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May 7, 2019

Why I’m Sharing Mother’s Day with my Children’s Stepmom.

 

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It’s not what you’re thinking.

Our relationship doesn’t fall within the typical paradigm of a split family situation. I love her, and we parent on the most incredible terms.

People say we’re “lucky” to have such a close relationship. But it’s not luck—it’s much more than that.

It’s about choices. It’s about swallowing the heartbreak of sharing your children with another woman and trusting her without reserve, even when reserve is the thing you may be painfully drowning in.

I haven’t always been easy, kind, or patient. I’ve lashed out. I’ve disagreed with decisions she’s made and didn’t waste a minute calling her out on it, because her mistakes were my validation. The most important fact I chose to ignore is that I had made mistakes too—all the mistakes. I just had the unfair advantage of being the first one there. But that never meant I was going to be the only one.

The thing is, it’s been a long journey. I’m talking years of resistance and discomfort and moments when I felt my whole being as a mother was stripped and compromised. It was, and still can be, a little bit of torturous self-talk, too. The “You did this to yourself,” and the, “Well, you can’t 100 percent cut it anyway,” taunts of the mind in quiet hours.

It’s not easy hearing your kids call another woman “mom.” Women want to be the one their kids want to call or run to or love unconditionally. It hasn’t been easy sharing this space, the responsibilities, the milestones, the little moments I sometimes miss out on. It’s not easy wondering if I’m “not as good.” This is the fear every mother has when she shares the floor with another.

When your daughter calls her instead of you to pick her up from school when she’s sick. It’s the seizing in the chest and the breath that catches when you first hear about it. When your son finds you in the midst of a bit of road rage and says, “Mom, what would she do?” It’s the tightening of the lips and the glare of your eyes and the holding back of fiery words.

It’s enduring these moments and coming out the other side with a clearer perspective of the magnitude of the playing field your children are blessed with: a training ground with more minds guiding them, more players cheering them on.

This is the thing I’ve learned about the strength of a mother in a co-parenting situation. She has to choke back the urge to pull her babies tightly under her own wings, because when she’s given the chance to give her children more love, more expanse for potential, more support, more values, and more wonder, she can’t deny them that. I’ve had to resist demanding the only spot on the top and being the most important woman simply because I gave birth to them, because the endeavours we make to raise them are the most integral.

The failures are heartbreaking, the lessons are transformative, and the profound love that comes from raising them is too great a thing to keep to yourself. The thing with the struggles of sharing this grand stage of being their mother is that, in the process of drowning in anger and breathing in gratitude, in resisting out of jealousy and accepting with selflessness, I’ve expanded my heart to make room for her.

I’m not sharing because my kids have a stepmom; I’m sharing because my kids have another beautiful woman who makes their lives richer. I’m sharing because their father found a woman who I’d choose a million times over to be there when I’m not. I’m sharing because I have two extra hands, and because every mother wishes they could have them for just one day. I’m sharing because I’m grateful for the fact that the beauty in their lives has doubled, not divided.

So, we’re not lucky—we’ve just made the choice to be more of a mother for them.

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