at their times of struggle as well as in witnessing their triumphs. Ya, it has taken me some time to get here, but I’m here now.
I recognize (and respect) that you have chosen to love them and be present in their lives by choice. That is a gift I hope they recognize too. You were not required to do that, and I’m grateful you’ve opened your heart to them. But please also remember that I love them too. And in my case it is not by choice, or simply out of duty, but because they are the best part of me – and there is just no choice in that – it just is… and it is fierce and strong. They are little bits of me, my parents, my grandparents, my siblings. They are the living continuation of all the people that I am also part of. The only piece I have left of those I loved dearly that are no longer here. They are also a part of your partner, yes, and his family chain… who are also important people to me, people that I loved, who I want to remember and celebrate when they show up in the kids. That is a love that no marital status change can undo. One love is not better than the other, it’s just… different. And God knows, we can all use as much love as we can get in this world.
I respect that you are attempting to build a new family and enfold them into your own traditions and your own circle of family and friends. But please respect that I am simultaneously trying to retain them in mine. And it’s been hard. That I am trying to pick up the pieces that were left after our main life structure broke, and build a new family with them that is at once both familiar yet fully different to both them and to me. And right now, I am doing that alone without a partner. I’ve stumbled a lot on the road to here, right in front of them. I’ve been angry, sad, scared, without hope, lonely and needy as well as proud, determined, brave and strong; and they saw it all. So did you, in part. I am pretty sure that’s a little weird for them. At some point maybe I’ll have someone enter my life too that I would like them, and you, to accept in as the circle becomes even bigger, and more complex, yet again.
Please don’t feel threatened if I request time to consult with your partner about them sometimes, because although he is not my partner anymore, we will always be bonded in a unique way as their Mom and Dad. Whatever they choose to call you, is between you and them. But I will always want to be part of their lives, and be able to consult with Dad, as Mom. Your partner is now fully your partner, but he will also always be the father of my children.
OK, so here’s the biggie. I hope you can understand that it is still new and challenging for me, and feels more than a little threatening, in spite of all logic, that there will parts of my kids’ lives now that I will not be part of. When they are with you. I’ll never ask them about those times, unless they volunteer information to me, as it is not my place to do so. But… please try to understand that this is a very hard thing for a Mom. To know that your child now has a family life that does not always include you, and you have to respect their privacy in that, and that this will leave huge blanks in my “mom-vision”. Where my mind has the unfortunate freedom to make up all manner of bad ideas about how maybe they are always having way more fun and joy being with you than with me. And boom… anxiety.
So when we are splitting up holidays, and birthdays, all those things… I would really love it if we might sometimes choose to all come together to celebrate some of it, instead of one of us having to sit it out and be excluded – either me OR you. I recognize that will be hard, and weird, at first, but I honestly think that with time and empathy it can become easier, and more fulfilling for everyone. I know that the kids will have to want that too and that is sometimes hard for them, but it will always be a goal of mine. I have to accept the wishes of everyone else in this journey. I know families that have done it though, and no one ever regrets it. Yes, there will still be times that I will not be a part of, when they are just with you and him… and I will adjust to that. Just as you and he will when they have times that are just with me. But I’d really like the “one off” moments – the weddings, showers, awards, babies being born, or even tragic losses – those things, to not have to be dealt with twice in some way just so that we don’t have to come together. Or worse, that one of us misses something altogether so the other can go. These things, I feel, neither of us should have to miss, and the kids shouldn’t have to make choices about it if we can avoid it, unless they wish it that way. But I hope they don’t.
So girl, carry on… you do you, and I’ll do me. Carry on down that aisle to your bliss. But I hope you’ll remember that in order for your dream to begin, part of mine had to end. Even though I know it had to end; it had run its course. And it was a long story with a lot of water under that bridge. I want to move forward in compassion, cooperation and love, and work on building a new life on my own, without losing my maternal bond as well as my marital one in this new normal. I want you to be able to build a family life with your new partner that is full and complete as well. Know that I often cry in missing them more than is expected, and I long for their presence now more than I probably should at this stage of their lives. Because they are all I have left of what I spent the bulk of my adult life building. They are the reason all those years still make any sense to me. But I’ll get past that too, with time.
So let’s agree, shall we, to do what women do best in this world? Create peace, build bridges, show love, open our hearts and forge new ways of doing things. Let’s show them all how this should be done.
“I had to have this talk with you
My happiness depends on you
And whatever you decide to do
Cheers, and high fives to us both getting the best we can hope for,
Mom the first
I’m a 64 year old aging hippie with a sarcastic tongue and out of control ginger hair. I am passionate in advocating for women “of a certain age”, especially we single ones, because we aren’t quite dead yet, in spite of the fact that we are often largely invisible and made to feel redundant on many levels. I hope to make you think, make you laugh, and mostly, feel like no matter where you are in life, you are never alone, and whatever dumb thing you think is going to sink you, won’t. Because heaven knows if that were true, I wouldn’t be here.