• Mon, Feb 20 2012

Splitsville: A Letter To My Daughter’s Future Step-Mom

step momWelcome 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.

Dear Lady-Marrying-My-Daughter’s-Father,

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.

Warmest Wishes,

The Other Mother

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  • Shannon

    This made me cry a little. It was very open and sweet, but coming from a women who is still with the father of her child, I don’t know if I could ever be that generous! If the situation were ever different I really truly hope I could be this kind of mom, your child comes first. But if reading that brought a little pain to your heart, I’m with ya, I guess you fake it till you make it.

  • Alex

    I’m separated from the father of my daughter and I don’t know if I could be that nice about the situation if he ever married someone else. I can’t bear to think of my daughter, the only and greatest thing in my life loving/having another “mother” I know that people re-marry and this is common, but it would be devastating.

  • Kj

    As a potential future stepmom, I think that this is beautiful. Thanks!

  • Katie

    I agree with the previous posters. My husband and I are together with 2 gorgeous children – and I don’t think I could be as thoughtful and mature as you. It’s very nice knowing there is someone like you in the world. Your daughter is incredibly lucky to have you as her mother who loves her so much you do not want to stand in the way of her being truly happy. You’re a super hero.

  • Danielle

    As a step mother, this letter means a lot to me. Unfortunately my step-son’s mother does’t consider me an entity worth acknowledging.

  • C.

    I am truly impressed at how open and willing you are to say your daughter is “our” daughter between the four of you.

  • Jenna

    I would like to point out to those moms who are saying that they couldn’t be as generous to the step-mom – She isn’t doing it for the step-mom – she’s doing it for her child. What it comes down to is this: Are you going to put your feelings first or your child’s?
    Would it be hard to see your child have a mom/daughter bond with another women? YES! Would it be hard to have another women mothering your baby? YES! But it would be harder on the kids and everyone involved if you tried to regulate their relationship just to make your life easier. What you need to realize it that you will always be your childs mother. No one else will care for your children the way you do. They won’t hug your children the way you do or treat their boo-boos like you do or tuck them in bed like you do. You will always be mom. The step-mom will have another way of doing things and in the children’s eyes it won’t give quite as much comfort as the way you do things.

  • Betty

    You have got to be kidding me! This is a fairy tale. When I wish upon a star, I’d love to receive this letter but someone needs to wake up and smell reality. If you really sent this letter you are one in a million. In my experience and those of many friends, the first wife is too bruised and insecure by the upcoming nuptuals to even think about this kind of selflessness. I’ve spent 18 years being a step-mother to a relatively well adjusted, self sufficient, otherwise charming young woman who reminds me at every opportunity (encouraged by her mother) that I am not her mother and never will be. If I even receive invitations to life events (graduation parties, baby showers etc.) I feel fortunate (and if invited, I certainly don’t miss the event). This letter gives second wives a cruel and unrealistic hope that this is the way life should be. Its not, and unless you are extremly lucky, it won’t ever be. Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings.

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  • Willow

    I wish that I could receive a letter like this. I am getting married this year to the father of the sweetest little boy I have ever met. I love him with all my heart and do my best to be a good parent to him – I have been in his life for three and a half years, and he doesn’t remember a time when his papa and I weren’t together. Unfortunately, his mother is extremely insecure and won’t even acknowledge my existence. She yells at him when he refers to me as “mama”, and refuses to speak to me or look me in the eye when I pick him up from her house. All I want is for our two families to get along so that he can see that all four of his parents love him, and I have no idea how to get to that place.

    • Sarah Westwood

      Maybe things would be different if you did not allow your not even Ss to call you mama!

  • Angela

    I feel exactly this way and will be using your letter to help me craft a letter to the stepmother of my children. I know this isn’t everyone’s blessing, but I am happy to say that it is mine. Thank you!

  • Rocio

    I am still with the father of my children but we are on the brink of separating….it would be hard, but I know if he were to remarry, I’d be happy for him. I’d want the best for my kids.

    I see my brother and his ex arguing all of the time. The ex doesn’t even acknowledge the new spouse when they are in the same room. The worst part is, is that their daughter hears both parents talking bad about each other.

    The other day my brother called his ex (who was not around) a “b*tch” in front of his daughter. His daughter…only two mind you…thought that daddy was calling her a “b*tch”. Poor girl is the one suffering from the parents immaturity.

    All this to say that I would try my best so that my kids do not suffer what is an already difficult situation.

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  • zocara

    what an amazing letter!

  • Trina

    I can appreciate who wanting to establish a good relationship with the stepmother for the benefit of her daughter, but “the other mother”? No, she is the child’s mom. And her father is her father. They are not out of the picture, they are still her parents. Any other adults may be family, role models, mentors, etc. but they aren’t her parents.

  • dp

    Bravo

  • momtothree

    as a step mom to a child I’ve never been able to meet, I wish all bio mom’s could have this attitude. Not all stepmothers are coming in to the picture with the mindset of taking over. I know for myself, I’ve felt like a piece of our family is missing not knowing my stepdaughter and knowing there is a piece of my husband out there that we don’t know. Even though it has been 6 years and we have 2 children of our own, my heart still has love for this little girl, and her mother. And I pray for baby girl’s sake that something will change and her mother will become more secure and comfortable with herself and realize, no body can replace her, I don’t want to, I just want my children to know their sister and my hubby to know all of his.

