Not all stepmothers are from hell. Tracey finds her ex's new partner actually helps the situation.
The first time I had contact with the woman who would become my children’s stepmother, I wasn’t even aware she was there. I’d arrived at my ex-husband’s house to fetch our small children after his designated weekend with them, to find one of them with a nappy so full it was literally dragging on the ground and the other in the back garden, unsupervised, eating worms.
I did what ex-wives do: I freaked
. My ex and I had a stand-up screaming match (Me: ‘You knew I was coming! What couldn’t you have them ready for me, like I do for you?!’ Him: ‘What’s a few worms? That child eats his own snot and you don’t mind that!’). Twenty, sweaty minutes later, when the kids were finally in the car and we were driving away, my son (then 4 years old) said, ‘I didn’t say goodbye to Gloria.’
‘Gloria?’ I said. ‘Who’s Gloria?’
‘Daddy’s new girlfriend
,’ came the cringe-inducing reply.
As it turned out, I seriously lucked out with Gloria (not her real name). After several years of putting up with my ex’s chaotic lifestyle and botched arrangements, I found Gloria’s unfailing kindness, understanding and attention to detail to be balm to my soul. She was welcoming to my kids (even before she had her own son), and I always felt secure waving them off for a weekend with her and their father, knowing that she would be both loving and firm.
Interestingly for both of us, Gloria and I couldn’t be more different if we tried. It’s likely that in any normal social scenario, we would never have become friends. But having children in common united us instantly in a sisterhood that transcended petty irritations and minor jealousies. In fact, quite quickly it got to the stage where we simply cut the husband out of the arrangements completely, and just phoned each other to organise play dates, holidays, weekend visits and school functions on his (and our children’s) behalf.
Years later, when Gloria had gone through her own difficult divorce
from my ex, and she and I had become members of our own little Ex Wives Club, she recalled that first afternoon. She’d been in a bedroom, having a nap, at the time the argument erupted, and heard the whole thing from behind the closed door. ‘At the time I thought you were exactly as Brian [not his real name either, obviously] had made you out to be: an ill-tempered shrew. Now that I’ve been on your side of the fence, I realise how frustrated you must have been.’
Both my children are still in constant contact with Gloria (and, of course, their half-brother), and have nothing but love and admiration for her. And that’s the way it should be.
How do you get on with your ex's current partner?
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