This is a post that I have been attempting to write for a while. I knew that when writing about such a sensitive issue as step parenting, the time and the tone had to be right. Parenting, whether the children are yours biologically or not, is a minefield as it is, throw in a divorce, busy work schedules and a set of new partners and you have the potential for a massive explosion.
I wrote early last year about how I felt when I became aware that my children were being cared for on a regular basis by someone who was ‘stepping in’ as their parent when I was not there. But I chose not to publish the post because the timing wasn’t right. The notion of step parents entering into our lives was not something I had signed up for when I chose to bring children into world and whilst I adopted a ‘grin and bear it’ attitude in all honesty, it was an extremely difficult time. Amongst the confusion and somewhat forced positivity, I felt anxious, sadness, grief and on occasion, jealousy. I think it’s important to admit these feelings as I suspect they’re fairly common, but that of course doesn’t make them any easier to compute; after all, another person, someone I had never even heard of or met was suddenly not only spending time with my babies, but also caring for them in my absence. It was utterly heartbreaking.
I’ve thought about these feelings a lot during the last year. Was I being too dramatic? Perhaps too hasty? Maybe too laid back? Was I being the best parent I could be by allowing the children to encompass so much change in such little time?
Despite everyone else’s advice and opinion, I came to the conclusion that I had little choice.
Our previously joint parenting team was now split into two and although I did not particularly agree with certain actions and decisions, I realised I had to step back and allow Dave to parent OUR children the way he saw fit, even if I didn’t agree because deep down I knew that he would have the children’s best interests at heart. Dave has always been a good father and so I had to keep the trust that would continue.
However, there have been times when we have disagreed. I questioned and questioned myself on whether I really did mind that much about another woman painting my daughter’s finger nails for the first time.
But I did.
Of course I did. Milestones, special moments and ‘firsts’ are important, regardless of your situation, parenting style, role or ideals. I suppose it hurt that I was missing out of half my children’s lives and I didn’t even know where they were a lot of the time. They say that with time it gets easier, it doesn’t.
But, I’m a balanced, pragmatic person. I understand that this works both ways. I could see amongst the fog, that there were positives to our situation and Dave the kids and I began to settle into a routine, that suited us all. I realised that during my time with the children, I could make decisions based on my opinions and values and that is what mattered. Having other adults as role models is likely to have a positive effect and I acknowledge that. However, there needs to be respect. Respect of parents, respect of the person stepping in and mostly, respect of the children’s needs and emotions.
Fast forward to now. Lucky for us, there is no current issue or explosion. Dave’s relationship did not work out in the end and we have managed to move forward, as a team. The children are really happy and whilst they spend most of their time with me, they also spend a good amount of time with Dave, who does a fantastic job with them because he’s a great father and dad. We also have a really good relationship now and have managed to salvage a friendship from our failed marriage, which we both see as good and necessary when it comes to raising our children. In all this,I’ve learned that good communication is difficult in times of emotional stress, but once the dust has settled you really just have to be an adult about situations and move forward, especially for the sake of your own and the children’s wellbeing.
Gabriel and Willow met my boyfriend, Richard for the first time at the beginning of August last year. This was after we had been together for four months. Whilst I had been ready a meeting a little earlier, I also knew the time had to be right from Richard’s point of view too. I had never been in that position, nor him mine and so without reading the non-existent-perfect-parenting-manual, what other option do you have, other going with your instinct?
Richard’s relationship with the kids has grown steadily. No rushing, no forced or continuous meetings. We began with day trips, (utilising his amazing photography skills) and celebrating special days such as birthdays and then eventually, he began staying at our home occasionally.
Dave and Richard have met now on many occasions too and we are all on good terms. This for me, is reassuring and makes me happy. It was just as important for me to do things ‘right’ with regards to Dave as it was with Richard because ultimately he is the children’s father and I do not and would never want him to feel pushed out, replaced or worst of all, disrespected. However, I also wanted Richard to feel comfortable, welcomed and loved by us all too, which he absolutely is.
To his credit, Dave has spoken with us both about his own experiences of ‘stepping in’ both good and on occasion, difficult and this has been useful. He has also made clear that he is happy and trusting that Richard will make the right decisions with regards to discipline, caring for the children and also entertaining them when he is with us and I also have that total trust too. Richard is fun, kind and absolutely does his best to care for Gabriel and Willow and I watched his relationship with them blossom which has been lovely to see.
Going forward I intend to focus on the positives and take each day as it comes. We all learn by experience and whilst this situation wasn’t planned, our children now have another person in their lives who cares, loves and who will support them and that’s pretty awesome, especially as I happen to care, love and support him too.
I’m sure the parenting road ahead is likely to be exciting, fun but also have bumps but at the moment, things are good and we are all happy, which is all we need for now.
* Permission was granted from Richard & Dave to publish this post *