The Kids are with Me or You - but not Her!

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It's normal, it's real, and it's understandable ... so what's the answer?

We all think it - and most of us say it when we share children with an Ex who has a new partner. The phrase 'the kids are with me or you - but not her' is equally valid when read "but not him" in place of her however 'her' just seems to be more common so for simplicity sake, I'll write with framing our stepmothers but this certainly does not exclude stepfathers.

You can hear the tone and feel the energy behind these ten powerful words when you read them - and you're not even there! The reasons are plentiful; some even arguably admirable yet as these words come from us, the stage is set for great family division. When this stance is held by a mother, it oozes emotions - and these emotions are unresolved. This does not make any of these deep pangs wrong and neither does it mean there is not a way to work through them. Instead typically this points to the ongoing hurts, a mother's desire to protect, her need for recognition or validation, and so much more than the surface argument over a schedule conflict. It's because this family has not found comfort in extension and thereby continue with ex tension instead.

When you split up and have children, the reality of separation or divorce forces you to give up some of your valuable time with them. It tugs at your heart and can bring out normal divisive attitudes where its very easy for you find a rational argument supporting your cause - the cause being you want your children. It is very easy to feel ripped off because you hear your Ex spent the day at work (progressing his career) while the new stepmother took the children to the zoo - and you believe you would do the same if you had the time with them, or money to do so. It's also normal to become angry and turn this reaction into a topic of hot debate where your Ex is about to get a real earful.

The reality is it doesn't matter if you like or don't like your Ex's new partner - if your children are to have a chance at a healthy Complex Family (one touched by separation, divorce or some form of family breakdown), they need to be given the opportunity to enjoy and thrive in the time they have with their father and his form of home. It is not an easy position for their stepmother either - and whilst you probably don't care about that very much - it is important for you and your children that you begin to broaden your horizons beyond your own view of how family ought to be.

Stepmothers do not want to compete for your mother spot, and neither do they don't want to compete for being a nanny either. Stepmothers simply want to be accepted as someone who is very special to the children's father - and accordingly treated with respect and friendship. They want to be free to have a laugh with your children and likewise give them a good time when they are in their home. Stepmothers want to provide a special environment and home for your children to build their relationship with their father, just as you desire to build in your home for their relationship with you.

The answer to this quandary is to move beyond the rigidness of mother and father's roles and embrace the wider parenting support you have gained through co-parenting. You may not like some things they do, you may not like them as a person, but your children's other parent has chosen them and this means this is enough of a reason to respect their choices and support your children while they learn how to handle whatever this relationship brings.

The African proverb Niyimpa kor ntsetse ba; "It takes an entire village to raise a child" is never more true than in relation to Complex Family's stepparents. They provide strong advantages for your children regardless how much you agree or disagree with their style - because if nothing else, it provides a live-in example for your children make choices about what they want, or do not want for themselves.

So next time your Ex strides off somewhere and leaves their partner to look after your children, count your blessings and enjoy the time you have away from them. Find an ounce of gratitude for the effort being made by a willing stepparent instead of finding fault for what you believe is wrong or for what you are missing out on. This valuable time is better spent doing something for yourself to recharge your batteries for the week ahead, rather than heaping more coals onto an already smoldering fire.

It may not be long before you find a stunning stepfather who wants to give you a special day out while he takes your children to the zoo...

Warmest :o)
Jill Darcey

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