I am not a stepmother, though I recall dating a man who was clearly trying on women as stand-in mothers for his young daughter. That wasn’t the first time I was auditioned for the step-mom job, but I was struck by the sense that he was shopping, and I was – as a person – less important than the various roles I would fill in his life – and his daughter’s.
As a divorced woman, I’ve occasionally been the relationship partner to someone with children, but as I’ve never remarried, I don’t know what it is to be a step-mom in any ongoing or official capacity.
On the other hand, my ex remarried fairly quickly. My boys were still young at the time, and I remember the many mixed feelings about a woman I’d never met, who would exercise some sort of influence over my children – what they did, said, ate, how they would be treated.
It was a very strange thought to wrap my head around.
When the Ex Remarries and You Don’t
To some extent, I had it easy in that regard. My sons didn’t spend a lot of time with their dad and his new family. Over the years I heard some things I wasn’t thrilled about, but as I couldn’t do a damn thing anyway – except talk things through with my boys – I accepted the way things were, grateful that I was the primary influence over their values and their priorities.
As my kids grew older, one of my sons established a more solid relationship with his step-siblings. That he got along with them was great, yet it remains an odd feeling that my sons have more “family” than I do. Does that sound selfish – or just human?
And it isn’t so much about the expanded family via their step-mother, a perfectly nice woman as far as I can tell, but what pains me is the extended family – my in-laws – that cut me off when divorce came. That a woman who likely feels little connection to them is able to see them and I am not – even these 12 years later – is yet another source of ache.
The loss of my in-laws was a huge blow. I loved them. They were family. To have people in your life for 13 years who suddenly drop out of the picture is, well, can be… traumatic. That my sons would keep me informed (and still do) about who is doing what and how they are allows me to be only one step removed – from in-laws who lived in my heart.
The Complexities of Blending Families
Whether married or not, when you’re in a relationship with someone who has children, a certain amount of “blending” is inevitable. It may go well, or it may be strained.
I’m fortunate in that my sons like the man I’m involved with, and they were both old enough when he and I began dating that they were relieved that I wouldn’t be alone; one was already in college and the other was only months away from heading off to freshman year.
From time to time, I try to imagine how the ex-wife of the man I’m seeing feels about me. I imagine she doesn’t think much about me. Why should she? He met me several years after their divorce, the children are grown, she has a career and a life, he has his.
Still, it’s strange to think that your children have a relationship of any sort with the person in your ex’s life. Strange when you’ve never met her. Strange, even if you have.
As for the step-family my sons see on various occasions?
I know little; it’s the way it is. That they have the benefits of family in any configuration is a positive, and I’m happy for my kids.
For myself? When we make decisions to divorce a spouse, or we are the spouse who is left behind, I wonder if we consider the long-term impacts – the fall-out, if you will – as pertains to the many changing relationships that lie ahead. Yes, there are gains. But so many holes punched through your heart. So many losses.