I love my husband’s ex-wife. Yeah, I know, it sounds strange but it is true.
Melissa and I are complete opposites and yet we’ve managed to become friends.
I doubt she agrees with all of my parenting decisions and honestly, I don’t always agree with her choices. Fortunately, though, we have been able to look past each other mistakes, stupid decisions, and bad parenting moments and focus on the important stuff – the kids.
I’ll admit, I walked into a great situation. Aaron and Melissa were great co-parents long before I came into the picture.
All I had to do was build on an existing foundation of trust and respect. And that is why I love Melissa, she let me keep right on building.
- She welcomed me into the picture – without any reservations.
- She was open and honest with me.
- She gave advice when I asked, but never pushed it on me or was offended when I chose other paths.
- She laughed and cried with me during the multiple teenage moments of love and rebellion.
- She always spoke highly of Aaron and was happy to see him happy with me.
I knew the girls loved me from the beginning but having their Mom accept me kept them from being pulled in two directions.
Earlier this year Melissa had some very unexpected events occur in her life and needed a place for her and her daughter Ciara to stay for two months. People were very shocked to find out that I was the one to invite her to stay with us.
Was it easy to have my husband’s ex-wife live with us?
No, not always. At times it was hard. It wasn’t personal; it was just hard to have two extra people in the house. We had our routine and at times it was hard to adjust.
The best part was having a second pair of hands doing the grocery shopping and helping with the dishes – I definitely miss that part. I also miss having her daughter around. It was nice to have a young child in our home.
Melissa and I had always gotten along, but living together really solidified our friendship. We spent a lot of time joking and laughing together. She told me stories about when the girls were younger and gave me insight into their personalities I had never known.
As a step-parent, you miss out on some of the formative growth experiences that really shape a child. I had heard most of the stories from Aaron, but Melissa keyed me into slightly different aspects of the stories that really deepened my understanding of what made the girls tick.
My understanding and appreciation for her and the sacrifices she made for the girls over the years really grew. Looking back I think she can honestly say that she did her best as a parent and she should be very proud of who the girls are becoming.
Although I walked into a great situation, there are a lot of things that I did to build a relationship with my husbands ex-wife:
Mom’s aren’t perfect, but they have an intuitive understanding of their children. I became a step parent when my girls were 12 & 14. If I hadn’t taken the time to listen to Melissa and the advice she gave, I can guarantee things would not have turned out so well.
I asked a lot of questions about the girls and took the time to listen to her responses.
I wanted to know and understand who they were from their Mother’s perspective rather than just from a Father’s perspective.
Which on a side note, I tried to do the same thing with the girls as well. I made getting to know them a priority. If I was going to marry their Father then I knew they were a package deal.
You can’t marry someone and expect their kids not to have an impact on your relationship. My number one goal was to avoid becoming the evil-stepmother.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask the ex-spouse for help and advice
My decision to reach out to Melissa the first time I had an issue with the kids was the best decision I made. I know from talking to Melissa later that she really appreciated the gesture and it helped solidify our friendship.
My asking her for help gave her a clear message that my first concern was for the girls.
It is funny, I can’t even remember why I wanted advice, but know that I followed her advice and the situation resolved itself.
I firmly believe that most parents want what is best for their children. When you make a conscious decision as a step parent to ask for help and advice the ex-spouse will have a deeper respect for you.
Does it always work? No, but at least you know you’ve tried.
3. Don’t Make Instant Changes
I’m the newcomer. Yes my way of loading the dishwasher is better and I’m more efficient at managing the finances, but that doesn’t mean that I came in and started throwing my weight around.
I worked my way into their lifestyle and then as I felt comfortable gradually started to make small changes.
I’m making it sounds like it was easy to do, but I took my time. I was very careful to figure out the areas that were sensitive to the kids and didn’t infringe on those areas. I was very careful to be respectful of the way their mother had taught them to do things.
Suddenly having a step-parent is hard enough without having them try and change everything in the home to fit their needs. It really makes a difference when you are respectful of the children’s needs in the situation.
4. Always talk about the ex-spouse with respect.
It is really hard to keep your mouth shut when certain situations come up. At times you watch events occur that you know are hurting your kids. But regardless of what is happening it isn’t your place to disrespect the mother or father of your step-kids.
If something needs to be said, leave it to your spouse.
I know it sucks, but as a step-parent sometimes you just have to let certain things go. I’m not talking about abuse or major issues. I’m talking about the day to day decision that you don’t agree with.
I know this isn’t always easy. Even though Melissa and I are friends, I haven’t always agreed with her decisions.
It is really hard to be a step-parent who loves their step kids. Even though you are doing everything in your power to be a good parent, you aren’t their mother. And ultimately some decisions aren’t yours to make. I’m not going to sugar coat it – it sucks at times.
Regardless of my personal feelings, I have to do what is best for the kids though and Melissa is their mother. She loves her girls just as much as I do and wants what is best for them as well.
When I remember this little detail it makes the hard situations easier to deal with.
I know that not every birth parent always makes the best decisions for their kids. I know there are some step-parents who have to watch some really horrible things occur when the kids are out of their home. I don’t want to discount their suffering. In many situations, there are no right answers.
At times as a step-parent, you do have to say something. What I’m trying to say in my not-so-eloquent way is to be very careful with your words.
Once you say something negative about the other parent you can’t take it back. Think through your words and decide if this is a battle you want to fight. If you choose to fight this battle then find ways to be respectful and kind.
Again, I know this isn’t always easy. Even though Melissa and I have a great relationship we’ve had to have a couple of very difficult conversations over the years.
I firmly believe that by expressing my concerns with an attitude of love towards her and the girls I was able to work through tough issues that could have hurt everyone.
Being a Step-Parent is the hardest job in the world
I wouldn’t wish being a step parent on my worst enemy. It is so hard. Yet even with all of the problems I’ve had over the years, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.
Yes, it is REALLY, REALLY hard, but it is also REALLY, REALLY rewarding.
I’m very lucky, my kids love and respect me and treat me as a second mother. I know that I’ve made a positive impact on their lives and I LOVE the friendship and relationship I have with them. They are absolutely amazing kids and I’m so proud of them.
Melissa – If you read this, please take it as the big thank you. I know it must be hard to share your kids with another Mom and I thank you every day for your willingness to share. Thank you for letting me be a part of the girls’ lives and being such a wonderful person. You Rock!
Join the Intentional Living Revolution
I love to help my readers transform their lives.
Join for weekly updates on Personal Finance, Parenting & The Fun Things in Life.