I’m going through some serious growing pains right now.
I married a wonderful guy who is divorced with a great kid. Stepson (SS) and I have gotten along well from the beginning of our relationship. Husband and I dated for two years before marrying. I love my little family. Overall, the transition has been as smooth as one could hope. Mom lives nearby and has SS every other weekend and one night a week. We have always been friendly with each other, though our time together has mostly been in passing. Her family has been kind and gracious to me as well. I’m quite lucky in this situation.
I didn’t grow up around divorce. My parents are still married, There are only two divorces in all of my extended family, and they did not live near us. It wasn’t until college that I had any close friends who had experienced divorce. So all of my knowledge of divorce, remarriages, step-families, etc mostly comes from television, movies, books, and whatever I can attempt to logically deduce from a given situation. I had some vague ideas about what to expect. I read blogs on step-parenting and blended families and dealing with exes. I thought I knew what I was doing. I was absolutely unprepared for what it would feel like to be a second wife and step-mother.
It hit me hard on the first night of our honeymoon. We were on the last leg of our flight to Alaska. It was late. I was exhausted from the last few days. The kid in front of us wouldn’t stop screaming. I was reading The 7 Habits of High Effective People and was in the middle of a chapter about examining the things in my life that I didn’t like and determining what was in my circle of influence – meaning what was in my control to change and what was out of my control and something I had to accept.
And suddenly I was crying about everything I hated about divorce. His divorce. I hated that he had another wife. Someone he had once said all the same things to before. I hated that she was still in his life and therefore mine. I hated that I had to share him with her. I hated that I had this wonderful boy in my life who was never really going to be mine. I hated that I had to consider her in my plans. I hated that I had to count weekends to see if SS and I could go do some fun activity and inevitably found that it was on her weekend. I hated that I could love him like a mother and give everything I could while she continued to make bad choices, set bad examples, and put him in bad situations … and she still gets the honor of being mom. I hated that I can sacrifice for him and love him, and that she will get the honor and dance at his wedding. I hated that if something happened to my husband, I’m considered a “legal stranger” in court and she will get complete custody of SS. I hate that I’d have to hope that she let me see a kid I loved and cared for as my own. I hate that I’m having to live with consequences of actions and choices that I did not make and never intended to have in my life.
I could not stop crying. Poor Husband is sitting next to me worried as I’m crying quietly. He wants to know what is wrong. I’m telling him it’s okay; I just can’t talk about it here. He makes me laugh at one point because he asked, “Are you pregnant?” Later at the hotel, he is very sweet and says, “I’m your husband. You can tell me.” I let him know what was going on. He’s still a bit stunned and is saying, “But you knew!” Yes, I knew what I was going to be. I didn’t know how terrible it was going to feel, and I was grieving for what I wasn’t going to have. We talked, put it away, and enjoyed the rest of the trip.
Two months later, those pains are hitting me again.
Until now, family life has been compartmentalized. We settled back into routines. I often pick SS up from his mom. We chat amicably. I compliment her garden, deck, etc. We go our separate ways. I’m pleased with how nice things are. I’m still getting used to this being my life and putting away those other ideas, but I’m feeling better about it.
Except now Mom is showing up and hanging around when I didn’t expect her. She’s crossing those imaginary boundaries of mine. And I can’t do anything about it.
Husband’s brother lives near Mom. They share the same group of friends and neighbors. We go over to see his brother. Invariably, his neighbors and friends are around. And now Mom is, too. It is her turf and her friends. It is her son that is there with us. She didn’t really come around while we were there before. I guess I had expected that to continue.
I know in my head that it is best for SS to see us all together and getting along. I know that is what he wants. During the last get-together, he made a comment about his mom not being sure if we (husband and I) wanted her to be there. I’m glad that he made that comment in a way that showed he didn’t believe that. I do my best to always stay positive about his mom to him. I don’t let him talk badly about her to me. I have to tell him sometimes that certain things he is telling me about his mom aren’t my business. I help him come up with ideas of what to get his mom for gifts and help him pick out things in the store. If he has good news that he is excited about, I’ll suggest he call his mom to share it. I try to help him look forward to being at his mom’s for the weekend.
This last weekend probably stung me a little more because of a Spanish assignment he has been working on. He is writing a 20 sentence biography for his Spanish class. I’ve been helping him with words and conjugations. He comes up with his sentences, translates them, and then I will help with any corrections. And in his biography, I don’t exist. It is a sweet picture. It has Mom, Dad, and sister (half-sister from Mom). I know that this is his ideal world. There is no mention of divorce. There is no mention of broken familes and split households. Therefore there is no me. I get it completely, but it doesn’t make it feel any better.
Thinking about what is making me upset lets me see that ultimately it is that I’m making it all about me. I was okay with Mom existing as long as she mostly stayed out of MY life. Her being there is a harsh reality check for me and reminds me that no matter what I do and how I feel about SS, I am not his mom. I have no rights to SS. I need to keep those kind of expectations in control or they will just be a continued source of pain.
I’m having to work on being okay with Mom taking an even bigger part of my life. Because I share that life with husband and SS. And ultimately that is was is best for SS. And whatever is best for SS is best for my husband.
That is my new mantra.
It is hard work being selfless. Or at least acting like it.
*** It took a lot of cursing and tears to get to this seemingly mature way of thinking. I’m sure there will be more.
***** And Husband and I have talked about this. I don’t know that there really is anything he can do. We can’t go out of our way to avoid SS’s mom. SS has the right to want her and to spend time with her. These are bigger group events – not personal family time. If something serious was going on between Mom and I that would be one thing, but this ultimately boils down to my own insecurities, jealousies, and selfishness. It’s something I’ve got to work on. Right now it is enough for me to know that Husband knows that I’m trying.