I am trying to be the best parent, wife, mother I possibly can by taking my children's and my husbands feelings into consideration. I find it hard making a simple decision. Would my husband be offended if I arranged for my daughter to see her father outside the normal contact arrangements? Am I being disloyal to my husband? Will he begin to wonder why I am being so nice towards my ex husband? I know I have felt this way when my husband has arranged things between himself and his ex wife for the sake of his child.
For me, I felt excluded and suspicious. Would my husband assume I still harbour feelings for my ex husband? The answer to that is most definitely no! I have no feelings, hidden or otherwise for my ex husband. I am simply trying to do the best for my daughter and trying to fulfil her need to be part of her father’s life. Likewise my daughter bears the added guilt of wanting to spend time with her father, but how will that make her stepfather feel? Will he feel she doesn't love him as much as her real daddy? My son avoids talking about his stepfather whilst in the company of his own father for fear of upsetting him even though my son and his stepfather have a wonderful relationship.
My son himself has expressed how he looks to his father for some things and then looks to his stepfather with help for the things his father cannot help him with. In his eyes, he now has the best of both worlds. Unfortunately we as the adults often miss this.
My daughter has to think long and hard when talking to her daddy that she doesn't call him by her step fathers name by accident, but to call her step father "daddy" when she has been in her fathers company, has no repercussions, in fact it is affectionately smiled upon even though my husband and I know he can never or will ever replace her daddy. All of these things we have loaded onto our children's shoulders, and amongst all of that, the hostility that the children have to endure from one parent towards the other.
My transition from mother to step mother hasn't been an easy ride and there are still many wounds that remain open and will never heal. My son choosing to stay with his father, my own fathers rejection and my husband loosing his daughter and myself loosing my stepdaughter. Each of us involved in our blended family has made a sacrifice. My husband has sacrificed his daughter. His daughter has sacrificed her daddy. I have sacrificed my son. My son has sacrificed his mother and his sister. My daughter has sacrificed her father and her brother. My ex husband has sacrificed his daughter, and what of my husbands ex wife? She has sacrificed nothing, her partner however, has sacrificed his three daughters and they their father. So each one of us involved in this blended family situation, has sacrificed someone, has endured the pain of a loss, my husbands ex wife has not. She hasn't given up anything.
In many books and articles is has been suggested that you cannot change someone's behaviour but what you can do is change your behaviour.
I have constantly questioned how could I change my behaviour? To accept that my husband’s ex wife has a problem with me that she wants me to have absolutely nothing to do with her daughter. The same daughter that came into my home every weekend and treated me the way she did? How could I have changed my behaviour, to sit back and pretend that it wasn't happening and to carry on regardless? The person that needed to change their behaviour was my husband’s ex wife. By her behaviour, I mean towards her own daughter, for her to have not involved her child with issues she harboured towards me and to have allowed her child to have a relationship with me. I have never been guilty of disrespecting my stepdaughter’s mother whilst she has been in my company. But I have had to listen to the multitude of comments passed from my husbands ex wife to my stepdaughter towards me.
Wednesday 9th August 2006
Your daughter hasn't been here for four weeks and it’s been wonderful. Horrible to say I know but that's the truth. Monday you spoke to her mother and told her you wanted your daughter back in your life. 1/2 hour before you were telling me that you have to accept what has happened and concentrate on us. I lost the plot completely and have ended up on tablets. Your ex wife says that your daughter has been saying things to her and she feels bullied by my own daughter. The health visitor is trying to get us all into mediation but how i feel at the moment, I don't want a child in my home that tells stories and causes problems. I will do everything I can to support you in seeing your daughter but not in my home, sorry. What surprises me is if all what she says has been going back to her mother, why hasn't she said something before. Where is the concern for her child? It is still obvious that when she says she doesn't know what her daughter's problem is she's probably right. Your daughter hasn't got a problem with me, her mother does!
I have indeed tried to be "The Adult" during the small time I have been permitted to be a stepparent. My only failing is to have allowed my emotions to constantly get in the way.
I wrote a letter I wanted to send but decided to step back and allow my husband to regain some control over his future when contacting his ex wife.
Dear Birth Mother,
Firstly thank you for taking the time to read this letter and hopefully you will get beyond the first paragraph before putting it in the bin.
Since the events of July and now the dust has settled a little, I hope it would be possible to begin to build bridges for my husband and his daughter to regain contact with each other.
First of all, I love my husband very much and will do anything I can to support him, something I have tried to do since we have been together. This has never been to replace you or for him to relinquish his parenting duty while your daughter was with us. Nevertheless, it is completely alien for me to have to stand aside and care for my children whilst he is caring for his own.
