When I was younger imagining what my life would look like, it never included me parenting on my own for seven years—let alone having to share my children with another woman.
My two kids were only 1 and 2 ½ when my marriage to their dad was officially over. I was in a marriage that in the end had brought out the worst version of me. I no longer recognized who I was and I needed to make a change. Don’t get me wrong; it was hard, really hard. In fact, it was probably the worst weekend of my life. But, once I realized I was ready for it to be over – that I needed it to be over – relief washed over me. I was finally strong enough to make a change, one that would be better for me, for my children, and for their dad.
I don’t know when it happened, but slowly I started to love myself again. I started seeing glimpses of the person I used to be, I was letting go of my bitterness, and my anger. I was a becoming a better mom, taking time to mend my heart and soul, and surrounding myself with people who pushed me to become better.
There were difficult, sad, and angry conversations that took place between my children’s dad and me over the first few months. Both trying to figure out what our lives looked like, how to share our children, and both trying to make sure we weren’t ever going to be replaced. I yelled, I cried, and I’m sure I said things I didn’t really mean.
I vividly remember when we were working together to finalize our divorce and amidst all the difficult conversations we always agreed on one thing—what was in the best interest of the children. The judge told us that he wished more parents could work together in interest of their children, instead of self-serving interest benefiting only ourselves. I vowed that I would continue to try and always make sure that the interest of my kids would outshine any resentment or anger I had towards my marriage ending.
Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t always easy.
And then this other woman became a fixture at their dad’s house. She is kind to my children, she provides them with hugs and kisses when they skin their knees, and she loves them as her own. My kids really don’t recall a life before her; she has been a key person in their village.
And, I am thankful for her.
It’s not always easy to embrace the other woman, but we recognized early on that life would be much easier if we worked together to create a village; that our children knew love, teamwork, and compromise. She and I shared the same values, both growing up in small towns in Central Minnesota. And I think that helped for both of us: we knew that we had been raised in a similar environment where family was everything and hard work was demanded in every aspect of our lives. She understands her role – she recognizes that I will always fill the role of mom – but she fully embraces her role as stepmom.
Our relationship has made raising our children easier. We both bring different strengths and they complement one another. I am especially grateful for her craftiness. I know I can count on her to have the sewing machine ready or the materials needed for any upcoming art project.
We can sit next to each other at our children’s events and converse about our jobs, about our families, and about our kids. We can talk about the funny stories they have told us or laugh about what it will be like as the kids get older.
It could have been different; we could have seen each other as the “other woman” instead of as an ally. We could have chosen not to embrace a positive relationship, making it awkward for those around us. Instead, the village has grown and my children can see how two women can work together for the good of others.
I am grateful for her. And because of this, my children are better.