I think I lost my manual somewhere.
HAHA. I can’t even type that without smiling and laughing. There is NO manual for being whatever you want to call the role that I played in L’s life. Bonus Mom is probably the most accurate because I wasn’t her Step Mom. I’m not her Mom. I’m just Daddy’s girlfriend, Stephanie. That’s what I am to her. Stephanie.
And I love being Stephanie to her.
Although I don’t think it even needs to be said, I will say it. I never ONCE believed I was her Mom. She has a mom and I respect the role that I fell into. What NO ONE tells you is that this undefined role will leave you feeling the most under-appreciated in anything you take on in life. I don’t think J ever intended to make me feel this way, but it happened over the years and I am learning that this might just be how it is for most women in this role. While I think Men find themselves in this role, I think women inherently nurture much more and give themselves differently in this space. But, I’m not a Man, so I truly don’t know how one would feel.
I respect that L has a Mom. That is about all I respect about that woman. If you’ve been here long enough, you know the cancer she has been in my life. I say ‘my’ life because I let that woman affect me in the most detrimental ways possible. Thank goodness I have my therapist to help me understand my boundaries and work toward forgiveness of this person. I am nowhere near that level of clarity or forgiveness I’d like to be, but I know I will be. Carrying around that weight is not something I plan to continue.
When J broke it off, I was devastated for so many reasons. But one that surpassed the Ego issues, was the fact that I would probably no longer be in L’s life. I think we can agree that if it were up to her Mom, I’d probably not be involved any longer. The question that remained was, would J let me still be a part of her life in some capacity. Originally, he asked if I’d be available to her if she wanted to see/talk with me. I did NOT need to think about my answer to that simple question. I immediately told him without hesitation, that I would ALWAYS be there for L in any capacity I was allowed to be. But knowing J well enough, I knew this probably wasn’t going to be how it would play out.
I knew the day we told her we were breaking up, this could possibly be the last day I see her. The last day I embrace her with a hug and greet her with my normal “Hi, Pretty Girl!” The last time I hug her goodbye. Seeing the sadness in her eyes, across the table from me, was something that I’ll never forget. Her lip trembling, but defiantly not allowing herself to cry, my heart broke again for the second time in one week. All I could do was plaster a smile on my face to comfort her. I couldn’t even embrace her, because I was across the table from her. I felt like I was an ocean away, even though it was a mere foot or two. I knew she wanted to cry, but she has taught herself not to show emotions. She is a chameleon and does not want to rock the boat at either home. It broke my heart that she could not express the emotion she was truly feeling. I saw it. I felt it. I knew exactly what was happening, but I couldn’t do a damn thing to support her. I don’t want to remember that moment, but I will. Forever.
As I’ve been navigating our break-up, I’ve found my mind wandering to L a lot. Will she remember me? Will she know I truly loved her, as much as a Bonus Mom could love a child who is not theirs, but felt as close to theirs as one could possibly? Who will she become? Will her 10th birthday be as memorable as we had intended it to be? Thinking about all the things I will miss out on with her is devastating.
But it is my new reality…
As I cleaned and packed our entire home up, there were two times where this loss was heightened. On the brink of tears, I reminded myself I gave her all I could while I was with J. It wasn’t always perfect, but I was as authentic, true, and honest with her as I could be with any child I was to birth. Yes, I know it’s not the same. But in this role, you make it as true as you possibly can when you love them. Taking down all of our framed pictures was heart-wrenching. Seeing her smile and remembering the different family photoshoots we’d shared. Knowing that this Christmas I won’t get to send out our yearly family Christmas card nor schedule our yearly family photo shoot. I didn’t want to throw the family photos away and I assumed J wouldn’t want them, so I was kinda stuck on what to do with them. Save for a few, the rest were shredded. Our memories now just ingrained in my mind and heart, not printed as a reminder of the life I no longer live. The second almost meltdown was when I was organizing all my Christmas decorations. I made sure to pull out the newly acquired, personalized Pottery Barn stockings I ordered this past Christmas. These probably meant the most to me, why, I’m not really sure. Christmas morning with matching family stockings full is the epitome of the life I’ve always envisioned. Now, the three stockings were being split between two new homes and going down their own paths.
There is no website to go to to learn about how to deal with a breakup that involves a child that is not yours. There is plenty for those with shared children, but we lost souls who are just Daddy’s girlfriends are overlooked. Or there is just a slew of us out there, navigating it all on our own with no support. Uncharted territory that no one wants to talk about or knows how to talk about.
Our role as Daddy’s girlfriend or Bonus Mom is very delicate. And that is an understatement, in itself. There are so many factors that you have to navigate, a minefield of emotions that never seem to let you feel like you’re doing something right. When dating a man with a child, you know you won’t be his number one, ever. If you are okay with that, then you should proceed. J was the first man I’ve dated, where having a child didn’t seem to matter. Maybe its age or maybe it was just ‘us,’ but I didn’t question it and it didn’t scare me. That wasn’t the case before. From the moment he allowed me to meet her, I never took my role with her as temporary. I didn’t know what Daddy’s girlfriend would entail, but I wasn’t looking to shy away from whatever I could do or be for her. I fell into it. Awkwardly. Making mistakes. Creating a bond. But completely falling in love with her, while also falling in love with her Daddy. Our relationship demanded a delicacy I didn’t realize I was capable of.
Of all the things this little girl has endured in just the last two years, I want to leave her, especially if I never get to see her again, knowing I loved her unconditionally — no matter what happened with Daddy and me.
I’ve struggled a lot with our family dynamic. A lot of it bled into J and I’s relationship. I’m learning there was a lot of resentment that pushed us apart and allowed me to build walls that I wasn’t ready to break down. I needed to be on my own to see this and work through them. I do know that I chose to love L the way I did. No one forced it upon me. I wanted to and it felt right to do so, so I did.
I do know that everyone else around me supported, applauded, and showed me that I was doing a good job in my undefined role. But the one person I wanted to show me, couldn’t. It was not L’s job to show me appreciation, but the little shining moments she did, were amazing. She is a child and I have no expectation of her to show me this. I did expect and wanted J to show me this though. To understand how much I was giving of myself to them, regardless of his opinion of what I gave. That acknowledgment of what I did on a daily basis, big or small, never came. It won’t come. The resentment is so thick, if it did, I might not even believe it at this point. I know L saw it and felt it. That’s all that should truly matter, but it doesn’t feel that way. I know my Tribe saw it. I’ve been complimented, applauded, and appreciated by so many loved ones it lost its significance on me. The one person I wanted to hear it from, never gave it. And I’m learning to accept that. I can move forward knowing that I gave L my all, even if it might not have been the best or most productive, I did the best I could each day with her.
To L – Thank you for teaching me so much about myself by allowing me to be a part of your life for the time I was. Our little talks, our special moments, our little inside jokes, our sneaky smiles behind Daddy’s back, and shared secrets will always be something that no one can take away from me. From us. I hope you always keep dancing like no one is watching. I know you’ll go to college, but I’m still crossing my fingers you go to Cal Poly! I’ve loved you since the day I met you and you will always be my Pretty Girl!
And I thought the break-up post was hard to write…