Relationships, one on one, are hard enough. Loving a man with children from a previous marriage ups the ante. Toss in an ex who refuses to even feign sanity, and you have never-ending drama and bottomless stress.
Why stick around? I’m sure a lot of women in stepmom situations have questioned, and have been questioned by others, why they choose to stay in the relationship.
I have watched the one-sided, rabid clawing and biting, heard the groundless yet oft-repeated accusations, watched the flurry of petty temper-tantrum e-mails, have witnessed motion after motion and court hearing after court hearing, and I admit, I have wondered with complete bewilderment: what redeeming traits did this individual possibly ever used to have?
I can’t say I have ever enjoyed putting up with selfish and childish people, and several years of experience haven’t increased my pleasure of this particular activity. However, I have learned to place the nonsense at the bottom of the pile, flush the crap, and never place more emphasis on the negativity than I do on my family.
Sometimes it requires tongue-biting. Sometimes it requires reminding myself over and over again that the poor choices of others cannot become more important than doing what is right and doing what is best for the kids, who are watching all of us and learning, for better or worse, depending what they see.
So…what makes it worth it? Watching Gary with the kids, running through the park or snuggled up on the couch; dancing in the living room and laughing at each other’s smooth moves; watching everyone sleep in the silence of a dark house and feeling peaceful; a spontaneous hug; one of the kids waking up and instantly reaching for either Gary or me; when total strangers stop us in public to tell us how happy we look. The openness and trust on the kids’ faces, in their eyes, and knowing we have never taken advantage of that.
Gary and I have both owned up to anything we have done wrong, and we expect the kids to do the same. Not everyone in their lives models that philosophy, but at least we know if they choose to lie their way out of responsibility…it was not learned from us.
When the kids are asking for pushes on the swing, or learning to read or tie their shoes, or scanning the crowd at a game to pinpoint where their daddy is and make sure he is watching them, or sitting on my lap or using my shoulder as a pillow, the drama fades into the background where it belongs, outside, something to be dealt with later. We have learned over time that much of it doesn’t require being dealt with at all. It takes time away from us, from our family. (Which, I am quite certain, is much of the motive to begin with.)
Love is always worth it, at least to me. It is not always easy, especially in certain situations, but it is worth fighting for.
Watching the kids suffer, on the other hand, is never worth it, never worth anything. There is nothing that could motivate me to lie to them, use them, hurt them as long as it also meant I scored a cheap point against someone else. That is ultimate poor parenting in my book.
For some, an actively functioning uterus clearly does not attest to an actively functioning heart. The saddest part is that the kids pay heavily for that shortcoming, and they are not even completely aware of it yet.