Guest Post by Erin Gipford, Co-Author of (STEP) Mom: A Dual Memoir
I get it. Trust me, I get it. I am fully aware, from personal experience, that the mom/stepmom relationship is one of the most challenging relationships we, as women will ever encounter. As children we do not lie awake at night dreaming of having children, then getting divorced, or entering into a relationship with someone who already has children. Nope, that’s just not how it’s “supposed” to go.
But what if it is?
What if divorce and/or step parenting/co-parenting is exactly what you need? What if the awful experience you are currently having with your ex, or your ex’s fiance or your fiance’s ex is actually a lesson in disguise?
I hear ya, it can be a tough pill to swallow but that’s why I’m about to share with you the lessons I learned from my children’s stepmom and why everything turned out SO GOOD on the other side.
The beginning was rough…
My children’s stepmom entered our lives only a few short months after my ex-husband and I separated. Obviously, I didn’t realize it at the time but over the course of the next 13 years, this woman would be teaching me things about myself that, frankly, I never would have learned if she hadn’t have shown up.
Unknowingly to her, she forced me to learn so many things about myself that caused me to grow and expand into, not only a better person, but a better mother to my children! No, it wasn’t easy but, looking back, at least I can say it was worth it.
Tina’s presence forced me to face every single insecurity I had.
Is she skinnier than me?
Is she smarter than me?
Is she funnier than me?
And the biggest one of all “Is she a better mom than me?”
Diving deep into all of these questions inside myself eventually led me back to the same definitive answer…
I am not in competition with Tina, I am in a parenting partnership with her.
My huge mental shift…
When I was able to recognize this deep truth, my entire perspective of Tina changed. Now that my ego wasn’t in “fight or flight” mode, I was able to start recognizing Tina’s strengths. I was able to focus on how she benefited my children’s lives instead of how she was threatening my mom ego.
I started noticing that Tina and I were very different people. Not just on a normal human being spectrum but on a mom spectrum as well. She is a natural caretaker and nurturer. She has been her entire life. She is always caring for other people. Taking care of people is what fills her soul and brings her purpose. It is simply her God-given gift.
I, on the other hand, am the complete opposite. I’ve always been career and business focused. I would rather be taken care of than take care of others. Caretaking is just not in my DNA. I’ve always found it hard to “connect” with my children. I always felt drained by “motherly” duties such as doctor appointments, field trips, sporting events and monumental moments like birthdays.
My mom ego was severely threatened by Tina’s ability to care for my kids so naturally and lovingly in all the ways I struggled with. I remember thinking many times “She IS a better mom than I am!”
But that simply wasn’t true.
I remembered my truth. I am not in competition with Tina. It’s not about who is a better mom. We are both good moms, we just bring different qualities to the mom table! All of which are needed and valuable to my children.
Her strengths vs. my weaknesses…
For example, I do not enjoy attending parties nor do I enjoy hosting or planning them! Ugh, I dread it. Guess what Tina loves to do?! Yup, she is the party planner. She’s planned countless birthday parties for my kids, she planned our book launch and she is even taking over all the duties for the girl’s high school graduation this coming spring. Thank God Tina is here to plan all of these things because I would have dreaded it. She loves it though!
Tina is also the organized one. She plans everything WELL in advance, before it has even crossed my conscious mind, usually. When they go on vacation, I usually know about it a year in advance. If they need to change the schedule, she asks me weeks and weeks before hand.
I actually feel bad most of the time because I am not as generous in return. I am always calling with last minute things and I know that drives Tina up a wall. That’s just how my brain works and thankfully, she has accepted it.
There are literally a dozen other ways I have learned to appreciate my children’s stepmom and I will forever be thankful for the lessons she has forced me to learn.
Life has only gotten better since I stopped comparing myself to Tina. We have given each other permission to be the moms that we are instead of trying to be the moms we are not. I had to learn how to give myself permission to be the mom that I am and let Tina be the mom that she is.
She is not better than I and I am not better than her.
We are just ourselves and her presence forced me to finally be O.K. with not having to be everything for my children. Her strengths seem to be my weaknesses and vice versa. What that means is that together, we make this amazing mom team for our children! It makes our lives and my children’s lives SO much easier.
I challenge you…
I am going to challenge you to stop and think about the difficult relationships currently in your life. Give yourself time and space to questions their possible purpose in your life. Could they possibly be here to teach you something? Something that could make your life much easier if you change your perspective?
If you’re interested in learning more about my journey with Tina, you might want to check out the book we recently co-authored together. Yes, together! In our book we document all the ups and downs that we faced over the course of co-parenting together for the last 13 years. We hope it inspires moms and stepmoms to reach for a new positive perspective.
It’s all about bettering ourselves which, in turn, trickles down to our children.
Guest post by Erin Gipford.
“Entrepreneur, co-parent, photographer, graphic designer, eternal optimist, and goal-driven are probably, as Google would say, the keywords that best describe me. And I am proud of every single one!
I live in the same small, rural town in west central Wisconsin that I grew up in (No, my kitchen is not decorated with Holstein cow decor, despite what you may think). I love that I was able to raise my kids here, somewhat tucked away from the harsh realities of the big, “real” world. And I have every intention of exploring said world in a few years, once they have flown from the nest.”
Find Erin at Gipford Moms