When I was giving birth, the last thing I could ever have envisaged was sharing my children with another woman. Not in the cards. Not going to happen. Until, of course, it did. I hated not being a full-time mother to my children. I resented the full-time, never-divorced mothers who would say to me “Well it must be great to get a regular break from your kids like that.” Although words like that always felt like a slap in the face, I remained politely mute, but I wanted to cry my eyes out.
It didn’t help that my children’s Step-Mom was naturally slender: one of those women who could eat ice-cream all day and never gain a pound. It also didn’t help that she was (and is) accomplished, confident and outspoken. And it truly didn’t help that she is one of the most effortlessly elegant women I have ever laid my eyes on. You know in the movies, ‘that woman’ who always looks amazing and put together no matter what the situation? That is my children’s Step-Mom.
I resented her for such a long time. And I was painfully jealous: not that she had married my ex – it did not take me long to conclude that our relationship was not meant to stand the test of time – but that she had taken over my role as ‘the Mom’. That she got to be with my children those 26 weeks of the year – every year as they were growing up – that they were not with me. The first time I watched her go on vacation with my children was one of the hardest days of my entire life. And it would take me at least eight years to stop wandering the house aimlessly when the kids were ‘at the other house’ as I euphemistically put it. I would only find the energy to spring into action – cleaning up the house and getting groceries for the week – a few hours before they were expected back.
But all those years, whether I was happy with the arrangement or not, my children’s Step-Mom was an integral part of my children’s lives. She drove them to school and practices; she attended every variety show and every parent-teacher meeting with me and my ex; she cried when they were in their teens and admitted that she was at her wits’ end and that they were being absolutely impossible (they were). But she never backed down. She showed up. For everything. We had very different parenting styles and we were likely never going to be friends, but she gradually gained my grudging respect.
Everyone who knows me well knows that I am not good in a crisis. The day that I received an unexpected phone call and was told that my Dad was dying – in another country – I just didn’t know what to do. I have never been much of a traveller: that day, getting plane tickets seemed as complex to me as the theory of relativity. I am not even sure why I called her first, but in short order, my children’s Step-Mom had booked my plane tickets; obtained information for me about travel insurance and stopped by my house to drive me to the airport – in a major city two and a half hours away. Knowing how lost I would be when I got there, she dropped me right off at the gate I would be leaving from. Thanks to her, I was with my Dad when he passed away. I got there just in time. I am still pleased that despite my grief, I had the good manners to call her from the hospital to thank her for that.
And yet, even after such generosity, sharing my children with another woman remained difficult for me. I would only truly understand and accept the beauty of the step parent when my husband became my children’s Step-Dad. He came into their lives when they were (gasp…) 13 and 15: he accompanied his step-kids through the minefield of adolescence. Any parent knows that the teen years are brutal. He gained – first their respect and then their love – at a time when no one in their right minds would have gone near them. He lived through my daughter’s brutal (and very purposeful) initiation into the world of women when she asked him to take her to buy her female sanitary supplies – and proceeded to give him a loud tutorial on the merits of the vast range of products available – right in the middle of Walmart. He – the family cook – took it in stride when my son loudly asked if – ‘just once’ – my husband could ‘cook something we can all pronounce.’ He lived through a great deal more, of course, but my children would never forgive me if I wrote it all down. Just trust me…he earned his stripes.
Today, when my daughter video-conferences us, there are many times when the first words out of her mouth are; “Where’s P_? I have a problem I think he’ll know how to handle.” He lovingly hugs our son when we meet up, calling him ‘young pup’ as our son just as affectionately hugs him back and calls him ‘old man’. My husband and I both glow when one of our kids introduces us as “My Parents.”
He is their parent. He has earned the title. Just like their Step-Mom, he keeps showing up. For everything…
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com
p.s. I got my children’s Step-Mom’s permission to print this one. And I want her to know how grateful I am that she – and her large, extended and very loving family – have loved them; treasured them; all these years. I also want to thank her for all the birthday and Mother’s Day gifts ‘the kids’ gave me all those years ago. I always knew she had a great deal to do with that…xoxo
2 thoughts on “Step-Parent”
This made me tear up. My son has two step-parents just like that. I had one growing up – my step-dad – and another who was the opposite (my step-“mum”) and caused untold damage. Not all people can step (hah!) into that role and those who do and show up for everything are worth celebrating. ❤️ And for you to acknowledge your children’s step-mum and your own feelings around it in this way is simply beautiful. 🌹
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Oh thank you SO much… I am overwhelmed by the positive response this post got – especially Facebook friends who told me bits of their own stories that I had never heard before. I held back on this one for the longest time until a friend whose adult children are going through ‘step-parent’ woes urged me to put it out there. Glad you have at least one good step-parent story to tell; and I do wish you had had two… xoxo
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