Saturday, February 11, 2012

let me count the ways...

I spend a lot of my days as a stepmother counting.

10: The number of seconds I count before I say something negative to my stepdaughters about Mama Ex.

5: The number of shoes I bought for Stepdaughter 1 that she isn't allowed to wear because Mama Ex thinks they're ugly. (But mostly because I bought them.)

1,236: The number of times Mama Ex has gotten angry at me for doing something as a stepmother that is "not my job," and is instead hers and hers alone.

0: The number of times I've ever really looked at things from Mama Ex' point of view.

Until now...

Earlier this week, one of my best friends went into labor at 29 weeks with her twins. It wasn't the beautiful birth experience she was looking forward to for 7 months; it was a disaster. When all was said and done, my friend's son was still born and her baby girl is still holding on at just under three pounds.

It is tragic, heart wrenching and unfathomable for me. To see my friend experience such pain, yet at the same time so much is an emotional roller coaster I never want to ride. But what unexpectedly struck me as I later looked at pictures of this incredibly tiny baby girl was this: what did Mama Ex feel when she had her girls?

When Hubs and Mama Ex had Stepdaughter 1 (and later Stepdaughter 2), there was no drama. There was no arguing over who got to have them on Christmas or who got to claim them on their tax documents. There was only love. True, deep and saturated love for these beautiful baby girls they had created together. More importantly, I doubt Mama Ex was pondering what type of woman would someday be helping raise her daughters.

I imagine Mama Ex is often angry and unfairly critical of me because I am a mother figure in her daughters' life. It infuriates her that I was the one standing there with Hubs when the girls got their ears pierced. That's supposed to be her job. Her babies. She has been with them since day one. It should have been her holding their hand when the needle went through their ears.

The truth is, with step parents, the lines are blurred. There is no right or wrong way. Mama Ex can't possibly expect to be there for every life changing moment in the girls' lives, just as Hubs can't. The girls live in limbo, jumping from one hoop to the other, trying to be fair to both sides. The least I can do is try and understand that it isn't easy for their biological mother to watch.

I can't imagine my baby someday being loved and/or disciplined by another woman. I think it would nearly rip my heart in half to hear my child wave to another woman and say, "Bye! I love you!" as she leaves from a weekend visitation. I know Mama Ex never thought it would happen to her. But it has, and here we are, just like thousands of other people.

It's certainly not in "my plan" to someday have a baby with Hubs and then get divorced and experience all this for myself. But I don't have a crystal ball. I can't see the future. For all I know, Hubs will leave me in ten years for a 6'0" blond with a fantastic ass and completely hair free armpits. If that does happen, I am going to want that woman (no matter how much I may hate her) to respect my wishes and my hopes for my child. Not hers. Mine.

So the next time Mama Ex goes into a frenzied tailspin because I read "Goodnight Moon" to Stepdaughter 2 and that's HER job, I might take a step back and realize, it's okay. I can only count on one hand the number of years I've been with these children. I can take a deep breath and try to understand.

Do you ever put yourself in your step children's biological mom's shoes? Do you find empathy for her?

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