I read this post over at The DHX and started thinking about what I did specifically to change how I thought about my children’s stepmom. I never told her or ex-husband what I was doing, but the communication and feelings between us changed a lot (or my perception did, at least) when I changed.
What helped me was to think of how I’d want to be treated if I were in the stepmom’s shoes. I’d want to be treated with respect. I’d want for the mom to assume that I was doing my best to get to know her children and that I wasn’t trying to take her place. I’d like to know that the mom was letting the kids know (not through words, necessarily, but through actions) it was OK to like me and even to love me, as I was beginning to like and love them. I know that might be a stretch, but it was on my list as something that I’d have in an ideal situation if I were a stepmom.
So I began to do those things. I treated her with respect when I had contact with her. I tried to think of her in a more positive way. I prayed for her every day when I wrote in my prayer journal. When I had ugly thoughts, I tried to put them out of my head by thinking of good things I knew about her. I tried to see her not as a rival but as another adult in the equation. I encouraged the kids to give her a chance and to get to know her. I told them that loving her does not take away from their love for me. I drew a picture of a pie (they were young, the visual helped) and told them that we don’t only get a certain amount of love to give away. Loving more people does not make each piece of love (pie) smaller in turn. We get more love (more pies) with the more people we love. That’s the wonder of it, it grows.
Do I always think that ex-husband and stepmom deserved the benefit of the doubt from me? No. Did their behavior change overnight and create people who were easy to get along with and who wanted to be involved in my children’s lives? No.
When ex-husband and stepmom lived an hour’s drive away, stepmom spent time with the kids, and was kind to them. Well, she was kind most of the time, but I’m not talking about those other times right now.
Are ex-husband and stepmom involved in the kids’ lives now? No. They’ve chosen to not be and I’m sure they have some sort of reason for this that makes sense to them. I don’t understand it, but it’s not about me and it’s not about my children. Their level of involvement is about ex-husband and his wife and the choices they’ve made.
These days, ex-husband and stepmom are not involved in the kids’ lives. They don’t speak by phone often. They saw ex-husband three times in 2007. They’ve not seen or spoken to their stepmom since August 2005. I don’t think that the way things are is the best situation for the kids. Their lives would certainly be better if they had a dad and stepmom who wanted to be involved, but it is not up to me to change.
And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. That’s the key. I’m happier now because I’m not constantly trying to fix it for my children. I’m not trying to figure out what I can do to make things better. It is what it is. I’ve learned that when I do the best I can and trust that other people are doing the best they can, I am better. And in turn, so are my children.