Committing to someone is one thing, committing to their children is another. When you are divorced and have sworn off any type of commitment, marrying a man with a child is the last thing on your mind. So, what led Heather Wilson, blogger at The Life of a Traveling Navy Wife and Corporate Event Marketing Manager Extraordinaire, to marry a divorced military guy with three girls? In today’s MomViews segment, Heather shares her life as a bonus mom.
MomViews: Congrats on your first-year wedding anniversary with your husband! You and your Navy guy were previously married, and are now raising three girls. What is it like in your household?
Heather Wilson: It’s hard to believe it’s been a year, thank you! Since my husband is in the military, the girls are in his home state living with their moms. It is definitely a unique dynamic. Here I was, a divorced woman vehemently opposed to re-marriage. I never wanted kids. If a man had them, it was a deal-breaker. If he didn’t want to deal with his exes than why would I? But sometimes the universe has other plans in store for us so I went and married a man with daughters and not just one ex but ExES! Famous last words haha. There have been challenges and I have often questioned myself – am I doing things right? Am I involved enough? How do I strike a balance so the girls know I care about them, but at the same time not be “that woman” because I’m trying too hard? I think the kids and I went through a honeymoon phase in the beginning and when it wore off for them it hit me extremely hard. I definitely worry about the girls thinking highly of me and even though it may not be logical, I do sometimes struggle with having responsibility without recognition. I am still answering the question “What, exactly, IS my role?”
When they are in town it is an adjustment. I find myself doing a load of dishes a day and laundry every other day. I had no idea this was normal and my friends playfully laughed and said, “That’s what it’s like with kids, Heather.” We bond for weeks at a time then they have to go back and there is a warm-up period when we see each other again. I try not to cry in front of them when we say ‘see you next time.’ I am also learning to curb my tendency to spoil because I’ve always been an aunt. At the same time I am also learning how to say ‘no’ or push back. For all of the worldly knowledge I may have and for all the times I said, “IF I ever had kids I would NEVER do this or that…” I have learned that sometimes you just have to go with the flow and be flexible. That’s not always easy for such a regimented person who is learning to co-parent at almost forty years of age. I learn from others and most especially my husband who is patient and understanding that sometimes it may take me awhile to “get it,” but eventually I do. He is an amazing dad. I am in awe of him every single day.
MV: I find it interesting that you and your husband were against getting re-married. What was it about your mister that made you change your mind?
HW: I think it was because he didn’t want to get married either; the irony! When we met it was as if this light bulb went off; “Oh he gets it. He understands the pain, the elements and the scars of divorce”. There was no pressure and he was the first man whose only expectation of me was just to be myself. I didn’t have to measure up to anyone’s standard but my own or ever wonder when the other shoe would drop. There was a natural flow and suddenly for us marriage was no longer “just a piece of paper and some metal around the finger”. Instead it became the ultimate symbol of trust and faith in each other and our relationship. To say, “We both swore we’d never do this again, and yet I trust you and what we have enough to commit myself to you through marriage,” well, that was huge. I didn’t have to ask myself if it was right. I just knew. And he passed the test with my parents and friends, of course!
MV: In our initial email you mentioned “bonus mom” instead of “step mom.” Can you share with readers why you prefer being called a bonus mom?
HW: Having the girls in my life opened my heart and eyes to a type of Love and to feelings of which I never thought I was capable. When they’re with us it’s pretty amazing to see a part of my husband in each of them. And the Love they have for each other; to witness such a strong bond is moving. So before my husband and I got married I had a talk with the girls. We discussed that very often the terms “step-mom” or “step-child” are associated with negativity and portrayed with evil Disney princess movie characters. My youngest bonus daughter melted my heart during our conversation by exclaiming, “And you’re not evil!” So we concluded that steps are for staircases and agreed that since having each other is a bonus we’d use the term. Of course, it is a personal choice for each couple and their kids. For me, I love the positive connotation and hope it’s a move toward changing the sometimes negative perception of blended families.
MV: You’re a military wife and a career woman, how do you find the time to balance the two?
HW: As a type-A personality if one area of my life is falling short because I’m dedicating so much time to another I beat myself up. Organizational methods help keep my sanity in tact. Being on the road sometimes more than half a month, I am the kind of person who needs a system (I am most definitely a military wife!). I admit that if I get off track, it’s hard to get back on! At home I try to plan out our menus in advance and I created Operation 1950’s Hot Housewife – with a modern twist on my blog. It is a checklist of tasks for each day as well as a menu planner while I’m in town thrown in with personal improvement goals. Instead of calling them ‘chores’ I like to think of tasks as something I’ve accomplished so I label them as “accomplishments”.It makes housekeeping a positive thing! My business travel has definitely impacted my goals at times and when he can, my husband picks up where I sometimes can’t. And by “when he can” I mean sometimes the military comes first. My father was in the military for 28.5 years, so I know the drill; the military will just always win out. For instance, when my husband has to stay on base longer than expected or if there is some kind of threat and I can’t know details, plans will change. It makes it hard, but my husband’s first duty was to this country before he met me and that still stands. It’s hard for a lot of people to understand that, but I’m actually extremely proud at how we roll with the punches. My husband comes home to me at the end of each day and he will not deploy again. There are many military wives who are not so lucky.
Ultimately, I’m learning to accept that I sometimes can’t do it all and that it is okay to ask for help. I think the biggest lesson to myself has been if I don’t step back and relax I will burn out and then there won’t be any balance at all. Taking a breather helps me re-center, refocus and recommit to my goals – both personally and professionally.
MV: What advice would you give a woman who has a fear of getting married for the second time?
HW: Your feelings are OKAY and there is nothing wrong with you no matter what your friends, parents or society will tell you. You don’t have to justify yourself to anyone so do what is right for you.So often we’re worried about others’ opinions we forget that in life we have to make ourselves happy. Be honest with yourself and be open-minded. Don’t let yourself become bitter or jaded and always maintain a healthy respect for yourself if you decide to “play the field.” Lastly, don’t let fear ruin the opportunity for your chance at something amazing. I learned to never say “never again” and couldn’t be happier or more grateful because of it.
Thanks for joining me this week. Stop by next Wednesday for insights on how one mother is raising her two boys and the role Autism plays in her family’s life. Also, don’t forget to check out last week’s post on how Betty Galvan has keeps positive with every move in her life.