For nearly 13 years, I was the only woman in my boys’ lives. I’d given birth to them, nursed them, wiped their tears, educated them, and even done a moderate amount of yelling at them. I’ve loved them, and until recently, I’ve been the only woman in their lives. I have friends that love and nurture them, sure, but no other female sees them over the dinner table or hears them practice the piano, except for a few days a year with grandparents. Also, until recently, I’d not shared these intimacies with any children other than my own, except for get-togethers with friends. And I imagine that’s true for most families.
Until you’re divorced. More precisely, until your divorced and coping with The Other Women: the one your kids spend a few evenings a week with, the one with two kids whose father you care for, and yourself. I’m fortunate to like my ex-husband’s fiancée and home companion. She genuinely friendly to me and my kids like her. I should know. I hear about her endlessly. And I’m sure they hear about me, the good, the bad, and the bulk of life that falls somewhere in between. It’s all taking some getting used to, and I’m not all the way there yet, but as hard as its been, I wouldn’t want it otherwise. Their positive feelings about her are the best I could hope for, and knowing they’re comfortable with her is a comfort to me, although sometimes in an uncomfortable way.
On the other side is the mom of the children whose father I’m dating. I’ve known her in years past, long before either of our marriages fell apart. And now I’m spending time with her children. In fact, I like them quite a bit, as do my kids. I’m sure she gets an earful about me and my boys, and I bet that’s as hard for her at times. Sitting on the other side of that equation, I know the sweet sorrow of those stories about The Other Woman.
It would be easy to dislike either of these women on misguided principle alone. After all, one woman is in the spot that was first mine as partner to my children’s father. And the other was the one who loved the man I’m dating and brought their children into the world. Sometimes, I feel rather sandwiched in between of these other women, women who don’t know each other and don’t need to. Sometimes sharing my children with another woman just seems too hard, and other times it’s a relief, which I find somewhat embarrassing to admit. Growing comfortable with someone elses children seems precarious as well. I know my boys: from birth on, I’ve been with them. I’m under the impression I know my boys intimately although I realize the illusion of this the older they become. How can I possibly know even a fraction of children who are not my own?
The other direction is equally disconcerting. How do these women view me? I’ll not go there now, but I can see the challenges each of them might meet when facing me. After all, I’m the other woman as well, somewhat unknown, potentially the enemy, but linked via children and past relationships. It’s for the kids that I know I can hold my end of healthy relationships with these fine women. And they’re all worth that effort.
Thanks to K. and J., my other women. It’s a challenging road we walk, and I’m hoping we can find peace and even some friendship in our relationships with each other.