To my step-kids’ mother

My emotions about you are so mixed. On the one hand, you’ve hurt 4 of the people I care most about in my life; your ex, and your children.  On the other hand, you never really seem happy, and I can only assume that some of the choices you’ve made have come from that deep unhappiness.

And I can accept that, to some extent, when you’ve hurt my partner, your ex.  I don’t like it, it upsets me, but in all honesty, he’s a grown man.  I don’t need to protect him, and I know from my own divorce that sometimes years of frustration blind us so we can only see someone’s faults.

But the way you treat your children just kills me.

I don’t know why you ended your marriage the way you did; I can understand feeling trapped and angry and scared.  But how did you decide that reconnecting with a former boyfriend was the thing to do?  And why did it have to be THAT weekend, when your then-husband was travelling?  Yes, he got home that night, but later than was planned, and guess what?  No one knew where Mommy was.  Do you really think your children won’t always remember that?

And, sadly, it just didn’t end there.  Sure, for a year or so they had their weekends with you, and their Wednesday dinners with you.  And you came to their concerts and graduations.  But you typically yelled at someone when you did – them, their dad, someone.

Then you moved.  And quite frankly, I think they understand that you had to.  Moving gave you more job opportunities, and between your brother and your boyfriend, you had places to stay would not have to worry about rent.  That’s OK.

But stop and think about the visits they’ve had since you moved.  There was the Spring Break where one of your step-kids brought home a friend who’d had too much to drink, which is fine.  Responsible, even.  But then your boyfriend decided that the best place for this woman to sleep was…the room where your 12 year old son was sleeping.  And then when you complained, he kicked you all out.  Nice.

So now when the kids come to visit you, they stay at your brother’s house, which is great.  They miss seeing him, and it’s nice for them to spend time with him.  But you won’t take vacation time to be with them during the day when they visit, and you won’t stay over at your brother’s when they visit, so their weeks with you are, really, just a week’s worth of dinners with you.  And last summer, when they were supposed to be there for two weeks, you had the oldest call her Dad to see if they could come home early.

You get them for at least a week in the summer, but you’ve never taken them on vacation.  You go places with your boyfriend, but don’t have the money to take them.  Do you think they don’t see this?

Soon you’ll deliver and give them a half-sister.  The girls are ambivalent about it, I think.  They like babies, and have enjoyed picking out clothes for her.  But they’re not excited, and they don’t think of her as a sister.

And your boy?  Your baby?  How do you think he feels, now that he’s not going to be the baby anymore?  The girls say that when he felt the baby kick, he tried to pretend he wasn’t excited, but, you know what?  I think he was trying to pretend he WAS.  He doesn’t want you to have a new baby, that’s HIS role.  But after all this, he still loves you, and he thinks if he just does the right things, acts the right way, you’ll love him back again.  He misses his Mom, and you don’t see past your own nose enough to realize that.

I don’t begrudge you the child – I wish your ex and I could have a baby sometimes.  I will never forgive you, though, for not even TRYING to help prepare your other kids for her arrival, for not even trying to make them know that you’ll always love them.  God, woman, it would just take a couple of sentences:  “I know it’s weird, me being pregnant.  It’s kind of scary for me, too, but exciting.  And I’m very happy about it, but I want you to know that no matter what you will ALWAYS be my child, and I will ALWAYS love you”  How hard is that?  But you wouldn’t, couldn’t, didn’t do it.

In a sense, I’m grateful.  Your incredibly callous treatment of these children, has, in a horrible way, made it easier for them to bond with me, and my kids.  I hate to tell you, because you’ll make their lives hell if you know, but they’ve all slipped and called me Mom.  Your oldest texts me ever couple of days from college.  She knows when I’ll cry at movies.  I’ve taught her to make homemade pasta.

Your middle thinks of my son and daughter as her siblings.  She likes to make pies with me, and has taught my daughter to make brownies and straighten her hair.  She and my son are incredibly close.  The other day I took the girls shopping for a new shower curtain for their bathroom, and she suddenly said, “OMG, if you and Dad hadn’t both been on Match, you would never have met, and I wouldn’t have my siblings!”  I nearly cried it was so sweet, but do you think she’ll ever say that about her half sister?

