This morning I received a letter from a fan of my Facebook page named Bobbie Ann Phillips and as I read it I knew instantly this needed to be read by all of you. This is her story and its an honest account of how it feels, of what we don’t expect, our fears and our goals. Enjoy!
” I never imagined I would have to co-parent with an ex of mine, much less an ex of my new husband. I did know I would be co-parenting with my own husband. I never imagined my husband would be someone else’s ex husband. I never thought I would have to share some of “my” weekends and “my” holidays, separate, from “my” son. I never thought I would have to long for the chance to do those same things with and for a son whose dad is dead. I also never thought my deepest fear would be that my third son may someday meet the same fate of a broken home. I never thought I would be fearing completely loosing two of my children if my marriage ever did fail. I never thought most of my scheduling would revolve so much around picking up one set of kids at 6p on Friday, meeting to drop off another kid before or after that, and then meeting back on 6p Sunday for drop off of two kids and then meeting before or after that to get another kid back. I never thought I would both look forward to, and dread those weekends at the very same time. I never imagined I would explain to two of my three biological children why daddy can not be here, or does not live here and the reasons be because of such different circumstances. Circumstances that would cause as much hurt for both of “my” boys and myself as both situations do. I never even imagined my children would have different dads. I never thought I would have “other” kids ask me why my husband, their dad, is not with their mom. I never thought I would be making beds, cleaning laundry, preparing meals, buying necessities, and supporting “other” kids. I knew “my” kids may look past all I do for them and it would hurt some. I did not know having “other” kids look past those same things would hurt as much. I never thought I would have “other” kids sometimes resent me for my role in their lives. A role they only want their mom, and their dad, to have. I never thought I would feel so much hurt for them, and for my husband, because they too come from a broken home. I never thought I would love each person in “my” blended family so much that I would wish each child could have their mom, and their dad, in one home. If I had that wish though, several of my biological children would not exist, and I would never have a chance to even meet two of my “other” children. I would have never met my husband. I never thought I would have to accept that because someone I loved died, and because a different relationship failed I would find new love and create a new family. I never thought I would agree that when one life ends another begins. I feel as though I have personally lost two lives and began a new one each time. I feel I am on my third life, and feverishly pray for it to be my last.
I never thought I would be the “other” parent that another parent would resent. I am that parent whose mere presence in a child’s life causes another adult resentment, and pain. Though “her” family ended long before “mine” began, I never imagined my place with my husband would be a stark reminder of another woman’s lost place with her husband. I never imagined That my place with my step children would be a reminder of “her” time she “has” to share, with me. I never thought my loving them could hurt her as much as it would if I did not love them. I do acknowledge that my presence does cause these things, though completely unintentional. I never imagined two children who “are not mine” would have me so wrapped around their little fingers. I did not know I could love a child I did not give birth to so much that it literally hurts. I did not know I would want to fight so fiercely for my time, my bond, and my place with two children who I feel with every bone in my body are mine. I knew I would have children that would fill my life with love, joy, hope, chaos and clutter. I knew I would do everything in my power to protect, love and cherish every moment with “my” kids. I knew I would become a mom by choice to children I gave birth to. I did not know that I would have that same desire to love, protect and cherish children not born to me. I knew there would be times my children would be angry with me. I knew I would make mistakes and cause hurt. I knew I would mend the hurt, calm the anger and explain why I do what I do to “my” kids. I knew I would both reward and punish “my kids” with no remorse because that is my job as their mom. I did not know I would feel so guilty by my own presence that I would overly reward, and seldom punish the children I did not give birth to. I never knew I would feel I don’t have the right to demand and earn respect from “other” children as much as I do from “my” children. I never thought I would always worry my actions and words would favor “my” children over the “other” children so much that I actually show more favor to “other” children over mine at times. I never thought I would say I am an ex, a wife, a mom, and a step mom, All in one. I am all of those things and I am these things at the very same time. I sometimes struggle to decide which hat I am suppose to wear at which time. All of these inner struggles are real, and part of my life. I am exactly where I want to be. I realize I am exactly where God planned me to be. I do have the husband and children I did always long for. I am thankful for all the good and bad that comes with this life and these roles. Yet I have no idea how to navigate my happiness and love without someone else being hurt, or resentful, in some way because of it. I have no idea why I even care that my presence, my role, and my place effects any person other than my husband, and our children. I just know that I do care.
