You’re at a classy restaurant on your first date with the most decent-looking man you’ve seen in a long time and right after that first sip of wine, he decides to break the news that he has children from his first wife.
Being a mother to another woman’s children is daunting. The only thing you have to start with is the man you’ve been married to for a shorter period of time than he’s been a father to the kids. No thanks to the movies, you are sized up as evil, wicked and manipulative until they take their time to get to know you better. You are not alone when you feel like a one woman army, ready to fight or to run away, if it weren’t for the man who held your heart.
Most of the time you’ll find yourself searching for the manual on how to deal with the children, their father and his ex. While it’s true, as they say, that there are no instructions to life, there’s always help. If you’re still looking for it, read on.
1. You will have favorites.
There will be that one child who troubles you less or doesn’t give you the attitude (at least not too much of it). You will find yourself treasuring that kid as if they were your own. You might even slip them extra candy when they’re good.
2. Your husband was first their father.
There will be times right after you slip on that sexy lingerie that he gets a call to pick up his child from baseball practice. Snuggle back into your sweat pants and turn on reality TV, because sharing is never easy.
3. They will probably hate you.
At least in the beginning. If you ask them to do something, you’re bossy; if you give them advice, you’re pretentious. Whatever you do is wrong. It does help if you keep trying, but don’t try too hard.
4. She will probably hate you too.
This might take longer to change. You’re with her ex-husband and her children, making a new home with them. Don’t fret if you’re not drinking cosmos and doing each other’s makeup—silence is good and tolerance is better.
5. You will wonder about another life.
Every time a door is banged shut on you or you lose your man to another ballet class, you will turn around, swear under your breath, and wonder if you love him enough to be his second. But always make sure you remember that your moments with him outlive those without.
6. Part-time parenting is a full-time job.
Unfortunately, unlike the divorce where he got the lake house and she got the city apartment, parenting time isn’t split down the middle. It’s sort of like the couch that couldn’t be cut into half. Every decision revolves around the kids.
You: Let’s go on a vacation!
Him: Where are the kid-friendly places?
You: I was thinking of using this room as my study.”
Him: I was thinking we could let the girls use this room for their music and dance practice.
You: Sex on Friday?
Him: Oooh, sorry, PTA meeting.
7. There are good times.
These moments are hard to find sometimes, but they are there and worth all of the bad times. Every once in a while, you can rest your head on your husband’s shoulder, with the children around you, watching a movie. If you’re fortunate enough, they just might even like you.
8. Your children will have a different relationship with their step-siblings.
Their sibling relationship will never be the same as your relationship with your stepchildren, unless you are evil and wicked and feeding them with your doubts (don’t do that). Don’t be surprised if the kids enjoy a special kinship as they grow older.
9. You will learn to be yourself the hard way.
Don’t be an overbearing stepmother if you love freedom yourself. Children can smell fake from a mile away, and you don’t want to be caught in an awkward situation when your friends talk of the wild child you once were.
10. Family isn’t always blood.
Sometimes, it’s the stepchildren you can’t stop worrying about as you desperately try to seek their love. Always know that lives keep changing with the inclusion and exclusion of people. Be gentle on yourself and your new family.
Just like everything else in life, you won’t really know how it changes you until you experience it. It might turn out to be the life you’ve always wanted and dreamed of. After all, the love of a child is priceless, be it your own or your husband’s. Or it might turn you into a stronger person with a mended heart.
For starters, don’t gulp down that glass of wine just yet. Talk to your date about his children—communicate. Take things slow. Be yourself. See if he loves you back for the woman you are. One step at a time, and brace yourself for quite the adventure!