Amid the raging three-ring circus of celebrity divorces and custody battles is Sandra Bullock and her husband, Jesse James. For many reasons, this one has caught my eye. One, Sandra Bullock is among my favorite actresses. Two, the case has so many parallels to stepmom stories I read on blogs and experience in my own life.
The quick background: Jesse James has custody of his five-year-old daughter, Sunny. His ex-wife, Janine Lindemulder, is seeking custody now that she has been sprung from prison for tax evasion.
Though Sunny is tossed about as an occasional token, the focus of this case derailed almost immediately from the child to the supposed scratch-and-claw battle between the ex and the new wife. *yawn* One headline cheered “Sandra Bullock Battles Porn Star Janine Lindemulder for Child Custody“, as if the two were locked in a topless mud wrestling pit down at the local strip joint, where at least Lindemulder would feel right at home.
For her part, Lindemulder felt the need to appear on Good Morning America to make childish comments about Bullock. The comment that stood out most to me, once I dug past the unfounded insults, poor-me whining, and banal King-Kong-like grunting and uterus-thumping, was this one by Lindemulder:
“I am the best mother I can be.”
I bet that she is. I believe that a lot of women and men are, indeed, the best parent they can be. The problem is when their best is not good enough to appropriately and properly care for a child who depends on them and needs to be able to trust them.
Custody battles bring out the worst in many people, and they get their ugly on in ways that cut the kids to bits. At the end of the day, if you have used your kids as weapons, lied to them, lied about them, refused to let them see their other parent, put down their other parent in front of them, manipulated them, and ultimately prioritized your own egotistical wants over their feelings and needs, well, then the best parent you can be is a pretty damn shitty one.
Two comments by Bullock also stayed with me. One is, “I seemed to have stepped in right when I needed to be there.”
Gary told me once that I came along to pick up the pieces of five broken hearts (his, and four kids’) and put them back together just when they needed it. It is my guess that many stepmoms, particularly those in a situation with a volative and selfish ex-wife, find themselves continually in the role of buffering and repairing the ongoing damage to the kids and to the father caused by reckless and self-serving actions on the part of a self-proclaimed Mommy of the Year.
Bullock also had this to say about being a stepmom: “I may never hear that word ‘mom.’ But being a parent is not about breeding. It’s about caring.”
Really, I have nothing to add to her comment; she summed it up perfectly all by herself, eh?