For my Son’s Step Mum on Mothers Day,
When I married for the first time at twenty four, when your husband was my husband, I thought that it was forever. When we chose to have children there wasn’t a single doubt in my mind that we would raise our boys together, so sure I was that we would live happily ever after – God knows we deserved it.
From the moment I gave birth and held Lewis in my arms, I wrongly assumed that we had all the time in the world, that I would be the one to raise him, every second of every day, who would tuck him into bed each night and wake to him each morning. I naively believed that, regardless of what life threw at us, I would always remain at the very centre of his entire world.
And had I known that our time together as a family was limited, that there would come a time when I had to wave my son goodbye every other weekend and eat dinner alone twice each week, perhaps I would have cherished those moments a little more. Perhaps I wouldn’t have moaned quite so much about being utterly exhausted when he crept into my bed each night, showed a little more patience during those daily battles to get him to eat his vegetables, made the most of each every moment when he snuggled beside me.
Perhaps, had I known that one day he would be sleeping in a house that wasn’t mine, eating a meal that I hadn’t cooked, and loving someone who wasn’t me, I would have been a better Mother from the outset.
I’m sure that now, with your son almost as old as Lewis was back then, you can imagine how hard it was to suddenly have my entire world turned upside down, how much it hurt to wave him goodbye, go home to an empty house and count down the minutes until he was back in my arms.
I imagine that when you fell in love with my husband, your plans had never included me, I know mine certainly hadn’t included you. I’m sure none of us spend our childhood dreaming of becoming a second wife, or an ex wife, and certainly not of handing over our children to another woman, or indeed raising her child.
And so at just four years old, when Lewis came home and mentioned your name, I felt as though the wind had been knocked right out of me. And although I gritted my teeth and told him how lovely it was that Daddy had made a new friend, I broke my heart in private, terrified of what it would mean for he and I.
And in all honesty, in those early days, I really wanted to hate you. Still reeling from the devastation that my marriage had ended, still struggling with the grief that my family of four was now a family of two, still trying my very hardest to stay afloat. And there you were – replacing me not only in my husbands affections, but in my son’s too.
And whilst I was the one who had been there through the sleepless nights and dirty nappies, through teething and tantrums, through first smiles, first words and first steps; whilst I was the one who had supported my son through the devastating loss of his little brother, through the break up of the only family he had ever known, I felt angry that all of a sudden you had claimed a part of his life, of our life, so easily.
I resented that you had been handed a ready made family, a family I fought so hard to have, that you got to reap the benefits of my hard work by spending time with a child who was so delightful, so intelligent, so polite and funny and entertaining, a child who I had raised to be all of those things, perhaps selfishly, to enjoy for myself.
But as the months passed I began to notice Lewis’s excitement when he spoke about you, when he told me about the lovely things you had done together, the delicious meals you had made, the fun and interesting activities you had planned, and I fast went from feeling angry to simply feeling jealous.
When he pushed around his dinner on his plate, telling me, “But this doesn’t taste like when B makes it!”, when he moaned that I wouldn’t let him stay up a little later to watch one more round of WWE, “But B lets me!”, when I read him a story and he told me, “But B doesn’t read it like that!”, it took everything in me not to take it personally.
Because whilst I have never claimed to be the perfect Mother, there you were, swooping in and, not only filling my shoes but, seemingly doing a better job than I ever had.
And yet slowly but surely, somewhat reluctantly at first, I came to respect you, to feel incredibly grateful that you loved and cared for my son when he was not with me. I know that one of my biggest worries when his Dad and I split up was that there would inevitably be times in the night when he would wake up and call out for me, when he needed a cuddle or someone to wipe away his tears; when he was poorly or sad, when he needed help with his homework, someone to patch up grazed knees and pull out splinters, when he simply needed his Mummy to make it all better……..and I wouldn’t be there.
And yet you were, and you did, and it was obvious that he adored you.
And the truth is, as hard as it was initially, and however hurt I felt all those years ago, things are very different now. When emotions settled, when that bitterness was cast aside, when time, and we, moved on, there remained a joyful acceptance that everything is exactly as it should be.
And today, on Mothers Day, I want you to know that however hard it was for me waking up this morning without my son, knowing that it would be you he brought tea and toast to in bed, and you he presented with a card and flowers over breakfast, I genuinely hope that you enjoyed those moments.
I am thankful for everything you do for my son, for our son. I am thankful that you love him, in the exact same way that you love his little brother, that you guide him and support him, and make his time with you as wonderful as possible.
I want you to know that I am so grateful you respect our bond as Mother and Son, that you have never once tried to infringe upon that, to replace me or undermine me, that you have never taken away from my relationship with Lewis, but simply added to it.
And I’m sure as he grows there will be moments when he comes to you to share a secret, to confide in you about his latest heartache, his bruised ego, dilemmas in work, in marriage, advice on raising children of his own. And in the same way that you have always respected our relationship, I will always endeavour to respect and encourage yours.
I want you to know that I acknowledge that everything Lewis has become, and everything he will be, is down to the four of us; that collectively we have been able to give him two loving families, six wonderful siblings, and more love and support than most children ever have the privilege of knowing.
I want you to know that, after years of worrying you would replace me in his affections, I realise now that there is room in his heart for the both of us. For all of us.
But mostly I want you to know that should I have to share my son with anyone, then I am so glad it’s with you.
Happy Mothers Day.