I've been wanting to write about this topic ever since I started up my blog again but never really got round to it. It's something that is a huge part of my life and influences all of my decisions and life choices. It's also something that I never would have predicted. And that is, being in a relationship with someone who already has children. Essentially, I'm going to talk about my experience of being 'Daddy's girlfriend' and how my life has completely changed in the past 3 years.
I've known my other half, Burnie, since I was 15 years old. We met through my cousin and hit it off straight away. He quickly became known as the guy who had 'loads of kids' and was often the subject of a lot of laughs and inside jokes - all out of jest may I add! Over time, he would dip in and out of my life and we'd meet up at parties and social gatherings. It wasn't until I was 20 that I started seeing him in a different way. We were spending more time in each others company and I developed what can only be described as a 'schoolgirl crush' on him .As my feelings towards him got stronger, so did the hurdles. First off, he's my cousins best friend. Secondly, he's nearly 9 years older than me. And thirdly - and most importantly - he's a Dad to 4 children. I mean, WHAT? On the surface, it would never work and we'd never be able to have anything more than flirty banter. That's as far as it went really, until we both gave into each other and started dating. In secret.
For 2 months, we snook around and didn't really tell anyone about what we were up to (even though when everyone found out, they were very quick to point out how bloody obvious it was - oops!) We never spoke about introducing me to the children because we've both said now - we never ever expected it to become of anything. As time passed and we spent more and more time together, I completely fell head over heels in love with him. Not what I expected to happen, something I tried to stop happening. Nothing like making it complicated for myself, right?!
Throughout this time, I'd say for around 5/6 months I had a LOT of conversations with myself and my friends over it. I'd fallen in love for the first time with a man who was almost 9 years older than me. That in itself was a bit hard to grasp but I have always been a big believer in age is just a number so it slowly became an invalid argument. What I really struggled with was committing myself to not just him, but his children. 4 of them. Burnie had stopped being the man I joked about procreating his own football team as a father to 4 children. The man that I loved was a Dad. Never in my life did I ever imagine myself to be in the situation I was in and it took a lot of questions and actual pros/cons lists of being in a relationship with someone who is a parent. Because, essentially, I was entering a relationship with not one person, but 5. SHIT.
The first time I met all of his children, it was the spring of 2015. Me and Burnie weren't dating at the time but with so many mutual friends between us, we met at a local event and went over to the pub in the afternoon. Actually seeing these kids who I'd heard so much about was a real treat and eventually, we were all play fighting in the beer garden and I had one of the afternoons I'd had in a long while. Back then, even though it was only a few months before me and Burnie got together, I never ever expect them to be in my life. Over time, he'd tell me stories about his children, recite memories he'd made with them and speak about them with such love and care that eventually I knew - I had to meet them properly.
The most important thing for the both of us was to make sure that the kids would be comfortable with being around someone new, let alone knowing that they’re Dad’s new girlfriend. So, to start off with, we decided to introduce me as a friend. For the next 8 months or so, we would meet up with the kids just to see how we’d get on. I was so so worried that they wouldn’t like me and that I would have to spend a lot of time trying to prove myself to them. But, straight from the beginning, I felt an instant connection with all of them. I do have a lot of children in my family anyway, so to spend time with them kind of comes natural to me now and the same goes for Burnies children.
Eventually, I was spending more time with them, seeing them more regular and ended up spending pretty much every weekend in their company. It wasn’t until me and Burnie had been together for 8 months when we wouldn’t avoid the questions of ‘are you my Daddy’s girlfriend? Is Mel your girlfriend?’ anymore. To be accepted into the lives of 4 very different, strong and independent children gave me such joy and happiness and I knew from then that I would only grow to care for them more as time went on. And boy, I wasn’t wrong. It was only just over a year ago, when me and Burnie moved in together, that my role as ‘Stepmum’ really came into play. And yes, I still use quotation marks around THAT word because it’s still weird for me, especially when me and Burnie aren’t married – and even though the kids themselves say that I technically am!
I'm not going to lie to you, playing a part in raising 4 children is really hard work. It's not something I signed up for to start with when I was only 'flirting' with Burnie, but I like a challenge and face everything head on. But my god, it's difficult sometimes. Then again, on the flip side - it is the most rewarding experience and pretty much the best thing I've done with my life. To break it down, I'm going to list - yay! another one - what I've learnt the most from being a 'Stepmum' to Alex, 12, Evie B, 10 (nearly 11!), Harry, 8 and Bethany (aka Betty), 5.
L-R: Betty, Alex, Burnie, Evie, Harry
- Your are allowed to discipline - Now before I get into it, you have to earn this. I was sitting on the side lines to start with when the children misbehaved because I didn't get the green light from Burnie that it was ok for me to chip in. And not just that, I didn't feel comfortable with it. As time went on and I asked Burnie his thoughts about it, we both knew that it was within my right as an adult - not a 'parental figure' - to discipline the children. Before, it used to be Burnie putting the discipline in place and I supported him from the sidelines. Now, we both do it, and chip in for the other when it gets a bit too hard. We've found a good balance and now I see it as 'they're in my home, I'm in their lives for the long haul, I have the right to as well'.