When I first came into your daughter’s life, and she was at Nursery, on occasion, it would be her request to stay at home with me, especially during the holidays when my daughter was not at school. I was upset when you contacted my husband to tell him that you needed to know where your daughter was and she should be at Nursery.
Nevertheless as a mother myself I can understand your anxiety. You didn't know me. Would it have been so hard for you to trust my husband’s judgment? After all he was expected to trust yours when your partner moved in with you. When my daughter visited her dad, she stayed overnight with his girlfriend and I didn't even know he had one, so I knew nothing about her at all. As a mother it concerned me, after all I was concerned for her well-being. I now have to accept that her father’s judgement of someone he wishes to share his life with is equal to mine. He is her Father.
It is very difficult to blend two families together and I have tried to do the best for everyone concerned in our family. That includes your daughter when she is here. To be told that you didn't want her friends at our home for her birthday was confusing for her and us also. Again I understand you anxieties but am not clear as to the reasons.
Changing arrangements is also hard. We are trying to be constant and be able to arrange things for our family, which includes my own children. It is not a simple case of having to consider one child in particular. I hope you can appreciate this.
Being told I have nothing to do with your daughter is a difficult task to adhere too. I am married to your daughter’s father and she comes into our home and interacts with my family to which I am part of also. She has expressed that she thinks i am the "best step mother in the world" so I find it hard but understand she tells you something different. She understandably feels loyalty towards you, which she must be credited for, but it is a heavy weight on her shoulders.
Being part of a stepfamily is the hardest role to play. There are so many "grey areas" It has never or ever will be my intention to be a better parent than you are. We both are mothers and have different ways of working. I accept I have acted in haste at times but these have been due to emotions running high, confusion and not understanding a situation and for those I can only apologise.
All I can hope for is a resolution and to be able to work together in the interests of all of our children.
On a visit to my stepdaughter’s school, the teacher has told my husband, that his ex wife has painted a very bleak picture of him. Quite simply, he doesn't want to see his daughter. My husband sat with his daughter’s teacher in tears at what she was telling him. His daughter has become introverted has long periods of silence and is in fact, pining for her daddy. He admits and accepts that the decision he has made may not have been the best one, but it was only supposed to be a temporary situation. Nothing permanent. He simply wanted to remove his daughter from a situation that was making her unhappy. The teacher understood that.
Her mother has recently remarried and is now changing my husbands daughters name, to that of her mothers married one. Her schoolbooks remain unchanged, but the book that she takes home, in her mothers writing, has been changed. The teacher has offered my stepdaughter a diary, to try to have an understanding of her feelings. Quite plainly she is indeed missing her daddy and there were quite a few extracts of this noted. Obviously her mother is sweeping her daughters feelings under the carpet as she gave the diary back to school and informed the teacher, "she doesn't need this anymore."
The teacher did tell my husband that she did find his ex wife quite "matter of fact" at times. I honestly believe my husbands ex wife can only think of one person. That is herself. As a mother she does not know how to talk to her own child. Past history has shown this. If his ex wife is capable of lying to the school about my husband, then I'm sure she's capable of lying to her daughter about her daddy.
My husband has continued to contact his daughter through cards and letters but the sadness and grief of not being able to see his daughter is painful to watch and there is nothing I can do but feel helpless.
It has affected our life to the point that he doesn't know how to be happy and I cant be happy knowing he is not so the thought of ending our marriage returns. Not because we do not adore each other, but because of the pain. The problems we have been exposed to has caused each of us to loose one another. We have grown apart and any issue my husband has regarding my son, is instantly responded with issues that my stepdaughter has brought about. It suddenly becomes "tit for tat" my kids your kids once again.
Friday 01 September 2006
You came home last night and told me you had been trying to write a letter to your daughter. I know you have been missing her; you don't have to say anything to me. Changing the photo on your phone speaks volumes, I understand that. You asked me when the Health visitor was going to sort out the mediation she suggested. You talked about what you were trying to write to your daughter and I said I would help you. I will pick up some little note- lets for you too. Something special for her. I will be by your side there stomach. The fear of your daughter and the problems that come with her, are filling me with dread. You said you don't hold her responsible for any of the attitude she showed towards me. I'm afraid I have to disagree with that, as I feel she has learned to manipulate. She has shown to play you against her mother in an effort to gain some advantage.