  • Cristina

    What an incredible letter! I honestly hope that you did, in fact, send this letter…because even if the new step-mother decides to ignore your request, please know that you have done the right decision in at least taking the chance in making it in the first place! Sometimes, it’s because of both sides feeling awkward or self-conscious that no report is ever established and silence can be construed as being stand-off-ish or rude which creates tension between the parties…

    Even though I know I would never receive such a letter in the mail, I want you to know that the requests that you made are being put to good use…and they may not be used with your daughter (although I truly hope that they are!!), but they are with my step-daughter. I love her and will always love her whole-heartily and have not created boundaries based on her having two homes.

    I do wish that the relationship between my step-daughter’s mother and I could be different, but I just don’t see it happening…it’s hard when you’ve tried but get burned every time. Regardless, I want her to have a wonderful relationship with her mother. It is so important! I have one with mine and I just don’t know how I’d manage without it.

    I only want to congratulate you on putting your child first. She is incredibly lucky to have (hopefully) four adults who love and care for her!

  • Lala

    Wow, this is absolutely beautiful. For the first time I see a mom TRULY put her daughter first.

    As a stepmom, I know this is a hard pill to swallow, but I respect this woman so much as a mother and an adult for having the conviction to remember that her daughter’s well-being and mental state IS what matters.

    I wrote something similar for my step-daughter’s mother, unfortunately, it didn’t yield the results I was expecting. Instead I got called “delusional” for thinking her mother would be okay with me loving her daughter. Its so sad too because my stepdaughter is amazing and through hard work I was able to show her I’m here to love her father and never take her place- or her mother’s. It was difficult the first three years, but things are so great that it makes me cry sometimes.

    Stepmoms, don’t give up. Remember the kids matter. Is this role difficult? Difficult doesn’t even begin to cover it. It’s like a minefield. Ultimately though, its an awesome role.
    Again, I commend the mother writing this letter. It says A TON about her as a mother. Truly amazing.

  • Alyssa

    I love this, my ex had gone through a few girlfriends who have each “threatened me” in saying “I’m going to be your daughters stepmom and you better get over it!!” Without even getting to know me OR my daughter (or my ex for that matter…) I have struggled with having an ex who needed desperately to grow up and find a GOOD woman who could be a good stepmom to our daughter.(he is by the way one of my really good friends, we fought for that for our daughter but now we are friends by choice) A few years ago he finally did and they are getting married next month. My daughter calls her stepmom “sugar mama” (she works at a chocolate store) and despite any struggles we have had the one thing any of us wants is what is best for our daughter. I am writing a letter just like this for her and I know she will love it :) it’s sad to me that a lot of moms, dads, stepmoms and stepdads refuse to even try to have a relationship like this for their kids, even as a kid with parents who are friends and try to have a united front my daughter still feels the “moms house vs dads house world” I couldn’t imagine the struggles for a child whose parents don’t get along! I know how hard it is to be the one trying to “get along” when the other is just being insane, I’ve been there… To anyone going through that, don’t give up! Keeping smiling an being friendly even if you get an unpleasant response back, they will either smarten up and grow up, or they won’t and if they don’t at least the child sees one person trying and that’s better than none!

  • MamaPowers

    Jenna – as a Bonus Mom that kinda hurts! I am sure most mothers do have that special bond. But, sometimes us BONUS moms are the ones who can heal any boo-boo. My son is terrified even of his BM’s voice. I really liked your comment until the end. That is not true, please don’t generalize that we can’t be “the best mommy ever” to these innocent children who needed someone to step up. I know your post wasn’t meant to be rude, it just really struck a chord

  • Saku

    As a BM and SM, I’ve been learning things as I go, I’ve never been a SM before. I’ve googled countless issues addressed from the ” BM” of my stepchild and honestly it’s sad and shocking to read some responses. This has got to be, BY FAR, the best response, attitude and maturity to the “other mother”. I wish more women shared this view.

  • JNC2

    I’m using parts of this as a reverse template to the ex-wife/mom, and the diplomatic language goes both ways. I’m confident we can find a peace, albeit a complicated one, but a peace nonetheless.

  • Allison

    I have the world’s worst step-mother. She’s just a really bad person who has, in the 24 years she’s been my father’s wife, permanently damaged the relationship I have with my dad. Needless to say, when I found out my ex was getting remarried, I freaked out. I’ve met her several times and she’s always been very nice. I believe that it’s not possible to have too many good people who love your kid, so even though I’m freaked out by my own issues, I try to put them aside for my daughter. Thank you for this letter. I just read it to her, and she cried. I am thankful for your words. You said what I didn’t realize I wanted to. I truly believe this letter will help set the tone for our new, weird, little family and I am grateful.

  • mama42867

    This is exactly what I was looking for. My daughters well being comes first. I want her to know that she has many good people in her life. I have seen what it does to a child when parents cannot get along for the sake of their child. Maybe some women find it hard to believe. I found it took me a while to get here. But this is not about me. It’s about our amazing daughter. It’s a long road and we all need to get comfortable with one another. There are many talent shows, soccer games, birthday parties to attend together.

  • Charleey

    honestly this letter is amazing , and in some situations with the right BM and SM that would work. I have been a SM for 20 years. And yes my SS call’s me MOM and he calls his BM Mom most of the time. The BM dug her own hole by not calling him , or visiting him .. Christ NOT even a “Happy birthday” for 3 years. My SS made me a grandma in June. Funny how me the SM is the one trying to include his BM in everything. I litterly have to make my SS call her still at his age, send her pictures of her grandson she has still refused to come and meet. and why some of you might ask… She is punishing my SS because after graduating he chose to get a house in the same town as me and his father who have raised him. Im sorry some BM’s are just childish and ignornat. Its about the CHILD or CHILDREN. NOT ABOUT US, We as the “PARENTS” whether biological or step seem to forget about this at times. So I applaud the BM or BD that can look past their own selfish needs and put their childs needs first.