Sat 5 May 2012
Meet Kristen. You will be moved by her amazing insight and her journey into and through stepmotherhood. She believes that Warmheartedness, Love & Compassion are the answers regardless of the question. You’ll want to take a few notes, she has an amazing story to share.
I have always wanted to be a Mom. When I thought about my future I always saw children in the picture. I was looking forward to driving carpools, attending sporting events and recitals, helping with homework, making lunches for school, and chaperoning field trips. However, life had other plans for me. An early marriage in my mid 20s ended in divorce after two short years and no kids. I spent the next decade wondering if I would ever meet the right man and have the family that I dreamed about.
And then I fell hard for my husband Nick in my mid 30s – a single father with a 9 year old daughter and a 4 year old son from his first marriage. I was hesitant to meet the kids until I knew that Nick and I were going to make it as a couple. I’d learned the hard way that I can easily get attached to a man’s children and end up confused about whether the relationship is really working or if I just can’t bear to leave the kids. Just hearing of them from their Dad’s stories, I loved Sadie & James long before I even met them.
I remember meeting them for the first time. Sadie was almost 11 years old, James 5 1/2. We met for breakfast at the IHOP. I was nervous and afraid they wouldn’t like me. Nick had never introduced them to a ‘friend’ before and they knew something was up. They were kind yet clearly a bit wary of me. Driving away from the restaurant that morning it dawned on me what I was actually getting into with this relationship. If all went according to the plans that Nick and I had made, I would become these kids’ Stepmother. I’ve read all of the stories and I knew that I needed this version to be different than the faerie tales.
I had no doubt in my mind or heart that I could love these children as my own. But knowing kids as I do, I also knew that they had a choice in whether they loved me. And in a way, whether they loved me back or not could have absolutely nothing to do with me. Nobody wants a new Stepmother. Most kids of divorce want their parents to get back together and for things to go back to they way they were when they had one house where everybody lived together and they had all of their stuff in one place.
I had one game plan to try and make this work – Love & Compassion and low expectations. While Nick and I were still dating I made a point to think of things from the kids’ point of view. I was infringing on their time with their Dad when I’d tag along to soccer games and cookouts in the back yard. They only saw him every other weekend and they cherished that time with him. I never stayed for the whole day and I left before they went to bed. And here is the thing that they’ve told me made a big difference… I always thanked them for including me in their fun and told them I looked forward to seeing them the next time. I fondly look back on this period as when I was dating them all.
After Nick & I got engaged, we built a house 10 minutes from the kids’ Mom with hopes of increasing our time with the kids from every other weekend to something closer to 50%. The kids helped us pick the floor plan, including which rooms would be theirs. James, now 7 years old, was curious which one of the rooms was going to be mine since Dad was getting the big room with the big bathroom. This comment, while cute and funny, was an indication of just how far we still had to go to become a family.
Once we moved into the house, I again went with the only plan I had – Love, Compassion and low expectations. I am a firm believer that few humans can resist an unrelenting campaign of unconditional love. I would show them how much I loved them with my actions rather than say it. I’d been waiting for this job my whole life! I made breakfast, lunches and dinners. I helped with homework and drove the car pools. On weekends they were with us, Nick & I focused our attention on them. We had plenty of time for couple things on the days they were with their Mom. These kids were not losing their Dad, they were gaining a Faery Stepmother that looked after them and made it possible for them to live with their father 50% of the time.
The best thing I did in the first year living with the kids is I paid attention and I listened. I treated them both, particularly my thirteen year old Sadie, as if they were the main characters in my favorite TV show. Each time I saw them, particularly after a few days away, I would get caught up on everything I missed since my last update. I would ask about things that I knew had occurred while they were at Mom’s – a sleepover, a dance class, a math test – and about each of their friends so I could keep up with who was in and who was on the outs and why.
I can still remember the first time each of the kids told that me they loved me. James was a little bit ahead of his sister but I heard it from them both during the first year in the new house. Truth is I knew they both did long before they said it. And as different as they are from each other the conversation was exactly the same. Them: “I love you, Pokey”. Me, with tears in my eyes I don’t even try to hide: ‘I love you too’. Them: ‘I know….’