Dear Person My Stepkids Call Mom,
You know, I'm actually not completely sure what I should call you, here. On one hand, you are my husband's ex-wife and, well, that can be awkward. But on the other hand you're his kids' mom, which makes you his co-parent and arguably the most important person in my stepkids' life. Since I adore them, and we are going to be in each other's life, for better or for worse, I wanted to write this open letter to you, my stepkids' mom. At the end of the day, there are a few things you should know.
First off, and I hope this goes without saying, please know that I'm not trying to replace you. I honestly couldn't, even if I wanted to. Your children love you more than they love me, and that's honestly the way it should be. As a divorced mom myself, I get it. I really do. In fact, sometimes I seriously hate my ex-husband's current girlfriend. I can't help but worry that if my kids like her in any way, it will somehow diminish their love for me. I've learned, though, that having another loving parental figure in the mix is actually a good thing. Kids need all the love they can get, even if it's from a strange blend of family, friends, co-parents, ex-spouses, and new partners that we didn't get to choose.
I know we haven't always gotten along. Even though I didn't meet my husband until years after you divorced him, I think it's understandable for you to be skeptical about me and worry about a stranger being in your kids' lives. If I'm being honest, I don't really like you, and probably won't ever be your friend. I do want to be your ally though, especially when it comes to co-parenting our kids.
Sometimes I don't know how to feel about living in a house my husband used to live in with someone else, too.
I also want to acknowledge that it must be so weird for you to come over and see someone else occupying the home that you helped build. I've been there — seeing pictures of my old house with another person living and learning and loving there is hard. To see me cooking in your former kitchen or giving your kids high fives is, I'm sure, surreal. Honestly, it's weird for me, too. Sometimes I don't know how to feel about living in a house my husband used to live in with someone else, too. So, yeah, we've changed a few things and made your former home ours. While we're on the subject, though, could you possibly stop walking in without ringing the bell?
I want to like you, I really do. But if I can be completely transparent, and I hope I can, I have to tell you that it's hard to like you sometimes. I know things about you and your former relationship with my husband, and I'm sure they're things you'd probably rather people didn't know, least of all your ex-husband's new wife. You never had a chance to tell me your side of the story, too, and we both know you never will. I don't always think highly of you, and feel fiercely protective of my husband, but I realize that these feelings are a manifestation of interpersonal relationships and necessary boundaries and me putting my husband first, and his past a very, very distant second. But when I stop to think about you, though, I realize that we actually have a lot in common. Not only do we have similar taste in partners, but we both adore your kids. I, for one, think that's something; a something we could build off of; a something that could help us better understand one another in the future.
More often than not I am forced to sit silently on the sidelines, because my step-kids aren't and will never be my kids.
Co-parenting with my ex-husband is hard. In fact, it's probably one of the hardest things I've ever done. But in so many ways I think it's actually harder to co-parent with you, my husband's ex-wife. When I disagree with your parenting decisions I don't get to say anything, because it's not my place to do so. Sometimes when my husband lets things go or chooses to not to fight battles I think she should fight, I feel betrayed, left behind, and angry. More often than not I am forced to sit silently on the sidelines, because my step-kids aren't and will never be my kids.
Whether you see me as their step-mom, bonus mom, friend, or simply the person their dad married, I please know that I know I don't make the rules. Even though they live with me half the time, you are my step-kids' mom, not me. You have every right to parent them how you see fit, when they are at your house and even when it makes my job harder when they're in my care. They will always love you most, and they should love you most, and I am not fighting you for their love. It belongs with you.
We may not have chosen each other, but when it comes to your kids and my step-kids, we're on the same team.
Unfortunately, whether we like it or not we're in this together. Our kids deserve having all three of their co-parents figure out how to get along, at least enough to make sure that our kids can feel happy, healthy, and loved at both of our houses. Besides, you must be at least a little bit awesome, because your kids are awesome. I love them and they are amazing and I have no doubt that is a reflection of you, your parenting, and your willingness to be the best parent you can be. We're all doing our best, and that undeniable fact isn't lost on me, even when I am at my most frustrated.
So please believe me when I say I'm willing to change the way I view you, and give you the chance you deserve. I also hope you are willing to do the same for me. We may not have chosen each other, but when it comes to your kids and my step-kids, we're on the same team.
Your Kids' Stepmom
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.