By Jasmine McInnes
Disney taught us that step mothers wanted to lock us away, treat us as slaves and even kill us. What are children supposed to think when they grow up adoring these fairy tales? Now, I am a die-hard Disney fan but some of the messages that these stories pass onto impressionable young minds began to worry me when I started my relationship with my partner and baby daddy. I had met Jake when I was a teenager, but we had lost touch after school and gone away to have our own adventures before finding each other again almost ten years later. A lot had changed and now Jake was daddy to his beautiful four-year-old daughter Ella. When our friendship started to develop, I took a good hard look at the situation that I was faced with and thought about whether or not I was ready to be in a relationship with a single dad. I didn’t want to be like Snow Whites evil step-mum and I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes but was I ready to swap romantic dinner dates for cosy Saturday nights in eating popcorn and watching Frozen on repeat? Without sounding selfish, I had to ask myself if I was ready to take on someone else’s child?
I decided that I was, and it has proven to be one of the best decisions of my life as now, fast forward two years, Jake and I live together, and we have a beautiful baby boy called Finn. Things haven’t been a comfortable ride and at times life can get stressful and challenging but have I turned into one of Disney’s evil step-mums? I hope not. Now, I know that I am no parenting expert - I have only been doing the job for five minutes after all - and I am also anything but a relationship expert, BUT things are good - in fact they are blinking fantastic! I have lived the past two years by following 5 rules and these are what I would like to share with you lovely people. Huge disclaimer - my 5 rules work for me and my family. But, I believe that these can be applied to most situations that are similar to mine, but every family and relationship is different and may not work/apply to some.
1.The child/children will always be their priority
When I fell back into Jakes life, I knew that I would never be his first priority and I was perfectly fine with that. Ella would always be no1 and that’s how it should be. If anything, this actually made me more attracted to him because he was, and still is, such a fantastic daddy. He is such a loving and caring soul and the bond he has with his daughter is so special. He gets Ella every second weekend and always wants to make every second count and those weekends would fully evolve around her from start to finish – now it is all about the two kiddies. When you are starting a relationship with someone who has a child you need to remember that a parent will do anything for them - I know I would saw off my own arm for Finn - and they will never love anyone as much as they love them. It’s not that they don’t care about or love you - but the bond they have with their own flesh and blood can never be beaten. Don’t see it as a negative - see it as a positive reflection of their true character.
2.Leave your insecurities at the door
I am sure that I am not the only person out there who would feel uncomfortable about their boyfriend or girlfriend chatting to their ex, am I? That wee green eyed monster is a terrible thing but if you are going to be in a relationship with someone who has a child with someone else then you are going to have to accept that he/she will talk to their ex - a lot. This isn’t going to be easy, but you must be ok with it - it is not possible for you to expect them to not talk to the mother/father of their child at all. Has it always been easy for me? Hell no. Do you think that I was automatically ok with Jake sitting opposite me having lengthy conversations with his ex? Or texting her late at night? Of course, I wasn’t. It was weird, awkward and made me feel VERY insecure, but I simply had to accept it and find a way to deal with it. At the end of the day, they are not chatting about movies or what they have been up to - they are discussing drop-off times, how Ella has been getting on at school, the fact that one of her baby teeth has started to wobble and that she has a doctor’s appointment next week. It’s all about Ella. It’s all about the child. Yes, it’s easy enough to say build a bridge and get over it but if you are too insecure to handle them talking - sometimes every day - then you are not ready to be in that relationship. I believe that it is important for a child to see their mum and dad get along, it models positive relationships and helps to create a healthier environment for bringing up a child and to do this the parents need to talk and work together.
3.The ex is NOT the enemy
It seems to be that we automatically hate our partners ex’s but for what reason? Because they’re an ex? Pretty immature excuse. Yes, it can be difficult seeing past the fact that they once cared for and loved each other but he/she is not the enemy. I don’t dislike Jakes ex, why should I? Because they were once together? We work as a team to help Ella have the best childhood possible - we are not sharping our pitch forks to go to war. We all work together as a solid unit. When she recently went through a naughty spell we clubbed together to ensure that both houses were disciplining her in the same way, so no one looked like the evil step mum or super strict mummy. When she was finding maths difficult we purchased some extra maths books and games and split them between the two households so that we could all work together as a team to support Ella’s education. With her birthday this month and Christmas around the corner, we discuss who is getting her what so that she isn’t spoiled more by one household and it helps split the cost to make it easier for all of us. Me and her mummy are not what I would call friends, but we are civil and mature - we are the adults after all. The first time I met Ella’s mum was super awkward, but I am sure she felt the exact same way. Who wants to meet their ex’s new girlfriend and be all nicey nice to them anyway? Common courtesies have got us all a long way. I ask Ella how her mummy is and when Finn was born she even bought him a present. This makes the relationships between us all much easier in an already confusing situation for a little 5-year-old. I’ll always remember the excited smile that was tattooed to Ella’s face the first time I met her mummy. She was overjoyed as she had wanted us to meet for so long. Yeah it was awkward as hell for the adults, but it made her happy and that’s all that matters at the end of the day (more of that in rule number 5). In too many situations like mine there seems to be on-going battles and arguing. Now, things are not always plain sailing as everyone does not always see eye-to-eye, but that’s life isn’t it? We just need to turn onto the next page and remember who and what is most important instead of point scoring.
4.Embrace the situation
Ella will be in my life for the rest of our life’s and whilst she might not be my biological child I still treat her as if she was. I don’t treat her any differently to how I treat Finn - except for the fact that he doesn’t understand what the naughty step is...yet! I have fully embraced having a super sweet and curly haired little girl in my life. I love her, and, unlike Cinderella, I hope she loves having another woman in her daddy’s life - even if I do ask her to clean her room and help with the dishes. Being in Ella’s life, I knew that I would have to embrace her and our weekends to make her and Jake happy but to also make our relationship work and who knew soft play could be so much fun - even if your size 14 butt gets stuck going down the slides. We do each other’s hair, she ‘helps’ with my make-up and we have lazy days watching movies together. Is any of this fake or forced? Definitely not. I have loved every minute of it. Has it always been easy? No, it isn’t. Having any child (biologically yours or not) wake you up at 5am on a Sunday morning to tell you that they have wet the bed, again, isn’t painless for anyone but that’s parenthood isn’t it? You have to roll with the highs and lows and sometimes have to tickle some bellies to wipe away their tears.
5.The child’s/children’s happiness is what matters the most
As I have already said, these past two years have been the best of my life but, at the same time, they have also been the most challenging. In the beginning, and sometimes even now, I feel uncomfortable when I hear Jake in the next room laughing whilst on the phone to his ex. It can often be difficult to navigate our life’s around the fortnightly pick-ups and drop offs. Sometimes the boundaries are unclear to everyone - especially when we deal with the awkwardness of someone referring to me as her mummy whilst we pay for a pint of milk. Our lives are far from perfect - well I am still waiting to win the lottery- but in an endless number of ways I feel that I have hit the jackpot. We have two happy and healthy children in our lives and that is all that matters. Yes, things might be tough for us as adults, but we must push our own feelings, annoyances and stresses aside and ALWAYS put the children’s happiness first. I wanted to finish with this as rule number 5 as to me it is most the important and does not apply to just my family. No matter what your family situation may be, the children’s happiness is what matters the most and this is what my perfectly imperfect family lives by.
“Magic mirror on the wall, have I turned into a monster step-mum after all?”
“Lack of caffeine is your downfall my majesty, but a loving mummy is what I see.”
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