Reflections on (Pseudo-Step) Motherhood

When I first got involved with BF it was all about him…but as I fell more deeply in love with him and it became more clear that our relationship might cause the end of his marriage, I had someone new to think about as well…The little man.
At the time The little man was a baby. He had his first birthday a month before BF and his now ex-wife decided to separate. He was just past fifteen months old when I moved in with them.

During the few months that I spent as The Other Woman I had a lot of time to think about what the consequences of what BF and I were doing would be, for him, for me, for her, and for the little man. An affair like ours is inherently selfish. I knew I was in love, I knew he was in love, and I hoped that she would come out of the other side with a better, more fulfilling life, but being unsure about that wasn’t going to make me stop being involved with him. The one thing that I was concerned about was how a separation, divorce, split up parents, and a stepmother were going to affect the sweet little child who bore no responsibility for any part of the situation. So I did what I always do in times of decision, I read everything I could find. I read books about co-parenting, stepfamilies, the effects of divorce on children, how to have a positive relationship with your spouse’s ex. I read up on what it could be like to be a step-mom, how to build a relationship with your stepchild, toddler development. I was already an education student, so I was in the process of studying child and educational psychology and development. I immersed myself in information. Sometimes it was difficult; there is very little information out there about the effects of divorce on children under five. I felt blind on a lot of issues. I still do. I didn’t know if he was going to bond with
me. I didn’t know how he would consider me. I didn’t have any clue what his feelings toward me would be.

When I moved in with BF I wasn’t apprehensive. Though I had never even changed a diaper and I had only ever even seen the little man face-to-face three times, I felt confident that I could care for a child. After all, I’d always planned to be a mom, I loved his father to death and I wanted more than anything for things to work out for the best. And I succeeded. By the second time that the little man spent with us, I had it down to the point that I could let BF sleep in on Sunday morning while the little man and I had breakfast and played in the living room.

The little man’s Mom wasn’t exactly pleased with my caretaking to begin with. And I completely understand her reaction. She didn’t want some other woman coming in and thinking that she could not only take over her husband and her house, but her child as well. She had no idea about how I felt in the situation, she didn’t know that I understood her sacred place as mother and knew that I could never take that place.

For me the last two years have been bumpy. I’ve been sick beyond what I knew sick was. But that didn’t stop me from building a strong bond with the little man that I now see as my own. No, I’m not his mom in the biological sense of the word and he still has a Mom, who will always be Mom. I will always be Rachel, but that doesn’t make him any less mine.
I just fell naturally into the roll of mom when he was still a baby. And then it was easy. I look back at how very easy it is to direct a one-year old to toys and food and it’s amazing. Because he’s a real little person now. With strong ideas and desires and thoughts and a whole personality of his own. I had to learn everything young parents have to learn and struggle with, discipline, manners, moving to that scary big boy cup. BF and I had to make conscious decisions about what kind of parents we wanted to be, how we were going to work together, how rules were going to be enforced, what those rules would be, and most importantly what kind of person we were trying to shape.

There’s a problem there in that last one though, because it’s not like being a typical parent, there’s a whole other sphere of influence in this child’s life with a whole different set of parenting philosophies and a whole different idea of what kind of child they’re trying to shape, what kind of person they’re working toward him being. I’m a very active parent in that I actively seek out parenting advice: magazines, articles, forums, etc. I read parenting books. I own a copy of Spock. BF and I have a very structured view of what parenting entails and what kind of parents we want to be. My counterpart, the real Mom, the head of the other sphere, has a much less defined view of what parenting entails. She’s not one for parenting magazines or books or going with what the experts think are the best ways to raise a child. She goes more from the gut, from experience, from how she was raised. I won’t criticize her parenting philosophies, or lack thereof, but they are far different from how we do things in our home. This creates some problems. Problems like inconsistent methods of potty training, problems like hearing the words “But Mommy said that I could…” a thousand times a day, problems like our differing views on how important naps are. It’s frustrating. Especially as I’ve grown to love this little boy and he’s grown to love me and I’ve become much more attached to his happiness and well-being. She has every right to parent her own way, and she will; it’s just hard to manage the differences sometimes. It’s hard to get a three year old to understand that there are two sets of rules and not have him melt down every time I tell him he can’t do something that his Mom would allow.

I hope that that part gets easier as he gets older, that he will just understand that there are just differences between our two households and we both have different visions of what a parent’s function is and what the boundaries are and that that’s just how it is. Of course I hate that. I wish we could all come to a consensus on what the boundaries are, so that he wouldn’t have to meltdown when I take my computer power cord out of his hand, because he’s allowed to play with Mom’s. But I suppose he’ll adapt, get used to it,

And it’s hard to parent a child that you don’t really get to make full-fledged parenting decisions about because we don’t have conference calls when issues come up, Mom and Dad talk, occasionally I’m consulted, but usually I’m not, decisions are made and there is a whole world of discussion about his life that I’m never part of. It’s really hard sometimes to not scream when I’m told that yet another decision about drop off times, or a change of days has been made without me. It’s even frustrating when I bring up something that I think needs to be addressed to BF and he goes and has the conversation with her about it and comes back with a positive result. Just not being part of the process is frustrating. But we all talked about the blended family concept when things initially hit the fan and I have hope that we will get there, hopefully sooner than later.
It’s odd to be here at twenty-four. I was very vigilant about not getting pregnant for the last decade and now I have a three-year-old half the time and I can’t get pregnant. Just as I’m really feeling like I’m coming into my own and that I could really do a good job with this mom thing, I discover that I can’t have a baby of my own. Not that I won’t be a Mom, mind you, that dream isn’t going anywhere. But to be pregnant, to have that intimate physical bond with someone, to know that they came from you…I’ll just never know what that feels like.

And no, that is not okay with me right now. Right now it feels like someone has ripped my uterus out and stomped on it while laughing in my face. Right now I’m pissed off and sad and disappointed. But every week I see his little shining face. That sweet grin. Those adorable eyes. He reminds me that I have so much already. That if there are no more children, I’ll still get to share an intimate part in the life of this golden little boy. Not the Mom part, but the Rachel part. And that’s pretty damn special

So those are my thoughts on being a pseudo-step mom up until now. I’m sure there will be more as I become more seasoned, but for the time being I think that probably plenty.

I’m absolutely in love with both of the men in my life. They are my family. I wouldn’t give any of it up for anything.

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