Divorce can take a toll on a family. But what happens when your ex-husband gets remarried and your only son now has a stepmom? For Janet, accepting the new mother-figure in her son's life was more difficult than she had anticipated. After learning to understand what her son's new stepmom would be a positive in his life, Janet was able to accept her in her own life, as well.
When my son was born, it changed my world, instantly. The second the midwife put him on my stomach and I grasp him to me I knew two things that astounded and frightened me – I have never before loved anyone so deeply, so fast. I didn't love my husband, and the realization changed my world.
Two years after my son was born, I was divorced.
My ex-husband remarried a few years later, when our son was seven. Somehow I didn't think about how I'd react. I could handle him remarrying, but I hadn't thought about the next reality – that my son would get another mom.
It's painful realizing that now, without my choice, I was going to have to share the most important role of my life with a woman I barely knew. That's the role of being a mom. When his dad was single, I was the only mom. Now he has a stepmom. She gave him something I couldn't give him then – siblings. Deborah has three kids from a previous marriage. But he is my only child. I didn't like the idea of him calling her mom. I don't like when she tells me he opens up to her in ways he doesn't open up to me. Or when either insinuates that in some way they are better parents. It hurts. I get angry.
Of course I couldn't live as an angry person, resenting reality. I had to accept it. I had to find in myself the reassurance that I'd never be replaced or forgotten. That I was somehow diluted or less important. She took him to school those first years, did homework with him. I felt like the stepmom sometimes. Deborah also brought three kids with her into the marriage, so my son got siblings (which was very good for him). He had another person who is invested in him along with more grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. If I wasn't there or if I died he'd have had backup relatives.
Deborah and I are very different but he learns from us both. She reinforces things I teach him, but of course we don't always agree on how to raise kids. But she isn't mean-spirited or catty and for that I'm so thankful. So slowly, over time it got easier to accept. It helps that he rarely calls her mom. Still, she'll be in his line at his wedding, cheering him at graduation, and at all those milestone events. When he's at his dad's house, they are a family. I'm sure everyone assumes Deborah is his mom. I can't change that.
I remember the tears and the strong emotion but in the end I care about my son and Deborah does too. I even love her children. Sometimes I think my son thinks we're all one family living in different houses.
Yet later came another layer that I hadn't anticipated. Now that I've accepted her as part of our life and appreciated how we have navigated the curves, there is a new threat, a new question. What if my son's dad and stepmom get divorced? That breaks my heart even more and it almost happened. I hope it never does. It would be so hard on my son. Besides that, I've gotten used to sharing.