My boyfriend and I recently watched the movie “Daddy’s Home” starring Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg. In the movie, Farrell is a new stepdad to two children when their biological father (Wahlberg) returns home to visit. What ensues is a typical laugh out loud comedy featuring incredible jealousy and raging competition between the two dads. While the movie was at times over the top, it was surprisingly relatable. My boyfriend and I kept turning to each other saying we’ve experienced this.
I was somewhat hesitant to write this post, but I think it is an important one to address. It has to happen to virtually every stepmom – meeting the kids’ biological mother. Dun dun duuuun… I’m just kidding. I do have to admit that I was extremely nervous to meet the kid’s mother the first time. When it comes to divorced couples, they don’t always have the nicest things to say about each other. I, of course, went into our first meeting knowing some of the good and a lot of the bad. You already have an impression going into the situation.
“They probably don’t like you that much”
My advice though is to try and erase all of that from your mind. I tried to be completely non-judging with no preconceived notions. I was focused solely on wanting to make a good impression. If the roles were reversed, I would want to know that my kids were around someone decent and not with anyone that would be a bad influence on them.
The other side of this though is that, while the kid’s biological mother might know next to nothing about you, they have an impression of you already too. And you can’t control that! You are the person that is hanging out with their kids regularly now and the person making their ex happy again – instinctively they probably don’t like you very much. Frankly, I don’t blame them, but it still doesn’t make it any easier. It just added to the pressure when meeting mom for the first time. It made me that much more determined to make a good first impression.
My stepkids’ mom lives in Virginia so every other weekend we drive 1.5 hours to meet at a gas station in the middle of nowhere North Carolina. So, for our first meeting, I had a full 1.5 hours to silently freak out in my head. I was prepared for friendly small talk; I was prepared for yelling and arguing; I ran just about every scenario in my head. The one I did not see however is the one where my favorite pair of sandals decided to break literally the moment I went to walk out of the car door. I frantically tried to put my sandals back together with no luck and was praying I happened to have another pair of shoes in the car. Of course, I didn’t so my only option was to walk outside barefoot in the parking lot of a dirty gas station in the middle of the night. So much for first impressions.
As much as I freaked out about it to myself, it really was no big deal. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I think I introduced myself and said “it is nice to meet you”. All I remember getting in return was “Hi”. And that was it; totally not the big dramatic scene I had made up in my head. My point is basically that it will be over before you know it. Fortunately, I had my boyfriend by my side and that made it a lot easier.
“Constantly reminded that I wasn’t a real mom”
The one part of meeting mom that I was not prepared for was all the judgment that came with it. I was focused on the kids and building relationships with them, but I was met with a lot of criticism. This was a theme in the movie “Daddy’s Home” that no matter how many school plays or boy scout meetings attended or no matter how many bedtime stories were read, Will Farrell still was not and was never going to be their real dad.
While not quite as comedic as the movie, this definitely hit home. I didn’t think that I was doing anything wrong with the kids – I was helping to provide a stable home, helping with homework, getting involved in gymnastics, cooking meals, and singing bedtime songs. The kids were really, really happy. Still, I was constantly reminded that I wasn’t a real mom.
I’m not going to lie my relationship with the kids’ biological mom was rough at first. I don’t know if it was jealousy or insecurities or just pure hatred but I was not liked. So, I did the only thing I could do and that was stay focused on the kids and my own happiness. If I was told I didn’t know what I was doing, then that pushed me ten times harder to be the best mom I could be. It probably helped me bond with the kids even faster because I made it such a priority.
Progress will happen
I think our relationship took a turn though when we finally had each other’s contact information. I was extremely reluctant to open up that door as I did not want to give a direct line for harsh words. It did allow her to more easily reach the kids though as I was more likely to have my phone on me than my boyfriend. I think it was obvious that I wasn’t trying to replace her or keep the kids from seeing her. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
Now that I had her phone number it was easier for me to remind the kids to call their mom on the way to school in the morning or when they got home at night. I could now share photos of the kids with her more frequently to help her stay up to date with what they were doing. We have also passed back and forth recipes that we know the kids like to eat. My stepdaughter always raves about her mom’s cooking, so she really wanted me to try some of her mom’s recipes.
When we put our own feelings aside and kept focused on the kids, that is when everyone benefits. The kids are happy and that is all that matters. We (boyfriend, mom, and me) haven’t mastered the art of co-parenting, but I would say that we tolerate each other and make the kids a priority. The bottom line though is that this person is going to be in your life at least until the kids are eighteen, so you might as well find a way to make it work. It will only make your life easier if you do.