Published in True Mom Confessions, Berkley Trade, 2009
No one expects to get divorced when they get married. We were no different. My first husband and I were determined to make it work and we fought it out for almost 14 years. We would tell each other, ‘We can do this! We’ll figure it out because we are strong enough to make it work!’ When we finally reached that breaking point, there was nothing I wanted more than for him to marry someone that would love him and my kids. We ended as some sort of odd friends with a long and varied past and had the best in mind for each other. Although, for him, he probably thought the best would never happen for me based on my mental health issues. Thankfully, he was wrong. And I know at this point he’s happy he was wrong.
I wanted his new wife, because there was no question that he would be getting married right away, to really, really, REALLY love them and be there for them. I wanted my kids to feel like she was their other real mom. To trust her. To love her. And maybe that was odd because in a way, it could be looked at as if she was replacing me. But for them to be in a real family would be the best thing for them. For them to have anything less might in many ways be detrimental and there was never a moment when I wished for that. I remember the first time I met who he was going to marry, I went up to hug her because the kids genuinely seemed to like and appreciate her and they were happy and that made me happy. It wasn’t until she didn’t really hug me back, but instead seemed uncomfortable, that I realized the way I was thinking might be different than the other two in our odd adult triangle. But I never stopped hoping that we could be friends and work together on behalf of the kids.
Over the past few years, their step-mom has been everything I wished and hoped for. We might not be best friends, and that is most likely a much more healthy relationship that I originally imagined, but we are always more than civil and most of the time slightly warm. And the kids think of her as their mom. They call us both Mom interchangeably and within the same breath. To them, they are safe in their relationship with both of us and have no reason to differentiate with a Step here or a Bio there unless there is someone else in the conversation that really doesn’t get it and is wallowing in confusion. Then you might hear one of them backing up a bit to explain who is who. Maybe. But it’s just as likely they won’t take the time to explain and figure it is that person’s problem if they don’t get it.
And oddly, there is nothing that I’m prouder of. And oddly still, there is nothing that pierces my heart quite like hearing them call her Mom. It’s a strange revealing moment to be feeling discomfort and then in a shocked second remember that it’s something you wished for. Because on some level, I am still vain and would like to be irreplaceable. I’d like to be the only Mom in their life and have them depend on me for all of their Mom needs. And she could be there, doing a really fine job of being a Step-Mom, but I would be the REAL Mom. This is the fantasy that rides through my brain from time to time. But sadly, it isn’t reality. And thankfully, it isn’t reality. Because being safe on all sides is what is best for them. And I’m happy they call her Mom even when my heart occasionally bleeds a bit on the inside where they can’t see. Maybe hers does, too.