Blogger: Cherry Maggiore – “The Freak of Nurture”
Chapter 22: Welcoming My Daughter’s Stepmother with Open Arms at the Border
Friday’s are my absolute favorite day of the week. And not because it’s the end of the work week, but because I get to pick up my girl and spend the next four days in her beautiful presence. Every time I pick her up at school, she runs into my arms and embraces me as if she hasn’t seen me in three years when it’s really only been three days. My heart bursts as I wrap her in my arms and just inhale her scent and feel those soft cheeks next to mine. I melt every single time.
That is the part of divorce that you can’t grasp until it happens. The fact that you don’t see your children every day. Now, many people may think that it is actually an excellent idea. A break from parenting! What a gift!!
Single motherhood is not fucking easy. And selfishly, I do appreciate time to just be quiet. To take care of errands and take care of myself in a way I wouldn’t if I had my daughter 24-7. To put myself first because I’m usually last on the list of priorities (as all Moms are).
But that feeling is fleeting; the truth is I miss her so much it aches. I think of her every second and wonder what she is doing and whether she’s happy. I wonder if she feels adored and cared for; pondering what doll she’s playing with or what game she is playing. So while she’s not physically with me, she never leaves my mind or my heart. Not for one second.
One Friday, about four weeks ago, she was especially clingy. She wouldn’t let me go after our first embrace. Once we got in the car, I asked her about her week, as I always do. I try to give her open-ended questions that lead to more dialogue, as opposed to a yes or no question. On this particular Friday, I ask her what surprised her that week.
She said, “Mama, I have something to tell you. Daddy got engaged.”
Well, I was NOT expecting that today! SURPRISE!!!
The Chupacabra has been dating this woman, let’s call her Cha-Cha, for four and a half years (if you are counting, I’ve been divorced for five years). He’s essentially been with her within 5 months of our separation. There was always a part of me that knew he would marry her. I mean, I was only his second girlfriend. It makes sense that his third would likely be his last.
My first feeling was instinctually protective. I wanted to protect another woman from making the same mistake I did. But I quickly realized that it is not my place to interfere and well, she wouldn’t believe me. My second feeling was envy. I envied that he would now be giving my daughter a traditional family that I have yet to provide.
As I processed this news, I looked at MSP and asked her how she felt about it. She turns to look out the window and quietly says, “Well, I’m not sure. I just wonder if they will get divorced like you and Daddy.”
KNIFE TO THE HEART!
And there it is, the damage we have done to this sweet, innocent child. She now thinks every relationships or marriage could wind up in divorce. Well, the honest truth of it is that they can. So I say to her, “Well, MSP, that is possible but not likely. Try not to think that way, and see this as a new beginning and a chance for Daddy to be happy.”
And so we ride home, both quietly processing our feelings while we listen to music and watch the sun set behind the hills.
As I began to cull through all my feelings, it turned out that my biggest takeaway was hope. My hope at having the chance to actually co-parent my daughter with an active participant. I saw the opportunity to have someone in my daughter’s life that will be kind, loving and understanding in a way that he is not.
My love for my daughter took precedent over any selfish feeling I had…and I felt happy.
So as I face another solo Valentine’s Day, my fifth in a row, I wanted to take this opportunity to write a Letter of Love to my daughter’s future stepmother. MSP needs her, and I need her. I need her to make him happy, to protect my girl from her father’s difficult personality and general unhappiness. I need her to be the emotional balance to his misery and his strict nature. There is no doubt he loves her, but unfortunately, he transfers his hate of me to MSP, and my high hope is that Cha-Cha can actually intercept and help him open his eyes. To inspire him to be a better man.
Congratulations on your engagement! I’m happy for you and for the Chupacabra. I hope your love gives him peace; makes him kinder, softens his edges. I hope your council guides him on how to raise a young woman who is sensitive, compassionate and empathetic.
Undoubtedly, there will come a day when she is sad, and you will wipe away her tears. When you will know better how to console her as a young woman; the fact that you understand that sometimes we just need to be held. And I pray that you are strong for her and give her the love I would if she was in my arms.
I hope that maybe one day we can celebrate this amazing young woman at her birthday party or her graduation. That we will help her move into her first home. That maybe you can be the bridge that divides this family.
