Welcome to Splitsville. This weekly column will focus on parenting after a divorce, break-up or one-night stand that didn’t end like a Katherine Heigl movie.
I know that this is an awkward talk. I realize that we might spend years being a little uncomfortable around one another. You’re about to become the mother (whether it’s the “step-mom,” “bonus mom,” or just plain “mom”) of my child. I’m preparing to share with you a title that I hold very dear to my heart. We’re entering into a tense and emotional relationship that might not work out the way either one of us has planned. But we’re going to attempt to make it work, because we both have loved the same man and the child he fathered.
I’m not going to waste your time trying to convince you how amazing my daughter is. You’ll find out that out your own, if you haven’t already. I’m not going to tell you all about her character and her quirks. You deserve the opportunity to get to know her and form your own opinions. Your relationship with her will be different than mine, because you two will share your own memories and secrets.
I am going to make one request and I hope you’ll consider it in the years to come. Please don’t love my daughter half-heartedly. Don’t hold yourself back from caring my daughter for fear of fostering competition or confusion. The fact is that “my daughter” is about to become “our daughter.” We’re both going to care for her in our own way.
This little girl we’re raising isn’t going to worry about who bought this toy or who made that rule. She’s going to be blessed by the love of four parents, some birth-parents and some not. She’s going to have more role models to look up to. She’s going to have more people who want the best for her. She’ll have more places to turn when she’s confused or upset. She may not be in a traditional family, but she will have the opportunity for more perspective and love because of it.
Over the years, we may disagree about how to raise our daughter. We might have different approaches to discipline or schooling. I will try my very best to be fair and rational when discussing these choices. I want to present a untied front to our daughter when we make a decision. I hope we can both remember that we’re only trying to do what’s best for this intelligent little girl in our lives. Let’s talk openly about our issues and communicate, so that we can reach a decision that we all feel comfortable with.
More than anything, I don’t want you to stand on the sidelines, afraid to step on any toes. I don’t want you to worry about hurting my mama-sized ego. Please don’t set up boundaries in your relationship with our little girl.
When you agreed to marry her father, you took on a responsibility to parent our daughter. You pledged to love her, just as you agreed to love her dad. I’m happy that both my ex and my daughter have a new woman in their lives who cares.
I’m not worried about “first mom” and “second mom.” I’m not concerned with establishing my place as the primary caregiver. That won’t help my daughter adjust to this new family dynamic. What will help her most is to know that every parent she has loves and cares for her. It will help her to know that we’re all here, wanting to support her as she learns and grows.
I want to be in this journey together. We don’t need to be best friends, though I have no problem if we become close. We don’t need to agree all the time, though I hope we’ll always respect one another’s opinions. I want us to be on the same team.
So congratulations on your pending nuptials. I wish you a stress-free wedding and a wonderful honeymoon. And from the very bottom of my heart, I hope you’ll let me welcome you into this special family.
The Other Mother