The Brady Bunch only exists without exes

I don’t consider myself to be a stepmom in any sort of way, even though I guess that yeah, the fact of the matter IS that I’m technically a stepmom, given that my husband has children from his previous marriage. But the whole idea behind the term “stepmom” is so cliché, I get nauseous at the mere thought of it. Just thinking of the typical image of the woman who has no children of her own, all of a sudden trying to be a mom, just makes me think of Baroness Schraeder playing ball with the Von Trapp kids (yes, one more of the million references to the movie “The Sound of Music” – so sue me.)

I won’t get into detailed specifics of the dynamics between my husband and his ex, nor will I get into exact specifics of my role either. Suffice it to say that the mother of my husband’s kids (also known as “b*tch face” in my small circle of me, myself and I) is equatable to a fascist dictator (according to me) and even if she isn’t physically with us on the weekends the kids do spend time in our home, trust me, she’s nevertheless omnipresent.

In the beginning of this journey, I was rather accepting of the separation and distinction made between their mom, their dad, them and me. G lived a separate life, according to me back then, when they were around. While he made plans with them with hope of including me, I always politely declined, hiding behind the excuse “no, no, this is YOUR time with them.” Literally there would be weekends when we’d barely see each other and barely had conversations. A combination of demanding kids and impatient Wife #2 didn’t make for easily accessible family time for G. Back then, the ex was more of a b*tch face than I can honesty say she is now – mostly due to the fact that she apparently has a significant other to now love/torture and has withdrawn from loving/torturing my husband – so it was much easier to draw a clear line between “that’s you guys” and this is me. In correlated events, as the fascist mother of the kids has (presumably) been diverted by the sweet smell of love with someone else, she’s become less of a presence in our home with the kids here and less of a bother and anchor around the neck when the kids aren’t here.

As time marched on, as love blossomed for b.f., and as I spent more time with the kids, I got past seeing them as the “offspring” of a “mad love affair” between my husband and his ex. (The reality is that the term “mad” applies but not “love” nor does “affair”) and began seeing them as just them. Two kids with their own personalities. I remove the thought of their mom from our time spent together because it angers me to see how she holds the noose above their heads and how she must be so invasive, that the kids think twice about any move they make with me. It’s a little more seamless now but nonetheless apparent and it’s just sickening to think that a mother is that controlling. And to circle back to my first thought, this is the main reason I don’t feel like I’m a stepmom. The iron hand of the law has far reaches into the minds of its subjects and as such, there is no room for a third party to: 1) educate or offer insight 2) offer alternate thinking 3) lead by example. There is only room for a third party to offer fun. When I choose and when circumstances allow for it, that’s all I’m really, truly a part of – something fun (whether that be introducing them to Beyonce and Black Eyed Peas, introducing them to Monopoly, playing Wii or watching – you guessed it – “The Sound of Music.”)

Unfortunately there are times, like today, when I’m reminded how in reality, there IS a clear line dividing us. Sadly, when that division is apparent, I’m the cheese that stands alone. For some reason or another, the kids’ school doesn’t do their dieciocho celebrations in September when all the other schools do them. They do them in October. Specifically today. In traditional fashion, by class, kids dance typical Chilean dances in full costume for the parents of the entire student body. G, accompanied by his mother, took his kids and I’m of course, left behind. It’s an unspoken rule that shouts from the top of the Andes Mountains: I’m not to be involved or included in these types of things. It doesn’t help that the kids’ mom is actually a teacher at the school they attend but I’m pretty sure that even if she didn’t work there, I’d still have to stay behind the invisible line that divides “his family” from “our family.” I don’t think it will ever change. In fact, a close friend of mine who married into a similar situation finally stood her ground when the youngest of her husband’s sons graduated HIGH SCHOOL! From the time she met his son at the age of 6, she’d missed every single school event, every single performance, every important soccer game. Clearly forced to watch from behind the line. I give her props for standing her ground on his high school graduation. As she clearly stated “Si no le gusta que este, mala suerte.” (If she doesn’t like that I’m here, too bad.)

At what point does it really, truly become a blended family, I wonder? It’s obviously not when the stepmom decides and it could very well be difficult for the kids in between to decide. Does that only leave the option for the first marriage to decide? Can we discuss how unfair that sounds for the now-wife? Then I wonder if it’s about the ex-wife deciding because she happens to hold the reins. Or does the husband decide that it’s ok to include his wife, opting to literally show the ex that she can go straight to hell if she disagrees? I’m at a loss.

G argues that I wouldn’t want to go to their show anyway. True, I’d find it boring as most kid shows are to me. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be cute or, at the very least, entertaining to see their pint-sized selves dance typical Chilean dances. However it’s not an option for me either way. Which is the reason I’m sitting on this side of the dividing line, writing a blog, waiting for my dog’s trainer to arrive.

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4 thoughts on “The Brady Bunch only exists without exes

  1. perhaps one of the kids will take up a hobby outside of school where you could attend games or performances without causing less of a scandal. i would have strongly thought you should insist on going, like take turns or something if you cant be around each oterh, but if she works there its not really reasonable that she wouldnt or shouldnt go to some of the events, and it would probably be uncomfortable for her not only in terms of being around you but how her coworkers and everyone reacts to that. (im sure theyre all gossipy ). But i also find it sad that you cant fully integrate into family life with them. you should have your space too. i hope they do start some activities unrelated to school where you can be present and supportive without inviting drama

  2. To answer your question about when it becomes a blended family, I think it's when you and G decide. Initially, you made the decision not to get involved with "kid time." Now, if you're wanting to participate more, I think that it's up to the two of you how involved you are both in activities and actually raising the kids. Of course you need to be respectful of their mother, which right now may mean that you don't discipline them or go to activities actually at the school, but those things may change over time. If you want to be involved more than you currently are, I think that's a conversation you should have with G, and I think he should take into account your desire to make it "our family" and help find a way that will work for all of you. He married you, so he has an obligation to take your feelings on the matter into account and not just flat-out deny you the opportunity to participate in family activities – because yes, these kids are your family too, regardless of whether you want to use the step-mom title or not – because it might be less complicated that way.

  3. hmmm this is a pretty personal subject. not sure what to say but good luck. seems like you've already started to build your own special relationship with the kids. you put in effort and you are kind to them, those are the most important things. the rest will fall into place in its own way. re: the ex – not much you can do there and i udnerstand why it might not be ideal to have you going to events at a school where she teaches – at least not yet. i'm sure you and G will figure this out. now, i'm interested in hearing about what's going on in Stgo – would love a post about what new places have opened since you've been there, new discoveries, things you like…seems like there are a bunch of new restaurants, a new gym, etc. Am i allowed to make a request like that in a blog comment? ; )

  4. I think it's just a really hard dynamic no matter what. I've seen it with my own mother/stepfather and his kids when we were growing up, with my friends who have marital situations that involve stepkids, and some of it from my own experience.
    The guy seems to dictate a lot of how things will be handled since he is the one "in-between" both situations. It's not easy and I applaud you for your patience!

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