This is the second installment of a series of articles chronicling the life of a stepmother and the biological mother who hates her…Tales of the Evil StepMother (T.O.T.E.S.)
I never actually planned on being, “The Evil Stepmother,” or a “mother,” to any other child for that matter. In the beginning, I was only trying to do what I thought any decent woman should do once it becomes obvious that she’s going to be spending time with someone else’s child. After all, I was in the same boat that she was. I was a divorced mother, too.
Like most women I’ve met along my journey, my divorce didn’t go as smoothly as I’d originally thought it would. I thought, “OK, so my marriage didn’t work out…so what. No reason we can’t be civil – even friendly – not only for the sake of our children, but for ours, too.” But boy was I wrong! I never could have imagined what a nightmare that our co-parenting relationship would turn out to be. So when I had the chance to meet, “her,” I knew I wanted things to be different.
I knew from the very beginning that my then boyfriend had a child, but I never gave much thought to what that might mean for me initially. After all, I was dating him, not his child – or so I thought. I never intended on remarrying. EVER. Quite frankly, the idea was less than appealing after spending my teens, twenties, and a handful of my thirties in a relationship that left me so irretrievably different than who I desired to be. And to my relief, my new love interest felt very much the same way.
For a long time, we simply dated each other outside of the purview of our children. When they were with their, “other parents,” we allowed ourselves to have an amazing time with one another. And then the day came where we realized that we wanted something more for ourselves, and from one another. Before that could happen though, I knew that there was one thing that I had to do. I had to meet her.
My boyfriend thought that I was C.R.A.Z.Y. Why on earth would I want to meet his ex? But I knew that if we were going to have any chance of existing amicably with one another, it was going to be up to me to prove that to her. So, before I allowed his daughter to visit my home, I asked that he arrange for me to meet her mother. He didn’t think that it was a good idea, but he loved that my heart was in the right place, so he set it up.
I remember that our call was brief – to the point, but pleasant. We agreed to meet for coffee at a local bookstore. I got there early. Found a table away from everyone so that we could talk. Tea for her. Coffee for me. I had only one agenda in mind: “Be an open book so that she will know who her daughter is spending time with.” I wanted her to know me – to even like me – if such a thing were possible. I wasn’t looking to replace her, compete with her, or try to fill her shoes. Not even in the least!
I simply wanted her to be able to eyeball me for herself from head to toe, and ask me all the million and one questions that a woman wants to know when she finds out her ex has someone new. After all, I realized that this was different. Even though they had been separated for almost two years and each of them had dated several other people, I was the first woman that he had introduced to her and a daughter as, “something serious.”
I imagined that she’d have a lot of questions for me. “How old was I? Did I have children of my own? What kind of mother am I?” I also carried a small tablet with me because I envisioned her wanting to tell me important tidbits about her child. Things like: “She’s allergic to peanuts,” or, “She can’t go to sleep without her special stuffed animal that she calls, ‘Bert,’” or, “She has an imaginary friend named, ‘Maggie.” More than anything, I just wanted to know that her daughter would be safe with me, and that she’d be treated well when she was in my home. I never imagined that she’d become my stepdaughter. After all, when you’re dating someone, how can you know that they’re going to be, “The One?”
In addition to the tablet, I also carried with me my name and phone number. I planned on giving it to her just as soon as she had grown exhausted from asking any and every question that could possibly pop into her head. But our meeting didn’t go quite as planned. To my surprise, she never asked me about myself. She never uttered a word about her child. Instead, she talked to me about him. She warned me about him. She asked me about him. I left our meeting confused and disappointed. “Maybe,” I thought, “not every woman is interested in the same things when it comes to knowing ‘the other woman. But at least I tried, and she has my number.”
Shortly after that, I figured I must’ve done something right because I inherited a new job – “the babysitter.” She got a new boyfriend, my kids got a new playmate, and my partner was elated to have his daughter with us for weeks at a time. It was as though I woke up one day, and realized that we had joined, “The Club.” We were officially, an unofficial (i.e. unmarried) blended family. We regularly invited her mom to hang out with us. We shopped for Halloween costumes and ‘trick-o-treated’ together. We went out for family outings in the city on weekends, and helped her move, several times. She and I even “High-5’d,” and cackled secretly about how well she’d done for herself with her newest love interest. I wouldn’t say that we were “friends,” but I’d definitely say that we were friendly. We carried on like that for over a year until the incident that changed it all. I call it, “Family Night…”