“What does she look like? What is she like?” a newly divorced friend asked of my ex-husband’s girlfriend. She’s wading her way through getting used to the idea her kids are spending time with another woman whom her ex-husband fell in love with not long ago.
No, I’m not above showing people my reality, my life, and doing some light stalking of the woman who now owns the heart of the father of my three children. You wouldn’t be either if you were walking through my life.
It’s not something I make a habit of so I can wallow in self pity and compare myself to her. Rather, I think of it as a normal and natural reaction to have.
After scrolling for a bit and seeing pictures of her with my kids sitting on her front porch, my old family car, and on a plane trip to Florida with hashtags like #family and #love, there is a slight stir in my belly, a sting in my throat, and feelings I’m embarrassed to say I have:
It’s not fair.
She’s pushing it — those are my kids.
They aren’t her family, they are mine.
My new friend looked at me and asked how could I be calm and composed at a time like this when all the world can see my kids with another woman claiming them as her #family.
Oh, the cruelty. What will people think? Surely, they think I’m shriveled up in a corner somewhere because another woman has stolen my time with my kids doing things only I should be doing with them, right?
Yeah, I’ve had my moments of crying so hard, I’ve wretched up the four cupcakes I’ve consumed. I’ve had nights where she’s greeted them at the door with my ex- husband after we’ve spent a wonderful day together and I’m not ready to let them go. The tears prick and sting my eyes so bad I have to pull over until I can make it home.
But the one thing that keeps me grounded, pulled together, and confident about the strength of my family, and the role I play in my kids’ lives is this: love cannot be spliced up, dished out, and gobbled up by one person.
Her presence in their lives (for over two years now) never has, and never will, make me less of a mother — their mother.
She loves them, yes. She loves them hard and it makes me feel lucky and grateful and strong. I know her love for them will make them better and get them through tough shit. I don’t have to worry they will be neglected, ignored, or talked to in a nasty way when she’s with them.
That kind of love makes hearts grow and kids flourish. And it in no way cancels out my love for them or their love for me.
This is not a competition to see who has the most to offer my kids, our kids.
My kids’ hearts are not a ball to be tossed back and forth.
Their feelings and emotions are not something you practice juggling with. This is not a game show where we make them choose between two women who want the best for them.
This is my situation, and I’ll gobble it up when she wants to FaceTime my daughter before her first semi- formal dance so she can see her in her dress.
I will gladly message her to tell her my daughter needs tampons and Advil on a weekend she is staying with her because she’s too embarrassed to tell them. I don’t have to worry she is going to feel offended my daughter couldn’t come to her about this because all she wants is the best for them. And when your children’s needs are front and center, there’s no place for a score card.
Love is fluid.
Words like “family” hold their value.
Blood isn’t a factor when it comes to a situation such as ours.
What is a factor is teaching my kids that family and love and togetherness are things you make room for and welcome into your life when the opportunity shows up because they are rare and wonderful gifts.
I have to lead by example. I have to let her love them as big as she wants. I have to let them love her as big as they want.
I have to because that is what feels right in the pit of my being, and my only other choice is to white-knuckle my way through this, get in their way, and look for signs my kids love me more.
That’s not something I want. Not for me, and especially not for them.
And honestly, crying to the point I throw up four perfectly delicious cupcakes isn’t the way I want to spend my time ever again.
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