teens lock Subscriber Exclusive

'I was happy my daughter was close to her stepmum. But this weekend, I got jealous.'

As a single mother for nearly seven years, with an ex who has re-partnered, I’ve prided myself on the strength of my relationship with my kids and felt happy that they have another strong woman in their life. 

But as my daughter comes into her teenage years, the relationship between her and her stepmum is blossoming — and they shared a moment last weekend that has really jarred me.

They went to see Taylor Swift at one of her Melbourne concerts.

When we first separated, the kids didn’t overly look forward to the weekends with their dad, but rather, were resigned to their fate as they packed their bags, left the comfort of their home and went on their way. Our marriage had run its course, and I was happily single.

When my ex re-partnered about four years ago, he was careful to introduce his new partner to the kids slowly, but before long they enjoyed having her around. It was apparent that she brought joy (and a bit more order) into the weekends with their dad. My lovely sons and daughter took to their new parental figure, giving her love and respect and were delighted when she moved in and their second house finally felt like a home.

As my daughter enters her teenage years, I’m no longer her best friend, fashion icon or comedic hero. She loves me but high school has made her world a lot bigger and my part in it a lot smaller. There are lots of significant moments in her life that I won’t be a part of, and last weekend was no exception.

As the hype around the Taylor Swift concert descended on Melbourne last week, my little Swiftie was coping with the fact we hadn’t been able to get any tickets and was coming up with alternative plans to get involved. She wanted to go with some friends to the MCG to take in the atmosphere, buy some merch and enjoy dancing in the vicinity of greatness.

Watch: Things Mums Never Hear. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

It was her weekend at her dad’s house and originally I was feeling a bit smug that I didn’t have to be the one to take her into the city and spend a Saturday night standing outside the MCG. She spent the week texting her stepmum, making plans. As the excitement in Melbourne grew, my Instagram feed was filled with images of positive female energy and, particularly, lots of mother–daughter moments related to the Eras tour.

On the evening of Saturday’s concert, feelings of jealousy started brewing inside me as I imagined my daughter and her stepmum getting ready, heading into the city and singing and dancing outside the MCG. I started messaging my daughter: "How is it?", "Can you hear her?", "Amazing vibe?" and so on, itching for a response. She finally sent me a "Yep". I realised ... I was jealous. She and her stepmum were sharing a moment, making a memory that I wasn't going to be a part of.

A chat with a friend helped me process these feelings, but it was a good reminder that when families separate and blend into new forms, we not only have to support our kids through these changes we also have to deal with the impact of new parental figures on how we see ourselves as parents and our relationships with our kids.

It's natural that at times we find ourselves wanting reassurance that we’re still number 1 in our kid's eyes (and hearts); when that need strikes me there are a few things I remind myself of:

1. Love is an infinite resource and kids have an especially amazing capacity to love. Affection for another person doesn’t reduce the amount of love they have for me.

2. I’m not being replaced as a mum, they have gained another caring adult who loves them, knows how special they are and gives them what they need when I’m not around.

3. The jealousy and feeling of being left out rests with me — these are emotional responses I need to process on my own and not put back on the kids in a quest for reassurance or affirmation. We all remember that needy friend at school, don’t be her — kids can smell desperation!

4. It can be exhausting to parent alone and my kid-free weekends are a gift, they provide the opportunity to relax and recharge and not be a mum for a few days. I owe it to myself to make the most of that time!

My daughter returned home on Sunday night exhausted, dripping in friendship bracelets gifted from other fans and bubbling with stories. Her blow-by-blow recount was more than enough for me, and as she fell asleep on the couch, I gave thanks for the fairy godmother who made her wish come true.

Gen Walton is a writer based in Melbourne, with three teenagers and a tenuous grasp on serenity. She writes about parenting, families, middle age, pop culture, travel and dating.

Feature Image: Canva.

Calling all beauty & fashion lovers! Take this short survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!
Unlock unlimited access to the best content for women