After an acrimonious split from my children’s father, I was so happy and relieved when everything calmed down and myself and my two children were living a pretty good life.
Excellent child care in place, a nice home, loads of fun trips, happiness and laughter. I even managed a bit of self-care. Sweet!
And then the bomb dropped.
“The children met my new partner a couple of weeks ago. Would you like to meet her too?”
Shock, rage, jealousy, panic, fear …a total and utter wobble ensued – shadowing all of the joy and calm in my life.
Meditation and yoga went out of the window, and were replaced by a full evening of sobbing, wine and Kelly Clarkson.
Thankfully, I quickly realised that ‘this is happening’, and that I’ve had enough fights over the last few years – I didn’t want any more. I had to accept, embrace and move on. Be the better person.
Or in the words of Dame Kelly of Clarkson, “I’m so moving on, yeah, yeah.”
Knowing that I wouldn’t get through to the ex, and really needing this person onside, I wrote her a letter …
To the woman who cares for my children …thank you.
I knew the day would come when my children’s Daddy met somebody new. But the horror of the reality caused all of my rational thoughts to disappear. And I won’t lie, I had a real wobble. This new information consumed my thoughts during the day and kept me awake at night.
Thankfully, the panic and the awful thoughts didn’t last long and I was able to talk myself around. Mainly because I’ve been where you are.
If I can share one piece of advice, it’s to never underestimate the importance of your role as a Step Mum.
When I met my children’s father, I was very quickly introduced to his children and became a very important person in their lives. Although I didn’t appreciate how important at the time. It was before I had children of my own and that made a huge difference.
I was given no support and shown no kindness by their mother. And it made life very hard for all of us. But mainly for the children. There is no doubt in my mind, that if the Mummy of that 4 and 6 year old had behaved differently, it would have saved the children a lot of pain and confusion. Which is why I am writing you this letter.
You are very lucky. Franky is beautiful and funny (I mean actual funny!) and super confident. First up the slide in a playground full of kids. Telling bewildered children his name and leading them in a game of pirates. Boisterous, loud and full of energy, he is also incredibly sensitive, caring and sweet. He’s very bright too and doesn’t miss a trick. A whispered word, a gesture, a heated discussion (I’m ashamed to say he’s seen a few of these) will affect him deeply. So please don’t misjudge his energy for disregard. He sees and feels more than you give him credit for.
Elsie is a joy. She will brighten up a room. I still get excited to collect her from her cot in the mornings. A little quieter than Franky, but just as confident and very determined. She’s extremely affectionate and so happy – all of the time. Since I was a child myself, I dreamed of having a baby girl and I couldn’t wish for a more loving, funny and bright child. She adores her brother, and her Daddy – and will fight to steal his affection. And win.
Please don’t resent the children for this. The short time they have together is so precious and is helping build their relationship with their Daddy. It’s helping build them as people.
I have two very resilient and well-adjusted toddlers, and that’s because they spend regular time with their father. They know when they will see him, where he lives, where they will sleep. They understand, and this gives them an unshakable foundation. This, to them, is just the way things are. And it works. So, while they are stealing Daddy’s time and attention, believe me, without you even realising, they are going to steal your heart. That will happen.
I’m ashamed to tell you that for me, that is one of the hardest parts of this situation to deal with. I’m a Mum who is infatuated with her children. Every moment of my life is for them, and about them. The thought of sharing that love, those memories, that affection, with another woman … a stranger, is incredibly sad for me. I know I should be proud that my children are open to love, and I am. And the more people who love and care for them the better, surely? But I want to be honest. A group photo of you guys on a day trip is not something I want to see at the moment!
And while I’m being honest, you should know that I suffer with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I’ve had this since I was a child and I take medication to help me control it. It makes me extra sensitive and watchful. And in normal situations, I can feel fear and panic. Although I’d never let anyone see that. That anxiety amplifies this situation to such a degree, that as well as being mindful of my children’s feelings, I ask you to be sensitive to mine too.
I never dreamed that when I had children, that I would be living apart from their father, let alone sharing them with another woman. So, it’s extremely hard for me to accept – but YOU are so incredibly important. So key to their happiness. Their security. And I am trusting you, as a stranger, to accept this responsibility and not only respect it, but treasure it.
So, to the woman who cares for my children …thank you.
A Guest Blog from MumBoss Leigh Cooke
Leigh is a single Mum to Franky and Elsie (and Rocky the Chihuahua) and lives in Cheltenham.
She is a Copywriter at Cheeky Sparrow and creates content for business websites, blogs, marketing material and anywhere else they need words.
Her advice to any single parents – especially with a mental health issue …talk. Create a little army of people around you and allow them to face the battles with you.