We sat at the dining room table on a Friday night, around 8:30pm, a day and time when many married parents with a child-free evening would be out on the town, perhaps taking in a movie, or finishing up dinner at a restaurant. I sat with my laptop open, glass of wine nearby, tiredly reading through SAT exams on the ETS website, working on my “SAT scoring certification training”, so I could pick up some extra money on nights and weekends. My day had begun at 5am when I got up to do a pre-work run, followed by 9 hours at school.
He flipped through the mail, next to me, knowing he wasn’t supposed to distract or interrupt me, but wanting to be near.
“Hey! This is an offer to be an Uber driver!”
I snorted, and kept reading. Several moments of silence ticked by, when I noticed in my peripheral vision that he was still intently reading the contents of the letter.
“Babe, you’re not going to be an Uber driver.”
“Why not? I bet I could make some decent money!”
Unlike when I blogged on our anniversary last year, I no longer find myself consciously noting that he’s settled in as a husband and stepfather. We’re past that; he’s beyond that. It’s not that I take him for granted (or at least I try not to), and he still faithfully thanks me for doing the laundry, buying his beer, and making dinner every night. But the delighted novelty behind his gratitude, while still regularly expressed, has waned.
At four years in, we’re both used to the daily rhythm of our division of labor.
The relieved gratitude for his daily involvement as a husband and stepfather has been replaced with a profound and deep appreciation for his investment in my children. I say “my”, because legally and biologically, they are not ours. He entered their lives after they were walking, talking, sleeping-through-the-night-and-using-the-potty, school-age youngsters. All three of the kids remember when their father and I were married. My youngest was six at the time of our divorce, the oldest already ten.
I know of many other blended families where the “his, hers and ours” dynamic is a stressor on the marriage. I mentioned that on our two year anniversary. Parents feel stuck in the middle between their children and new spouse; step-parents often feel resentment for playing second fiddle to either the stepkids or spouse (or both). There is so much out there about how hard it is navigating blended families; I hear this echoed in many of the second marriages of people I know.
I believe it’s a phenomenon, I just haven’t witnessed it in my own home. Quite simply, they are our kids, as much as if his DNA flowed through their veins, and his last name was on their birth certificates. I’m not sure I have ever, in the four years we have been man and wife, heard him delegate responsibility (financial, emotional or otherwise) to me because they’re “just” his stepkids, or “my” children.
As we stare down college in two years for our eldest, while still navigating the costs of raising and educating three kids, money has been a tough subject in our house. He would have every reason to be bitter and resentful at our situation, particularly with regard to their other parent. It would be easy, understandable even, for him to lash out in frustration, or simply decide that he didn’t want to spend so much of our household budget on the kids.
Instead, he’d rather become an Uber driver than have his stepkids go without (for the record, I talked him out of that brainchild).
Happy anniversary, my brilliant classicist. You make our home lighter, and our school a second home.