I'm sure she has become an expert at reading the emotional environment, telling partial truths, and then telling out-and-out lies. Whether these are survival strategies that she has learned in order to keep peace at home and avoid emotional attack by her mother, it is still me that is targeted. I immediately had to text my Son, just some sort of contact with him, who since my stepdaughter has not been here, has been easier for me to accept his absence. Your daughter coming back into my life, unless there is a massive change with her mother’s attitude, will simply amplify my yearning for my son to be with me. I am panicked and at this moment in time looking back towards the tablets. Other than that, accepting that maybe we cannot live together, you without your daughter and me having to survive the attacks from her and on top of that living without is my son. One of us has to make a sacrifice. You simply are not strong enough to continue without your child and I am not strong enough to cope with the problems she brings.
You mentioned that you are resentful towards my children because they are not yours. Resent was a strong word you said. You loved them but resented them. You have had a few weeks of no contact with your child; I have had 4 years of not seeing my son everyday. I understand your resentment but wonder that it is not the same as my own. I resented your daughter because she couldn't allow me to parent her or told me "I didn't know what I no doubt of that, but if I'm honest, I am scared to death. I have a knot in my was talking about" Are your resentments simply because my children are here and yours is not?
The ironic thing is in all of this is that you once told me, had my son moved in with us, our relationship would not have lasted, yet I have had to live without my son AND be subjected to this hostile behaviour whether it is influenced by your ex wife or your daughters own demise, and I'm still here! But I really feel that I cannot be subjected to it any longer. You are distancing yourself through your grief missing her and work pressures and I understand that, but the resentment will become apparent through our,my kids your kids situation. I know there is a lot of work to be done but I haven't had time to get our relationship back on track.
I honestly think that this is now becoming a lost cause. Each time I think about it I am in floods of tears. Can I pretend to you that everything is ok, and spill out these feelings during the mediation if it gets that far? I want to be able to talk to you about this but you will instantly feel that you are back in the middle or will want to try to resolve something that cannot be resolved so I shall say nothing and have you continue to question that am I ok? You asked when you came home was I all right. I said I was feeling a little down and you responded, why, it's not because of my daughter is it? When I said no you said thank Christ for that!
So that's it. Its a subject you really want to bury your head in the sand over isn't it? So now you are left with hope in your heart of having your daughter back in your life and I am left feeling that my life is about to fall apart once again. You say because of my mood this evening, you feel like an alien well when your daughter comes back into your life all I will feel is excluded. Back where I was two years ago. And to top it all, you haven't even read any of the documentation that I have printed to argue our case. All I have done is try to support you and at the moment all I feel is alone.
I feel completely detached from my husband to the point where if I cannot be a good wife then I must try to continue to be a good mother. Alone if that is the option that remains. I sometimes feel I have lost the man I fell in love with. We have been sucked up into a tornado of problems. Unfortunately my husband has become bitter and angry towards his ex wife due to the situation with his daughter and this anger has consumed him. Focusing on this anger, everything else is unimportant. He has no room for his family. He has told me how much he loves me but at this moment cannot find room for us due to this anger. I don't know how to help him. He told me, "With all due respect, you cannot understand how I feel. You still have your son." Why is him not seeing his daughter so much more important than how little I see my son? Because he is so consumed with this anger and his emotions, he has no space for understanding and sympathy for mine.
Perhaps though, the comments my husband makes regarding my son is simply his way of communicating that he feels I don't understand, because from his perspective, I've not lost my son completely but knows he has lost his own daughter. I know comparing the situations doesn't help but understand why each of us does this. My husband is so consumed by his emotions and I understand this is normal as he would indeed be heartless not to feel anything at all. Perhaps how I feel is normal too.
I ignorantly thought, like leaving my son, once his own daughter was taken out of the equation, albeit for what we thought was her own good, we could have our "happy ending." But this would only have worked if my husband didn't care so much and one of the reasons I fell in love with him in the first place was because he was such a good father and caring person. But like any relationship, when someone is treating you badly you expect your partner to understand and support you but when its their children they can’t do this and that’s why I’m not convinced that blended families work well when it has so many problems to deal with. The needs and feelings of everybody just get too much.
I sometimes wonder whether we really had time to get to know each other in the normal sense of the word. When in fact, we have been flung in at the deep end with a bombardment of problems and emotions that blended families so often have. We have been so busy sorting out these problems that somewhere along the line, we haven't been allowed to learn about each other. I think about my past and wonder that if in year’s time when I am thinking about what has happened in my life, will I think of this moment and wonder where were our happy times? Did we ever really have any because we were too busy sorting problems? We need to change this. Our present will be our past and I want to remember them fondly not think "What was all that about?"
Perhaps I have come full circle from sitting alone with a bottle of pills before me wanting out of a life where a husband showed me no affection, to a man I love with all of my heart and who feels the same about me, but have no future with due to his grief. But he is aware of this and we can talk about it and move forward. United once again.