You and Your Ex
I will be back on Monday with an update on my book which will be available for download next week!!! I will be putting up a video on Tuesday with all the info.
Until then I will respond to a young woman who wrote into me about a birthday party for a step kid she is going to tomorrow and she was hoping I would give some advice to her before tomorrow so here ya go.
For most of you this isn’t up your alley and I know it. I’m doing this mainly because as you all know I don’t respond privately but it’s time sensitive so I’m responding to this woman knowing that this is pretty much just an opinion for her. If you feel the urge, feel free to join in, but I wouldn’t blame ya if ya skipped it and I will be back soon! Stay tuned!!!!
A young woman in in her late 20’s, is married to someone in his late 30’s. His ex wife is the same age as him. The ex and him have two kids. The woman who wrote to me said the ex wife will be at this birthday party tomorrow and hates her because she has the kids call her “mum” so when they are all together it gets very awkward for the kids. (She thinks it’s ok because it’s not “mom”.) She said the kids aren’t forced to do it, it’s just a cute thing they all came up with as a family so the kids knew she felt like she was their real mother. This young woman said she IS their mother half the time so she doesn’t understand what the problem is. Then she said she thinks the ex is still hanging on to the notion that they are a “family” and that she is just an annoying hanger on to their family unit. This young woman has been married to her husband for two years now. She wanted my opinion because she knows I am a mother and a step mother so she wanted to know how I manage those emotions.
Being on both sides is a tremendous advantage. For me I always say, “Fuck me, I am a grown woman, I can handle my own emotions, what’s right for the kids?”. With that said, the “mum” thing is tricky. I will defend that side of it first. If you have literally grown a child inside your body, then to have someone else label them equal to you is violating. It feels gross. If you are not a mother yet yourself it’s hard to explain. However you are a secondary mother. That is a fact. If anything happens where the mother can’t do the job, it’s you who takes over. But to make it easier for everyone, why allow the mum name? You didn’t have to let it live. You could have said, “Aaahhhhh that’s sweet. But let’s just stick with my name.” then give them a big fat hug. You could have prevented this but you went along with it for your ego. Be honest. In truth, does it matter? It’s not even about the biological mother, it’s about the kids. The kids are in a crappy situation because if they like you they don’t want to offend you so they will call you it and may even say they like it. But their mom doesn’t. So why not say “Please just call me by my name.” You wanting a pet name isn’t necessary if the relationship is really there. You are creating drama where there shouldn’t be any. You are the reason it’s happening. Fuck your feelings on this. Seriously. (My step son calls me Nicole.) Never in a million years would I expect him to call me anything different and we get along extremely well. He gets that I am a maternal figure in his life, however how he compartmentalizes that doesn’t matter to me, lots of women will be maternal to him in his life I hope. I’m lucky enough to get to be one of them. Kids benefit tremendously from having more than one maternal figure, it takes a village. The truth is I love my step son just as much as my biological son. I would do anything for him. He knows this. But he does not need to reciprocate it. He knows that too. I feel this way regardless. I told him I’m like a dog that thinks he’s one of my pups. (I love dogs.) I wouldn’t down play that for anyone regardless of who was upset by it. I know my step son needs to know that I love him that way for him to feel safe in our home. That’s the only thing that matters. So that’s that’s were I side with you. The ex needs to get over herself other than that. It’s not about her, it’s about the kids.
If you ever grew up with a step parent that didn’t like you much, (I did,) the Cinderella thing ain’t no joke. So a step parent that makes sure you know they love you as much as they love a biological child is extremely important. The fact that you love the kids and want to be involved is really mandatory. If you call them “your kids,” good. They need to feel they aren’t just an extension of their father. They are individuals and by saying you claim them, it lets them know you are signing up for them as individuals and are happy to do so.
So my simple advice to you after writing all of this is cut the “mum” crap and continue loving them exactly as you do.
You asked how I handle a step mother if I have to deal with one. I don’t really because my son lives with me 100% of the time and has for a number of years. But occasionally when he has the opportunity to see anyone who claims him as family, (whether it be a step mother, or her family or anyone for that matter that wants to send their love his way,) I am grateful for it and accepting of it. I want my son to be loved by as many people as humanly possible and I would never stand in the way of it.
My last question for you is why make the birthday party a joint thing? You may find it less challenging to separate this stuff. The kids might enjoy it more too. One secret a kid will never let you know about is that they experience a bit of nerves when everyone is together. It’s their birthday. They shouldn’t have to experience that, unless there is truly no drama what so ever.
If the mom insists on it, then maybe reconsider that. Many parents fight for things saying it’s for the kids, when in fact it’s so they have control. You never go wrong if you think only of the child. Put yourself in their shoes. You’re a kid. You’re having a birthday party. What is important to you? Everyone being together so everyone can fake being “ok” with each other? That sounds awkward. (You said the birthday party is for a 10 year old. That’s old enough to vibe the situation.) Or if you are that kid and your parents say, ‘lucky you! You get a bit of a celebration at your moms house AND a celebration with us.” If you’re a kid that has divorced parents, one of the perks is supposed to be that you get double the celebrations at times.
There are many “professionals” “academics” and all around know it alls that have no problem pointing out all the statistics that prove how terrible divorce is for children. Yet I have watched it first hand many times. When done correctly, children of divorce end up significantly stronger, capable of handling life on life’s terms, and are more equipped to stand up for themselves rather than expecting others to cater to them. And in the reverse, I’ve known several people whose parents stayed married, and their lives are miserable. They suffer depression and have unrealistic expectations on what a “perfect” life is. (I am referring to three specific friends I have that all would tell you they had a perfect childhood. Perfect parents, and they are seriously fucked up. They would be the first to admit it.) The reason I bring that up is that if you really get out of your own way and stop trying to shove a square peg into a round hole you may find you have a family that is better and stronger than you could have possibly imagined.
So those are my thoughts on it from every angle. I hope some of my random thoughts give you thoughts to chew on.
Best of luck!
For the rest of you who stuck around to read this feel free to add your own two cents. I’m not a therapist, just a woman with an opinion, so share yours as well if you feel the urge.