Your son has a girlfriend now – do you know her name?  Do you know what he’s getting her for her birthday, or Valentines day?  Do you know what classes he’s taking?  Do you know what he likes to eat for breakfast, or what size shoe he wears, or anything about him anymore?

You don’t, and I know that I’m being hard and unfair.  A lot of what I know and you don’t is because you had to move, and don’t see them daily or even weekly.  And I can’t imagine how hard that is – it would kill me to only see my children a few times a year.  But I’ve built the relationship I have with your oldest in the two years that she’s been in college – it IS possible to know about someone’s life, even long distance.  You just have to care enough to try.

Quite frankly, you’re killing your relationship with your kids.  You’ve done it every time you yelled at them for something petty.  You’ve done it every time you’ve yelled at their father for something petty.  You’ve done it every time you texted with your boyfriend rather than talking to them.  You’ve done it by not taking time for them, and by building a new family where they are not included.

And, quite frankly, you’re putting the nail in the coffin by getting married – soon, before your baby is born.  I think it’s great you’re getting married, though since your description to my partner was that you “finally convinced him to marry you” I am skeptical of your chances.  And I understand the desire for your baby to be in a married family.  But you’re going to marry without your other children there.  They’ve heard their father and I say for the past 18 months, ever since we got engaged, “We don’t know when we’re getting married, but we’re not doing it unless all five of you can be there.”  Whose wedding do you think they’ll remember more fondly?  The one they were a part of, or the one they found out about after the fact?

You’ve messed up.  Badly.  And I’ve kept my mouth shut, because there’s really nothing to say.  But when you said you were getting married without your children by your side, I decided I was done.  I will never bad mouth you to your kids.  But I’m done trying to convince them they should visit, or call, or whatever.  They are 13, 17 and 20 now, and they are old enough to have some input into what sort of relationship they want to have with you.  If they want to continue to visit, we’ll help get them there (since you don’t).  We will continue to buy your Mother’s Day cards for them, and your birthday cards and your Christmas presents.

But if they decide they’re done, I’m not going to try to convince them otherwise.  I’m not going to tell them they “should” or that they’ll regret it later, or any of that nonsense.  I’ll hug them, and tell them I’m sorry, and that it’ll be OK.

And then I will be here, buying their clothes, and listening to their stories, and their jokes, and playing games with them, and packing them off to college, and buying their prom clothes and their Christmas and birthday presents, and signing permission slips and report cards.  And hopefully helping them deal with the bumps and bruises of growing up, including the ones they get from their mother.  And all the other things that I do, for them and for my two, because, as I told my daughter, they’re all my kids, I just got them in different ways.

And I will be blessed.  Because while they may call you Mom, I know who really is.

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~ by Stepfamily Letter Project on February 19, 2011.

2 Responses to “To my step-kids’ mother”

  1. Other than the 17 yr old, is there really any reason for you to buy their mom’s mother’s day cards? They have been old enough for a very long time to make that decision. It’s not your job to force that relationship or their dad’s. It’s good they have someone in their lives since their mom sounds like she doesn’t care. I have custody of my daughter so I have nothing in common with their Mom but I did have a second child (before marrying his father) and I was acussed of not loving my daughter enough because I got pregnant. I didn’t get pregnant on purpose and of course I did things different than her but I would never get pregnant just because I wanted to hurt my own child. Although I was acussed of it so… With that said I think the only thing i want to say is, who cares if she is pregnant. A 17 yr old is old enough to not need to feel like he is still ‘the baby’ to get through life. If his father has done right by him and raised him to he a good man, then being the baby of the family at that age doesn’t matter. I think you need to marry their father. Do it soon. You are playing stepmom and mom and wife but yet the commitment hasn’t been made.

    Kudos to you for loving someone else’s children.

    • I think I became dyslexic for a moment. My feelings are different NOW that I saw 13,17 and 20. I thought I read 17,18 and 20. Sorry! I was 13 when my dad reproduced and remarried and I wasn’t a part of it at all and frankly I have no feelings either way.

      She is too far away for them to be involved more than they are. I think at 13 he still doesn’t have to be ‘her baby’ and
      he isn’t going to have a hard life because
      mom had a 4th child…
      I know many people that get married without their children because it’s a wedding with just them two and no one else. I on the other hand would never have thought to not have my daughter in my wedding. It was her day too. But some people don’t see anything wrong with it.

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