Eventually, she’s coming…the woman who will become stepmom to my children!
I’ve logged seven years in the stepmom role. I’ve tended to my partner’s ill children, helped them with homework, celebrated every holiday and special event with them, dried their tears, packed their bags full of school supplies for the first day of school, tied neckties before the homecoming dance, been in the audience for countless concerts and sporting events, washed their clothes, cooked their meals, and every imaginable thing one could do for a child.
I’ve celebrated our moments of family closeness. I’ve had my heart crushed when reminded of my status as an outsider. Through it all, I’ve been their “other” mother loving and caring day in and day out.
What I have not had to experience until now is wearing the shoes of mom facing a stepmom. I’ve always just been “mom”, the mom to my own two children, with never a bit of interference, competition, or involvement from another woman in my own children’s lives. My ex has had a series of girlfriends (at least six) since we parted ways. None stayed around long enough to make a lasting impression on my children or to become a part of their lives. Until now.
“Kate” has been dating my ex for about five months now. Not an eternity, but long enough for him to talk about moving out-of-state to be closer to her. She has met my kids, but not spent an inordinate amount of time with them. She is a huge part of their dad’s life, but they are still in the introductory phases with her.
I have always imagined myself taking an extremely evolved stance as the “bio-mom” accepting a stepmom-type figure into our situation. I’ve talked to my kids about not feeling guilty about liking and accepting a new person into their lives, and I’ve tried to give myself the pep talk about the importance of being civil, cooperative, and drama free.
Heck, I’ve lived on the receiving end of a high-conflict mother for years, and I wouldn’t wish that sentence on anyone- not the new woman, not myself, and mostly not my kids! I know how the dysfunctional side lives the blended family and stepparent life, and I simply do not have the patience or energy to make the significant other of my ex my target for annihilation!
Best intentions aside, I found myself conflicted, a little pissed off, and in need of checking myself again this morning after a conversation with my ex. Our son, an 8th grader, will begin high school next year. He’s a smart kid with lots of potentials. He knows he wants to go to college, but he hasn’t definitively locked down a major or career path. He’s fourteen. Yes, he should start to develop a plan; but, but I’m 44 and still “locking down” mine!
My ex, who has had a rocky relationship with both of the kids the past couple of years (all his focus on having a social life has taken its toll on them, and they’re frustrated by him), asked me if our son has talked to me about college and what he wants to do. He informed me that “Kate” (who has only seen my children a handful of times) has done some research about what test scores our son will need to be accepted at one of the colleges he’s interested in, and what kinds of college prep classes he will need.
My knee-jerk reaction (kept to myself) was something along the line of “stay in your lane, chicky! Who the hell does she think she is?”
The logical side of me, that tries to be devil’s advocate, intervened. I tried to understand the motivation for the insertion into what I consider to be our business. Let me remind you, while “Kate” may be all that and a bag of chips, she is still very new on the scene and does not yet have an actual relationship with the kids. I have to assume she spoke out and did her little investigation as a gesture of showing that she cares or wants to be involved. It’s a minor infraction, I suppose if we call it an infraction.
She didn’t tell my kids to call her “mommy.”
She didn’t overstep in a drastic way such as cutting my daughter’s hair without asking.
She didn’t hijack a major holiday or special occasion or try to take over our co-parenting system, which my ex and I have painstakingly constructed after years of co-parenting and many trials and errors.
She probably just responded to a comment he made about his son and son’s future and thought she would be nice to share what she knew. I will refrain from imagining the absolute worst or thinking there was anything more sinister involved.
Time will tell what can be expected from her involvement, or if they will break his current dating record and persist past seven months. Whether “Kate” is “the one” or not, eventually, some other woman is going to ride into town and establish a foothold in my children’s lives.
My wishlist for the woman who will become my children’s stepmom:
A kind and supportive friend to them who will be an additional loving presence in their lives.
An example of good traits and qualities.
A good partner to their dad who brings out the best in him so that they have an opportunity to see modeling of positive relationship skills. I especially want for my daughter to see her dad treat a woman with love and respect so that she sets these standards for herself!
A woman who understands that she is an addition to an already established situation. She may be able to offer support to make our ways more solid and efficient; but, she will understand the roles and relationships and have respect for boundaries. I have learned this hard lesson as a stepmom: I am not so much the star of the show as I am the backup singer!
A partner who inspires my ex to be the best father he can be. He must never forget the incredible gift he was given in becoming their father, and should never allow other distractions to prevent him from fulfilling his responsibility to them. If she really loves him and is a quality person, she will be delighted to see him be a great father, and will be honored to help him be the best he can be!
An amazing person with gifts, talents, and knowledge she can share with my children. I don’t know how to do everything; yet, I’m sure there are things I am really good at, that she’s not. She is a different woman, and a new addition to their lives; so, hopefully, she can enrich them in some ways that I can’t. This need not be a threat to me, hopefully, it can be a benefit to my kids!
I may be headed into a new phase of co-parenting. Like every other phase, I’ve encountered so far, I’ll get through this one too! If I really analyze where my anxiety comes from, it has nothing to do with my ex moving on with someone new. Instead, my fears reside somewhere around not wanting to see my children hurt in any way and not wanting the relative peace that my ex and I have established being disrupted.
I suspect that we will all fumble as we adjust to the growing pains of yet another member of our divorced family. I pledge to try to keep a positive attitude about this development and to try to encourage my kids to do the same. This experience is yet another reminder that divorce may be many years past in the rear view mirror; but, with children involved, there will always be new paths to travel as a result of our divorce. Quite honestly, I don’t plan for “Kate’s” and my paths to cross all that often. I have no intention of interfering with her position as my ex’s new partner and have no problem with her presence so long as it does not conflict with my role as mother to my children.