The oldest child had a friend over yesterday. Her friend asked her if she liked it better before or after her parents got divorced.
Obviously it’s a complicated question, and the oldest said that things hadn’t really changed a whole lot, there was only one thing she kind of didn’t care for (I wasn’t the issue). But we started talking about how things were at first, and it just reminded me of something I really had a hard time with.
When I first moved in, we had the kids 6 nights a week. Their mom didn’t really have a place to stay, so that also meant she didn’t have a place to stay with the kids. I did everything I could to take care of them and the house and keep things spotless and seamless. I just supported everyone all the time.
I started to get close with the kids. We all started getting along very well, and I really just loved them. I used to have a bit of disposable income, and I liked to go shopping. But I loved buying things for them. They would get so excited over just new clothes, and I loved getting them cute things so they could look nice. It was just a lot of fun, and I really liked it. I loved to be able to provide things for them, and I really started to kind of feel like I was filling a “mom” role. We kept them for 6 nights a week for a long time, more than 6 months, but I can’t remember exactly.
When their mom got settled and started having them regularly, it started some problems for me. She would buy them something and they would come home so excited to show me. “Look what mommy got me!!” It would be something small (she was kind of on a budget, new place and had to get all new stuff) and I knew she didn’t spend much on it, and it just made me crazy. I was so jealous. I felt like “who is she to just jump back in like she never left? She wants to buy stuff for them NOW? Where has she been? Who does she think she is!”
She’s their mother, that’s who.
I had a really hard time with it. I busted my butt at work and went out and spent my hard earned money on those little monkeys I loved so much, and she just stepped in and made me look like a chump. She didn’t even have to try, and it was so much effort for me.
I didn’t know what to do, so instead of carefully finding a balance, I totally shut down. I backed off and spent way less time with them, I put distance between us so I wouldn’t feel so hurt and insulted. My husband would just tell me “they’re kids, they don’t know better”, and I can promise you, that did nothing to help me. But he didn’t know what to do.
The distance I put between us hurt our relationship and I had to work to repair it. I’m still working to repair it. They were young and impressionable and I left a bad impression.
Sometimes kids will do and say things that really hurt. They can be unbelievably mean because their emotional barometer doesn’t measure adult pain. They don’t know. It sucks, but you’re the adult and it’s up to you to handle it like an adult and simply (and very calmly) say “hey, I don’t like when you say that, it’s mean, and you wouldn’t like it if I said that to you.” Then wait a few minutes and change the subject. That’s it. Done. It takes a lot of effort to hold your tongue and only say the basics, but it really is all on you. Even though you’re not their mom or dad, you’re still parenting.
Whether you want to admit it or not.