Friday, May 9, 2008

Overcoming the odds to bring families together

There was a time in the not so distant past that I didn't like her very much. Society would say I shouldn't like her very much and that our current relationship is extremely unnatural.

Some people would even say our entire family dynamic is completely crazy. I would say that without her, things wouldn't be the way they are today.

Who is she? She is the mother of my stepson and my husband's ex-wife. Her name is Bernadette.

When Jon and I first started dating, there was a power struggle between the two of us, as is common, I imagine, between ex-wife and new girlfriend … especially when there is a child involved. We didn't really talk and when we did it was a terribly tense situation.

However, what I learned from Bernadette is that the bond of family is way more important than any real or imagined power struggle. This is a lesson that many divorced families never learn or simply cannot learn.

It didn't happen overnight. It didn't go from us not liking each other one day to best buddies the next. It was a slow process. We didn't have any talk about it. I didn’t plan things to work out the way they did, they happened because Bernadette would not have it any other way. We were all a family whether we like it or not. She did it for her son and I am so lucky to have her as my husband's ex-wife. I couldn't imagine having to live a life full of anger and resentment between me and the mother of my stepson.

Study upon study will say that divorce is terrible on children. They feel guilt and they feel torn between their parents. Bernadette knew that it was not in her son's best interest for us to ooze hatred, so she made the extra effort to bring our families together.

It takes a lot of courage and determination to put your own feelings aside for the sake of your child. She did it without even batting an eyelash; or at least seemingly so. Because of her, Jonathan doesn't have a regular split family. Jon and Bernadette talk regularly about parenting strategies and his development (he'll be 15 in a few short months!). We get together as a family often. My daughter plays with her daughter all the time. We even have sleepover parties for the girls.

The dynamic of our family is so unusual to so many people that we are often asked how we do it. I've had co-workers ask me about it. Friends of Bernadette have asked her about it. Some of them don't even know how to talk to me when we all hang out together. Even my mom has told me she doesn't really understand our relationship. I think in time, everyone will get comfortable with our situation because it's just the way it is going to be. I think it's sad that more families can't do this, but I understand why.

It takes a strong mom to do what she did and I'm proud to include Bernadette in my family. Yes, it is unusual, but it works for our family. I think Jonathan is a better person for her efforts.

Happy Mother's Day, Bern.


Anonymous said...

I've known everyone in this family dynamic since the beginning and I have to say I am so proud of all of them. Their actions are selfless. Their concern for the kids comes first.

Yes, Happy Mother's Day to Bern and Diane, 2 of the best moms I ever saw and then some! CC