- Discipline is bloody hard - Telling the children off is never a fun thing to do. Sometimes, they do things that completely shock you and you have no idea what to do with it. You don't know the right thing to do and it's just a learning curve. You learn as you go along and I'm grateful that I can confer with Burnie whenever I think I'm doing something wrong. The actual act of discipline is awful though, and it never gets easier. It can leave you exhausted and I definitely have stages of 'what the bloody hell am I doing this for? I'm not even their Mum'.
- Even though you're not their parent, you're still an influence - We all know what it's like to be a kid and get so tired of your parents breathing down your neck. I've found many a time - especially with the older ones - that knowing they can come to me about things that they don't necessatily want their parents knowing - is a comfort for them. Of course, I always tell Burnie anything I'm told by the children and they know that too, but sometimes talking to me shows them that there's still always someone to talk to, parent or not. As well as that, they look up to you, and you begin to try and be the best you can for them. Because of that, you become a more well rounded person - funnily enough.
- You'll never shake the feeling that you're actually not their parent - Now I don't know if this is just a personal one for me, but sometimes I really do struggle with the fact that I'm not their Mum. I don't have any right or place, or any reason for them to want to be in my company. I don't come into play when it comes to more formal arranges e.g. parents evening, doctors appointments. And that is always a stark reminder that I didn't birth them - even though sometimes I do wish deep down that I did. But, not being their actual parent means they see me as 'Fun Mel' rather than 'annoying parent' - Sorry B!
- There is no one more understanding and caring than a child - And sometimes, all you need is just a conversation with one of them. Or you need reassurance. For example, when I suffered with a panic attack in front of Alex, Evie and Harry, they just got it. They didn't judge me, and actually still wanted to hang around with me. That was really, really cool.
- You grow as they grow - I'm learning about parenting every single day. In a way, they are teaching me how to be a parent for when my time eventually does come. Some things shock me, good and bad. But I'm learning so much from being an impartial person in their lives and it's so rewarding. In a way, I'm lucky to help bring up children now because I know I'm at least capable. It's when they're teeny tiny babies that I'd freak out!
- You cannot control the acts of others - When you're a 'Stepmum', there is always another woman in the children's lifes that affects your family. Rightly so, they are their Mothers. But sometimes, they can take a heated turn and it's important to keep your cool. I'm not going to lie, I don't think either Mum (Yes, two mothers and 4 children) were particularly happy at first. Again, understandable. Thankfully, I've managed to gain the respect of one Mother and we now have a healthy relationship - I hope! But, you can never predict the actions of another - and only be ready to react in a way that it best for the children.
- Patience - Now theres something I never had until I was made to have it. Children teach you patience, and without it, you'll go bat shit crazy - trust me.
- Some people just don't get it - So many times I've heard 'but why would you? You're only in your twenties, you should be out there partying?!' It's hard for some people to understand why you would walk into the lives of not just 1 person, but 5. Hey, I didn't ask for it but it is for damn sure the best decision I ever made. And so what if I'd rather spend my Satruday evenings watching films with Burnie and the kids than going out and drinking my life away? It can get really tedious hearing the same thing but it's also one of my favourite things in the world to tell people. The faces I've seen when I say my partner has 4 kids is genuinely hilarious.
- Sometimes you want to tear your hair out - Scream at them, slam doors in their faces, want time away, feel so frustrated that you just aren't getting it right. You realise that when you care so much for a person, they frustrate you just as much when they just. don't. do. as. they're. told.
- Rewarding and heart warming - Being a 'stepmum', you have to earn everything. A child automatically bonds with their parent right from being born. The parent grows as they grow, sees all their firsts and guides them until they no longer need guiding. I walked into their lives when I was 21 and the thing that will always bring me joy and happiness is knowing that they all love me, for me. Not because I'm their mum, or dad, or auntie. I have bonded so much with all 4 children, in very different ways, and I can say with my hand on my heart that they are the greatest things that have ever happened to me. they bring me so much love, joy, laughter and memories and I only see it as a privilege that I get to see them grow. I love that they love me and their Dad being together - although to consistent pestering of when we're getting married and having babies may be enough to turn Burnie grey quicker! I love that they choose to spend time with me, that they choose to play games with me, that they choose to speak with me about anything.
- They've changed me for the better - Before being involved in the kids lives, I never really knew what purpose I had, I never knew where my life was going. Yes, I never expected to be a 'Stepmum' to 4 kids at the age of 24, but I also didn't expect those very kids to make me the happiest person in the world. Watching them grown and trying our best to lead them in the right direction is one of lives simplest pleasures. Seeing them play together, care for each other and care for the world. Laughing with them - and I can tell you they're the funniest/craziest kids I've ever know. They make me feel like I have a purpose and they make me feel so loved. They really are just the best people to be around, no matter how much I want to tear my hair out and get down about failings, I wouldn't change my lifestyle for anything. All 5 of them filled a space in my heart that I didn't know was empty.
I hope you all enjoyed this little - well, long! - explanation behind something that really plays the biggest part in my life but I never really mention. If you'd like to read more family orientated posts, let me know! It's been quite refreshing to not talk about mental health for once! Although, if you'd like an update on that too, feel free!
Love, M x