Several nights ago, my youngest children came home from an evening with their father a little later than expected. It was a school night, and I was irritated that they would be getting to bed late, thus making it likely that the morning routine would be difficult– as it is much more challenging to wake a tired child than it is a well rested one. The drop-off exchange was curt, and as soon as I closed the front door behind him, I began directing each of my boys through their nightly routine…”Isaac, get in the shower, Jacob, make sure your homework folder is in your backpack!” As I turned to my littlest one, I saw that she was already bathed, and in clean pajamas, all she needed was to be tucked in. I instantly felt relief (one less task to be completed in an already rushed night), then, a profound sense of bitter-sweet gratefulness. “Who brushed your hair, Ava?” My daughter turned to me with those wide, round eyes of hers and answered, “Sarah.” I held her little head against my cheek and took in the scent of her freshly washed hair, holding back tears. “That was very nice of her.” And I meant it.
Since my ex-husband and I seperated, I have considered many things in regards to our newly aquired roles as co-parents. But until recently, I had not given much thought to the notion that someday, I would likely be faced with with the task of turning over the mothering reins, should he begin a new relationship.
Before I continue, I want to reiterate what I wrote in an earlier post regarding our split…the decision to separate was ultimately made by me. Though in recent discussions, my ex-husband has also expressed his feeling that the split was a necessary move in light of our ongoing struggles. But with 14 years of history & 3 children between us, life after break-up has not always been easy. That said, the one part of this that has been much less trying for me than one might expect, is my acceptance of his dating. Simply put, my one desire in the aftermath of our spilt is that we come out happier and more balanced than we were before. If that means finding love with another person, so be it.
So when my children began coming home from their dad’s, chattering about Sarah and her daughter—whom they adore, by the way— I began to come to terms with the fact that there was a new someone in my children’s inner circle.
Im sorry, but initially, I was not as graceful about this new development as I’d like to think I was. It brought about feelings of defensiveness that I quickly had to put in check. There is nothing productive that comes from being at odds with your ex’s significant other, especially when there are children in the picture.
When I picked up my little ones from their dad this evening, I brought along a small gift for the new woman in their lives. Not only is she the mother of a young daughter, but she has also bravely taken on the task of welcoming my three little ones into her life, into her home, into her heart.
This Mothers Day, I am humbled, as I come to accept that there will be another set of hands to care for my children when I am not around. Another voice to soothe them, another shoulder to bear their weight when they fall asleep after a long summer’s day in the sun. It’s challenging…but in a strange way, it’s not. I have always lived in a community where women step in to support each other in the role of mothering. Sisters, cousins, friends, neighbors…they have all played a part in the rearing of my children.
But the smell of an unfamiliar shampoo in my baby girl’s hair awakened the realization that there is a new mother figure in the cast of caregivers. A significant one. And I’d be lying if I denied that the thought alone can bring me to tears. But I also speak the truth when I say that I wish her the best as she becomes accustomed to this new reality of ours.