Sunday, February 6, 2011

On Being a Step-Parent

Ok, so I had NO IDEA.  None. How can one single thing be so so hard?

Let's get this out of the way right up front.  Their Mom?  She's great.  She's a wonderful mother, and she's been a step-mother, had a step-mother.  She's knows it. 

I liked her before I met her ex-husband, and still like her.  So, this really isn't about her.  I mean, it is, of course, but really it's not.  She doesn't make my life hell, she doesn't poison her kids against me, or any of the myriad other nasty ex-wife/real mother stories that are out there.  It's a complex relationship, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't bumpy, but we all have it pretty good.

And WondefulMan?  He's great too.  He backs me up, he works with me to parent collaboratively, he tries to walk that very difficult road between being her ex-husband and father of her kids, and my partner and co-parent.  He holds me when I cry and gets upset that he can't make it all better.  And he changes his processes to meet my needs, just like I change mine.  Wonderful.

Here's what is hard.  These aren't MY kids.  These are kids that I get to love, that I have to/get to help parent, that I share a home with, that I share a love with. But they aren't MY kids with WonderfulMan.  They are HER kids with WonderfulMan and I am, at best, SecondBest.

So, that's me.  SecondBest.

The kids like me.  Which is nice.  And they don't enact open warfare.  Which is also nice.

But I'm SecondBest and it is so so so hard.  I don't want to replace their mom.  She's a good mom, she loves them, takes good care of them, and she should always come first in their mind.  But you know what?  I don't love their kids second best.  That's not how I'm built.  I love them the same.  I worry about their health and safety like I worry about mine.  I lie in bed worrying about them, and they take up just as much time in my head as mine do.  So being SecondBest?  It's hard.  And it makes me cry.

And so I went looking for information, and research and stuff to help me figure out how to handle these emotions.  And most books tell me how to make it easier or better for the kids (which I'm pretty ok at doing), or tell me how to be a better communicator with their mother (which I'm also ok at), or how to put my marriage/love first (hard to do with kids everywhere, but we manage pretty ok at this too).  But they don't tell me about ME.  They don't tell me how to make myself feel better.  Or how to reframe things.  And so many delight in bashing the first mother, and I don't like/want/do that.

This is so very very hard.

(and wonderful.  because I love the dad that WonderfulMan is.  And I love sharing his joy over his kids, and I love seeing tons of shoes tumbled all about at the door, and I love that my kids wonder and ask when his kids will be back from their moms, and I love that sometimes I get a special moment with the kids where I can feel the love bond grow, and so much more...)

step-parent, blended family, ex-wife, step-mother, stepmother,


Kristianne said...

It is wonderful to hear more about your amazing life.Congrats on finding love in so many packages!

We have a little of the second-best feelings in our family too. It is harder some days than others. I used to feel that I was always second best as I wasn't the twins birth mom. Honestly though, I think as parents we always love a little more than what we will get in return. Success is seeing them risk themselves for love :)

Alaniya said...
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Shine said...

I think you should write the book, about everything that's NOT in those other books.

Knowing you, I'm sure you're doing wonderfully....don't be so hard on yourself. Knowing you, I'm sure they LOVE you, not secondbest, just the way they love you (which doesn't have to be a first/second kind of thing). They love you for you, and they love her for her, and they love him for him, etc.

Smile. :-)