Mamamia’s Deputy Editor Bec Sparrow writes; “Imagine having Liz Hurley as your step-mother (I’ll give you 30 seconds of imagining time ….). I’m not sure why but I was really pleased this morning to see this pic in the news.
It’s a photo of Shane Warne’s lovely daughter Brooke hugging Liz at the airport when she and her son Damian arrived in Australia yesterday. I can only imagine that blending families is tough … not always like an episode of the Brady Bunch.
And it got me thinking about the challenges that lay ahead for Liz and Simone Warne and every other woman out there who is treading that tricky path of stepkids and stepmothers and all the emotions that come into play.
One thing I’ll never forget is an interview I saw with Susan Sarandon many years ago who said her then partner Tim Robbins called himself a “bonus” parent rather than a step-parent to Sarandon’s previous children. And to him, they were bonus kids not step kids. Afterall, he got them as well as Susan and to him that was a bonus. I love that.
With all that in mind, you need to read this post by author Emma Gray about the stepmother of her children and how she settled into the family…”
My kids have a wicked stepmother. Her name is Helen and she stalks this blog.
The first time we were introduced after she started dating my ex-husband, I was a thirty-two-year-old single working mum, still shattered from the demise of my ten-year marriage. She was a gorgeous, childless twenty-four-year-old with a ‘really cool bikini’ (according to my then four-year-old daughter).
I also had a really cool bikini. I just didn’t wear it anymore because it clashed with my stretchmarks.
Helen had tickets to all the best concerts. She knew the latest songs. She wore the season’s fashion.
Our family schedule was ridiculous. We hadn’t yet pruned back the kids’ extra-curricular activities, so the weeks were a whirl of Irish dancing classes, French lessons, ballet and soccer. It was enough to test the patience, mettle and budgets of Real Parents, let alone the ‘Second Mummy’ as my daughters started calling Helen, a few months into knowing her.
To my credit, I didn’t freak out.
To hers, she clung on.
When her friends were nursing hangovers from the party lifestyle she’d all but abandoned once my kids crashed it, she was turning up on the sidelines every weekend in sub-zero temperatures, sitting through marathon dancing concerts, helping with homework, signing the reading folder, mopping up vomit and emailing me to ask what to do about the back-chatting.
One day, she suggested we meet for a drink. (At the time, she also suggested I not tell my ex-husband about it, but this was years ago now and I’m sure it’s fine to broadcast it, potentially in the national media).
I can barely recall what we talked about now – I think it was the usual stuff women talk about – relationships, kids, work. Except in this case it was about her relationship and how serious it was becoming, my kids and how we would make this work together.
So there we were, two very different women in our mid-twenties and mid-thirties respectively, who wouldn’t normally cross paths – talking about co-mothering the children she was really just getting to know, who I loved more than life itself.
It wasn’t how I’d envisaged things in the delivery suite. The girls were still little at the time, but I walked away from that first meeting of just the two of us thinking one thing: ‘If I’m not there when they get their first periods, and she is, it’ll be okay…’
As the years went on, if there was a difficult conversation to be had (and there have been a few), Helen would have it. If she didn’t know what to do, she’d ask. She did know what to do, though, often. It was pretty impressive given she’d jumped aboard a run-away parenting train inhabited by a large extended family and an ex-family, with no real clue of the destination.
When she and my ex-husband announced their engagement, and that the girls were going to be flower-girls, she knew I’d want to see them all dressed up. We knew the wedding itself was out, so she invited me over to her house on the morning of it to share that part of it with them.
‘And to help!’ she said. Picture the cosy gathering: just the bride, her parents, sister and best friend, her new step-children and her fiance’s ex-wife.
Perfectly bizarre. Strangely functional.
We’ve had alternating Christmas breakfasts in each other’s houses so no-one misses Santa. When they were old enough to go to their first real pop concert, Helen wanted to go too but thought it was something I should do as a mother-daughter ‘first’. We ended up buying tickets together.
When my eldest finished primary school and I wrote a blog post about it, bawling, she emailed me about what I’d written – bawling. A few months later, on the first day of high school, she texted me to see how it went – a nervous wreck.
When I told her I was writing this – a story about us – I asked if she wanted to ‘vet’ it before I published it. She said she didn’t need to and was looking forward to it.
She’s now got two little girls of her own. They call me ‘Hannah and Sophie’s Mummy’. Their mum has made it very clear who I am.
I’m the ‘First Mummy’.
The ‘Real Mummy’.
I was never under threat by the ‘other woman’ in my daughters’ lives. She made sure of that from Day One.
I had to hand it to her then, and I’ve been handing it to her ever since. Except I’ve never really told you this, Helen, but since you stalk the blog, I’m saying it now: You’re a wicked step-mother.
Emma Grey is the author of Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum (Lothian, 2005) and director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss. She regularly writes on motherhood, work and relationships on her blog, you can find that here here.
Are you part of a blended family? What’s your story?
And here’s a quick gallery of Liz Hurley to flick through while you think…