I do not co-parent with my ex’s new wife or serious girlfriend, not yet anyway. I do know that the day will come when I will. At least, I pray it does. I do want “my” son to have another parent love him. I do want him to have someone else he can learn from, respect, love and cherish. I so want him to know I am okay with him loving some “other” parent. I want her to know that while her presence may cause some stinging, I’m happy to share “my” son with her. I want her to know that he’s “our” son, and that “our” will include her. I know that during my time as a step mom I have learned many things to do, and not to do both with “my” son and towards the “other” parent. I hope I will remember to respect her, and to honestly cherish her. I hope I will remember I should view any person my son loves as an extension of himself. I love “my” son, and so I will love those he loves and that love him. I hope I can remember I should love “my kids” mom because they love her and she is an extension of them. For the love of a child even the most difficult situations on all ends I am involved in will be handled with love and care, by me, for them regardless of how the opposing end on either side of these blended families are behaving. That is my goal anyway. I know I pray daily that God shows me the way to do all these things with Grace in each of the roles I am fulfilling.
~ Bobbie Ann Phillips
Listening to my husband explain about his ex when we were dating really went in one ear and out the other. You see, I was divorced, and I knew the dad’s side of things and my side of things. Many people disliked me because of the dad’s side which was so far from the truth that it made me disregard some of what my husband was sharing. In past posts I have written the level of hatred he has for her, and while I do not share that with him – I do feel a immense dislike! However that came over time. I have always been the kind of person who gives the benefit of the doubt to the underdog.
Granted she did not like me at first, which I expected and prepared myself for. After all, I had been in her shoes, and am not afraid to admit suffered from the fear that I too could be replaced in my kids life by their step-mom. Benefit-of -the-doubt in my eyes can mend many situations – so I tried to approach her with such. At some point the relationship between my husband and his ex-wife went downhill pretty terribly and my husband said that he wanted all communication to go through me as he couldn’t manage a normal, adult, calm conversation. She was less than thrilled and adamantly refused such an obnoxious go around and so on. After listening to her from the other side of the phone – yelling and screaming – I took the phone. Very calmly I introduced myself more clearly, informed her of my age, my children, their ages and that I was not some twenty-something girl who was gonna bail in a couple of months and that she could rest assured that I want the best for their son. You could tell she did not like my stepping in, and to be honest I can’t say I had the right to do so – but I did. For a little while following that things were better.
Then one lovely sun-shining day at our normal pickup location she was mad! And, let me clarify what mad means in our world – it includes but is not limited to getting out of her car – slamming her car door, arms folded, face grimaced, body swaying from hair to feet, and on a mission pace right to your face – yes literally into your face – with the finger-pointing and screaming to accompany it. Well, this being my first altercation and both my lack of filter and anger that she was pulling this crap in front of not only her child but my other two as well – I was less than pleased. Probably again one of those moments I should have just duct taped my mouth shut – but instead I swung open my door and very sternly but politely informed her that she can say whatever she wants to him in privacy – however in-front of the kids this will not be tolerated – and that her language wasn’t appreciated – then got back into the car. My husband joined me and we left.
In these two instances, I learned something from this woman. First, is that since my husband was/is younger he had still been in that dating phase, and had his fair share of fun – after her of course. This created a concern as it would with any mother, that her son would create a bond with someone who wouldn’t be staying long-term. This I completely understood and sympathized with. The second was, it was clear in their relationship she wasn’t an equal – because my husband getting into the car with me, and allowing my say – put her almost in shock. She didn’t know what to say or how to do it. Again for a little while we got a long. They needed to re-do their current parenting plan for holidays and such so, she and I went back and forth with what worked and what days she wanted, then I went with her to the court-house and even helped her file it. When she didn’t have the money to help her file it, I helped her fill out the court form that waives it. She was thankful and polite. I saw a light at the end of this dangerous, curvy tunnel.
Somewhere between March and May of the next year she decided she wanted to hate us both again and somewhere during that time, I let her. I figured I gave my best shot, I tried and now I was done. My dreams of having a home where everyone could get along, where birthdays and holidays could be shared for the sake of the kids was sadly tossed out the car window one day and that was that.
When my husband and I got back from getting married, we had to pick up my new step-son the day after we got back. I do not believe that he mentioned we were getting married – because we agreed that we would address it when we returned. Well apparently Facebook addressed it before we could 🙂 As we pull up she is waiting with little guy on her hip and one hand on her other hip, like a mom who just found you skipped school. My husband gets out of the car and she pushes by him still with kiddo on her hip, bends over and says “I guess I owe you an apology – I didn’t think he would actually marry you”. Looking at her in that moment I realized all those stories he had shared with me was true, and all that benefit of the doubt I prepared for her was a waste of my time. She was a young, mad at the world girl and there was nothing I could do to change that. Honestly thinking back now I don’t even remember what I said in response – if anything, maybe I just looked at her with confusion and sadness for her.
I think a lot of times the mother of these children we love, isn’t the way she is because they worry we are a bad mother or good mother. In fact I don’t think it has anything to do with the kids, or us sometimes. Sometimes, it’s just them – their insecurities, inadequacies, and the reminder every time they see our husbands that they failed at making the family work. A family that we are now nurturing, raising and building together.
When you look back at the first time you met the ex – do you feel it was personal against you – or just personal for her??