When I married for the second time, it was to a man with three adult children. I had no role in ending my husband’s first marriage; it had finished many years before I met him. After our marriage, I patiently waited to be included in his children’s family circle. I feel I did the right thing; I gave love, time and effort, I tried to make soft in-roads, I asked to be accepted for who I was, not just their dad’s new wife or their step-mother.
Initially his children were distant, but kind. I stayed in the background, not pushing, understanding they were adults and did not need another mother. It was hard, I had love to give and share and was openly ready to receive. Prior to our marriage, my family unit consisted of one teenage son, primarily raised by myself as a single parent. My son and I were close, and I did my best to include my new husband in our family life. Although my son has never called my husband ‘Dad’, he is respectfully inclusive, and identifies him as a step-parent.
We have been married for more than 25 years and as I reflect on this and the relationship with his children, I have come to realise dreams do not always come true, and happy, blended families are mostly fictitious. I had the false, unrealistic dream of being part of one big happy family. However, the reality is we are not one big happy family, we are two separate family units. As a couple, we pretend to others, we are one big happy unit, but I know we are not. The family relationship I have with my husband’s children is superficial, to say the least.
Truth is, I have never been truly accepted by his children as a ‘real’ family member. Nobody is particularly to blame, it is more to do with circumstances, but somewhere in there, a scorned ex-wife had a role in stamping her territory, and not I, nor any other female, will ever be allowed to be close to her children or grandchildren.
Over the years, our children have become parents themselves. My husband’s children, being older were the first, in fact a couple of grandchildren were born prior to our marriage. This excited me and I looked blissfully forward to being part of their growing families. I longed to give some of myself as a grandmother. It seemed however, in my husband’s family circle, there were already too many nanas and grandmothers and I was not included in any of the ‘new baby’ loops.
This hurt, but I stood resiliently, understanding that I should not expect to be a fully-fledged grandmother to my husband’s grandchildren. My husband was regarded and acknowledged as a granddad and I was given a ‘token’ grandparent title that included my first name. You see, I was not a blood relative, and therefore not really a grandmother. I was also not allowed to be a figure head in the tight family circle.
Fortunately, I soon became a ‘real’ grandparent (Nana) to my own son’s children and I could bury my feelings and disappointment grand-parenting them. Although not a blood-relative my husband became a fully-fledged grandparent, given the title of Grandad, not just a ‘token’ name. My (our) grandchildren love and respect him, and he is their grandad in all ways. My grandies may not fully understand the blood relative bit, but that does not matter, my son and his wife never speak of it and include my husband as a ‘real’ hands-on loving grandparent.
As our married life has continued, I have had to accept being on the outer, outside my step-family’s unit. It has not been easy, so many times I have felt the pain of being left out and disregarded.
Still, time has passed, and our two-family units do co-exist. It is not the blended family I imagined many years ago, but I am now real about it. I do not pretend, I do not try to make it right anymore. I have given my husband’s children and grandchildren all I can, in fact I am raw with pain, and left with nothing more to give.