This is where I need you to be an extension of me. To be connected and accountable. That is the responsibility you take on as a stepmom.
He told my daughter that he thought it was odd or weird that I wanted to talk to you or write to you. But I think it’s long overdue. You’ve been in her life for 4 1/2 years; almost as long as we’ve been separated. You have already been there for half of her life and likely for the rest of yours.
As much as it pains me, I want my daughter to love you. I want her to feel safe with you. I want her to feel your love and support. You are now part of our family regardless of what he says. We are part of each other’s lives because we are part of MSP’s family.
I hope one day with your support that he will come around and better handle being a co-parent but until then I need your participation. I need YOU to be my co-parent for this extraordinary young woman.
You’ve said yes to be my ex-husband’s wife, and in that moment you also said yes to being a mother to my daughter. Which makes you accountable to my daughter and to ME.
I’ve been inspired by some wonderful articles about co-parenting. Like this one…
These stories give me hope. The great hope that maybe one day, you will help him realize that SHE is worth the work. She is worth getting past the pain and the hate he feels that she is worthy of all our love. And now, she has three parents to love her. What a lucky girl.
We have joint custody, and now, you are part of the joint arrangement. Unfortunately, he’s not mature enough to participate in being a co-parent with me, so I’m praying that you might be more open. I am desperate to have someone to bounce stuff off of because I’m not there all the time. And since you’ve raised two daughters, I’m thinking you know a thing or two.
In six months, she will enter the 5th grade and will quickly be off to Junior High School, where she will face friend drama, boy conflict, self-judgment, as well as the emotional and physical changes of puberty. She will be on a wild roller coaster that we both know, as she witnesses her body going through the transformation from girl to woman. He knows nothing of this experience, and will not know how to guide her through these trials and tribulations, these painful emotions. Especially those days, when she will cry and have no idea why!
So while you have agreed to marry him…you are marrying into our family. You are agreeing to be a mother, confidant, and friend to my daughter. To be my eyes and ears and her support system when I am not there. I hope you are up for this challenge, I hope you know how fucking lucky you are. She is magic. You are fortunate to be in her life and I pray that one day she feels as lucky to have you in hers.
Here’s my plea, I want my daughter to be confident, to feel safe and to feel trusted. She needs a witness and a shoulder to cry on. She needs you to be strong enough to stand up to him. She needs to be supported and celebrated. See, she’s the kind of kid that lives to be loved, appreciated and to make others happy (especially him). It’s really that simple. She’s not bratty or demanding. She is loving and just wants to know she matters. She wants to have fun and to laugh. She needs family and friends to surround her and enrich her life. And when she makes a mistake, she needs to know that it’s ok to mess up and that you will love her regardless. These are all the things she needs from her father but doesn’t always get. So my wish is that you fill in the blanks…that you learn to love her at the same level, you love your own daughters.
But just know this, while you will participate in her life, she is my daughter. She is my baby girl that I carried in my stomach for nearly 10 months. That I breast fed, that I stayed with in the hospital and stayed up with while she cried in my arms. I am her confidant and her best friend. And there is nothing that you can do to take that away from me. I am her Mama.
While I can’t be with her all the time, my request of you is that you join me on this journey with MSP and be the kind of woman she admires. I don’t know you very well, and I would very much like to. I want to see that you will be a stand-up person for my daughter.
And I want her to love you. Indeed, not in the way she loves me, but in the way that she loves you. I know you will have your own unique relationship that I am not privy to. Your own private jokes and special moments that you will share. As a working mom, I have become accustomed to having a village to help me raise my daughter. I want my daughter to be surrounded by strong, capable and loving women. I hope you are one of them.
So, the question is, will you be my co-parent? I hope you say yes…
Cherry Maggiore is the proud single mom of her 9-year-old super-sassy daughter (aka Miss Sassy Pants or MSP) and 15-year-old pug baby (Tiki Barber); in addition to being an award-winning senior marketing executive at NBCUniversal.
Beside her side hustle as the Freak of Nurture, she also started a home design company after being inspired by renovating and designing her 1880’s home in NJ.
This insanely curious and passionate “multi-potentialite” can be found dancing the Argentinan tango, swing and Hustle every Saturday, cooking her family an Italian Sunday dinner, singing and air drumming at concerts or searching for her next adventure.